Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, September 3, 2023




National Tour of Ukrainian and Russian Leftists Against the War in Ukraine

By Howie Hawkins

Image Image by Candice Seplow.

San Francisco Bay Area:

Wednesday, September 13, 5:00 P.M. – Hanna Perekhoda and Ilya Matveev speak at the University of California at Berkeley, in Dwinelle Hall, Room 370.

The Ukraine Solidarity Network (U.S.) is sponsoring a national tour of Ukrainian and Russian anti-war socialists opposed to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The tour will take place in Chicago, New York, and the San Francisco Bay Area, from September 3 to 13, 2023.


While the narratives of Western and Russia imperialism have dominated commentary on the war, this tour will amplify the voices of progressive Ukrainians and Russians who have experienced first-hand the ravages of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and his effort to silence anti-war and democratic opposition in Russia. The speakers will discuss the nature of the war, why progressives should support Ukraine’s just resistance, and the need for a progressive rather than neoliberal reconstruction of Ukraine.

Tour Speakers


Hanna Perekhoda is an ethnic Ukrainian who grew up in the Russian-speaking the city of Donetsk in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. A researcher at the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, she studies the political imagination of Ukrainian and Russian national narratives. She is a founder of the Swiss-based Committee of Solidarity with the Ukrainian People and with the Russian Opponents of the War. She is a member of the Ukrainian democratic socialist organization Sotsialnyi Rukh (“Social Movement”). Her articles and interviews have appeared in Democracy Now!, Green Left, Jacobin, New Politics, Open Democracy, OpenLeft.ru, Zabrona, and other publications.


“Americans need to know,” Perekhoda says, “that, regardless of political disagreements, all of Ukrainian society is united in the view that the Russian invaders must be expelled from their territory. Unfortunately, even as they defend themselves from an external enemy, Ukrainian workers are facing attacks from their own government. Ukrainians need solidarity in both of these struggles!”


Denys Bondar, a native of Ukraine, is a professor of physics at Tulane University. He is involved in a variety of initiatives to help Ukraine, including solar technology. He is also a member of Sotsialnyi Rukh, for which he co-authored their statement, “The Left View on the Prospects for Peace.” He also co-authored an article on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant crisis that appeared in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.


Bondar says, “The responsibility for the fact that peace negotiations are not currently underway lies entirely with the Russian Federation, which has not provided any public proposals that the majority of Ukrainians could even hypothetically accept.”


Ilya Budraitskis is a Moscow-based historian, political writer, and spokesperson for the Russian Socialist Movement. He went into exile shortly after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine and crackdown on domestic dissent. He is a co-founder of Posle (“After”), an online journal by Russians who oppose the war against Ukraine. His book Dissidents Among Dissidents (Verso, 2022) is a study of the Left in post-Soviet Russia. His articles and interviews on the war have appeared in CounterPunch, Jacobin, LeftEast, Spectre, Tempest, and other publications.


It is Budraitskis’ view that, “The Putin regime is unreformable. The only hope for rebuilding a peaceful, democratic Russia lies with the Russians, exiled or jailed, who spoke out against the war.”


Ilya Matveev is also a recently exiled Russian socialist who was a political scientist in St. Petersburg. He is a founding editor of OpenLeft.ru, an editor of Posle, and currently a visiting research scholar at the University of California at Berkeley. His articles and interviews have appeared in Green Left, Jacobin, LeftEast, Open Democracy, Posle, Socialist Register, and other publications.


Matveev says, “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was an act of imperialism, which needn’t be a simple extension of capitalism to be deserving of opposition. It was an act of violence and domination driven by an unaccountable political class and, as usually is the case, its victims are predominantly the working classes – both in Russia and Ukraine.”

Tour Schedule

Chicago, Illinois:


Sunday, September 3, 3:30 p.m. – A panel featuring Hanna Perekhoda, Ilya Budraitskis, and Denys Bondar at the Socialism 2023 Conference (https://socialismconference.org).


Tuesday, September 5, 6:30 p.m. – Hanna Perekhoda, Ilya Budraitskis, and Denys Bondar speak at Loyola University’s Lakeshore Campus (6511 North Sheridan Road) in the Damen Student Center Cinema.


New York City:


Saturday, September 9, 7:00 p.m. – Hanna Perekhoda, Ilya Budraitskis, and Denys Bondar speak at the LGBT Community Center on Saturday, 208 West 13th St. (between 7th & 8th Avenues). This event will be livestreamed and available online afterwards. For details, go to https://linktr.ee/ukrainesolidaritynetwork.


San Francisco Bay Area:


Wednesday, September 13, 5:00 P.M. – Hanna Perekhoda and Ilya Matveev speak at the University of California at Berkeley, in Dwinelle Hall, Room 370.


Ukraine Solidarity Network (U.S.)


The tour is being organized by the Ukrainian Solidarity Network in the U.S., an independent group of progressive activists from the labor, peace, feminist, and civil rights movements. The network builds moral, political, and material support for the people of Ukraine in their resistance to Russia’s invasion and their struggle for independence, democracy, and social justice. It fosters links between progressive labor and social organizations in Ukraine and the U.S.


The Ukraine Solidarity Network statement of principles, information on the tour, and links to writings and interviews by the speakers and other Ukraine solidarity activists is available at https://linktr.ee/ukrainesolidaritynetwork.


CounterPunch, August 29, 2023




Join the March to End Fossil Fuels!

September 17th, 1-4:00 P.M., NYC and Everywhere!

Register an Action Anywhere:


On September 17th, People Vs. Fossil Fuels—a broad coalition of over 1,200 climate and environmental justice groups, is planning a massive demonstration during the United Nations Climate Action Summit.


"The United Nations is calling on world leaders to take real steps to lead us off fossil fuels to protect people and the planet. On September 20th in New York, the UN Climate Ambition Summit will gather world leaders to commit to phasing out fossil fuels."Thousands of us will take to the streets before the summit to demand President Biden take bold action to end fossil fuels. Other direct actions are being planned all week in the lead up to the march and across the country!


Sign Up:




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:








Drop the Charges on the Tampa 5!

Sign the Petition:


The Tampa 5—Gia Davila, Lauren Pineiro, Laura Rodriguez, Jeanie K, and Chrisley Carpio—are the five Students for a Democratic Society protesters at the University of South Florida who were attacked by campus police and are now facing five to ten years in prison for protesting Governor Ron DeSantis' attacks on diversity programs and all of higher education.


On July 12, 2023, the Tampa 5 had their second court appearance. 


The Tampa 5 are still in the middle of the process of discovery, which means that they are obtaining evidence from the prosecution that is meant to convict them. They have said publicly that all the security camera footage they have seen so far absolves them, and they are eager to not only receive more of this evidence but also to share it with the world. The Tampa 5 and their supporters demand full transparency and USF's full cooperation with discovery, to which all of the defendants are entitled.


In spite of this, the charges have not yet been dropped. The case of the five SDS protesters is hurtling towards a trial. So, they need all of their supporters and all parties interested in the right to protest DeSantis to stay out in the streets!


We need to demand that the DeSantis-appointed, unelected State Attorney Susan Lopez and Assistant Prosecutor Justin Diaz drop the charges.


We need to win this case once and for all and protect the right of the student movement—and all social movements in the United States—to exercise their First Amendment right to free speech and to protest.


Defend the Tampa 5!


State Attorney Susy Lopez, Prosecutor Justin Diaz, Drop the Charges!


Save Diversity in Higher Education!


Protesting DeSantis is Not a Crime!

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



  Ruchell “Cinque” Magee Walks Free!

On July 28, he was released from prison after 67 years of being caged!

“Slavery 400 years ago, slavery today. It’s the same but with a new name.”


“My fight is to expose the entire system, judicial and prison system, a system of slavery…This will cause benefit not just to myself but to all those who at this time are being criminally oppressed or enslaved by this system.”


“You have to deal on your own tactics. You have a right to take up arms to oppose any usurped government, particularly the type of corruption that we have today.” – Ruchell Magee


We’re raising money to ease his transition to the outside and I’m writing to ask for your help by making a donation. We have launched a Fundrazr on-line to collect funds. Here is the link:  



Will you help? And share, too?


Thanks to Michael Schiffmann and Linn Washington Jr. Addressing the Issue of Political Prisoners in the United States: Mumia Abu-Jamal and Ruchell Magee


A more in-depth and recent article on Ruchell, “Slave Rebel or Citizen?” is very worthwhile by Joy James and Kalonji Jama Changa. Read it here: 



And more background – the “50th Anniversary of the Marin Courthouse Rebellion:”



Also the 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of George Jackson—99 Books



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.



Update on Ed Poindexter and Urgent Health Call-In Campaign


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


You can also watch Ed speaking about himself some years ago thanks to Sister Tekla, who was able to interview Ed and Mondo some years ago: https://youtu.be/sps0s4zeJxg.

More of these videos will be forthcoming.


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.)


Friends and Comrades,


Thank you so very much for your phone calls and communications in support of Ed Poindexter’s health care!


We have learned from Ed’s family that a date has been set for Ed to go to an outside doctor to be evaluated for a hearing device. (Thank you, callers!) We have also learned that Ed will not be fitted for a prosthesis within the foreseeable future. The reason for this is that Ed is unable to sit up for more than a few seconds on his own. He is unable to get himself out of bed by himself. Ed cannot go to the restroom without substantial help. There is a fear of him falling.


The prison’s response has been to suggest that Ed try harder at physical therapy—so that he might be able to tie his own shoes again and perform basic self-care—but he cannot. Our position is that he is too weak because of the near daily kidney dialysis and multiple other health problems. As you know, he has lost sight in one eye, and is unable to hear. While he may have been weakened by being wheelchair bound for years, the fact that the institution amputated his left leg below the knee (without notice to the family) has made recovery of strength in his legs difficult. Add to this that Ed is extremely ill from kidney disease, and the near daily kidney dialysis artificially making his kidney’s function causes him to vomit his food and makes him ill overall. All of these combined illnesses have resulted in Ed not being able to even hold his frame upright for more than a few seconds.


Therefore, in protection of Ed’s basic rights as a human being to health care and human dignity, we demand that Ed be seen by an outside high ranking National Medical Association Certified geriatric physician or team of physicians who specialize in heart, kidney, and geriatric health. We demand the evaluation be by a physician connected to a reputable hospital so that Ed’s entire condition: eyes, heart (recall that Ed underwent triple bypass heart surgery in 2016) kidneys, neuropathy, amputated leg, serious inability to balance his frame, and hearing can all be evaluated as a whole.


It is the family’s belief that Ed is experiencing a diminishing quality of life that it is irreversible, and we demand an outside doctor also evaluate him for this obvious fact. If it is determined by a reputable doctor that Ed is experiencing a diminishing quality of life; we want his status changed at the prison to reflect this reality.


Please call the numbers below and write to demand that Ed be seen by an outside doctor at a state-of-the-art hospital facility—for the purpose of evaluation specifically as to whether his condition is diminishing and irreversible—taken as a whole.


Ed Support Committee and Family and Concerned Members of the Community




Acting Medical Director Jeff Kasselman, M.D.: 402-479-5931 jeffrey.kasselman@nebraska.gov


Warden Boyd of the Reception and Treatment Center: 402-471-2861


Warden: Taggart Boyd

Reception and Treatment Center

P.O. Box 22800

Lincoln, NE 68542-2800

Phone: 402-471-2861

Fax: 402-479-6100


Jeff Kasselman, M.D.

Acting Medical Director,

Nebraska Department of Corrections

Phone: 402-479-5931

Email: jeffrey.kasselman@nebraska.gov


Sample Message:


“I’m calling to urge that Ed Poindexter, #27767, be given appropriate medical care. I demand that be seen by an outside high ranking National Medical Association certified geriatric physician or team of physicians who specialize in heart, kidney, and geriatric health. I demand the evaluation include Ed’s entire condition: eyes, kidneys, diabetes, neuropathy, amputated leg, serious inability to balance his frame, and hearing. ”


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)






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!




By Kevin ''Rashid'' Johnson

Everything in Amerika is inverted
Every ideal it professes perverted
Take for example the name department of defense
Which makes absolutely no sense
Its only role invasions
and infiltrations of weaker nations
And the department of justice
Targets just us
The poor, powerless and people of color
But protects those wealthy others
Who commit the real crimes
And undermine
World peace and stability
Because they have the ability
And exercise it
Killing and robbing multitudes but few realize it
Because the system shields
The power they wield
Through corporate monopolies
But call it a free market society
Promoting deporting huge portions
Of marginalized groups while opposing abortions
And birth control
Assuming the role
Of policing women's bodies
While claiming it's a free society
And the lie of an economy that trickles down
But grinds the poor and workers into the ground
While the rich few are exempt from taxation
And drive up the cost of living with inflation
With cops who swear to serve and protect us
But only kill maim and disrespect us
Everything about Amerika is inverted
Every value it claims to uphold perverted
With euphemisms its rulers disguise
A society sustained by lies
Like the claimed land of the free and home of the brave
But steeped in racism and built by slaves

Write to Kevin “Rashid” Johnson:

Kevin Johnson #1007485

Sussex 1 State Prison                                  

24414 Musselwhite Drive

Waverly, VA 23891

Visit Rashid’s website at:




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) Macron Tries Outreach to Head Off Further Protests

After a tumultuous year, the French president is meeting with his opponents in hopes of building bridges. But few seem interested in working with him.

By Roger Cohen and Aurelien Breeden, Aug. 30, 2023

A huge crowd marching in a street.
Raising the retirement age prompted large-scale protests. Credit...James Hill for The New York Times

For over six years, President Emmanuel Macron has struggled to convince the French that he is a man of dialogue. He went on a countrywide listening tour to calm the storms of the Yellow Vest uprising, convened a citizen convention on climate policy, and created a council of politicians and members of civil society to discuss France’s most pressing issues.


But he has generally remained a top-down leader, one who listens before deciding but rarely talks of compromise. An image of aloofness has clung to him, despite attempts to bury it.


Now, more isolated, he is trying political outreach.


In the midst of the torrid doldrums of mid-August, when the ritual of protest is momentarily replaced by the ritual of the beach, France awoke to the news that Mr. Macron would convene the main parliamentary groups on Wednesday for an afternoon of discussion followed by a dinner.


It looked like a pre-emptive strike aimed at heading off a potentially turbulent “rentrée” — the post-vacation convergence on Paris often marked by resentments reignited after a spell of downtime.


The official aim is to explore a feasible legislative agenda in a Parliament where Mr. Macron’s centrist party, Renaissance, and its allies do not hold an absolute majority. But the president’s position is delicate. With four years left in his second and final term, the last thing he wants is to be seen as a lame duck. Yet inevitably the jostling to succeed him will begin soon; in some respects, it already has.


If the protests over raising the retirement age to 64 early this year have abated, the bitterness around them has not. The way the government, using a constitutional provision, rammed this major reform through the lower house of Parliament without a vote sharpened anger over the extent of presidential power. As a result, Mr. Macron’s attempts to say “I hear you” to a legislature he does not control tend to fall flat.


“Macron won, he imposed his reform, but at the cost of a tension in the country that is quite extraordinary and an extremely strong polarization around his person,” said Vincent Martigny, a professor of political science at the University of Nice. He added that opposition parties were generally uninterested in compromise and had little incentive to help the president succeed.


In a scathing response to Mr. Macron’s outreach, the left-wing alliance in Parliament, which combines the leftist France Unbowed Party with the Socialists, Communists and Greens, rejected the dinner invitation.


“We have no illusions about your objectives,” they declared in a statement. “We are now accustomed to your public relations stunts that have no follow-up and no effect.”


The parties said they would show up for the afternoon session in the hope that what they described as pressing concerns — including a 10 percent hike in electricity prices this month and rising gasoline and food prices — could be addressed.


The conservative Republicans, who are closer to Mr. Macron’s center-right policies, if not fully aligned with them, seemed more interested in forcing Mr. Macron’s hand — especially on immigration policy — than in compromising with him.


“I’m going there to tell Mr. Macron that the chitchat has gone on too long, to say that we won’t play first fiddle to the symphony of immobility,” Eric Ciotti, the head of the Republican Party, told a party gathering in southern France last week.


Stéphane Séjourné, the leader of Mr. Macron’s Renaissance party, said that the fact all parties agreed to attend was a victory in itself. “Three months ago, that would not have happened,” he said. “Ours is a culture of opposition, not of coalition.”


In a wide-ranging interview with the magazine Le Point last week, Mr. Macron seemed more defiant than conciliatory. He criticized his opposition for being hopelessly divided and noted that his government had passed a number of laws over the past year, bill by bill, in improvised coalitions.


These included raising military spending, a law to accelerate the construction of new nuclear plants, and another to cut red tape and speed the development of green energy across France.


“Let those who claim we did nothing explain to me when they did more,” Mr. Macron told Le Point.


Such is the resentment stirred by Mr. Macron’s personality — he became president at the age of 39 in his first campaign for political office — that his real achievements in lowering unemployment, spurring foreign investment, developing a French tech sector, confronting the wounds of the French colonial past and raising the ambitions of the European Union tend to go unnoticed.


Somehow, if he is to give direction to his second term, it appears that he has to overcome this perception of his presidency that is skewed by personal animus toward him.


“He has failed to impress upon public opinion that he was a man of dialogue, especially after the disastrous pension reform sequence,” Mr. Martigny said.


Mr. Macron’s immigration reform plans could raise tensions further. They aim to strike a balance between cracking down on illegal immigration and extending work opportunities for migrants with needed skills.


The government wants to speed up the deportation process and create stricter language requirements for migrants applying for residency, who would also have to pledge to respect the “principles of the Republic.” But it also wants to create temporary job opportunities for skilled workers in fields experiencing labor shortages.


“I’d say we must now be mean with those who are mean and nice with those who are nice,” is how Gérald Darmanin, Mr. Macron’s interior minister, described it to Le Monde last year. Among ministers, Mr. Darmanin has appeared the most impatient in hinting at his presidential ambitions for 2027.


But the government’s efforts have done little to attract support from the left, which has called it too harsh, or from the right, which has said it does too little to stop the flow of migrants. That opposition, on top of the social unrest caused by Mr. Macron’s pension reform, led the government to delay the proposals repeatedly. A bill is now expected to be examined sometime in the fall.


Mr. Macron could ram it through the lower house of Parliament with the same provision — known as the 49.3 after the relevant article of the Constitution — he used for the pension reform. But it can only be used once per parliamentary session, except for budget bills. It would come at considerable political cost.


“Constitutionally, it’s not an issue, but politically it is,” said Bruno Cautrès, a political scientist at Sciences Po in Paris. “The democratically elected Parliament of one of Europe’s biggest countries can’t, over the course of several years, pass the most crucial bills through a procedure that squeezes parliamentary debate.”


Mr. Macron has also floated the idea of using popular referendums to bypass political gridlock. But he can only organize referendums on a limited set of issues, and they could turn against him.


“We are living a difficult and unusual moment,” Clément Beaune, the transportation minister, said in an interview. “We are emerging from a long and powerful social protest movement and facing a Parliament with no clear majority for the whole of the mandate.”



2) A Resurgent Labour Party Sees Scotland as a Springboard to Power

As the Scottish nationalists stumble, a by-election near Glasgow this fall will test support for the opposition Labour party ahead of Britain’s coming general election.

By Mark Landler, Aug. 31, 2023

Reporting from Rutherglen and Blantyre, Scotland

Scottish Labour supporters campaigned door-to-door in Blantyre, Scotland, in August.
Scottish Labour supporters campaigned door-to-door in Blantyre, Scotland, in August. Credit...Emily Macinnes for The New York Times

For Britain’s opposition Labour Party, the road to 10 Downing Street is likely to run through Scotland. And the first steps on that road lie in a cluster of commuter towns southeast of Glasgow, where Labour is trying to win over swing voters like Cara Scott, in a closely watched parliamentary vote that will test the party’s appeal ahead of a coming general election.


Ms. Scott, 18, a geography student who studies in Edinburgh, enthusiastically supported the Scottish National Party in past ballots. But she is disillusioned by her latest S.N.P. representative, Margaret Ferrier, who was forced out of her seat on Aug. 1 after violating lockdown rules during the coronavirus pandemic.


She also thinks the Labour Party has better proposals to cope with a grinding cost-of-living crisis that has left people fed up and exhausted. Ms. Scott signed a petition to recall Ms. Ferrier, which triggered this by-election, and now said she was “leaning slightly toward Labour, based on how proactive they’ve been.”


“Their campaign has been brilliant,” said Ms. Scott, as she browsed in a slightly tattered shopping mall off the town’s high street. “Right from the get-go, they’ve been really trying to sway people’s voting opinions.”


If the Labour Party can snatch back the seat, which it lost to the S.N.P. in 2019, it will be viewed as a harbinger of broader Labour gains across Scotland in the next general election, which the Conservative prime minister, Rishi Sunak, must call by January 2025.


A Labour revival in Scotland could give the party the margin it needs to amass a majority in Parliament, even if — as most oddsmakers predict — its current double-digit lead in the polls over the Conservative Party narrows. A date for the election to fill the Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat has not yet been set, but it’s expected to take place in early October.


“This will become the center of the political world in the U.K. for the next few weeks,” said Ian Murray, who holds the sole Labour seat from Scotland and serves as the party’s shadow secretary for the country.


“If Labour wins the election in Rutherglen, you can say Keir Starmer is a prime minister-in-waiting,” he said, referring to the party’s leader, who campaigned in the district earlier this month. “It feels like the wind is at our back,” he added, “but if there’s any party that can fall over in the wind, it’s the Labour Party.”


Labour has been reborn in Scotland by the same public distemper that is lifting it above the Tories south of the border (a Tory lawmaker, Nadine Dorries, quit last week in England with a venomous attack on Mr. Sunak, whom she described as leading a “zombie Parliament”). But this is also a story of the breathtaking decline of the Scottish National Party.


Long the dominant player in Scottish politics, the S.N.P. has been brought low by scandal, infighting, and voter fatigue. Its formidable leader, Nicola Sturgeon, resigned in February and was later arrested by police in an investigation of the party’s finances (she was released and has not been charged).


The S.N.P.’s new leader, Humza Yousaf, has stumbled out of the gate, proving unpopular with voters, who have not rewarded him with the honeymoon in the polls that most new leaders get.


Like the Tories, the Scottish nationalists, who have controlled Scotland’s devolved parliament since 2007, appear exhausted and internally divided. Their political north star — Scottish independence — seems more distant than ever after Britain’s Supreme Court ruled that the Scots cannot vote unilaterally to hold another referendum after voting against independence in 2014.


While support for independence has stayed stable at around 47 percent, polls suggest it will no longer translate reliably into votes for the nationalist party. On a blustery, showery day, people in Rutherglen and the neighboring town of Blantyre said they worried more about the high cost of food and fuel, and long waiting times at hospitals — neither of which, they said, the S.N.P. government had remedied.


“For me, independence takes a total back seat at the moment,” said James Dunsmore, 47, who was waiting for a haircut. The manager of the barbershop, Jewar Ali, said business had slowed because several of his cash strapped regulars were putting off haircuts to once a month.


Elizabeth Clark, 68, a retired nurse, expressed outrage at a recent newspaper report, based on credit-card receipts obtained and leaked by Labour officials, that said Scottish government officials spent public money on nail polish and yoga classes.


“The S.N.P. has brought Scotland to its knees,” Ms. Clark said, her mood scarcely brightened by the flowers in her shopping cart.


Feelings toward Ms. Ferrier are even more raw. After traveling by train despite testing positive for Covid — a breach of lockdown rules — in October 2020, she was suspended by the party but fought bitterly to hold on to her seat. The episode was especially embarrassing to the S.N.P. because Ms. Sturgeon had been widely praised for taking a more cautious approach to Covid than Boris Johnson did in England.


“Other people were prosecuted” for breaking Covid rules in Britain, John Brown, 75, a mechanic, said over a breakfast sausage in Blantyre.


In fact, Ms. Ferrier was charged with reckless conduct and sentenced to community service. After giving up her seat, she said: “I have always put my job and my constituents first, and I am disappointed that this will now come to an end.”


In 2019, Ms. Ferrier was part of a wave of S.N.P. lawmakers who together won 48 seats in London’s parliament, while Labour won just one Scottish seat — Mr. Murray’s. Polls now show that the parties are virtually tied among voters, underscoring the dramatic collapse in support for the nationalist party, with the Conservatives trailing far behind. A poll last week projected that Labour was on track to win 24 seats next year, the same as the S.N.P.


“It’s long been argued that unless the Labour Party can gain seats in Scotland, it will have a problem putting together a clear majority,” said John Curtice, a professor at the University of Strathclyde and one of Britain’s foremost pollsters. “It potentially significantly improves Keir Starmer’s chances of getting an outright majority.”


He explained the math: With the S.N.P. maintaining its current number of seats in Parliament, Labour would need to beat the Tories by 12 percentage points just to eke out a single-seat majority (it is currently ahead by about 18 points, but Professor Curtice said that was likely to shrink). For every 12 seats that Labour wins in Scotland, it can give up two percentage points to the Tories and still gain a majority.


Given the peculiar circumstances of this by-election, it is Labour, not the S.N.P., that is feeling the pressure. The district has changed hands regularly since it was created in 2005; Labour won it in 2017 under the polarizing leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.


“In a by-election, you’d expect the government of the day to get a kicking,” said Nicola McEwen, a professor of public policy at the University of Glasgow. “If they don’t win this seat, Starmer has bigger problems than he thinks he has.”


Labour has left little to chance, mobilizing canvassers to carpet the district with leaflets for its candidate, Michael Shanks. Jackie Baillie, the party’s deputy leader, was among those knocking on doors on a recent afternoon. She played up Mr. Shanks’ roots in the community as a schoolteacher. But party officials did not make him available for an interview, suggesting they are protecting their lead.


For the S.N.P.’s candidate, Katy Loudon, standing on doorsteps means getting the occasional tough question about Margaret Ferrier or Nicola Sturgeon. She insisted it happens less than one might expect.


“It’s clearly been a difficult few months for us,” Ms. Loudon said. “But we’re in this to win. Our message is a positive one. It is not harking back to the past.”



3) Kia and Hyundai Helped Enable a Crime Wave. They Should Pay for It.

By Farhad Manjoo, Sept. 1, 2023

Multiple cars, including a police van, sit on a New York City street. The street is blocked off by caution tape, and a crowd of cops, detectives and civilians stand behind the cars.

Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times

In a recent analysis of data from 37 American cities, the Council on Criminal Justice, a nonpartisan think tank, suggested a hopeful trend — the pandemic-era spike in crime may have peaked. The homicide rate has dropped significantly over the last year, based on data from 30 American cities. In many places, just about all types of violent crimes are down, in some areas substantially — in Atlanta, for instance, there have been 21 percent fewer aggravated assaults, 28 percent fewer homicides and 56 percent fewer rapes than at this point in 2022, according to police department data.


But there’s a glaring exception: auto thefts. According to the Council on Criminal Justice, “The number of vehicle thefts during the first half of 2023 was 33.5 percent higher, on average, than during the same period in 2022 — representing 23,974 more vehicle thefts in the cities that reported data.” In Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Chicago, New Orleans, Buffalo and Durham, N.C., motor vehicle thefts this year have more than doubled relative to last year, according to stats collected by Jeff Asher, a crime data analyst. This week, The Baltimore Sun reported that “auto thefts are on pace to more than double the total from last year, as reports through the first eight months of 2023 are already up 88 percent compared to all of 2022.”


Why are so many cars getting stolen? Police departments and city officials point to this: Millions of Kias and Hyundais are ridiculously easy to steal.


For years now, most automakers have equipped most of the cars they sell in the United States with electronic immobilizers, devices that prevent cars from starting unless they detect a radio ID code associated with the car’s rightful key. But Hyundai and Kia, which come under the same South Korean conglomerate, did not install this basic device in somewhere around nine million cars sold between 2011 and 2022. A couple of years ago, videos showing how to hotwire the vulnerable cars began to pop up online. Without going into details, the hack involves jamming a small object into the car’s starter and turning it as if it were a key. One perfectly shaped tool for the job is readily available: a USB plug.


The resulting crime wave has clobbered American cities. “We’re hitting close to 6,000 cars that have been stolen this year alone,” Adrian Diaz, Seattle’s police chief, told me. More than a third of the cars stolen in Seattle in August were Hyundais and Kias, he said. “That’s a massive cost, not only for the victim of having a vehicle stolen,” but also in resources involved in “trying to investigate these crimes,” Diaz said.


And then there are the follow-on incidents. Stolen Kias and Hyundais have been involved in numerous deadly crashes, armed robbery sprees and other crimes around the country. “We’re recovering guns out of a lot of Kias that are stolen,” Diaz said.


Seattle is one of several cities that are suing Kia and Hyundai, and they make a compelling case. The carmakers should have known they were creating unsafe products. The costs of their decision have had far-reaching effects on public safety and city resources, and there’s no telling when the thefts might abate. Kia and Hyundai, not the public, should bear the cost of their irresponsible decision to sell cars without immobilizers.


The carmakers say they’re doing all they can to stem the thefts. They’ve created a software update that they say fixes the issue; it requires a visit to a dealer and takes up to 45 minutes to install. They’ve also given police departments anti-theft steering wheel locks to hand out to affected owners, they say. So far, about 21 percent of affected cars — about 660,000 Kias and 811,000 Hyundais — have had the software upgrade installed, the carmakers said. (After you get the upgrade, the carmakers will give you a window sticker to alert thieves that they’re wasting their time with your ride — a good idea, I guess, though it does place a lot of faith in the integrity of would-be criminals.) The companies have also settled a $200 million lawsuit with owners of the vulnerable cars (though a federal judge recently rejected the settlement, ruling that it may not offer enough compensation for some drivers). A Kia spokesman told me that the cities’ lawsuits are “without merit,” arguing that federal auto safety regulators do not require automakers to install immobilizers in their vehicles. (A lawsuit filed by several insurance companies disputes this point.)


It may also be difficult for cities to prove that the rise in thefts is primarily Kia and Hyundai’s fault. Richard Rosenfeld, a criminologist who is one of the authors of the Council on Criminal Justice’s analysis, told me that motor vehicle theft is an under-researched phenomenon. Many police departments do not “code” the make and model of stolen cars, so it’s difficult to make long-term comparisons. “I cannot tell you what fraction of all motor vehicles that are stolen are Kias and Hyundais,” he said.


But stats released by some of the worst affected cities strongly suggest that thefts of Kias and Hyundais are a major part of the recent spike. In the first half of 2022, according to the Chicago mayor’s office, there were about 500 stolen Kias and Hyundais in Chicago. In the second half of 2022, the number of stolen Kias and Hyundais shot up to 8,350; this year, more than half of the cars stolen in Chicago were from these two brands. In August, Cleveland.com reported that Kias and Hyundais made up 57 percent of cars stolen this year, compared to 11 percent during the same period last year. In May, the Baltimore mayor’s office announced the city’s suit against the carmakers, reporting that Kias and Hyundais accounted for 41 percent of the cars stolen up to that point this year. (Hyundai and Kia accounted for just over 10 percent of the cars sold in America in the first quarter of this year, according to the research firm Cox Automotive.)


There’s a chance that Kia and Hyundai will escape some of the blame for these thefts because there’s a juicier target for politicians to go after: social media platforms, where the how-to videos have circulated.


Media accounts of the thefts often highlight TikTok’s role; one Insider story was headlined “Grand Theft TikTok.” In March, Eric Adams, the mayor of New York, held a news conference to discuss the city’s response to the rise in stolen cars. After pointing out the steps Hyundai and Kia have taken to prevent the thefts, he went after tech companies. “We don’t need social media to contribute to social disorder,” he said. The same month, Representative Joe Morelle, a New York Democrat, told reporters, “We don’t need companies like TikTok playing an active role in facilitating these crimes and putting information on how-to videos for people who would misuse them.”


This strikes me as bizarre blame shifting. It’s Kia and Hyundai, not TikTok, that sold theft-prone cars. I’m not against tech companies moderating their platforms to curb the spread of potentially dangerous information. But you know what would be better? Making cars that can’t be stolen with a USB cable.



4) All That Empty Office Space Belongs to Someone

What happens if the nearly 100 million square feet of workplace real estate stays empty?

By Emma Goldberg, Photographs by Haruka Sakaguchi, Sept. 1, 2023

Five windows along a wall of an empty office space, with a line of electrical cables on the carpet.
The 12th floor of 520 Eighth Avenue in Manhattan.

At an office in SoHo, rows of desks sit empty, while a shaggy dog — shadowing an owner nostalgic for work-from-home comforts — wanders the conference rooms. At a tech workplace downtown, a gaggle of 20-somethings divide into teams, calling out “Who’s on the Orange team?” and “We’re going to kill it!” as part of a game night enticing them back to in-person work. On the subway, commuters delight in a once-unimaginable indulgence: bag-spreading across two seats.


About a year and a half after Mayor Eric Adams chided workers — “You can’t stay home in your pajamas all day!” — New York’s offices in late August were under 41 percent of their prepandemic occupancy. Just 9 percent of the city’s office workers were going in five days a week at the start of the year, according to the Partnership for New York City, a business group. Remote-work levels crisscrossing the country are more mixed, with just under one-third of America’s workdays now done from home.


But in New York, the broad feeling across offices is one that locals know well: It’s like sitting on the subway waiting to get somewhere and then feeling the car lurch to a stop. It sits there. Nobody has any idea when it’s going to move again. Passengers eye one another, feeling fidgety and useless.


That’s the limbo that the real estate industry is experiencing now, as companies try to fill their offices back up. Building owners are waiting for movement. Few know what to do in the meantime.


Caught in the midst of that stall is Eric Gural, whose family has a commercial real estate empire in New York City, GFP Real Estate, which owns and manages more than 55 properties and 13 million square feet, or some 2 percent of the city’s office real estate.


This isn’t the first time Mr. Gural’s family has seen the real estate market falter. There was 2008, during the Great Recession, when a Cushman & Wakefield senior managing director reported: “The news out there has been bone-jarring.” There was the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, when headlines declared: “Office Vacancies in Downtowns Surge.” There was the economic downturn in 1990, when a real estate professional confessed, in an article about office vacancies: “People are afraid.”


But this time feels different. The value of New York’s office buildings could fall nearly $50 billion in the coming years, according to researchers at Columbia and New York University.


“Covid hit everybody,” Mr. Gural, 55, said. “Who did well in Covid?”


Through most of the city’s previous economic busts, Mr. Gural’s grandfather Aaron, a longtime leader of the family’s real estate business, was confident that people would want cheap New York office space. “No matter what, there’s going to be demand at 10 bucks a foot,” was his thinking, according to his grandson’s recollection.


That wisdom now sounds shaky. It’s an eerie moment for commercial real estate, which has been rattled before but never so fundamentally. New York’s office vacancy rate has surged more than 70 percent since 2019; there’s some 96 million square feet of office real estate available for lease in the city. Delinquency rates for office loans across the United States are at a pandemic-era peak of nearly 5 percent.


Building owners are conceding uncertainty as another Labor Day approaches, the third since vaccines rolled out, and as executives across major employers again ratchet up calls for a return to the office. Economists worry that empty offices could lead to an “urban doom loop”: Fewer people commute, downtown and midtown businesses suffer, tax revenue dips, and it gets tougher for cities to keep public services running.


To try to figure out what happens next, it seemed instructive to speak with someone for whom the vacancy numbers have specific urgency — someone who owns that empty office space.


Asked about the worst-case scenario for his own business, Mr. Gural said: “Rents will be lower. Occupancy will be lower. We won’t be as profitable. The worst part about that is that it might affect some of the philanthropy we do.”


He is staying confident, for the time being, partly by pinning hopes on a broader return to the office. He takes inspiration from his own two children, both in their 20s, who tell him that they want the experience of commuting on the subway and working far from their couches.


“Young people want to work in an office — what’s the Seinfeld line? ‘I finally figured out why we have kids, because they’re here to replace us,’” Mr. Gural said, recalling the spirit if not the letter of the Jerry Seinfeld canon. “The next trove of office workers, of professionals, they’re going to want to work in offices.”


He later added: “The only two great things that weren’t made in the office were fire and the wheel.”


This isn’t the first time New Yorkers have faced down crises by employing Seinfeld-inflected magical thinking. But a crisis is one thing. What about a permanent shift in the way we work and live? As building owners watch to see how permanent the hybrid shift will be, some have adopted a new mantra: “Survive until ’25.”


Location Is Everything


People driving into Manhattan in the summertime tend to want ice cream. That’s a lesson that Mr. Gural’s grandfather learned, in the 1930s, when he had his first foray into business, selling cones at a stoplight near the George Washington Bridge.


“Meet people where they are,” Mr. Gural said, describing his grandfather’s thinking.


That philosophy guided his approach to commercial real estate. Rather than compete with friends for the city’s fanciest properties, its Park and Fifth Avenue gems, the Gural family bought up cheap manufacturing spaces in convenient locations. The company focused on what are known as Class B offices: unadorned properties, many of them in the garment district, instead of Class A gleaming towers like those at Hudson Yards. Roughly 33 percent of the city’s office buildings are Class B, according to Jones Lang LaSalle, a real estate investment company.


Coming out of the pandemic, the Gural family’s approach could put their business in a more difficult position. Real estate agents say they are witnessing a “flight to quality,” in which tenants flock toward fancy spaces in the hopes of drawing workers back to the office. That means the office crisis for Class B owners is especially acute.


Class B properties often look like the stereotype of a New York office: old-school brick, small windows, kitchens with mealy apples, elevators that feel like they haven’t been fixed up since the Giuliani administration. The sort of places people might not return to voluntarily. Many companies fighting to get their workers back are now eyeing flashier spots, the type with juice bars and treadmills in the building.


“The owners of Class B buildings are in a terrible predicament,” said Ruth Colp-Haber, chief executive of Wharton Property Advisors, a real estate brokerage. “They are facing a tsunami of pressures, and some will be washed away with the tide.”


There are three real plays available to office building owners in the increasingly grim game of their business.


Owners could invest in their properties to try to make them more appealing, turning B-minus buildings into B-plus ones with new amenities — sleeker lobbies and elevators, coffee shops, even gyms.


Landlords could default on their loans and hand a building’s keys back to their banks; after all, defaulting on a mortgage loan for one property doesn’t typically allow the bank to touch others.


Then there’s the conversion path, turning office buildings into housing, hotels, retail spaces and laboratories. Between 3 and 10 percent of New York City’s offices could be good candidates for conversion, according to experts, often meaning the buildings are narrow enough that they can be broken up into windowed apartments.


Beyond converting a space, dumping it or “classing it up,” there is another possible course of action (or really inaction) for landlords: Wait and see.


Hope that office workers come back, and that interest rates decline in the meantime. Pray that young people miss the grind and that one day soon they’ll embrace their old commutes, allowing that stalled subway to get back in motion.


“This is a very very slow-moving trend,” Ms. Colp-Haber said. “You can push the can down the road as much as you can.”


Mr. Gural said his company at worst would “tread water,” noting that many of GFP’s deals are with small tenants that aren’t tracked in reports on the industry. He doesn’t believe that GFP will have to give any of its buildings back to the banks.


Sprinkled across Manhattan are Gural properties that are cruising along as smoothly as ever. Take the elegant brick building at 100 Crosby Street, formerly home to Soho’s Dean & Deluca. It now houses Converse and Aritzia, among other tenants — and has no space available for lease, according to CoStar.


Other properties are struggling. Two of GFP’s buildings on West 34th Street have nearly 30 percent of their space available for rent.


The company got a three-year extension this year on a mortgage loan for one of its landmark properties, the DuMont Building, a 42-story Art Deco tower at 515 Madison Avenue, after defaulting on a $103 million loan for the property. Mr. Gural is also in negotiations for a loan extension on a Union Square office building.


The family expects to request extensions on more. But as long as the banks allow the Gurals loan extensions — and it’s not as if the banks want the keys to the buildings — there’s no reason for the family to give up on any of its properties just yet.


“People will come back to the office,” said Mr. Gural, whose employees at GFP have been expected to be in the office three days a week — though that bumps up to four after Labor Day.


“I don’t think the whole world has been doing it wrong for the last 100 years,” he added. “I just don’t. There are so many successful things that have gone on in the world. One of the things they had in common was they had an office.”


Mr. Gural is hanging in the same limbo as the rest of the city, though for him the stakes are quite personal.


His outlook is rosier than that of Manus Clancy, senior managing director at Trepp, a commercial real estate data firm.


“The office market is quite — what’s the word? — unloved,” Mr. Clancy said. “We’re going to see an awful lot of defaults.”


‘Blood Coming Out of Our Nose’


Standing on the steps of the New York County courthouse in May, throngs of men (and they were mostly men) wearing well-fitted suits called out competing bids to buy the Flatiron Building — a strange battle for an office landmark when its future seems wildly uncertain.


“We begin the bidding at $50 million!” the auctioneer said.


The Gural family won, buying out its partner to fully own the building for $161 million. Standing in a cluster of reporters afterward, GFP’s chairman, Jeff Gural (Eric’s father), announced that he was exploring converting at least half of the Flatiron into housing, possibly condominiums. The Gurals are also considering whether some of the building can be used for hotel space.


It’s a recognition that the future of their real estate profile will look different, no matter how broad of a return to office the city sees.


After all, when companies start offering charitable donations on behalf of all employees coming into the office, as Salesforce did in June, it’s a cry for help. Many real estate industry experts argue that there’s no case for optimism for the city’s Class B office owners.


“In many cases, unfortunately, their option may be handing over the keys to your lender,” said Josh Zegen, managing principal and co-founder of Madison Realty Capital, which specializes in financing commercial real estate. “You’re starting to see more and more of that happen.”


Meanwhile, some city leaders are fighting for more office-to-residential conversions, as the population of city homeless shelters reaches 100,000. In August, Mayor Adams announced plans to convert more buildings in Manhattan to residential spaces, by rezoning manufacturing areas in Midtown and by allowing buildings built as recently as 1990 to be converted into housing.


Right now, only those built before 1977 or 1961, depending on location, can be converted. The plan would require City Council approval.


The Gurals have urged more support for office conversions, too. Eric Gural’s cousin Brian Steinwurtzel is helping to oversee for GFP what would be the country’s largest-ever conversion of a building from offices to housing, creating some 1,300 apartments at 25 Water Street. But Mr. Gural stressed that building owners needed rezoning policies and tax incentives to propel conversions.


“We’ve just lost every round of a 15-round fight,” Mr. Gural said of the city’s building owners. “We’re lying on the mat. We have blood coming out of our nose. And our head hurts.”


For a bloodied fighter, Mr. Gural spoke with a sense of cheer. Sitting in a blues bar in Midtown West, he picked up a butter knife and turned it on its edge. He explained that the bar, like the butter knife, is extremely narrow — meaning it could be repurposed to house people.


Looking around the neon-lit space, mostly empty on a weekday at lunch, the eternal New York optimist declared: “I can make apartments here.”



5) This Summer, I Became the Book-Banning Monster of Iowa

By Bridgette Exman, Sept. 1, 2023

Ms. Exman, a former high school English teacher, wrote from Mason City, Iowa, where she is the assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction for public schools.


An illustration of a woman leaving a darkened library with few books on the shelves.

Federico Tramonte

A couple of weeks ago, before the start of another school year, I found myself standing in the middle of the stacks in our high school library, my heart sinking. I had come in search of five books that I needed to read to make the final determination about whether they would remain on the shelves for our students or be boxed up and stored in my office, not to be seen by the students under penalty of law.


The one book that especially pained me was “Friday Night Lights” by H.G. Bissinger.


When I pulled the sole copy from its tidy place among the B’s to reread, I noticed its tattered, torn and taped cover. It has been well loved by our student body. It gives me no joy to limit the books available to them, and I am grateful that in the end I was able to keep “Friday Night Lights” on the shelf. That well-worn copy will be replaced by two new ones; I plan to keep the original in my office as a reminder of the summer I became the book-banning monster generating headlines the world over.


Iowa’s “parental rights bill,” signed into law at the end of May and made effective July 1, put public schoolteachers and administrators in an untenable position and recently thrust my own district in north-central Iowa into notoriety.


The law mandates that school libraries may only contain “age-appropriate” books free of any “descriptions or visual depictions of a sex act” as defined by Iowa Code. In a particularly draconian move, the law holds individual teachers and school librarians accountable for violations.


Filtering thousands of books for a single description of a sex act was daunting; the start-of-the-school-year timeline made it nearly impossible. To make compliance with the law even more difficult, the state’s Department of Education gave no guidance to school districts as we scrambled to provide cover for our teachers and demonstrate a good-faith effort to comply with this onerous law.


Our district serves about 3,500 students with nine school libraries and hundreds of classroom libraries. While our school library collections are digitally cataloged and searchable, a typical classroom library, which our district believes is also covered by the new law, is a different story. It is likely to be a collection of books that came with the classroom itself, with others donated and still more purchased by the teacher at garage sales and used bookstores to ensure a robust collection that improves the odds that every student will have the life-affirming experience of falling in love with a book.


Even though I have read, enjoyed and taught many of these books as a former English teacher, I cringe at having to judge them based on these new legal requirements. I read these books for the reasons we all read — for joy and to experience the world through someone else’s eyes, not in search of a description of sex.


To demonstrate a genuine effort to comply with the law with minimal time and energy invested, we used a process that has drawn widespread attention and criticism. We created a list from several lists of commonly challenged books, then deleted from our list any book challenged for reasons other than sexual content. We then further winnowed our list to books in our school library collections.


That’s when we turned to ChatGPT for help. For each of these titles, we asked: Does the book contain a description of a sex act? ChatGPT identified 19 books, though for each, its response contained a caveat: “Yes, but,” noting a scene’s literary value or contextual appropriateness.


Unfortunately, Iowa’s lawmakers left no room for these qualifiers. We went to resources such as Book Looks and Common Sense Media to further check each of the 19 books and ultimately read (or reread) several to verify that they contained a description of a sex act.


Three of the books identified through A.I. were returned to our collections because A.I. was wrong: “Friday Night Lights,” Lois Duncan’s “Killing Mr. Griffin” and Sherman Alexie’s “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.” Sixteen were removed, including Jodi Picoult’s “Nineteen Minutes” and Patricia McCormick’s “Sold.” We were forced to silence the marginalized voices represented by Alice Walker in “The Color Purple” and Toni Morrison in “Beloved.” We’ve been compelled to lump together childhood sexual assault and sexual violence with pornography and remove Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale.”


The widespread outrage that followed these decisions is both righteous and necessary.


There are no winners in the game of censorship. I was simply seeking to mitigate the damage of a destructive law and perhaps channel the energy of the public outcry to address the real issue here — this misguided legislation — and the fact that our students still won’t have access at school to culturally relevant works.


The headlines proclaimed that we used A.I. to remove books. The American Civil Liberties Union described that as a “dystopian twist” to book banning. Rolling Stone proclaimed: “Iowa School District Bans Books by Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood After A.I. Review for ‘Depictions of a Sex Act.’”


I’d argue that we used A.I. to try to keep books. The technology allowed us to zero in only on those books that violated the precise letter of the law without collateral damage to other books, enabling us to keep on the shelf more than 30 titles we feared might be questionable.


Some other districts cast a wider net. Without guidance, operating in an environment of fear driven by state politics that seem to be out for blood in public education, other districts made deep cuts to their collections. School administrators directed teachers to remove not only any books that contain sexual content but also any they haven’t read and all other texts whose details they can’t fully remember. One of my former students who teaches in another Iowa school district told me that three of the five bookshelves in her classroom library are now empty because of her district’s directions.


We all live our roles as teachers and school leaders very publicly. Each of us brings her own values, histories and belief systems to her work. We became educators because we believe in public education. I wholeheartedly believe in the transformational power of books and open access to information. I do not shirk from the public accountability of my job, but it was deeply hurtful to hear messages left on my assistant’s voice mail calling me a Nazi, a communist pig, an idiot and a danger to society.


I have a million better things to do with my time than keep kids from books. Teachers have real work to do. We already have a process in place that allows parents to ask us to reconsider books and instructional materials we make available. Our district has not had a formal challenge to a book in our libraries in over two decades, indicating that parents are not worried about what is on the shelves.


I believe in parents’ rights. I want all the parents in our country to be actively making the decisions they believe are best for their children. At the same time, let’s not overlook our collective responsibility to achieve the goal of the American public education system — to ensure that every child has access to the highest quality teaching and opportunities for learning. Much of that opportunity can be found in the discoveries that await on library shelves. That’s why we must protect our public schools from the political agendas that are hobbling them.



6) Why Did a Drug Gang Kill 43 Students? Text Messages Hold Clues.

The Mexican police, military officers and others secretly colluded with a cartel that kidnapped 43 students, a case unsolved after nearly a decade. Wiretaps show just how much the authorities helped the cartel behind the mass abduction, and what led to it.

By Natalie Kitroeff and Ronen Bergman, Sept. 2, 2023

This article is part of a series by Natalie Kitroeff and Ronen Bergman investigating abuses by Mexico’s military.

Missing persons posters hang on a street corner while a person carrying bags stands on the sidewalk.

Banners of some of the missing 43 students are still displayed along Reforma Avenue in Mexico City. Credit...Luis Antonio Rojas for The New York Times

It is perhaps Mexico’s most notorious cold case — 43 college students shot at by the police, forced into patrol cars, handed over to a drug cartel and never seen again.


The mystery has haunted the nation for nearly a decade. How could a relatively unknown gang pull off one of the worst atrocities in Mexico’s recent history, with the help of the police and the military watching the mass abduction unfold in real time?


A vast trove of about 23,000 unpublished text messages, witness testimony and investigative files obtained by The New York Times point to an answer: Just about every arm of government in that part of southern Mexico had been secretly working for the criminal group for months, putting the machinery of the state in the cartel’s hands and flattening any obstacle that got in its way.


The police commanders whose officers snatched many of the students that night in 2014 had been taking direct orders from the drug traffickers, the text messages show. One of the commanders gave guns to cartel members, while another hunted down their rivals on command.


The military, which closely monitored the abduction but never came to the students’ aid, had been showered with cartel bribes, too. In the text messages, which were caught on wiretaps, traffickers and their collaborators griped about the soldiers’ endless greed, calling them “whores” who they had “in the bag.”


One lieutenant even armed gunmen connected to the cartel and, a witness said, helped the police try to cover up their role in the crime after the students were kidnapped and killed.


It has long been known that police officers and an assortment of government officials either helped the cartel abduct the students, or watched the crime happen and did nothing to stop it.


But the text messages have been a breakthrough for investigators — offering the clearest picture yet of a possible motive for the collusion between the authorities and the killers.


Fewer than two dozen of the exchanges have ever been made public. What the thousands of others reveal is staggering: Far beyond buying individual favors, the cartel, known as Guerreros Unidos, had effectively turned public officials into full-blown employees.


The government’s subservience is what made the mass killing of 43 college students possible, investigators say. And the loyalty ran deep.


One of the emergency responders who rushed to the scene of the mass abduction that night had an unofficial second job — gathering intelligence for the cartel. For months, the wiretaps capture him sending minute-by-minute updates on law enforcement’s every move to a Guerreros Unidos leader he called “boss.”


A coroner also did the cartel’s bidding, sending photos of corpses and evidence at crime scenes, the messages show.


After killing some of the students, the traffickers incinerated the bodies in a crematory owned by the coroner’s family, investigators say. In unpublished testimony, one cartel member told the authorities that the ovens were routinely used “to make people disappear without a trace.”


The text messages may also help answer another open question in the case: Why did Guerreros Unidos execute a group of 43 students who were training to be teachers and had nothing to do with organized crime?


In the months and weeks before the abduction, the wiretaps show, the cartel had grown increasingly paranoid, beset by deadly infighting and scrambling to defend its territory as rivals pushed in.


So, when dozens of young men swept into the city of Iguala on passenger buses — not unlike the ones the cartel used to smuggle drugs into the United States — the traffickers mistook their convoy for an intrusion by enemies and gave the order to attack, prosecutors now say.


Nine years after the students vanished, no one has been convicted of the crime, turning the case into a symbol of a broken system that cannot solve even the most brazen acts of brutality. The previous government was accused of orchestrating a sweeping cover-up to hide the involvement of federal forces in the abduction, especially the all-powerful military.


Now the investigation is at a critical juncture. Under President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the authorities have ordered the arrest of 20 Mexican soldiers in connection with the kidnappings, including more than a dozen in June. The unpublished wiretaps have been crucial to building the case.


The cartel’s conversations were intercepted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in 2014 while investigating the cartel for trafficking drugs into suburban Chicago. Mexico sought the text messages for years, but American officials handed over the 23,000 only last year, in part because of a lingering distrust of the Mexican government, an investigator said. The D.E.A. declined to comment.


The messages obtained by The Times do not cover the night of the disappearance, and key details of what happened to the students are still unknown.


What’s clear is that the horror started on Sept. 26, 2014, when dozens of students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College traveled to Iguala, in the state of Guerrero. They commandeered several buses to go to a march in Mexico City, a tradition the authorities had tolerated in the past.


This time, they never made it past the city limits.


Minutes after the students left the bus station, the police chased them down, opened fire and hauled them away. Multiple cartel members have testified that the victims were turned over to the criminal group, which killed them and disposed of their bodies.


The army received constant updates about the crime as it happened. Soldiers were on the streets and a local battalion even had an informant embedded with the students, investigations have shown.


Army intelligence officials were also listening. They were spying on a cartel boss and a police commander as they discussed where to take some of the students that night, military documents show.


And days after the attack, the army knew the location of two suspects talking about releasing students who, investigators say, may have still been alive.


How the military knew this is now clearer — it was using a powerful spy tool manufactured in Israel, known as Pegasus, to surveil the gang’s members, an investigator told The Times.


But the military didn’t share the intelligence with officials searching for the students, and there’s no evidence that the armed forces tried to rescue them, according to investigators who have spent years looking into the case.


“They had all this information, but they hid it,” Cristina Bautista Salvador, the mother of one of the missing students, said of the military. “Instead of looking for our children or telling us the truth, they protected themselves.”


Mexico’s secretary of defense did not respond to a request for comment. Mexico’s president has argued that the accusations against a handful of soldiers are not a sign of broader corruption within the ranks.


“You cannot stain an entire institution because of the actions of one official,” Mr. López Obrador said in July.


Investigators trying to uncover the full extent of the military’s involvement have been stymied for years.


The government’s top human rights official was spied on while investigating the armed forces’ role in the mass disappearance. A prosecutor who led the case against the soldiers fled the country in fear late last year.


Then in July, a separate group of international investigators said they were giving up on their own yearslong probe into the crime, citing “obstruction of justice” by Mexico’s military.


But investigators say that no amount of obstruction can hide the collusion laid bare in the wiretaps.


The evidence “is very robust, strong, unquestionable,” said Omar Gómez Trejo, the Mexican prosecutor who went up against the military and then fled to the United States after the backlash made him fear for his safety. “It corroborates how the cartel operates and the connections it had to the authorities, including the army.”


‘All they want to do is take and take’


Reading the cartel’s text messages for the first time last year, in a conference room in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s headquarters in Chicago, Mr. Gómez Trejo realized he had been handed a gold mine.


It had taken years for Mexican officials to get their hands on some of the wiretaps, unleashing criticism in Mexico that American officials had withheld crucial information. Now the D.E.A. had finally given him and his team access to a broad set of intercepts covering months of cartel communications.


“We kept looking at each other” in amazement, Mr. Gómez Trejo said of the wiretaps. “You marvel at the fact that you’re seeing a revelation.”


By that time, the Biden administration had listed Guerreros Unidos among the criminal organizations “that pose the greatest drug threat to the United States,” and much had been written about the cartel’s efforts to corrupt elected officials.


But here were the traffickers and officials admitting to it themselves, in private conversations when they thought no one else was listening.


“Do you want me to get your whore of a city councilor in line,” one cartel member asked a local mayor on his payroll, “or should we put him down?”


The mayor responded one second later: “I’ll bring him to you. He’s a good worker.”


The state of Guerrero, where the cartel operated, is one of the poorest states in Mexico, but its mountainous terrain is fertile ground for opium poppy plants filled with the raw material for heroin. So, while the gang spread terror, it was also a rare source of extra cash.


The drug lords often spoke of buying off officials in cryptic language, using nicknames for collaborators and codes for everything from cocaine and kickbacks to large caliber rifles.


So Mr. Gómez Trejo’s team pored over every word of each exchange, using reams of investigative files to develop a type of Rosetta stone to decipher the cartel’s penetration of the state.


The traffickers talked about bringing “crabs” or “crab soup” to the military — a reference to money, a cartel member told investigators, because when you hold up your hands like crab pincers, it looks like you’re clutching an imaginary stack of cash.


At times, the traffickers reveled in their influence over such a powerful institution.


“What, you don’t think blondie has the soldiers in the bag?” one cartel member wrote, referring to a fellow gang member, investigators say.


In other moments, they seemed resentful of the soldiers’ demands. “They asked my brother to do the lieutenant a favor,” griped a trafficker.


“All they want to do is take and take,” responded a police commander who helped manage the cartel’s relationship with soldiers.


The hassle seemed to pay off. Cartel members talked about relying on the armed forces to help keep their rivals out of their territory, and using their connections to the military to get out of trouble with uncooperative authorities.


In one message, the police commander says he went with a military officer and a cartel boss to arm gunmen in a nearby town.


When asked whether he knew about the military officer getting a “little gift” from the cartel, the police commander replied: “He’s happy.”


‘We are 1,000 percent with you’


The students had no way of knowing just how deeply the cartel had burrowed into every corner of life in its stronghold in Guerrero, investigators say.


“Entering Iguala was like going into the mouth of the wolf,” said Carlos Beristain, one of the international experts who investigated the case.


One cartel member was a butcher. A local blacksmith built hidden compartments for stashing heroin and cocaine inside buses destined for the United States. A group of particularly violent brothers in the gang manned a carwash.


The emergency responder said he was introduced to the group because an acquaintance from high school was dating a cartel member, according to his sworn statement.


He said that when he tried to stop working for the group, he was kidnapped on the orders of a cartel assassin, tied up and beaten until he relented.


“From that day on, I acted as an involuntary informant,” he said, serving as a point person for the gang’s network of street-level lookouts.


The wiretaps show the extent of his responsibilities. He sent cartel leaders barrages of messages tracking law enforcement’s every move, including when they simply stopped “to buy agua frescas.”


The wiretaps also reveal another collaborator: a city coroner. In the text messages, he says his colleague’s brother was a hit man. The coroner used the connection to warn the cartel when assassins were targeting its members.


He discussed receiving cars from the group and declared his loyalty to its Chicago leader, Pablo Vega Cuevas — who has since pleaded guilty to drug charges in the United States — calling him “my boss.”


“I’ll never turn my back on you,” he told the leader. “You guys are like my family.”


Less cooperative officials got death threats.


“Can the mayor exchange dollars for us?” the Chicago boss asked a fellow cartel member in Guerrero.


“Yeah cousin, you know if he doesn’t want to I’ll threaten the asshole,” came the response.


Guerreros Unidos paid some police officers monthly, witnesses said, a kind of retainer that allowed the cartel to call on the authorities whenever it wanted.


“You tell yourself, ‘I know I’m committing a crime,’” a police officer said, according to a previously unpublished transcript of his interrogation by law enforcement. But it was impossible to resist regular $50 payments, he said.


“You say, ‘I’m not going to take it, so I don’t get myself into trouble,’ but then you say, ‘No, wait,’” he said.


When cartel members needed to pass through a checkpoint, move weapons or ambush their rivals, they turned to the police.


“Don’t worry, cousin,” a police commander told a cartel member in one message, “you know that we are 1,000 percent with you here.”


A few months before the students’ abduction, the cartel sent up a flare that showed just how anxious it was about possible rivals setting foot on its territory.


On a Sunday afternoon, traffickers warned that members of an enemy group had stopped by the local market for lunch. Within minutes, the cartel figured out what car they were driving, what they looked like and which food vendor they were near.


“Locate a red Nissan truck, double cab, there will be two men and a woman,” a trafficker texted a police commander in Iguala.


“The units have been alerted, and there’s one unit at the toll both,” the commander texted back.


“When the group decided that something needed to happen, it happened,” said Mr. Beristain. “The group had control over the different authorities and could tell them what they had to do.”


‘He doesn’t want to be number 44’


On Friday night, Sept. 26, the cartel spotted something out of the ordinary and sent out a warning, according to Mexican prosecutors.


Members of an enemy group were barreling through Iguala, interspersed with students on stolen buses, a cartel boss told the group’s leaders.


Only it wasn’t true. There were no rival traffickers aboard, investigators say, and other than the sticks and rocks they carried to seize the buses, the students were unarmed.


But the cartel had been on edge for months.


One of its top bosses had recently drowned, another had been arrested and the brothers who were left in charge had lost trust within the ranks, the wiretaps show. The traffickers fretted about a member who had defected to a rival cartel and a murder that appeared to be an inside job.


“My cousin was killed and it was our own people,” the Chicago leader told an associate.


“We cannot trust anyone, absolutely anyone,” the wife of the drowned cartel leader said in another exchange.


The group’s enemies appeared to take note of its vulnerability. In the weeks before the students disappeared, local media reported that the cartel’s rivals had “regrouped” — and were coming for Guerreros Unidos.


The wiretaps lit up with the traffickers fuming about gun battles around Iguala.


“This is going to get uglier,” the Chicago leader said in late August.


A month later, when Guerreros Unidos got the message about its supposed rivals plowing through on buses, its network of collaborators flew into action.


The two police commanders who had exchanged regular text messages with the cartel led the first attacks on the students that night.


As the students tried to leave Iguala aboard several buses, police officers under the commanders’ control blocked the streets and shot at them, striking some, including one who remains in a coma. The students were then loaded into patrol cars, vanishing soon after.


Several miles away, more police officers stopped another bus of students, used tear gas to get them off, then snatched them away.


They, too, were among the 43 who disappeared.


The emergency responder on the cartel’s payroll said he got two phone calls that night. One of the police commanders asked him “who he should hand over the ‘packages’” to, referring to the hostages. A cartel assassin also called, asking who was bringing him “the packages,” according to his sworn statement.


Exactly what happened next remains a mystery.


According to one cartel member whose testimony has become key to the case, some of the students were taken to a house, killed and dismembered. Machete hacks left gashes in the floor, the witness said, and the students’ remains were later burned in the crematory owned by the coroner’s family.


The military knew where at least some of students were being taken, because it was spying on a conversation between a police commander and a cartel boss as they talked about where to deposit the hostages, according to documents made public by the Mexican government.


Other military intelligence documents, which have not been published, show that the military knew the location of a cartel member involved in the kidnapping days after the attack.


Many of Guerreros Unidos’s leaders in Iguala were arrested after the attack. But no one has been convicted in the disappearance. Charges against dozens of suspects have been dismissed because a judge determined that torture was used to obtain confessions.


The group managed to stay alive, thanks in part to some of the drug lords’ wives and one of their mothers, who took over much of the day-to-day business, according to a separate set of hundreds of unpublished exchanges caught on wiretaps.


Years after the mass disappearance, the Mexican government continued spying on several people in the group, listening to their phone conversations in 2017.


The ties between the cartel and the authorities were still strong.


One of the traffickers involved in the kidnapping talked about how he had just “gotten drunk with the soldiers” at a local restaurant, the wiretaps show. A money manager for the cartel said he had made friends with a federal police commander. A city councilman talked about moving drugs to the United States.


One night, the wife of a jailed boss lost track of a shipment of drugs on its way to the United States. Thinking the smuggler might have made off with the stash, she asked an associate to give him a warning.


“Doesn’t the driver know what happened to the 43,” she said, referring to the abducted students. “I’m sure he doesn’t want to be number 44.”



7) Europe’s Boars Still Hold Radioactivity. What Surprised Scientists Is Why.

Some wild boar hunted in German forests have radiation levels that exceed the limit deemed safe for human consumption. New research suggests that it’s not just because of Chernobyl.

By Christopher F. Schuetze, Sept. 2, 2023

Reporting from Berlin

A wild boar in a forest.

A wild boar in the Bavarian Forest National Park in southern Germany. Credit...Martin Zwick/Reda&Co/Universal Images Group, via Getty Images

Although scientists have long known that flora and fauna in Central Europe still carry traces of radiation stemming from the 1986 meltdown at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, a new study on wild boars roaming the forests of Bavaria in southern Germany has turned up unexpected findings about the radiation present in their tissue.


The peer-reviewed study, published this past week in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, found in the boars high levels of radiation that the researchers believe come from nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere carried out long before the Chernobyl meltdown. It also answers a question that has stumped researchers and hunters: Why is the radiation in the wild boar population relatively high, when most other wildlife are uncontaminated, many generations after the accident? (Spoiler: It’s because they eat deer truffles.)


The findings were so unexpected that when Georg Steinhauser, the paper’s lead researcher, and a colleague first saw the results, they thought there had been a mistake. “That can’t be right — that’s not possible,” Professor Steinhauser recalled his colleague exclaiming.


Given that radiation from the Chernobyl accident temporarily contaminated large swaths of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Central Europe, flora and fauna there have since been regularly tested to determine whether they are safe for human consumption. And Martin Steiner, a scientist at the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection who was not involved in the study, said in an interview that he and his colleagues had long known that significant radiation from mid-20th-century nuclear weapons testing remained in the environment.


But the newly published study, by researchers from Leibniz University in Hanover and the Vienna University of Technology, provides a more concrete way of quantifying the extent to which the radiation from the testing persists in boars today.


The research used a method involving the ratio of two cesium isotopes to analyze the carcasses of boars killed by hunters across Bavaria from 2019 to 2021. That relatively new method of analysis allowed the team to better understand what was behind the higher levels of contamination in wild boars in Central Europe.


In Bavaria, boar hunted in certain areas must be tested for radioactivity, and German health guidelines allow for the human consumption of such meat if the radiation is under 600 becquerels per kilogram. Torsten Reinwald, a spokesman for the German Hunting Association, said in an interview that, overall, “We have no indication that meat from wild boar in Germany is contaminated with significant radioactivity.”


But some of the boars tested in the new study carried far higher radioactivity levels, with the contamination ranging from 370 to 15,000 becquerels per kilogram of meat.


And given that nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons leave slightly different contamination signatures — with distinct ratios of cesium-135 to cesium-137 isotopes — the researchers determined that a surprising amount of radiation present in the tested boars stemmed from nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s.


After the first nuclear weapons test in New Mexico in 1945, the United States, its allies, China and the Soviet Union kept testing atomic weapons by detonating them above ground, leading to heavy atmospheric nuclear pollution that spread around the globe.


In all, the world’s nuclear powers conducted more than 500 atmospheric tests before moving them underground to try to limit the spread of radioactivity. The new study’s findings indicate how the many decades of above-the-ground detonations continue to have ramifications.


“The fact that the radiation from those nuclear tests is still present, even when compared to Chernobyl, is noteworthy,” Michael Fiederle, a University of Freiburg professor who studies radiation and was not involved in the research, said in an interview. He also described the method of sourcing radiation by looking at cesium isotopes as promising.


As for why wild boars in southern Germany bear more traces of such radiation than other animals, Professor Steinhauser said that a crucial element to the mystery was a fungus — elaphomyces, or deer truffles — that boars dig up and eat but other wildlife ignores.


Although many other edible fauna are no longer significantly contaminated, the truffles, which grow inches below the Earth’s surface, store radiation particularly well. (According to Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation Protection, certain wild mushrooms can reach more than 1,000 becquerels per kilogram, although it still deems wild mushrooms safe to eat in small quantities.)


Depending on the soil composition and how deep the truffles are, the fungi can be exposed to water containing decades-old radiation both from the nuclear tests and the Chernobyl disaster, making them a particularly rich source of radiation.


Mr. Steiner, of the Federal Office for Radiation Protection, noted that regardless of the source of radiation, it still poses a risk to humans if the levels are high enough.


“When it comes to the radiation exposure of humans, it does not matter whether the cesium comes from the global fallout of the weapons tests or from the fallout after the Chernobyl reactor accident,” he said, adding, “What is relevant is the total intake of cesium-137 that a person simply takes in with food from the forest.”



8) What the Contradiction of Slavery Tells Us About Abortion Rights

By Jamelle Bouie, Sept. 2, 2023

A group of people, primarily Black women, march down a wide street during a protest. The woman in front holds a sign that reads, “Alabama: The power of the sister vote.” The sign features an illustration of three Black women filling out voting ballots.
Protesters during the March For Reproductive Freedom in Birmingham, Ala., in 2019.Credit...Melissa Golden for The New York Times

One of the ironies of the American slave system was that it depended for its survival on a federal structure that left it vulnerable and unstable.


Within the federal union, the slave-dependent states had access to a national market in which they could sell the products of slave labor to merchants and manufacturers throughout the country. They could also buy and sell enslaved people, as part of a lucrative internal trade in human beings. Entitled to representation under the supreme charter of the federal union, slave owners could accumulate political power that they could deploy to defend and extend their interests. They could use their considerable influence to shape foreign and domestic policy.


And because the states had considerable latitude over their internal affairs, the leaders of slave-dependent states could shape their communities to their own satisfaction, especially with regard to slavery. They could, without any objection from the federal government, declare all Black people within their borders to be presumptively enslaved — and that is, in fact, what they did.


But the federal union wasn’t perfect for slaveholders. There were problems. Complications. Free-state leaders also had considerable latitude over their internal affairs. They could, for example, declare enslaved Black people free once they entered. And while leaders in many free states were unhappy about the extent of their free Black populations — in 1807, as the historian Kate Masur tells us in “Until Justice Be Done: America’s First Civil Rights Movement, From the Revolution to Reconstruction,” Ohio lawmakers passed a law requiring free Black migrants to register with the county clerk and have at least two white property owners vouch for their ability to support themselves — they ultimately could not stop the significant growth of free Black communities within their borders, whose members could (and would) agitate against slavery.


The upshot of all of this was that, until the Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford settled the matter in favor of slaveholders, the status of an enslaved Black person outside a slave state was uncertain. It was unclear whether property in man extended beyond the borders of states where it was authorized by law.


It was also unclear whether a slave state’s authority over an enslaved Black person persisted beyond its borders. And on those occasions when a free Black person was within the reach of slave-state law — as was true when free Black sailors arrived in Southern ports — it was unclear if they were subject primarily to the laws of their home states or the laws of the slave states. South Carolina assumed the latter, for example, when it passed a law in 1822 requiring that all “free Negroes or persons of color” arriving in the state by water be placed in jail until their scheduled departure.


One would have to conclude, surveying the legal landscape of slavery before Dred Scott, that federalism could not handle a question as fundamental as human bondage. The tensions, contradictions and conflicts between states were simply too great. As Abraham Lincoln would eventually conclude, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”


Grappling with life in post-Roe America


“My life would not have been my own. I would be a prisoner subject to a body’s whims — and not my body’s whims, but the whims of a teenage boy.”


Nicole Walker, a writer and editor, in “My Abortion at 11 Wasn’t a Choice. It Was My Life.” Read the guest essay.


“It’s important that the government is in sync with the public opinion, but I don’t think they are.”


“Sometime soon, I am going to meet a patient who has no ability to leave the state, and I am going to have to tell her that her baby has a lethal condition, and she is going to have to carry a pregnancy to term against her will.”


David N. Hackney, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist, in “I’m a High-Risk Obstetrician, and I’m Terrified for My Patients.” Read the guest essay.


“There are more of us than there are of them. That’s especially true if American men recognize that their way of life is also under attack. Men also have sex for pleasure. This is not just a women’s issue.”


Mara Gay, a member of the editorial board, in “The Republican War on Sex.” Read the essay.


“My fellow pro-lifers and I will also need to make the case to expectant mothers, and fathers too, that their unborn children are, like the rest of us, dependent and needy persons.”


“The overturning of Roe v. Wade reveals the Supreme Court’s neglectful reading of the amendments that abolished slavery and guaranteed all people equal protection under the law. It means the erasure of Black women from the Constitution.”


Michele Goodwin, a professor of law at the University of California, in “No, Justice Alito, Reproductive Justice Is in the Constitution.” Read the guest essay.


I want you to keep all this in mind while you read about the latest developments in state and local laws regarding abortion. On Monday, Steve Marshall, Alabama’s Republican attorney general, announced in a court filing that the state has the right to prosecute people who make travel arrangements for women to have out-of-state abortions. Those arrangements, he argued, amount to a “criminal conspiracy.”


“The conspiracy is what is being punished, even if the final conduct never occurs,” Marshall’s filing states. “That conduct is Alabama-based and is within Alabama’s power to prohibit.”


In Texas, anti-abortion activists and lawmakers are using local ordinances to try to make it illegal to transport anyone to get an abortion on roads within city or county limits. Abortion opponents behind one such measure “are targeting regions along interstates and in areas with airports,” Caroline Kitchener reports in The Washington Post, “with the goal of blocking off the main arteries out of Texas and keeping pregnant women hemmed within the confines of their anti-abortion state.”


Alabama and Texas join Idaho in targeting the right to travel. And they aren’t alone; lawmakers in other states, like Missouri, have also contemplated measures that would limit the ability of women to leave their states to obtain an abortion or even hold them criminally liable for abortion services received out of state.


The reason to compare these proposed limits on travel within and between states to antebellum efforts to limit the movement of free or enslaved Black people is that both demonstrate the limits of federalism when it comes to fundamental questions of bodily autonomy.


It is not tenable to vary the extent of bodily rights from state to state, border to border. It raises legal and political questions that have to be settled in one direction or another. Are women who are residents of anti-abortion states free to travel to states where abortion is legal to obtain the procedure? Do anti-abortion states have the right to hold residents criminally liable for abortions that occur elsewhere? Should women leaving anti-abortion states be considered presumptively pregnant and subject to criminal investigation, lest they obtain the procedure?


Laws of this sort may not be on the immediate horizon, but the questions are still legitimate. By ending the constitutional guarantee of bodily autonomy, the Supreme Court has fully unsettled the rights of countless Americans in ways that must be resolved. Once again, a house divided against itself cannot stand.



9) Three American Lives Forever Changed by a Weapon Now Being Sent to Ukraine

The mother of a Marine and two veterans who served in Iraq reflect on the U.S. decision to send failure-prone shells to help the Ukrainian military battle Russia.

By John Ismay, Sept. 3, 2023

Reporting from Washington

A group of photographs showing Lance Cpl. Travis J. Bradach-Nall.
Lance Cpl. Travis J. Bradach-Nall was killed while cleaning an area of cluster weapons. Credit...Mason Trinca for The New York Times

In the summer of 2003, not long after U.S. forces had taken Baghdad, a group of Marines were clearing unexploded ordnance in central Iraq when one of the small grenades littering the ground detonated.


It was a cluster munition dud left over from an American attack, the same type of weapon that the United States is now sending Ukraine.


A Marine bomb technician lost his left hand, part of his right hand, his left eye and most of his right leg in the explosion.


Metal fragments also blasted into the torso and neck of Lance Cpl. Travis J. Bradach-Nall, a 21-year-old combat engineer who was standing guard about six feet away. He died minutes later.


The Marines were experts in their craft, trained for missions like these, and still there was an accident. The cheaply made grenades they were clearing were more hazardous than many other types of weapons they could encounter on the battlefield — easily hidden by debris, dirt or sand, and built with simple fuzes that could cause them to detonate if jostled.


Their task that day was made even more difficult by the sheer scale of the mess they had to clean up. A photo taken at the site for an investigation shows an old wooden ammunition crate packed with roughly 75 similar unexploded American grenades that the Marines had already rendered safe.


Mass produced toward the end of the Cold War, cluster munitions of this type scatter dozens or even hundreds of the tiny grenades at a time. These grenades were designed to destroy enemy tanks and soldiers deep behind enemy lines on land allied soldiers were never meant to tread.


U.S. government studies have found that the grenades have a failure rate of 14 percent or more, meaning that for every 155-millimeter cluster shell that is given to Ukraine and fired, 10 of the 72 grenades it disperses are likely to fall to the ground as hazardous duds.


More than 100 nations have banned their use because of the harm they pose, especially to children, but the United States, Russia and Ukraine have not.


In July, the Biden administration decided to provide artillery shells of this type to Ukraine after officials in Kyiv assured the White House that their forces would use them responsibly. Ukraine also promised to record where they used the shells for later demining efforts.


The decision was frustrating and painful for some American civilians who have dealt with the aftermath of their use in combat.


Lynn Bradach was driving near Portland, Ore., in early July when she heard the news on the radio, almost exactly 20 years after the same weapon killed her son, Corporal Bradach-Nall.


“I was like, ‘I can’t believe this.’ It’s just absolutely insane,” said Ms. Bradach, who spent years advocating a global ban on cluster weapons after Corporal Bradach-Nall’s death.


A few weeks ago in Oregon, on the banks of the Zigzag River, she said a final goodbye to her son. She had spread some of his ashes at places he loved in life, and released the rest into the water.


The White House’s decision reopened old wounds for some American veterans as well.


Early on Feb. 27, 1991, with the cease-fire that would end the Persian Gulf war just a day away, Mark P. Hertling, a major at the time, was talking with soldiers near his Bradley Fighting Vehicle.


“It was raining, dark as hell — no moon, and it was windy,” he said. “I heard five pops in the air and thought, ‘What the hell was that?’”


It was the sound of friendly fire — artillery shells each disgorging their loads of 88 grenades overhead.


“The next thing, within seconds, it was like being in a popcorn machine popping,” he recalled.


Mr. Hertling was one of the 31 soldiers wounded by the swarm of exploding grenades, two of whom had to be medically evacuated. Several vehicles were damaged but none were destroyed.


The soldiers moved on, but they were not done dealing with the lethal detritus of unexploded American cluster munitions before they could redeploy back home.


“We were blowing up weapons caches after that, and there were D.P.I.C.M. duds everywhere,” Mr. Hertling said, using the military’s name for the grenades, which are formally called dual-purpose improved conventional munitions. “I can’t put it any way other than that. We would be driving through an area and there they were.”


For the rest of his career, Mr. Hertling, who retired as a lieutenant general, wore the Purple Heart medal he earned in the attack for wounds from an American cluster weapon.


Twelve years later, in the initial phase of another war in Iraq, Seth W.B. Folsom was told to get his light-armored reconnaissance unit off the highway hours after it left a temporary camp near the town of Diwaniyah.


Then a Marine captain in command of a company, Mr. Folsom ordered a squad to do a quick sweep of the area for potential threats before the rest of his Marines could leave their vehicles.


Soon after they set off on foot, one of the Marines in that patrol, Lance Cpl. Jesus Suarez del Solar, went down in an explosion.


“Initially we thought it might have been a mortar or a hand grenade, but when we looked at his gear and the wounds he suffered we realized he bumped into something with his foot,” Mr. Folsom said. “It shredded his foot in half; his whole lower body was peppered with wounds.”


“He suffered a pretty substantial wound to the inside of one of his legs, and it severed his femoral artery,” he said. “All our efforts were to stop that wound.”


Mr. Folsom soon realized he was surrounded by dud cluster weapon grenades that had recently been used against Iraqi soldiers.


“Once you knew what to look for, you saw them everywhere,” he said.


According to procedures, everyone in the battalion should have been warned over the radio about any use of cluster munitions in the area so that maps could be marked.


That call never happened.


Corporal Suarez del Solar bled to death while being evacuated on March 27, 2003.


Darkness fell, and the captain ordered his Marines to stay in their armored vehicles overnight until bomb technicians could arrive and blow up remaining duds in the area.


“That 24 hours after the episode, there was a lot of shock, a lot of grief and a lot of anger we couldn’t direct anywhere,” Mr. Folsom said. “If a Marine dies of enemy fire, you can direct that anger at the enemy.”


“If it’s friendly ordnance, who do you direct that anger to?"


The incident stayed with Mr. Folsom through the rest of his career in the infantry, as he gave safety briefings during additional combat deployments. He retired as a colonel in January and has been watching the public discussions about sending the weapons to Ukraine.


“My feelings about this issue are very ambivalent,” he said. “I’ve got very highly charged feelings for and against, and it’s all because I have a natural bias — I have skin in the game.”


Mr. Folsom takes responsibility for Corporal Suarez del Solar’s death.


“That’s something that I can’t forget,” he said. “People really need to understand the human element of that decision that’s been made.”


Mr. Folsom and Mr. Hertling, veterans of multiple combat tours, both expressed concern that, in the rush to keep Ukraine supplied with artillery ammunition, the risks regarding cluster weapons could be papered over.


“What revolts me is the whataboutism, focused on the fact that Russia has been using these weapons from the beginning of the war,” Mr. Folsom said. “So what? That doesn’t make it right.”


Mr. Hertling said he understood the Pentagon’s decision if there were shortages of regular high-explosive shells available for Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which began this summer.


But he is frustrated by people who minimize the danger.


“There’s millions of unexploded munitions already in Ukraine; there’s thousands of mines that have been laid by the Russians,” he said. “Now what we’re hearing from people is, ‘Oh, what the hell — another couple hundred thousand U.S. D.P.I.C.M., that’s no big deal.’”


“Yeah, it’s no big deal — until some kid picks it up and says, ‘Hey look at this,’” he said.


Mr. Folsom wants Ukraine to retake its sovereign land, but knows the risks the shells will pose to Ukrainian soldiers and civilians for years to come.


“I just hope they understand what they’re asking for,” he said.



10) Woman Gives Birth Alone in a Tennessee Jail Cell

The woman had sought medical help for over an hour before giving birth, officials said. The episode, which has drawn criticism, highlights issues about the incarceration of pregnant women.

By Eduardo Medina, Sept. 3, 2023

Three imposing concrete buildings with small slit windows.
The Montgomery County Public Safety Complex in Clarksville, Tenn., where a woman gave birth alone in a cell. Credit...Henry Taylor/The Leaf-Chronicle, via Imagn

A woman gave birth alone in a jail cell in Tennessee on Tuesday after seeking medical attention for more than an hour, the authorities said, raising questions about the care provided to the woman and her baby.


The episode highlights issues about the incarceration of women and drew criticism from prison reform advocates who have raised concerns about pregnant women in prisons or jails being ignored and put at risk.


The woman, whose name has not been made public, was incarcerated at the Montgomery County Jail in Clarksville, Tenn., about 50 miles northwest of Nashville, when she notified a deputy at 11:31 a.m. about a “medical concern,” according to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.


A nurse arrived a few minutes later, the sheriff’s office said.


The nurse assessed the woman and then left to consult with other medical staff members. Another nurse arrived at 11:54 a.m. to “conduct a follow-up assessment,” according to the sheriff’s office. The medical staff members left to continue to “assess the situation and order additional medical tests,” the sheriff’s office said.


However, at 12:41 p.m., a deputy went to the cell and “discovered that the inmate had given birth while in her cell,” the sheriff’s office said. The deputy helped the woman while medical staff members were alerted.


The woman and her baby were taken to a hospital, where they remained in stable condition and under hospital care as of Tuesday, the sheriff’s office said.


It was unclear why the woman was not taken to a hospital before she gave birth, and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, which operates the jail, did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment on Saturday.


It was also unclear whether medical or jail staff would face any kind of discipline. The sheriff’s office said it conducted a review of what happened but offered no additional details.


The episode underscored that there is effectively no national standard of care for women who are incarcerated and pregnant, though most correctional facilities have policies.


State Senator Raumesh Akbari, a Democrat, described what happened as “troubling.”


“It is a concern that women are treated with dignity, and their child,” Ms. Akbari said in an interview on Saturday night. “If they are incarcerated, that they are in a safe environment, and that they have the same rights and protections that they would for themselves and their child regardless of their incarceration status.”


Penal Reform International, a nongovernmental organization that promotes fair and effective criminal justice systems, said that women who give birth while incarcerated usually do so in a hospital.


A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in 2019 found that from 2016 to 2017, a majority of prison pregnancies ended in live births or miscarriages.


“The far-reaching consequences of the health of incarcerated people for the public’s health and that of broader society are well documented,” the authors of the study wrote. “These consequences are compounded for incarcerated pregnant women given that incarceration affects not only their health but also that of subsequent generations.”


In 2021, Minnesota became the first state to end the practice of separating incarcerated mothers from their newborns.


The law, known as the Healthy Start Act, states that pregnant and postpartum inmates can be placed into alternative housing with their newborns for up to one year after birth. Previously, newborns were taken from their incarcerated mothers within 72 hours of birth.


Across the country, most incarcerated mothers are allowed one day with their newborns in the hospital, according to the American Medical Association. The infants are placed with relatives or in foster care while the mothers are returned to prison or jail.


Dr. Carolyn Sufrin, an associate professor of gynecology and obstetrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine who has researched pregnancies in prisons, wrote in 2018 that “early identification of pregnancy is important to ensure that women receive appropriate prenatal care or, if abortion care is desired, timely referral.”


Dr. Sufrin said that while “being pregnant while incarcerated presents unique physical and psychological challenges,” pregnancy should not be viewed by the criminal justice system “as a disease, disorder or malady, and the institution should provide a healthy environment where a woman can safely care for her developing fetus.”


Some women have filed lawsuits after giving birth in jail.


NBC Washington reported that a Maryland woman claimed her cries for help were ignored as she gave birth on the floor of a jail cell in Washington County. A woman in Kentucky who gave birth alone in the Franklin County Regional Jail in 2017 filed a lawsuit against the county and received a $200,000 settlement, The Lexington Herald-Leader reported.



11) Driverless Taxis Blocked Ambulance in Fatal Accident, San Francisco Fire Dept. Says

Two Cruise taxis delayed an ambulance carrying a car accident victim to a hospital, a department report said. The company said it was not at fault.

By Yiwen Lu, Sept. 2, 2023

A white taxi with an orange side panel featuring the Cruise logo as it sits before at an intersection.
A Cruise, which is a driverless taxi, seen operating in San Francisco in July. Credit...Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images

Two Cruise driverless taxis blocked an ambulance carrying a critically injured patient who later died at a hospital, a San Francisco Fire Department report said, in another incident involving self-driving cars in the city.


On Aug. 14, two Cruise autonomous vehicles were stopped in the right two lanes of a four-lane, one-way street in the SoMa neighborhood, where the victim was found, according to the department report. It said that a police vehicle in another lane had to be moved in order for the ambulance to leave.


The driverless vehicles delayed transport and medical care, the report said. The patient, who had been struck by a car, was pronounced dead about 20 to 30 minutes after arriving at the Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, about 2.4 miles away from the accident.


Cruise, an autonomous vehicle subsidiary of General Motors, said that it was not at fault. The footage Cruise shared with The New York Times appeared to show that one of its vehicles had moved from the scene before the victim was loaded to the ambulance, while the other stopped in the right lane until after the ambulance left. The footage also showed that other vehicles, including another ambulance, passed by the right side of the Cruise taxi.


“As soon as the victim was loaded into the ambulance, the ambulance left the scene immediately and was never impeded” by the Cruise vehicle, the company said in a statement. The ambulance passed the stopped Cruise vehicle approximately 90 seconds after loading the victim, according to the footage.


Cruise said that a police officer spoke to one of its employees through remote assistance in the vehicle, and that the company was able to navigate it away from the scene after the ambulance left.


The Fire Department confirmed the report, which was first obtained by Forbes. Jeanine Nicholson, chief of the Fire Department, said that “seconds matter” in such incidents and the problem was that responders were not able to access to the patient.


“I have yet to see Cruise taking responsibility for anything,” Ms. Nicholson said, adding that more conversations need to happen.


Aaron Peskin, the president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, said that regardless of what led to the victim’s death, the “accumulative total” of incidents involving driverless cars was more alarming. “All of them have a common theme, which is autonomous vehicles are not ready for prime time,” Mr. Peskin said.


Cruise and Waymo, which is backed by Alphabet, Google’s parent company, began to offer driverless taxi services in San Francisco last year. The accident occurred four days after both companies obtained a permit from California state regulators to expand their services to charge for rides at all hours in San Francisco.


The Fire Department said the case was one of more than 70 of autonomous vehicles interfering with emergency responders. San Francisco officials have protested the expansion of driverless taxi services since January, pointing to cases where driverless cars blocked emergency vehicles and interfered during active firefighting and crime scenes.


Some city officials have said that these incidents are a small fraction of all cases involving driverless cars. The companies were required to report only collisions to regulators, not other incidents.


Since the expansion of driverless taxi services began, Cruise vehicles were reported to have blocked traffic and to have been stuck in wet cement. On Aug. 17, a Cruise vehicle collided with a fire truck. The next day, the California Department of Motor Vehicles, which oversees the safety of autonomous vehicles, asked Cruise to halve the number of vehicles it was operating in the city as it investigated the incidents.


City officials plan to file a motion for a new hearing on the service expansion, Mr. Peskin said. David Chiu, the city attorney, previously asked the California Public Utilities Commission, the agency that approved the expansion, to halt the plan.