Say Her Name Big pharma stole her cells. 70 years later, civil rights lawyer Ben Crump is suing on her behalf.
The family of Henrietta Lacks has hired a prominent civil rights attorney, who says he plans to seek compensation for them from big pharmaceutical companies across the country that made fortunes off medical research with her famous cancer cells.
An attorney for the Lacks family said a legal team is investigating lawsuits against as many as 100 defendants, mostly pharmaceutical companies, but they haven’t ruled out a case against the Johns Hopkins Hospital.
A Hopkins doctor collected a sample of cancer cells from the young mother without her knowledge or permission nearly 70 years ago. Those cells — the first to live outside the body in a glass tube — brought decades of medical advances. Her cells later became the most widely used human cells in scientific research.
Dubbed the “HeLa” cells, they have been used to develop everything from coronavirus vaccines to sunscreen, attorney Ben Crump said. Vaccines, cancer treatments and in vitro fertilization are among the many medical techniques derived from her cells. Crump said it’s an example of the long and troubling history of the medical exploitation of Black people in America.
“Never was that more apparent than with the tragedy of how they exploited Henrietta Lacks,” he said.
Crump, who represented the families of George Floyd, Michael Brown and other Black men killed by police, appeared Thursday at Greater Faith Baptist Church in North Baltimore with some of Lacks’s descendants, ranging from her 86-year-old oldest son to great-grandchildren.
Individual family members have talked publicly for years about pursuing legal action against Hopkins and other institutions that used her cells. On Thursday, for the first time, more than a dozen family members stood united in that effort behind one of the country’s leading civil rights attorneys.
Read the story on Washington Post
Listen to This Incarcerated women are putting out California’s wildfires (for little in return)
If you stack up all the facts about fire season in the American West, they can get overwhelming. Right now, there are dozens of fires across the country. The largest of those, the Bootleg Fire, has grown to be the size of Los Angeles. And no matter where you live, you can physically feel the impact. Smoke has swirled from Oregon and California all the way to New York, which is where Jaime Lowe lives. “I was walking around yesterday and I could tell that the air quality was definitely affected,” Lowe said. “The sun was kind of orange and muted, which feels like we are in that apocalyptic science-fiction world.”
Lowe is a reporter and a native Californian. She has become something of a fire expert. “I know so much about what’s happening in that state that I am like Chicken Little, running around going, ‘Everyone get out, but everyone stay because it’s also a great state.’ It’s a very conflicting feeling,” Lowe said.
One of the reasons Lowe feels so conflicted about the way her home state deals with this climate crisis is because of whom the state recruits to fight fires each year. There are the usual union guys, the Hotshot crews that patrol inside the actual flames. Then, there are the incarcerated fire crews. Convicted felons, paid just a few dollars a day to cut fire lines alongside the professionals. Lowe didn’t even know about these crews until she was flipping through the paper a few years back and saw this headline: “Female Inmate Firefighter Dies, Following Injury in Malibu Blaze.” That inmate was a woman named Shawna Lynn Jones. She was just 22. Lowe has been writing about the incarcerated firefighters of California for going on five years now. She started with a story in the New York Times Magazine. Now, she’s written a book, Breathing Fire. She honed in on female firefighters in particular.
Listen to the interview on Slate
More of This Biden’s nominating the most diverse judges in history
Joe Biden probably knows more about picking judges than any new president in American history.
A longtime member and former chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Biden oversaw hundreds of judicial confirmations. He chaired the 1987 hearing that successfully convinced the Senate to reject Judge Robert Bork’s nomination to the Supreme Court; then presided over a far less successful hearing that preceded Justice Clarence Thomas’s confirmation in 1991.
As president, he’s approached judicial selection with a seriousness of purpose that hasn’t been seen in a Democratic White House since at least the Carter administration. With eight Biden judges currently sitting on the federal bench, including three court of appeals judges, Biden’s appointed more judges at this point in his presidency than any newly elected president since Richard Nixon.
Biden’s nominated 22 more, and he has the potential to shape much of the federal bench very rapidly. Currently, there are 82 vacancies throughout the federal judiciary, nearly 10 percent of the bench, although most of these vacancies are on relatively low-ranking district courts.
When I speak with liberal advocates jaded by years of failed efforts to get Democrats — including the Obama White House — to take judicial appointments as seriously as Republicans, their attitudes toward Biden range from measured enthusiasm to something approaching ecstasy. Though Biden received some criticism from his left for nominating two management-side employment lawyers to vacant seats in New Jersey, nearly all of the advocates that I spoke with were thrilled with Biden’s overall record on judicial nominations.
Former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, who now leads the liberal American Constitution Society, told me that Biden’s judicial confirmation efforts are off to a “tremendous start.” Daniel Goldberg of the Alliance for Justice, an organization that spent the Trump years producing research memos warning about the former president’s nominees, summarized his opinion of Biden’s approach to judges in a single word: “outstanding.”
Read the story on Vox
Less of This SCOTUS conservatives are viciously ruling against immigrants and prisoners
Kimberly Wehle is a professor of law at the University of Baltimore School of Law.
In its debut term, the U.S. Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority was hardly the originalist juggernaut that many commentators had anticipated.
On a number of consequential cases, the new Trump-appointed justices broke ranks in surprising ways. The Court preserved the Affordable Care Act by a 7-2 vote, with the three newest members splitting with conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas to join their more liberal colleagues. Alito and Thomas were also the lone dissenters to the Court’s December 2020 ruling tossing out the State of Texas’ bid to cancel millions of votes cast in four battleground states, a bald partisan effort to swing the presidential race to the incumbent Republican. The court backed a railroad worker’s request to reopen his disability claim. The justices ruled against a statute of limitations in military rape cases. They expanded plaintiffs’ rights to bring product liability suits. And they ruled unanimously in favor of First Amendment claims to free exercise of religion in a case that pitted the city of Philadelphia against a Catholic social services agency. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, perhaps the most controversial of the Trump justices coming in, was in the majority 87 percent of the time—more than any other justice. At the end of the term, one could detect some relief among left-leaning commentators that the much-feared conservative bloc hadn’t voted together more consistently.
But there was one area in which the new conservative majority displayed almost lockstep unanimity. Of the 68 cases decided last term, 10 were resolved on 6-3 conservative-progressive splits; an additional one was by a similar 5-3 vote, with Justice Amy Coney Barrett not participating. More than half of these split decisions involved imprisonment, detention or deportation. It turns out the one area where the conservative justices agreed this term was on siding with the government against incarcerated people or immigrants.
While divisions on the Court are common, cleanly ideological breaks are less so. Justice Stephen Breyer explained it this way in a June 2021 podcast for the non-partisan National Constitution Center: “I mean, we agree almost half the time, we’re unanimous.” And, he continued, “the five-fours are about, I don’t know, 20 percent, 25 percent, 15 percent depending on the year. And it’s not the same five and the same four.” That’s what makes the cases involving the rights of criminal defendants and immigrants this term so notable: The split was often the same six and the same three, a detail that offers some insight into one aspect of the Court’s developing identity.
Read the story on Politico
October 14 at 12PM PST. Register here >