Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, July 23, 2023



July is LaborFest Month!

LaborFest 2023 schedule is up!



Dear Friends of LaborFest,


Thank you so much for waiting this year's LaborFest schedule.

Although it's not completed yet, we are finally able to put it up.


This year’s schedule includes history walks, poetry, book readings, play, political discussion, and of course the boat ride. This year’s labor history boat ride might be our last one, so please participate and enjoy. The number is limited on the boat.


If you noticed anything on our web page which needs to be corrected, please let us know. We are an all-volunteer organization, and any help is welcomed.

If you have social media skills and want to help get publicity out about this festival, please contact us too, and please get this out to other lists you are on. 


Lastly, please post photos, videos, and comments on our social media platforms.


See you soon,


Kazmi Torii

LaborFest Organizing Committee









No one is coming to save us, but us.


We need visionary politics, collective strategy, and compassionate communities now more than ever. In a moment of political uncertainty, the Socialism Conference—September 1-4, in Chicago—will be a vital gathering space for today’s left. Join thousands of organizers, activists, and socialists to learn from each other and from history, assess ongoing struggles, build community, and experience the energy of in-person gatherings.


Featured speakers at Socialism 2023 will include: Naomi Klein, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Robin D.G. Kelley, aja monet, Bettina Love, Olúfẹmi O. Táíwò, Sophie Lewis, Harsha Walia, Dina Gilio-Whitaker, Astra Taylor, Malcolm Harris, Kelly Hayes, Daniel Denvir, Emily Drabinski, Ilya Budraitskis, Dave Zirin, and many more.


The Socialism Conference is brought to you by Haymarket Books and dozens of endorsing left-wing organizations and publications, including Jacobin, DSA, EWOC, In These Times, Debt Collective, Dream Defenders, the Autonomous Tenant Union Network, N+1, Jewish Currents, Lux, Verso Books, Pluto Press, and many more. 


Register for Socialism 2023 by July 7 for the early bird discounted rate! Registering TODAY is the single best way you can help support, sustain, and expand the Socialism Conference. The sooner that conference organizers can gauge conference attendance, the bigger and better the conference will be!


Learn more and register for Socialism 2023

September 1-4, 2023, Chicago



Attendees are expected to wear a mask (N95, K95, or surgical mask) over their mouth and nose while indoors at the conference. Masks will be provided for those who do not have one.


A number of sessions from the conference will also be live-streamed virtually so that those unable to attend in person can still join us.

Copyright © 2023 Jacobin, All rights reserved.

You are receiving these messages because you opted in through our signup form, or at time of subscription/purchase.


Our mailing address is:


388 Atlantic Ave

Brooklyn, NY 11217-3399


Add us to your address book:




How you you can help:


1. Host any or all of the Tampa 5 in your city or on your local campus as we conduct a speaking tour around the country


2. Sign your organization onto this petition and help us spread the word about the Tampa 5:



The Tampa 5 are students and workers who attended a Tampa Bay Students for a Democratic Society protest on March 6th to save diversity programs at the University of South Florida and to oppose Ron DeSantis' anti-education bill, HB999. They were attacked, arrested, and now charged with felonies by the University of South Florida Police Department. Their felonies and potential prison time were doubled by the unelected, DeSantis-appointed state attorney, Susan Lopez, and her underling, Justin Diaz. They now face five to ten years in prison for exercising their right to protest and freedom of speech. The students were suspended and one of the five, the campus worker, Chrisley Carpio, was fired from her job at the university.


On June 24th, over 130 attendees of an emergency defense conference founded a new organization: the Emergency Committee to Defend the Tampa 5, which is national in scope. We are embarking on a long-term defense campaign to get the charges dropped and to defend the right to free speech in the state of Florida, and we need your help!


Thanks so much for your solidarity and support so far, and we'll see you in the streets!



Free Julian Assange

Immediate Repeated Action Needed to Free Assange


Please call your Congressional Representatives, the White House, and the DOJ. Calls are tallied—they do count.  We are to believe we are represented in this country.  This is a political case, so our efforts can change things politically as well.  Please take this action as often as you can:


Find your representatives:



Leave each of your representatives a message individually to: 

·      Drop the charges against Julian Assange

·      Speak out publicly against the indictment and

·      Sign on to Rashida Tlaib's letter to the DOJ to drop the charges: 

           202-224-3121—Capitol Main Switchboard 


Leave a message on the White House comment line to 

Demand Julian Assange be pardoned: 


             Tuesday–Thursday, 11:00 A.M.–3:00 P.M. EST


Call the DOJ and demand they drop the charges against Julian Assange:

             202-353-1555—DOJ Comment Line

             202-514-2000 Main Switchboard 



Mumia Abu-Jamal is Innocent!


Write to Mumia at:

Smart Communications/PADOC

Mumia Abu-Jamal #AM-8335

SCI Mahanoy

P.O. Box 33028

St. Petersburg, FL 33733



Previously Recorded

View on YouTube:




Featured Speakers:


Yuliya Yurchenko, Senior Lecturer at the University of Greenwich and author of Ukraine and the Empire of Capital: From Marketization to Armed Conflict.


Vladyslav Starodubstev, historian of Central and Eastern European region, and member of the Ukrainian democratic socialist organization Sotsialnyi Rukh.


Kirill Medvedev, poet, political writer, and member of the Russian Socialist Movement.


Kavita Krishnan, Indian feminist, author of Fearless Freedom, former leader of the Communist Party of India (ML).


Bill Fletcher, former President of TransAfrica Forum, former senior staff person at the AFL-CIO, and Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies.


Including solidarity statements from among others Barbara Smith, Eric Draitser, Haley Pessin, Ramah Kudaimi, Dave Zirin, Frieda Afary, Jose La Luz, Rob Barrill, and Cindy Domingo.



Urgent Health Call-In Campaign for Political Prisoner Ed Poindexter


Watch the moving video of Ed's Niece and Sister at the April 26, 2023, UN EMLER Hearing in Atlanta: https://youtu.be/aKwV7LQ5iww


Ed needs to be released to live the rest of his life outside of prison, with his family! (His niece Ericka is now 52 years old and was an infant when Ed was targeted, stolen from his home, jailed, framed, and railroaded.)


Ed Poindexter's left leg was amputated below the knee in early April due to lack of proper medical care. Ed has diabetes and receives dialysis several days a week. He underwent triple bypass heart surgery in 2016.


Please support Ed by sending him a letter of encouragement to:


Ed Poindexter #27767

Reception and Treatment Center

P.O. Box 22800

Lincoln, NE 68542-2800


Ed has a cataract in one eye that makes it difficult for him to read, so please type your letter in 18 point or larger font. The Nebraska Department of Corrections does not plan to allow Ed to have surgery for the cataract because "he has one good eye."





·      Warden Boyd of the Reception and Treatment Center (402-471-2861);


·      Warden Wilhelm of the Nebraska State Penitentiary (402-471-3161);


·      Governor Pillen, the State of Nebraska Office of the Governor (402-471-2244);


·      Director Rob Jeffreys, Nebraska Department of Corrections 402-471-2654;


The Nebraska Board of Pardons

(Email: ne.pardonsboard@nebraska.gov).


Please sustain calls daily through May 30th, 2023, for this intensive campaign, and thereafter as you can.


[Any relief for Ed will be announced via email and social media.]


Sample Message:


“I'm calling to urge that Ed Poindexter, #27767, be given immediate compassionate release.


“In April 2023, Ed's niece and brother found out that Ed’s leg had been amputated earlier in the month. And it happened without notice to Ed’s family! This was all within the ‘skilled nursing facility’ at the Reception and Treatment Center, which specializes in behavioral issues and suicide watch, and is not primarily a rehab medical unit.


“Ed is on dialysis several days per week and is wheelchair bound, and is not able to shower or change without a lot more direct support than he is currently getting.


“The Nebraska Department of Corrections admits that their facilities are severely overcrowded and understaffed.


“I join Ed’s family in demanding that Ed be given Compassionate Release, and that he be immediately released to hospice at home.”


Warden: Taggart Boyd

Reception and Treatment Center

P.O. Box 22800

Lincoln, NE 68542-2800

Phone: 402-471-2861

Fax: 402-479-6100


Warden Michelle Wilhelm

Nebraska State Penitentiary

Phone: 402-471-3161

4201 S 14th Street

Lincoln, NE 68502


Governor Jim Pillen

Phone: 402-471-2244

PO Box 94848

Lincoln, NE 68509-4848



Rob Jeffreys

Director, Nebraska Department of Corrections

Phone: 402-471-2654

PO Box 94661

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509


Nebraska Board of Pardons

PO Box 95007

Lincoln, Nebraska 68509

Email: ne.pardonsboard@nebraska.gov


You can read more about Ed Poindexter at:




Updates From Kevin Cooper 

March 23, 2023 

Dear Friends and Comrades, 

This is Kevin Cooper writing and sending this update to you in 'Peace & Solidarity'. First and foremost I am well and healthy, and over the ill effect(s) that I went through after that biased report from MoFo, and their pro prosecution and law enforcement experts. I am back working with my legal team from Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP.

'We' have made great progress in refuting all that those experts from MoFo came up with by twisting the truth to fit their narrative, or omitting things, ignoring, things, and using all the other tactics that they did to reach their conclusions. Orrick has hired four(4) real experts who have no questionable backgrounds. One is a DNA attorney, like Barry Scheck of the innocence project in New York is for example. A DNA expert, a expect to refute what they say Jousha Ryen said when he was a child, and his memory. A expect on the credibility of MoFo's experts, and the attorney's at Orrick are dealing with the legal issues.

This all is taking a little longer than we first expected it to take, and that in part is because 'we' have to make sure everything is correct in what we have in our reply. We cannot put ourselves in a situation where we can be refuted... Second, some of our experts had other things planned, like court cases and such before they got the phone call from Rene, the now lead attorney of the Orrick team. With that being said, I can say that our experts, and legal team have shown, and will show to the power(s) that be that MoFo's DNA expert could not have come to the conclusion(s) that he came to, without having used 'junk science'! They, and by they I mean my entire legal team, including our experts, have done what we have done ever since Orrick took my case on in 2004, shown that all that is being said by MoFo's experts is not true, and we are once again having to show what the truth really is.

Will this work with the Governor? Who knows... 'but' we are going to try! One of our comrades, Rebecca D.   said to me, 'You and Mumia'...meaning that my case and the case of Mumia Abu Jamal are cases in which no matter what evidence comes out supporting our innocence, or prosecution misconduct, we cannot get a break. That the forces in the so called justice system won't let us go. 'Yes' she is correct about that sad to say...

Our reply will be out hopefully in the not too distant future, and that's because the people in Sacramento have been put on notice that it is coming, and why. Every one of you will receive our draft copy of the reply according to Rene because he wants feedback on it. Carole and others will send it out once they receive it. 'We' were on the verge of getting me out, and those people knew it, so they sabotaged what the Governor ordered them to do, look at all the evidence as well as the DNA evidence. They did not do that, they made this a DNA case, by doing what they did, and twisted the facts on the other issues that they dealt with.   'more later'...

In Struggle & Solidarity,

March 28, 2023

"Today is March 28, 2023

I spoke to Rene, the lead attorney. He hopes to have our reply [to the Morrison Forster report] done by April 14 and sent out with a massive Public Relations blast.

He said that the draft copy, which everyone will see, should be available April 10th. 

I will have a visit with two of the attorneys to go over the draft copy and express any concerns I have with it.

MoFo ex-law enforcement “experts” are not qualified to write what they wrote or do what they did.

Another of our expert reports has come in and there are still two more that we’re waiting for—the DNA report and Professor Bazelon’s report on what an innocence investigation is and what it is not. We are also expecting a report from the Innocence Network. All the regional Innocence Projects (like the Northern California Innocence Project) in the country belong to the Innocence Network.

If MoFo had done the right thing, I would be getting out of here, but because they knew that, somewhere along the line they got hijacked, so we have to continue this fight but we think we can win."

An immediate act of solidarity we can all do right now is to write to Kevin and assure him of our continuing support in his fight for justice. Here’s his address:

Mr. Kevin Cooper

C-65304. 4-EB-82

San Quentin State Prison

San Quentin, CA 94974


Background on Kevin's Case


January 14, 2023

Kevin Cooper has suffered imprisonment as a death row inmate for more than 38 years for a gruesome crime he did not commit. We are therefore extremely disappointed by the special counsel’s report to the Board of Parole Hearings and disagree strongly with its findings.  Most fundamentally, we are shocked that the governor seemingly failed to conduct a thorough review of the report that contains many misstatements and omissions and also ignores the purpose of a legitimate innocence investigation, which is to independently determine whether Mr. Cooper’s conviction was a product of prosecutorial misconduct. The report failed to address that critical issue. The evidence when viewed in this light reveals that Kevin Cooper is innocent of the Ryen/Hughes murders, and that he was framed by the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. 


The special counsel’s investigation ordered by Governor Newsom in May 2021 was not properly conducted and is demonstrably incomplete. It failed to carry out the type of thorough investigation required to explore the extensive evidence that Mr. Cooper was wrongfully convicted. Among other things, the investigation failed to even subpoena and then examine the files of the prosecutors and interview the individuals involved in the prosecution. For unknown reasons and resulting in the tragic and clearly erroneous conclusion that he reached, the special counsel failed to follow the basic steps taken by all innocence investigations that have led to so many exonerations of the wrongfully convicted. 


In effect the special counsel’s report says: the Board of Parole Hearings can and will ignore Brady violations, destruction of exculpatory evidence, planted evidence, racial prejudice, prosecutorial malfeasance, and ineffective assistance of trial counsel; since I conclude Cooper is guilty based on what the prosecution says, none of these Constitutional violations matter or will be considered and we have no obligation to investigate these claims.


Given that (1) we have already uncovered seven prosecutorial violations of Brady v. Maryland during Mr. Cooper’s prosecution, (2) one of the likely killers has confessed to three different parties that he, rather than Mr. Cooper, was involved in the Ryen/Hughes murders, and (3) there is significant evidence of racial bias in Mr. Cooper’s prosecution, we cannot understand how Mr. Cooper was not declared wrongfully convicted.  The special counsel specifically declined to address ineffective assistance of counsel at the trial or the effect of race discrimination.  We call on the governor to follow through on his word and obtain a true innocence investigation.

Anything But Justice for Black People

Statement from Kevin Cooper concerning recent the decision on his case by Morrison Forrester Law Firm

In 2020 and 2022 Governor Newsom signed in to law the “Racial Justice Act.” This is because the California legislature, and the Governor both acknowledged that the criminal justice system in California is anything but justice for Black people.

On May 28th, 2021, Governor signed an executive order to allow the law firm of Morrison Forrester (MoFo) to do an independent investigation in my case which included reading the trial and appellant transcripts, my innocence claims, and information brought to light by the 9th circuit court of appeals, as well as anything else not in the record, but relevant to this case.

So, Mr. Mark McDonald, Esq, who headed this investigation by Morrison Forrester and his associates at the law firm, went and did what was not part of Governor Newsom’s order, and they did this during the length of time that they were working on this case, and executive order. They worked with law enforcement, current and former members of the L.A. Sheriff’s department, and other law enforcement-type people and organizations.

Law enforcement is the first part of this state’s criminal justice system. A system that both the California legislature, and the Governor acknowledge to be racist, and cannot be trusted to tell the truth, will present, and use false evidence to obtain a conviction, will withhold material exculpatory evidence, and will do everything else that is written in those two racial justice act bills that were signed into law.

So, with the active help of those pro-police, pro-prosecutor, pro-death penalty people working on this case to uphold my bogus conviction we cannot be surprised about the recent decision handed down by them in this case.

While these results are not true but based on the decisions made in 1983 and 1984 by the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office, these 2023 results were not reached by following the executive orders of Governor Newsom.

They ignored his orders and went out to make sure that I am either executed or will never get out of prison.

Governor Newsom cannot let this stand because he did not order a pro-cop or pro-prosecutor investigation, he ordered an independent investigation.

We all know that in truth, law enforcement protects each other, they stand by each other, no matter what city, county, or state that they come from. This is especially true when a Black man like me states that I was framed for murder by law enforcement who just happened to be in the neighboring county.

No one should be surprised about the law enforcement part in this, but we must be outraged by the law firm Morrison Forrester for being a part of this and then try to sell it as legitimate. We ain’t stupid and everyone who knows the truth about my case can see right through this bullshit.

I will continue to fight not only for my life, and to get out of here, but to end the death penalty as well. My entire legal team, family and friends and supporters will continue as well. We have to get to the Governor and let him know that he cannot accept these bogus rehashed results.

MoFo and their pro-prosecution and pro-police friends did not even deal with, or even acknowledge the constitutional violations in my case. They did not mention the seven Brady violations which meant the seven pieces of material exculpatory evidence were withheld from my trial attorney and the jury, and the 1991 California Supreme court that heard and upheld this bogus conviction. Why, one must ask, did they ignore these constitutional violations and everything that we proved in the past that went to my innocence?

Could it be that they just didn’t give a damn about the truth but just wanted to uphold this conviction by any means necessary?

No matter their reasons, they did not do what Governor Gavin Newsom ordered them to do in his May 28, 2021, executive order and we cannot let them get away with this.

I ask each and every person who reads this to contact the Governor’s office and voice your outrage over what MoFo did, and demand that he not accept their decision because they did not do what he ordered them to do which was to conduct an independent investigation!

In Struggle and Solidarity

From Death Row at San Quentin Prison,

Kevin Cooper


Call California Governor Newsom:

1-(916) 445-2841

Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, 

press 6 to speak with a representative and

wait for someone to answer 

(Monday-Friday, 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. PST—12:00 P.M. to 8:00 P.M. EST)



Ruchell is imprisoned in California, but it is important for the CA governor and Attorney General to receive your petitions, calls, and emails from WHEREVER you live! 


SIGN THE PETITION: bit.ly/freeruchell




Call CA Governor Newsom:

CALL (916) 445-2841

Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish, 

press 6 to speak with a representative and

wait for someone to answer (Mon. - Fri., 9 AM - 5 PM PST / 12PM - 8PM EST)


Call Governor Newsom's office and use this script: 


"Hello, my name is _______ and I'm calling to encourage Governor Gavin Newsom to commute the sentence of prisoner Ruchell Magee #A92051 #T 115, who has served 59 long years in prison. Ruchell is 83 years old, so as an elderly prisoner he faces health risks every day from still being incarcerated for so long. In the interests of justice, I am joining the global call for Ruchell's release due to the length of his confinement and I urge Governor Newsom to take immediate action to commute Ruchell Magee's sentence."


Write a one-page letter to Gov Gavin Newsom:

Also, you can write a one-page letter to Governor Gavin Newsom about your support for Ruchell and why he deserves a commutation of his sentence due to his length of confinement (over 59 years), his age (83), and the health risks of an elderly person staying in California’s prisons. 


YOUR DIGITAL LETTER can be sent at bit.ly/write4ruchell


YOUR US MAIL LETTER can be sent to:

Governor Gavin Newsom

1303 10th Street, Suite 1173

Sacramento, CA 95814


Email Governor Newsom




Under "What is your request or comment about?", select "Clemency - Commutation of Sentence" and then select "Leave a comment". The next page will allow you to enter a message, where you can demand:


Commute the sentence of prisoner Ruchell Magee #A92051 #T 115, who has served 59 long years in prison. 

He was over-charged with kidnapping and robbery for a dispute over a $10 bag of marijuana, a substance that is legal now and should’ve never resulted in a seven-years-to-life sentence.  Ruchell is 83 years old, so as an elderly prisoner he faces health risks every day from still being incarcerated for so long.


Write to District Attorney Gascon

District Attorney George Gascon

211 West Temple Street, Suite 1200

Los Angeles, CA 90012


Write a one-page letter to D.A. George Gascon requesting that he review Ruchell’s sentence due to the facts that he was over-charged with kidnapping and robbery for a dispute over a $10 bag of marijuana, a substance that is legal now and should’ve never resulted in a seven-years-to-life sentence. Ruchell’s case should be a top priority because of his age (83) and the length of time he has been in prison (59 years).


·      Visit www.freeruchellmagee.org to learn more! Follow us @freeruchellmagee on Instagram!

·      Visit www.facebook.com/freeruchellmagee or search "Coalition to Free Ruchell Magee" to find us on Facebook!

·      Endorse our coalition at:

·      www.freeruchellmagee.org/endorse!

·      Watch and share this powerful webinar on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4u5XJzhv9Hc



Ruchell Magee

CMF - A92051 - T-123

P.O. Box 2000

Vacaville, CA 95696


Write Ruchell uplifting messages! Be sure to ask questions about his well-being, his interests, and his passions. Be aware that any of his mail can be read by correctional officers, so don’t use any violent, explicit, or demoralizing language. Don’t use politically sensitive language that could hurt his chances of release. Do not send any hard or sharp materials.



of Detroit Shakur Squad


The Detroit Shakur Squad holds zoom meetings every other Thursday. We educate each other and organize to help free our Elder Political Prisoners. Next meeting is Thurs, Jan 12, 2022.  Register to attend the meetings at tinyurl.com/Freedom-Meeting




The writers' organization PEN America is circulating this petition on behalf of Jason Renard Walker, a Texas prisoner whose life is being threatened because of his exposés of the Texas prison system. 

See his book, Reports from within the Belly of the Beast; available on Amazon at:


Petition: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/protect-whistleblowers-in-carceral-settings



Sign the petition:




Tell Congress to Help #FreeDanielHale


I’m pleased to announce that last week our client, Daniel Hale, was awarded the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence. The “Corner-Brightener Candlestick” was presented to Daniel’s friend Noor Mir. You can watch the online ceremony here.

As it happens, this week is also the 20th anniversary of the first drone assassination in Yemen. From the beginning, the drone assassination program has been deeply shrouded in secrecy, allowing U.S. officials to hide significant violations of international law, and the American Constitution. In addition to the lives directly impacted by these strikes, the program has significantly eroded respect for international law and thereby puts civilians around the world in danger.

Daniel Hale’s revelations threw a beam of light into a very dark corner, allowing journalists to definitively show that the government's official narrative was a lie. It is thanks to the great personal sacrifice of drone whistleblowers like Hale that public understanding has finally begun to catch up to reality.

As the Sam Adams Associates note:

 “Mr. Hale was well aware of the cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment to which other courageous officials have been subjected — and that he would likely suffer the same. And yet — in the manner of his famous ancestor Nathan Hale — he put his country first, knowing what awaited him at the hands of those who serve what has become a repressive Perpetual War State wreaking havoc upon much of the world.”

We hope you’ll join the growing call to pardon or commute Hale’s sentence. U.S. citizens can contact your representatives here.

Happy new year, and thank you for your support!

Jesselyn Radack
Whistleblower & Source Protection Program (WHISPeR)

Twitter: @JesselynRadack



Laws are created to be followed

by the poor.

Laws are made by the rich

to bring some order to exploitation.

The poor are the only law abiders in history.

When the poor make laws

the rich will be no more.


—Roque Dalton Presente!

(May 14, 1935 – Assassinated May 10, 1975)[1]

[1] Roque Dalton was a Salvadoran poet, essayist, journalist, political activist, and intellectual. He is considered one of Latin America's most compelling poets.







A Plea for the Compassionate Release of 

Leonard Peltier

Self Portrait by Leonard Peltier

Video at:


Sign our petition urging President Biden to grant clemency to Leonard Peltier.




Email: contact@whoisleonardpeltier.info

Address: 116 W. Osborne Ave. Tampa, Florida 33603



The Moment

By Margaret Atwood*


The moment when, after many years 

of hard work and a long voyage 

you stand in the centre of your room, 

house, half-acre, square mile, island, country, 

knowing at last how you got there, 

and say, I own this, 


is the same moment when the trees unloose 

their soft arms from around you, 

the birds take back their language, 

the cliffs fissure and collapse, 

the air moves back from you like a wave 

and you can't breathe. 


No, they whisper. You own nothing. 

You were a visitor, time after time 

climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming. 

We never belonged to you. 

You never found us. 

It was always the other way round.


*Witten by the woman who wrote a novel about Christian fascists taking over the U.S. and enslaving women. Prescient!



Resources for Resisting Federal Repression



Since June of 2020, activists have been subjected to an increasingly aggressive crackdown on protests by federal law enforcement. The federal response to the movement for Black Lives has included federal criminal charges for activists, door knocks by federal law enforcement agents, and increased use of federal troops to violently police protests. 


The NLG National Office is releasing this resource page for activists who are resisting federal repression. It includes a link to our emergency hotline numbers, as well as our library of Know-Your-Rights materials, our recent federal repression webinar, and a list of some of our recommended resources for activists. We will continue to update this page. 


Please visit the NLG Mass Defense Program page for general protest-related legal support hotlines run by NLG chapters.


Emergency Hotlines

If you are contacted by federal law enforcement, you should exercise all of your rights. It is always advisable to speak to an attorney before responding to federal authorities. 


State and Local Hotlines

If you have been contacted by the FBI or other federal law enforcement, in one of the following areas, you may be able to get help or information from one of these local NLG hotlines for: 


Portland, Oregon: (833) 680-1312

San Francisco, California: (415) 285-1041 or fbi_hotline@nlgsf.org

Seattle, Washington: (206) 658-7963

National Hotline

If you are located in an area with no hotline, you can call the following number:


National NLG Federal Defense Hotline: (212) 679-2811






1) Is ‘Yo’ the Gender-Neutral Pronoun You’ve Been Looking For?

By John McWhorter, July 19, 2023

In black type against a yellow background, the words “Heesh,” “Ze” and “They” are crossed out and followed by “Yo.”
Pablo Delcan

I am in the middle of writing a book on pronouns in English. My focus this time out is on standard English rather than nonstandard English, since one of my recent books was about Black English. However, again and again I am struck that the most dynamic, “Who’da thunk it?” developments in pronouns are in the Englishes beyond the standard.


Indeed, I increasingly think that if we are to be a linguistically informed people, our education should include instruction in how nonstandard varieties of English are often more complex than standard varieties. Although they are often presumed to be simpler — in a word, dumber — than standard English, the opposite is often true. Nonstandard variations can be sophisticated solutions to the problems that inevitably reside in English, as in any language. One example I am thinking of is a relatively new and unheralded gender-neutral pronoun that has emerged in, of all places, Baltimore.


Gender-neutral pronouns are a thorny topic in English. In Finnish, for example, “hän” is a genderless pronoun. Legions of languages have words like that. But in English, a truly accepted gender-neutral pronoun has been a holy grail for generations. Past attempts have included kludges like “heesh” (popularized by A.A. Milne), and modern proposals such as “ze.” These deliberately invented pronouns typically only catch on in limited circles, however. This is because people are especially conservative about pronouns, which are used so frequently that they are especially deep-seated in our linguistic consciousness. To accept a new pronoun is to change the way we roll, as it were. One prefers not to.


This is why the most successful gender-neutral pronoun has always been “they.” Its generic usage, as in, “Each student knows what they must do,” has been criticized as incorrect for centuries — while simultaneously being used freely by even the most prestigious writers since the Middle Ages. And of late there is the usage of a gender-neutral “they” to refer to a specific, rather than generic, person: “Ariella got straight A’s, and they’re so proud.”


As practical as this use of “they” is in giving a pronoun to those disinclined to the gender binary — I wrote about it here — it challenges many beyond a certain age. My guess (and hope) is that it will become ever more entrenched as the decades pass, especially as tweens and teens often use it effortlessly. However, I also suspect that we are in for at least a few decades of fruitless resistance against the new “they,” with many insisting that it is somehow logic incarnate that “they” must be plural. This, despite the fact that in German, “sie” means both “she” and “they,” and no one bats an eye. But I digress!


Linguists shrug that an option such as “they” is the best we can do, because our conservative nature regarding pronouns means that new usages can only come from the set of them that we already have. But this is not precisely true. Rather, this limitation operates in the standard language, over which judgments about what is “right” and “logical” reign eternally, conditioning a sense that language is something frozen on a page.


But in language varieties less policed, language change can happen the way it wants to, and new pronouns can come from the darnedest places. In the Black English of younger Black people in Baltimore, for instance, a new gender-neutral pronoun arose in the 2000s, as reported in an article by Elaine Stotko and Margaret Troyer. Of all things, the pronoun is “yo.”


Not “you,” but “yo.”


Not “yo” in place of “your,” as in “yo books.” Not “yo” as in “Yo! I’m over here!” And not “yo” as in the one appended after a sentence to solicit agreement: “That sure was loud, yo!”


This “yo” is a straightforward, gender-neutral third-person pronoun — basically “heesh,” but not as ridiculous sounding. “Yo was tuckin’ in his shirt!” is an example Stotko and Troyer documented. This “yo” did not mean “you,” because the reference was certainly not to someone tucking in someone else’s shirt. A female teacher was handing out papers, and someone remarked — not to the teacher herself — “Yo handin’ out papers.” Someone else used “Yo is a clown” to describe a third party.


Wrap your head around it, and you can see this pronoun is pretty awesome. The interjection “Yo!” has been retooled, so that what started as a way of calling someone has become a way of calling out — i.e., pointing out — someone. The new “yo” means, in its way, “the one whom one ‘yo’s.” And it applies to no gender in particular. Baltimore Black English achieved what mainstream English never has: a gender-neutral pronoun that doesn’t force some other pronoun to moonlight in a new role.


Standard English’s inventory of pronouns is actually rather impoverished compared to many nonstandard Englishes. It is this way with languages worldwide: Nonstandard variants tend to be more complicated, but the complications are processed simply as “quaint.” Black English — and not only Black English — also has “y’all,” which saves “you” from doing double duty as singular and plural. (I’ve written about that, too.) Likewise, many rural dialects of English in Britain still distinguish between a singular “thou” and a plural “you.” Standard Danish has two genders, but some dialects have three. In Western dialects of Flemish, the word “yes” is conjugated: It has a different ending depending on whether you mean “Yes, I did,” “Yes, we did” or “Yes, she did.”


Standard language unites us. But with nonstandard language, nothing — no dictionaries, no tut-tutting by experts — pulls it back from doing what it wants to do. It tends to be built out compared to standard language, “buff” as it were. It should be common knowledge that such variations are of interest not merely because of the cultures they represent but also because of their sheer grammatical intricacy.


Standard English has to settle for stretching limited resources, with “you” referring to any number of people and “they” increasingly called upon to do the same to an extent it never had to before. Modern English gives “you” and “they” a workout unknown in all but a few of the world’s languages. But if you want to know what human speech is typically like, with pronouns sharing duties among a good bunch of alternatives, you have to look to the nonstandard Englishes — that is, the ones we are told are “not the real language.”


John McWhorter (@JohnHMcWhorter) is an associate professor of linguistics at Columbia University. He is the author of “Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter: Then, Now and Forever” and, most recently, “Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America.”



2) The Overlooked Reason Our Health Care System Crushes Patients

By Chavi Karkowsky, July 20, 2023

Dr. Karkowsky is a maternal-fetal medicine physician in New York City.


An illustration of a person entangled by towering weeds, unable to reach a source of light.


Several years ago, I was called urgently to our small obstetric triage unit because a pregnant patient was very sick. At the beginning of her third trimester, she had come in with back pain and a 103-degree fever. Her heart was racing, her blood pressure was dangerously low, and her oxygen levels were barely normal. In sentences broken by gasps for air, she told us her belly was tightening every few minutes — painful contractions, three months before their time.


Our team was concerned about pyelonephritis, a kidney infection that can develop from a urinary tract infection and can progress quickly to sepsis or even septic shock.


Within minutes, a team was swarming the triage bay — providing oxygen, applying the fetal heart rate and contraction monitor, placing IVs. I called the neonatal intensive care unit, in case labor progressed, to prepare for a very preterm baby. In under an hour, we had over a dozen people, part of a powerful medical system, working to get her everything she might need.


Breathing quickly behind her oxygen mask, my patient explained that she had noticed symptoms of a urinary tract infection about four days ago; she had gone to her doctor the next day and had gotten an antibiotics prescription. But the pharmacy wouldn’t fill it — something about her insurance, or a mistake with her record. She tried calling her doctor’s office, but it was the weekend, and she couldn’t get through. She read on the internet to drink water and cranberry juice, so she kept trying that. She called 9-1-1 in the middle of the night when she woke up and felt as if she couldn’t breathe.


This is the story of our medical system — quick, massive, powerful, able to assemble a team in under an hour and willing to spend thousands of dollars when a patient is sick.


This is also the story of a medical system that didn’t think my patient was worth a $12 medication to prevent any of this from happening.


This patient’s story is a result of the space between the care that providers want to give and the care that the patient actually receives. That space is full of barriers — tasks, paperwork, bureaucracy. Each is a point where someone can say no. This can be called the administrative burden of health care. It’s composed of work that is almost always boring but sometimes causes tremendous and unnecessary human suffering.


The administrative burden includes many of the chores we all hate: calling doctor’s offices, lining up referrals, waiting in the emergency room, sorting out bills from a recent surgery, checking on prescription refills.


On a recent average Wednesday, I saw several patients who had been unable to get crucial supplies or medications, or who missed appointments because of administrative burden. One had taken a precious morning off from work to ferry documents between a Medicaid office and her pharmacy to prove that she did not, in fact, have alternate insurance, and therefore her diabetic supplies should be covered. A pack of glucose test strips had cost her a small co-pay — and likely most of a day’s lost wages. That’s still cheaper than a hospital stay for a diabetic coma, depending on who’s paying.


There’s a general sense that all that unpaid labor required to get medical care is increasing. This is in part because as health costs spiral upward, health plans have tried to find incentives to steer treatment to reduce costs. These incentives can be a crucial part of managing costs in a country that spends about twice as much on health care, as a percent of its economy, as other high-income countries.


Sometimes administrative burden is a result of a good-faith effort to assist patients. For instance, a well-meaning rule by medical leadership to try to best utilize clinic resources can add delays for some patients. Sometimes a pharmacy wants to help a patient avoid a large bill, but doing so requires a long back-and-forth with clinic staff and the insurance company.


At the same time, creating administrative burden is a time-honored tactic for insurance companies. “When you’re trying to incentivize things, and you don’t want to push up the dollar cost, you can push up the time cost,” said Andrew Friedson, the director of health economics at the Milken Institute.


Administrative burden can work as a technique to keep costs down. However, part of the problem, Dr. Friedson said, is that we don’t count the burden to patients, and so it doesn’t factor into policy decisions. There’s nobody measuring the time spent on the phone plus lost wages plus complications from delayed care for every single patient in the United States. A recent study co-written by Michael Anne Kyle, a research fellow at Harvard Medical School, found that about a quarter of insured adults reported their care was delayed or missed entirely because of administrative tasks.


This burden falls most heavily on those who can least afford it: vulnerable people like cancer patients, those with complex medical conditions or those with a chronically ill child. I’ve observed that this burden splits along racial, ethnic and socio-economic lines. These tasks are more difficult for those who have hourly jobs, who don’t speak English as their first language or who can’t read complex documents easily. For many Medicaid patients, even just getting or staying enrolled in their insurance coverage can create hours of extra work that delay care.


For some patients, such delays will lead to serious consequences — and increased costs for the entire system. For my patient, the days of waiting for an antibiotic turned her easily treatable U.T.I. into a more serious infection that required a prolonged hospitalization and could have given us a very preterm baby, with attendant lifelong costs. That’s clearly not the way to save money.


There are some possible solutions. Dr. Kyle raised the idea of simplifying the paperwork that health care requires, for example, requiring all companies to use a universal form for medication approvals.


Another idea would be to follow the lead of private insurance companies that in rare cases provide a care coordinator to some patients with certain high-expense diagnoses such as cancer. One day, there could be a coordinator within the medical system who could act as a guide through the administrative maze. However, this work isn’t easily billable — reimbursement for care coordination and filling out forms is more difficult and less lucrative than for things such as delivering babies and performing ultrasounds, though the time spent may be the same and the necessity just as acute. Until this work is more universally billable, there will be limited support for this solution.


One of the first steps to any comprehensive solution would be a true accounting of the costs of administrative burden. Maybe we in the medical system do have to start counting up the hours patients and providers spend on the phone, in waiting rooms and filling out forms. That would be difficult: It’s not a metric the health care industry is used to evaluating. But it’s not harder than doing the work itself, as patients do.


My patient with the kidney infection stayed in the hospital for several days of IV antibiotics. Her vital signs improved and her contractions stopped. On her day of discharge, she asked us to hold off on taking out her IV. She was willing to initiate her discharge only once she had her outpatient prescriptions, those antibiotic pills, in her possession. She said that she trusted us, the medical team in the hospital. She felt we had saved her life and kept her baby safe. She just wasn’t sure she could trust the rest of the system to do the same.



3) When Children Are Bought and Sold

By Nicholas Kristof, July 19. 2023

Melanie Thompson in a red tank top and silver hoop earrings and necklaces. She looks to the side while in front of a red background.
Thompson worries that efforts to decriminalize the sex trade will make it easier for pimps to exploit vulnerable people. Credit...Jenica Heintzelman for The New York Times

More than a decade ago, I met a scared 15-year-old who was trying to recover her life after having been kidnapped by a pimp and sold for sex.


Melanie Thompson recalled the day her life changed: She and two other girls in New York City ran into some older boys who invited them to hang out. The girls did so, the boys provided alcohol, Melanie blacked out — and she says she woke up to being raped. She told me how a pimp then locked her with another girl in an abandoned house, and she had a new job: having sex with strangers against her will.


She was 13.


When we spoke two years later, she was in a residential program for formerly trafficked girls. She was thoughtful, charming and fond of poetry, but I wondered if she would be able to rebuild her life. Then I lost track of her, until a message arrived from her this spring. We met, and she filled me in on her bumpy journey — and her campaign against what she sees as misguided liberalism that would legalize pimping.


Melanie spent years in foster care after I met her. There’s no doubt that some foster care parents are outstanding, but overall, America’s foster care system is a disgrace. Only about half of foster children finish high school; perhaps 4 percent earn a B.A. By several estimates, a majority of trafficked girls have been in foster care or some other part of the child welfare system.


That was Melanie’s world. She says she was trafficked again, leaving her teenage years a blur of trauma. The sex trade left a mark on her and made it difficult to relate to other high school students, she said.


“You feel like damaged goods,” she recalled. “You also internalize the shame people put on you.”


After attending five high schools, she finally graduated at age 19. A path opened when she interned with the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women, a nonprofit in New York.


Taina Bien-Aimé, the executive director of the coalition, was swept away. “She’s an extraordinary human being, very determined, ambitious, smart, focused,” Bien-Aimé told me. So she hired Melanie, who is now the outreach and advocacy coordinator for the coalition.


Meanwhile, Melanie earned her B.A. in gender studies. In college, she often found herself the odd woman out. In classes, there would be discussions of the sex trade, with affluent students or professors speaking of sex work for consenting adults as empowering, while that did not remotely ring true for Melanie. Her situation as a trafficked child was of course different, for there was no consent and she recalled nothing but abuse. But her life in the world of commercial sex left her convinced that lines were more blurred than outsiders understood and that there wasn’t much empowerment going on even among adults; it was largely about vulnerable people being exploited.


That disconnect is now her focus. There is a drive in blue states, including New York, to decriminalize the entire sex trade, giving a green light to pimping and brothel-keeping. Melanie argues for something closer to the model in Sweden and Norway, which do not arrest prostitutes (instead offering them social services) but do prosecute pimps and johns. While frankly no legal approach works all that well, Sweden has promoted its approach internationally as a way to reduce trafficking. Maine has just become the first state in America to adopt that Nordic approach.


Melanie, now 27, warns that the result of full decriminalization, including allowing pimps and brothels, would be more trafficking of victims who are overwhelmingly Black and brown, or coming out of foster care, or L.G.B.T.Q. youth or others who are marginalized. Indeed, one large global study found that legalization is associated with more trafficking, not less.


Clearly there is a slice of the commercial sex trade that is consensual, another that is nonconsensual, and other elements that are more murky. In other contexts where there’s a significant power imbalance and vulnerability, such as relationships between bosses and interns, we tend to apply bans because of the potential for predation.


The push in recent years to allow pimping seems odd to me, because elsewhere we liberals are alert to the potential for exploitation. We bar work among consenting adults if it’s performed for less than the minimum wage, for example, and we block consensual high-risk work like using window-washing platforms without many safeguards.


Commercial sex is more dangerous than window-washing or almost any other job, and Melanie scoffs at the view that pimps are business partners of women selling sex. “I never touched the money,” she told me. “And if you got caught trying to stash anything, it was not good for you.”


We have made strides in empowering affluent, educated women and girls, with Title IX, #MeToo and more female lawyers, doctors and board members. But some of the most vulnerable girls in America, those in foster care, have benefited much less.


I fear that if this well-meaning push for full decriminalization proceeds, the winners will be pimps and the losers will be some of America’s most vulnerable young people. There are many other Melanies out there who need help, and we risk throwing them to the wolves.



4) Britain’s Most Famous Landlord, the King, Made $34 Million From Rising Rents

Rents are rising across Britain, and the nation’s most famous landlord was no exception. He received about $34 million from his real estate portfolio.

By Jane Bradley, Published July 18, 2023

Updated July 19, 2023

The king and queen of the United Kingdom, wearing their crowns, wave from a balcony festooned in red and gold.
King Charles and Queen Camilla on the balcony at Buckingham Palace on the day of the king’s coronation, in May. Credit...Andrew Testa for The New York Times

Rents in the United Kingdom are rising at a record pace, a trend that helped the nation’s most famous landlord, King Charles III, make a big payday.


Charles received 26.2 million pounds, or about $34.3 million, this year from his vast property empire, known as the Duchy of Lancaster. Charles inherited the estate when his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, died last fall.


The 45,000-acre estate is roughly the size of Washington D.C. and generates millions of dollars a year in rental income, without paying corporation taxes like most businesses in Britain are obliged to. (Charles voluntarily pays an undisclosed amount of tax on his private income).


The Duchy recently published its first records since Charles took the throne. They show that he has weathered the financial woes faced by his nation, raking in a bigger private income than his mother ever did.


Those profits came in part thanks to increased rents on tenants living on royal land. The Duchy also saw increased earnings from commercial properties. The accounts give an early insight into how, as king, Charles is running his financial empire.


How much did he make? And what’s a duchy?


A duchy is a territory traditionally governed by a duke or duchess. The Duchy of Lancaster is a $1 billion real estate portfolio tasked with making money for whoever holds the throne. The monarch uses these funds to support the extended royal family.


Charles’s private income from the Duchy was £26.2 million, about £2 million more than his mother last made. Charles has fewer family members to support than his mother did.


This money is separate from the annual £86 million (around $112 million) taxpayer-funded Sovereign Grant, which pays for most official royal expenses.


So, the duchy raised rents?


Yes. Records show that the Duchy raised rents by 3 percent over the last fiscal year, which is just below the pace of private rental increases that have contributed to a cost-of-living crisis.


Private rents are increasing at their fastest rate on record across the United Kingdom, though the official figures only go back to 2016. The Duchy’s rent hikes accounted for an extra £8.2 million for the royal coffers. The Duchy said that “refurbishment and restoration” had led to “improved rental values.”


Of course, Charles is not a typical landlord. He does not rely on rental income to pay his home mortgage or household bills.


What does this tell us about Charles?


Charles ascended to the throne at a time when millions of British residents cannot afford their living expenses. Standards of living are falling as wages fail to keep pace with rising housing and food costs.


The king appeared to be sharply aware of this when, after his mother’s passing, royal sources began telling the British media that Charles envisioned a “slimmed-down monarchy.”


The latest Duchy of Lancaster figures show no notable signs of cost-cutting in Charles’ private estate. Operating costs increased 40 percent as the Duchy hired more staff and gave its chief executive a pay rise to £275,000.


This is in keeping with the ambitious business-focused strategy he had as prince, when he ran the Duchy of Cornwall, a separate real estate portfolio now handed to his son William.


Charles brought two executives from the Duchy of Cornwall along with him after he inherited his mother’s estate. Several senior money-managers who worked with Charles during his time at the Duchy of Cornwall told The New York Times that Charles opposed outsourcing and preferred to keep the estate in the hands of a trusted group of insiders.


Some of the changes to the Duchy of Lancaster have been planned for as long as a decade, said Paul Clarke, who served as the Duchy’s chief executive for almost 13 years until 2013.


Royal observers have noted for years that Charles was unlikely to shift his business-driven strategy as king.


“Will the longest standing royal heir in British history really want to downsize his inheritance when he at last gains the crown?” the historian and royal commentator David McClure wrote in his book, “The Queen’s True Worth.”


How important is the Duchy?


The Duchies are the main sources of private income for the royal family. But they represent a small fraction of the family’s estimated $28 billion fortune, which includes the monarch’s closely-guarded personal wealth, real estate assets under the Crown Estate, the Sovereign Grant from the government, and Buckingham and Kensington palaces.


The royal family has long fought to keep its wealth a secret. Some historians have described the family as more secretive than the intelligence services.


Mr. Clarke, the former Duchy chief executive, described his hiring process as a “cat and mouse” game, where he had to sign a nondisclosure agreement to even discuss the job and wasn’t told who he might be working for.


Newton Investment Management and Stanhope Capital manage most of the duchy’s financial investments, which are kept closely guarded. Two former partners told The New York Times that the Duchy placed no restrictions on investments — just “give me a good return,” one said. Charles, though, did discourage environmentally unfriendly moves such as investing directly in oil companies.


Royals do not have to explain how they spend the private income they take from the duchies. When Charles was 4, for example, he began receiving £209,000 (in today’s value) from his estate. In a letter to civil servants, the Duchy of Cornwall only said the money was for his “maintenance and education.”



5) Missouri Supreme Court Allows Abortion Ballot Initiative to Move Ahead

The effort to put abortion rights before voters was held up when the attorney general said the state auditor had vastly underestimated the potential cost to taxpayers.

By Anna Betts, July 20, 2023

Andrew Bailey, the attorney general of Missouri, stands behind a wooden lectern.
Missouri’s attorney general, Andrew Bailey, left, a Republican who opposes abortion, said changing the state’s Constitution to include the right to the procedure could cost taxpayers billions. Credit...Kacen Bayless/The Kansas City Star/Tribune News Service, via Getty Images

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled against the state attorney general’s position on an abortion ballot initiative, a decision that allows an effort to restore abortion rights there to move forward.


The court ruled that the attorney general, Andrew Bailey, who opposes abortion, had improperly held up his approval of a ballot initiative that would ask voters whether they want to change the constitution to include a right to abortion. Mr. Bailey, a Republican, disputed the assessment of the state auditor, also a Republican, regarding how much such a change would cost.


The delay prevented proponents of the initiative from beginning to collect signatures to try to place the question on the ballot for next year’s election.


“While today is a tremendous victory for Missourians and the right to direct democracy, it is clear that some who hold office will not hesitate to trample the constitution if it advances their personal interests and political beliefs,” said Luz María Henríquez, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri.


A spokeswoman for Mr. Bailey said the attorney general’s office disagreed “with the court’s decision, as we believe Missourians deserve to know how much this amendment would cost the state, but we will respect the court’s order.”


Missouri has one of the strictest abortion bans in the country. The procedure is outlawed in nearly all cases beyond medical emergencies. There are no exceptions for rape or incest.


The proposed ballot initiative aims to enshrine the right to make decisions about abortion, birth control, childbirth and other issues related to pregnancy in the state’s Constitution.


Even in conservative states, voters have tended to support abortion rights when asked directly in ballot measures.


As part of the procedure for qualifying for the ballot, the proposal was sent to the state’s auditor, Scott Fitzpatrick, who provided a cost estimate for the proposed initiative.


Mr. Fitzpatrick, who opposes abortion, said the proposal would have an estimated cost of at least $51,000 annually in reduced local tax revenues.


Mr. Bailey rejected that analysis, instead saying in a letter that the bill would most likely cost taxpayers “upward of $12 billion” because of fewer births and the loss of Medicaid funding.


Missouri Supreme Court judges on Thursday unanimously affirmed a lower court’s ruling, writing in their decision that there was no justification for Mr. Bailey’s “refusal to perform the plain, unequivocal and ministerial duty of approving those summaries.”


The attorney general has the authority, the ruling said, only to review the “legal content and form” of the auditor’s reports, “not their substance.”


The attorney general must now approve the auditor’s fiscal assessment within 24 hours, or by 1 p.m. on July 21, and the amendment will then be able to move forward. The proposal will next go to the office of the Missouri secretary of state, who is tasked with certifying the fiscal assessment and a summary of the proposal that would appear on the ballot.


Lawsuits have already been filed by the A.C.L.U. of Missouri against the secretary of state’s proposed wording for the ballot, which the A.C.L.U. says is misleading.


More than 100,000 signatures from voters are needed for the measure to appear on the Missouri ballot next fall, and they must be submitted by early May.



6) Trinity Nuclear Test’s Fallout Reached 46 States, Canada and Mexico, Study Finds

The research shows that the first atomic bomb explosion’s effects had been underestimated, and could help more “downwinders” press for federal compensation.

By Lesley M. M. Blume, Published July 20, 2023, Updated July 21, 2023

A black-and-white photo of the mushroom cloud caused by the Trinity nuclear test.
U.S. Department of Defense

In July 1945, as J. Robert Oppenheimer and the other researchers of the Manhattan Project prepared to test their brand-new atomic bomb in a New Mexico desert, they knew relatively little about how that mega-weapon would behave.


On July 16, when the plutonium-implosion device was set off atop a hundred-foot metal tower in a test code-named “Trinity,” the resultant blast was much stronger than anticipated. The irradiated mushroom cloud also went many times higher into the atmosphere than expected: some 50,000 to 70,000 feet. Where it would ultimately go was anyone’s guess.


A new study, released on Thursday ahead of submission to a scientific journal for peer review, shows that the cloud and its fallout went farther than anyone in the Manhattan Project had imagined in 1945. Using state-of-the-art modeling software and recently uncovered historical weather data, the study’s authors say that radioactive fallout from the Trinity test reached 46 states, Canada and Mexico within 10 days of detonation.


“It’s a huge finding and, at the same time, it shouldn’t surprise anyone,” said the study’s lead author, Sébastien Philippe, a researcher and scientist at Princeton University’s Program on Science and Global Security.


The study also reanalyzed fallout from all 93 aboveground U.S. atomic tests in Nevada and created a map depicting composite deposition of radioactive material across the contiguous U.S. (The team also hopes to study U.S. tests over the Pacific Ocean in the future).


How much of Trinity’s fallout still remain at original deposition sites across the country is difficult to calculate, said Susan Alzner, an author of the study and the co-founder of shift7, an organization that coordinated the study’s research. The study documents deposition as it originally hit the ground in 1945.


“It’s a frozen-in-time image,” she said.


The findings could be cited by advocates aiming to increase the number of people eligible for compensation by the federal government for potential exposure to radiation from atmospheric nuclear explosions.


The drift of the Trinity cloud was monitored by Manhattan Project physicists and doctors, but they underestimated its reach.


“They were aware that there were radioactive hazards, but they were thinking about acute risk in the areas around the immediate detonation site,” Alex Wellerstein, a nuclear historian at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, said. They had little understanding, he said, about how the radioactive materials could embed in ecosystems, near and far. “They were not really thinking about effects of low doses on large populations, which is exactly what the fallout problem is.”


At the time, Dr. Stafford L. Warren, a Manhattan Project physician specializing in nuclear medicine, reported to Lt. Gen. Leslie Groves, leader of the Manhattan Project, that the Trinity cloud “remained towering over the northeast corner of the site for several hours.” Soon, he added, “various levels were seen to move in different directions.” Dr. Warren assured General Groves that an assessment of the fallout’s reach could be undertaken later on horseback.


In the decades that followed, a lack of crucial data has bedeviled assessments and attempted studies of the Trinity test’s fallout. The U.S. had no national monitoring stations in place in 1945 to track the fallout, Dr. Philippe said. Plus, essential historical weather and atmospheric data was available only from 1948 onward. Remodeling fallout from tests in Nevada — starting in 1951 — was easier, but Trinity remained frustratingly difficult to reanalyze.


“The data sets for the Nevada tests and the available data that we could possibly find for Trinity were not comparable,” Ms. Alzner said. “You couldn’t put them on the same map. We decided to keep pushing.”


Determined to fill in the gaps, the team started the study about 18 months ago. Dr. Philippe has extensive background in modeling fallout and was an author of a similar project in 2021 that documented the effects from French nuclear tests.


A breakthrough came in March, when Ms. Alzner and Megan Smith, another co-founder of shift7 and a former United States chief technology officer in the Obama administration, contacted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There, Gilbert P. Compo, a senior research scientist at the University of Colorado and the NOAA Physical Sciences Laboratory, told the team that the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts had only a week earlier released historical data that charted weather patterns extending 30,000 feet or higher above Earth’s surface.


“For the first time, we had the most accurate hourly reconstruction of the weather back to 1940, around the world,” said Dr. Compo, who became a co-author on the study. “Every single event that puts something in the air, no matter what it is, can now be tracked, by the hour.”


Using the new data and software built by NOAA, Dr. Philippe then reanalyzed Trinity’s fallout. And while the study’s authors acknowledge limitations and uncertainties within their calculations, they maintain that “our estimates likely remain conservatively low.”


“It’s a very comprehensive, well-executed study,” said M. V. Ramana, professor and Simons chair in disarmament, global and human security at the University of British Columbia, who was not involved in the study. Dr. Ramana was unsurprised by the study’s findings about Trinity. “I expected that the old estimates were understating what was actually deposited,” he said.


The results show that New Mexico was heavily affected by Trinity’s fallout. Computations by Dr. Philippe and his colleagues show the cloud’s trajectory primarily spreading up over northeast New Mexico and a part of the cloud circling to the south and west of ground zero over the next few days. The researchers wrote that there are “locations in New Mexico where radionuclide deposition reached levels on par with Nevada.”


Trinity’s fallout, Dr. Philippe says, accounts for 87 percent of total deposition found across New Mexico, which also received deposition from Nevada’s aboveground tests. The study also found that Socorro County — where the Trinity test took place — has the fifth highest deposition per county of all counties in the United States.


Trinity test “downwinders” — a term describing people who have lived near nuclear test sites and may have been exposed to deadly radioactive fallout — have never been eligible for compensation under the 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA). It has provided over $2.5 billion in payments to nuclear workers in much of the Western U.S. and to downwinders who were located near the Nevada test site and may have developed cancer or other diseases as a result of radiation exposure.


“Despite the Trinity test taking place in New Mexico, many New Mexicans were left out of the original RECA legislation and nobody has ever been able to explain why,” said Senator Ben Ray Luján, a New Mexico Democrat. He has helped lead efforts in Congress to expand and extend the legislation, currently due to sunset in 2024.


Census data from 1940 shows that as many as 500,000 people were living within a 150-mile radius of the test site. Some families lived as close as 12 miles away, according to the Tularosa Basin Downwinders Consortium. Yet no civilians were warned about the test ahead of time, and they weren't evacuated before or after the test.


“This new information about the Trinity bomb is monumental and a long time coming,” Tina Cordova, a co-founder of the consortium, said. “We’ve been waiting for an affirmation of the histories told by generations of people from Tularosa who witnessed the Trinity bomb and talked about how the ash fell from the sky for days afterward.”


The study also documents significant deposition in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Colorado, Arizona and Idaho, as well as dozens of federally-recognized tribal lands, potentially strengthening the case for people seeking expanded compensation in those areas.


Although Dr. Wellerstein said that he approaches such reanalyses of historical fallout with a certain amount of uncertainty, partly because of the age of the data, he said there is value in such studies by keeping nuclear history and its legacy in the public discourse.


“The extent to which America nuked itself is not completely appreciated still, to this day, by most Americans, especially younger Americans,” he said.

My New York Times Comment:

"I beg to differ, America didn't "nuke" itself. The American people had absolutely no choice in the matter. The American government nuked us. Just as the American people (and I include all those living and working in the United States) do not cause the degradation of our environment. The giant corporations who produce so much waste and pollution and profit billions from it are the ones responsible—not the average working person—we are not responsible. Those who earn billions of profits from their polluting ways are responsible." —Bonnie Weinstein



7) Inside Starbucks’ Dirty War Against Organized Labor

By Megan K. Stack, July 21, 2023

A woman in a dark T-shirt and jeans stands in a parking lot.
Agnes Torregoza took a job at Starbucks because she was attracted by the company’s benefits. Credit...Jordan Baumgarten for The New York Times

NOTTINGHAM, Md. — Agnes Torregoza came to this country when she was a toddler, brought from the Philippines by her parents. Her mother found a teaching job in the Baltimore County Public School District, and the family set about cobbling together a new life.


Both parents eventually got union jobs in the public schools and moved with their children into a prefabricated home in the unincorporated reaches of the Baltimore suburbs. Her parents, Ms. Torregoza explained, had very definite ideas about the aesthetics of the American dream — everything should be fresh.


“My parents are really into, ‘Oh, we’re in America,’” Ms. Torregoza, 20, said. “‘I want to have a brand-new house. I want to have a new car.’”


When it came time to forge her own path, Ms. Torregoza, a slight woman with a black fringe of bangs and exactingly applied makeup, puzzled over her options. She’d graduated from Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, a competitive magnet high school, and took some community college classes. She dreamed of attending a liberal arts college, but found the cost of tuition both unattainable and philosophically repellent.


“All these people who talked about race and class had spent so much money to go to school,” she said. “How can you talk about making things more equitable, but you’re spending $30,000 a year on tuition?”


So Ms. Torregoza applied for a Starbucks barista job in a strip mall near home. She’d heard about the coffee conglomerate’s generous benefits — tuition money, company stock, health insurance for part-time workers. But once she got to work, disillusionment set in.


The first thing she noticed: There never seemed to be enough people on the clock. Everybody rushed around while automated systems logged the speed of drive-through transactions — ideally, 30 to 40 seconds — and whether surveyed customers rated the baristas likable. Not that she had time to ruminate on her scores — Ms. Torregoza says she and her colleagues could hardly attend to basic hygiene. They often found themselves too frenzied to wipe down tables, clean the bathrooms or follow orders to wash their hands every half-hour, she said.


Oddly, despite this state of affairs, Ms. Torregoza couldn’t get enough shifts. She dreamed of saving money, moving out on her own, maybe transferring to a Starbucks downtown — but for that, she’d need to work. She got, at most, 25 or 27 hours a week, which was considered generous for Starbucks, where baristas say they rarely get full-time hours and even struggle for the 20 they need to qualify for benefits.


Ms. Torregoza’s discontent was growing, and she wasn’t alone. She’d donned her green Starbucks apron just as a labor insurrection was exploding across the company. The hectic, high-risk pandemic shifts had racked up record profits for Starbucks, but left many of the baristas exhausted and embittered. Workers at one cafe after the next were voting to unionize — more than 330 of its thousands of locations so far. Their demands include better pay ($20 an hour minimum for baristas, with annual raises), fair and consistent scheduling and easier access to the benefits that Starbucks executives were always touting.


The Nottingham Starbucks voted to join Starbucks Workers United in June 2022 — and Ms. Torregoza and her colleagues stepped into a world of trouble.


The corporate dirty war that ensued — in Nottingham and at newly unionized Starbucks cafes across the country — draws a sobering picture of employee rights casually crushed and labor laws too weak to help. Starbucks continues to fight and appeal the many labor complaints pending against it and maintains that the company has done nothing wrong.


But these professions of innocence are countered by piles of testimony from workers and National Labor Relations Board findings suggesting that Starbucks has indeed illegally repressed employees’ rights. The company has so far racked up a staggering number of complaints from the agency. In 100 cases, many of which consolidate a number of incidents, regional N.L.R.B. offices have decided there is sufficient evidence to pursue litigation against Starbucks. That includes a nationwide complaint, consolidating 32 charges across 28 states, alleging that Starbucks failed or refused to bargain with union representatives from 163 cafes.


Starbucks lacks the glamour of Hollywood and the indispensability of UPS, but as strikes and union drives erupt across the economy, the coffee workers’ struggle illuminates the stark and sometimes insurmountable challenges confronted by ordinary American workers who try to exercise their right to organize.


That Starbucks is carrying on this campaign in plain sight may be the most damning aspect: Union busting is illegal, but consequences are inconsequential. The Starbucks case demonstrates that a large corporation can effectively bust a union with time, by dithering over details and exhausting legal appeals. According to national labor laws, an employer “must bargain in good faith.” But that is a squishy and essentially unenforceable rule. Starbucks may yet succeed in smothering one of the most energized labor movements of our time.


It’s important to understand what Starbucks has done — and what it hasn’t done. The company has been accused of deploying familiar anti-labor tactics, such as the shuttering of some union stronghold cafes. (Starbucks denies closing stores in response to union drives and blames other factors, such as crime.) Union activists reported being spied upon, harassed or fired on flimsy pretexts, complaints that Starbucks disputes.


But Starbucks has also done a lot of nothing — time-buying, morale-eroding, innocent-seeming nothing. The company dedicated to caffeinating the world turns out to be very good at moving slowly, and the inaction is devastating for the workers, many of whom are economically vulnerable. Starbucks, on the other hand, faces little risk. Even if the company eventually ends up losing cases on the final appeal — a stage that could take years — the N.L.R.B. is barred from imposing monetary penalties. The board can only order employers to “make whole” anyone who lost money and warn them to do better.


“We’d email them, and they weren’t responding,” said Marina Multhaup, a Seattle-based lawyer who represents all the Starbucks unions in the Pacific Northwest. “So we’d file a charge, which is really all we can do.”


“Months and months later,” Ms. Multhaup said, the National Labor Relations Board “agreed that Starbucks was not bargaining. And we go to a whole hearing about it. But meanwhile, it’s been months and months.”


Across the country, the coffee company has drastically slowed negotiations by insisting (illegally, according to the N.L.R.B.’s general counsel) on in-person bargaining. The demand for face-to-face negotiations has severely hindered coffee shop workers who unionized in part because their schedules were erratic. When union representatives join by Zoom, Starbucks representatives abruptly stand and walk out.


“It really puts on display the whole power differential,” Ms. Multhaup said.


Meanwhile, not a single Starbucks union member has gotten a contract, and the union says the company hasn’t suggested any counterproposals in response to union demands.


These passive tactics of delay and avoidance are quiet and undramatic — especially compared with the bloody strikes and picket brawls of America’s past — but remarkably effective at crushing nascent unions, labor experts warn. We hear a lot about hard-fought unionization votes at Amazon and Trader Joe’s and REI, but once the election excitement fades, half the certified unions never secure a contract, said Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy at the University of California, Santa Barbara.


“The main line of defense is, ‘We’re just not going to sign a contract,’ and that’s just as effective,” Mr. Lichtenstein said. “And if you don’t have it within a year, well, the turnover is so great, and some of the people are no longer there.”


“The labor law has become broken,” he said.


As for the N.L.R.B., the agency has made no secret that it’s struggling to keep pace. Despite surging interest in unions — including a 53 percent jump in union petitions from 2021 to 2022 — the agency operates on a tight budget and a skeleton crew. The number of field staff workers available to carry out labor investigations today is half of what it was 20 years ago.


In the realm of unionized Starbucks cafes, some of which have clashed spectacularly with management, Nottingham isn’t known as a battleground. But Ms. Torregoza and her colleagues have nevertheless endured waves of fallout this past year.


Ms. Torregoza’s weekly hours gradually dwindled to 10 after the election, she said, forcing her to ration gas and delay veterinary visits for her cat, Charlie. Starbucks managers across the country are accused of slashing unionized workers’ hours to starvation levels. When Ms. Torregoza tried to supplement her income by picking up shifts in nearby Starbucks locations, as she had often done before, she found herself stonewalled. One manager, she said, finally remarked that Ms. Torregoza’s union work made her an unwelcome presence. (Ms. Torregoza has filed unfair labor practice complaints over this alleged discrimination.)


“They’re trying to get us to a point where we all just quit,” said Thanya Cruz Borrazas, who worked with Ms. Torregoza in the Nottingham cafe and in the union.


Meanwhile, the cafes that didn’t unionize were reaping fiercely desired improvements — the dress code was finally loosened and tipping by credit card, rather than just cash, was enabled.


Howard Schultz, a steely eyed, self-made former Starbucks chief executive, has told his story all over the country: the impoverished childhood in shoddy housing; the disabled and mistreated father; final vindication through the achievement of the American dream, a phrase he likes to use.


It’s a good story, and we bought it — we bought his coffee at a premium price, and we bought him, too. Hillary Clinton, by many accounts, planned to nominate Mr. Schultz for labor secretary if she’d won the presidential election in 2016. Mr. Schultz himself has toyed with the idea of running for president.


Mr. Schultz frequently lectures people about having built a “different kind of company” that respects the rights of employees, whom he calls partners. An empty chair gapes at every board meeting in a symbolic nod to the partners, who may or may not feel gratified at being represented by a piece of furniture.


When the recent wave of labor organizing first started to foment among Starbucks workers in Buffalo, Mr. Schultz was one of the corporate luminaries who jetted into town to discourage the union. It didn’t work, though — in 2021, a Buffalo Starbucks became the first company-owned cafe to unionize, and other stores quickly followed. Mr. Schultz greeted the union with an indignation that has yet to fade. He has flouted an N.L.R.B. order to apologize to his workers and to film and distribute a video explaining his employees’ rights.


“Starbucks Coffee Company did not break the law,” Mr. Schultz replied flatly in March when lawmakers in Congress questioned him about the video.


The baristas from Nottingham were there that day. The union had paid for their train tickets to Washington so that they could watch Mr. Schultz testify at the Capitol. He hadn’t wanted to face lawmakers’ questions; he’d agreed to come only after he was threatened with a subpoena. But the baristas were ebullient. It was, in a sense, a business trip — a first for Ms. Torregoza, who wore her union T-shirt and took careful notes.


“It was very surreal,” she said. “My mom texted me, like, ‘Oh, I heard on NPR that Schultz is going to testify today,’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll be there.’”


The storied entrepreneur came across as icy and defensive, insisting Starbucks had done nothing wrong and that his anti-union stance was simply a “preference” that he had every right to express.


“Yes, I have billions of dollars,” he snapped when lawmakers referred to him as a billionaire. “I earned it. No one gave it to me. Anyone who keeps labeling this billionaire thing,” he added, “it’s your moniker constantly and it’s unfair.”


This intransigence seemed improbable from a public figure whose own life story begins with his father, a truck driver, suffering a severe leg injury on the job, which threw his family into desperate straits. Mr. Schultz, a child at the time, has called this a “defining moment” in his life.


Upbraiding him for “squeezing the people who made you rich,” Senator Ed Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, invoked Mr. Schultz’s father.


“Your father had no rights and your family paid the price. That is how your workers now feel,” Mr. Markey thundered. “That is something I think, Mr. Schultz, that you just fundamentally don’t understand. These workers are just like your father, and they have no rights.”


Mr. Schultz appeared offended at hearing the young baristas compared with his father.


“You bring up my father,” he sputtered. “You don’t understand, sir, my father was a World War II veteran. He fought for this country in the South Pacific. You don’t understand.”


By the time labor experts and unionized workers testified to Starbucks’ abuses, Mr. Schultz and his team — a small army of nattily dressed advisers and lawyers — had left the building.


The baristas from Nottingham recalled watching him go, wondering if he’d look their way.


He didn’t.


A billionaire who doesn’t want to be called a billionaire, who blusters when his company’s service workers get likened to the blue-collar worker who raised him — this is the chasm between our putative national values and our daily reality. We want to believe in a middle-class America where hard work weaves its own safety net. But millions of workers don’t earn enough money to cover basic expenses.


Unions helped create the American middle class and delivered livable pay, a two-day weekend, sick leave and overtime. But their power has largely faded. While some industries like Hollywood remain heavily unionized and a few private companies like UPS are still union strongholds, organizers have struggled to penetrate the service sector, which contains a majority of American jobs. Unions now enjoy the highest U.S. approval rating in decades, thanks partly to the deeply demoralizing experience many service workers endured during the pandemic and partly, no doubt, to the growing realization that neither corporate benevolence nor legislative nobility can be expected to save us.


The federal minimum wage, which has not increased since 2009, now sits at a plainly unlivable $7.25 an hour.


Ms. Torregoza was still in elementary school in 2012, when fast food workers began the “Fight for $15” to lobby for a minimum wage hike. That struggle has dragged on so long that the original (and still unmet) demand is outdated and insufficient. Most Americans, no matter their political beliefs, now believe that people should earn at least $20 an hour, according to recent polling.


In his testimony, Mr. Schultz repeatedly reminded lawmakers that the average Starbucks worker earns $17.50 — more than the minimum wage in all 50 states.


Then Senator Mike Braun, Republican of Indiana, told Mr. Schultz bluntly that the salary he was touting wasn’t enough to survive.


“Even $17, that’s not a living wage in this day and age,” Mr. Braun said. “Any large corporation shouldn’t necessarily be bragging about $15- or $20-an-hour wages.”


Ms. Cruz Borrazas worked in Nottingham through the pandemic. This, she recalls, required stifling her fear of getting sick while scrambling to make ever more drinks, ever more quickly, with fewer clocked-in colleagues to help. At one point, a burst pipe in the cafe forced her to slog through a few inches of water, trying not to think about the electrical wires or her sodden feet. In the middle of all that, she’d sometimes glance at the run report tallying the sales.


“I’m over here, like, having palpitations because I don’t have time to get a sip of water,” she said. “And it’ll be like, they just made $700.”


Managers at the Nottingham cafe did not respond to phone messages; a former Nottingham manager who has since left Starbucks also declined an interview.


It was during the pandemic that Starbucks workers began to unionize in earnest — when the job started to feel physically dangerous, when the shifts got more hectic and baristas had to tangle with mask-refusing customers in between filling takeout and delivery orders.


“We felt very disposable,” said Alexis Rizzo, a Buffalo shift supervisor who became a key union organizer, only to be fired, she says, for being a few minutes late. (Starbucks has said her absences were more egregious.) “People were angry.”


Mr. Schultz speaks of Italian espresso bars and cushy benefits, but workers describe a reality that is harsher.


“You’re constantly seeing the company boast about how they have the best benefits in the industry, and then I see my co-workers on Medicaid because they don’t have enough hours or it’s too expensive,” Ms. Rizzo said. “It’s just a lot of the company pretending to be something they’re not.”


The baristas from Nottingham asked to meet me in downtown Baltimore, at a nonunion Starbucks in a bustling neighborhood near the Johns Hopkins University campus. Unlike their cafe, which is set among flat, broad roads between Lowe’s Home Improvement and Taco Bell, this Starbucks was urban and airy, with no drive-through in sight. I wasn’t sure why we were there.


At 22, Ms. Cruz Borrazas has a quiet, somewhat dreamy bearing, long curls tumbling over her shoulders. Born in Uruguay, she too was brought as a toddler to the United States, where her parents work blue-collar jobs in cleaning, construction and demolition. Ms. Cruz Borrazas has a green card but is not a citizen, and she never had health insurance until she managed to buy it through her job at Starbucks. After the union vote, she said, her hours were eventually cut so badly she risked dropping below the threshold to keep the benefits. She’d recently been cashing out her sick time to supplement her paychecks.


“Yes, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” she told me that day. “But it’s a long tunnel, and there are monsters.”


In her four years at Starbucks, she says, she never saw a barista get full-time hours. None of her colleagues, she told me, can afford to live alone.


But then she, too, mentions the American dream.


“I feel like the union is my only way out,” she said. “It’s the ticket to the middle class.”


I was starting to understand why we’d met in the city, the walkable streets, the cafe full of students and downtown workers, the suggestion of self-sufficiency.


When Ms. Torregoza talked about the union, she kept veering into discussion of her life in the far suburbs, which she considered sterile and unsustainable. There aren’t enough sidewalks, she said, and developments keep going up, like the Crumbl Cookies that had recently materialized a few doors down from Starbucks in the strip mall.


“It’s a little unreal,” she said. “It stresses me out, honestly.”


This was the malaise of a youth spent in the shadows of enormous companies hungry for low-wage workers to staff identical counters. Imagine being brought thousands of miles in pursuit of a dream and then, as you come of age, squinting into this landscape where there is nothing but selling and shopping, and trying to understand what it was supposed to look like.


Life was moving faster for Ms. Cruz Borrazas through the spring. She was taking on more union responsibility, using unscheduled hours to advise Starbucks workers who were organizing in other places. Invited by the Workers’ Rights Institute at Georgetown Law School, she spoke on a panel with Senator Sherrod Brown and Jennifer Abruzzo, the N.L.R.B.’s general counsel. But she had to send a few emails before getting the badly needed fee she said she’d been promised, leaving her feeling humiliated.


By the time spring gave way to summer, her hours had gotten cut so badly that she was officially broke — her bank balance dropped into negative territory. At that point, Ms. Cruz Borrazas’ health broke down. Malnourished and exhausted, she drove to the library one day but felt unable to get out of the car. So she drove to a hospital, where she was admitted for several days.


I heard first from Ms. Torregoza and later from Ms. Cruz Borrazas herself that upon getting out of the hospital, she’d quit her job at Starbucks and withdrawn from the union.


Starbucks can’t be blamed for Ms. Cruz Borrazas’ health crisis. Plenty of Starbucks workers are organizing under tremendous pressure without winding up in the hospital.


But listening on the phone as she described her breakdown, I noticed that material want and bodily fatigue were tangled into her thoughts. She’d been forcing things, she told me, trying to stand up to corporations, and that had been a mistake. To work and hustle as hard as she and her parents had always done, she told me, was “literally killing us … it’s killing our brains.” She’d been in service her whole life, she said, and she felt unable to continue.


“All I ever wanted was to go back to my own country, see my family, not have to work so much, not have to see my parents struggling so much,” she said. She told me that God had finally stepped in and told her that she could “just chill.”


I remembered her describing how as a child, she feared illness not because it hurt, but because the cost of seeing a doctor could cripple her family. I thought about how badly she wanted to make herself safe and make her family stable by securing a spot in the elusive middle class. She’d glimpsed a way forward with the union. And then she’d lost it.


The Nottingham union is “cold” now, Ms. Torregoza recently told me. It’s not one of the Starbucks sites where employees have voted to decertify the union. But turnover in Nottingham has been heavy, she said — about half the staff has left and been replaced over the past year or so — and, as the labor experts warned, union enthusiasm has withered.


The Nottingham workers never got a chance to bargain (Starbucks claims this is the union’s fault for insisting on Zoom meetings). As the union fervor dies down, Ms. Torregoza says her hours are starting to inch back up again. I suggested that the old status quo might be asserting itself.


“That’s not going to happen as long as I’m around,” Ms. Torregoza said.


But I think it’s possible. Maybe this quiet fading, engineered by a company with time and money to burn, is how the union dies.



8) Pacific Seabed Mining Delayed as International Agency Finalizes Rules

Efforts to extract the metals used in car batteries have been pushed off amid pressure from environmentalists and nations that oppose them.

By Eric Lipton, July 23, 2023

A deep sea mining vessel is seen in the background while two people in red inflatable rafts, each wearing life vests, hold up a yellow sign reading “Stop Deep Sea Mining.”
Greenpeace activists demonstrate in front of a deep sea mining vessel commissioned by Canada’s The Metals Company, returning to port from eight weeks of test mining in the Clarion-Clipperton Zone between Mexico and Hawaii last year. Credit...Gustavo Graf Maldonado/Reuters

The start of industrial-scale seabed mining to extract car battery metals from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean has been delayed after the international agency charged with overseeing the work concluded late last week that it needed more time to finalize mining rules.


The action by the International Seabed Authority, which had set a July goal for finalizing seabed mining rules, came after pressure from environmentalists and nations that oppose the effort.


The decision will most directly impact the Metals Company, a Canadian-based mining start-up that has teamed with the small island nation of Nauru to pursue the first license to start industrial-scale mining, perhaps as soon as next year — a timeline that will now be delayed.


Just how long a delay may be is unknown. Maneuvering is underway by both seabed mining opponents, who want to stop the mining entirely, as well as by supporters, who want to figure out how to get it underway by around 2025.


The effort to postpone the start has been led by nations including Costa Rica, Chile and France. The three nations urged other countries that are members of the Seabed Authority’s governing council to agree that no permit authorizing mining in international waters should be granted until regulations are finalized. This will now not likely take place until 2025 at the earliest, the body agreed.


“We are on the side of the ocean,” said Gina Guillén Grillo, Costa Rica’s representative to the Seabed Authority who has helped lead the opposition to seabed mining. “We know there is not enough science. To start right now would be a disaster.”


Gerard Barron, the Metals Company’s chief executive, said he remained optimistic that his company and its partner, Nauru, would secure the approval they needed to start the effort within the next several years.


While the Seabed Authority continues its work to determine environmental standards, as well as a royalty rate that will be paid by the mining contractors, among other matters, the Metals Company will continue to lobby other nations, Mr. Barron said. The company will aim to convince them that ocean floor mining is better for the environment than surface mining in places like Indonesia or Congo, where battery metals such as nickel, cobalt and copper are now being produced.


“Hopefully, we can keep the timetable on track,” Mr. Barron said.


The Metals Company and Nauru, along with the delegation from China, which also has been aggressively pursuing seabed mining, pushed unsuccessfully at last week’s meeting for the Seabed Authority to set a goal of finalizing the regulations by 2024.


Mr. Barron said that the Metals Company’s investors — which include Allseas Group, a Swiss-based company that specializes in offshore oil pipeline operations, and which is looking for a way to transition to work that can support the electric vehicle industry — remained committed to the project.


As it now stands, the Seabed Authority, which is based in Jamaica, has issued 31 contracts for exploratory work in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans. These agreements allow sponsoring nations and their contractors to gather small quantities of seabed rocks or cobalt-rich crusts while assembling data on the environmental impact of the process, such as the risk that plumes of sediment might pose to other aquatic life when the rocks are lifted.


The area of most intense focus is the Clarion-Clipperton Zone, a remote stretch between Mexico and Hawaii where seabed rocks have the highest concentration of metals. The rocks sit 2.5 miles down, so deep that remotely operated machines are needed to lift them to collection ships.


This is the region where the Metals Company wants to begin its mining operations, convinced it can generate $30 billion in post-tax net cash flow over the 25-year life of the initial project. If it is successful, this small company that has never produced a profit would become one of the largest global suppliers of key metals needed for electric vehicle batteries.


One of the biggest questions now is when Nauru will submit an application to begin industrial-scale mining. It may do so before the regulations are finalized, knowing that it will likely take at least a year for the application to be reviewed and then to be acted on by the Seabed Authority.


If Nauru and the Metals Company must wait until the regulations are finalized, seabed mining would begin no sooner than 2026 amid continued opposition.


Environmentalists who have teamed up with nations like Costa Rica and France to challenge seabed mining have said the delay would give them more time to enlist additional countries that want to see a long-term pause or even a moratorium on the practice. Nearly two dozen nations have now endorsed some form of a hold, up from just a handful a year ago.



9) Rising Heat Deaths Are Not Just About the Temperature

By Tish Harrison Warren, July 23, 2023


Matija Medved

The day I found out that 10 people had died of heat-related illness in Laredo, Texas, I happened to be on a road trip with my daughter from our home in Austin to the Gulf Coast. Our hotel had a pool with an outdoor bar. As I read about this tragedy on a cushioned lounge chair, the contrast between these horrific deaths, just a few hours away, and the happy sunbathers sipping boozy frozen drinks around me was troubling and revelatory. We are all experiencing record-breaking heat, but it’s clear that we do not all experience it in the same way.


In the very county where I sat by the pool, a 46-year-old construction worker died from hyperthermia while pouring concrete a few weeks before. According to The Times, extreme heat, the leading weather-related cause of death, killed at least 306 people in Texas last year — the highest annual total in more than two decades. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports around 700 deaths and about 9,000 hospitalizations each year related to heat. But studies have shown that the actual toll of heat is likely to be much higher, possibly contributing to tens of thousands of deaths. Researchers in Britain predict that heat-related deaths will rise 257 percent by 2050 due to climate change.


I grew up in Texas and for as long as I can remember, summer brought news stories of heat deaths. But I also remember when summers were more bearable. Now, the heat is getting worse and more people are dying. While it is important to highlight heat deaths as another example of the devastating toll of climate change, it is also important to say that, often, when people die of heat, they are actually dying of poverty. And as with climate change, the rippling effects of poverty must also be addressed, battled and curbed.


To be sure, poverty is not a factor in every heat death. Wealthier people can end up in dangerous situations, and all of us must take precautions to stay cool and hydrated as we face record-breaking temperatures across the country.


Those most likely to die from heat, however, tend to be older people, migrants, those in poverty, those experiencing homelessness or inadequate housing, and those who work outside, like construction workers and agricultural laborers. Dangerous heat disproportionally affects Black and Latino families. Much like Covid-19 endangers and affects everyone, but has disproportionally affected historically disadvantaged communities, heat deaths expose deep societal inequality. Soaring heat deaths represent a societal failure. They demonstrate not only the harm of environmental destruction, but also how the poor fall through the cracks, how we as a society do not adequately care for one another, how we leave the vulnerable to die.


This is usually a sin of omission. We do not want the economically disadvantaged to not have access to working air-conditioners. We do not want the poor to be endangered. But we often do not see or know our most vulnerable neighbors.


Demographic sorting and the emergence of what the political scientist Charles Murray called “super ZIPS,” neighborhoods where the nation’s wealthiest families cluster, means that those with plenty of resources seemingly live on a different planet than those with few or none, even as we share the same city or state. The lives of the wealthy, the middle class, and those in poverty are increasingly separated and utterly different. So Alfredo Garza Jr. died in Laredo last month, sweltering in a home with two broken air-conditioners, while my house, with a functioning air-conditioner, sat empty for a week as I traveled for work.


Then there are times when these deaths are caused by a sin of commission — an intentional act of greed and callousness. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, for instance, signed a bill into law, amid triple-digit temperatures, that eliminated local regulations in Austin and Dallas mandating 10-minute water breaks every four hours for construction workers. It also prevented other cities from requiring even these modest safety measures. Applauded by supporters as pro-business, this bill expresses a shocking and inhumane disregard for human lives. Texas lawmakers appear to be punishing people for having the audacity to be working-class while also having basic bodily needs.


We all get hot. We all need water. We all need breaks. Lawmakers can ignore this reality because they work (on legislation like this bill) in air-conditioned offices. They drive home on roads made by the workers whose lives they are endangering. They pull inside their garages, close the door to the blistering heat and enter their comfortable homes, where their family members do not have to worry about dying of heat.


It is unconscionable that in our wealthy country, we let blue-collar workers and the economically disadvantaged needlessly die in oppressive heat. Many of these deaths could be prevented by better access to air-conditioned, safe places or hydration, by outreach workers who give information about heat safety, or by people who check in on those most vulnerable to heat.


There are already good examples of what can be done. Dallas, for instance, began an assistance program that distributes and installs free air-conditioning units for low-income families, the elderly and those with disabilities. We can help offset and limit energy bills for those who are economically struggling. We can create more cooling stations and reduce heat islands through having more tree canopies. We can provide water stations for migrants. We can ensure that those who work outside are protected by law. And we can each volunteer, donate to and support organizations that lift the burden on struggling neighbors around us.


The economic disparities in our country are deadly. Families like mine spend our summer complaining about the heat, but we can find ways to beat it. We go to the pool. We take trips to the beach or cooler places farther north. We spend afternoons hanging out in bookstores, coffee shops, or our well air-conditioned homes. All of this costs money.


And, importantly, we have a safety net, of both relationships and resources that help reduce the threats posed by extreme heat. If our air-conditioner breaks, my family has dozens of people we could call who would take us in until we could get it repaired. These relational resources and community connections are where the role of religious and civic institutions become most clear. Sociologist Robert Putnam writes about how religious organizations like churches offer social capital — informal networks of community that help people out and rescue people from invisibility and isolation. As a pastor, I’ve seen the power of this, as church members check in on and care for one another, especially the vulnerable in a community.


We, as a society, cannot simply wash our hands of these deaths, passively blaming them on a number on a thermometer. Human society and industry have contributed to the rising heat of climate change. And human society — the government, the church and individuals alike — have failed to ensure that those most at risk are kept safe. So, as heat deaths rise, when we speak of those who die, don’t just say they died of heat. Say they died of poverty, of neglect, of a world that values the wealthy more than those who are not, of a society that looks away from the preventable suffering of the vulnerable.