When ‘Going Outside Is Prison’: The World of American Hikikomori

A still from Welcome to the N.H.K.
Photo: ADV Films

Luca lives with his parents outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, though he might as well live anywhere. That’s because the only times the 21-year-old leaves his room is to buy Camels, which he smokes in his garage. Mostly he spends his time in his room posting on Reddit, gaming, and watching anime. He sleeps all day, wakes up at six in the evening, and pops Benadryl around nine in the morning so he can go back to sleep. He’s been reliving the same exact day — almost every day — for close to a decade.

All of this, he told me over Reddit DMs, started at age 12. He’d get so anxious in class that he’d forget how to swallow, so his mom let him take online classes instead. Eventually he dropped out of online high school, too. At 15, he discovered Welcome to the N.H.K. — an anime about a broadcasting company’s conspiracy to manufacture a generation of shut-ins — which provided Luca with a term that he felt gave a philosophical justification for the way he lives his life. “Instead of the world telling me to go to school and get a job, I quit school and decided to go on a personal rebellion,” he told me. “I learned of the term hikikomori and realized that was me and that was what I am.”

In 1978, a researcher named Yoshimi Kasahara first described cases of ordinary Japanese people with an anxiety so extreme that they were shutting themselves in their rooms. It was unclear why these patients were exhibiting what he called “withdrawal neurosis” at the time, and we’re not really much closer to untangling whatever biological or social conditions (higher levels of uric acid?) that might cause what the Japanese have called hikikomori, which translates to something like “pulling inward,” since the late ’80s or so. Some hikikomori — which is used as both a noun and an adjective, like alcoholic — seemed to be reacting to the expectation that they would enter into a single job and remain there until retirement. Unable or unwilling to cope with what’s known as salaryman culture, they avoided society entirely.

By 2003, there were enough people who could be diagnosed with the condition that the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare published a 141-page white paper defining the term. According to the official governmental report, hikikomori show no interest in personal development or friendship for more than six months but don’t meet the criteria of schizophrenia or “other mental disorders.” In 2016, a government survey found evidence of 541,000 hikikomori living in a country of 127 million people.

For years, hikikomori was thought to be a “culture-bound syndrome” — something so specifically Japanese that it could never appear beyond its borders. That concept has since fallen out of favor, and now one researcher named Alan Teo believes that something similar is cropping up in the States — that American hikikomori now comprise a distinct, socially challenged subset of the people not in education, employment, or training (often called NEETs). Teo first learned about hikikomori while studying in Kyoto, and when he eventually started his practice in the Bay Area, he began translating literature about the concept into English. In 2010, he was contacted by the mother of a 30-year-old man he calls “Mr. H.” She was seeking help for her anime-loving son, who had come across one of Teo’s translations and diagnosed himself. Teo encouraged Mr. H. to come by his office at the University of California in San Francisco for treatment, despite the fact that would mean stepping outside for the first time in three years.

Mr. H. wore a leather jacket that reeked of cigarette smoke, had mangy hair, didn’t shower, and had long fingernails. “During the first and most severe year, he remained within a walk-in closet, ate only-ready-to-eat food, did not bathe, and urinated and defecated in jars and bottles,” Teo would later write in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry. “He passed the time surfing the internet and playing video games.” Tests run on Mr. H showed seemingly conflicting results. While he exhibited traits consistent with obsessive compulsive and schizoid personality disorders, various scales and inventories concluded he had neither. Mr. H. claimed his reclusiveness was based on something pretty simple: He just didn’t want to be a part of the world, which is both what hikikomori in Japan had long said and basically what Luca told me.

“We have a large number of people [in the United States] in their early 20s living in the basement bedroom,” Teo told me. “Often times it is younger men. Struggling with work. Struggling with launching. There is some element of still being stuck in an earlier developmental stage, like that of an adolescent, even though their physical age is that of an adult.”

Statistics certainly suggest that there’s an underemployment crisis among young people in the United States: The Economic Policy Institute put that rate among recent college graduates at 12.6 percent. Some researchers have suggested that recreational computer use — including increasingly life-consuming video games — accounts for somewhere between 23 and 46 percent of the decrease in young men’s participation in the labor force. (Others regard that finding with skepticism.) One could convincingly argue that NEETdom is a logical response to the fact that the average college graduate in 2016 came out of school about $37,172 in debt — something that may be impossible to pay off with menial labor at, say, a local fast-food place. If you’re slated for a life of crippling debt, and you can get all of your social needs met online, then why even bother working? For his part, Luca thinks: “I refuse to work for $8 at Taco Bell and be another’s lackey when I am my own god.”

According to a 2015 Pew study, about 10 million NEETs exist in the United States, though statistics break down when you try to get much more granular than that in terms of maladjusted men — Carnegie Mellon University professor Simon DeDeo did some back-of-the-napkin math using U.S. census data to put the number of incels (the self-chosen name for “involuntary celibates,” young misogynists who gather online to commiserate at their lack of romantic or sexual attachment) at an estimated 700,000. Teo can’t come up with a number of how many hikikomori there might be in the United States, though he’s personally assessed ten Americans he believes suffer from it as part of his formal research and says that he hears from someone “almost like clockwork every month” who is concerned that they or their family member fits the definition.

Meanwhile, anecdotal evidence that people are, at least, choosing to identify as hikikomori abounds online. There are, for instance, subreddits, such as r/hikikomori, where roughly 2,000 people gather to discuss anime and gaming, as well as ways to obtain money from the government without leaving their rooms. YouTube videos with names like Top 10 Ways to Make Money as a Hikikomori rack up comments, and sections of 4chan, such as R9K, are notorious posting grounds for English-speaking, anime-obsessed, socially incompetent NEETS.

It’s difficult to medically classify hikikomori — though it’s not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual — it’s probably best to think about it as a folk illness like evil eye. After all, hikikomori definitionally can’t exist in everywhere: An illness that causes you to lock yourself in your own bedroom makes sense in Japan or America — or even a developing nation like Oman, where there’s been at least one documented case — but it’s much harder to imagine it happening to many people in, say, certain nomadic areas of Mongolia where people live in communal tents.

However, given that the norms and idioms of a particular culture influence how people describe their symptoms, it’s worth considering how noncommunicable diseases can be spread on the internet and whether or not what scientists now call a “cultural syndrome” as opposed to a “culture-bound syndrome” can even exist in the age of Reddit. Prior to the invention of the internet, it’s unclear how a kid in North Carolina like Luca would have even stumbled across that anime he was telling me about — Welcome to the N.H.K., about the heroic NEET. He definitely wouldn’t have found a community of other angsty teens who decided their unhealthy habits made them part of a subculture. Mr. H. wouldn’t have found Teo, and I wouldn’t have found Alvin, who lives with his mother in Flushing, Queens.

When it came time to apply for college, Alvin got so anxious that he would hide in the bathroom during class. He hasn’t left his home, which his mother bought with family money, since dropping out about four years ago. Like Luca, the 22-year-old discovered a term online that he felt explained the condition he felt he’d been suffering from since birth. “I pretty much fit right into that name, so I have called myself a hikikomori ever since,” he told me over Reddit when we first started messaging back in July.

That summer, his goal was to drive for Uber, because it would allow him to take breaks whenever he wanted. But after seven months of being unable to leave the house, he instead ending up taking his own taxi to the emergency room. Alvin went to a psychiatric hospital, and then to an outpatient program where he was eventually assigned a social worker. She wanted to get him gainful employment, as well as the wherewithal to accomplish some simple goals, such as checking out Hudson Yards and maybe a few museums.

When I checked in with Alvin six months later, he told me about an ill-fated job with Target. There have been some slight wins: He’ll leave the house solely to go grocery shopping or to work out at his local YMCA, though only for those reasons, and he still considers himself hikikomori. It’s unclear if he’ll slide back to where he was when we met online. After all, despite the fact that throughout course of about 25 counseling sessions, Mr. H. was deemed in remission and ended up getting a part-time job, Teo told me he since relapsed. For his part, Luca says he gave the world one last chance after meeting a girl on Twitter a few years back, though decided to never leave the house again after she broke his heart.

No matter what they call themselves, or why they decide to shut themselves away from the world, a generation’s worth of extreme shut-ins would potentially portend disaster for the American economy. The so-called “2030 problem” in Japan refers to the approximate point at which many parents of the first generation of hikikomori will hit their 60s. What social safety net could the government realistically provide for people who haven’t gone outside — nevermind worked — for decades? As of last year, Japan was funding more than 50 community support centers for hikikomori. Meanwhile, Americans are newly obsessed with unproductive young men, though there hasn’t been much research on how to help them. Teo’s spent the years since those first sessions with Mr. H in search of a definition of hikikomori that’s consistent across cultures. In October 2018, he published a 25-item questionnaire that asked participants to what degree they related to statements such as, “People bother me” and “There really is not anyone very significant in my life.” The ensuing data showed “robust psychometric properties and diagnostic accuracy” among an initial sample of about 400 Japanese adults. He’s hoping he can at least help other clinicians start to think about these issues.

In the meantime, Luca survives off the disability checks his mother — also a “home-staying person” — receives. He hopes that government will develop a treatment plan for American hikikomori as well as social programs to help support them as they transition into the working world. But for now he says that the only things he misses about normalcy is being able to buy his own cigarettes and the panoply of lottery tickets he used to stare at while the cashier rang up his smokes. He’s desperate for companionship, but he says he would rather die homeless than end up serving hamburgers. It’s better, he thinks, to spend his nights surfing Reddit in a Benadryl haze.

“There’s no asshole boss in my room standing at my door going, ‘Wash those walls for six hours, then you can take 15 minute break by laying in your bed,’” he told me. “It’s the opposite of a prison. It is freedom. There’s no one in here but me. I can do whatever, whenever. Going outside is a prison. But this room — this room is clarity.”​

The World of American Hikikomori

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eyes on the prize

eyes on the prize

White House Asked Japan for Trump’s Nobel Peace Prize Nomination

By Chas Danner

But what did Japan get in return for the typically anonymous honor, and was it the only country to receive the request?

Japan’s prime minister nominated Trump for a Nobel Peace Prize at White House’s request

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe nominated U.S. President Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize last autumn after receiving a request from the U.S. government to do so, the Asahi newspaper reported on Sunday.

The report follows Trump’s claim on Friday that Abe had nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize for opening talks and easing tensions with North Korea. The Japanese leader had given him “the most beautiful copy” of a five-page nomination letter, Trump said at a White House news conference.

The U.S. government had sounded Abe out over the Noble Peace Prize nomination after Trump’s summit in June last year with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the first meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting U.S. president, the Asahi said, citing an unnamed Japanese government source.

immigration

Unauthorized Nanny Grounds Nauert’s U.N. Ambassadorship

By Chas Danner

Maybe ICE should raid the White House.

Anthony Weiner is no longer in prison, but will need to register as a sex offender

Convicted ex-congressman Anthony Weiner has been sprung from prison — and is now part of a federal re-entry program in New York, records show. Weiner has been transferred from Federal Medical Center in Devens, Mass. where he served a bulk of his 21-month sentence for sexting a 15-year-old girl from North Carolina, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons records.

The 54-year-old is now being supervised by the federal Residential Reentry Management, which has a field office in Sunset Park and operates multiples facilities, the records say. He is either in a halfway house or in home confinement, TMZ reported. It’s not clear when the transfer took place. Weiner is set to be released from federal custody on May 14, thanks to good conduct behind bars that shaved about three months off his sentence.

Vetting a new contender in Mason City

Photo: Guests listen as U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) speaks during a campaign stop at Lorados on Saturday in Mason City, Iowa. The stop was her first in the state as a presidential candidate seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Meanwhile, in real national emergencies…

Student-loan delinquencies surged last year, hitting consecutive records of $166.3 billion in the third quarter and $166.4 billion in the fourth. Bloomberg calculated the dollar amounts from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s quarterly household-debt report, which includes only the total owed and the percentage delinquent at least 90 days or in default.

That percentage has remained around 11 percent since mid-2012, but the total increased to a record $1.46 trillion by December 2018, and unpaid student debt also rose to the highest ever.

Delinquencies continued to climb even as the unemployment rate fell below 4 percent, suggesting the strong U.S. job market hasn’t generated enough wage growth to help some people manage their outstanding obligations.

And if that’s not enough, maybe Mitch McConnell can find some wall money at all those overfunded schools at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina

Face the Nation anchor Margaret Brennan, on Sunday: The president just declared a national emergency in regard to getting the funds for his border wall. In terms of getting those funds though through this emergency action and there’s about three point six billion of it that could come from military construction efforts, including construction of a middle school in Kentucky, housing for military families, improvements for bases like Camp Pendleton and Hanscom Air Force Base. Aren’t you concerned that some of these projects that were part of legislation that you helped approve and Congress are now going to possibly be cut out?

Senator Lindsey Graham: Well the president will have to make a decision where to get the money. Let’s just say for a moment that he took some money out of the military construction budget. I would say it’s better for the middle school kids in Kentucky to have a secure border. We’ll get them the school they need. But right now we’ve got a national emergency on our hands.

A record number of women running for president will provide a record number of chances to avoid sexism in how they and their campaigns are covered

“There is a narrow universe of acceptable behavior for women,” explained [media consultant] Heidi Moore[.]

In politics — as in so many other spheres — women get bashed far more than their male counterparts for personality quirks, vulnerabilities and actions of all sorts. Not to mention their appearance and speaking voices. Think of how far a female candidate would get if she came off like the rumpled and ranting Bernie Sanders.

“We see in coverage of women lawmakers that even minor flaws are treated as disqualifying,” Moore told me, “while men’s flaws get brief attention but are glossed over as a case of ‘nobody’s perfect.’ ” …

Society and journalism conspire, Moore noted, creating an unfair standard: “While men get to be flawed and human and complex, women are mostly allowed to audition only for pedestals, for sainthood, for absolute purity.”

So far, no one in this field looks like a candidate for sainthood. And if such a woman could be found, surely her unbearable piety would disqualify her immediately.

Margaret Sullivan

Washington Post media columnist

Be it business or politics, this emperor has never been wearing clothes

It was inevitable that Trump would refuse to be stymied by Congress, and that he would take a victory lap regardless of what happened in the real world. In that context, his border-wall machinations are only partially about appeasing conservative pundits or his political base; for the most part, they’re about appeasing his sense of himself. He’s been doing this sort of thing his entire life: Spinning victory yarns from incontrovertible losses was a hallmark of his troubled business career.

Timothy L. O’Brien

Trump biographer, at Bloomberg, on the president’s fake national emergency

Trump’s DC hotel continues to be a monument to emolument

Former [Maine] Gov. Paul LePage and his staff members paid for more than 40 rooms at Washington, D.C.’s Trump International Hotel during a two-year period, spending at least $22,000 in Maine taxpayer money at a business owned by the president’s family.

Documents recently obtained by the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram show that the LePage administration paid anywhere from $362 to more than $1,100 a night for rooms at the luxury hotel during trips to meet with President Trump or his inner circle, attend White House events or talk to members of Congress. Receipts from those dozen trips also show the Republican governor or his administration spending hundreds of dollars on filet mignon or other expensive menu items at the restaurant in the Trump hotel. Those expenditures are likely to draw additional scrutiny from attorneys who have cited LePage’s previously disclosed stays at the D.C. hotel in a federal lawsuit alleging the president is improperly profiting from the business.

The spending levels at the Trump hotel were so high that they were flagged by a worker in the state controller’s office, who sought guidance on state regulations for reimbursing such expenditures. …

While LePage stayed at multiple D.C.-area hotels during the two-year period, receipts and out-of-state travel authorization forms show the governor and senior staffers returned to Trump International again and again. And during most trips where they stayed at the Trump hotel, LePage or administration members expected to have some interaction with the president or his Cabinet.

Stephen Miller had a little trouble faking the national emergency on Fox News Sunday (thanks to some aggressive disbelief from a well-prepared Chris Wallace)

On this week’s Fox News Sunday, Wallace was all over Miller, challenging him to provide some explanation for how Trump’s national emergency is a national emergency, when Trump himself essentially admitted it wasn’t a national emergency. And when Miller tried to fend off the questions with talking points, Wallace peppered him with followups. But Miller had an especially tough time getting around one line of questioning.

Wallace began by schooling Miller on the U.S. Constitution, telling him “I know that you are a constitutional conservative, and you believe that the constitution should be interpreted as written,” then proceeding to read to him from the Constitution. “Article 1 section 9 clause 7 of The Constitution, as written, ‘No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law,’” he read.

“Isn’t what President Trump want to do a clear violation of what the founders, what James Madison talked about, was giving Congress the power of the purse?” Wallace asked.

Miller countered by citing the National Emergencies Act, which actually doesn’t overrule the constitution. Wallace interrupted him. “But let’s talk about national emergency, national emergencies have been declared 59 times since 1976 when the law was passed, the National Emergencies Act,” Wallace said. “Can you point to a single instance, even one, where the president asked Congress for money, Congress refused to give him that money, and the president then invoked national emergency powers to get the money?”

He couldn’t. Full video here.

Mediaite

(coverage of Fox News Sunday)

Mueller subpoenaed Cambridge Analytica director

A director of the controversial data company Cambridge Analytica, who appeared with Arron Banks at the launch of the Leave.EU campaign, has been subpoenaed by the US investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government.

A spokesman for Brittany Kaiser, former business development director for Cambridge Analytica – which collapsed after the Observer revealed details of its misuse of Facebook data – confirmed that she had been subpoenaed by special counsel Robert Mueller, and was cooperating fully with his investigation. He added that she was assisting other US congressional and legal investigations into the company’s activities and had voluntarily turned over documents and data.

Kaiser, who gave evidence to the UK parliament last April in which she claimed Cambridge Analytica had carried out in-depth work for Leave.EU, is the second individual connected to the firm subpoenaed by the special counsel. The Electoral Commission has said its investigation into Leave.EU found no evidence that the campaign “received donations or paid for services from Cambridge Analytica …beyond initial scoping work”.

meet the neets

When ‘Going Outside Is Prison’: The World of American Hikikomori

By Allie Conti

The infamous shut-in syndrome, first identified in Japan, may be catching on in the U.S.


crime

Jussie Smollett Being Investigated As ‘Active Participant’ in His Own Attack

By Bethy Squires

Police confirm the focus of the investigation has shifted.

Heather Nauert won’t be Trump’s new UN ambassador

BREAKING scoop: Heather Nauert withdrawn from consideration for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. Heather Nauert’s nomination began to falter after the White House was alerted that a problem had cropped up in her background check —Trump’s pick for UN ambassador had employed a nanny who was in US legally but didn’t have a US work permit, sources tell me and Nicholas Wadhams.

Jennifer Jacobs

Bloomberg

Now CNN is reporting that Empire actor Jussie Smollett may have faked his own attack, according to new evidence

Two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation told CNN that Chicago Police believe Jussie Smollett paid two men to orchestrate the assault.

The brothers, who were arrested Wednesday, were released without charges Friday after Chicago police cited the discovery of “new evidence.” The sources told CNN that the two men are now cooperating fully with law enforcement.

Smollett told authorities he was attacked early January 29 by two men who were “yelling out racial and homophobic slurs.” He said one attacker put a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical substance on him.

CNN

The story is developing

The women using Facebook groups to expose government goons in Sudan

Women in Sudan are using private Facebook groups created to creep on crushes to dox state security officers brutalizing demonstrators during huge anti-government protests sweeping the country. When security agents and police abusing their power have had their identities exposed, they have been hounded by people in their own neighborhoods, beaten up, and sometimes even chased out of town.

The groups — only accessible via a virtual private network (VPN) after the government blocked social media — are part of the response to a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests that have swept the country since December. They are the largest ever against the regime of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who took office in 1989 and whom protesters accuse of enforcing oppressive laws and wrecking the economy. At least 57 people have been killed in the protests, and countless others have been shot at, teargassedhad their hair cut off by officers, and tortured.

Sudan’s morality laws prevent women from gathering in public; dictate the clothes they wear; and authorize the use of corporal punishment, like lashing and stoning, if they violate or criticize the rules. As a result, private Facebook groups have become a popular way for millions of Sudanese women to safely communicate with one another.

Bernie 2020 nears

Bernie Sanders, inching closer to a second bid for the White House, has recorded a campaign video in which he says he is running for president in 2020, according to two people familiar with the spot. It’s the latest sign the independent senator, the runner-up in the 2016 contest for the Democratic nomination, is nearing a presidential announcement.

Another hint that Sanders is getting closer to a launch: As POLITICO reported this week, the Sanders team has been interviewing people for top staff positions. Chuck Rocha, a political consultant who advised Sanders’ 2016 campaign, is expected to join him again if a second bid materializes.

It is unclear when, or even whether, the Sanders video will be released. It’s possible that Sanders could launch a 2020 campaign with an exploratory committee and then formally declare his candidacy later, a route other presidential candidates, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have taken.

A swing-state swing toward renewables

Ohio’s political conservatives strongly favor renewable energy over coal and especially over nuclear power, a new poll commissioned by the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum has found.

“Conservatives in Ohio are strong supporters of renewable energy, with a clear majority, 70 percent, wanting 50 percent or more of their energy to come from renewable sources,” concluded Jim Hobart, a partner at Public Opinion Strategies, a national polling firm which does research for Republican candidates. The poll was the third such survey Public Opinion Strategies had done for the the Ohio Conservative Energy Forum. It found growing support for clean energy. And a willingness to pay extra for it.

Conservative Ohio voters “also view renewable energy as a job creator in the state, with low-income conservatives and conservative men being especially likely to say that the increased use of renewables would create jobs in Ohio,” Hobart’s summary of findings points out.

Too black, or not black enough — Kamala Harris is facing the same impossible standard that Obama did

Harris should be questioned about her record as a senator and an attorney general, and her tenure as San Francisco’s district attorney, but too much of the conversation about her is instead dominated by insecurities that have nothing to do with determining whether she would be a good president.

The economist and author Boyce Watkins, who is black, tweeted, “If #KamalaHarris went to an #HBCU, what do you think led her to marry a white man?” Harris had to address this in her [recent] Breakfast Club interview. She said she’s married to her white husband because she loves him. Imagine that.

In a nod to the racist birther conspiracy that enveloped President Barack Obama, a tweet claiming that Harris wasn’t eligible to run for president because of her immigrant parents went viral. It has been repeated as fact so often that Harris is now forced to explain her ethnic background.

Was nothing learned from Obama’s run for president? He faced the same inane, pointless questions about his mixed-race identity as Harris. Just like Obama, Harris has exposed narrow-minded views of blackness with her presidential run. Harris is a multiracial woman who was born in Oakland, went to high school in Montreal, and worshipped with both Hindus and Baptists. She’s a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, and yet, by her account, knows how to make an incredible Bolognese and a mean pot of collard greens. If the criterion for running for president is being authentically American, people have to accept that this is what that looks like.

Jemele Hill

The Atlantic

And even when existing gun control laws should help prevent a tragedy…

Aurora shooter Gary Martin had his gun license strip after a felony conviction was discovered when he applied for a concealed carry card. He lost his card but still kept his gun. And that gun was used to kill 5 people and wound 5 police officers Friday. Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said authorities are now investigating which law-enforcement agency was responsible for following up with Martin after he lost his license and why he still had a gun five years later. The criminal background check done when Martin applied for his gun license did not find his felony conviction. It wasn’t until he was fingerprinted for the concealed carry card that it popped up in his background.

Stacy St. Clair

Chicago Tribune reporter, via Twitter

President Trump will spend Saturday monitoring the national emergency from his golf club

Photo: President Donald Trump seen departing his Mar-a-lago vacation resort in Palm Beach, Florida on Saturday to travel to the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Inmates reportedly faced reprisals at federal prison in Brooklyn after protesting against lack of heat

Jordan remembers jolting awake in his cell at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, New York, in the early-morning hours of Saturday, February 2. He had been hit with pepper spray to the face. Jordan, who The Intercept is identifying by a pseudonym, said guards sprayed and shackled him and his cellmate, then led them, partially blinded, to a shower area to rinse off. Next, he spent several hours in a “freezing” unit wearing only boxers and a T-shirt, before being transferred to solitary confinement. …

Accounts from incarcerated people, their family members, and lawyers sketch a picture of widespread protests at the Sunset Park detention facility. People across multiple housing units undertook coordinated acts of nonviolent disobedience and at least three hunger strikes. Retaliation by Metropolitan Detention Center staff ranged from pepper spray and solitary confinement to shutting off toilets across entire units. All told, men on at least four housing units inside the jail say they took part in some sort of collective protest of their conditions. In each instance, they say their actions were met with official retaliation.

Despite making $11.2 billion in profits last year, Amazon once again paid no federal taxes — because this is America

Amazon, the e-commerce giant helmed by the world’s richest man, paid no federal taxes on profit of $11.2 billion last year, according to an analysis of the company’s corporate filings by the Institute for Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), a progressive think tank. Thanks to a variety of tax credits and a significant tax break available on pay handed out in the form of company stock, Amazon actually received a federal tax rebate of $129 million last year, giving it an effective federal tax rate of roughly -1 percent.

It is the second year in a row the company has enjoyed a negative federal tax rate on a multibillion dollar profit. That would place the company’s effective federal tax rate below the rate paid by the poorest 20 percent of American households, which had an effective federal tax rate of 1.5 percent in 2015, according to the Tax Policy Center. …

Like many other large companies, Amazon reduces its effective tax rate each year using a variety of credits, rebates and loopholes. For Amazon, the most lucrative of those was a tax break for pay given out in the form of stock options, which allowed the company to shave roughly $1 billion off its 2018 tax bill, [ITEP senior fellow Matthew Gardner] said. That would represent nearly half of the total federal tax bill levied on the company’s profit of $11.2 billion, he said.

Previous ITEP analysis has shown that between 2008 and 2015, profitable Fortune 500 companies paid an average effective federal tax rate of 21.2 percent, well under the statutory 35 percent rate in effect in that period. One hundred of the companies had paid zero or negative tax in at least one profitable year, and 58 of them had multiple zero-tax years while being profitable.

As expected, House Democrats are pursuing details about Trump’s private Putin meetings

House Democrats are taking their first real steps to force President Donald Trump to divulge information about his private conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, setting up an extraordinary clash with the White House over Congress’ oversight authority.

Rep. Adam Schiff, the Intelligence Committee chairman, and Rep. Eliot Engel, the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, told POLITICO they are actively consulting with House General Counsel Douglas Letter about the best way to legally compel the Trump administration to turn over documents or other information related to the president’s one-on-one discussions with the Russian leader.

“I had a meeting with the general counsel to discuss this and determine the best way to find out what took place in those private meetings — whether it’s by seeking the interpreter’s testimony, the interpreter’s notes, or other means,” Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a brief interview.It’s a development that indicates Schiff and Engel are close to taking action on the matter; key members of the majority party often consult with the chamber’s general counsel on issues that could end up playing out in court. Democrats want to ensure that they are on the strongest possible legal ground because they anticipate the Trump administration will mount spirited challenges.

More details on the deadly mass shooting at an Aurora, Illinois workplace on Friday

A 15-year veteran of a manufacturing business who was being terminated opened fire inside the company’s Aurora plant Friday afternoon, killing five people and wounding five police officers who responded to the scene, police said.

Authorities said the gunman, 45-year-old Gary Martin, of Aurora, was also killed in the shootout at Henry Pratt Co., a manufacturer of industrial valves. The names of the victims were not released Friday evening. A sixth officer suffered a knee injury. It wasn’t clear how he was injured, but he wasn’t shot.

On Saturday morning, authorities announced that the shooter had numerous prior arrests for traffic violations and domestic violence. They also released the names of the victims:

Clayton Parks, of Elgin Illinois. Mr. Parks was the Human Resources Manager at Henry Pratt.

Trevor Wehner, of Dekalb, Illinois. Mr. Wehner was a Human Resources Intern at Henry Pratt and a student at Northern Illinois University.

Russell Beyer, of Yorkville, Illinois. Mr. Beyer was a Mold Operator at Henry Pratt.

Vicente Juarez of Oswego, Illinois. Mr. Juarez was a Stock Room Attendant and Fork Lift Operator at Henry Pratt.

Josh Pinkard, of Oswego, Illinois. Mr. Pinkard was the Plant Manager for Henry Pratt.

Another shooting victim, a male employee of Henry Pratt, was treated at an area hospital for non-life-threatening gunshot wounds sustained during the shooting incident.

A big step closer to legal weed in New Jersey

Gov. Phil Murphy and state legislative leaders have reached a deal in principle on how to tax and regulate marijuana in New Jersey after months of negotiations, paving the way to bringing legal weed to the Garden State.

Multiple legislative and industry sources confirmed an agreement was in place on a bill that would tax marijuana by the ounce, rather than the contentious sales tax that had divided Murphy and state Senate President Stephen Sweeney. Those sources requested anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the deal.

State Sen. Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, the prime sponsor of the legalization bill, refused to reveal any of the details of the negotiation. But he said they were as close as they had ever been in reaching an agreement. … The final bill would also address clearing marijuana convictions from criminal records — expungements. That’s a key component to the effort to legalize marijuana. Legislators have been crafting a new expungement bill that could be introduced as early as next week.

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