Activists focus on tip site in protesting Texas abortion law


DALLAS (AP) — Young people on social media have found a way to protest Texas’ new law banning most abortions by focusing on a website established by the state’s largest anti-abortion group that takes in tips on violations.

They’ve shared short videos and guides on how to flood the Texas Right to Life site with fake information, memes and prank photos; it’s an online activism tactic that comes naturally to a generation that came of age in the internet era.

“I got the idea of, OK, well, we can sabotage these things online. It’s kind of like internet activism. Is it something we can realistically do and it’s not going to take us very long to do it,” said an 18-year-old TikTok user who goes by the name Olivia Julianna, using only her first and middle name due to safety concerns.

The law that took effect this month prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, which is usually around six weeks and before some women know they’re pregnant. It doesn’t make exceptions for rape or incest.

Though abortion providers say the law is unconstitutional, they say they are abiding by it.

“The law was not actually designed to be carried out in the sense of litigation, it’s designed to deter,” said Joanna Grossman, a law professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “It’s just designed to bring the entire system of women’s health care to a screeching halt through fear.”

The website was down over the long weekend after host GoDaddy kicked it off, saying it violated the company’s terms of service, including a provision against collecting identifying information without consent. As of Tuesday, the site was being redirected to Texas Right to Life’s main website.

Texas Right to Life spokeswoman Kimberlyn Schwartz said Tuesday that the website’s domain is now registered with Epik and they’re in the process of moving to a new host, but aren’t yet disclosing which one. Epik used to host 8chan, an online message board known for trafficking in hate speech. Epik representatives didn’t respond to a message seeking comment Tuesday.

Schwartz said they are working to get the tipster website back up but noted that in many ways it is symbolic since anyone can report a violation. And, she said, abortion clinics appear to be complying with the law.

“I think that people see the whistleblower website as a symbol of the law but the law is still enforced, with or without our website,” Schwartz said, adding, “It’s not the only way that people can report violations of the law.”

Rebecca Parma, Texas Right to Life’s senior legislative associate, said they expected people to try to overwhelm the site with fake tips, adding “we’re thankful for the publicity to the website that’s coming from all of this chatter about it.”

And, Parma said, the website is just “another facet of the network we already have in place.” She said they have a network of anti-abortion attorneys and citizens who work with them, including people who are posted outside of abortion clinics and talk to people going in and coming out.

Julianna, who lives in Texas and has more than 136,000 TikTok followers, said that while she sees the tip website as more of a “scare tactic” than a threat, she has taken comfort in the like-minded people she’s found in her quest to thwart it.

“We’ve grown up in this new age of technology,” she said. “So now you don’t feel so isolated with what you believe in and your activism.”

Sean Wiggs, 20, who goes by Sean Black on TikTok, came up with a shortcut people could use to autofill the questions on the site. Wiggs, who lives in North Carolina, said he has received an “overwhelmingly positive” response on social media, and that he hopes efforts like his lead to more people “realizing the power that you have online.”

Julianna said she was inspired by TikTok activists who last year flooded a registration website for a rally in Oklahoma for then-President Donald Trump, although they had no intention of attending. While it’s unlikely they were responsible for the low turnout, their antics may have inflated the campaign’s expectations for attendance numbers that led to a disappointing crowd.

The law, which legal experts say was written in a way that puts defendants at a severe disadvantage, has left abortion providers leery of the potential cost of fighting a flood of frivolous lawsuits.

“I’ve never seen a statute that combines so many elements to disadvantage the defendant,” said Seth Chandler, law professor at the University of Houston.

For one, if the plaintiffs win, they can get attorneys fees and costs, Chandler said. If the defendants win, they can’t. Also, there could be multiple lawsuits filed in different counties based on the same allegation, and the statute prohibits a change of venue, he said.

“Even if the accusations that these vigilantes make are untrue, the staff and physicians would be put in the position of having to defend themselves in court, hire attorneys, travel for hearings, who knows in what county in Texas,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, which has four abortion clinics in Texas.

Dr. Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, said that although the website seems “comically inept at this point,” it does “what the actual law on the books is asking people to do, which is to report on people.”

Wiggs said that aspect of the law, the “way that they are deputizing private citizens to incentivize them to snitch on their neighbors,” really stood out to him.

“It’s just the way that they’re turning people against each other over an already polarizing topic such as abortion,” Wiggs said.

Texas has a history of creative forms of protest. In 2016, college students protested a new law allowing people to carry concealed handguns in public places, including universities, by walking around campus with sex toys in their hands and strapped to their backpacks, calling the protest “cocks not Glocks.” It got attention.

But, Metzl notes, it didn’t stop the Legislature enacting laxer gun laws.

“It’s a form of protest and resistance, but it hasn’t been effective changing policy,” he said. “The best way to change policy is to win elections.”

___

Ortutay reported from Oakland, California.



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Activists focus on tip site in protesting Texas abortion law


DALLAS — Young people on social media have found a way to protest Texas’ new law banning most abortions by focusing on a website established by the state’s largest anti-abortion group that takes in tips on violations.

They’ve shared short videos and guides on how to flood the Texas Right to Life site with fake information, memes and prank photos; it’s an online activism tactic that comes naturally to a generation that came of age in the internet era.

“I got the idea of, OK, well, we can sabotage these things online. It’s kind of like internet activism. Is it something we can realistically do and it’s not going to take us very long to do it,” said an 18-year-old TikTok user who goes by the name Olivia Julianna, using only her first and middle name due to safety concerns.

The law that took effect this month prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, which is usually around six weeks and before some women know they’re pregnant. It doesn’t make exceptions for rape or incest.

Though abortion providers say the law is unconstitutional, they say they are abiding by it.

“The law was not actually designed to be carried out in the sense of litigation, it’s designed to deter,” said Joanna Grossman, a law professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “It’s just designed to bring the entire system of women’s health care to a screeching halt through fear.”

The website was down over the long weekend after host GoDaddy kicked it off, saying it violated the company’s terms of service, including a provision against collecting identifying information without consent. As of Tuesday, the site was being redirected to Texas Right to Life’s main website.

Texas Right to Life spokeswoman Kimberlyn Schwartz said Tuesday that the website’s domain is now registered with Epik and they’re in the process of moving to a new host, but aren’t yet disclosing which one. Epik used to host 8chan, an online message board known for trafficking in hate speech. Epik representatives didn’t respond to a message seeking comment Tuesday.

Schwartz said they are working to get the tipster website back up but noted that in many ways it is symbolic since anyone can report a violation. And, she said, abortion clinics appear to be complying with the law.

“I think that people see the whistleblower website as a symbol of the law but the law is still enforced, with or without our website,” Schwartz said, adding, “It’s not the only way that people can report violations of the law.”

Rebecca Parma, Texas Right to Life’s senior legislative associate, said they expected people to try to overwhelm the site with fake tips, adding “we’re thankful for the publicity to the website that’s coming from all of this chatter about it.”

And, Parma said, the website is just “another facet of the network we already have in place.” She said they have a network of anti-abortion attorneys and citizens who work with them, including people who are posted outside of abortion clinics and talk to people going in and coming out.

Julianna, who lives in Texas and has more than 136,000 TikTok followers, said that while she sees the tip website as more of a “scare tactic” than a threat, she has taken comfort in the like-minded people she’s found in her quest to thwart it.

“We’ve grown up in this new age of technology,” she said. “So now you don’t feel so isolated with what you believe in and your activism.”

Sean Wiggs, 20, who goes by Sean Black on TikTok, came up with a shortcut people could use to autofill the questions on the site. Wiggs, who lives in North Carolina, said he has received an “overwhelmingly positive” response on social media, and that he hopes efforts like his lead to more people “realizing the power that you have online.”

Julianna said she was inspired by TikTok activists who last year flooded a registration website for a rally in Oklahoma for then-President Donald Trump, although they had no intention of attending. While it’s unlikely they were responsible for the low turnout, their antics may have inflated the campaign’s expectations for attendance numbers that led to a disappointing crowd.

The law, which legal experts say was written in a way that puts defendants at a severe disadvantage, has left abortion providers leery of the potential cost of fighting a flood of frivolous lawsuits.

“I’ve never seen a statute that combines so many elements to disadvantage the defendant,” said Seth Chandler, law professor at the University of Houston.

For one, if the plaintiffs win, they can get attorneys fees and costs, Chandler said. If the defendants win, they can’t. Also, there could be multiple lawsuits filed in different counties based on the same allegation, and the statute prohibits a change of venue, he said.

“Even if the accusations that these vigilantes make are untrue, the staff and physicians would be put in the position of having to defend themselves in court, hire attorneys, travel for hearings, who knows in what county in Texas,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Woman’s Health, which has four abortion clinics in Texas.

Dr. Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, said that although the website seems “comically inept at this point,” it does “what the actual law on the books is asking people to do, which is to report on people.”

Wiggs said that aspect of the law, the “way that they are deputizing private citizens to incentivize them to snitch on their neighbors,” really stood out to him.

“It’s just the way that they’re turning people against each other over an already polarizing topic such as abortion,” Wiggs said.

Texas has a history of creative forms of protest. In 2016, college students protested a new law allowing people to carry concealed handguns in public places, including universities, by walking around campus with sex toys in their hands and strapped to their backpacks, calling the protest “cocks not Glocks.” It got attention.

But, Metzl notes, it didn’t stop the Legislature enacting laxer gun laws.

“It’s a form of protest and resistance, but it hasn’t been effective changing policy,” he said. “The best way to change policy is to win elections.”

___

Ortutay reported from Oakland, California.



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Activists focus on tip site in protesting Texas abortion law


DALLAS (AP) — Young people on social media have found a way to protest Texas’ new law banning most abortions by focusing on a website established by the state’s largest anti-abortion group that takes in tips on violations.

They’ve shared short videos and guides on how to flood the Texas Right to Life site with fake information, memes and prank photos; it’s an online activism tactic that comes naturally to a generation that came of age in the internet era.

“I got the idea of, OK, well, we can sabotage these things online. It’s kind of like internet activism. Is it something we can realistically do and it’s not going to take us very long to do it,” said an 18-year-old TikTok user who goes by the name Olivia Julianna, using only her first and middle name due to safety concerns.

The law that took effect this month prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, which is usually around six weeks and before some women know they’re pregnant. It doesn’t make exceptions for rape or incest.

Though abortion providers say the law is unconstitutional, they say they are abiding by it.

“The law was not actually designed to be carried out in the sense of litigation, it’s designed to deter,” said Joanna Grossman, a law professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “It’s just designed to bring the entire system of women’s health care to a screeching halt through fear.”

The website was down over the long weekend after host GoDaddy kicked it off, saying said it violated the company’s terms of service, including a provision against collecting identifying information without consent. As of Tuesday, the site was being redirected to Texas Right to Life’s main website.

Texas Right to Life spokeswoman Kimberlyn Schwartz said Tuesday that the website’s domain is now registered with Epik and they’re in the process of moving to a new host, but aren’t yet disclosing which one. Epik used to host 8chan, an online message board known for trafficking in hate speech. Epik representatives haven’t responded to a message seeking comment Tuesday.

Schwartz said they are working to get the tipster website back up but noted that in many ways it is symbolic since anyone can report a violation. And, she said, abortion clinics appear to be complying with the law.

“I think that people see the whistleblower website as a symbol of the law but the law is still enforced, with or without our website,” Schwartz said, adding, “It’s not the only way that people can report violations of the law.”

Rebecca Parma, Texas Right to Life’s senior legislative associate, said they expected people to try to overwhelm the site with fake tips, adding “we’re thankful for the publicity to the website that’s coming from all of this chatter about it.”

And, Parma said, the website is just “another facet of the network we already have in place.” She said they have a network of anti-abortion attorneys and citizens who work with them, including people who are posted outside of abortion clinics and talk to people going in and coming out.

Julianna, who lives in Texas and has more than 136,000 TikTok followers, said that while she sees the tip website as more of a “scare tactic” than a threat, she has taken comfort in the like-minded people she’s found in her quest to thwart it.

“We’ve grown up in this new age of technology,” she said. “So now you don’t feel so isolated with what you believe in and your activism.”

Sean Wiggs, 20, who goes by Sean Black on TikTok, came up with a shortcut people could use to autofill the questions on the site. Wiggs, who lives in North Carolina, said he has received an “overwhelmingly positive” response on social media, and that he hopes efforts like his lead to more people “realizing the power that you have online.”

Julianna said she was inspired by TikTok activists who last year flooded a registration website for a rally in Oklahoma for then-President Donald Trump, although they had no intention of attending. While it’s unlikely they were responsible for the low turnout, their antics may have inflated the campaign’s expectations for attendance numbers that led to a disappointing crowd.

The law, which legal experts say was written in a way that puts defendants at a severe disadvantage, has left abortion providers leery of the potential cost of fighting a flood of frivolous lawsuits.

“I’ve never seen a statute that combines so many elements to disadvantage the defendant,” said Seth Chandler, law professor at the University of Houston.

For one, if the plaintiffs win, they can get attorneys fees and costs, Chandler said. If the defendants win, they can’t. Also, there could be multiple lawsuits filed in different counties based on the same allegation, and the statute prohibits a change of venue, he said.

“Even if the accusations that these vigilantes make are untrue, the staff and physicians would be put in the position of having to defend themselves in court, hire attorneys, travel for hearings, who knows in what county in Texas,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Women’s Health, which has four abortion clinics in Texas.

Dr. Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, said that although the website seems “comically inept at this point,” it does “what the actual law on the books is asking people to do, which is to report on people.”

Wiggs said that aspect of the law, the “way that they are deputizing private citizens to incentivize them to snitch on their neighbors,” really stood out to him.

“It’s just the way that they’re turning people against each other over an already polarizing topic such as abortion,” Wiggs said.

Texas has a history of creative forms of protest. In 2016, college students protested a new law allowing people to carry concealed handguns in public places, including universities, by walking around campus with sex toys in their hands and strapped to their backpacks, calling the protest “cocks not Glocks.” It got attention.

But, Metzl notes, it didn’t stop the Legislature enacting laxer gun laws.

“It’s a form of protest and resistance, but it hasn’t been effective changing policy,” he said. “The best way to change policy is to win elections.”

___

Ortutay reported from Oakland, California.



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Activists Focus on Tip Site in Protesting Texas Abortion Law | Health News


By JAMIE STENGLE and BARBARA ORTUTAY, Associated Press

DALLAS (AP) — Young people on social media have found a way to protest Texas’ new law banning most abortions by focusing on a website established by the state’s largest anti-abortion group that takes in tips on violations.

They’ve shared short videos and guides on how to flood the Texas Right to Life site with fake information, memes and prank photos; it’s an online activism tactic that comes naturally to a generation that came of age in the internet era.

“I got the idea of, OK, well, we can sabotage these things online. It’s kind of like internet activism. Is it something we can realistically do and it’s not going to take us very long to do it,” said an 18-year-old TikTok user who goes by the name Olivia Julianna, using only her first and middle name due to safety concerns.

The law that took effect this month prohibits abortions once medical professionals can detect cardiac activity, which is usually around six weeks and before some women know they’re pregnant. It doesn’t make exceptions for rape or incest.

Political Cartoons

Though abortion providers say the law is unconstitutional, they say they are abiding by it.

“The law was not actually designed to be carried out in the sense of litigation, it’s designed to deter,” said Joanna Grossman, a law professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “It’s just designed to bring the entire system of women’s health care to a screeching halt through fear.”

The website was down over the long weekend after host GoDaddy kicked it off, saying said it violated the company’s terms of service, including a provision against collecting identifying information without consent. As of Tuesday, the site was being redirected to Texas Right to Life’s main website.

Texas Right to Life spokeswoman Kimberlyn Schwartz said Tuesday that the website’s domain is now registered with Epik and they’re in the process of moving to a new host, but aren’t yet disclosing which one. Epik used to host 8chan, an online message board known for trafficking in hate speech. Epik representatives haven’t responded to a message seeking comment Tuesday.

Schwartz said they are working to get the tipster website back up but noted that in many ways it is symbolic since anyone can report a violation. And, she said, abortion clinics appear to be complying with the law.

“I think that people see the whistleblower website as a symbol of the law but the law is still enforced, with or without our website,” Schwartz said, adding, “It’s not the only way that people can report violations of the law.”

Rebecca Parma, Texas Right to Life’s senior legislative associate, said they expected people to try to overwhelm the site with fake tips, adding “we’re thankful for the publicity to the website that’s coming from all of this chatter about it.”

And, Parma said, the website is just “another facet of the network we already have in place.” She said they have a network of anti-abortion attorneys and citizens who work with them, including people who are posted outside of abortion clinics and talk to people going in and coming out.

Julianna, who lives in Texas and has more than 136,000 TikTok followers, said that while she sees the tip website as more of a “scare tactic” than a threat, she has taken comfort in the like-minded people she’s found in her quest to thwart it.

“We’ve grown up in this new age of technology,” she said. “So now you don’t feel so isolated with what you believe in and your activism.”

Sean Wiggs, 20, who goes by Sean Black on TikTok, came up with a shortcut people could use to autofill the questions on the site. Wiggs, who lives in North Carolina, said he has received an “overwhelmingly positive” response on social media, and that he hopes efforts like his lead to more people “realizing the power that you have online.”

Julianna said she was inspired by TikTok activists who last year flooded a registration website for a rally in Oklahoma for then-President Donald Trump, although they had no intention of attending. While it’s unlikely they were responsible for the low turnout, their antics may have inflated the campaign’s expectations for attendance numbers that led to a disappointing crowd.

The law, which legal experts say was written in a way that puts defendants at a severe disadvantage, has left abortion providers leery of the potential cost of fighting a flood of frivolous lawsuits.

“I’ve never seen a statute that combines so many elements to disadvantage the defendant,” said Seth Chandler, law professor at the University of Houston.

For one, if the plaintiffs win, they can get attorneys fees and costs, Chandler said. If the defendants win, they can’t. Also, there could be multiple lawsuits filed in different counties based on the same allegation, and the statute prohibits a change of venue, he said.

“Even if the accusations that these vigilantes make are untrue, the staff and physicians would be put in the position of having to defend themselves in court, hire attorneys, travel for hearings, who knows in what county in Texas,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO of Whole Women’s Health, which has four abortion clinics in Texas.

Dr. Jonathan Metzl, a professor of sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University, said that although the website seems “comically inept at this point,” it does “what the actual law on the books is asking people to do, which is to report on people.”

Wiggs said that aspect of the law, the “way that they are deputizing private citizens to incentivize them to snitch on their neighbors,” really stood out to him.

“It’s just the way that they’re turning people against each other over an already polarizing topic such as abortion,” Wiggs said.

Texas has a history of creative forms of protest. In 2016, college students protested a new law allowing people to carry concealed handguns in public places, including universities, by walking around campus with sex toys in their hands and strapped to their backpacks, calling the protest “cocks not Glocks.” It got attention.

But, Metzl notes, it didn’t stop the Legislature enacting laxer gun laws.

“It’s a form of protest and resistance, but it hasn’t been effective changing policy,” he said. “The best way to change policy is to win elections.”

Ortutay reported from Oakland, California.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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Activists battle to protect pristine Lake Baikal from toxic waste threat


Pollution updates

Two years ago, Denis Bukalov mobilised support on social media to block construction of a Chinese-funded water-bottling plant on the shore of Lake Baikal.

Now the environmental activist has set his sights on a political career as he steps up his attempts to protect the world’s oldest, largest and deepest body of fresh water from yet another threat — millions of tonnes of toxic discharge flowing from an abandoned Soviet-era paper mill.

“To be able to debate these things from parliament instead of YouTube or Instagram will bring more government attention to the problems and might actually lead to a resolution,” he said of his political hopes.

That Bukalov’s plan to stand in Russia’s parliamentary election this month were blocked at the last minute — he says without explanation — underlines the scale of the challenge that he and the country’s small band of environmentalists face.

Denis Bukalov (left) with Anton Pirogov, co-founders of the Save Baikal movement, on the shore of the lake in Listvyanka
Denis Bukalov (left) with Anton Pirogov, co-founders of the Save Baikal movement, on the shore of the lake in Listvyanka © Nastassia Astrasheuskaya/FT

The 39-year-old is the public face of the movement to save Baikal, a Unesco world heritage site known as “the sacred sea” that contains about a fifth of the world’s fresh water. The lake, famed for its pristine water, faces multiple environmental challenges, from chemical waste to overtourism and the effects of climate change.

“There’s total indifference to these issues,” Bukalov told the Financial Times from Listvyanka, a tourist town on the west side of the lake, in the Irkutsk region.

Originally from Kazakhstan, Bukalov can recall the day while on a trip to the area that he pledged to dedicate his life to defending the lake. “I sat there watching the stinking discharge flowing into the water and at that moment I promised myself I would protect Baikal,” he explained.

He continued: “Baikal is millions of years old — it came before us and will remain after us. It may be crazy to think of it as a living thing but I consider it alive. It keeps the memory of the universe inside.”

Lake Baikal’s biodiversity, including species unique to its waters such as the world’s only freshwater seal, led Unesco to label it the “Galápagos of Russia”. It was home to one of the “world’s richest and most unusual freshwater faunas, which is of exceptional value to evolutionary science,” the UN agency said.

Locator map for Lake Baikal in Russia

Vitaly Ryabtsev, a former deputy director of Baikal National Park, said the “flora and fauna has been preserved here since before the ice age”. But he also noted how the water quality had deteriorated in recent years. “There are areas where I used to drink water by simply scooping it up with a cup. Now it’s dangerous not only to drink but even to swim there,” he said.

The most pressing issue stems from the crumbling paper mill in the city of Baikalsk at the lake’s southern tip.

The plant was closed in 2013 under a decree from President Vladimir Putin that called for the formation of a nature reserve at the site. 

Locals have seen little progress. The mill is still there along with the constant fear that heavy rains or melting snow will create a mudslide that will wash the estimated 6.5m tonnes of solid and liquid waste still on site into the lake. 

Flooding near the plant last year prompted a dire warning from Greenpeace while melting snow sparked another environmental emergency in April.

“If that happens it would be equal to 700 years of pollution by the plant. That would be a tragedy of planetary scope. Even without it, every rainfall releases more waste into the water,” Bukalov said.

Disused paper mill on southern tip of Lake Baikal
A disused paper mill on the southern tip of the lake. Activists fear that more than 6m tonnes of waste still on the site could be washed into Baikal, causing an environmental disaster © Alexei Kushnirenko/TASS via Getty

Rosatom, the state nuclear corporation which late last year became the latest company to take on the clean up, said it hoped to complete the task next year.

“We take our responsibilities to protect Lake Baikal’s unique ecosystem extremely seriously,” it said in a statement. “We understand the significant impact that Baikalsk Paper and Pulp Mill’s legacy issues have had on both the lake’s ecology and local residents and we are absolutely committed to doing everything in our power to rectify this.”

And while Vnesheconombank has unveiled ambitious plans for a Rbs60bn ($820m) luxury hotel complex on the site, Bukalov labelled it a bluff. “We’d welcome a rich investor but clean up the mill and then create a Roza Khutor,” he said, referring to the resort built for the 2014 Winter Olympics. 

People on the ice of Lake Baikal
Besides the threats from chemical waste and climate change, Lake Baikal also has a problem with overtourism, as many people travel there to admire the clear blue ice during the winter months © Natalia Fedosenko/TASS via Reuters

It is not just crumbling Soviet-era industries that threaten Baikal. Scientists say climate change is bringing change at a microscopic level and more visibly in the form of more frequent wildfires that now scar the surrounding taiga forest.

Viktor Kuznetsov, an official with the emergencies ministry, said ordinary people were also to blame for discarding rubbish in and around the lake. “I watch people sitting on the shore eating and instead of cleaning up after themselves they leave their rubbish behind. I don’t know where people’s brains are.”

Corrupt businessmen and incompetent officials add to the problems. After Kuznetsov called for a ban on tree felling around the Svetlaya river that feeds Baikal, the local prosecutor responded by denying the site was in any danger.

“We have the wrong people in power. New people come in and take jobs without any knowledge of the area,” he complained.

Blocked from parliament and short of money, Bukalov said he still planned to stand in local elections next year and continue fight to protect Baikal for future generations.

“Of course we’d like to live better and not have to worry about where to find money for the kids. But I also don’t want to have everything and then sit and watch the lake being destroyed. What will they be left with?”

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Texas is just the tip of the iceberg. Even where there are fewer legal barriers, anti-abortion activists’ decades long terror campaigns have made it harrowing for abortion providers.


  • In my hometown of Buffalo, there are far fewer abortion clinics today than there were in the 1990s.
  • After an abortion provider was shot and killed in Buffalo, doctors are keenly aware of the risks.
  • As long as abortion is demonized and providers have to risk their lives, access will never be what it should be.
  • Lux Alptraum is a writer and podcast host whose smart commentary has been featured in a wide variety of outlets including The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, and Hustler.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.

In February 2019, I took a trip to Buffalo, New York. The New York State legislature had just passed the Reproductive Health Act – a sweeping slate of legislation meant to codify liberal access to abortion at a time when Roe v. Wade was more at risk than ever – and I wanted to see what it meant for my former hometown. I expected to hear stories about how getting an abortion in western New York had never been easier. Instead, I heard the exact opposite.

Buffalo isn’t the kind of place that people think of when we talk about risks to abortion access. Located on the shore of Lake Erie, in the western end of New York State, the city doesn’t face any significant legal barriers to abortion access. There are no six-week abortion bans or onerous licensing requirements, and New York allows same day abortions, with no waiting period between a counseling session and a termination procedure.

On paper, there’s nothing stopping anyone who needs an abortion from accessing one easily – and compared to many places in the United States, Buffalo has enviable abortion access, with two clinics within the city limits, and two additional providers close by in the suburbs. But that pales in comparison to what was available in the late 1990s, when I lived in Buffalo. And the reasons behind that decreased access aren’t something that can easily be fixed with some new legislation out of Albany.

Even in the friendliest legal climates, providing abortion requires doctors to face financial and personal challenges that few people are prepared to handle. And when doctors opt out of abortion services, patients wind up suffering.

Providing abortions comes with dangerous risks

One of the first things you have to understand is that providing abortions is a dangerous business – and in Buffalo, where abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian was assassinated by a sniper in 1998, that danger is hard to forget about. Choosing to offer abortions isn’t a choice most doctors take lightly. Unlike, say, adding electrolysis to your list of services, or expanding into onsite MRIs, becoming an abortion provider comes with some major risks.

Anti-abortion activists will add your name to a list and target your office for protests; at a bare minimum, you’re opening yourself, your loved ones, and your patients up to harassment and abuse from angry protesters. And providers are deeply aware that it’s possible for things to get much, much worse: Dr. Slepian is one of eleven people murdered by anti-abortion zealots between 1993 and 2016. There were also twenty-six attempted murders during that period, along with bombings, arson attacks, death threats, and more.

Because of the risks associated with providing abortion, few providers opt to take on the burden of offering abortion as a solo practitioner. Instead, it’s far more likely to see providers working out of a clinic setting, where abortion is the primary offering and security can be a major focus. But in order for the model to be feasible, you need a critical mass of abortions – particularly since, despite what you may have heard, abortion isn’t a big profit generator for doctors.

Setting up an abortion clinic in a rural area just doesn’t make sense. Which means that even in an abortion friendly state like New York, many places don’t have ready access to an abortion clinic. As of 2017, nearly 40% of New York counties did not have a single abortion provider – and that’s not likely to change any time soon. For rural New Yorkers, getting access to an abortion can mean traveling several hours to a city. That’s not the kind of trek we think of when we imagine getting an abortion in New York.

And even in Buffalo, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to get your abortion within the city limits. Buffalo’s abortion clinics aren’t set up to provide abortions past 20 weeks, and the local hospital system isn’t particularly friendly to abortion – two of Buffalo’s four hospitals are Catholic, and thus refuse to provide abortions entirely. For people in need of complex or late-term abortions, New York City may be the only option. And that’s a nearly seven hour drive away.

Limited options, even in New York

Short of mandating that every county have an abortion provider (and fully funding the security and safety needs of said provider), it’s hard to see an easy or immediate way out of this problem. The most obvious solution is expanding access to abortion pills: Unlike a surgical abortion, a medication abortion can be safely performed in the comfort of one’s own home, with no specialized equipment or medical professionals necessary. Thanks to recent changes to legal restrictions around how abortion pills are dispensed, it’s now easier than ever to access abortion pills through a telemedicine provider.

But abortion pills aren’t an appropriate solution for everyone: Some people prefer the experience of a surgical procedure, while others have medical conditions that make abortion pills a less-safe option. Complicating things further, the FDA has only approved abortion pills for early terminations. If you need an abortion past your first trimester, telemedicine abortion isn’t going to help you out. You’ll still need to go to a physical clinic.

For those people, the best option we have now is supporting the abortion funds that work to remove logistical barriers to abortion (whether that’s helping to pay for the abortion itself or funding travel, childcare, and the many other needs that crop up when an abortion isn’t readily accessible), and organizations like the Haven Coalition, which provides lodging and escorts to people who travel to New York City to obtain an abortion.

At its core, abortion is healthcare. But as long as it’s politicized and demonized, as long as abortion providers are taking their lives into their hands just for providing a medical service, it will never be as accessible as it should be – even, sadly, in abortion friendly states like New York.



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Anti-Abortion Activists’ Terror Campaigns Make It Harrowing for Providers


  • In my hometown of Buffalo, there are far fewer abortion clinics today than there were in the 1990s. 
  • After an abortion provider was shot and killed in Buffalo, doctors are keenly aware of the risks. 
  • As long as abortion is demonized and providers have to risk their lives, access will never be what it should be. 
  • Lux Alptraum is a writer and podcast host whose smart commentary has been featured in a wide variety of outlets including The New York Times, Cosmopolitan, and Hustler.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author. 

In February 2019, I took a trip to Buffalo, New York. The New York State legislature had just passed the Reproductive Health Act — a sweeping slate of legislation meant to codify liberal access to abortion at a time when Roe v. Wade was more at risk than ever — and I wanted to see what it meant for my former hometown. I expected to hear stories about how getting an abortion in western New York had never been easier. Instead, I heard the exact opposite.

Buffalo isn’t the kind of place that people think of when we talk about risks to abortion access. Located on the shore of Lake Erie, in the western end of New York State, the city doesn’t face any significant legal barriers to abortion access. There are no six-week abortion bans or onerous licensing requirements, and New York allows same day abortions, with no waiting period between a counseling session and a termination procedure. 

On paper, there’s nothing stopping anyone who needs an abortion from accessing one easily — and compared to many places in the United States, Buffalo has enviable abortion access, with two clinics within the city limits, and two additional providers close by in the suburbs. But that pales in comparison to what was available in the late 1990s, when I lived in Buffalo. And the reasons behind that decreased access aren’t something that can easily be fixed with some new legislation out of Albany.

Even in the friendliest legal climates, providing abortion requires doctors to face financial and personal challenges that few people are prepared to handle. And when doctors opt out of abortion services, patients wind up suffering.

Providing abortions comes with dangerous risks 

One of the first things you have to understand is that providing abortions is a dangerous business — and in Buffalo, where abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian was assassinated by a sniper in 1998, that danger is hard to forget about. Choosing to offer abortions isn’t a choice most doctors take lightly. Unlike, say, adding electrolysis to your list of services, or expanding into onsite MRIs, becoming an abortion provider comes with some major risks. 

Anti-abortion activists will add your name to a list and target your office for protests; at a bare minimum, you’re opening yourself, your loved ones, and your patients up to harassment and abuse from angry protesters. And providers are deeply aware that it’s possible for things to get much, much worse: Dr. Slepian is one of eleven people murdered by anti-abortion zealots between 1993 and 2016. There were also twenty-six attempted murders during that period, along with bombings, arson attacks, death threats, and more.

Because of the risks associated with providing abortion, few providers opt to take on the burden of offering abortion as a solo practitioner. Instead, it’s far more likely to see providers working out of a clinic setting, where abortion is the primary offering and security can be a major focus. But in order for the model to be feasible, you need a critical mass of abortions — particularly since, despite what you may have heard, abortion isn’t a big profit generator for doctors

Setting up an abortion clinic in a rural area just doesn’t make sense. Which means that even in an abortion friendly state like New York, many places don’t have ready access to an abortion clinic. As of 2017, nearly 40% of New York counties did not have a single abortion provider — and that’s not likely to change any time soon. For rural New Yorkers, getting access to an abortion can mean traveling several hours to a city. That’s not the kind of trek we think of when we imagine getting an abortion in New York.

And even in Buffalo, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be able to get your abortion within the city limits. Buffalo’s abortion clinics aren’t set up to provide abortions past 20 weeks, and the local hospital system isn’t particularly friendly to abortion — two of Buffalo’s four hospitals are Catholic, and thus refuse to provide abortions entirely. For people in need of complex or late-term abortions, New York City may be the only option. And that’s a nearly seven hour drive away.

Limited options, even in New York

Short of mandating that every county have an abortion provider (and fully funding the security and safety needs of said provider), it’s hard to see an easy or immediate way out of this problem. The most obvious solution is expanding access to abortion pills: Unlike a surgical abortion, a medication abortion can be safely performed in the comfort of one’s own home, with no specialized equipment or medical professionals necessary. Thanks to recent changes to legal restrictions around how abortion pills are dispensed, it’s now easier than ever to access abortion pills through a telemedicine provider. 

But abortion pills aren’t an appropriate solution for everyone: Some people prefer the experience of a surgical procedure, while others have medical conditions that make abortion pills a less-safe option. Complicating things further, the FDA has only approved abortion pills for early terminations. If you need an abortion past your first trimester, telemedicine abortion isn’t going to help you out. You’ll still need to go to a physical clinic.

For those people, the best option we have now is supporting the abortion funds that work to remove logistical barriers to abortion (whether that’s helping to pay for the abortion itself or funding travel, childcare, and the many other needs that crop up when an abortion isn’t readily accessible), and organizations like the Haven Coalition, which provides lodging and escorts to people who travel to New York City to obtain an abortion.

At its core, abortion is healthcare. But as long as it’s politicized and demonized, as long as abortion providers are taking their lives into their hands just for providing a medical service, it will never be as accessible as it should be — even, sadly, in abortion friendly states like New York.



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Activists travel from Dunmore to Scranton to protest environmental concerns | News


DUNMORE — Trekking on foot from the peak of Dunmore, past the Keystone Sanitary Landfill and downhill into Scranton, a group of about 25 activists from all over the East Coast chanted and chatted while protesting environmental concerns affecting the region.

The around 6-mile jaunt from the entrance of the Dunmore Reservoir 1 ended at the John Mitchell Statue on Lackawanna County Courthouse Square. It was the first leg of the Walk for Our Grandchildren & Mother Earth. The environmental activists plan to travel 170 miles over the next eight days from President Joe Biden’s hometown to the Wilmington, Delaware, where he spent the majority of his life.

They’re walking to urge the Biden administration that future generations deserve a “rapid, uncompromising transition away from the unhealthy, unsafe extraction and burning of fossil fuels while embracing renewable energy, especially solar and wind power.”

The group, led through the borough and city by union organizer and activist Alex Lotorto, stopped at the entrance of the Keystone Sanitary Landfill, staying on the shoulder of the busy road while trucks moved through the industrial park and hauled garbage into the landfill. Some activists carried a gigantic inflatable black tube inscribed with “stop the landfill expansion” and chanted “Hey hey, ho ho. Keystone Landfill’s got to go,” according to organizers.

“We don’t want to smell it; we don’t want to see it; we don’t want to breathe it and drink it,” Scranton resident Melinda Krokus said outside the entrance. “We want to see some action now. … If not, there’s going to be more of us out here.”

The state Department of Environmental Protection recently approved a major permit modification for the landfill expansion, giving it the capacity to triple its volume, bringing in an additional 188 billion pounds of waste over the next four decades. Lotorto said that the landfill is also proposing discharging leachate into Little Roaring Brook, which flows into Roaring Brook Creek where people swim, fish and walk along its shore.

The activists, carrying signs reading “Tell Governor Wolf No Expansion” and “I stand for what I stand on,” walked through Swinick Development in Dunmore, down Blakely and Green Ridge Streets and turned on North Washington Avenue, heading to downtown Scranton. They chatted about current environmental issues nationwide and shared stories from past protests and walks.

Ella Cohen, 14, of Scranton, founded the group Scranton Goes Green alongside other likeminded high schoolers. The proposed 40-year expansion of the landfill impacts her generation, the incoming freshman at Scranton Prep said. She joined the march on behalf of her group.

“We’re fighting the fight for as long as it’s needed,” she said.

Steve Norris, of Asheville, North Carolina, organized the first Walk for Our Grandchildren & Mother Earth in 2013, going from Camp David in Maryland, to Washington, D.C., to pressure President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.

His fellow environmental activists call him “the father of the walk.”

Norris, a soon-to-be great-great grandfather, said the walks are a nonviolent way to bring attention to the issues.

“You never know whether you’re going to win or lose,” he said.

The group ended their hike through Lackawanna County by laying roses at the feet of Mitchell, a labor activist. On Tuesday, they head to southern Pennsylvania.

Early Monday at the reservoir, Dunmore Mayor Tim Burke sent the group off.

“Thank you all for being here, don’t give up the fight,” he said. “We really appreciate all of you being here. It’s something so big and important to our area.”



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Activists Fear HK Immigration Bill Will Allow Arbitrary Travel Bans | World News


HONG KONG (Reuters) – An immigration bill on Hong Kong’s legislative agenda for Wednesday would give authorities virtually unlimited powers to prevent residents and others entering or leaving the former British colony, lawyers, diplomats and rights groups say.

The government says the bill merely aims to screen illegal immigrants at source amid a backlog of asylum applications, and does not affect movement rights.

But lawyers say it empowers authorities to bar anyone, without a court order, from entering or leaving Hong Kong and fails to prevent indefinite detention for refugees.

The government, which has pushed Hong Kong onto an increasingly authoritarian path since Beijing imposed a sweeping national security law in 2020, faces no official opposition after democratic lawmakers resigned en masse last year in protest at the disqualification of colleagues.

Most prominent democratic politicians and activists are either in jail, charged under the security law or for other reasons, or in exile. Western countries, in response, have eased immigration rules for Hong Kongers and granted political asylum to several activists.

Lawyers and rights groups say the immigration bill gives authorities unbridled powers to impose “exit bans” such as those used by mainland China. Beijing denies accusations that the bans are a form of arbitrary detention.

“We have seen the way China has restricted people’s movement in and out of the country, suppressing activists and lawyers,” said Chow Hang-tung, a lawyer who is vice-chairwoman of Hong Kong Alliance, which champions democratic causes.

“They’re saying refugees are a target, but they’re expanding their power across all Hong Kong.”

Authorities in the United States and Europe have long required carriers to provide them with detailed passenger and crew information in advance of travel, under an international convention, and Hong Kong says it is merely following suit.

European Union directives, for instance, state specifically that authorities may not use the data to deny entry for any reason other than “preventing, detecting, investigating and prosecuting terrorist offences or serious crime”.

They also state that any decisions to restrict movement “shall in no circumstances be based on a person’s race or ethnic origin, political opinions, religion or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership, health, sexual life or sexual orientation”.

The Hong Kong Bar Association (HKBA) said in February that Hong Kong’s bill, in contrast, confers “an apparently unfettered power” on the director of immigration “to prevent Hong Kong residents and others from leaving Hong Kong”.

It said the bill offered no explanation of why such a power was necessary or how it would be used, or any limit on the duration of a travel ban, or any safeguards against abuse.

The Security Bureau said the law would be applied only to inbound flights and target illegal immigrants, expressing disappointment at the “unnecessary misunderstanding” caused by HKBA.

In response, HKBA urged the government to clarify the limits of the bill.

But the Bureau last week said that freedom to travel was guaranteed by the city’s mini-constitution, the Basic Law, and its Bill of Rights, and this made it unnecessary to spell out in the bill that those rights would not be affected.

HKBA declined further comment. The Security Bureau referred Reuters to a statement last Friday describing the idea that the bill would deprive residents of travel rights as “complete nonsense”.

It said some organisations “have been attempting to spread rumours in emotional and hostile rhetoric, misleading the public with ill intentions and creating conflict in society”.

Lawyer Senia Ng said concerns about the bill were real and substantial because there was no specific wording to limit its scope.

Asian and Western envoys fear their citizens could be affected. “There is a deepening sense that something longer-term could be at work here and we are watching closely,” said a Western diplomat who declined to be named.

If passed, potentially as soon as Wednesday, the bill could take effect on Aug. 1.

    Activists also say the bill raises concerns about refugee rights and well-being.

Among the changes, it allows immigration officers to carry guns and, in some cases, requires asylum seekers to communicate in a language other than their mother tongue.

The government says there are currently 13,000 claimants in Hong Kong and that the bill is aimed at tackling the backlog.

The screening process can take years and the success rate for claimants is 1%. During that period, it is illegal for asylum seekers to work or volunteer, and they live in limbo, on food vouchers.

Currently, asylum seekers can be detained only if they break the law or for deportation, and then for a period “that is reasonable in all circumstances”.

The bill removes the phrase “in all circumstances”, which rights groups say allows refugees considered a security risk to be detained indefinitely. The law does not state what constitutes such a risk.

“Even under the existing detention system there are already many unresolved issues, such as allegations of abuse,” said Rachel Li, policy officer at rights group Justice Centre.

“The bill is not in compliance with common law principles and international best practices.”

(Additional reporting by Greg Torode; Editing by Marius Zaharia and Kevin Liffey)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.



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