Crypt From Their Grasp
November 19, 2021
The Good News
- Pfizer Will Allow Its Covid Pill to Be Made and Sold Cheaply in Poor Countries (NYT, $)
- Swiss government: Same-sex couples can marry starting July 1 (AP)
“It’s very important that we re-learn the art of resting and relaxing. Not only does it help prevent the onset of many illnesses that develop through chronic tension and worrying; it allows us to clear our minds, focus, and find creative solutions to problems.” — Thích Nhất Hạnh
There are innumerable examples of racial injustice in America’s judicial system; Julius Jones’ case is one. Jones was a 19-year-old Black basketball star at the University of Oklahoma in 1999 when he was arrested and charged with murdering a White businessman during an attempted carjacking. Police interviewed three suspects, who named Jones and another Black teammate, Christopher Jordan, as the perpetrators.
Jones insisted he was home with his family when the murder occurred. Jordan, a friend, slept over the night of the killing, providing him an opportunity to hide the murder weapon later found at Jones’ house. In 2002, prosecutors gave Jordan a deal in exchange for testifying against Jones. No evidence directly connected Jones to the murder, yet he was convicted and sentenced to death. Jordan was released from prison in 2017.
Jones stayed on death row for almost 20 years, always proclaiming his innocence. His conviction has been protested for years, including in an ABC documentary series, a petition with over six million signatures, and the Oklahoma Parole Board’s determination that he should be granted parole. The 41-year-old was scheduled for execution Thursday; at the last minute, Oklahoma’s Republican governor commuted Jones’ death sentence to life without the possibility of parole.
In 1965, three Black Nation of Islam members — Mujahid Abdul Halim, Muhammad Aziz, and Khalil Islam — were charged with assassinating Malcolm X. Halim admitted involvement, but maintained that Aziz and Islam hadn’t taken part. Aziz was actually in the hospital with a leg injury at the time of the murder, and the treating physician testified on his behalf. Nevertheless, all three were convicted and sentenced to life in prison. In 1978, Halim revealed the identities of his four real co-conspirators, but a judge rejected a motion to vacate Aziz and Islam’s convictions.
Islam died in 2009. In February 2020, Netflix debuted a six-part miniseries, “Who Killed Malcolm X?” that spurred the Innocence Project to re-investigate Aziz and Islam’s convictions. On Thursday, Aziz, now 83, was present to hear a New York County Supreme Court judge formally exonerate both men and apologize for “the serious miscarriage of justice.”
Then there’s the case of Christopher Belter, 20, from a wealthy enclave in upstate New York, who was convicted of raping four teenage girls in his Lewiston home when he was a teenager. Although Belter faced a sentence of eight years, a Niagara County Court judge said a prison sentence in this case “would be inappropriate.” On Tuesday, Belter was sentenced instead to eight years of probation, leaving the victims and others in the courtroom stunned. One victim’s attorney said of Belter: “He is privileged, he comes from money, he is white… .Justice was not done here today.” (NBC News, Innocence Project)
Tennis Star’s Whereabouts Unknown
- (TW: sexual assault) Peng Shuai, 35, is a Chinese professional tennis player who was ranked world No. 1 doubles champ by the Women’s Tennis Association in February 2014, the first Chinese tennis player to attain that honor. Late Tuesday, Peng posted an explosive 1,600-word #MeToo allegation against a former state leader, retired Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, 75, accusing him of coercing her into sex at his home three years ago. The post on Peng’s Weibo account alleged they had a relationship over a period spanning at least 10 years.
- The post was deleted within 30 minutes of publication by Chinese censors, but screenshots had already circulated widely across social media and in private chat groups. Those were soon censored as well. China’s state-owned television released a purported email from Peng early Wednesday claiming she was fine and appearing to walk back the allegations in her post. But Peng hasn’t been seen in public since, and her Weibo account, with over half a million followers, is still blocked from searchers on the platform. (CNN)
Floods Leave Devastation
- Torrential rains battering the Pacific Northwest have devastated one of Western Canada’s most intensively and diversely farmed areas. Abbotsford is home to over 1,200 farms and supplies half of the dairy, eggs, and poultry consumed by British Columbia’s 5.2 million residents.
- Thousands of farm animals have died and many more, trapped by flooding, are in desperate need of food and water. Aerial footage showed barns buried by floodwaters, and farmers in motorboats and on jet skis frantically trying to tow half-submerged cows one by one to higher ground. Officials were racing to carve out routes in impassable areas to get veterinarians to stranded animals.
- There isn’t an estimate yet of how much livestock is lost, but one official said she can’t imagine that any poultry is left alive. “It’s heartbreaking,” she said. Canadian soldiers have been deployed to the area. It was less than six months ago that British Columbia was overwhelmed by record-high temperatures that killed more than 500 people and led to wildfires that gutted an entire town. (Guardian)
Additional World News
- Three Amigos summit: Awkward conversations for US with its neighbours (BBC)
- HS2 Leeds link cut amid promise to transform rail (BBC)
- Israel accuses defence minister’s household staffer of Iran-related espionage (Reuters)
- Philippines tells China to ‘back off’ after South China Sea standoff (NBC)
- ‘A fairer Chile’: ex-student leader bids to reshape country in divisive election (Guardian)
- At least 15 people shot dead in anti-coup protests in Sudan, medics say (Reuters)
- Israeli couple is home after weeklong detention in Turkey (ABC)
- At a formal three-way meeting in the Oval Office Thursday with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, President Biden a boycott of the February 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing is “something we are considering.”
- A diplomatic boycott suggests that the U.S. would not send an official government delegation to the Games but would still allow U.S. athletes to compete. White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to say how Biden defined it.
- Human rights advocates have been urging countries to hold China accountable for its record on human rights by skipping the Beijing Olympics, calling them the “genocide games.” Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) also called on the Biden administration to boycott the Games due to security risks. (WaPo, NBC News, AP News)
Where Do We Draw The Line?
- When most voters go to the polls in 2022 to elect members of Congress, the general election will essentially be meaningless. That’s because winners are being determined right now, by a small number of party officials who are surgically ensuring preordained victories in the majority of the nation’s congressional districts.
- The current redistricting cycle is garnering more interest and scrutiny than ever because the power of the process has become so clear: when politicians control redistricting, they have the tools to render most or even all of the congressional districts in a state solid red or solid blue for years to come.
- In Texas, for example, the GOP delegation presented to the state Legislature a proposal that would give Republicans at least 25 of the state’s 38 districts. Over the last decade, nearly 90% of congressional races held in states where legislators drew the district lines resulted in easy victories for one party or the other. The rate of competitive races was almost twice as high in states where courts or commissions drew the districts. (Politico)
Additional USA News
- Saule Omarova, Biden’s OCC Pick, Will Declare Support for Capitalism (NYT, $)
- Parents sue Wisconsin school district over gender transition policy (NBC)
- Matt Gaetz says he might offer Kyle Rittenhouse a job as a congressional intern as jury debates the teen’s case (WaPo, $)
- ‘Zero-Covid is not going to happen’: experts predict a steep rise in US cases this winter (Guardian)
- Psaki says Harris faces more criticism because she is a woman and woman of color (Politico)
- ‘QAnon Shaman’ Jacob Chansley sentenced to 41 months in prison for role in US Capitol riot (CNN)
- Aurora Agrees To Pay $15 Million In Elijah McClain Case; Largest Police Related Settlement In City, Colorado History (CBS)
Crypt From Their Grasp
- Alas, it wasn’t to be. A group called ConstitutionDAO caused a stir in art and crypto circles this week by pooling more than $40 million to bid on one of the rarest of the 13 surviving official copies of the Constitution, the only one still in private hands. Sotheby’s auctioned the 1787 “Official Edition of the Constitution, the First Printing of the Final Text of the Constitution” Thursday evening. The auction house had estimated the sale to bring between $15 million to $20 million, but the final winning bid was for $43,173,000.
- The online group of cryptocurrency investors wanted the document in order to display it publicly. But the winner was the seller’s eponymous foundation. New York philanthropist Dorothy Tapper Goldman sold the edition, which she had inherited from her late husband, Harry Goldman, in 1997. Harry had purchased it at Sotheby’s in 1988 for $165,000. The proceeds from Thursday’s winning bid will go to the Dorothy Tapper Goldman Foundation. (WSJ, Art News)
- Hong Kong declares wild boars fair game after animal attacks (AP)
- Microsoft gaming chief calls for industry-wide game preservation (Axios)
- NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins will make a historic trip as the first Black woman on the space station crew (CNN)
- New iodine-based plasma thruster tested in orbit (Ars Technica)
- Norway Is Running Out of Gas-Guzzling Cars to Tax (Wired)
- Paleontologists debunk fossil thought to be missing link between lizards and first snakes (Phys.org)
- FAA forced delay in 5G rollout despite having no proof of harm to aviation (Ars Technica)
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