NYMHM for 19 May 2019

In addition to offering opportunities to act or comment on items in the news, News You May Have Missed has added a new section on art projects around topics in the news. Thanks to Melissa for seeing that resistance is sustained by art and for bringing these events to our page.


1. Missing and murdered Indigenous women

According to the National Institute of Justice, four out of five American Indigenous women and men have suffered violence in their lifetimes. Indigenous women also experience intimate partner violence, human trafficking and rape at high rates, and the number of murdered and missing Native American women is also significantly under-reported. A 2008 Department of Justice report examined the issue in considerable detail and the National Institute of Justice report came out in 2016. At last, the bipartisan Not Invisible Act (S. 982), introduced by U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Jon Tester (D-MT), would address this crisis in the US. As Senator Murkowski’s website says, the bill would establish “an advisory committee of local, tribal and federal stakeholders to make recommendations to the Department of Interior and Department of Justice on best practices to combat the epidemic of disappearances, homicide, violent crime and trafficking of Native Americans and Alaska Natives.” 

If you want to learn about other pending bills on this subject and contact your senators about them, the information is here.

In process since 2016, Canada’s inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women has finally been completed; the report is due out in June. Profiles of Indigenous Canadian murdered and missing Indigenous women are in this CBC story

2. Detention in Louisiana

Lowering the state’s high incarceration rate was a commitment Louisiana’s Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, made when he was elected. However, once the jails empied out, ICE began detaining immigrants in them. There are fewer immigration attorneys in Lousiana so detainees often have to represent themselves. The few attorneys available work extremely long days. And the judges are more punitive; as Mother Jones reported, “One judge, Agnelis Reese, denied every asylum claim she’d heard between 2014 and 2018…her colleague John Duck denies 83 percent of claims.”

3. Children of LGBT parents described as “out of wedlock”

Another threat on the citizenship front involves gay and lesbian couples with children born via surrogate. One gay couple, Roee and Adiel Kiviti are American citizens, with a two-year-old son, born in Canada using an egg donor and a surrogate, who is also an American citizen. When the family was expanded to include the now-two-month-old Kessem, also born in Canada using an egg donor and surrogate, they were told that because Kessem was “born out of wedlock” she is not eligible for birthright U.S. citizenship. This is in accordance with new State Department policy that says a child born via “assistive reproductive technology” to a U.S. citizen father and an anonymous egg donor does not have a right to birthright citizenship, regardless of that father’s marital status. Roee told the Daily Beast, “This is a very clear attack on families, on American families. Denying American married couples their rights to pass their citizenship, that is flat-out discrimination, and everyone should be concerned about this.”

If you want to speak up about this issue, some suggestions are here.

4. Proposed amendments to anti-abortion law

You won’t have missed the news about the draconian anti-abortion laws being passed in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Alabama, and Missouri. Rewire News has a good explainer on the issues. In Alabama, four amendments were proposed before the anti-women-having-control-over-their-own-bodies-and-lives legislation was passed. One was proposed by State Senator Linda Coleman-Madison and would have required free prenatal and medical care for women in the state who are denied an abortion. State Senator Vivian Davis has three proposed amendments. The first would have expanded Medicaid to provide funding for mothers and young children. The second would have required those who voted for the legislation to pay the legal costs of defending it in court. The third would have outlawed vasectomies. Not surprisingly, none of them passed, but they forced those voting in favor of the legislation to embrace the hypocrisy of their “pro-life” stances.

If you want to thank the legislators who made those proposals, their contact information is here. See this link as well for information about demonstrations planned for May 21.

5. Public Utilities at fault

Electrical transmission lines owned by Pacific Gas & Electric Company were responsible for the Camp Fire last year that destroyed the town of Paradise, California, and killed 85 people, according to a report by The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. PG&E, which has filed for bankruptcy protection, faces multiple lawsuits from people whose lives were destroyed, and may be criminally prosecuted as well. Meanwhile, Geisha Williams, who was PG&E’s CEO during the wildfires, received a salary of 9.3 million during 2018.

In addition, the cause of a hundred-day leak of 100,000 metric tons of methane in Southern California in 2015-2016 that led to mass evacuations and countless illnesses was finally attributed to corrosion of the lining of storage tanks. According to the New York Times, “SoCalGas, the company that owns and operates the natural gas well, did not meaningfully investigate or analyze more than 60 previous leaks at the complex.” 36,000 people are suing SoCalGas.

6. Fracking earthquake country

On May 9, Trump released plans to allow fracking across 725,000 acres of federal land on the coast of California and in the Central Valley, according to the Sacramento Bee. An earlier plan would allow fracking on an additional 1.6 million acres. California sued the Trump administration in January to prevent that plan from going forward. The Center for Biological Diversity says that fracking in these areas would lead to “air pollution, drinking water contamination, risk of induced earthquakes, industrial disturbance, habitat fragmentation, and noise and light pollution.” The organization points out that California is already the third-largest oil producing state and that continuing to develop fossil fuels will contribute to climate change.  

If you’re of a mind to speak up about this issue, Martha has located where to comment.


7. Canada ends “safe country” policy

Canada has quietly ended its policy of subjecting refugees who come from 43 so-called “safe countries,” including the United States, to abbreviated processes and restrictions on work permits; they were also deprived of the right to appeal. The policy was supposedly designed to reduce the backlog in the immigration system; it did not succeed in doing so, according to CTV. In 2015, 16,000 people applied for asylum in Canada; in 2018 55,000 applied. Most of the applicants were young men.


8. Technique to manipulate single atoms has been developed

Individual atoms can be manipulated into place using the electron beam of scanning transmission electron microscope (STEM), which is controlled using magnetic lenses, according to a paper submitted to the journal “Science Advances.” The paper, by a team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Vienna, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and others in China, Denmark and Ecuador, opens the door for truly atomic scale engineering. While individual atoms have been painstakingly put into ordered positions before, scientists used a mechanical method involving the minute tip of a scanning tunneling electron microscope to pick up and drop atoms into place. This new method is completely electronic and uses no mechanical moving parts making it potentially much much faster and more accurate than old methods. Instead of a sort of nano-scale claw machine, this process resembles an expert billiards player who can calculate the exact force and angle to predict precisely where his aimed shots will go across a “table” made of a single atom thick layer of graphene.

9. Trump administration unrolls site to report ‘censorship’ by social media companies

Citing “political bias,” the White House has launched an online form to report social media platforms for what they describe as censorship. The Trump administration alleges that social media companies should “advance FREEDOM OF SPEECH” (their caps) and that “too many” Americans have been suspended or banned for violated terms of service that are apparently not well understood. This comes in the wake of a series of high profile bans of alt-right media personalities from platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, all of whom were wildly outside of the terms of service conditions regarding hate speech, Ars Technica reported. The first amendment of the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech in that the federal government is prohibited from curtailing the free speech rights of Americans; however. as most people are well aware private companies also have  rights and are in no way compelled to allow persons free access to their services to promote views they feel are contrary to their economic interests.


Artists in Response

In Response is a visual resource of artists, cultural organizers and organizations who engage the arts to investigate and amplify issues related to immigration.  While centered in New York, the site lists organizations and resources from around the country.  Well worth investigating!

Commemorating students killed in school violence

A graduating Ohio student has decorated her mortarboard with QR code that leads to a list of students killed in school shooting, with the heading, “I graduated. These high school students couldn’t.” A CNN article includes a link to a printable version of the QR code, in case you know of any students who might want to do the same

Art and the Environmental Crisis

Christie’s Education is putting on a symposium June 11 in New York, asking such questions as:
• How does contemporary art communicate information about global climate change and its consequences?
• How can art assist in decision making about climate change?
• What methods, materials and processes are among those being utilized by artists?
• How does the context in which we encounter this work impact our response to it?
• How do we gauge its effectiveness?

The cost is $125 – 15% discount using the code: SYMPOSIUM19


  • If you want to speak up about gun violence, pregnancy-related deaths among Black women, the “conscience” rule permitting health care providers to refuse to care for LGBTQ+ patients and others–and much more, see Sarah-Hope’s list.
  • The Americans of Conscience list has a list of actions you can take, along with some good news.
  • Martha also has good news: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reversed the Medicare Part D rule which would have permitted plans to exclude protected classes including people with HIV or cancer. Comments can make a difference! To comment on other issues, among them RoundUp, HUD targeting undocumented residents (see our story last week), exposing miners to diesel exhaust, the ACA, elections and voting systems, municipal sewer run-off, and more, see her list.

NYMHM for 12 May 2019

At News You May Have Missed, we are continuing our experiment with integrating action items–as we are able to–with news summaries. We appreciate the meticulous work of Martha and Sarah-Hope who identify each week how we can be useful with regard to the topics we care about. In addition, this week Sarah-Hope has joined us as a writer, bringing her remarkable ability to encapsulate complex issues to writing news summaries.


1. Happy Mother’s Day: Consider 55,000 (more) homeless kids

​As many as 55,000 children could become homeless as a result of a new regulation published by Ben Carson’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Until now, families with mixed-status–that is, families who have one or more undocumented members–could live in public housing as long as the family had one member who was eligible for federal subsidies, Mother Jones explains. Under this new regulation, all members would have to be eligible–so families with children who were citizens and one parent who was undocumented would have to leave their homes.  By HUD’s own calculations, this change will affect 76,000 people; about them, HUD wrote,  “HUD expects the fear of the family being separated would lead to a prompt evacuation by most mixed-status families.”  ​If you would like to comment on this, you can do so here; comments are due July 9. 

2. Happy Mother’s Day #2: Kids at Guantánamo

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is proposing to house separated migrant children at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the Independent reported, though as the New York Times pointed out, the image of housing children next to terrorism suspects has kept the plan from moving forward. Still, because ICE is overwhelmed by immigrants–housing some 50,223 at this writing–the Department of Defense is looking at other military bases where they could be housed. The numbers are due in part to Attorney General Barr’s insistence that migrants seeking asylum be detained until their cases can be heard.

3. The entire ACA at risk

​The entire Affordable Care Act could be struck down if the Trump administration prevails in a federal appeals court. The administration argues that the entire ACA is unconstitutional, a change in from its previous position that only part of it needed to be dismantled. If the court agrees with Trump, 21 million people will lose health insurance (see the story on maternal mortality, below). Many millions more will no longer be protected by its provisions–regarding pre-existing conditions, for example, according to the New York Times

4. Redefining poverty

The Office of Budget and Management is proposing a change in the way the national poverty threshold is calculated. The move would tie poverty measures to the “chained” Consumer Price Index, which minimizes increasing inflation by assuming that, rather than buying products whose costs are increasing at new, higher prices, consumers will move to purchasing less expensive items. As a result, the number of families qualifying for income-based services would grow more slowly than the actual growth in consumer prices, Bloomberg reports. The Obama White House tried a similar move with cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security in2014—a proposal that was abandoned after objections by Congressional Democrats.

If you have an opinion about this issue, you can find out where to write here.

5. Marginalizing US Department of Agriculture scientists

Last August, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue announced plans to move the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)—both agencies that play a key role in developing policy—outside the nation’s capital. While this proposal may sound inconsequential, fifty-six former United States Department of Agriculture and federal statistical agency officials, along with more than 1,100 scientists and economists have objected to this move. The move is apt to spark retirement or resignation of USDA scientists who do not wish to relocate, creating a loss of expertise that will take years to recover, reports farmprogress.com.

Government officials, policy makers, and scientists frequently consult with the ERS and NIFA. These consultations will be more difficult once the offices are relocated, particularly for out-of-area officials, who could formerly have included visits to the ERS and NIFA offices when conducting other business at the capitol. Susan Offutt, an ERS administrator during the Clinton and Bush (W.) administrations, explained “The USDA’s evidence-lite justification for USDA to so radically uproot its world-class research, economics and statistical agencies is the reason the Economic Research Service should be kept in Washington, DC, and in the USDA research arm. We need its objective and respected analysis to support evidence-based policymaking in our $1 trillion food, agriculture and rural economy.”

If you want to object to this move, here’s how to do so.

6. The plots thicken: Bolton and Cambridge Analytica

​Between 2014 and 2017, John Bolton’s Super PAC received $5 million dollars from John Mercer of Cambridge Analytica, according to the Centre for Public Integrity, which has updated its 2018 story. In turn, Bolton gave back $1.1 million to Cambridge Analytica for data on voters. (Cambridge Analytica was the voter-profiling company whose ability to identify particular details about voters and then target them with fake news to shape their choices was instrumental in the 2016 presidential campaign and in the success of Brexit.) The Centre for Public Integrity’s source was Mark Groombridge, an advisor to Bolton.
The PAC, which Bolton says he disbanded in March but which had continued its operations well after Bolton became National Security Advisor April 9, was intended in part to explore Bolton’s nascent presidential ambitions. All in all, it donated some $6 million to right-wing candidates. Bolton’s PAC was made possible by the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court decision that allowed corporations and other entities to donate unlimited sums to political campaigns.

7. Foreign governments renting in Trump Tower

​Seven foreign governments–Iraq, Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Thailand and the European Union–rented condos at Manhattan’s Trump World Tower, according to a Reuters story, possibly violating the emoluments clause; Congress must approve any gifts or payments from foreign governments. Other governments expressed interest in renting, as a Reuters graphic showing the timeline of these arrangements demonstrates.


8. Chinese repression of Uighar Muslims

As trade talks continue (or don’t) between the U.S. and China, one important topic is not on the table: the ongoing Chinese violations of of Uighar Muslims’ human rights. China is currently holding up to one million Uighars in detention camps. The vast Xinjiang region, where the Uighar detentions are occurring has a population of 24 million, almost half of whom are Muslims—and the majority of these are Uighars. The detentions, along with intensive monitoring of Uighars’ daily activities through the use of both cameras and informants are aimed at forcing Uighar abandonment of Islam and of resistance to Chinese rule. The New York Times describes the anti-Uighar programs as “a campaign of breathtaking scale and ferocity that has swept up hundreds of thousands of Chinese Muslims for weeks or months of what critics describe as brainwashing, usually without criminal charges” and noted that this is the country’s most significant internment program since the Mao era. China has called Uighar detention centers “mild corrective institutions” and claims that they provide job training. The Uyghar [sic] Human Rights Policy Act of 2019 (S.178 in the Senate and H.R.649 in the House), which calls for an end to arbitrary, detention, torture, and harassment of Uighar communities remains in committee in both houses of Congress: the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.

If you want to speak up about Chinese Muslims, here’s whom to write.


9. Pregnancy-related deaths high among Black and Indigenous Women

Pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. are two and half to three times higher among Black and Indigenous women than among white women, according to the CDC’s weekly morbility and mortality report. Three out of five deaths were preventable; better health care, stable housing and reliable transportation would reduce the number of deaths, according to the CDC. The US has twice the number of deaths in pregnancy and childbirth compared to Canada and a number of other wealthy nations. Severe bleeding, heart disease and strokes caused most of the deaths; the  American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists  recently acknowledged that racial bias plays in role in maternal deaths, in that symptoms among Black and Indigenous women tend to be discounted, according to the New York Times.

10. Extinctions on the horizon

As many as a million plant and animal species are in danger of extinction, putting the survival of ecosystems and people at risk, the New York Times reports. Various ordinary human activities–from farming to poaching–have led to a 20 per cent decrease of plants and animals in major habitats. Climate change has intensified this process, shrinking the areas in which plants and animals can survive, a process that will result in profound loss of biodiversity. As the summary of the United Nations report puts it, “Climate change is a direct driver that is increasingly exacerbating the impact of other drivers on nature and human well-being.”    We have covered this issue before, but are mentioning it again because the full summary is now available–the 1500 page report will be published later this year.

11. Ancient trees discovered in North Carolina

​The bald cypresses of North Carolina were known to be long-lived—however, how long was a mystery until a recent study published in the journal Environmental Research Communications identified trees exceeding 2000 years in age, with one example recorded at over 2600 years. The trees are located along the Black River in a 16,000 acre preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy of North Carolina and these studies would set them around the third oldest trees with confirmed ages in the world. Old growth forests in the United States are exceedingly rare, with less than 1% of old growth cypress trees still in existence, according to BGR.

12. The US military has drones that fire knife-wielding missiles

​The Wall Street Journal reports that the United States Department of Defense, in collaboration with the Central Intelligence Agency, has created a new version of the Hellfire missile that uses kinetic energy and blades to kill. Developed in response to a mandate by the Obama administration to reduce collateral casualties in drone strikes, the missile instead uses precision guidance, 100 pounds of metal and spring-loaded blades in an attempt to eliminate single targets. The missile, designated R9X, has been used about six times according to the WSJ, with two confirmed strikes against targets in vehicles in which the vehicles did not explode. In the strike against Al Qaeda leader Ahmad Ahasan Abu Kahyr al-Masri in February of 2017 the damage to his Kia was limited to a hole in the roof and a crack in the windshield, according to Ars Technica.


  • Do you have something to say about fracking in California? The destruction of grey wolves? The requirement that asylum seekers pay fees to apply?  If so, Martha can tell you how to weigh in. Here is her list.
  • Sarah-Hope has identified even more action items than we have listed above, from ways to speak up about the dismantling of safeguards around off-shore drilling to subsidies of fossil fuels to Anita Hill’s call for federal protections against sexual harassment. See her list here.

NYMHM for 5 May 2019

News You May Have Missed is integrating some action items into our news summaries. Martha and Sarah-Hope (see the Resources below) do thorough, comprehensive investigations into how people can respond to the many issues in the news–we think it makes sense not only to call your attention to undercovered stories but to give you ways to intervene in them. Feel free to comment on our Facebook page if you have thoughts about this.


1. More attacks on freedom of the press

We’ve reported before on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) keeping a database of journalists and influencers. In further news, Bloomberg Government reports on a DHS FedBizOpps.gov posting (Statement of Work) which describes monitoring the public activities of media professionals and influencers.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has just posted a different kind of database–a heartbreaking list of 1340 journalists killed worldwide since 1992. If you want to work with the database, you can search by gender, country, year, and so forth.

2. Unreliable list of unreliable news sites

The Poytner Institute, ordinarily a very responsible organization which conducts journalism education and analysis, pulled its list of 515 unreliable news sites after a barrage of critique. The list was compiled from “fake news” databases developed by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at University of Southern California, Merrimack University, PolitiFact, Snopes and data designer Chris Herbert, according to the Hill.

In a letter on its website, the editor said that they had decided to pull the site because of “weaknesses” in the methodology. She wrote, “we regret that we failed to ensure that the data was rigorous before publication, and apologize for the  confusion and agitation caused by its publication.”

3. Heath care for LGBTQ+ patients compromised

Health care providers may now refuse to care for LGBTQ patients for reasons of conscience, according to new rules published by Health and Human Services last week. According to PBS, which provides a detailed analysis, the new rule broadens the grounds on which health care workers can opt-out of providing care. They may refuse to see transgender patients, for example, or to address concerns regarding HIV/AIDS.

In addition, health care providers no longer have to refer patients to other practitioners if patients need care to which they object, a measure that will have a particularly serious impact on rural women. The regulations go beyond the provision of services in that they permit workers to opt out for religious reasons from health care research and insurance processing, according to Rewire News. On Thursday, San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sued the Trump administration, saying that “people’s health should not be a political football. The intent of this new rule is clear: it’s to prioritize religious beliefs over patient care, thereby undermining access to contraception, abortion, HIV treatment and a host of other medical service.”

Are you inclined to speak up about this policy? Write the head of Health and Human Services.

4. More severe hardships imposed on asylum seekers

In April, Attorney General William Barr declared that asylum seekers had no right to bail. Now, the ACLU, the American Immigration Council, and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project have sued the Trump administration, insisting that asylum seekers have a right to due process, according to the Associated Press. Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU described the issue this way: “We are talking about people who are fleeing for their lives, seeking safety. And our response is just lock them up.”

In other measures designed to deter asylum-seekers, the Trump administration ordered that they be charged fees for applying for asylum, that anyone crossing the border illegally be denied work permits, and that courts adjudicate asylum requests within 180 days, the Washington Post reported.

If you want to speak up about the treatment of asylum-seekers, some options are here.

5. Child who died in US custody had tumor, authorities claim

On April, 30, Juan De Leon Guiterrez, 16, died in U.S. Government custody at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas. He was taken to a shelter on April 20, when, according to a statement released by Administration for Children and Families spokesperson Evelyn Stauffer, no health problems were observed. The following morning, Guiterrez became visibly ill, with fever and chills, and was taken to a local emergency department for treatment; when his condition did not improve the following day, he was returned to the hospital by ambulance and later transferred to Driscoll, where he spent several days in intensive care, according to USA Today. Authorities claim the teen had a Pott’s tumor, which is a rare complication of sinusitis, according to Applied Radiology. Guiterrez is the third child to die in U.S. custody.

If you want to recommend that the health of asylum-seekers, especially children, be more closely monitored, here are some people to write.

6. Hondurans drown in the Rio Grande

On Thursday, May 2, U.S. border agents recovered the body of a 10-month-old boy, and continued to look for the remains of three other Honduran migrants who are missing, presumed dead after their boat overturned as they tried to cross the Rio Grande late on the evening of Wednesday, May 1. 

7. Indigeous rights to eagle feathers threatened

The Department of the Interior is proposing to permit non-Indigenous people to have access to eagle feathers for religious purposes, according to the Turtletalk blog on Indigenous legal affairs. Under current Fish & Wildlife regulations, designed to preserve eagles, no one may possess eagle feathers except Indigenous people, to whom they are sacred. Indigenous people may receive eagle feathers from the  National Eagle Repository, inherit them, or receive them as gifts.

You can submit a formal comment on this issue here and here.

8. Disaster unrelieved

In March, we noted that the Inspector General of HUD was investigating whether the Trump Administration had blocked disaster relief funding for Puerto Rico. A recent Government Accounting Office report revealed that block grants for several locations hit by hurricanes–Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands–had not been released. Meanwhile, children and adults in these areas are suffering mental health crises, as NPR and The Guardian report.

If you want to recommend that these funds be released, you can find whom to write here.


9. Climate emergency declared in the U.K.

A climate emergency has been declared by Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland; she said she was moved to act by meeting with young climate change protestors. Sturgeon’s government has already banned fracking, according to the BBC, and has committed Scotland to being carbon-neutral by 2050.

Wales, too, has declared a climate emergency following protests; cyclists disrupted traffic by riding slowly through Cardiff. Lesley Griffiths, Minister of Energy, Planning, and Rural Affairs, told the BBC, that “climate change threatens Wales’ health, economy, infrastructure and natural environment.” She added that the Welsh government was committed to establishing a “carbon neutral public sector by 2030.”

In response to pressure from these governments and the action group Extinction Rebellion, the UK government also declared a climate emergency. Though it is not binding on the government, Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said, “We pledge to work as closely as possible with countries that are serious about ending the climate catastrophe and make clear to US President Donald Trump that he cannot ignore international agreements and action on the climate crisis.”

10. Trump vetoes resolution to stop U.S. aid to Saudi war against Yemen.

By the end of this year, a quarter of a million people will have died in the US-assisted Saudi war on Yemen, according to the U.N. Development Report, just released. Conditions there are dire, especially for children, who are dying of famine and lack of water, caught in bombing raids and forced to serve as child soldiers.

In response to the on-going conflict, the U.S. Congress for the first time invoked the War Powers Act, passed in 1973 to prevent presidents from waging war without Congressional approval. The resolution to stop aiding Saudia Arabia passed both houses but was vetoed last week by Trump, Al Jazeera reported. In a 53 to 45 vote, the Senate failed to over-ride the veto, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed. In a statement, Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders, one of the sponsors of the measure, said “The bad news today: we were unable today to override Trump’s veto regarding U.S. intervention in this horrific war in Yemen. The good news: for the first time in 45 years, Congress used the War Powers Act to reassert its constitutional responsibility over the use of armed forces.”

11. Coup in Venezuela fails–for now

In Venezuela, a US-backed coup against the government of  President Nicolás Maduro, a coup led by opposition leader Juan Guaidó has apparently failed. Calling it  “Operation Liberty,” Guaidó admitted on Saturday that the opposition had overestimated support from the military and said that he would take any offer of military support from the US to the national assembly, reported the Washington Post.

The Nation ran an insightful on-the-ground piece demonstrating the ways in which the mainstream media got the story wrong and the very high cost of potential US intervention.

Meanwhile, US sanctions have killed an estimated 40,000 people since 2017,  according to a report economist Jeffrey Sachs has co-authored with Mark Weisbrot, Democracy Now points out. The report, published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research, refers to these deaths–due to lack of food and medicine–as collective punishment.U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden criticized Maduro’s government for “concocting false and outlandish conspiracy theories” about the United States, according to Politico.

Do you want to speak up about Yemen or Venezuela? Find your Senators and Representatives here.


12. Second largest emperor penguin colony all but wiped out

Researchers from the British Antarctic Survey have revealed that the second largest colony of emperor penguins in the world in Antarctica has totally collapsed, as The Hill reports.. Using satellite imagery the colony located at Halley Bay has been observed to be shrinking for several years now, with the last three breeding seasons yielding almost no chicks. The sea ice on which the colony depends during brooding season broke up far earlier than the historic norm, with climate change the likely cause. The small glimmer of hope is that a nearby colony has been seen to be increasing, taking in refugees; however, emperor penguin numbers overall are predicted to crash between 50-70% by the end of the century.

13. Department of Justice to investigate taxpayer-funded carbon capture facility

The Department of Justice has issued a notice to Southern Company that it intends to investigate the Kemper County energy facility in Mississippi regarding the decision to abandon its project to sequester carbon at the power plant. Tax-funded grants of 387 million dollars had been provided to help fund the facility that was intended to use cutting-edge coal gassification and carbon sequestration technology. Instead the company scrapped the project and simply converted the plant to run on cheap natural gas, apparently pocketing the grant money. This failure represents a blow both to any prospect of a resurgence of coal as a viable energy source and industrial CO2 sequestration as a byproduct, according to Ars Technica.


  • Lawfare has a page with just the executive summaries of the Mueller report.
  • Martha has a particularly comprehensive list this week, addressing threats to the ACA, a massive fracking plan in California, changes to groundwater contamination, and much more. She tells you where to submit a federal comment on these and other issues.
  • Sarah-Hope’s full list suggests other issues you may want to address–the House climate change bill, the Trump administration’s resistance to considering rape a weapon of war, gun control, and more.
  • Jen Hofmann’s Americans of Conscience checklist also offers clear, managable actions to take.

NYMHM for 28 April

As always, we focus on news that’s being overwhelmed by the press of events.


1. It gets worse.

The Independent reports that the US is looking at military bases to house migrants, and has even considered Guantanamo Bay (though with no “immediate” plans “because of the optics involved”). The media keeps reporting on a “surge” in immigrants, buying into the Trump administration’s framing of the issue, but any housing difficulties are manufactured by the Trump administration’s resistance to what they dehumanizingly call “catch and release” programs, where immigrants are released while they wait for their legal status to be adjudicated. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) currently imprisons 50,223 migrants, more than the congressionally-mandated limit of 45,274.

In fact, the “surge” is still a historic low: while illegal border crossings are at a decade-long high, they are still less than half the numbers routinely seen from the 1980s into the mid-2000s.

In addition, there’s no immediate shortage of housing: The Guardian reports, there were “nearly 2,000 empty beds in two detention centers last week, with a facility in Dilley, Texas, at 26% capacity and a facility in Berks county, Pennsylvania, at 19% capacity.”

CNN’s Jim Acosta reports, “Family separations are still under discussion inside the WH, I’m told. Stephen Miller is still driving those discussions and Trump remains receptive to the policy, a WH official said.”

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is preparing to expand the military’s role on the southern border, including military lawyers to be detailed to ICE to work on deportation hearings, as well as troops to “hand out snacks and refreshments to migrants in detention, where families often receive items such as cookies, crackers and juice boxes between meals. CBP agents often complain such tasks amount to ‘babysitting’ duties and say their time would be better spent guarding the border.”

The government continues to target immigration activists, attorneys, and journalists, according to the Boston Review, referencing an NBC affiliate report on a leaked Homeland Security database, listing in part attorneys stopped during travel, allegedly in retaliation for work on immigration matters. 

2. Republicans supporting anti-vax & so-called “conscience” movement.

Politico reports that Republicans in Arizona, Colorado, Maine, New Jersey, New York, and Washington are trying to prevent Democrats from limiting vaccination exemptions, and in some states (Mississippi and West Virginia) are even introducing bills to expand exemptions. This despite widespread outbreaks spread at least in part by the anti-vax movement and online medical misinformation.

Apparently Republican resistance to vaccination is tied to abortion. Vice has a well-sourced explainer; yes, laboratory-grown fetal-derived cell lines are involved in the production of some vaccines, but there’s no good alternative for chickenpox, rubella, and hepatitis A, and even the Catholic Church says, “the risk to public health, if one chooses not to vaccinate, outweighs the legitimate concern about the origins of the vaccine.” (We here at NYMHM don’t find those concerns as legitimate as the Catholic Church does: nobody is getting an abortion just to supply a lab with fetal-derived cell lines.)

Additionally, Health & Human Services (HHS) is planning to roll back transgender protections, reports Politico. New rules would eliminate existing protections for transgender patients and allow health care workers to refuse transition-related care, as well as other care (for anybody) based on religious objections, potentially affecting abortion care, contraception, sterilization procedures, advance directives, and vaccinations.

The Center for American Progress points out that HHS’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR)’s new (as of 2018) Conscience and Religious Freedom Division (CRFD) is diverting funds from other civil rights areas:

  • OCR’s Civil Rights Division (CRD) already enforced conscience and religious freedom laws effectively
  • Conscience-related complaints historically average 1.25 per year (not 1.25%, but 1.25 complaints), which increased abruptly after the 2016 election to the still very low number of 34 complaints in slightly over a year (in contrast to, say, the 1,523 cases closed with corrective action).
  • HHS reported a 48% increase in civil rights cases and an 18% increase in health information privacy cases from FY 2016 to FY 2017, but Trump administration’s proposed FY 2020 budget asks for cuts to the Civil Rights Division and the Health Information Privacy Division, and over $1 million in additional funding for the CRFD.

3. States rights for the environment.

A coalition of 21 more-progressive states are working to uphold the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement through the United States Climate Alliance. Also, the Climate Mayors consists of over 400 cities populated by almost 1 in 5 US residents.

Meanwhile, the US Department of Agriculture is requiring that peer-reviewed work include a confusing statement that their work is “preliminary.”

4. Farmers hit hard by tariffs are being devastated by floods.

US farm profits “fell last year to $69.4 billion, half of the $136.1 billion in 2013.” NET Nebraska reports that Midwest “farm bankruptcies jumped 19% last year” and the Rural Response Hotline, which provides mental health and other assistance to farmers and ranchers, “set four new all-time monthly highs for the most new first-time high-stress phone callers.”

PBS reports that the federal government hasn’t begun implementation of the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN), reauthorized in the 2018 farm bill. The FY 2019 budget for the FRSAN was $2 million. A coalition of farm groups including the American Farm Bureau and the National Farmers Union is urging full funding of $10 million for the FRSAN.

5. Thank a Millennial.

The Washington Post reports that new Census Bureau data indicates that 2018 voter turnout was at a 100-year high, and that citizens aged 18-29 went from 20% turnout in 2014 to 36% in 2018, followed by citizens aged 30-44 whose participation rose from 36% in 2014 to 49% in 2018.

6. Airport body scanners discriminating against black hair.

ProPublica reports that full-body scanners are prone to false alarms for thicker hair, resulting in more searches of especially women of color, pointing to a need for more diversity amongst designers of these technologies.


7. UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for concrete commitments to end rape as a weapon of war

TThe Guardian reports that the UN has passed a watered-down version of a resolution to support victims of rape as a weapon of war, because the US threatened to veto if references to “sexual and reproductive health” were retained.

The Trump administration has been opposing UN references to sexual or reproductive health and the word “gender,” not wanting to imply support for abortions or transgender rights respectively.

Also removed from the resolution’s original language: strengthening laws to protect LGBT people targeted in combat, and specific mention of access to safe abortions.

For the first time, the resolution made specific calls for greater support for children born due to rape during conflict, and for their mothers.

8. Could INSTEX be used to circumvent sanctions imposed via SWIFT?

A brief aside about Iran and sanctions, which are being otherwise better-covered by mainstream media than we can manage here: China and Russia have set up an international financial payments system as an alternative to SWIFT, explicitly due to threats of sanctions and tariffs. France, Germany, and the UK have likewise set up INSTEX to “facilitate legitimate trade between European economic operators and Iran and thereby preserve the Iran Nuclear Deal.”

9. Update on Haiti

We’ve reported before on the causes of the February riots in Haiti stemming from government corruption. Now the Jamaica Observer reports that Judge Brédy Fabien has cleared President Jovenel Moise of involvement in money laundering for lack of evidence. The country has a new prime minister, Jean-Michel Lapin, as of March 21. Gang violence continues. The Miami Herald reports the UN is due to remove peacekeepers on October 15, 2019, leaving only a special political mission, though elections are expected around that time. The US State Department has a Level 4: Do Not Travel advisory in place for Haiti.


10. Ocean winds and waves increasing

A 33-year study at University of Melbourne shows that the world’s oceans are getting stormier. Extreme winds in the Southern Ocean have increased by 8% over the past 30 years, and extreme waves by 5%. Combined with sea level rise, storm surges and coastal flooding will become more serious.

11. Fracking linked to earthquakes

Small earthquakes in Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia can be linked to hydraulic fracturing wells in those regions, according to researchers speaking at the Seismological Society of America annual meeting, due to “injection of wastewater produced by extraction back into rock layers, which increases pore pressure within rocks and can affect stress along faults in layers selected for disposal.”


  • Postcards to Voters is writing for a Congressional special election: Marc Friedenberg in PA.
  • Andrea Chalupa and Sarah Kendzior have posted free access to their Gaslit Nation podcast Mueller Report Special, Part 1 as well as a Gaslit Nation Action Guide.
  • If you’d ​like to take an important action but not drown in an issue or a project, take a look at Martha and Sarah-Hope’s lists. Martha vets the opportunities for public comments and highlights the most pressing. Among the issues this week that would warrant your attention is a proposal around election security and another that would permit Hilcorp Alaska to allow marine mammals to be harmed in its search for oil and gas. Still others would weaken groundwater standards and allow importing “trophies” of endangered species, a​s well as ​allowing private donors to contribute to gov’t employees legal expenses​: who benefits, would you guess? ​ 
  • ​Sarah-Hope suggests that you take a stand against the “icebox” detention centers which are so crowded that detainees can neither sit nor lie down. She also thinks you might have something to say about the Trump administrations’s plan to open the California Coast to oil and gas drilling or about mass executions in Saudi Arabia. She offers summaries of numerous issues and people to write to.​

NYMHM for 21 Apr 2019

The Mueller report: news you haven’t missed

That the Mueller report—at least the redacted version—did not ultimately conclude that the Trump administration obstructed justice—but that it identified numerous occasions on which they tried to do so—is not news you will have missed. Similarly, that the Trump campaign welcomed the involvement of Russian interests  but not in a way that is (as yet) indictable is clear, despite Trump’s loud efforts to spin the report otherwise. Reprising this territory is likely not useful to you. For the most important takeaways, see the New York Times piece that lists seven of them. Still, we’ll point out a few less visible points worth noting.


1. Mueller: Sanders used by Russians to defeat Clinton

Even before the Mueller report was released, researchers for the Washington Post identified a massive effort by Russians to use Bernie Sanders to target Clinton. They found 9,000 tweets coming from Russia which had been widely recirculated, tweets that referred to Sanders and urged people not to vote for Clinton; many thousands of others did not mention Sanders directly but were aimed at Sanders supporters, exhorting them to do anything but vote for Clinton. Fake news stories about Clinton—that she was in poor health, that she had sold weapons to ISIS—also undermined her candidacy. The fact that in 2016 Sanders was used in this way complicates his candidacy in 2020.

2. Mueller: News media did not disseminate fake news

The Mueller report does make it clear that it was not the mainstream media who produced “fake news,” despite many allegations by Trump and his followers. In fact, it was the Trump administration which produced fake news, the Washington Post explains. As has been widely reported, Sarah Sanders was a significant perpetrator of fake news but not the only one; Trump aides knew they were doing so and Trump himself regularly made claims to the media that he must have known were not true.

3. Mueller: Seth Rich did not leak emails

Seth Rich was not the source of leaked emails, the Mueller report confirms, despite WikiLeaks claims that he was. The actual source of the emails WikiLeaks released was Russian hackers, as of course WikiLeaks knew. Rich was a Democratic National Committee employee who was killed in Washington at the age of 27, probably in a burglary; WikiLeaks, Fox News and InfoWars had spun conspiracy theories about the killing and the leaks.

4. Need to know more? Here is a searchable copy

The version of the Mueller report that Attorney General Barr redacted and released was not searchable. Thanks to Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), a searchable PDF is now available.

5. Paramilitaries doing the work of the Border Patrol

The leader of a right-wing paramilitary group, the United Constitutional Patriots, was arrested on April 20, charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The group had been stopping and detaining migrant families crossing the border into New Mexico, actions recorded in a recent video. The ACLU and others claim that the group is working in collaboration with the Border Patrol. The Attorney General for New Mexico released a statement, quoted in the New York Times, that the leader, Larry Mitchell Hopkins, “…is a dangerous felon who should not have weapons around children and families. Today’s arrest by the F.B.I. indicates clearly that the rule of law should be in the hands of trained law enforcement officials, not armed vigilantes.”


6. Catastrophe in Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, nearly 300 people have died and hundreds more have been wounded in a series of coordinated explosions at three hotels and three churches, which were filled for Easter Sunday services. Twenty-four suspects have been arrested but as of Sunday, it was not yet clear what the motive was for the bombings, according to the CBC. Social media sites were temporarily shut down and Easter services halted.

A friend recommends donating to SAMBAL, a children’s educational foundation, which she hopes will intervene in the conditions that produced the bombing.

7. The Troubles continue

Lyra McKee, a journalist covering protests in Derry, was apparently killed by two teenagers aiming for police, the Guardian reported. Her work focused on the costs of violence in Northern Ireland. Her first book, Angels with Blue Faces, is scheduled for publication this summer.

One of her first pieces was on the rise of suicides following the Good Friday peace agreement. Published in the Atlantic, “Suicide Among the Ceasefire Babies” is a stunning article, a mix of personal narrative and reporting in which McKee looks at the role of intergenerational trauma in suicide; the rate has nearly doubled, especially among young people.

Writing in The Independent, her friend Sarah Kay describes her as “a fervent LGBTQ+ activist, a committed writer, an inquisitive journalist and a human rights worker,” as well as the primary caregiver of her mother and as someone who advocated for those who still suffered from the trauma of the Troubles. At a rally in Derry, McKee’s partner Sara said, “This cannot stand. Her legacy will live on in the light that she’s left behind.”

8. Unprecedented order to decolonize

The Chagos Islands, once part of Mauritius, must be immediately “decolonized,” according to a judge at the International Court of Justice, saying that the UK violated an international law which prohibits colonies from being broken up before independence. In the late sixties, the UK leased Diego Garcia, the largest island, to the US, which relocated the local inhabitants to Mauritius and killed their dogs. The Chagossians have been asking to go home ever since; they live in poverty in Mauritius.

Diego Garcia is now a massive military base, central to US military operations in Syria and Iraq; it would be crucial if the US went to war against Iran. It was used as a transit point for “extraordinary renditions” in 2002-2003, when people captured during the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq were imprisoned and tortured, points out Conn Hallinan in Foreign Policy in Focus. The 6,000 surviving Chagossians are not asking for the base to be removed; they are willing to work there or to live on nearby islands. The UN General Assembly will take up the issue next.


9. “Extinction Rebellion” is in action

On April 15, the UK climate group Extinction Rebellion launched its spring protests, blocking major landmarks and roads in central London. Many thousands of people participated, according to the Guardian, demanding that the UK lower carbon emissions to zero by 2025 and develop an emergency plan to address climate and environmental issues.

The group’s protests are timely. Though you wouldn’t know it in southern Canada, March was the second warmest on record. The melt in Greenland has begun a month early, and areas in the arctic were 20 degrees (f) above normal. A very vivid Washington Post piece explains what is going on and why


Opportunities to comment:

Martha points out that April 25 is the last day to comment on opening up US waters off the Continental Shelf to oil and gas drilling. In addition, see proposed changes to lawyer representation in immigration courts, and new proposed regulations from HUD targeting undocumented immigrants and their families. Also see a 4/15 notice allowing donors to contribute to federal employees’ legal expenses – think about that one and why now?

Sarah-Hope recommends that you look at the bill to preserve Social Security, challenge the ban on transgender service members, address the disenfranchisement of Native American voters, ask your legislators to address vulnerabilities in the election system, and more!

NYMHM for 14 Apr 2019

With Passover approaching, it is a good week to think about migrants and refugees, to consider what the liberation of all people might mean.

As well, in the Christian tradition, Maundy Thursday is approaching, the day when Jesus is said to have been asked, “And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” He is said to have answered, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

In these seasons, as well as others, we continue to report on the disenfranchised, and those who serve, represent and advocate for them.


1. Last day to comment on the “Dirty Water Act”

We’ve been running this under Resources but time has run out. Monday is the deadline to comment on the redefinition of the “Waters of the United States” regulations. These would significantly weaken the Clean Water Act by overlooking the connectivity of waterways (so that pollutants could be discharged into streams) and by narrowing the definition of a body of water. Wetlands are particularly at risk. The scientific community is opposed to it–as are farmers, surfers, fishermen and the NAACP. Polluters are in favor of it. As critical as this issue is, the mainstream media have been almost entirely silent. Only Vox, Politico, and The Hill–in addition to some trade journals–have run pieces.
 In a Google doc, Martha–of Martha’s list–has written a summary of the issues and explained how to comment.  Among the first things to ask for is an extended comment period.

2. Important victory for asylum-seekers

Among Kirstjen Nielsen’s legacies was the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which required asylum-seekers and other migrants to wait in border cities where they had no access to attorneys. In response to a suit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU, last week a judge blocked that policy. The decision is on the Mother Jones website.

3. Migrants dropped off, volunteers scrambling. Again.

Though it is not a Sanctuary City, migrants are being dropped in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where they staying in a homeless shelter and a recreation center. The city is asking for donations of food and personal care items, according to the Toronto Star. In addition, the New Mexico Medical Reserve Corps is asking for volunteers, particularly health care workers, as the organization believes more migrants will be dropped off in New Mexico due to “capacity issues” along the border, according to the Border Patro

4. Dangerous precedents coming

Attorney General William Barr is planning to make major changes to immigration courts in the name of efficiency, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. These changes would permit an appeals judge to issue rulings which would be precedental for the entire system, exactly when the Trump administration is hiring new appeals judges. Immigration judges are not supposed to be chosen based on their politics, but at least one candidate has alleged that they are.

5. Twice as many corporations are paying no taxes this year

Trump’s tax cut is functioning as apparently intended: 60 companies—twice as many as last year—reported a tax rate of zero, according to a report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Among the companies able to avoid paying taxes are Amazon, Netflix, Chevron, Lilly, Deere & Co, Delta, Honeywell, IBM, Goodyear and others. The Center for Public Integrity has the full list. A million fewer individuals will receive refunds this year, and as of February, the average refund was down by 17 per cent, according to the New York Times.

6. Assange arrested on the wrong charge?

Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, has been charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, essentially for offering to help Chelsea Manning with a password. The indictment against Julian Assange is a threat to press freedom, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists and other experts and organizations, arguing that it sets an alarming precedent for how journalists can interact with sources. “The US extradition request and the indictment itself – the fact it is alleging conspiracy with a source – means a publisher or journalist could be accused of conspiracy with a source,” Jennifer Robinson, a member of a legal team that has blocked US efforts to extradite hackers, told the Guardian. “It’s a terrifying precedent for all journalists.”

According to Democracy Now, Noam Chomsky sees the arrest of Assange as “scandalous,” illustrating the reach of the United States around the world. Others note his role in the 2016 election and in Brexit while women’s groups say he should be extradicted to Sweden to face the allegations of rape against him.

7. Death threats against AOC and Omar

Teen Vogue has come through again, running a story on how Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) challenged college Republicans for calling her a “domestic terrorist,” pointing out that such claims lead to a “spike in death threats” against her.

Critiques of Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) have resulted in similar threats, including one by a man who was arrested for calling her office and threatening to kill her. According to Vox, he told investigators that he “loves the president and that he hates radical Muslims in our government.” Trump has been trying to use criticisms of Omar to drive Jews away from the Democratic party, though he removed a video on Twitter suggesting that Omar was not taking 9/11 seriously. Sunday night she released a statement, saying “Since the President’s tweet Friday evening, I have experienced an increase in direct threats on my life—many directly referencing or replying to the President’s video,” reported The Hill.


8. Canada warming twice as fast as the rest of the world

Canada is warming at twice the global rate, according to a new report from Environmental and Climate Change Canada. Temperatures in Northern Canada, where communities are especially vulnerable, have increased 2.3 degrees C since 1948. Climate change is leading to “extreme heat, less extreme cold, longer growing seasons, rapidly thinning glaciers, and warming and thawing of permafrost and rising sea levels in Canada’s coastal regions,” Chris Derksen, a research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada told the Globe and Mail. Indigenous elders in the Yukon say that the caribou are moving north, following their food supply, according to the CBC. As if this were not true, the country’s conservatives are battling the imposition of a $20/ton carbon tax in provinces which have not established their own—even though most of it will return to consumers in their taxes. Ontario premier Doug Ford, who is challenging the carbon tax in court, tweeted, “Today’s the last day to fill your gas tank before the federal carbon tax makes life more expensive for your family.” The tax will rise to $50/ton by 2020.

9. Drastic changes recorded in Bering Sea

Sea ice in the Bering sea, located between the coasts of Alaska and Russia in the arctic circle, reached a new record low this past winter, worrying local residents, fishermen and scientists. Sea ice is vital for preserving an oasis of cold, salty water that is called a “cold pool” that serves as a refuge and habitat for the richest fisheries found in US waters. In addition, sea ice provides hunting grounds and resting places for sea mammals such as seals and walrus and a natural sea wall for native communities along the northwest coast, protecting them from winter storms. This past winter, for the first time recorded in 37 years of measurement, there was no cold pool in the Bering sea, and the village of Kotlik flooded from lack of sea ice protection in February. Fishermen had to fish further north for valuable Pacific cod and native Alaskan hunters had to follow the seals north as well, as the cold water retreated ever further towards the pole. Warm water brings a risk of algal blooms, fishery collapse and ecological catastrophe to the region.

10. Number of children and teens seen in hospitals due to suicide attempts double

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Pediatrics shows that hospitalizations due to suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts have doubled from the period spanning 2007 to 2015. Data was evaluated from surveys of 300 emergency rooms gathered by the Centers for Disease Control for an age group spanning from five years to eighteen years of age, with an average age of just 13 years. Suspected causes for the dramatic increase include increased competitive pressure to succeed academically, anxiety about future economic prospects, bullying including cyber bullying and a critical shortage of child psychologists available, leading to long wait times for kids in crisis.


NYMHM for 7 April

Watching the news can make you wall-eyed, as you try to track the many on-going stories that flash on and off the front page while at the same time taking note of new developments in politics and science. Did you know that there is a crisis involving a medication-resistant fungus and that outbreaks are kept secret? Neither did we–but now we do and so do you. As the humanitarian crisis that our grandchildren will study in astonishment, migration and separated families are among the issues that we try to to track regularly. If you want to speak up about any of these asylum and family separation issues, see Sarah-Hope’s list in the Resources section, below and on the Resources page.


Asylum and immigration round-up

1. Trump would get rid of the asylum system and immigration judges

Last week, around a visit to the U.S. Border Patrol Station in Calexico, California, President Trump stated that he’d like Congress to eliminate the asylum process, as well as immigration judges, according to the Washington Post. His administration has already made a number of moves that have attempted to limit the number of asylum seekers admitted to the United States and this next move would be in conflict with U.S. and international norms of due process. California governor Gavin Newsom issued a statement in response to Trump’s statements about asylum seekers and potential changes to the system, saying “Since our founding, this country has been a place of refuge – a safe haven for people fleeing tyranny, oppression and violence. His words show a total disregard of the Constitution, our justice system, and what it means to be an American.”

2. Tracking the periods of teen girls in ICE custody

According to Harper’s Bazaar, The Office of Refugee Resettlement, the branch of the Department of Health and Human Services that is responsible for migrant children traveling alone or separated from their families, tracked the periods, pregnancies, and causes of pregnancy (if it resulted from rape or not) of teen girls — some as young as 12– in their care. This was done with the intent to prevent the girls from obtaining abortion care, something that the former head of the ORR Scott Lloyd has admitted. Rachel Maddow discusses the issue on MSNBC.

3. Two years to reunite families

In an update on the nearly 1500 children separated from their families at the border under the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy (245 of whom were removed from their families after a court ordered the separations to stop), in a recent court filing the administration has said that it may take up to two additional years to identify families that may have been separated at the southern border. All of the children in question have been released from government custody and the administration claims it needs this time to use data analysis techniques to identify and locate the children, according to CNN.

4. Climate change fueling migration

Among the reasons Guatemalans are leaving the country are that farmers’ crops are failing, weather is extreme and unpredictable, and they are besieged by pests. Guatemala is one of the three countries to which Trump is refusing to send aid because they “haven’t done a thing for us.” In 2014, a group of scientists associated with the Rainforest Alliance’s initiative, “Climate, Nature, and Communities of Guatemala,” which was funded by US AID, said that the highlands area of Guatemala was particularly susceptible to climate change. “Extreme poverty may be the primary reason people leave,” Edwin Castellanos, a climate scientist at the Universidad del Valle, told the New Yorker, which is running a series on emigration from Guatemala. “But climate change is intensifying all the existing factors,” he said.

5. Where do laws come from?

We should not be surprised that conservative forces develop model legislation which they then spread around the nation. Various publications have reported on ALEC–American Legislative Exchange Council—which for years has drafted and disseminated bills. But what is surprising is the scope of this enterprise. According to a two-year study by USA Today, the Arizona Republic and the Center for Public Integrity, which looked at a million pieces of legislation across every state and in Congress, ten thousand bills were based on model legislation and 2100 became law. These are not produced only by ALEC but by industry groups and other special interests, include the liberal counterpart to ALEC, ALICE. According to the Arizona Republic, many legislators who sponsored these bills did not understand their implications or where they had originated.


6. Airstrikes intensifying humanitarian crisis in Somalia

The Pentagon claims no civilians have died in American airstrikes against suspected Shabab fighters. 13 NGOs (including Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Clinic and the ACLU) have criticized the lack of transparency on the use of lethal force in Somalia. The death toll for Shabab militants has probably reached a record high for the third time in three years. The increasing airstrikes are driving civilians from their homes and worsening a humanitarian crisis in the country.

7. Flooding overwhelms Iran

“Iran is under water,” Sayed Hashem, regional director of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, told the New York Times. Over 70 people have died and tens of thousands have been displaced by floods due to endless rain. People are living on the rooftops of their submerged homes, waiting for rescue. Iranian officials have blamed American economic sanctions, reimposed by the Trump administration, for delayed recovery efforts, according to the Times.

8. Russia grooming African countries.

Russia is rekindling relationships with Soviet-era allies like Angola and Mozambique. Russian mercenaries helped Sudan’s president put down nationwide protests. A Russian is now the Central African Republic’s president’s national security adviser, and the country is trading mining rights for arms from Russia. While investigating a Putin-linked private military force training Central African Republic troops, three Russian journalists were murdered. Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger asked Russia for help fighting Al Qaeda and IS. The Pentagon’s Africa Command says Russia “has taken a more militaristic approach in Africa” (pdf). Putin plans a summit meeting between Russia and African countries.

9. And right-wing European politicians.

Putin wants Russia-friendly foreign leaders, and politicians want money. So, Putin is allegedly providing $3 million in Russian money to Italy’s far-right Matteo Salvini. According to the Italian newsmagazine L’Espresso, there was an elaborate deal involving
3 million tons of diesel fuel that Russia is selling to Italy, the profits from which will fund Salvini’s re-election campaign. 

Science and Technology

10. Scientists use lasers to observe molecular vibration 

A team at the University of California, Irvine published a study in the journal Nature wherein they describe their method of imaging the real-time movement, or vibration, of molecules down to the atomic level. All chemical processes of life depend on these minute changes in molecular structure. While we have been using electron spectroscopy to measure precise frequency changes, until now we have not been able to determine which atomic bonds vary in a molecule depending on current and charge. To achieve this feat the scientists set up a low temperature, high vacuum chamber and focused a titanium sapphire laser mere ångströms (a hundred millionth of a centimeter) away. As Science Daily describes it, the old models of molecules set up like tinker toy globs of spheres and sticks will soon give way to actual images of molecules themselves. 

11. Poverty leaves its mark, even genetically 

A study by Northwestern University suggests that the effects of low socio-economic status can be found even in our DNA, undermining the long-standing notion that genes are immutable from birth. Published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, the study found that DNA methylation, an epigenetic marker that influences how genes are expressed, was increased in individuals living in low socio-economic conditions across 2500 sites in the genome, spreading across 1500 genes. It has been known for some time that poverty is a key factor in determining health but this study suggests that the effects may very well be inheritable with far-reaching implications.   

12. It sounds like science fiction: Treatment-resistant fungus emerges

A devastating fungus, Candida auris, has emerged world-wide, according to the New York Times. Like antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it is resistant to most anti-fungal medications. Also like antibiotic-resistant bacteria, it is a consequence in part of overuse in agriculture, in particular the use of fungicides on crops. C. auris is not the only fungus to have developed resistance; in 2013 the CDC published a report identifying 18 bacteria and fungi that are treatment resistant; a new report is expected in the fall of 2019. Complicating the problem is that the CDC is not allowed to make public the location of outbreaks, even though the C. auris is easily spread and deadly: 50% of patients who are diagnosed with it are dead within three months.


If you think that the Trump administration’s plan to cut aid to Latin American countries (thus intensifying the hardship that leads to conditions that drive people to leave) is a bad idea, Sarah-Hope can tell you whom to write. She also thinks you might want to comment on the Privacy for All act, the refusal of the Education Department to support student loan relief, the withholding and redacting of the Mueller report—and more! Her list is on this google doc.

Martha notes this week that the SNAP work requirement comment deadline was extended to April 10. Glyphosate, the ingredient for Roundup, is now open for comment on inclusion in toxics registry.  She suggests that you look closely at the ICE Tip form – it’s really asking neighbors to inform on neighbors, she says. And look carefully at the Waters of the United States proposal, which seeks to redefine all inland waters. Her list has various options for responding on the record.

NYMHM for 31 March

If you read NYMHM regularly, you may notice that we rarely mention Mueller, mainly because it’s our mandate to focus on neglected news. Pending the release of the full report, which Mitch McConnell is repeatedly blocking, we are suspending judgment of its central questions—but we note that the summary comes from Trump’s hand-picked attorney general, who wrote a memo arguing that it’s impossible by definition for a president to obstruct justice, even by, for example, firing the FBI Director and then saying on national TV that he did it to shut down investigations into his own misconduct.

President Trump is implicated in paying off women alleging affairs, negotiating a huge real estate deal with Russia’s help, and selling access through Mar-a-Lago. The White House keeps refusing to provide information about security clearances. He lies about his net worth and lots of other things. Even if Trump doesn’t meet the legal (rather than public-opinion) definition of treason for colluding with foreign entities to steal the election (and we don’t know yet that that was even Mueller’s conclusion)—we don’t need the apparatus of the law to have an accurate impression of Trump and his cronies as fundamentally dishonest. We expect more from our president than merely avoiding criminal liability.

We believe in the value of work. Some of our readers, we hope, will work on holding the president accountable. Others, we hope, will volunteer for, and donate to, primary campaigns for state and federal races across the country, and then for the general. Still others, we hope, will volunteer for, and donate to, causes which fight for human rights and humane treatment for everybody, notably migrants, the homeless, LGBTQ youth, indigenous peoples and people of color, and other marginalized groups, and/or will work on protecting the environment. There’s plenty to do, and we hope everybody reading this will take on a manageable portion of it, and keep calling their Congressfolk and stay in the fight. Suggestions for action are in our Resources section.


1. Trump tells media to muzzle his political adversaries.

The Trump campaign sent a memo (jpg) to TV producers suggesting they stop interviewing a Democratic Senator [Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)], three Democratic House Representatives [Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA and chair of the House Intelligence Committee), and Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA)], Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez and former CIA director John Brennan.

2. Cuts to food stamps hit ~1.3 million Puerto Ricans.

For U.S. states, the federal government has committed to funding these programs’ needs, whatever the cost and without needing to take a vote. But Puerto Rico instead funds its programs through a block grant from the federal government, which need to be regularly renewed, and also gives food stamp benefits about 40 percent smaller than those of U.S. states.” Trump wants to limit funding to Puerto Rico to that needed to fortify the electric grid. Food stamp money also goes to buying medicine and getting medical treatment. The Democratic-led House approved a bill authorizing the $600 million request and it is now before the Republican-led Senate.

3. Hate crimes and Facebook

Anti-semitic attacks in America are up, representing almost 60% of religious/ethnic hate crimes. Most of the remainder target Muslims.

Facebook has announced that they’re banning white nationalism/separatism on both Facebook and Instagram, and will direct searches for “terms associated with white supremacy” to Life After Hate (whose federal funding was cut by Trump).

4. What we forget the ACA covers

Trump wants to end the ACA through the courts. Things we don’t generally associate with the Affordable Care Act would no longer be required, like the FDA biosimilar drug program, Medicare fraud and kickbacks regulations, break time for nursing mothers, and restaurant calorie labels. Call the Department of Justice at 202-353-1555 to let them know your thoughts.

5. Only awards for journalists Trump likes?

The U.S. State Department has canceled Finnish investigative journalist Jessikka Aro’s International Women of Courage award over her criticisms of President Trump.

6. Charter school money debacles

In the wake of Betsy DeVos’ controversial proposal to cut all $18 million of the Special Olympics’ funding (which Trump has since walked back), a public education advocacy group report reveals that the US government has wasted as much as $1 billion on charter schools that never opened, or opened and then closed again.

The State of California is also failing to appropriately follow the money: the LA Times reports that Clark and Jeanette Parker, who run charter schools in the state, have made millions off taxpayer money by paying themselves to rent buildings they own, contract out services to companies they own, and pay themselves generous consulting fees, and get away with it by paying regulators thousands in campaign contributions.

7. Trump nominees the worst possible people, as usual.

a. Interior Secretary nominee David Bernhardt

Trump’s pick for Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt, currently acting secretary, is a partner at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, which has donated over $225k to members of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Pretty clear conflict of interest there. Bernhardt also blocked a report from Fish and Wildlife Service on malathion and chlorpyrifos (two pesticides which the report found “jeopardize the continued existence” of over 1,200 endangered species), preventing protective regulations. Greenpeace sent a swamp monster to photobomb his confirmation hearing in protest. You can sign a Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) petition here.

b. Federal Labor Relations Authority general counsel nominee Catherine Bird

Trump’s nominee for Federal Labor Relations Authority’s general counsel, Catherine Bird, is “part of a group accused of violating the labor rights of Health and Human Services Department employees.”

c. Federal Reserve Board nominee Stephen Moore

Trump is nominating the “easily confused” Stephen Moore to the Federal Reserve Board. A former Bush economic advisor tells Bloomberg, “He does not have the intellectual gravitas for this important job.” Moore also owes $75k to the IRS and was found in contempt of court in 2012.

d. World Bank president nominee David Malpass

Trump nominee David Malpass is currently Undersecretary for International Affairs in the Treasury Department and former chief economist at Bear Stearns (which famously collapsed during the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis). He argued in 2017 that “the tax reform that’s going through will contribute substantially to economic growth,” which we know now didn’t happen. Maybe we shouldn’t nominate people who think “multilateralism has gone substantially too far” to lead a multilateral organization, especially when their economic predictions are so off.

e. The blue slip is dead

Trump is nominating judges to the 9th Circuit without asking for input from California’s Democratic Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris. Traditionally, the White House asks home-state senators for approval (a “blue slip”) before nominations.

8. Is there a recession coming?

US and European equities went into reverse on Friday as the yield on 10-year Treasury bonds fell below those for three-month notes,” which matters because this yield curve inversion is often historically correlated with recessions, maybe due to Trump’s interference with the Fed.

Trump’s financial sanctions office has lost about 10% of its staff despite its work roughly doubling, due to job opportunities elsewhere and low morale among staff.

A new study estimates that Trump’s tariffs cost Americans at least $6.9 billion last year. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, with Princeton and Columbia, found that US consumers are currently spending about $1.4 billion/month due to tariffs.

Bloomberg reports that “few U.S. companies are bringing their production back home,” and that “weakness from housing to retail sales and consumer sentiment . . . have economists cutting estimates of fourth-quarter gross domestic product . . . [but] a healthy American labor market with rising wages is propelling the economy toward the longest expansion on record.”

9. Good news, everybody

  • New Mexico just added same-day and automatic voter registration.
  • A federal judge struck down Kentucky‘s and Arkansas’ Medicaid work requirements.
  • Maryland Democrats overrode the governor’s veto to gradually increase the minimum wage to $15/hour by 2025.
  • The Massachusetts House voted 147-8 to ban conversion therapy for minors. It goes to the state Senate next. Republican Governor Charlie Baker gave the bill lukewarm support and will face pressure from some Republican colleagues; if you’re in MA, call 617-725-4005 to let him know you support a ban on the abusive practice.


10. EU Copyright Directive

The EU Copyright Directive (pdf) has passed, including Article 11 (news aggregators and search engines pay to use news links) and Article 13 (large tech companies liable for copyright violations in material posted on their platforms). Memes are supposedly excluded. Ars Technica says the law is confusing. EU countries now have two years to approve and fine-tune implementation; the Electronic Frontier Foundation says, “there’s good reason to believe that online services will converge on the most restrictive national implementation of the Directive.

11. China persecuting critics and religious minorities

A Vanity Fair article on the disappearance of celebrity Fan Bingbing buries the lede a bit, but outlines an effort by the government of China to crack down on critics:

An eminent TV news anchor was taken away hours before going on air. A retired professor with views critical of the government was dragged away during a live interview on Voice of America. A billionaire was abducted from his private quarters in the Four Seasons in Hong Kong. Other high-profile disappearances include Interpol president Meng Hongwei in September, photojournalist Lu Guang in November, two Canadians who went missing in December, as well as the writer Yang Hengjun, who went missing in January.

To be clear, being tough on tax fraud is good, but imprisoning people without legal counsel is not. It looks as though the Chinese government is using charges of corruption to consolidate power. Meng Hongwei has been charged with bribe-taking; his wife has applied for asylum in France. Lu Guang, who photographed Chinese pollution and social issues, has been detained on mystery charges. Pastor Wang Yi, his wife, and several members of their congregation are in detention for “inciting subversion.” Muslims in China have been forced to eat pork and drink alcohol, interned in camps, tortured, and sexually abused. The Guangzhou Department of Ethnic and Religious Affairs is offering money for informing on “illegal religious groups“.

Reporters Without Borders outlines China’s efforts to shape global public perception of the country.

Republican Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) almost got it right in demanding that Google justify its work “partnering with China on artificial intelligence initiatives . . . that may possibly be used by Chinese military and intelligence services to exploit Americans’ data and privacy” but then wanted to know why Google couldn’t instead help out the Armed Forces of the United States, like it would be OK for Google to exploit our data and privacy as long as its for the right people.


12. Trump signs executive order based on literal fiction.

The order mandates preparations to improve the US’s resilience to electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attacks. While this might be a perfectly fine national security measure, it concerns us that it appears to be based on figures from the sci-fi thriller One Second After. According to the EMP Commission, an EMP attack would be disruptive but not particularly deadly.

13. FCC falls short on collecting robocall fines

The Federal Communications Commission has fined robocallers $208.4 million since 2015 yet only collected $6,790. An FCC spokesperson says that the FCC lacks authority to collect the fines it issues, and that most violators are small-time operators unable to pay in any case. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has collected $121 million of $1.5 billion dollars in fines since 2004. Had the FCC collected the same percentage as the FTC, it should have gleaned $16 million. Robocalls have increased 60% in just the the last year and are projected to soon be half of all phone calls received by Americans.

14. Scientists create first synthetic organelles in mammalian cells

Scientists with the Lemke Group at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Mainz, Germany have succeeded in creating a synthetic organelle capable of creating proteins from non-canonical (unnatural) amino acids. Organelles are minute structures within living cells which fulfill various biological processes including protein manufacture. Naturally-occurring organelles use only 20 amino acid bases called canonical bases, but scientists have discovered are over 300 amino acid bases not used by any naturally-occurring process. This innovation opens the door to creating novel protein compounds within cell cultures in quantities suitable for study.

15. Tasmanian Devils adapting in face of cancer onslaught 

The world’s largest carnivorous marsupial has been in dire straits since a facial cancer called Devil Facial Tumor Disease, or DFTD, was discovered in 1996. Tasmanian devils use biting to establish dominance, which has spread cancer cells, causing mortality rates of up to 90%. Then in 2014 another strain of cancer was found, making already dismal chances for the species worse. Recent studies show there may be hope. Devils surveyed over the last 4-5 years have found both increasing rates of resistance and slower tumor growth. 23 cases have been discovered where devils actually recovered from their tumors. The iconic creatures will need every edge they can get to survive in the face of DFTD, car strikes and climate change.


NYMHM for 24 March

At this writing (March 24), News You May Have Missed finds it hard to know what to think about the Mueller report. Clearly Barr’s summary was crafted to put the most positive spin on it, but if it were completely misleading, would Mueller speak up? We expect that the devil is in the details and that it won’t be clear what Mueller has said until the full report (or mostly full) is released. Meanwhile, it would be easy for pressing issues to be muted in the noise—for example, flooding: the focus of this week’s issue. And the 2020 budget.


1. We’re all Nebraska now?

At least three people are dead and more than 340 businesses and 2,000 homes damaged, some irreparably, by flooding in the Missouri River Basin from heavy rain and snowmelt, causing about $1.4 billion in lost crops, livestock, and damages in Nebraska alone. And it’s not over; see the story in the Science & Technology section.

Farmers, already dealing with the fallout from trade agreements, are facing unprecented challenges, according to the Washington Post.Farmers may be losing a full year—even two—of income, in part because they were not notified in time by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and so could not move their grain. Some soybean farmers had more soybeans in storage than usual, waiting for a trade agreement that would bring better prices. In addition, farmers lost not just crops but impossible-to-replace topsoil, Gizmodo reports.

2. Native Americans stranded for two weeks by flooding

Meanwhile, members of the Oglala Sioux nation on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota have been stranded with little food, water or medicine for two weeks, reports the New York Times. Emergency supplies can only reach the community by horse, boat or helicopter, and help from the federal government and the state has been slow to arrive. Compounding the difficulties, the drinking water system that serves 8,000 residents went down. The reservation was the location of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre of 300 Native Americans by United States soldiers and the 1973 protest by members of the American Indian Movement.

3. And in Northern California…

When the Russian River crested at 45 feet in February, floods overwhelmed small communities in Northern California, turning them into islands, leaving residents with no way to get in or out, according to the NPR. Hundreds of homes and businesses were demolished and thousands of people were evacuated. Damage was estimated at $155 million. Recovery has been slow and housing is scarce.

4. Children held in secret shelters. In the U.S.

Migrant children in Arkansas, Florida, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Virginia are being held in shelters whose location is being kept secret—even from the children’s attorneys, according to a report from Reveal, published by the Center for Investigative Reporting. These shelters specialize in assisting children with behavioral or mental health challenges. Keeping the locations secret means that no public oversight is possible. As Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, who introduced a bill to require detention centers to grant access to members of Congress, told Reveal, “Imagine being a child in a strange country, hundreds or thousands of miles from where you grew up, surrounded by people who may not speak your language. You would be incredibly vulnerable – which is exactly why ORR is supposed to follow strict regulations governing where these children can be held and what child welfare standards must be met.”

5. 2020 budget would cut Medicare, Medicaid, food aid

Trump’s 2020 budget request would increase funding to the departments of Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Defense, and Commerce, and would significantly reduce spending for Health and Human Services, Housing, Education, State and USAID, and others, the Washington Post reports. The biggest loser is the Environmental Protection Agency, whose budget would be cut by 31%.

More specifically, the budget would cut $241 billion from Medicaid, $220 billion from SNAP (food assistance), and $845 billion over the next 10 years from Medicare; it would eliminate the Student Loan Forgiveness Program. If you’d like to comment on this, Sarah-Hope has addresses. See the Resources section.


6. Cyclone Idai

On March 14, Cyclone Idai struck Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. At least 557 of the 1.7 million people in the immediately affected areas have died and almost 110,000 have been displaced.. The homes—and crops—of something like 600,000 people have been destroyed (estimates are inexact). Continued rain and more than 150 square miles of flooding are slowing down rescue efforts. Electricity and running water are scarce. Cholera is spreading in Mozambique.

The role of climate change is not precisely known since “scientists with the expertise simply don’t have the resources to do the large amount of computer modelling required,” but experts say climate change is not so much making cyclones more frequent, as more intense.

Particularly vulnerable are women and children; as the executive director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, told NPR, “We are particularly concerned about the safety and well-being of women and children who are still waiting to be rescued or are crammed in temporary shelters and at risk of violence and abuse,” Fore said. “We are also concerned about children who were orphaned by the cyclone or became separated from their parents in the chaos that followed.”

The UN has allocated $20 million, the European Union the equivalent of $3.9 million, the UK $7.9 million, the United Arab Emirates $4.9 million, and Norway and the US $700,000 each. Neighboring Tanzania is providing “238 tons of food and medicine.” The disaster is so vast that more is needed. To donate, go to UNICEF, Doctors Without Borders, or, in the UK, DEC.


7. Historic flooding in the Midwest has potential to get worse

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released its annual spring flood outlook, predicting that two-thirds of the country is at risk for moderate to severe flooding. Fueling the flooding risk is rapidly melting snow in northern states, combined with rainfall measuring at twice the amount of average years. The combination puts the entire Mississippi river basin at risk for devastating floods. Already soils are saturated and reservoirs full—so any additional heavy rain, which is expected through May—is on a path to race down rivers and streams quickly. The damage to Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri is already calculated to be in the billions. These weather extremes are exacerbated by increased temperatures due to climate change, which “supercharges” storm events to produce about a third more rainfall than they otherwise would have, Ars Technica reports.

8. Incredible fossil discovery in China

A rich bed of fossils dating back 518 million years to the Cambrian period has been discovered along the Qingjiang river in Hubei province south China, with hundreds of species represented so far; the discovery offers a glimpse into a new ecosystem during the “explosion” that set the stage for complex life as we know it. Particularly exciting to researchers is the fact that around half of the fossil examples are from species never seen before, with an incredible quality of preservation showing detailed features of soft tissue. The Cambrian period is of particular interest, as Ars Technica reports, because it is the beginning of the fossil record for many kinds of animals we see on earth today whereas in periods pre-dating it, there seems to almost no connection to modern life aside from bacteria and algae.

9. Speaking of ancient life, sharks face extinction

A study by the Shark Specialist Group for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has shown that 17 of the 58 shark species surveyed face extinction, primarily due to overfishing. Among the endangered sharks is the short-finned mako, the fastest shark in the world, whose flesh and fins are prized as delicacies in Asia. A proposal from Mexico is due to be voted on to list the short-finned mako on Appendix II in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), a listing which will provide regulation for the fisheries and some protections but stops short of a ban of the trade. According to Physics.org, sharks first appeared in the fossil record about 425 million years ago, making them some of life’s champion survivors.

See the Resources page for opportunities to comment on the news.


NYMHM for 17 March 2019

It would be hard to improve on Charles Dickens to describe the present moment: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” On the cusp of the spring of hope, 50 people in New Zealand were killed at prayer. And in the middle of the winter of despair, children and teenagers have taken the lead in demanding action on climate change. Our lives, these days, require us to toggle between these polarities.


1. No Planet B

Over a million young people all over the world marched on March 15 to insist on climate action. There were more than 2000 protests, according to the Guardian; Mother Jones has pictures of some of them. Sixteen year old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg, whose work helped inspire the youth movement, has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by Norwegian legislators.

The Guardian’s coverage concludes with comments by Hannah Laga Abram, an 18-year-old from Santa Fe, New Mexico:

“We are living in the sixth mass extinction. Ice is melting. Forests are burning. Waters are rising. And we do not even speak of it. Why?

“Because admitting the facts means admitting crimes of epic proportions by living our daily lives. Because counting the losses means being overpowered by grief. Because allowing the scale of the crisis means facing the fear of swiftly impending disaster and the fact that our entire system must change.

“But now is not the time to ignore science in order to save our feelings. It is time to be terrified, enraged, heartbroken, grief-stricken, radical.”

2. Federal inaction around climate change costs billions

While the Green New Deal has been described as too expensive, a new report from the Government Accounting Office (GAO) found that federal inaction around climate change is costing the nation billions of dollars. The cost of disaster relief, for example, could be mitigated if funds went into prevention. As the report reads, “We found that federal investments in resilience could be more effective if post-disaster hazard mitigation efforts were balanced with resources for pre-disaster hazard mitigation.” The GAO’s report is nearly invisible in mainstream news, but Common Dreams has the story, and you can read Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal resolution here.

3. Heroes, victims and social media companies

Portraits of the mosque shooting victims are starting to emerge, from Husne Ava Parvin, who tried to shield her husband in his wheelchair, to 50 year old Naeem Rashid who tackled the gunman, to Mucad Ibrahim, age 3, who was “energetic, playful and liked to smile and laugh a lot,” according to his brother.

The sophistication with which the New Zealand shooter used social media reveals how technology companies have become complicit in producing right-wing radicalism, according to Mother Jones. As the CBC points out, social media companies can proactively remove videos that violate copyright, but they were much slower to remove the shooter’s live-stream. In addition, the CBC quoted one expert as saying that companies were much quicker to remove Islamic extremist content than right-wing content.

Note Sarah-Hope’s discussion of the Disarm Hate Act (in the Resources), which would make it illegal for firearms to be sold or given to anyone convicted of violent misdemeanor hate crimes.


4. Nuclear winter on the horizon if India and Pakistan go nuclear

The recent dispute between India and Pakistan,  both with nuclear weapons, illustrates the need for nuclear powers to seriously engage in nuclear disarmament, as required by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signed 50 years ago. As Conn Hallinan, writing for Foreign Policy in Focus, points out, there are no local nuclear wars. India and Pakistan have between 130-150 nuclear warheads each; Hallinan cites a study that shows that if they exchanged 100 of them, it would plunge the world into a 25-year-long nuclear winter.

5. US and the Philippines refuse to be investigated by the International Criminal Court

The United States will refuse visas to International Criminal Court personnel seeking to investigate war crimes in Afghanistan—or anywhere, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced March 15. The ICC prosecutor’s request to investigate says that the ICC wants to investigate whether members of the U.S. military and intelligence services  “committed acts of torture, cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, rape and sexual violence against conflict-related detainees in Afghanistan and other locations, principally in the 2003-2004 period,” according to the AP.

According to Al-Jazeera, the ICC will continue to do its work. “”The ICC, as a court of law, will continue to do its independent work, undeterred, in accordance with its mandate and the overarching principle of the rule of law.” (Sarah-Hope–see the resources–can tell you whom to write if you want to speak up about this.)

The United States has never been a member of the International Criminal Court; now the US is joined by the Philippines, which has just withdrawn from the ICC. The ICC had been investigating accusations of thousands of murders by President Duterte’s forces in the course of his war against drugs.

6. The company we keep: United Arab Emirates

The United States has sold $27 billion dollars’ worth of weapons to the United Arab Emirates over the last decade and has been training 5000 UAE troops, according to Democracy Now. Along with Saudi Arabia, the UAE has been fighting rebels in Yemen, resulting in deaths of 20,000 civilians over the last four years, according to a report published by Stanford University.

Details about the UAE’s actions in Yemen—and the role of the United States in making them possible–are delineated in a devasting report by William Hartung, the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy.

The Sanders-Lee amendment—introduced by Senators  Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Chris Murphy (D-CT)—which would have stopped U.S. contributions to the Yemeni civil war—was blocked 55-44. As Sanders told Vox, “This is one of the great humanitarian disasters of our time.”

7. US air strikes in Somalia

In addition, the US is conducting air strikes in Somalia, ostensibly against Al Shabab, an Al Qaeda affiliate, but civilians, including children, are being killed and maimed, according to Democracy Now. An investigation by Nation journalist Amanda Sperber, who spent five weeks in Somalia suggests that it is not clear which US agency is conducting the strikes; the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the official agency doing so, but there are strikes unaccounted for by AFRICOM that may be initiated by the CIA. Since Trump’s election, the number of strikes in Somalia has tripled.


8. Ecological decline perhaps more pressing than climate change 

A three-year UN study done under the auspices of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) is due to conclude and turn in its findings in May—and they are grim. The report, likely to run to over 8000 pages and compiled by more than 500 experts in 50 countries, is the greatest attempt yet to take measure of the health of life on Earth. It will show that tens of thousands of species are under threat of extinction and that societies are using natural resources at a pace far outstripping nature’s ability to replenish them.

The culprits are predictable: large scale mono-crop agriculture with the resulting deforestation, along with ever-rising human populations and living standards. So far we have lost 80% of marine mammals, 50% of plants, 14% of all fish, 50% of all butterflies; the list goes on and on. Serious and fundamental changes to economic policy and societies will be necessary to prevent total ecological collapse, reports the Huffington Post. 

In related news, Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment, conducted by 200 scientists and peer-reviewed by 125 more, warns that a third of the Himalayan ice cap will likely melt by the end of the century, according to Democracy Now. The melting will have an impact on 250 million people who live in the area, affecting supplies of food and water.

9. DARPA awards $10 million to design a new open-source voting system

The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, known as DARPA, has been at the forefront of spurring scientific and technological breakthroughs for decades, helping to birth the internet and driver-less vehicles among others. DARPA is now setting its sights on the notoriously hodgepodge and terrifyingly vulnerable electronic voting systems in use in the United States. To this end, a $10 million dollar contract has been awarded to Oregon-based Galois, a long-standing federal contractor with experience in making secure and authenticated information systems, to produce a totally open-source and secure voting system that can allow voters to verify their votes were recorded properly.

Voting systems in use today often use ageing proprietary software that is not transparent in the ways in which it verifies or records votes, possessing glaring security flaws that have resulted in white-hat hackers taking control of voting machines in mere minutes. Embarrassingly, one such experiment showed an eleven year old succeeding in ten minutes. On DARPA’s end this project will showcase the potential for secure hardware systems vital to the military in an easy-to-demonstrate way, as Vice reports.

10. Quantum dots on track to replace single crystal semi-conductors

Semi-conductors are the backbone of the technology of the information age, the material we use to inscribe billions of minute transistors onto computer chips. Until recently, the best material known for this purpose consisted of single crystals of silicon-based materials grown in a vacuum under highly specialized conditions in the cleanest environments we can make. Now a maturing technology has been identified to equal the performance of single crystal semiconductors and it’s far more “tunable,” versatile and perhaps most importantly, cheaper to produce.

Testing performed by the University of California Berkeley and Stanford University shows that “quantum dot” technology can re-emit 99.6% of light it absorbs, equal to the most perfect single crystals we can manufacture. It’s not just microchips and flat screen displays that stand to benefit; solar panels use a substrate of semi-conductors to convert sunlight to electricity and cheaper solar panels are going to be very important in the change to a greener world power supply, according to Physics.org.