New Data: Changes In Incarceration System ‘Inadequate, Uneven And Unsustained’ During COVID

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) has released a lot of new data over the past few weeks that help us finally see — both nationally and state-by-state — how policy choices made in the first year of the pandemic impacted correctional populations. Unsurprisingly, the numbers document the tragedy of thousands of lives lost behind bars, and evidence of some of the policy decisions that contributed to the death toll. Drilling down, we also see a (very) few reasons to be hopeful and, for those of us paying close attention, a few notable improvements in what the BJS is able to collect and how they report it. Above all, we see how quickly things can change — for better or for worse — when under pressure, and discuss some of the issues and policy choices these data tell us to watch out for.

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US Public School Teachers Fight For COVID Safety

In New York City, around 200 public school teachers and community members rallied outside the Barclays Center on January 5 to demand safety measures as the COVID-19 positivity rate skyrockets. Organized by the MORE (Movement of Rank and File Educators) caucus of the NYC teacher’s union United Federation of Teachers (UFT), protestors demanded KN95 or N95 masks for all students, faculty and staff, weekly testing of all staff and students, repair or replacement of ventilation systems, excused student absences due to COVID surges and remote-learning options.

“All of my students know that I’m here right now,” said Adam, a Brooklyn public school teacher. “I showed them the flyer on the projector and I told them that this is the answer, it’s here. It’s not City Hall who keeps us safe.”

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300 Doctors Implore Australia To Bring Assange Home

The letter begins by commending Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce for his recent statements calling for the U.S. extradition request against Julian Assange to be dropped. It continues:

“We are concerned that Mr. Assange’s apparent mini stroke [reported in the Daily Mail on 11 December] may be the tip of a medical iceberg. Indeed his symptoms suggest as much. It is therefore imperative that Mr. Assange be released from prison, where his health will otherwise continue to deteriorate and where his complex medical needs cannot be met.” Continued incarceration, the doctors warn, will place Julian Assange’s life at risk.

In appendices to the letter, the doctors have released all former correspondence with the Australian Government – including previously unpublished material – in which they warned of cardiovascular pathology, such as that reported in the Daily Mail.

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Home Care Workers Protest 24-Hour Work Day In New York City

Workers employed with the United Jewish Council (UJC) home care agency rallied to end the 24-hour work day and demand their stolen wages on the morning of December 16. While home care workers in New York are being forced to work 24-hour shifts for poverty wages, 11 hours worth of that pay is stolen by their employers. A coalition of worker’s rights organizations including the Ain’t I A Woman Campaign and the National Mobilization Against Sweatshops (NMASS) have been organizing alongside home care workers for years against these unjust labor practices.

“I am traumatized from working 24-hour shifts,” said Epifania Hichez, who has worked at the UJC for 11 years. “Working 24 hours destroys your life. You lose everything, especially your health. You lose your family also.”

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The US Experience: Racism And COVID-19 Mortality

Are you searching for a way to highlight the negative consequences of racism? Try this: Justin M. Feldman and Mary T. Basset, in a recently published study, found that if everyone living in the United States, aged 25 years or older, died of COVID-19 at the same rate as college-educated non-Hispanic white people did in 2020, 48 percent fewer people would have died, 71 percent fewer people of color would have died, and 89 percent fewer people of color aged 25-64 would have died.

The following infographic includes the actual number of lives that could have been saved.

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Dear President Biden: Release Leonard Peltier

We write to request the expedited release of American Indian elder Leonard Peltier, who is 77 years old and who has served more than 44 years in federal prison, some in solitary confinement, in numerous prisons across the United States.

He suffers from severe health conditions, such as diabetes and an abdominal aortic aneurysm that can be lethal if ruptured. The Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a national response to the COVID-19 pandemic authorizing the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to release elderly inmates and those with underlying health conditions from federal prisons.

Mr. Peltier is currently imprisoned at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Florida. Given his underlying health conditions and age, we ask he be granted clemency and immediate action be taken to release him from federal custody.

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COVID-19 Prevention No Match For Crowded, Poorly Ventilated Housing

In the months since COVID-19 wreaked havoc inside California’s 35 prisons and claimed 240 incarcerated lives, practically nothing has been done to address the crowded and poorly ventilated housing units that have helped the virus spread.

At San Quentin State Prison, COVID-19 infected three-quarters of its incarcerated residents and dozens required hospitalization. It killed 28 prisoners and a correctional sergeant, prompting a court to call the incident the “worst epidemiological disaster in California correctional history” last October.

A near full-scale shutdown from March 2020 to May 2021 didn’t thwart the virus’ disastrous effect on San Quentin residents. The deaths took place while prisoners spent more than 23-hours-a-day locked inside their cells with two people assigned to each one.

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More Than 200 Health Journals Call For Urgent Action On Climate Crisis

More than 200 health journals worldwide are publishing an editorial calling on leaders to take emergency action on climate change and to protect health.

The British Medical Journal said it is the first time so many publications have come together to make the same statement, reflecting the severity of the situation.

The editorial, which is being published before the UN general assembly and the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow this November, says: “Ahead of these pivotal meetings, we – the editors of health journals worldwide – call for urgent action to keep average global temperature increases below 1.5C, halt the destruction of nature, and protect health.

“Health is already being harmed by global temperature increases and the destruction of the natural world, a state of affairs health professionals have been bringing attention to for decades.

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Unsafe School Reopenings In US Fuel Surge Of COVID-19 Among Children

The US reported 180,000 child COVID-19 cases in the week ending August 19, a 50 percent increase in just one week, according to the latest report from the American Academy of Pediatrics. There were 120,000 child cases the prior week, and less than 10,000 just two months ago.

Even worse, 24 children died of COVID-19 in the same period, twice the previous record set in the week ending August 5.

The reopening of schools, more than 60 percent of which have already resumed classes, has led to outbreaks in K-12 institutions throughout the country.

Metro Atlanta school districts have reported thousands of cases of COVID-19 among students and staff just weeks into the school year. Gwinnett County, Georgia’s largest school district, reported over 800 active cases of the virus Friday.

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Canadian Doctors Group Erects Anti-LNG Billboard

A group of doctors and nurses have launched an aggressive billboard campaign targeting BC Ferries for burning liquefied natural gas — or LNG — a largely methane mixture they say is threatening human health and the world’s climate system.

Dr. Melissa Lem, a Vancouver family physician and president-elect of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE), says the campaign was partly in response to advertisements on some BC Ferries trumpeting the clean potential of natural gas.

“They have these massive billboards that tout the clean natural gas,” says Lem. “What’s feeding their ferries is also hurting people’s health up north.”

Of BC Ferries’ 35 vessels, five burn LNG, and the gas is expected to play an important role as the fleet moves away from marine diesel and toward several LNG-electric hybrids.

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Garment Workers In Bangladesh Forced To Return To Factories

Despite a strict lockdown, at least four million garment workers in Bangladesh were ordered to resume work from Sunday, August 1. The announcement made two day earlier led to thousands of workers rushing back to major production centers in overcrowded trains and buses due to the threat of job loss, increasing the risk of COVID-19 spread. A large number of workers complained of paying more than the normal rates for transportation, which was resumed by the government only on July 31.

On July 30, the Sheikh Hasina-led government issued a notice allowing garment export factories to resume operations. Following this, garment workers were seen returning to major cities from their villages in overcrowded trucks, ferries and other means of transportation. Several others traveled on foot.

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The Truth About Plastics And Why We Need To Stop Production Now

More knowledge is being gained about and more attention is being given to the harm caused to our health and the planet by plastics, from the start of their production to their disposal as waste that doesn’t ever go away. Clearing the FOG speaks with Yvette Arellano, the founder and director of Fenceline Watch, an environmental justice organization based in Houston, Texas. Yvette explains that the Gulf Coast is not only the home of the oil and gas industries, but also the plastic industries that use petroleum, and how they impact mostly Vietnamese and Spanish-speaking communities. They describe the global effects of plastics, how we can best stop them and the work to create alternatives. Once you know about the problems with plastics, you will understand that stopping their production is imperative for a livable future.

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Scheer Intelligence: What Has Silicon Valley Done To Our Food?

Companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods have started to become household names, producing meat substitutes that taste as close to meat as their scientists have been able to engineer. In the midst of a climate crisis that threatens our very existence, plenty of scientists have been recommending that we all look for ways to cut down on our meat intake because cows produce large amounts of methane that has a significant negative environmental impact. Eating animal products also brings up animal rights questions. One of the main selling points of these Silicon Valley companies is essentially that we can save the planet and eat ethically without sacrificing taste. Yet, there is a key question few people seem to be asking about these new products: Are these meat substitutes good for our health?

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The Navy Is Misleading A Maryland Community On PFAS Dangers

Maryland – The Patuxent River Naval Air Station says the PFAS foam it sent down the drain on May 16 to the wastewater treatment plant operated by the St. Mary’s County Metropolitan Commission (METCOM) is safe.

It’s not true. The foams are toxic and have been released into the environment.

Captain John Brabazon, Patuxent River NAS Commanding Officer said in a press statement, “We understand the public’s concern when it comes to issues like PFAS, which is why we have transitioned to the replacement AFFF like the Ansulite.”

The Navy says the new Ansulite firefighting foam does not contain detectable levels of PFOS or PFOA.  Few seem concerned by the 2,500 gallon release. St. Mary’s Commissioner Todd Morgan commented, “The base says the foam isn’t toxic.”

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Communities Of Color Want Wood Pellet Byproducts Out Of Their Neighborhoods

Belinda Joyner describes her home of Northampton County as a dumping ground for undesirable uses—hog farms, landfills. Northampton was also slated to host the Atlantic Coast Pipeline’s compressor station before the project was canceled.

When Joyner stood at a podium in the North Carolina legislative building on Wednesday, she was most concerned about wood pellet facilities.

“We have other states that have taken into consideration the cumulative impact, the health impact, on these communities and they’re saying no to these companies that are coming,” Joyner said. “You know what? North Carolina has become a cesspool, because everything that everyone else doesn’t want, we don’t have the laws to protect us.”

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