Bay Area United Against War Newsletter, September 6, 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) 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.”



2) 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.”



3) 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.



4) 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.



5) 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.



6) 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.



7) Texas Is the Latest State to Drop the ‘Tampon Tax’

So far, 24 states have eliminated sales taxes on period products that have been criticized as discriminatory.

By Alisha Haridasani Gupta, Sept. 1, 2023

A shelf in a store displaying a variety of period products.
Julia Weeks/Associated Press

On Friday, a bipartisan Texas bill that eliminates sales taxes on menstrual products went into effect, making it the 24th state in the country, as well as District of Columbia, to remove what is colloquially known as the “tampon tax.”


Before the shift, Texas had classified period products, including pads, tampons, menstrual cups, discs and sponges, as optional or luxury items and applied a 6.25 percent tax. Opponents of the tampon tax have long claimed that because other items — like contact lenses and over-the-counter medications in most states — are categorized as necessary and therefore sold tax-free, the tax on period products is discriminatory against those who menstruate.


“Every woman knows that these products are not optional,” Republican State Senator Joan Huffman, who spearheaded the bill in the Senate, said in a statement. “They are essential to our health and well-being and should be tax exempt.”


The new law also eliminates taxes on adult and children’s diapers, baby wipes, bottles, maternity clothes and breast pumps. Sales taxes on period products, which can cost up to $20 every month, vary by state but they range from 4 to roughly 7 percent.


While that may be a small additional cost for any given purchase, when “compounded over somebody’s lifetime,” it can add up, particularly for those who live below or just above the poverty line, said Suzanne Herman, legal director at Period Law, a nonprofit organization that has been filing lawsuits around the country to challenge tampon taxes.


A 2019 survey of low-income women in St. Louis found that 64 percent were unable to afford menstrual products in the previous year — a situation that can hinder an individual’s ability to work and can negatively affect mental health. Government programs for low-income people, like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) or Medicaid, don’t typically cover the cost of period products.


Dropping the tampon tax is part of a broader effort by student activists and lawmakers to make these products more accessible, echoing efforts in other countries, like Scotland, where period products are available for free. In the United States, 26 states and the District of Columbia have laws to offer free menstrual products in schools, and 25 states have laws to provide them in prisons. A new law introduced in Congress this year, the Menstrual Equity for All Act, proposes mandating Medicaid coverage of period products.


There are 21 states in which menstrual products are taxed, while other products, like Viagra, candies and condoms, are generally not, Ms. Herman said. (The remaining five states don’t have sales taxes on anything.)


The first state in the country to drop the tampon tax was Minnesota in 1981, but the issue had been “largely ignored” elsewhere for decades, said Laura Strausfeld, founder and executive director of Period Law.


Things started to change in the last few years, as female representation in state legislatures increased and a new generation revitalized the issue, she said. In 2016, attorneys started filing lawsuits against various states over the tax, and in 2019 activist teenagers and college students around the country made a concerted effort to flood state comptroller offices with applications for tax refunds on menstrual product purchases.


That helped flag the issue to state lawmakers and, between 2016 and 2019, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Nevada, New York, Maryland, Rhode Island and Ohio eliminated the tax (though some states still allow local taxes).


In 2019, when Ms. Herman was a law student, she and dozens of other students similarly filed for tax refunds on period products they purchased in Texas, kicking off the effort there to eliminate the tariff. Earlier this year, Representative Donna Howard — who had been pushing Texas to drop the tampon tax since 2017 — introduced a bill in the legislature, a version of which was signed into law in June.


During the pandemic, the federal stimulus bill categorized menstrual products as essential, allowing consumers to buy them with money from health savings and flexible savings accounts. That also led to change at the state level, Ms. Strausfeld said. Between 2020 and 2022, 10 more states eliminated their tampon taxes.


Last year, the retailer CVS agreed to pay tampon taxes on behalf of the consumer — in stores and online — in 10 of the states where they still stand: Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and West Virginia. Other states do not allow vendors to pay sales taxes. The company also dropped the prices of CVS-brand period products by 25 percent across its stores to help make them more accessible.


Almost all the remaining 21 states, except Idaho, have introduced bills to eliminate the tampon tax. Given Texas’ size it might become a bellwether for those other states, Ms. Herman said.


“We’re expecting for the ball to roll faster and faster,” she said. “States look to one another — they don’t want to be left behind.”



8) Can Kenya Bring Order to Haiti? Doubts Are Swirling.

The African country has volunteered to put boots on the ground in the Caribbean nation by the end of the year. But the plan is facing pushback even as Haiti’s security crisis spirals out of control.

By Simon Romero, Andre Paultre and Abdi Latif Dahir, Sept. 5, 2023

Reporting from Mexico City, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and Nairobi, Kenya

A person gesture while confronting police officers, some in helmets and black masks, in the Haitian capital.
A demonstrator confronting the police during a protest against insecurity in Port-au-Prince last month. Credit...Odelyn Joseph/Associated Press

Every day, Vélina Élysée Charlier drives past barricaded neighborhoods and frequently sees dead bodies lying on the street, she said, a result of score-settling between gangs and vigilantes in Haiti’s capital.


After dusk, she never leaves home for fear of being killed or kidnapped. When her 8-year-old daughter got appendicitis one evening, Ms. Charlier said, the family waited until morning to get her medical care since driving to a hospital was out of the question.


“Port-au-Prince looks like something out of hell these days,” said Ms. Charlier, 42, a prominent anticorruption activist in the city and mother of four who lives in a hillside area of the capital.


As gangs were seizing control of one part of Haiti’s capital after another, the country’s fragile government issued a plea nearly 12 months ago for foreign troops to step in and assert order in the crisis-racked Caribbean nation. After that desperate appeal, a force led by Kenya finally seems close to materializing in what would be the first time an African country leads such a mission in one of the Americas’ most unstable places.


But as Haiti’s security conditions spiral further out of control, manifested by a rise in killings around Port-au-Prince as heavily armed gangs try to quell a citizen-led vigilante movement, many in the country disparage the plan as too meager and too late. The criticism underscores deep-seated anxieties in Haiti over foreign interventions, as well as mistrust of Kenyan security forces over their record of human rights abuses and graft.


Ms. Charlier voiced doubt that the Kenyan-led force would be large enough to make headway against the gangs, which are thought to control roughly 80 percent of the capital. The plan calls for the deployment of 1,000 Kenyan police officers and several hundred officers or soldiers from Caribbean countries.


“Fighting the gangs will require going into shantytowns, hillsides, terrain that you need to know very well,” said Ms. Charlier. She said that money going to an outside force would be better spent on strengthening Haiti’s own depleted police forces.


Before the Kenyan force even secures the approval it needs from the United Nations Security Council for the mission, the scale of Haiti’s crisis is raising doubts about what the Kenyans can accomplish.


The plan for a force of fewer than 1,500 compares to a 1994 intervention force led by the United States of 21,000 and another force, led by Brazil about a decade later, that numbered 13,000 at its peak.


So far, the United States and Brazil, the two largest countries in the Americas, are reluctant to intervene with their own forces. That wariness reflects doubts over large deployments two years after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the fatigue that many governments in the hemisphere have about the nearly perpetual crises in Haiti, especially after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in 2021 created a power vacuum in the already volatile nation.


Scenes of anarchic violence have many in Port-au-Prince on tenterhooks. In late August, gang members opened fire on protesters organized by an evangelical church leader, killing at least seven; earlier in the month, gang members burned alive seven people from the same family, apparently in retaliation for a relative’s support of a citizens self-defense movement.


Amid the latest outbursts of gang violence, the United States repeatedly urged its citizens over the summer to leave Haiti as soon as possible. From April to June, at least 238 suspected gang members, including some seized from police custody, were killed in lynchings, according to the United Nations. Some were stoned, mutilated or burned alive.


The vigilante movement, largely comprising ordinary Haitians in Port-au-Prince, coalesced earlier this year. Its members often carry machetes instead of guns, and are known for brutally meting out retribution on the streets.


While the outbreak of mob justice caused abductions and killings by the gangs to decline temporarily, the resurgence in recent weeks has led to a new phase of unrest. Nearly 200,000 people are displaced across the country, according to the International Organization for Migration; the highest concentration of these internal refugees is in Port-au-Prince, where thousands are languishing in shelters.


Esther Pierre, 33, was selling food on the streets of her neighborhood, Savane Pistache, before she fled her home in mid-August. Since then, she and her two children have been living in a camp for displaced people in a Port-au-Prince gymnasium.


“I saw armed men arriving in our neighborhood,” Ms. Pierre said. “Those who wanted to fight them were raped, killed, burned.”


Ms. Pierre said her family left with the clothes on its back.


The Biden administration supports the Kenyan plan. Discussions about Kenya’s offer to deploy a multinational police force in Haiti began about two years ago but began solidifying only this year, Kenya’s foreign minister, Alfred N. Mutua, said.


Both the United States and the Bahamas asked the East African nation this year if it would consider leading a force to help restore order. Haiti’s prime minister, Ariel Henry, also reiterated a similar request to Kenya’s president when the two met on the sidelines of the climate finance summit in Paris in June.


Kenya was also motivated to step in order to inspire Pan-African unity and show solidarity with the people of Haiti, where enslaved people ousted the French in a revolution, said Mr. Mutua.


While specific operational details were yet to be finalized, he said he expected the Kenyan police to train their Haitian counterparts, patrol with them and protect “key installations.” He said he hoped the Kenyan officers would deploy to Haiti by the end of the year.


“It’s not a matter of whether we are going to Haiti or not — we are going,” Mr. Mutua said in an interview. “We are convinced.”


Kenya’s security forces have long participated in troop deployments abroad, serving in countries like Lebanon, Sierra Leone and South Sudan. Kenya has 445 personnel currently serving with United Nations peacekeeping missions, according to U.N. data. Kenyan troops also serve as part of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia and under a new regional force deployed in the volatile eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.


But domestically and internationally, Kenyan security forces have come under scrutiny for their actions.


In Somalia, the Kenyan military, a key ally of the United States in the fight against Islamist extremism, has been accused of facilitating and profiting from illicit exports of charcoal and sugar.


Kenyan law enforcement officers have also been condemned by rights groups, which have accused them of excessive force, carrying out extrajudicial killings and conducting arbitrary arrests. This was in stark display during the pandemic, when their police were accused of killing dozens of people while enforcing lockdowns. The Kenyan police also killed at least 30 people during antigovernment protests this year, according to Amnesty International.


Given that record, activists and human rights groups in Kenya and beyond have criticized the decision to deploy the Kenyan police to Haiti. Many have voiced their concerns to the U.N. Security Council and the U.S. and other governments, and have urged them to drop their support for the deployment.


“Kenyan police are going to export brutality to Haiti,” said Otsieno Namwaya, the East Africa director at Human Rights Watch.


Mr. Mutua, Kenya’s foreign minister, dismissed those concerns as “hot air” and said he was confident that the Kenyan force would help bring stability to Haiti.


“There’s a reason why the United States, Canada, the whole of the Caribbean nations, many nations in this world are asking Kenya to take the lead,” he said. “It is because they have faith in the professional nature of the Kenyan police.”


U.S. officials say they are focused on not repeating mistakes made in previous stabilization missions in Haiti. The Biden administration does not want the multinational force to engage in constant firefights with gangs but rather to ensure humanitarian aid can safely be sent to the nation, said two U.S. officials who were familiar with the matter but were not authorized to speak publicly.


Still, many Haitians echo the concerns of Kenyan rights groups, highlighting recent interventions as evidence of how they harm the country. Trust in the United Nations plummeted in Haiti after investigations showed that poor sanitation by U.N. peacekeepers after Haiti’s 2010 earthquake had caused one of the deadliest cholera outbreaks of modern times, killing at least 10,000 people.


Gédéon Jean, executive director of the Center for Analysis and Research in Human Rights, an independent Haitian organization, noted that the U.N. peacekeeping mission, which ended in 2017, sometimes spent hundreds of millions of dollars per year on its operations.


Afterward, Mr. Jean said, it “left behind a police force that didn’t even have a helicopter or good armor.”


Given the proposed size of the Kenyan force, there are also concerns that it could be outgunned. “These guys have .50-caliber rifles mounted to pickup trucks,” Daniel Foote, the Biden administration’s former special envoy to Haiti, who resigned in 2021 over the deportations of Haitian migrants, said about the gangs awaiting the Kenyans. “You can’t do it with unqualified people, and you can’t fix it with rookies going in.”


Mr. Foote added that while he was “theoretically” opposed to an intervention because of past mistakes made in such missions, he believed that the United States had a responsibility to help Haiti and to allow Haitians to guide how such an intervention could work.


“The U.S. should lead a peacekeeping mission,” Mr. Foote said. “They don’t need to send 10,000 troops. They need to send Special Forces guys who go down and figure out how to open up the arteries and go after the gangs.”



9) California’s Hot Labor Summer Is Not Over Yet

A coalition of 85,000 Kaiser Permanente employees, most of whom are based in California, have begun voting on whether to authorize a strike.

By Soumya Karlamangla, Sept. 5, 2023

Interns and volunteers created strike banners at the Unite Here Local 11 office near downtown Los Angeles in June in anticipation of a walkout.
Interns and volunteers created strike banners at the Unite Here Local 11 office near downtown Los Angeles in June in anticipation of a walkout. Credit...Philip Cheung for The New York Times

Summer may be on its last legs, but California’s hot labor summer certainly isn’t.


It’s been an exceptionally busy few months for labor actions in the Golden State, with dozens of strikes since May across a wide range of occupations, including housekeepers, Los Angeles city workers, McDonalds employees and dockworkers. The walkouts by tens of thousands of Hollywood actors and writers — together, the nation’s biggest strike in years — are still going strong.


And soon the list could get even bigger.


A coalition of a dozen local unions representing 85,000 pharmacists, nursing assistants, occupational therapists and other Kaiser Permanente employees have begun voting on whether to authorize a strike, as their current contract approaches its expiration at the end of September. Though the workers are in several states, the great majority (78 percent) are in California, according to coalition data.


Union leaders are calling for higher wages, and they have said that a staffing shortage at Kaiser hospitals and clinics is making it impossible to provide adequate care to patients.


“Kaiser is facing chronic understaffing, because workers can’t afford to live in L.A. on the low wages they pay us,” Miriam de la Paz, a unit secretary who works at Kaiser Permanente in Downey, said in a statement.


If all 85,000 workers covered by the contract were to walk out, it would be the largest strike by health care workers in U.S. history, according to the coalition. The soonest a strike would happen is Oct. 1.


On Labor Day, the union that represents most of the workers, S.E.I.U.-United Healthcare Workers West, organized a demonstration outside of Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center in Hollywood to highlight its call for improved working conditions, officials said. In a planned act of civil disobedience, protesters sat in the middle of Sunset Boulevard, and 25 of them were arrested by the police, LAist reported.


Kaiser Permanente said in a statement that it was confident that an agreement would be reached before the current contract expired, and that the strike authorization vote “does not reflect any breakdown in bargaining, nor does it indicate a strike is imminent or will happen at all.”


“It is a disappointing action, considering our progress at the bargaining table,” the statement added.


Labor actions are surging across the country: More workers were on strike in the United States in July than at any time since at least January 2021, according to the Cornell-ILR Labor Action Tracker. There were 205,000 U.S. workers on strike in July, the tracker says; a year earlier there were just 8,000.


“Strike activity has very much been driven by workers in Southern California,” Johnnie Kallas, who runs Cornell’s tracker, said. “There seems to me to be an intimate connection between these strikes and the really high cost of living in the L.A. area.”


As my colleagues have reported, 2023 has brought an unprecedented level of cross-sector solidarity among unions in Los Angeles. The high cost of living and growing income inequality in Southern California appear to have fostered common ground among millions of residents.


Kallas said it was difficult to estimate exactly how many workers in California had gone on strike since May, because many of the actions involved unions with members in other states. Roughly 37,000 workers have walked out in California-only strikes that began on or after May 1, he said, but the bulk of the striking workers in the state are among the roughly 171,000 writers and actors who are striking against the film studios.



10) In Detroit, a Tiny Home Generates a Big Controversy

A program that rents homes to low-income residents, and helps them build equity as homeowners, was rocked when one of the initial participants was evicted.

By Allan Lengel, Sept. 4, 2023

A woman is photographed while looking through a window. The glass is reflecting what the woman  is looking at.
Tiny Home resident Taura Brown was locked in a bitter eviction battle for 25 months. Cass Community Social Services said it wasn’t her primary home. Ms. Brown insisted it was. Credit...Sarah Rice for The New York Times

On Detroit’s west side, near a commercial strip lined with vacant lots, empty shops, storefront churches and motorcycle clubs, sits a cluster of relatively new, micro-size houses — 225 to 470 square feet — residences that look more like seasonal cottages in a resort town.


The Tiny Homes, as they’re known, were built by a nonprofit group and have marble shower stalls, granite kitchen countertops and solar panels. They are intended for low-income residents who pay monthly rent of $1 per square foot, plus electricity, with the option to own the home outright after seven years.


To date, there are 25 in a three-block area, occupied by residents that include seniors and people formerly homeless and incarcerated, and who earn as little as $7,000 annually. The first set opened in 2017, and construction is slated to begin this fall on a half dozen or so houses on a patch of empty land nearby. The project, which is owned and operated by Cass Community Social Services of Detroit, has been built through fund-raising from foundations and private donors, including rocker Jon Bon Jovi.


It’s the kind of story that pulls at heartstrings: From the scars of the July 1967 uprising rose a community where people who never thought they would become homeowners now have a chance to build some wealth.


But in early April, the first-ever eviction of a Tiny Homes resident underscored what a hot-button issue affordable housing has become in places like Detroit, one of the country’s poorest big cities. It pitted well-intentioned community activists against a well-established do-gooder. It also was a reminder that benevolent, low-income programs often come with rules and restrictions that can result in conflicts and ugly disputes. In this case, the founder of the program, who is white, was accused of racism.


With TV cameras rolling, more than two dozen community activists from a group called Detroit Eviction Defense defended the resident, Taura Brown, 45, locking arms, putting up barriers of discarded tires, chicken wire, and barrels, and blocking the front door of her house on Monterey Street, near the John C. Lodge Freeway.


The group was trying to prevent court bailiffs from carrying out the final eviction order to remove Ms. Brown from the house.


As she fought the eviction, Ms. Brown, who is Black, repeatedly referred publicly to the Rev. Faith Fowler, who is white and runs the program, as a “poverty pimp,” and displayed a sign attacking Ms. Fowler in her front yard.


Ms. Fowler contends the eviction was triggered by Ms. Brown living elsewhere more than 50 percent of the time, contrary to the intent of the program, which requires tenants to make the homes their primary residence. Ms. Fowler said new residents, including Ms. Brown, signed agreements in December 2020 that the houses would be their primary residences.


“I’m not anti-Miss Brown,” she said, adding later, “I just want someone living in the house full time, that’s all.”


The agency said Ms. Brown’s name was on the lease at her boyfriend’s $2,000-plus a month apartment on the Detroit riverfront. Cass Community Social Services initially didn’t renew her annual lease, but she refused to move, so the nonprofit moved to evict. Ms. Brown offered to pay rent, but the agency declined, telling her they wanted her gone to make way for someone who would make it their primary residence.


Ms. Brown said in an interview that the eviction was in retaliation after she began speaking up on behalf of residents about her concerns, like slow repairs, and because she was critical of the program and Ms. Fowler.


She said she lives on disability and worked part-time for her boyfriend’s engineering consulting business out of his apartment. She said she did not live with him and had her name on his lease only so she’d have easy access to the secure building and its amenities, which include a swimming pool. She said she never paid him rent and spent the majority of her time at Tiny Homes.


Laying a Foundation


After seven years, Tiny Homes renters can own their houses outright and pay only utilities, upkeep and property taxes. Once taking ownership, they are free to sell it at market rate, use it as collateral for a loan or leave it as an inheritance.


To date, four residents besides Ms. Brown are no longer part of the program. One died from illness, and another was murdered. Another moved to Memphis to be closer to family and one moved into her deceased husband’s house. The agency has renewed everyone else’s annual lease since the inception, except for Ms. Brown’s.


Over seven years, Ms. Brown would have paid $26,628 in rent for the 317-square-foot house before taking ownership. Zillow, the real estate website, currently values the house at about $90,000.


Ms. Brown was one of 122 people who filed an application for the homes in 2016, while the first one was being built. For about the next five years, the agency used those applications to fill the homes as they became available. In 2022, the agency took 36 more applications for five houses.


In September 2024, three residents expect to be the first to achieve ownership, including Carolyn Hobbs, 72.


“I didn’t think I would ever own a home,” Ms. Hobbs said. “It’s really a well-rounded program. They help you with a job or clothing and try to help get you on your feet.”


“It was kind of sad that it happened,” she said of Ms. Brown’s eviction.


Coming to Grips With ‘Affordable”


“Affordable housing” is a broad term, but essentially refers to what households can afford to pay and still have money left over for food, health care and transportation. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development defines it as paying no more than 30 percent of household income for housing costs, including utilities.


The needs are great in a country in which more than 11 percent of the population lives in poverty, according to a 2022 U.S. Census report. In Detroit, on any given night, about 1,280 people are homeless, according to the latest 2023 figure from the Home Action Network of Detroit.


Amy Hovey, executive director of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, said the affordable housing supply in the state “has decreased so much that it has driven up the cost of housing in Michigan and really made housing not affordable for a much larger percentage of our population.”


“We’re in a crisis that is very quickly becoming an emergency,” Ms. Hovey said.


Spreading the Wealth


Ms. Fowler, 64, was born in Detroit and grew up there and in suburban Royal Oak. Her father was a Detroit Public Schools teacher, her mother held different jobs, the last as a cashier at a grocery chain where she became a union representative. In 1994, Ms. Fowler, who has a master’s degree in theology from Boston University, became affiliated with Cass Community United Methodist Church in Detroit’s Cass Corridor, which provided help for seniors, developmentally disabled and homeless. In 2002, it established a separate nonprofit agency, Cass Community Social Services, to expand its programs, and Ms. Fowler became the executive director.


In 2013, Ms. Fowler’s mother died, leaving her an inheritance, including a house — an experience that led to the creation of the Tiny Homes project as she looked for a way to make it possible for people with low incomes to receive some infusion of wealth to move out of poverty.


She said she raised more than $2 million from foundations and private donors for the initial 25 homes, including the one at 1553 Monterey Street where Ms. Brown lived. Each home costs about $100,000.


A Mutual Lack of Trust


Ms. Brown moved into her Tiny Home in January of 2020. She had been working for a property management company and living in a two-bedroom apartment in the Detroit Downriver suburb of Ecorse. But she said her health was declining, the result of polycystic kidney disease, a hereditary illness that enlarges the kidney, which gradually loses function. She eventually went on disability and required dialysis. (She received a kidney transplant May 8 of this year.)


At a meeting in December of 2020, Ms. Brown and other residents signed an agreement that their homes would be their primary residences, Ms. Fowler said.


She said other residents came to her to complain about Ms. Brown’s absence. Ms. Brown countered by sending an email to Ms. Fowler questioning why the security staff was scrutinizing her comings and goings. Shortly after, Ms. Fowler said the agency decided not to renew her annual lease. Ms. Brown was given a March deadline to move, which was later extended to August. Ms. Brown continued to battle her case in court, slowing her eviction.


Differing Conclusions


Both Ms. Brown and Ms. Fowler have their defenders. 


Tristan Taylor, one of the founders of Detroit Will Breathe, which emerged during the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, is also part of the Detroit Eviction Defense and was there blocking the door on the day of Brown’s eviction.


“The main charge that Cass Community Social Services has against her is that she didn’t live in the house enough,” Mr. Taylor said in a telephone interview. “I’ve never heard of this where a person who is paying rent and maintaining a house was ever kicked out for not living in it enough.”


Ms. Brown is currently dividing her time between her boyfriend’s apartment and her sister’s, and she said she is weighing her options to continue fighting the eviction.


The Cass Agency has painted, cleaned and repaired Ms. Brown’s former home and a new tenant moved in on Aug. 15.


Neisha Smith, president of the Webb Street Association in the neighborhood, said she couldn’t speak about the attacks on Ms. Fowler “without tearing up.”


“She’s nothing but positivity,” said Ms. Smith, 54, the third generation to live in the neighborhood, who is the manager of a chemical company. “For someone to say she’s racist; are you kidding me?”


Phillip Watson, 66, who lived across the street from Ms. Brown, praises Ms. Fowler and the program. While standing on his front porch, he’s reluctant to say much about the eviction, only that, “I’m glad it’s over. It makes the neighborhood look bad.”



11) As Abortion Laws Drive Obstetricians From Red States, Maternity Care Suffers

Some doctors who handle high-risk pregnancies are fleeing restrictive abortion laws. Idaho has been particularly hard hit.

By Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Sept. 6, 2023

Sheryl Gay Stolberg interviewed obstetricians about abortion laws and visited a medical clinic in McCall, Idaho.

Dr. Gustafson, wearing a medical mask and blue scrubs, walking down a hallway in the medical clinic where she works. A bulletin board on one wall is filled with photos of babies.
Dr. Gustafson, a family doctor who also delivers babies, has been practicing in Idaho for 20 years. Credit...Angie Smith for The New York Times

One by one, doctors who handle high-risk pregnancies are disappearing from Idaho — part of a wave of obstetricians fleeing restrictive abortion laws and a hostile state legislature. Dr. Caitlin Gustafson, a family doctor who also delivers babies in the tiny mountain town of McCall, is among those left behind, facing a lonely and uncertain future.


When caring for patients with pregnancy complications, Dr. Gustafson seeks counsel from maternal-fetal medicine specialists in Boise, the state capital two hours away. But two of the experts she relied on as backup have packed up their young families and moved away, one to Minnesota and the other to Colorado.


All told, more than a dozen labor and delivery doctors — including five of Idaho’s nine longtime maternal-fetal experts — will have either left or retired by the end of this year. Dr. Gustafson says the departures have made a bad situation worse, depriving both patients and doctors of moral support and medical advice.


“I wanted to work in a small family town and deliver babies,” she said. “I was living my dream — until all of this.”


Idaho’s obstetrics exodus is not happening in isolation. Across the country, in red states like Texas, Oklahoma and Tennessee, obstetricians — including highly skilled doctors who specialize in handling complex and risky pregnancies — are leaving their practices. Some newly minted doctors are avoiding states like Idaho.


The departures may result in new maternity care deserts, or areas that lack any maternity care, and they are placing strains on physicians like Dr. Gustafson who are left behind. The effects are particularly pronounced in rural areas, where many hospitals are shuttering obstetrics units for economic reasons. Restrictive abortion laws, experts say, are making that problem much worse.


“This isn’t an issue about abortion,” said Dr. Stella Dantas, the president-elect of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. “This is an issue about access to comprehensive obstetric and gynecologic care. When you restrict access to care that is based in science, that everybody should have access to — that has a ripple effect.”


Idaho doctors operate under a web of abortion laws, including a 2020 “trigger law” that went into effect after the Supreme Court eliminated the constitutional right to abortion by overturning Roe v. Wade last year. Together, they create one of the strictest abortion bans in the nation. Doctors who primarily provide abortion care are not the only medical professionals affected; the laws are also impinging on doctors whose primary work is to care for expectant mothers and babies, and who may be called upon to terminate a pregnancy for complications or other reasons.


Idaho bars abortion at any point in a pregnancy with just two exceptions: when it is necessary to save the life of the mother and in certain cases of rape or incest, though the victim must provide a police report. A temporary order issued by a federal judge also permits abortion in some circumstances when a woman’s health is at risk. Doctors convicted of violating the ban face two to five years in prison.


Dr. Gustafson, 51, has so far decided to stick it out in Idaho. She has been practicing in the state for 20 years, 17 of them in McCall, a stunning lakeside town of about 3,700 people.


She sees patients at the Payette Lakes Medical Clinic, a low-slung building that evokes the feeling of a mountain lodge, tucked into a grove of tall spruces and pines. It is affiliated with St. Luke’s Health System, the largest health system in the state.


On a recent morning, she was awakened at 5 a.m. by a call from a hospital nurse. A pregnant woman, two months shy of her due date, had a ruptured membrane. In common parlance, the patient’s water had broken, putting the mother and baby at risk for preterm delivery and other complications.


Dr. Gustafson threw on her light blue scrubs and her pink Crocs and rushed to the hospital to arrange for a helicopter to take the woman to Boise. She called the maternal-fetal specialty practice at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center, the group she has worked with for years. She did not know the doctor who was to receive the patient. He had been in Idaho for only one week.


“Welcome to Idaho,” she told him.


In rural states, strong medical networks are critical to patients’ well-being. Doctors are not interchangeable widgets; they build up experience and a comfort level in working with one another and within their health care systems. Ordinarily, Dr. Gustafson might have found herself talking to Dr. Kylie Cooper or Dr. Lauren Miller on that day.


But Dr. Cooper left St. Luke’s in April for Minnesota. After “many agonizing months of discussion,” she said, she concluded that “the risk was too big for me and my family.”


Dr. Miller, who had founded the Idaho Coalition for Safe Reproductive Health Care, an advocacy group, moved to Colorado. It is one thing to pay for medical malpractice insurance, she said, but quite another to worry about criminal prosecution.


“I was always one of those people who had been super calm in emergencies,” Dr. Miller said. “But I was finding that I felt very anxious being on the labor unit, just not knowing if somebody else was going to second-guess my decision. That’s not how you want to go to work every day.”


The vacancies have been tough to fill. Dr. James Souza, the chief physician executive for St. Luke’s Health System, said the state’s laws had “had a profound chilling effect on recruitment and retention.” He is relying in part on temporary, roving doctors known as locums — short for the Latin phrase locum tenens, which means to stand in place of.


He likens labor and delivery care to a pyramid, supported by nurses, midwives and doctors, with maternal-fetal specialists at its apex. He worries the system will collapse.


“The loss of the top of a clinical pyramid means the pyramid falls apart,” Dr. Souza said.


Some smaller hospitals in Idaho have been unable to withstand the strain. Two closed their labor and delivery units this year; one of them, Bonner General Health, a 25-bed hospital in Sandpoint, in northern Idaho, cited the state’s “legal and political climate” and the departure of “highly respected, talented physicians” as factors that contributed to its decision.


Other states are also seeing obstetricians leave. In Oklahoma, where more than half of the state’s counties are considered maternity care deserts, three-quarters of obstetrician-gynecologists who responded to a recent survey said they were either planning to leave, considering leaving or would leave if they could, said Dr. Angela Hawkins, the chair of the Oklahoma section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.


The previous chair, Dr. Kate Arnold, and her wife, also an obstetrician, moved to Washington, D.C., after the Supreme Court overturned Roe in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. “Before the change in political climate, we had no plans on leaving,” Dr. Arnold said.


In Tennessee, where one-third of counties are considered maternity care deserts, Dr. Leilah Zahedi-Spung, a maternal-fetal specialist, decided to move to Colorado not long after the Dobbs ruling. She grew up in the South and felt guilty about leaving, she said.


Tennessee’s abortion ban, which was softened slightly this year, initially required an “affirmative defense,” meaning that doctors faced the burden of proving that an abortion they had performed was medically necessary — akin to the way a defendant in a homicide case might have to prove he or she acted in self-defense. Dr. Zahedi-Spung felt as if she had “quite the target on my back,” she said — so much so that she hired her own criminal defense lawyer.


“The majority of patients who came to me had highly wanted, highly desired pregnancies,” she said. “They had names, they had baby showers, they had nurseries. And I told them something awful about their pregnancy that made sure they were never going to take home that child — or that they would be sacrificing their lives to do that. I sent everybody out of state. I was unwilling to put myself at risk.”


Perhaps nowhere has the departure of obstetricians been as pronounced as in Idaho, where Dr. Gustafson has been helping to lead an organized — but only minimally successful — effort to change the state’s abortion laws, which have convinced her that state legislators do not care what doctors think. “Many of us feel like our opinion is being discounted,” she said.


Dr. Gustafson worked one day a month at a Planned Parenthood clinic in a Boise suburb until Idaho imposed its near-total abortion ban; she now has a similar arrangement with Planned Parenthood in Oregon, where some Idahoans travel for abortion care. She has been a plaintiff in several lawsuits challenging Idaho’s abortion policies. Earlier this year, she spoke at an abortion rights rally in front of the State Capitol.


In interviews, two Republican state lawmakers — Representatives Megan Blanksma, the House majority leader, and John Vander Woude, the chair of the House Health and Welfare Committee — said they were trying to address doctors’ concerns. Mr. Vander Woude acknowledged that Idaho’s trigger law, written before Roe fell, had affected everyday medical practice in a way that lawmakers had not anticipated.


“We never looked that close, and what exactly that bill said and how it was written and language that was in it,” he said. “We did that thinking Roe v. Wade was never going to get overturned. And then when it got overturned, we said, ‘OK, now we have to take a really close look at the definitions.’”


Mr. Vander Woude also dismissed doctors’ fears that they would be prosecuted, and he expressed doubt that obstetricians were really leaving the state. “I don’t see any doctor ever getting prosecuted,” he said, adding, “Show me the doctors that have left.”


During its 2023 session, the Legislature clarified that terminating an ectopic pregnancy or a molar pregnancy, a rare complication, would not be defined as abortion — a move that codified an Idaho Supreme Court ruling. Lawmakers also eliminated an affirmative defense provision.


But lawmakers refused to extend the tenure of the state’s Maternal Mortality Review Committee, an expert panel on which Dr. Gustafson served that investigated pregnancy-related deaths. The Idaho Freedom Foundation, a conservative group, testified against it and later called it an “unnecessary waste of tax dollars” — even though the annual cost, about $15,000, was picked up by the federal government.


That was a bridge too far for Dr. Amelia Huntsberger, the Idaho obstetrician who helped lead a push to create the panel in 2019. She recently moved to Oregon. “Idaho calls itself a quote ‘pro-life state,’ but the Idaho Legislature doesn’t care about the death of moms,” she said.


Most significantly, the Legislature rejected a top priority of Dr. Gustafson and others in her field: amending state law so that doctors would be able to perform abortions when the health — not just the life — of the mother is at risk. It was almost too much for Dr. Gustafson. She loves living in Idaho, she said. But when asked if she had thought about leaving, her answer was quick: “Every day.”



12) In Jail, Writing in Short Bursts as Therapy and Performance Art

A former prosecutor found solace and renewal in a writing process he teaches to inmates in Minnesota.

By Ernesto LondoñoPhotographs by David Guttenfelder, Sept. 6, 2023

Reporting from Minneapolis.

A man reads writing in a spiral notebook as four others in orange prison uniforms look on.
Nate Johnson, right, a former prosecutor, leads a writing class at the Hennepin County Jail in Minneapolis.

Before handing pencil and paper to a group of inmates who attended one of his recent writing workshops in jail, Nate Johnson shared three things about his past.


He is a recovering alcoholic.


He has battled depression and anxiety for much of his life.


“And I used to be a prosecutor,” Mr. Johnson disclosed, adding a quick caveat. “I didn’t like that kind of work, and I didn’t do it for very long.”


Then came instructions for free writing, a technique Mr. Johnson brings to jails in the Minneapolis area some 40 times per month, tapping into what he has come to see as an extraordinary pool of literary talent brimming with insights about the criminal justice system.


Immediately after hearing a simple prompt, inmates were told to write furiously, without interruption, for five minutes. The prose didn’t have to make sense. It needn’t be good. The only goal was to turn the sequence of thoughts generated by each prompt into a string of sentences without stopping to think.


The first of three prompts was “patience.” Then came “hard times.” And finally, “this city.”


After each burst of writing, the inmates took turns reading their compositions out loud. Some spoke sheepishly, barely above a murmur. Others, like Aaron Schnagl, delivered their work with theatrical flair.


“Patience — sometimes I think we’re patients of the system, like good genes and good luck maybe missed us,” Mr. Schnagl, 39, read. “Home of the brave, where you’re born a slave, and your own country treats you like an infidel.”


Rapturous applause followed each reading. Some were whimsical. Several took jabs at the bleakness of their ward, where dozens of men breathe the same musty air and get only hints of sunlight through tiny frosted windows.


Recent workshops were attended by inmates awaiting trial on a range of charges that included sex offenses, drug crimes and acts of violence. Given the setting at a county jail rather than a prison where inmates often serve sentences for years or decades, those taking the class were still well connected to the world outside and anxious about their fate in the courts.


There were multiple allusions to racism, commentary about the ways crime gets punished in America and reflections on how poverty and privilege dictate life trajectories.


“When it’s over, they’re left with this document they’ve produced, this piece of art, this confessional,” Mr. Johnson said. “It works the way having a good cry works.”


Over the course of a life with more stumbles than triumphs, Mr. Johnson, 44, has experienced a fair amount of heartache. Which is how he came to see writing in short bursts as a therapeutic intervention, a means to take a hard look within and make peace with a turbulent mind.


He was born and raised in small towns in southwestern Minnesota, where his outlook was shaped by conservative relatives and hours spent listening to right-wing talk radio. At the urging of an uncle who was a Republican congressman, Mr. Johnson studied political science and later enrolled in law school at the University of Iowa.


During those years, he was crippled by depression and a nagging sense of dread, Mr. Johnson said, which drove him to drink heavily and led him to graduate near the bottom of his law school class in 2005.


After law school, Mr. Johnson worked on a failed Republican gubernatorial campaign in Oregon, which made him realize politics was not his thing. Seeking adventure and a sense of purpose, in 2006 he joined the Navy but was injured two years later while training for a deployment to Afghanistan, which prevented him from going. That effectively ended his military career.


Mr. Johnson stopped drinking in late 2011 after joining Alcoholics Anonymous. After four failed attempts,he passed the bar exam in 2014. Four years later, he took a job as prosecutor in Waseca, a small town south of Minneapolis, thinking the position might allow him to steer other people with substance abuse and mental health issues to treatment rather than prison. He found the work soul-crushing and quit after just six months.


Shortly afterward, he attended a workshop at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, where he got his first taste of free writing. It was taught as a tool to overcome writer’s block and to quickly knock out a rough draft. But Mr. Johnson found himself free writing frequently in his spare time, finding in the practice peace, clarity and inspiration.


The idea of turning free writing into a career came to him in 2019 while visiting a friend from Alcoholics Anonymous in jail. Seeking to lift the friend’s spirits, Mr. Johnson guided him through a prompt-based writing session, which became a habit to break the tedium of days behind bars.


This City


By Tyrone Stanifer

In the fall of 2019, Mr. Johnson approached the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, which runs the largest jail in the state, and asked if he could teach free writing to inmates. Sheriff Dawanna S. Witt loved the idea. Having watched a brother go to prison, she had long felt jails and prisons needed to do more to help inmates overcome trauma and turn their lives around.


“Not everybody who does horrific things are monsters,” said Sheriff Witt, the first woman and Black person to serve in the role. “We should be thinking about how we can save people from going deeper down that hole.”


After the classes became popular in Hennepin County, which includes Minneapolis, Mr. Johnson founded a nonprofit organization called FreeWriters and trained a handful of instructors. They run workshops in jails in neighboring Ramsey and Anoka Counties.


Tyrone Stanifer, a regular at Mr. Johnson’s classes, credited free writing with building camaraderie among inmates. During a recent class, he wrote about the pain of losing his mother while he was incarcerated, which prompted an outpouring of support from other inmates. He has come to see writing as the only form of therapy available to him, Mr. Stanifer, 36, said.


“I just let whatever goes through my mind go on the paper,” he said. “That’s where the magic happens.”


During a recent workshop in the Hennepin County women’s jail, Desiree Thin Elk, 42, teared up while reading a dispatch about things she missed on the outside. She yearned to hear church bells, she said, to explore parks with her husband, and to eat ice cream from Dairy Queen. What she wouldn’t do for a “large Blizzard or a banana split,” she wrote.


Kortney Roe, 34, wrote about people who sleep in parks at night “fighting internal demons that stem from some kind of hurt in the past.” She continued: “Wish I could be a mentor or something to help them talk and show them some love, and that this, too, shall pass.”


Since 2019, Mr. Johnson has heard and read tens of thousands of dispatches from inmates. He has come to view this ever-expanding literary collection as an indictment of the criminal justice system. Too often, he said, the nation’s understaffed and underfunded jails drive people deeper into despair, making recidivism more likely.


Several prisons have writing programs that have generated critically acclaimed work and provided intimate glimpses into life behind bars in the United States, which has the largest population of incarcerated people in the world. But few jails, which tend to be transient, have programs like Free Writers.


Mr. Johnson said he is under no illusions that free writing will fix systemic problems in the criminal justice system. But he is confident it can alleviate suffering and has the potential to change perceptions about people charged with crimes.


“There are so many people in jail who are of above-average intelligence and even brilliant,” he said. “I wish we could stop thinking of these folks as a cancer on the body politic and recognize they can be an asset.”


Ernesto Londoño is a national correspondent based in the Midwest who keeps a close eye on drug use and counternarcotics policy in the United States. More about Ernesto Londoño



13) Dozens of ‘Cop City’ Activists Are Indicted on Racketeering Charges

Opponents of a police training facility in Atlanta say they are engaged in legitimate acts of protest. Prosecutors accuse them of taking part in a sprawling criminal enterprise.

By Rick Rojas and Sean Keenan, Sept. 5, 2023

Reporting from Atlanta


A protester holds a sign saying “Stop Cop City” in front of a building with the words “Atlanta City Hall” etched above an entrance.

Opponents of the planned Atlanta Public Safety Training Center protesting in June. Credit...Erik S Lesser/EPA, via Shutterstock

More than 60 activists who challenged a planned Atlanta police and fire training complex have been indicted by a Georgia grand jury in a sprawling racketeering case, accused of engaging in violence, intimidation and property destruction as part of a campaign to stall construction of the facility known by its critics as Cop City.


The Georgia attorney general was pursuing the activists under the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, better known as RICO — a powerful tool that has been employed by prosecutors to target street gangs and public corruption. Atlanta prosecutors also used a RICO indictment against former President Donald J. Trump and his allies for their attempts to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia.


In this case, prosecutors have sought to portray the fight against the training facility — officially known as the Atlanta Public Safety Center — as a criminal enterprise. In an 109-page indictment, which had been handed up last week and was released on Tuesday, prosecutors accused those involved in the effort of arson, domestic terrorism and money laundering and outlined instances in which activists were accused of throwing Molotov cocktails and fireworks at police officers, firefighters and emergency workers.


“Looking the other way when violence occurs is not an option in Georgia,” Christopher M. Carr, the Republican attorney general, said in a news conference on Tuesday. “If you come to our state and shoot a police officer, throw Molotov cocktails at law enforcement, set fire to police vehicles, damage construction equipment, vandalize private homes and businesses and terrorize their occupants, you can and will be held accountable.”


The American Civil Liberties Union and other critics said the indictment reflected the relentlessly aggressive approach officials had taken to cracking down on protests and pushing forward with building the facility, which has included prosecuting dozens of activists on domestic terrorism charges.


“We are extremely concerned by this breathtakingly broad and unprecedented use of state terrorism, anti-racketeering and money laundering laws against protesters,” said Aamra Ahmad, senior staff attorney with American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project.


The $90 million project, which would be built on a stretch of forested land in DeKalb County, just outside Atlanta, has been a source of tension in the city for two years.


Supporters say the complex will provide the Atlanta Police Department with upgraded facilities to train officers to go about their work in a large and challenging city. It would include areas to practice driving techniques and mock setups of a convenience store, a home and a nightclub, allowing trainees to learn in simulations of circumstances they could encounter in the field.


But critics have said that the money could be better spent elsewhere and that the center would lead to a more militarized police force, worsening the friction between law enforcement personnel and minority communities in the city. There was also resistance to developing a stretch of urban forest, an old prison farm that had been reclaimed by nature.


The opposition to the facility escalated into a confrontation between law enforcement officers and activists who planted themselves in the wooded area to thwart construction. Those clashes led to the fatal shooting of an activist and the wounding of a state trooper, also by gunfire.


In May, officers raided the house that served as the headquarters of the Atlanta Solidarity Fund, which paid bail and provided legal support for protesters. Three people involved in the fund — Marlon Kautz, Adele MacLean and Savannah Patterson — were charged with money laundering and charity fraud.


Activists and other elected officials raised concerns about the arrests, painting it as retaliation for lawful protest. But Gov. Brian Kemp argued that the activists had “facilitated and encouraged domestic terrorism,” and other state officials have argued that many of those trying to stop the facility were agitators from outside Georgia.


In the RICO indictment, prosecutors traced the roots of the campaign back to almost a year before city officials announced the leasing of the land to build the training center — to May 25, 2020, the day George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, touching off demonstrations across the country, including some in Atlanta. Those tensions only intensified after Rayshard Brooks, a 27-year-old Black man, was fatally shot by the Atlanta police outside a fast-food restaurant.


“Anti-government anarchists in Atlanta recognized an opportunity to rally against the law enforcement,” the indictment said.


Prosecutors described the movement to interfere with the construction, called Defend the Atlanta Forest, as broad, decentralized and autonomous. But in the indictment, prosecutors claimed that it had “evolved into a broader anti-government, anti-police and anti-corporate extremist organization.”


Prosecutors have relied on the RICO law because it enables them to stitch together seemingly disparate accusations and an array of people linked by their association to a criminal conspiracy or enterprise.


“They’re all working in some way, shape or form toward the same goal,” John Fowler, the deputy attorney general leading the prosecution division, said Tuesday.


Among the 61 people named in the indictment, 42 activists have already been charged under Georgia’s domestic terrorism statute.


But activists in the city have challenged the prosecutors’ portrayal. “In actuality, protesters against Cop City constitute a broad swath of society including racial and environmental justice advocates, faith groups, abolitionists, artists, students and people from all over the city and the country,” the Atlanta Solidarity Fund said in the past to describe the diversity of their effort.


Some legal observers found it unusual that prosecutors also gave a detailed definition and criticism of anarchism as an ideology. “It seems like an indictment of an ideological disposition as much as identifiable criminal acts,” said Anthony Michael Kreis, a constitutional law expert at Georgia State University.


For months, another effort has been underway to collect signatures to put the decision to construct the facility before voters, but city officials have won a temporarily halt to that move through a legal challenge.


Activists say they will press ahead, but the indictment only added to their fears.


“This is meant to send a message,” said Kamau Franklin, an organizer for Stop Cop City. “‘Be scared.’”