News You May Have Missed July 22, 2019

Be inspired–by the protestors in Puerto Rico, by the four activists who have hounded Big Pharma for twenty years, by the attorneys working doggedly to protect the rights of asylum-seekers, by the reporters who uncover these stories, and by Martha, Sarah-Hope and Susan Rogan, who offer significant ways to respond to the news.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. New Rule blocks most asylum-seekers

A new rule, published in the Federal Register, bars asylum-seekers who pass through another country on the way to the U.S. from seeking asylum in the U.S., according to the LA Times. Unless civil rights organizations succeed in getting it blocked, as of Tuesday asylum requests on the southern border could only be made by Mexican citizens. All other asylum-seekers would be expected to request asylum from the first nation they enter. This rule would apply to all asylum-seekers, including unaccompanied children. Individuals who are refused asylum in the first nation they enter could then continue to the U.S. to request asylum, but the asylum process can take years. For example, if this rule holds, a Guatemalan or Honduran asylum-seeker could not come directly to the US to request asylum; they would have to request asylum in Mexico or any other country they passed through, a process which would take a very long time. A coalition of organizations that serve immigrants filed suit in federal court the day after the policy was announced, according to the NY Times. S-HP

If you want to ask your members of Congress to keep the U.S. a welcoming country, here is how to find addresses. If you want to comment for the public record, here is the Federal Register site.

2. ICE won’t release detainees to family, sponsors

Congresspeople visiting the detention center in McAllen, Texas were horrified by the cries of babies and toddlers, by the level of filth, and by the refusal of ICE to release detainees, even children, to family members or sponsors–even though the facilities are overwhelmed and overcrowded, according to People magazine. California representative Jackie Speier’s twitter feed has details. RLS

If you wish to speak up about conditions in detention centers, addresses are here.

3. FBI and ICE using drivers’ license photos without permission

In early July, the Washington Post reported that over the past five years the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been making use of state drivers’ license databases, scanning photos into their facial recognition program without consent of state legislators or individual license holders. While law enforcement can have access to data taken from criminal suspects, the vast majority of citizens whose data is now being taken are law-abiding citizens.

As has been repeatedly reported, facial recognition software is still unreliable, particularly in identification of people of color. For instance, in a test of facial recognition software last year by the American Civil Liberties Union, Amazon’s facial recognition software falsely identified thirty-eight members of Congress as people who had been arrested for crimes. California, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont have privacy legislation on the books preventing this sort of sharing of Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) databases—and Oregon asserts that it has privacy legislation of a scope that would also prohibit such database use. However, as the Vermont ACLU recently revealed, while the state has privacy legislation that should prevent this sort of data sharing, the state’s DMV has allowed law enforcement full access to license databases on a number of occasions. In fact, the Vermont use of DMV databases disproportionately focused on individuals of color. Blacks were targeted in such database searches at seven times the rate whites were. Hispanics were targeted at rates twelve times higher than were whites. S-HP

If you want to speak up about privacy protection vis a vis drivers’ licenses, the addresses are here.

4. Puerto Rico’s government shaken by chat messages, inaction, corruption

Protestors have rocked Puerto Rico for over a week, demanding an end of corruption and lack of action on long-standing economic and social issues following Hurricane Maria, the Washington Post reports. Igniting the protests was the release of 889 pages of chat messages, in which Governor Ricardo Rosselló and his associates make fun of their opponents, female journalists, and those who lost everything in the hurricane. You can read the messages (in Spanish) here. Though thousands of people have been in the streets and the governor faces impeachment, the mainstream media noticed only yesterday (July 20), as Columbia Journalism Review points out. RLS

5. Opioid epidemic

76 billion opioid pills, leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths, were distributed across the US, according to new data obtained following a lawsuit by the Charleston Gazette-Mail and the Washington Post. The chain of responsibility runs from manufacturers–the original producer, Purdue Pharma and the three generic companies who now produce most of the pills–to distributors to unethical pharmacies and doctors to desperate patients and addicts. The DEA had devolved regulatory responsibility to the industry, for the most part, and when it tried to intervene found its hands tied by members of Congress who pushed through legislation favorable to the industry. When companies were fined, the fines were miniscule compared to profits.

Areas where people are suffering from work injuries and from economic stress–such as Appalachia–were flooded with opioids. You can see how many pills (per person per year) went to your county between 2006-2012 at the Post’s site. The truth about Big Pharma’s culpability in oxycontin addiction was first articulated twenty years ago by activists–just four of them–who had lost family members to the disease. As their numbers grew, they became an implacable force, according to the New York Times.

Canada, which also has an opioid crisis, has launched a new initiative to make naloxone, which can reverses overdoses, more readily available, according to the CBC. Already, anyone can get a free naloxone kit at any pharmacy. Canada’s very detailed Pain Task Force Report, released in June, clearly identifies the suffering of people who live with chronic pain and cannot get opioids or who become addicted to them, describes how acute pain becomes chronic pain, and explains options for treatment. RLS

6. Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights

Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Pramila Jayapal have introduced a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights (S.2112 in the Senate; H.R.3760 in the House). This legislation would include domestic workers in basic workplace protections like overtime pay and freedom from harassment and discrimination, from which they are now excluded, according to Elle. It requires written contracts for such workers and access to healthcare and retirement benefits. The legislation also includes enforcement provisions including “know your rights” information and a confidential hotline for reporting violations of the act. S.2112 Is with the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. H.R.3760 is with five (!) House committees: Education and Labor; Energy and Commerce; Ways and Means; Judiciary; and Oversight and Government Reform. S-HP

If you want to urge prompt action on these bills, write to these folks.

7. Accounting firms supporting ICE

McKinsey Consulting has ended its contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but several major accounting firms continue to work with ICE, often despite employee objections, according to Newsweek. A quick rundown on some of these:

-Ogilvy and Mather has contracts with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to recruit new CBP employees. In defending these contracts Chief Executive Officer John Seifert has claimed that Ogilvy and Mather is not doing any work against its values and beliefs.

-Deloitte U.S. has $140 million in ICE contracts. Chief Executive Officer Joe Ucuzoglu has been a strong advocate for workplace diversity and for LGBTQ rights. U.S. Board Chair Janet Foutty worked on behalf of girls, via MakerGirl and Storycatchers, during corporate Impact Day.

-PricewaterhouseCoopers has $5 million in ICE contracts for “detention compliance and removals.” Their corporate human rights statement notes “we depend on each other to be mindful of our ethical responsibilities.” S-HP

If you want to inquire how corporate values are served by child detention camps, here are the relevant addresses.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

8. Humanitarian aid diverted to the opposition in Venezuela

A July 11 memo, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, notified Congress that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is transferring $41.9 million earmarked for humanitarian aid to Juan Guaido and his party, who have been operating in opposition to the country’s President Nicolas Maduro. According to the Los Angeles Times, “All of the money being diverted will go to Guaido and his faction, the memo said, to pay for their salaries, airfare, ‘good governance’ training, propaganda, technical assistance for holding elections and other ‘democracy-building’ projects.” The humanitarian aid was previously earmarked for Guatemala and Honduras and would have been used in anti-poverty and anti-violence projects. The logic of the transfer is questionable, given the administration’s focus on ending the movement of asylum-seekers from these two nations to the U.S. If there is no hope of improving conditions in Guatemala and Honduras, asylum-seekers have all the more reason to begin the journey north. S-HP

If you want to speak up about the re-routing of humaniarian aid, here are the addresses.

9. Syrian refugees may be deported

In less than two weeks, Syrians with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the U.S. will hear whether they’re at risk of deportation to a war zone. There aren’t many options left for Syrians fleeing humanitarian crises created by eight years of war. Syrian families with TPS were already forced to flee nearly a decade of incessant attacks from the Assad regime, Iran, Russia, the Islamic State, and the United States’ bombing campaigns in cities like Raqqa. If TPS is ended, Syrians will be vulnerable to deportation—to a war zone amidst humanitarian crises of mass food insecurity, lack of access to health care, and torture that the U.S. hasn’t meaningfully helped stop. So far, the most effective strategy to pressure the Homeland Security and State Departments to keep TPS for Syria—is for Congress to make noise, issue statements and defend TPS. S-HP

If you’re in favor of TPS status for Syrian refugees, you can speak up here.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

10. Plan to help agriculture sequestered

Politico has reported on a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plan, completed in 2017 in the early part of the Trump administration, for dealing with climate change. Public release of the plan, a follow-up to a 2010 plan that had been publicly released, was blocked by the new administration. The plan was intended to help agriculture anticipate and respond to the effects of climate change. It examined what would be necessary to make agriculture carbon neutral. It outlined essential research that should be conducted to meet the needs of the nation over the next five to eight years. It documented the ways climate change is already affecting U.S. farming and ranching. It specifically considered the impact of climate change on insect populations, crop maturation, and livestock reproductivity. Finally, the plan called on the USDA to “increase public awareness of climate change.” S-HP

If you would like to urge that this (publically funded) research be released, write to the addresses listed here.

11. Another toxic pesticide spared by Trump

In a victory for the chemical industry and agribusiness, the Environmental Protection Agency under Trump appointee Andrew Wheeler has decided not to ban the chemical chlorpyrifos, despite well-researched damage to children’s health. Conceding that the agency would continue to “monitor” the use of the chemical through 2022, the agency concluded that the data presented supporting a ban was not “sufficiently valid, complete or reliable,” according to the New York Times. Sold under the name Lorsban, it has already been banned for household use but remains in use in agriculture on hundreds of thousands of acres in California alone. The EPA had moved to ban the chemical in 2015 under the presidency of Barack Obama, citing research done by the agency itself showing potential harm to brain development in children. However, the ban had not yet come into effect when it was stopped by the Trump EPA in 2017. The move to regulate the use of chlorpyrifos now moves to the states where Hawaii has already banned it, with New York and California considering bans.  

If you would like to recommend stronger action on chlorpyrifos, the people on this list need to hear from you.

12. Popular browser extensions provide user data for sale 

An investigative report by the Washington Post has found that six popular web browser extensions offered for use by both the Firefox and Chrome browsers have been compiling user data and offering it for sale. The extensions are Hover Zoom, SpeakIt!, SuperZoom, SaveFrom.net, Helper, FairShare Unlock and PanelMeasurement, with over four million combined users. Consumers may be under the assumption that browser extensions must abide by the brower’s privacy policies; however, this is not so. Each has their own end-user agreements which explicitly state they collect user data, with two saying they collect browsing data. End-user agreements have long been criticized as insufficient for disclosure purposes as consumers simply do not read them in the vast majority of cases. Upon being informed, both Mozilla (the maker of Firefox) and Google (the maker of Chrome) deactivated the extensions, according to Digital Trends. Cited in the Post’s piece is a massive study revealing organizations that sell your data: scroll 3/4 of the way down and be amazed.

ARTS & CULTURES

Art & Climate Change

What is the role of the artist and our art institutions during the climate emergency?  The keynote address of ART&CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019 features Beka Economopoulos and Jason Jones of the Natural History Museum, a collective that works at the intersection of art, activism, and theory.  You can skip the first 10 minutes of credits and donor thanks. To learn more about the Natural History (pop-up) Museum, take a look at their website.

As biodiversity is depleted, so is linguistic diversity

An interesting look at how we frame the world with our choice of words – and why it matters.  This piece from Jstor daily is one you’ll want to hold on to–and it is packed with useful links. A new word to learn: ecolinguistics.

“A Guide to Essential, Underrated, and Flat-Out Extraordinary Films by Black Women Directors”

The headline says it all: an amazing list of more than 50 films by black women directors, many with links for online viewing.

RESOURCES

  • The Americas of Conscience Checklist recommends this list of actions you can take to address issues at the border.
  • Sarah-Hope’s recommendations for action are linked to the stories above; to see the whole list–including her brilliant riff on impeachment–look here.
  • Martha’s list offers opportunities to comment for the public record on a multitude of issues, including changes to long-term care, natural gas drilling in Alaska, increased plutonium production, and much more.
  • Rogan’s list is a weekly repository of news items and ways to respond to them–always responsible and reliable.

News You May Have Missed: July 14

There’s a little light even as more information comes to light. The Lights for Liberty protests; the hard work of immigration nonprofits; the work of #AuthorsAgainstBorderAbuse, a group of writers offering consultations in exchange for donating to border organizations; and the many efforts to lobby Congress all suggest that a consensus about the detention of children is building. But see the piece from Reveal on the detention of infants, and see our backrounder on Sanctuary–as well as important science and health news, below.

DOMESTIC NEWS

“Classrooms, not Cages”: Lights for Liberty protests you may have missed

750 events were held around the country–including large ones in
New York, Philadelphia and Milwaukee and Southern California–and in Canada to protest the conditions in which asylum seekers are being detained. You wouldn’t know this unless you were there, however, or unless you read or listened to your local media outlet or saw USA Today. The events were ignored by the Washington Post and the New York Times. Among the participants at the DC event were members of the American Federation of Teachers, with signs reading “Classrooms, not Cages.” At that event, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Services, whose family fled the Sri Lankan civil war when she was a baby, said of immigrants, “We admit them not because they are American, but because we are American.” RLS

More detention centers holding children and infants–without their parents

The U.S. government is opening more shelters housing children and infants–without their parents, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting’s news site, Reveal. One such site in Phoenix has 12 children under 5, the youngest three months old. Another site in Arizona has a newborn, while a center in Modesto, California has a two-week old baby who was born in the U.S. and is therefore a citizen. Reveal  was unable to find out where the children’s mothers are.

Reveal notes that the children are supposed to be provided with legal services–but that the centers had delayed signing contracts with anyone who could provide them. Hundreds of children are being held in the Carrizo Springs shelter near San Antonio; attorneys at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), said that they intend to provide legal services for children at the center regardless of whether the Office of Refugee Resettlement gives them a contract. RLS

Massive child detention facilities planned

According to Fortune, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is soliciting bids for new, long-term (with initial twenty-year leases) immigration detention facilities for children. Sites in Georgia, Texas, and Arizona are reportedly under consideration. These plans imply that the government intends to make detention of children (and family separation) an ongoing practice, lasting well beyond the twenty-day limit mandated by the Flores Settlement. S-HP

If you have an opinion about child detention centers, you can voice it here.

Sexual assaults, punishments in retaliation against children at the border

Between April 10 and June 12, Health and Human Services (HHS) caseworkers collected almost thirty accounts of sexual assault and retaliation for protests from children being held in a Yuma, Arizona, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) facility, according to NBC News. All of these children had been held at the facility beyond the legal maximum of seventy-two hours. Children claim they’ve had their sleeping mats taken away after complaining about the quality of food and water, have been punished for sitting or standing too near windows, are called “putos” by staffers (an offensive term for male prostitutes that is often used as an insult implying both cowardice and homosexuality), and are kicked awake.

A fifteen-year-old girl described an officer conducting what was supposed to be a standard “pat-down” by grabbing her breasts and pulling down her underwear, all while joking with other staffers who watched the assault. A CBP spokesperson said such incidents did not align with common practices at their facilities and that the sexual assault was under investigation. According to the report from NBC News, Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) visited this facility in April and described it as “the worst state of the human condition I have ever seen in my life” and that Homeland security and Border Patrol agents “were dealing with conditions that they had not trained for [and] were not equipped to handle.” S-HP

If you are inclined to speak up about this, the people who need to hear it are at this link.

Immigrants fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for taking sanctuary

The Trump administration has begun levying fines against individuals without documents with final orders of removal that have totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars, including those who have taken refuge in churches and other houses of worship where they have been offered sanctuary, ABC News reports. Edith Espinal-Moreno, originally from Mexico, who has been living in a church in Ohio since 2017 was issued a fine of $497,770 for “willfully” refusing to leave the country to comply with ICE orders, according to NPR. According to ICE, they have the right to impose fines of  up to $500 for each day an individual is in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, although immigration lawyers say they have never heard of the law being used in this way. Pro-immigrant groups argue that imposing these fines is designed to instill fear in both immigrant communities and the churches who offer sanctuary. JML

Sanctuary in houses of worship explained

While it is widely believed that law enforcement is not allowed to enter houses of worship when they have offered sanctuary to those facing injustice, the matter is more complicated. There is a history going back to the middle ages of churches offering protection, although in the United States, there is no legal protection for this practice. Going back to the 1980s, the Sanctuary movement in the United States has been made up of faith communities– Presbyterians, Methodists, Unitarian Universalists, Catholics, Mennonites, Quakers, and others– offering Sanctuary to Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict but denied asylum due to federal immigration policies that made it difficult for Central Amercans to obtain. Starting in the early 2000s, the New Sanctuary movement was made up of faith communities publicly offering sanctuary to individuals facing unjust deportation orders, often housing a single person or family within the walls of the church while lawyers worked with courts or immigration authorities to obtain a more favorable outcome.

Members of the Sanctuary movement have participated in both civil disobedience (defying laws for moral purposes) and civil initiative (upholding laws they thought their own government was violating). While there are no protections in law for houses of worship, there is a 2011 memo issued by ICE stating that certain locations were considered sensitive and enforcement activities at these locations should be limited, CNN explained.. The locations in the 2011 memo were schools, hospitals, houses of worship, the sites of funerals, weddings, or other public religious ceremonies, and during public demonstrations such as rallies, marches, or parades, according to Justice for Immigrants. In January, 2018, ICE published a clarification to the memo stating that courthouses do not qualify as sensitive locations, although enforcement in non-criminal areas of courthouses should be limited or avoided. The Sensitive Locations memo doesn’t entirely prevent actions in these locations, but in many cases it has done so. Official guidance states that the primary reasons for enforcement actions is exigent circumstances, such as national security threats, pursuit of dangerous felons, imminent risk of harm, or risk of destruction of evidence in a criminal case. The policy also doesn’t apply to certain ICE activities such as obtaining records, serving subpoenas, or participating in community meetings. It also doesn’t apply to certain enforcement activities within 100 miles of any land or sea border, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol, in accordance with the 2001 Patriot Act.  Because the Sensitive Locations Memo is not a statute or regulation, it could be disregarded or eliminated at any time. JML

Subpoenas you might have missed

There’s a lot going on in the world of Congressional subpoenas. The House Judiciary Committee has approved subpoenas for twelve individuals who were key witnesses in the Russian Election Interference and Russian-Trump Campaign investigation led by Robert Mueller. These include former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter (that’s a lot of “formers”), as well as Presidential advisor/son-in-law Jared Kushner. Additional subpoenas for unnamed individuals have been issued in relation to the administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy that has led to family separations. In a related move, the Judiciary Committee has also voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for refusal to turn over documents related to the attempted addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. S-HP

If you’d like to thank the House Judiciary Committee, here’s how.

More subpoenas needed

Before resigning as head of the Department of Labor due to a potentially illegal plea deal brokered in 2007 for Jeffrey Epstein when he was accused of multiple counts of raping children (let’s skip the euphemisms “engaging in sex acts” and “underage women”), Alexander Acosta proposed an 80% cut to the Department of Labor’s International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB). “International Labor Affairs Bureau” may sound like a relatively boring, box-ticking sort of crew, but it is actually in charge of globally countering human trafficking (including child sex trafficking), child labor, and forced labor (in other words, slavery)—a rather odd move, given the administration’s frequent citing of child trafficking as a justification for its border policies. Last year the ILAB had a budget of $68 million. Acosta’s proposal would have reduced that budget to $18.5 million for next year. On the other hand, the budget passed by the House in June would increase ILAB funding to $122 million for next year. A Congressional inquiry into the process and reasoning by which Acosta decided on this proposed cut seems appropriate and could begin with a subpoena for the new Acting Secretary of Labor (and former Deputy Secretary of Labor) Patrick Pizella. S-HP

Do you want the House Judiciary Committee to look into this? Write the chair of the Committee.

US tries to move asylum-seekers out of the US, deprive them of attorneys

The Trump administration is working on a plan not only to declare Guatemala a “safe third country” but to send asylum seekers to Guatemala to await their hearings, according to the New Yorker. 

Guatemala is plagued by corruption and by violent criminal groups, according to Human Rights Watch, with women, girls, and LGBTQ+ people especially at risk. Hunger is rampant, due to crop failures and drought; 76,000 asylum-seekers from Guatemala attempted to cross into the US in February alone, accordinng to the NY Post.RLS

In January, the administration implemented the inappropriately named Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which require Central American asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico until their asylum cases are heard. The MPPs leave asylum-seekers stranded in dangerous, overstretched, under-resourced communities where contact with attorneys who could help them with the asylum process is very difficult.

The MPPs have been gradually expanded to different regions, and were made policy in El Paso-Cuidad Juárez more than three months ago. The Texas Tribune is now reporting on changes to the implementation of the MPPs in El Paso-Ciudad Juárez that are making the asylum process increasingly difficult and opaque. In late June, the Justice Department ordered an end to “know your rights” workshops that attorneys and immigrant rights groups held for those who would be facing asylum hearings, claiming that because technically the asylum seekers were in federal custody (even if not in the U.S.) only their attorneys were allowed to speak with them—but, as explained above, most asylum seekers don’t have attorneys because they are stranded in Mexico. This week the Justice Department has also ended the participation of “friends of the court,” trained volunteers who were allowed to assist judges and asylum seekers during hearings by explaining court procedures, providing translation, and relaying information to judges. The results have reportedly been an “exponential” increase in the chaos and level of fear in asylum courts. S-HP.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

US Army Corps of Engineers admits to toxic releases of water in Florida

In a meeting of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, US Army Corps of Engineers Major General Scott Spellmon admitted that the agency was responsible for release of toxic waters polluted with massive blooms of blue-green algae into sensitive Floridian estuaries via canals from Lake Okeechobee, according to the Miami New Times. The blooms of blue-green algae are the result of agricultural runoff pollution spilling into the lake, which has had threateningly high water levels necessitating releases so as to preserve the integrity of the levee system. At issue is that the algae wreaks havoc on the environment and that the releases were, while possibly necessary, done without notifying affected communities.  JC

Non-profit hospital chain highlighted for ruthless collection practices

A ProPublica investigation has found that a system of non-profit hospitals in the Memphis area has pursued relentless collections practices despite clearing 86 million dollars in profits for 2018. Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare operates six hospitals serving a city with a poverty rate of 25%, clearing more than two billion dollars in revenue. Nonetheless, it filed suit against 8300 patients between 2014 and 2018 for unpaid medical bills, securing garnishment orders in 46% of those cases, according to Ars Technica. This has happened despite a nationwide easing of collections practices in the non-profit healthcare sector, after bi-partisan criticism of the punishing practices. Said GOP senator Chuck Grassley in a 2017 op-ed “The arrangement is a compact between tax-exempt hospitals and the entities that grant tax exemption. Federal, state, and local governments forgo billions of dollars in taxes to tax-exempt entities that have been deemed to meet a pressing societal need.” In one illustrative example. Carrie Bennett, who was treated in a two-night stay for shortness of breath and chest pain, accumulated a bill of just over $12,000, which has ballooned with interest judgments to $33,000. Ms. Bennett has never made more than $12 an hour and in 2018 earned a total of $13,800.  JC

No stats on bees

Citing fiscal cuts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that it is suspending National Agricultural Statistics Service data collection for and publication of the Honey Bee Colonies Report. This data is normally collected quarterly, but under the suspension, available data will run from January 1, 2018 to April 1, 2019. There will be no data for the May 2019-July 2019 quarter and those following. According to The Hill, this is the bee data-gathering project that has been scaled-back under the Trump administration. Earlier, the Trump administration had ended a 2014 ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides that was put in place because of the threat these pesticides represent to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. How will the rollback affect bee populations? That’s going to be hard to find out. S-HP

Want to let someone know what the stakes are of the loss of bees? Here is a list of whom to write.

Get your (drug-resistant) UTIs cultured!

Urinary tract infections are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, according an article in the New York Times. A third of UTIs in Britain are resistant to the antibiotics ordinarily used; because we don’t have a nationwide health care system, we don’t know what the percentage is here. The increase is due in part to antibiotics used in poultry, according to a study published in the
American Society of Microbiology. UTIs are ordinarily caused by e coli, which reside in the colon. When people consume chicken–which may contain antibiotic resistant e coli–the bacteria end up in their gut–and can migrate to their bladders. Resistant UTIs can be dangerous, resulting in kidney infections; at a minimum they mean that the misery is prolonged while different antibiotics are tried. Getting a UTI cultured at the time of diagnosis can reduce how long that misery goes on as well as the consumption of the wrong antibiotic. RLS

RESOURCES

  • The Americas of Conscience Checklist recommends this list of actions you can take to address issues at the border.
  • Some recommendations from Sarah-Hope’s list follow relevant stories; here are other opportunities to be heard.
  •  Martha’s list provides numerous opportunities to comment for the public record–on issues including privacy, the migratory bird hunting on Tribal lands, Alaska drilling, multiple state-by-state changing ozone standards, reducing energy efficiency standards for appliances – heaters and furnaces, and much more.
    Rogan’s list has many useful items, that ActBlue Charities has a fund supporting a group of organizations working at the border; a toolkit from Never Again, the Jews organizing against the detention camps; a locator from United We Dream that indicates how many people are being held where; and ways to take action on nearly any issue that concerns you.

News You May Have Missed, July 7

Action is the only solution we know for the paralysis terrible news creates. We regularly recommend the Americans of Conscience checklist; we’re highlighting it today because Jen has a link you might particularly want to know about: Actions Supporting Decency Immigration, which lists many places you can work with or donate to, as well as many actions you can take to restore decency to the immigration and asylum process. See our Resources list below for many more opportunities for action.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Border Patrol officers knew for months about conditions in centers

Border patrol higher-ups knew for months about the atrocious conditions at the Clint detention center, a joint investigation by the New York Times and the El Paso Times reveals. “Some children had no beds to sleep on, no way to clean themselves and sometimes went hungry,” the Times reports. Agents apparently told their superiors again and again about the conditions there, but received no response. Agents told reporters that “outbreaks of scabies, shingles and chickenpox were spreading among the hundreds of children who were being held in cramped cells. The stench of the children’s dirty clothing was so strong it spread to the agents’ own clothing — people in town would scrunch their noses when they left work. The children cried constantly.” RLS 

If you have something to say about the conditions in which children are being held, there are people to write.

2. Deportation raids to begin soon

Immigrant families received a two-week reprieve when Trump agreed to hold off on immigration raids in order to force Democrats to compromise on changes to asylum rules. That reprieve ended Saturday, leaving immigrants in dread, staying inside or going into hiding. ICE officials acknowledge that they expect to make “collateral” arrests of others they encounter who are in the country without documents, according to the Washington Post.

The Post quoted Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles as saying, “Even if the numbers are small, the purpose of the raids and the show of force is to scare a larger population. The threat is purposely meant to affect and destabilize a whole group of people. It’s that psychological attack. Maybe they’ll come for me. Maybe they won’t. Maybe it’ll be my neighbor. It’s very mentally draining.”

Various organizations have resources to help individuals and groups respond to immigration raids. There are lists on our June 23 issue (scroll down) as well as at the Americans of Conscience link above. Or click here for information.

3. High stakes of the citizenship question

After the Supreme Court voted 5-4 not to permit the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, Trump declared that he was considering an executive order to do so, according to The Hill. The ACLU has said it will bring further legal action if he does so.

Drawing on data from Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy , the Washinton Post explains what the stakes are in the citizenship question. By looking at how many Hispanic families declined to answer the question in the
Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, researchers were able to estimate what the consequences would be if it were included in the 2020 census. Hispanics of all backgrounds–including people in the country legally–would be undercounted, leading to seats lost in Congress and massive amounts of funding lost to states and key programs. California, Arizona and Texas would lose Congressional seats while Montana, Minnesota, Alabama and Ohio would gain them. RLS

4. Not enough refugees

The number of refugees admitted to the US has fallen to a historic low, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute. The US accepted only 22,491 refugees in 2019, NPR reported, part of a comprehensive effort to reduce immigration of all kinds into the country. The Trump administration has agreed to accept no more than 30,000 in 2019, according to the International Rescue Committee. That number would increase to a minimum of 95,000 if the GRACE (Guaranteed Refugee Asylum Ceiling) Act is passed. The Grace Act (S.1088; H.R.2146) would also require that the annual number of refugee admissions take into consideration global needs. Co-sponsored by Kamala Harris, this legislation is currently in the Judiciary Committees of both houses of Congress. S-HP, RLS

If you want to speak up about the GRACE Act, here is how to do it.

5. Border Patrol officials have known for years about demeaning Facebook groups

Secret Facebook groups have been used by Customs and Border Patrol Agents to mock and dehumanize migrants, according to ProPublica and CNN. The groups, called “I’m 10-15” and “The Real CBP Nation,” have featured memes that were used to dehumanize migrant families and demean Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. After the existence of “I’m 10-15” was revealed by ProPublica, the group’s name was first changed to “America First,” then archived to prevent future posts or comments on the page. This move–as well as the members who left the group in the wake of the ProPublica article–was decried in “The Real CBP Nation.” Politico points out that as far back as February 2016, Customs and Border Patrol seems to have been aware that officers were participating in closed Facebook groups; in 2018 they issued a memo reminding employees that the CBP code of conduct prohibits employees from certain conduct and communication both in the workplace and while off duty on the grounds of discrimination and harassment. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General is investigating the matter. JM-L

If you are inclined to speak up about these Facebook groups, here are some possibilities for people to write.

6. No interpreters, hearings via video link

Asylum-seekers will no longer have access to in-court interpreters during their first deportation hearings if a Department of Justice (DOJ) plan is put into effect. At these initial hearings, asylum-seekers receive information on their rights and are given a schedule for follow-up hearings. Under the DOJ proposal, asylum-seekers would watch a video in Spanish or an indigenous language that would give an overview of their rights and of the hearing process, but would then attend the initial hearing without an interpreter. Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges points out that this new policy highlights the DOJ’s refusal to see immigration as “real” courts. One immigration judge, speaking on the condition of anonymity to a San Francisco Chronicle reporter warned, “[The policy] is a disaster in the making. What if you have an individual that speaks an indigenous language and has no education and is completely illiterate? You think showing them a video is going to completely inform them of their rights? How are they supposed to ask questions of the judge?” S-HP

An even more extreme proposal to hold immigration hearings via video in huge tents in Mexican border cities was revealed by the Intercept last week . Those asylum seekers who are being required to wait in Mexico would have their cases heard en masse by judges in far-away cities. Reporters, observer and family members would be barred; it’s not clear whether attorneys would be permitted on site. The Intercept quoted Taylor Levy, an immigration lawyer in El Paso, as saying, “I have never seen so much crying in court. People are so afraid to go back to Mexico. Sometimes the proceedings have to stop because the crying is so loud that the recording equipment can’t pick up words.”

You can speak up about these proposals: addresses are here.

7. Undocumented family members of troops no longer protected

Under a practice called “Parole in Place,” undocumented, immediate family members of active-duty troops have been able to apply for temporary residency. This is not a path to citizenship; it is simply permission to remain in the country the family member—parent, child—is serving during the term of that service. The intent of this practice was to prevent situations in which active-duty troops would be disrupted in their work by concerns for family members who might be deported. Now, according to NPR, family members who would have qualified for “Parole in Place” are receiving notices that the program is being terminated. S-HP

If you wish to say something to the Senate Armed Services Committee about the end of this policy, here are their addresses.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

8.Avoiding war with Iran?

Iran and France agreed on Sunday to discuss the conditions for re-opening talks that could save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal which Trump unilaterally renounced while ramping up sanctions, the BBC reported. Iran announced on Saturday that it would be breaching the limit the deal established on enriched uranium unless European countries stepped up to mitigate U.S. sanctions. Sanctions have caused the price of staples, such as meat, vegatables and cheese, to double, and caused shortages of foreign-produced goods, such as baby diapers, according to the Statistical Centre of Iran. RLS

If you want to act against war with Iran, some possibilities are here.

9. Canada pension plan divests from detention camps

The Canada Pension Plan has divested from two companies that run private prisons. As of last year, the CPP had invested millions in The GEO Group and CoreCivic, two of the companies that own many of the detention camps holding asylum seekers and their children in filthy and overcrowded conditions, according to the Toronto Star.

.In response to the divestment, New Democratic Party MP Charlie Angus urged the Canadian government to speak up more strongly about the camps. “When you’re talking about children being denied toothbrushes, migrants being told to drink out of toilets, children getting separated from their families — these are forms of abuse that contravene the basic standards of international law,” he said. “…This offends Canadian values.”

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

10. Tariffs on solar undercuts renewable energy

Donald Trump is once again ensuring that fossil fuels and renewable energy won’t compete on a level playing field in what Time calls “the biggest blow he’s dealt to the renewable energy industry yet.” He is placing tariffs of up to 35% on solar equipment made outside the U.S. The administration claims this move will protect the U.S. solar energy industry from unfair foreign competition, but that claim is undermined by the fact that 80% of the parts used in the U.S. solar energy industry are produced abroad. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the solar energy industry had created 260,000 jobs in the U.S., but that number is predicted to drop by tens of thousands as a result of Trump’s move. S-HP

If you want to speak up about this effort to undermine solar power, you can write to the people listed here.

11. Drought uncovers ancient palace complex

A drought in northern Iraq has resulted in low water levels in the reservoir contained by the Mosul dam on the Tigris river, revealing a large palace complex built by a little known civilization called the Mittani Empire in the years between 1200 and 1300 BC. Working quickly, a team of German and Iraqi archaeologists managed to uncover eight of ten rooms, finding fired brick floor tiles and ten cuneiform tablets currently being translated. Of particular interest are the remains of vibrant red and blue wall murals, a common feature of elite buildings of the time which rarely survived the centuries. The Mittani are known from period references on tablets and a few scattered archaeology sites but their empire stretched from modern day Turkey, down the Mediterranean coast of Syria and into northeastern Iraq. They were regarded as equals by contemporary Egyptian and Assyrian accounts, known for their skilled horsemen and chariots but believed to have been overcome by invasions by Hittites and Assyrians, according to a report from the Smithsonian Magazine.
JC

12. Gigantic algal blooms here to stay

Researchers at the University of Southern Florida working with satellite imagery supplied by NASA have found the largest algal bloom in the world, stretching entirely across the North Atlantic ocean from the Gulf of Mexico to the shores of West Africa. The bloom is composed of the brown algae Sargassum, which grows in clumps in warm open waters and washes up frequently on beaches. Sargassum growth has exploded since 2011, closing beaches and prompting a national emergency for the island of Barbados; scientists now understand why the mega blooms have occurred and how they’re are likely here to stay.

For Sargassum to grow to these proportions, nutrient rich waters must rise from the colder deeper waters off of the cost of Africa and combine with nutrient rich runoff from the Amazon river in South America. It’s the waters of the Amazon that are providing the critical boost, as deforestation and fertilizer use have increased the nutrient content of the river water. This is unlikely to change, particularly under the aggressive deforesting policies of current Brazilian president Bolsonaro, meaning that beaches throughout the tropics can expect to see millions more tons of the algae wash up in coming years. JC


13. Surgery restores lost hand function in tetraplegic patients

Results of a series of surgeries performed by Australian doctors on a small group of 16 spinal injury patients were published in the journal The Lancet, detailing how a novel procedure called nerve transfer surgery was able to restore the use of a hand in 12 of those studied. The patients had all lost use of both their arms, legs and torso due to spinal injury and such patients have reported regaining the use of an arm and hand to be their top priority above walking or sexual function. Doctors were able to painstakingly connect nerves from above the injury site to corresponding nerves below the injury in a series of surgeries and after intense physiotherapy patients who were unable to even register a score on standard pinch and grasp tests are now able to perform most of the tasks of daily living for themselves. While this procedure has been successful before, this is the first standardized study of the procedure with a group of patients undergoing the same treatment and testing. The data derived from studies such as this one will assist surgeons in selecting the most promising candidates for the surgery JC

Arts & Culture

Malian singer kept away from music festival by draconian visa rules

International artists are finding it increasingly difficult to navigate the labyrinthian visa system and visit the United States. Recently, Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté, a distinguished Malian singer, was prevented from coming to the Kronos festival due to new vis complexities.

As the San Francisco Classical Voice puts it, “But the question is whether the system is fair and efficient, as well as transparent and consistent and whether its subjective nature could be used to irrevocably undermine privacy laws, and also be used to reflect, even normalize racial, religious, or, conceivably, cultural biases.”

First-ever retrospective of North American women artists opens in Minneapolis

“This is the first, believe it or not, show devoted to Native women artists,” said Jill Ahlberg Yohe, who co-curated the exhibit with Teri Greeves, told the Guardian. “It’s the first to honor Native women from ancient times to the contemporary moment…90% of Native art is made by women. Native artists know this. It’s just non-Native people who haven’t recognized that.” The show is at the Minneapolis Institute of Art until August 18, with over 115 artists from 50 Native communities represented.

No more Mad Magazine in a mad world

Sad news for anyone who grew up with its satire and snark: Mad Magazine will stop publishing original material, making past issues available only to subscribers, according to Open Content. Mad was an essential force in supporting 12 year olds in questioning the status quo; does the status quo itself serve that function now?

Alaska: the only state without an arts council?

 Alaska’s Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy moved last week to cut 41% from Alaska’s university system.  He also proposes to completely do away with the state’s art council. Democratic legislators do not expect to be able to overturn his veto, according to Hypoallergenic.

Resources

  • Some recommendations from Sarah-Hope’s list follow relevant stories; here are others.
  • Martha’s list provides numerous opportunities to comment for the public record–on issues ranging from the dangers of diesel exhaust for miners to Trump’s plan to increase surveillance of travellers to the government’s proposal to open 80 new plutonium pits.
  • Rogan’s list has many useful items, including a toolkit from Never Again, the Jews organizing against the detention camps; a locator from United We Dream that indicates how many people are being held where; talking points for calling your congressperson about the camps, and much more.

NYMHM for 30 June

We think readers might be missing the news of children in detention camps not because the headlines aren’t there but because the news is so hard to read. If you read the news here, you’ll also see the ways you can intervene in it–and get a glimpse of the many others who are acting as well.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Children kept in detention beyond legal time limits.

Half of the 2,300 children kept in a “temporary” tent shelter in Homestead, Florida have been there longer than the 20 days permitted by law. Many have been in the crowded, chaotic facility for months, according to the New York Times. As the Times explains, because it is temporary, it “is not subject to state regulations and inspections intended to guarantee child welfare — only to a loose set of Department of Health and Human Services guidelines. ” RLS

2. Children returned to troubled detention center

Over the night of June 23-24 some 270 children were removed from the Clint, Texas Border Patrol Station where they had been housed for weeks in inhumane conditions, as we noted last week. On Monday, approximately two hundred and fifty of these children were placed in a shelter network run by the Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement shelter, the AP reported.. The remainder were moved to a Custom and Border Patrol “tent city.” By June 25 over one hundred of those children had been returned to Clint because the “overcrowding situation” had been “relieved.” No information is available on the locations of individual children, the conditions at those sites, how soon they will be shipped to yet another facility and what is being done to re-unite them with their parents. Also on June 25, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Acting Commissioner, John Sanders, tendered his resignation. It is now being reported that Mark Morgan will become Acting Commissioner. Morgan is a favorite of Steve Miller (more or less Trump’s chief-cooking-up-ways-to-abuse-asylum-seekers guy), and had been previously suggested for the acting Commissioner position, but his appointment had been blocked at that time by Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan. S-HP

3. Federal judge gives government two weeks to “remediate” conditions at detention centers

Judge Dolly Gee has directed the monitor she appointed last year to act quickly to address conditions in detention centers, in response to a motion from lawyers who visited the centers. She has also insisted that doctors be permitted in the facility, according to CNN. Monitors from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General also reported significant problems due to overcrowding, according to the New York Times. In May, Reuters ran pictures from above of a make-shift detention camp in McAllen, Texas, where people were sleeping on the ground and the overcrowding is evident.

As the Times reported, “the conditions under which children are being held ‘could be compared to torture facilities,’ Dolly Lucio Sevier, a pediatrician who visited the Clint facility, said in her declaration. ‘That is, extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food.'”

A seven-year-old girl being held in the Clint facility is showing signs of severe trauma; she is allowed to call her parents, who live and work in the U.S., but she can only sob uncontrollably on the telephone, according to an AP story. RLS

Yes magazine has a list of 20 ways to help immigrants. See Rogan’s list for other options.

4. 60,000 asylum-seeking children entered the U.S. in the last 40 days.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan reported that 60,000 refugee children had been detained at the border in the last 40 days, according to the BBC. Some arrived along with their families; others came alone. The BBC did not provide further details. RLS

5. Asylum officers’ union protests “remain in Mexico” policy

The union representing asylum officers, whose job it is to enforce the policy formally called “Migrant Protection Protocols which requires asylym seekers to remain in Mexico until their cases can be heard, says that the policy threatens asylum-seekers’ lives and “creates a conflict between their professional responsibility and the president’s directives,” NPR reported.
“[The Migrant Protection Protocols program] violates our Nation’s longstanding tradition and international treaty and domestic obligation not to return those fleeing persecution to a territory where they will be persecuted,” the union wrote in its filing to the 9th Circuit Court, according to NPR. RLS

6. Advocating for refugees

Two important pieces of legislation that would protect asylum-seekers from unreasonable detention have been languishing in the Senate Judiciary Committee since February. S.397, the Shut Down Child Prison Camps Act, introduced by Jeff Merkley, would prohibit Health and Human Services from operating unlicensed temporary shelters for the detention of asylum-seeking children. S.388, the Families Not Facilities Act, introduced by Kamala Harris, would prohibit civil immigration actions that harm unaccompanied children and set guidelines for ensuring their safety and welfare S-HP

Last week we gave you a list of organizations that are helping asylum-seekers. You can see that list here. This week, we offer you some points to consider when writing legislators.

7. Tillerson testified, Mueller scheduled to testify

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whom Trump fired in 2018, testified before Congress last month that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner left him out of various diplomatic initiatives, according to the Washington Post. In the transcript recently made available, the Post reports that Tillerson testified that “Kushner ‘met often’ with Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.”

Robert Mueller will be testifying before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees in July. In an opinion piece for NBC, Mimi Rocah explains why Mueller’s testimony matters. We should be familiar by now with the way much testimony before Congressional committees is conducted. Each committee member is allotted time for posing her/his questions of the person being interviewed—and quite frequently the Congressmember uses the bulk of that time to pontificate on her/his views, rather than to ask questions that might provide new, important information on the topic of the testimony. The last thing we need when Mueller testifies is for that time to be eaten up by commentary by those hostile to the investigation. S-HP

If you want to speak up about the grandstanding that might prevent Mueller from being heard, write the Judiciary and Intelligence Committee Chairs.

8. Trump withholding information

The Trump administration continues to withhold information regarding five meetings Trump has had with Vladimir Putin. For months, the Chairs of three House committees—Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight and Government Reform—have been trying to obtain documentation from these meetings, which should be preserved under the Presidential Records Act. White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has twice failed to respond to written Congressional inquiries regarding these materials. The Washington Post quotes Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Elijah E. Cummings as explaining, “The Presidential Records Act is at the core of the Oversight Committee’s legislative and oversight jurisdiction… the White House has disregarded these legitimate congressional inquiries and dissembled about basic facts. These actions do not serve the interests of the American people, and they obstruct and frustrate the Committee’s review.” Now a pair of progressive nonprofits—American Oversight and Democracy Forward—have filed suit against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in hoped of gaining the release of these materials. The lawsuit argues that under the Federal Records Act, Pompeo is required to preserve any meeting notes prepared by State Department employees. S-HP

If you want to speak up about the withholding of documents, here is where to write.

9. Ensuring Election Security

The House has passed H.R.1946, the Securing American’s Elections Act. H.R.1946 would allocate $600 million for improved state-level election security and would provide an addition $175 million every two years for continued maintenance and improvement of state election systems. It also requires specific cybersecurity measures, including a ban on wireless communication devices in election systems. Republicans are claiming that this legislation is a form of federal overreach and that election security should be a state-level issue, despite the number of failures we’ve seen in state elections over the past few years. Now that this legislation has been passed by the House, it needs to be taken up by the Senate, where Mitch McConnell seems determined to prevent serious consideration of any election security legislation, Salon points out. S-HP

If you would like to tell your senators that election security matters to you, the information you need is here.

10. Avoiding war with Iran

“That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.” This is the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, passed three days after 9/11, which the Trump administration could use to launch an attack on Iran without seeking Congressional approval, the New Yorker points out. RLS

Nonetheless, Congress has some options for trying to end this war before it is launched. Senators can refuse to support the National Defense Authorization Act until it includes the bipartisan Udall-Paul amendment to prohibit unauthorized military operations in or against Iran. Senators can also support S.1039, which explicitly denies the administration authorization to go to war with Iran—Feinstein and Harris have both done this. S.1039 is currently with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Representatives can insist on a similar House amendment to the Defense Authorization Act and co-sponsor H.R.2354, the House companion to S.1039. H.R.2354 is currently with the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees. Both Senators and Representatives can issue public statements making clear that Congress has not authorized the use of any military force against Iran. S-HP

If you want to speak up about a possible war on Iran, you can find the names and addresses of people to write here.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

11. Canada resettled the most refugees–but still not enough

Of the 92,400 refugees who were resettled last year, 28,100 were received by Canada, according to the U.N. The United States resettled 22,900. The UN High Commissioner on refugees attributes Canada’s success in resettling refugees and moving them toward citizenship to the system of private sponsorship, which gives them more opportunities to integrate into Canadian society, according to the CBC.

However, some 70 million people worldwide have been displaced from their homes due to persecution or conflict.. Most of them are hosted in temporary arrangements outside North America,: “Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees worldwide, with 3.7 million people in 2018, while Pakistan hosted 1.4 million and Uganda 1.2 million,” according to the CBC. RLS

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

12. Agriculture

The Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is known globally for the abilities of its scientists and the quality of research it produces. This research is unique in that, while it is peer-reviewed, it is aimed directly at farmers and consumers, instead of being limited to appearing in scientific journals. In a “normal” administration, the Department of Agriculture would be publicizing the findings of government-funded studies by ARS. But at the moment, there are significant gaps in what the Department of Agriculture does and doesn’t choose to bring to public attention—with at least 45 completed studies not receiving the promotion that would usually accompany their release. An investigation by Politico has documented this change in Department of Agriculture practice and has found a common factor among the unpublicized findings: they all address the effects of climate change. These are studies looking at the likely impact of rising temperatures, volatile weather, and increased carbon dioxide levels—which most certainly are occurring, even if the administration insists that scientists remain silent on the causes of these.

The findings of these studies include the following:
–Rice, which is the basis of the diet of over 800 million people, loses vitamins in a carbon-rich environment;
–The quality of grasses used in raising cattle is reduced by climate warming;
–Warm temperatures boost pollen counts, creating longer and worsen allergy seasons;
–Agriculture pollution and nutrient runoff, which are responsible for the growing dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, will increase with warming, but could be avoided with specific conservation practices;
–Coffee is a useful plant for studying interactions among plants, pests, and our changing environment.

Bottom line: these are studies with important implications for farming and public health, but ordinary Americans may miss much of this information because of what the Department of Agriculture now leaves out. S-HP

If you want to speak up about omissions in Department of Agriculture reports, you can write officials at the addresses here.

RESOURCES

  • The Americas of Conscience Checklist is focusing on voter empowerment for the month of June. See their site for an explanation and easy actions you can take.
  • Some of the items from Sarah-Hope’s list are integrated with the stories above; see the full list for more opportunities to be heard.
  • Martha’s list  provides opportunities to comment for the public record. This week she covers natural gas drilling in Alaska, toxins in drinking water, relaxed requirements for transporting nuclear weapons, protections for LGBTQ health, and many other issues–in particular proposals to redefine how the government measures things – poverty rates, pollution.
  • Rogan’s list has ways to speak up about the need to investigate Kavanaugh for perjury, multiple options for addressing the crisis of children in detention, the importance of pressing Democratic presidential candidates on climate change–and more.

NYMHM for 23 June

You won’t have missed the news about the planned–and cancelled–deportation raids, nor the children kept in egregious conditions on the border, nor the planned–and cancelled–attack on Iran. Still, we’re covering these issues because we think they are the tip of the iceberg. We try to provide a glimpse of the rest, along with some strategies to keep us from careening into it. (Titanic metaphor deliberate.)

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Children caring for children in detention

The special mix of cruelty and surreality that underlies federal treatment of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum was on full display recently before a 9th Circuit Court panel on June 18, when a Justice Department representative argued that a legal settlement requiring “safe and sanitary” facilities for such detainees does not require provision of soap and toothbrushes nor does it require any sleeping accommodations beyond cement floors and foil blankets.

The “safe and sanitary” requirement came out of the 1985 Flores Agreement that established guidelines for the humane detention, treatment, and release of minors taken into federal custody. The Department of Justice Representative pointed out that the [Flores] agreement did not specifically enumerate things like soap and bedding and that, therefore, those conditions were “left to agencies to determine.” U.S. Circuit Judge William Fletcher responded, “or it was relatively obvious. And at least obvious enough so that if you’re putting people in a crowded room to sleep on a cement floor with an aluminum foil blanket on top of them that it doesn’t comply with the agreement.”

Meanwhile the Associated Press (AP) has released an article describing conditions for detained children at a Customs and Border Patrol facility outside El Paso, Texas. The article is based on interviews conducted by a legal team with sixty of those children. On June 19 there were three infants in the station, all with their teen mothers, along with a 1-year-old, two 2-year-olds and a 3-year-old. There are dozens more under 12. Fifteen have the flu, and 10 more are quarantined. Older children look after younger children: an eight-year-old has been looking after a four-year-old; a group of girls ages ten to fifteen have been caring for a two-year-old who needs constant holding. The daily menu is monotonous: oatmeal, a cookie, and a sweetened drink for breakfast; instant noodles for lunch; a burrito and a cookie for dinner. Meals do not include fruits and vegetables. Children have gone for weeks without bathing or a change of clothes. The AP quotes Holly Cooper, a member of the interview team and co-direct of UC Davis’ Immigrant Law Clinic, saying “In twenty-two years of doing visits with children in detention, I have never heard of this level of inhumanity.” S-HP

To speak up about the conditions of children in detention, write to those on this list.

2. Protests and responses to incarcerated kids

The news coverage of the children in this detention center has been widespread. PBS has an interview with Warren Binford, the professor who was on site A Marketwatch piece last year suggested that the best way to help parents separated from their children is to post their bail.

In response to the circumstances of children in detention, various actions have launched. Three Texas educators and parents, Nathanael O’Reilly, Tricia Jenkins and Jeremy Bennett, raised $3000 in 12 hours to buy basic toiletries and provisions for the children in the Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas. If they are not permitted to deliver them, they will take the supplies to Annunciation House in El Paso, which provides services to immigrants. The fundraiser is closed; the organizers recommend that people contribute to Annunciation House, RAICES Texas, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of San Antonio, or Angry Tias and Abuelas, who take food and a backpack with daily hygiene supplies to immigrants leaving detention and provide transportation to respite houses. See the CBS story about them. Outside of Texas, the Florence Project provides legal and social services to men, women and children threatened with deportation in Arizona, where 5000 refugees per day are detained.

Lights for Liberty is organizing vigils in many cities for July 12. Amy Siskind (Americans of Conscience Checklist) has a public post on Facebook where various people are posting places to donate and actions to take. RLS

3. Raids delayed for two weeks

On June 17, Trump announced that “millions” of people in the country illegally would be arrested and deported in a coordinated series of raids. The raids were designed to apprehend parents with children. The logistics for families were harrowing, as parents could be deported while children were in school or day care. ICE officials had said that the raids were not imminent and that they had not known that Trump intended to announce them, according to the Washington Post.

Then, on Saturday, Trump announced by tweet that he would delay the raids for two weeks, unless Democrats agree to changes in asylum law. Nancy Pelosi had phoned Trump to ask him to call off the raids and publicly urged Trump to cancel the raids. Insiders in Homeland Security themselves were debating the viability of Sunday’s proposed raids, partially because detention facilities are overcrowded and because they believe sustained, unannounced raids over a period of time are more effective. The New York Times quoted thirteen-year-old Candi has saying, “I am kind of happy. But if it happens in two weeks I am still scared. I don’t want to lose my mom.” RLS

Various organizations have resources to help individuals and groups respond to immigration raids.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has “Know Your Rights” flyers in multiple languages. 

You can print or order “red cards” that explain people’s rights from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC).

United We Dream has a whole page of resources for assisting immigrants, in everything from education to mental health.

The Immigrant Defence Project has a toolkit for dealing with ICE raids.

The ACLU has a video in multiple languages that explains what to do if ICE arrives on your doorstep.

Lawyers for Good Government suggests a variety of steps individuals can take to support the legal rights of asylum seekers.

4. Trump not attacking Iran–yet

In response to the shooting down of an American drone, Trump asserted that he cancelled a planned attack on three sites in Iran with 10 minutes to spare after he learned that it would have killed 150 people. However, other sources say that he knew all along what the death toll would be, according to the New York Times. The Times also says that there are two different versions of what happened coming from Iran: one that Iran intended to shoot down the drone and the other that a rogue official ordered it. Complicating these narratives is the statement by an unnamed Trump administration official–buried in the middle of the New York Times article–who said that the drone–or another American aircraft–may indeed have violated Iranian airspace.

Instead of launching missiles, the US launched a cyber-attack instead, according to Vox. It has received comparatively little coverage.

Nicholas Kristof has a valuable column in the June 22 NY Times, in which he demonstrates that Trump’s strategy of applying “maximum pressure” to complex situations invariably backfires, and suggesting a set of principles for interventions. For background on the apparently inexorable drive toward war on Iran, see Conn Hallinan’s book review in Foreign Policy in Focus last fall. RLS

It’s Time to Fight has issued a list of recommended responses including the following. You can get a script for phone calls if you follow Celeste Pewter on Twitter–which is worth doing anyway. She’s a former political staffer who sends out an email action list.

*ask Congressmembers to condemn the Trump administration’s initial decision to go forward with strikes without Congressional approval, particularly in light of the fact that the House had voted to end the 9/11 authorization for use of force the previous day-

*remind White House they cannot revisit issue of strikes without Congressional approval

*declare public support for an independent investigation, as requested by the European Union, into the alleged Iranian attack on a tanker, rather than unilateral action

*request an investigation by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to consider the following: why was the order to stand down issued after the strikes were initiated, planes were in the air, and ships were in place? What decision-making process is the White House using to decide whether to initiate strikes? S-HP

5. Foreign aid ending to three Central American countries

The State Department has announced its intention to end all foreign aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador until these countries take “concrete actions to reduce the number of illegal migrants coming to the U.S. border,” Axios reports. Currently, World Bank data place the poverty rate in these countries as follows: Honduras, 66% (2016, most recent year available); Guatemala, 59.3% (2014, most recent year available); and El Salvador, 31% (2016, most recent year available). While cross-national comparisons are difficult, we can note that the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the U.S. poverty rate at 12.3% in 2017 (most recent year available). CIA data on Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador note significant numbers of “internally displaced persons” (those forced to relocate involuntarily within a country, but not immigrating outside of that country) due to violence, extortion, forced gang recruitment, ongoing drug cartel violence, and ongoing gang violence. Given these data, it’s hard to see how foreign aid cuts will reduce migration—except, perhaps, through extreme militarization of borders, which will do nothing to address the challenges of violence and poverty faced by these countries’ residents. As California Senator Kamala Harris put it in a recent posting, “Refugees are fleeing violence in Central America and these [foreign aid] investments are crucial to addressing the root of these problems. Gutting resources isn’t the answer.” S-HP

If you have things to say about this policy, here’s whom to write.

6. Happy Pride. Good news/bad news

Popular Information has raised questions about the accuracy of the Human Rights Campaign Fund’s (HRCF) “Corporate Equity Index,” which it uses to identify the best workplaces for LGBTQ employees. Companies hoping to win this recognition must respond to a detailed questionnaire produced by the HRCF. Components of the index include policies regarding LGBTQ employees and advocacy on LGBTQ issues.

The HRCF also publishes a Congressional Scorecard, that examines Congressmembers’ votes on confirmation of anti-gay cabinet officials, healthcare for transgendered troops, and similar issues. Here’s where things get interesting. Popular Information has identified nine companies that received perfect Equity Index scores from the HRCF, but that also donated nearly $1 million or more from 2017 to 2018 to campaigns of Congressmembers who had received a zero rating on the HRCF Congressional Scorecard. Those companies are

-AT&T, which gave $2.75+ million to anti-gay politicians between 2017 and 2018

-UPS, which gave $2.3+ million to anti-gay politicians between 2017 and 2018

-Comcast, which gave $2.1+ million to anti-gay politicians between 2017 and 2018

-Home Depot, which gave $1.8+ million to anti-gay politicians between 2017 and 2018

-General Electric, which gave $1.3+ million to anti-gay politicians between 2017 and 2018

-FedEx, which gave $1.2+ million to anti-gay politicians between 2017 and 2018

-UBS, which gave $1+ million to anti-gay politicians between 2017 and 2018

-Verizon, which gave $1+ million to anti-gay politicians between 2017 and 2018

-Pfizer, which gave just under $1 million to anti-gay politicians between 2017 and 2018

All of these companies have taken stands supportive of LGBTQ Americans—but they have also contributed substantially to the campaigns of politicians determined to limit the rights or and protections for LGBTQ Americans. S-HP.

If you want to say something about this to the Human Rights Campaign Fund or to these specific companies, here are addresses.

7. Happy Juneteenth! A call for reparations

For thirty years, the proposal to develop a House commission to study possible reparations for slavery and systematic discrimination by federal agencies,—such as the Federal Housing Administration and its policy of preventing Black home ownership through “redlining”—has largely been ignored. Now, the House is considering forming such a commission and has begun hearings on the issue. The last time such hearings were held was over ten years ago. H.R.40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African-Americans Act, has sixty-six cosponsors in the House, all of them Democrats. Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose 2014 essay in the Atlantic, “The Case for Reparations,” has helped fuel the push for reparations study is quoted in the New York Times explaining “This is about more than slavery; this isn’t about litigating things that happened 150 years ago. There are people who are alive today who are impacted by the policies that came out of slavery…. We can’t say that things that happened 150 years ago don’t matter but somehow the American revolution does matter. Either the past matters or it doesn’t.”

If you want to say something about reparations, here is how to find the addresses for your members of Congress.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

8. Climate Change: Canada unclear on the concept

On Monday, the Canadian parliament passed a resolution declaring a climate emerency, which said that Canada would have to reduce its fossil fuel emissions to reach the targets established in the Paris accords. The next day, Trudeau’s cabinet approved
Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX) , according to Vice. Approval of the pipeline had been stalled because a Federal Court of Appeal had ruled that consultations with First Nations were inadequate. The Court now says that the subsequent consulations are sufficient, but some First Nations groups are preparing to block the pipeline.

A 2015 study from the journal Nature said plainly that for Canada to meet the terms of the agreement it signed to keep global warming under 2 degrees, it would have to leave most of its fossil fuel reserves unextracted. As the CBC put it then, “no more than 7.5 billion barrels of oil from the oilsands can be produced by 2050 — a mere 15 per cent of viable reserves and only about one per cent of total bitumen.” In addition,
“Canada would also have to leave some of its conventional oil and natural gas, and almost all of its coal, untouched.” RLS

9. New report reveals Saudi government engineered journalist’s murder

At a time when the Republican administration is selling arms and providing nuclear technology to the Saudis, a newly released U.N. report has concluded that the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a legal U.S. resident, as well as a Saudi citizen, was probably orchestrated at the highest levels of the Saudi government, according to the New York Times. The report’s author Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions for the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) Agnes Callamard included the following findings:
​1) there was “credible evidence [of] the crime scenes having been thoroughly, even forensically cleaned”; 2) Saudi coverup efforts included scrubbing down of rooms, blocking investigator access, and possible burning of evidence; 3) on the day of the killing, a Saudi autopsy specialist reassured others involved that dismembering Khashoggi’s body would “be easy…. Joint will be separated. It will not be a problem”; 4) both the Saudi Consul General  and officials in Riyadh played an active role in the killing and cover-up.

The report has called for further investigation of the Khashoggi assassination by both the United Nations and by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, due to his status as a U.S. resident. S-HP

If you want to join the calls to investigate the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, here are people to write.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT


10. Arctic temperatures soar, leading to unprecedented melting

Temperatures in Greenland were 40 degrees higher than normal, spurring massive melting of 2 billion tons of snow and ice, a melt exceeded only in extent by the one in 2012 but occurring earlier in the year, setting the stage for a new record. The Greenland ice sheet is the second largest body of ice on the planet, smaller than only the Antarctic icecap. Should all the ice melt, sea levels would rise 24 feet.

In Alaska and across northern Canada, permafrost is melting about 70 years faster than scientists had predicted, the result of a string of summers with record high temperatures. Permafrost is underground ice, freezing the soil down to bedrock; it has been for the last 5000 years (at least), frozen throughout the year. The results of permafrost melting are profound, changing the landscape from frozen plains to wavy rises and depressions as the ground buckles, with liquid water ponds fueling plant growth, the Guardian reports. Of great concern is that the permafrost throughout the arctic is a vast C02 and methane sink, so vegetation locked away frozen for centuries is now decomposing and releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gas, which will further exacerbate global climate change. JC

11. Huge aquifer found in the Northeast United states under the ocean floor

A survey conducted by Columbia University and published in the journal Scientific Reports, published by Nature, shows that a vast underground reservoir of fresh water lies under the US coast running from at a minimum Massachusetts in the north to southern New Jersey in the south. Estimated to contain 670 cubic miles of water, the aquifer extends out in places 75 miles from shore, varying from 1 part salt in a thousand to 15 parts (terrestrial fresh water is 1 part per thousand). The water closer to shore is less salty. The location of the fresher water is significant because it suggests that the source of the water may not be “fossil” water trapped by glaciation but instead water pulled from the landmass, possibly by tidal action working as a “pump.” While 15 parts per thousand isn’t exactly “fresh,” it’s considerably less salty than the 35 parts per thousand in sea water, which would make it much easier and less costly to desalinize. It’s hoped that similar aquifers exist offshore around the world which might provide a vital source of fresh water for future coastal cities, according to phys.org. JC

12. Sulfoxaflor: Not the bees’ knees

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued an “emergency” exception to allow eleven states to use the pesticide sulfoxaflor–thought to be an alternative to the pollinator-harming neonicotinoids–on cotton and sorghum. A study published in Nature last year (and you can’t get much more scientifically credible than Nature) found that sulfoxaflor inhibits bumblebee reproduction. In most of the eleven states, this is the fourth year that the emergency exception has been allowed, according to the Hill.. A 2015 lawsuit by beekeepers led to a temporary ban on sulfoxaflor, but use of the chemical was reinstated in 2016 (which was during the Obama administration), with instructions on how to use the pesticide to minimize its impact on bees. S-HP.

If you want to remind the EPA that sulfoxaflor is dangerous to bees, you can get the address here.

Arts & Culture

Corcoran redeems itself for canceling Mapplethorpe show

The Corcoran School of Art & Design has an exhibition on the cancellation of a retrospective show by Robert Mapplethorpe at the behest of Jesse Helms, the Republican senator from North Carolina who inveighed against its gay themes.

MacArthur “genius” Rhiannon Giddens to compose opera based on slave narrative

Musical polymath Rhiannon Giddens has been commissioned to write an opera based on the autobiography of Omar Ibn Said, a Muslim-African man who was enslaved and transported to Charleston, S.C. (Some 10-20 per cent of slaves were Muslim.)

An interview with filmmaker Tom Kalin on art and LGBTQ politics

Hypoallergenic has an interview with filmmaker Tom Kalin on his 1992 film Swoon, as well as his work with ACT UP and activism in the age of Trump: “When Trump was elected,” he said, “I realized I had incredible body memory for activism.” About the 80s, he says, “All I felt was fear of dying.”

A database of 600 women artists you might have missed

A Space of Their Own is an illustrated online database of over 600 female artists working in the US and Europe between the 15th and 19th centuries, most of whom have been overlooked and under-rated.  Many works in the database have been restored in preparation for their online debut.

RESOURCES

  • The Americas of Conscience Checklist is focusing on voter empowerment for the month of June. See their site for an explanation and easy actions you can take.
  • Many of the action items above are from Sarah-Hope’s list; see the google doc for more, include ways to comment on private prisons, fossil fuel, and energy costs.
  • Martha’s list has a variety of ways to comment for the record, including on protections for LGBT people, increases in plutonium production, reductions in environmental protections, and much more.
  • See also Rogan’s List  for summaries of issues and addresses for postcarding.

NYMHM for 16 Jun

Astonishingly, given the news week it has been, there has been some good news. In response to protests by hundreds of thousands of people, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong suspended (but did not scrap) a bill that would have permitted the extradition of those accused of crimes to mainland China. The head of the NIH has said he will no longer participate in panels with only male speakers. Nicaragua has released one hundred political prisoners. And no elephants have been poached in a protected African park for over a year (see below for how it has been possible). In short, collective action opens possibilities.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Challenges to restrictions on foster parents based on religion

A joint investigation by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) and USA Today has examined the impact of “Project Blitz,” a “religious freedom” program pursuing the right to be able to deny services and goods based on religious grounds, across several policy areas. The official title of the key Project Blitz document is “Report and Analysis on Religious Freedom Measures Impacting Prayer and Faith in America,” and it outlines a plan for codifying a Christian (one very narrow type of Christian) nation. A particularly disturbing trend supported by Project Blitz is the creation of legislation allowing child placement agencies the right to turn away prospective foster and adoptive parents who don’t share their religious beliefs or moral convictions—Catholics, Jews, LGBTQ+ Americans, and many other groups.

The most recent active challenge to such legislation is taking place in South Carolina, where a Catholic prospective foster parent was rejected because Catholics do not consider the Bible the “only… authoritative Word of God.” The first bill allowing such religious freedoms was passed sixteen years ago in North Dakota. Similar laws have recently been passed in Texas, Alabama, Michigan, and South Dakota. CPI used its model legislation tracker to identify similar legislation and found language matching that original North Dakota bill in a total of sixty-six bills across twenty-one states and in the House of Representative. The Project Blitz playbook was first publicly released by the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation—a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization with members at all levels of state and national government—in 2017. S-HP

If you want to speak up about this legislation, here are some options.

2. Asylum-seekers kept outside in wire cages

Asylum seekers of all ages are being kept in untenable conditions.

–An NBC News analysis has determined that 24 asylum seekers have died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention since Donald Trump took office. This number does not include deaths among asylum seekers held by other government agencies nor does it include deaths of asylum seekers following their release from ICE detention.

–Customs and Border Patrol has been holding hundreds of asylum seekers outdoors for weeks in El Paso, Texas, where the high temperature this month was 101. Those detained are using scraps, mylar blankets, and anything else they can find to create shade during the day. A university professor who observed these conditions was quoted in the Texas Monthly as calling the facility “a human dog pound.”

–Unannounced investigations in 2018 as well as this month have revealed unacceptable conditions at five detention centers: Adelanto, California; LaSalle, Louisiana; Aurora, Colorado; Essex, New Jersey; and a Border Patrol processing facility in El Paso, according to the Guardian. Each site inspection found at least some of the following at these five locations: expired and incorrectly stored perishable food, unsanitary condition, lack of required provisions, and dangerous overcrowding.  

Legislation toward ending these practices includes the Shut Down Child Prison Camps Act (H.R.1069 in the House; S.397) in the Senate and the Families Not Facilities Act (S.388). The Shut Down Child Prison Camps would, as the name suggest, prohibit the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from operating unlicensed temporary emergency shelters for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers. In the House, this legislation is with the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. In the Senate, it is with the Judiciary Committee. S.388, Families not Facilities, introduced by Kamala Harris and cosponsored by Dianne Feinstein, is also with the Senate Judiciary Committee. It would “reduce the ability of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to engage in inappropriate civil immigration enforcement actions that harm unaccompanied alien children and to ensure the safety and welfare of unaccompanied alien children.” S-HP

If you want to speak up about the treatment of those seeking asylum (which, we need to remind each other, is not a crime) or to support one or more of these bills, here are some options.

3. 4 month old separated from his parents. Premature baby left untreated for a week in detention.

In a moving photo essay, The New York Times has identified the youngest child separated from his parents. Four-month-old Constantin Mutu, from Romania, was separated from his asylum-seeking father and spent five months in foster care. Because his father had a criminal record, he was advised that his asylum case would not proceed and was deported without his son. Constantin has been reunited with both his parents in Romania (his mother and four-year-old brother had become separated from his father in Mexico). At 20 months, Constantin still does not speak or walk on his own.

A teenager seeking asylum was found by an immigration advocate to have a premature baby under her sweatshirt, according to the AP. The baby should have been in a neonatal unit, the advocate said, but instead was kept with her mother for a week in the McAllen processing facility, known for its terribly cold “cages.” The baby’s mother, age 17, had had an emergency cesarean section in May and was in extreme pain, unable to walk unassisted. She said that people had carried her through the Rio Grande. RLS

4. Legislation to protect Indigenous women stalled

Native American and Alaskan Native women face levels of violence far above the average, according to CBS News. The data is uneven because of a lack of protocols for reporting but consider the following:

–the National Crime Information Center reports that 5,700 Native American and Alaskan Native women had gone missing as of 2016

– the National Institute of Justice reports that 84% of Indigenous women experience violence in their lifetime and that 97% of that violence is perpetrated by non-native individuals

– the Urban Indian Health Institute found 506 cases of missing and murdered Native American women in law enforcement records across 71 cities—and also found evidence of another 153 cases that did not appear in these law enforcement records. Savanna’s Act, S.227, would begin to create structures to make crimes against Native American women easier to investigate and to improve record-keeping regarding such crimes. S.227 would increase federal and tribal agency cooperation; improve tribal access to law enforcement databases; require the Justice Department to consult with tribes on further development of these databases; and create standardized guidelines for reporting cases of missing and murdered Native American women. It would also require the Justice Department to report annually to Congress on data regarding missing and murdered Indigenous women. This legislation has been sitting with the Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee since late January. S-HP

As we reported June 2, Canada’s inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women has finally been completed after two and a half years; the report came out June 3.
As the Globe and Mail reports, “The commissioners concluded that the thousands of Indigenous women and girls who were murdered or disappeared in Canada are part of a genocide against Indigenous Peoples, through actions and inaction by governments that are rooted in colonialism.”

If you want to urge legislators to act on S. 227, here’s how to do it.

5. Bills on election interference

You won’t have missed President Trump’s remarkable comments that he thinks the FBI director is wrong in saying that foreign offers of “oppo” research must be refused and reported to the FBI (see CNN’s explainer).  We would not have to depend on Trump’s ethical standards if the following bills pass: H.R.2353, the Duty to Refuse and Report Interference in American Elections Act. H.R.2353 is currently with the House Administration Committee.

On the Senate side, the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections Act, S.1562, would require candidates to report any attempted election interference by foreign entities and would require compliance systems to ensure accurate reporting of such events. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) attempted to have this legislation passed by unanimous consent on June 12, but that move was blocked by Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn (TN) who claimed the reporting requirement would be unduly onerous for campaigns, Axios points out. For now, this legislation remains with the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. It currently has no cosponsors. S-HP

If you want to urge your representatives to protect the integrity of elections, here is what to do.

6. Nuclear technology delivered to the Saudis

Last week, we reported on the Senators on both sides of the aisle who have promised to introduce extensive legislation to block the multi-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
What is just becoming clear, however, is that this deal is not just an arms sale. The deal allows the U.S. firm Raytheon to share technology with the Saudis—including technology that is used in Raytheon’s Paveway smart bombs, technology that had been closely guarded by Washington until now, Al Jazeera reports.

Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Todd Young (R-IN) are using a provision in the Foreign Assistance Act to request a report from the administration on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. While doing this could eventually trigger a vote to halt billions in arms sales, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is moving forward despite congressional opposition. The Secretary of Energy has announced that so far this year the Energy Department has approved 37 sales of nuclear technology to foreign governments, seven of which have been to Saudi Arabia. S-HP

If you’d like to speak up about the spread of nuclear technology, here is a list of whom to write.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

7. The Gulf of Tonkin Oman

On May 26, we reported on the apparent drive to war with Iran and the forces discouraging it; NPR had a good explainer. On June 13, two oil tankers–one Japanese, one Norwegian–were attacked in the Gulf of Oman; Trump, Secretary of State Pompeo and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia insist that Iran is behind the attack. However, Japan, Germany and the EU express grave doubts, according to the Washington Post. The U.S. says that a blurry video shows Iranians removing an unexploded mine from one of the ships; Japanese officials say that the damage was caused not by a mine but by objects from above. RLS

8. Many chickens coming home to roost in Honduras

Over the past ten years, funding for public education and healthcare in Honduras has been significantly reduced. These cuts have occurred over a time when the cost of living in Honduras has been steadily rising. These facts are part of the impetus for the current rise in migration from Honduras to the U.S. They have also inspired civil protests, the most recent of which began this April. Honduran Security forces have responded violently to the protest, even firing live ammunition at protestors.

After denying Honduras aid, despite the protests of former military officials who say that cutting off Honduras will only encourage further asylum-seekers, the U.S. response has been to send Marines to Honduras to provide “training and security cooperation” with Honduran security forces—in other words to help sharpen their protest-quashing skills, according to a detailed analysis by the School of the Americas Watch.  H.R.1945, the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (named for a slain Honduran environmental activist), would suspend U.S. security aid to Honduras until security force assaults on civilians end and perpetrators are prosecuted. H.R.1945 is with the House Foreign Affairs and Financial Services Committees. S-HP

If you would like to encourage positive action on H.R. 1945, these are the legislators to write.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

9. Fracking is depleting the water supply

A study at Duke University has revealed that hydraulic fracking is having a catastrophic impact on U.S. water supplies. Apparently, fracking is using far much more water than before, and putting a huge dent in the amount of drinkable water available. This is particularly troubling because the water used for fracking is exposed to chemicals that make it is nearly impossible to treat. In other words, water lost to fracking will be water permanently lost for human use. S-HP

Here is where you can speak up about ruining aquifers for the sake of fossil fuel production.

10. Chinese-American researchers are being purged

Basic scientific research around the world has for decades been essentially borderless. Scientists routinely collaborate with colleagues working in other countries and results are published in journals that are available to anyone. This fruitful environment has led to astounding and rapid advances in every field one can think of– yet now, there appears to be official pressure from various federal agencies to commodify research, with rhetoric that supposes that basic research somehow belongs to our country as essential intellectual property. This is puzzling as this research is pre-patented and widely available so that the world can benefit, not just US corporations.

It is this avenue of thought that has led to sweeping and chilling surveillance, prosecution and distrust of Chinese-American scientists who seem to be under incredible scrutiny and suspicion simply for their national origin. In particular, the National Institutes of Health and the FBI are “cracking down” on supposedly unlawful collaboration with Chinese institutions resulting in several high profile resignations of accomplished researchers including the former director of the Center for Public Health and Translational Genomics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Bloomberg reports. JC

11. No elephants poached in one year

No elephants have been poached in one of the largest protected parks in Africa for over a year now, a turnaround that gives elephants a chance to recover and a possible road map for other parks. Niassa reserve in northern Mozambique is enormous, the size of Switzerland, and had seen its elephant population plunge from 12,000 to 3,600 in the years up to 2015. Now, aggressive rapid response patrols and air surveillance has reduced the losses to the extent that the last known poaching took place in May of 2017. Members of the rapid response units are empowered to make arrests, are more heavily armed than park rangers and can have charges in front of a prosecutor in just 72 hours. Simply being caught with a firearm in the park is considered intent to poach. Elephant losses in nearby Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania which connects to Niassa have also plunged as a result of similar techniques, Phys.org reports. While this is a hopeful development, losses still exceed births and elephants face tremendous pressure from habitat loss and human encroachment. JC

Arts & Culture

The Thrown Out (Gay Pride) Flag

40% of teens who come out to their parents are made to leave their homes. Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness and Calvary-St. George’s Parish in Chelsea created the “Thrown Out Flag” campaign to support “thrown-youth.” The church runs an outreach program that helps LGBTQ+ homeless youth find housing, counseling, and healthcare.

The sobbing of detained children pervades New York City

Twenty-four art installations depicting migrant children in cages popped up in New York City. Actually audio of children sobbing for their parents–and Border agents laughing in the background–was broadcast through speakers. The project was conceived by the ad agency Badger & Winters in support of RAICES, which provides support and legal advice to asylum seekers on the border.

“Tiny Pricks Project” immortalizes Trump’s quotes in needlepoint

Starting with “I am a very stable genius,” needlepoint artist Diana Weymar began embroidering Trump’s memorable sayings but could not keep up; as friends stepped up to help, she ended up with hundreds of needlepointers rendering the quotes, with the hope of having 2020 pieces by the election. The project is supported by the Lingua Franca boutique.

“The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Through Food” 

After losing the “Top Chef” competition, Ghanaian-American chef Eric Adjepong presented a four-course meal illustrating the African diaspora through its food. The head “Top Chef” judge offered Adjepong his restaurant to present the entire dinner.

RESOURCES

  • The Americas of Conscience Checklist is focusing on voter empowerment for the month of June. See their site for an explanation and easy actions you can take.
  • Sarah-Hope’s list takes up many of the issues above, along with gun control, farmworker wages, health care and more.
  • Martha reminds us that two Alaska drilling/mining proposals are closing soon, and that an opportunity to comment on one of the LGBTQ/abortion rights healthcare attack proposals was posted. See her full list for opportunities to get your voice on the record. And they’re taking nominations for Nominations: National Environmental Justice Advisory Council–you can nominate.

NYMHM for 9 Jun

News You May Have Missed collects the news you didn’t see–or didn’t want to see–and lets you skim it quickly. Now we’re making it possible to act on events in the news in the most direct ways possible. See our action items.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Following the money (to Mitch McConnell)

NYMHM has reported before on US transport secretary Elaine Chao’s tangle of conflicts of interest and corrupt practices, but now the New York Times has picked up the story.

NYT reporter Mike Forsythe also has a twitter thread which summarizes and adds detail, but briefly: her family’s shipping company benefits from her ability to influence policy. Chao tried to include family members in meetings on an official visit to China. Her sister sits on the board of the Bank of China. Under Chao, her department has tried to cut programs to support the US shipping industry (which obviously competes with China’s shipping industry, including her family’s business). She didn’t list her connections to China before her confirmation hearing.

Chao is also Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s wife, and her family has donated millions to McConnell, whose role in all of this bears further scrutiny. JM

2. A new pathway for Dreamers?

The House has passed H.R.6, the American Dream and Progress Act, which cancels and prohibits removal proceedings against many Dreamers and repeals a restriction that bars states from providing higher education benefits to undocumented aliens unless those benefits are available to all U.S. citizens. (“Dreamers” is a term used to refer to individuals brought into the U.S. without documentation at a very young age, usually by family members.) The education provision is an attempt to end a bi-pronged prohibition against educational aid for Dreamers. This prohibition both declared Dreamers ineligible for federal funds and barred universities creating funds specifically to support Dreamers as a response to the federal aid ban. S-HP

If you want the Senate to act on this bill, you can tell them so! Here’s how.

3. Transgender asylum seeker dies in custody

A proportion of the asylum seekers coming to the U.S. from Central America are transgender individuals, who can face ongoing violence in their home countries. Johana Medina, from El Salvador, is the second transgender migrant to die in ICE custody since Trump became President. For at least two months while in detention, Medina had sought treatment for complications related to HIV/AIDS. Medina was finally transferred to an El Paso hospital, but didn’t respond to treatment, Democracy Now reports. S-HP.

If you want to call for an investigation into the death of transgender migrants, here is a list of whom to talk to.

4. New child detention centers

1,600 teenaged asylum seekers will be held in a new Texas facility that does not have to observe child welfare standards, according to the AP. Military bases around the country will also hold hundreds more children, and likewise will not have to observe licensing standards because they are “temporary.”

These shelters will not provide English language instruction, recreation sessions or legal services, according to a new policy that will deny these services to all
13,200 children–from toddlers to teenagers–now in custody. According to the Washington Post, education and recreation are required for minors in custody. RLS

If you have something to say about the establishment of these child detention centers and the removal of basic services, here are some options.

5. Northern border enforcement intensified

The Trump administration is ramping up a little-publicized immigration crackdown near the Canadian border, challenging passengers on buses. The ACLU has identified this program unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment because passengers cannot be detained and questioned by Border Patrol without reasonable suspicion that they are deportable. Furthermore that suspicion cannot be based on someone’s skin color or ability to speak English. The program also apparently violates Department of Homeland Security policy.

Even on routes that do not travel to the border, the searches can happen as often as three times a day. NBC News reports that the searches have caused bus delays and “resulted in the long-term detention of immigrants allegedly apprehended through racial profiling.” Greyhound has expressed frustrations about these searches to Congress and former DHS officials have criticized the practice. NBC quoted one woman who was present at two of these searches: “‘I was super angry because [they were] obviously profiling,’ said Phelan, who is black, Puerto Rican and a United States citizen. ‘They literally skipped over every single white person.’ She says she watched agents walk down the aisles, stopping only when they saw a person of color, to ask: ‘Are you from here? Do you have papers?’” S-HP

If you want to challenge unconstitutional searches, write Kevin McAleenan, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security. Contact information here.

6. ICE did not know about policies for screening veterans

As many as 2000 veterans may have been deported, even those they were supposed to receive extra screening that considered their health and service records. ICE apparently was “unaware of the policies,” according to the Government Accountability Office. Under previous administrations, soldiers were quickly naturalized, but the office that used to do that was closed in 2018, according to the Washington Post.

What’s more, applicants for citizenship who are in the military are being denied at a higher rate than civilian applicants, according to Pacific Standard. Several bills to resolve these inequities and to enable deported veterans to return have been proposed but they are not expected to prevail. RLS, SH-P

If you’d like to speak up about this situation, here’s how.

7. Senate may block Trump’s arms sales to Saudi Arabia

Twenty-two Senate resolutions are being introduced in objection to the Trump administration’s use of an emergency declaration to move forward with $8 million in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, The United Arab Emirates, and Jordan, bypassing the usual process of Congressional approval. Legislators objecting to this circumvention hope to use legislative action to block the arms sales, according to the LA Times.S-HP

If you want to speak up about arms sales to Saudia Arabia, you can send letters to this list.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

8. Massive protest in Hong Kong

Over a million people protested in Hong Kong over the weekend, perhaps the largest protest in Hong Kong’s history, the New York Times reported. Protestors objected to China’s plan to allow those accused of crimes to be extradited to China, where the legal system is less transparent. Hong Kong has no extradition treaty with China. A bipartisan group of legislators wrote to Hong Kong’s leader to express their concern, saying that “We believe the proposed legislation would irreparably damage Hong Kong’s cherished autonomy and protections for human rights by allowing the Chinese government to request extradition of business persons, journalists, rights advocates and political activists residing in Hong Kong,” according to NPR. RLS

9. African bans on single-use plastic bags

Tanzania has banned “the importation, production, sale, and use of plastic bags”—following in the footsteps of Kenya, Rwanda, Senegal, Tunisia, and 30 other African countries. JM

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

10. Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer may have sat on treatment for Alzheimer’s 

The Washington Post reported that the pharmaceutical company Pfizer chose not to disclose research findings that suggest its popular arthritis drug Enbrel may be an effective treatment and preventative for Alzheimer’s disease. Pfizer, which reported revenues of 58 billion dollars, performed an in-house analysis of hundreds of thousands of insurance claims and found that those on Enbrel experienced an incredible 64% reduction in risk of contracting Alzheimer’s. After years of internal debate, the decision was made to not publish their findings or to pursue it further; in fact, the company disbanded their entire neurology research division working on Alzheimer’s. Researchers had recommended a clinical trial that would have cost the company about 80 million dollars; speculation by a former executive speaking anonymously is that the company didn’t see enough profit potential. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in those 65 and older. JC

11. New technique for editing DNA using CRISPR

CRISPR technology has been at the forefront of news for years, thanks to breakthroughs in gene editing made possible by the powerful tool, breakthroughs which promise new avenues of treatment for hereditary diseases. Enthusiasm for CRISPR treatments has been tempered by the fact that the process is very error- prone, requiring that DNA be “cut” by specialized proteins and then re-attached with the edited section inserted. Now a new technique developed by a team at Harvard, MIT and the National Institutes of Health has found a new way to insert edited genes without the necessity of cutting the DNA strand by using a protein they’re calling transposase. Naturally occurring segments of DNA called transposons have been known to “jump” position along the DNA helix; by utilizing the proteins used for this process, vast improvements have been seen in error rates. Traditional CRISPR editing has a success rate of about 1% while the new process succeeds 80% of the time, according to phys.org.
JC


12. New online database shows disturbing posts by police officers.

An online database called “The Plain View Project” has brought attention to thousands of public social media posts made by active duty police officers that have sexist, bigoted, racist and or violent content. The project was started by lawyer Emily Baker-White who was curious after a year-long fellowship after law school investigating a claim of police brutality. During that research she found public Facebook posts by officers involved and was astounded by the content. The results of the project indicate that police culture has some serious problems, far more than “a few bad apples” can be blamed for. The posts run the gamut from over-the-top promotion of cruelty and violence towards the public to outright white supremacy. Currently it shows posts made by 3,500 officers of eight cities selected to be broadly representative of the United States as a whole, according to the New York Times.
JC

ARTS & CULTURE

The architecture of slavery

In “We Have Made These Lands What They Are: The Architecture of Slavery,” artist and former newscaster Keris Salmon examines the lives of enslaved people and the places they lived in the American South – including the plantation owned by her husband’s ancestors.  Powerful story and imagery. Transcript is provided, but one should watch the video.

Pussy Riot playing benefit in Birmingham

Pussy Riot, the Russian band whose members were jailed for protesting human rights abuses in Russia, will put on a benefit concert for pro-choice groups in Alabama.

Free on-line indigenous film festival

From June 3 through 14, UNESCO is screening more than 80 films by filmmakers from Latin America and the Caribbean. Some films will be in Indigenous languages with English and Spanish subtitles. See them here.

Fighting back with chalk

What began as a class writing assignment is now a world-wide movement of women recording the daily harassment they are subject to in chalk where the event occurred. 

RESOURCES

  • The Americans of Conscience Checklist is focusing on voter empowerment for the month of June. See their site for an explanation and easy actions you can take.
  • Sarah-Hope’s list suggests whom you might write to about election security, disaster relief, penalties for those protesting pipelines–and much more.
  • Martha’s list provides numerous ways to comment on the record. Crucial this week
    is the sage grouse habitat; opportunities to comment closes in two days. Trump wants to open up the entire habitat to oil and gas drilling, threatening more than sage grouse but the entire ecosystem. Also, they’ve moved to remove regulatory restrictions on automated driving for cars, trucks, trains. Planes will be next. The 737 Max problem was in part automation.

NYMHM for 2 June 2019

Whether you have missed it or not, the news continues to become more and more incredible. ICE is separating newborns from mothers who give birth in detention, and it is not clear whether they are being returned when the women are released. At the same time as the abortion debate rages, ICE does not count a stillbirth as a death in custody. Like a low hum, other–even more ominous–policy changes emerge and the costs of climate change become clearer. At the same time, there are scraps of good news–and a myriad of ways to address the national issues. See the Resources page for ideas–and our new Arts & Culture page for ways to be sustained in this troubling present.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. The military as civilian police

Trump has in mind to invoke the Insurrection Act, which would permit military personnel to serve as civilian police. In particular, he would authorize them to detain and remove immigrants. The Insurrection Act is an exception to the Posse Comitatus Act, which says that the military cannot do domestic policing. The Insurrection Act gives the president broad powers: federal troops can be used “whenever the President considers that unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages, or rebellion against the authority of the United States, make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States in any State by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings.” There is no option for Congressional or judicial review, according to Slate. RLS

2. Permanent War

In his speech to West Point graduates, Vice President Mike Pence said that “It is a virtual certainty that you will fight on a battlefield for America at some point in your life.  You will lead soldiers in combat.  It will happen.” Pence went on to speculate that the graduates would fight in Afghanistan or Iraq, on the Korean Peninsula, in Europe, or in “this hemisphere.” Days before, Trump had sent 1,500 troops to the neighborhood of Iran. In Afghanistan, 2,400 Americans along 62,000 Afghan troops and police have died since the war there began in 2001; 24,000 civilians have been killed in the last ten years, according to Newsweek. RLS

3. Newborns taken from asylum-seekers

Women asylum-seekers who give birth while in the custody of the U.S. Marshalls in West Texas have been required to give up their newborn babies. Women who were released from custody and obtained legal help from organizations such as Annunciation House were able to be reunited with their babies, but it is not known how many mothers were not able to retrieve their babies. Rewire News, which is the only news outlet to break this story, had this information from the doctor who delivered many of the babies.

As the legal coordinator of Annunciation House, Taylor Levy, explains it this way: “Just think about it. You’re 18, 19, 20 years old. You’re in an entirely new country. You just gave birth and your baby is taken from you after two days. You have no clue what is going to happen to your baby or if your baby is safe. You’re taken back to prison, your breasts are leaking milk, you’re in pain, and you sit in a prison cell with no idea when you’ll get released or if you’ll see your baby again. All of this because you crossed a line without permission.” RLS

4. A stillbirth in ICE custody not considered an in-custody death

Last week, Immigration and Customs Enforcement released information about a 24 year-old Honduran woman who suffered a stillbirth while in ICE custody, the New York Times reports. ICE officials released a statement that they do not view the stillbirth as an in-custody death. This has happened amid scrutiny over the medical care given inmates in immigration custody after several deaths of children and teens in ICE or Border Patrol custody. According to the Refugee and Immigrant Center of Education and Legal Services, interviews with women recently released from detention call into question the medical care received by pregnant women in custody. JML

5. 8,400 detainees kept in solitary confinement

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have made extensive use of solitary confinement in immigration detention centers—with nearly a third of those subjected to solitary confinement described as having a mental illness. This practice has come to light through extensive interviews with Ellen Gallagher, former policy adviser for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office for Civil Rights, and documented by research done by the Intercept and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists ICIJ.

The general consensus is that solitary confinement should only be used as a last-resort measure and can be particularly dangerous for those with mental vulnerabilities. Gallagher described detainees sent to solitary confinement, often as a first option, rather than a last resort, for actions such as being assaulted (the detainee in question did not retaliate, but was placed in solitary nonetheless), engaging in a consensual kiss, and threatening suicide, according to Democracy Now. The Intercept/ICIJ data show 8,400 reported uses of solitary confinement from 2012 to early 2017. Among these cases, 373 were because detainees were potentially suicidal—and more than two hundred additional detainees were placed on suicide watch after being put in solitary.

Gallagher says she reported her concerns about misuse of solitary confinement to the DHS, the Homeland Security Secretary’s Office of Inspector General, the Office of Special Counsel (which solicits reports of wrongdoing from government employees), and the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (these two committees oversee ICE). The only significant response she knows of that was taken in response was a letter from then-Judiciary Committee members Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and Democrat Senator Al Franken to the then-Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, citing Gallagher’s findings and demanding an explanation. S-HP

If you are inclined to call for an investigation and on-going monitoring of the use of solitary confinement in immigration detention centers, write the people on this list.

6. US refusal to take refugees has worldwide consequences

Despite the worldwide refugee crisis, the Trump administration has drastically cut the number of refugees the U.S. accepts–for example, from 9,000 Somali refugees in 2016 to 257 in 2018. About 320,000 Somalis were displaced due to confict in 2018. Kenya is housing many Somalis but has said it will have to close its camp in August. As Foreign Policy in Focus points out, the willingness of the U.S. to resettle refugees and to fund refugee camps has put pressure on countries housing refugees who will never come to North America, so that those countries will keep them safe until they can go home. Now, that pressure is gone. RLS

7. The census citizenship question was designed to benefit white Republicans

​We’re waiting for a Supreme Court ruling on the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 census. This is an election issue because the distribution of House seats and a great many federal resources rely on census population data. The possible addition of citizenship question has become a contentious issue, since it would almost certainly discourage census participation by undocumented people living in the U.S.—and by people who fear being incorrectly labeled undocumented—who could be subject to deportation. 

Because this particular subset of the population resides primarily in California and New York, a decreased population count could lead to fewer House seats for those states. And because those states lean Democratic, a loss of House seats there could likely result in more House seats held by Republicans during the decade between the 2020 census and the next census in 2030. In a similar fashion, states with significant undocumented populations—or, again, anyone afraid of being labeled undocumented—would receive reduced shares of federal resources. 

The Commerce Department, which administers the census, claims the citizenship was added to the census to help with the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, but details from conversations and electronic documents–in particular, a hard drive belonging to a deceased Republican strategist–strongly suggest that the question was designed to suppress census numbers for undocumented communities and people of color, according to the Mercury News.

While the Supreme Court considers its ruling, Congress could act by supporting legislation that would sustain accurate population numbers and by rejecting legislation that would hinder accurate population numbers. The first, positive category includes H.R.732, which requires three years of testing for impact before any new question can be added to the census; H.R.1734, which would prohibit census questions on citizenship, nationality, or immigration status; S.201, which would also bar questions on citizenship, nationality, or immigration status; and S.358, which would require advance notification of Congress before any changes to census questions. The second, negative category includes H.R.1320 and S.1358, both of which would require an option to identify as a citizen on the census. All House legislation is with the Oversight and Reform Committee; all Senate legislation is before the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. S-HP

If you want to urge Congress to act on the citizenship question, here is whom you want to contact.

8. Trump punishes American consumers for migrants

Trump has declared he will impose a 5% tariff on all goods coming from Mexico unless Mexico stops the flow of migrants coming over the border, Mother Jones and many other outlets report. He says that the tariff will rise by 5% per month until it reaches 25%. As the CBC points out, his move threatens the new NAFTA agreement, yet to be ratified, and leads other countries to wonder whether the U.S. can be trusted. As Don Pittis, writing for the CBC, puts it, the question that  “must be echoing in Beijing, Brussels, Mexico City and Ottawa​ is​: “How can you trust Trump to honour deals?”

Indeed, China is setting up a “​​non-reliable entity list”​ which​ would include “foreign entities, individuals and companies that block and shut the supply chain, or take discriminatory measures over non-commercial reasons​,” according to China’s state newspaper, the CBC reports.

The Chicago Tribune has a useful fact-checker on tariffs and trade; Trump’s tweets suggest that tariffs are something one country pays another, but of course, they are paid by businesses and ultimately increase the price paid by consumers. CNBC reports on Goldman Sachs’ assertion that the cost of the tariffs imposed on Chinese goods “has fallen entirely on American businesses and households, with a greater impact on consumer prices than previously expected. ” RLS

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

9. A Canadian Genocide

The murders and disappearances of thousands of Indigenous Canadian women and girls constitute a “Canadian genocide,” according to the long-awaited 1200 page report to be released Monday. The report concludes that these deaths and losses are caused by  “state actions and inactions rooted in colonialism and colonial ideologies,” challenging previous claims by the RCMP that Indigenous men were responsible for most of the deaths and disappearances of Indigenous women. Based on an inquiry that lasted two and a half years and that received testimony from the families of murdered and missing women as well as Indigenous elders, the report makes 230 recommendations, reports the CBC. RLS

10. Far-right extremists funded internationally

Right-wing extremists in the UK are being funded by international networks, but enforcement efforts are not focusing on these groups but on Muslims, according to a new report by the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi). PayPal has recently shut down accounts by extreme right-wingers, impeding the crowd-funding efforts that have supported them in the past; they may be turning to crypto-currency instead, reports the Independent. RLS

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

11. An “unusual mortality event”: grey whales

Since the start of the year, at least seventy grey whales have washed up dead or stranded along the California, Oregon, Washington, and Alaska coasts. Fifteen of these mammals were found dead. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has declared this cluster of events an emergency, according to the San Jose Mercury News. To be precise, the deaths are an “unusual mortality event,” language that automatically triggers funding for scientists to determine the cause of the die-off. The dead have included juvenile and adult, as well as male and female whales. Many of them were found malnourished, and Cascadia Research Collective Biologist John Calambokidis has pointed out that “We are seeing lots of live grey whales in unusual locations, clearly emaciated, trying to feed.” The current leading theory for the cause of these deaths is a disruption of the whales’ food supply, particularly in the Arctic, due to warming ocean waters. S-HP

If you want to urge action on this issue, the key contact people are here.


12. Severe heat wave hits northern India

Temperatures rose to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 Celsius) in the desert city of Churu in northern India, with temperatures expected to remain at a deadly high for the next week. Forty percent of India faces severe drought this year with the annual monsoon rains coming late and total rainfall projected to be less than normal. Weather patterns in India have been erratic the past decade, with lengthy droughts punctuated by severe flooding. Villages are now relying on trucked-in water as rivers and lakes have dried up, leaving farmers in fear of the prospects for the future. India has seen almost sixty thousand suicides of farmers in the past thirty years, a fact some attribute partially to the changing climate, phys.org reports.

13. For better or worse, climate change is impacting food production

A study led by the University of Minnesota in collaboration with Oxford University and the University of Copenhagen used weather and crop reports to detail a map of where and which crops have been most affected by climate change. The results are mixed but overall the world has seen a 1% drop in the calories supplied by the ten crops farmed, crops that provide 83% of all calories consumed by people. There are winners as well as losers, however, with Latin American yields coming out ahead while farms in Europe, southern Africa and Australia falling and North and Central America providing mixed results. Regarding specific crops, oil palm has been hit hardest with a 13% reduction in yield while soybeans have seen a bump of 3%. These data confirm that climate change impacts to food security aren’t a nebulous future threat; they are with us now. JC

14. Britain has gone two weeks without burning coal

For the first time since the 1880s, Britain has supplied all of its electrical power needs without burning coal for a record two weeks, the BBC reports. The good news comes from the regulatory board that monitors power production across the country. As coal plants take six hours to “warm up,” the board is notified well in advance of any being fired. That last happened on the 17th of May. This bit of good news happens as Britain continues to ramp up renewable production with the 14th of May seeing the record high share for solar power, at 25% of total electricity used. Britain is due to abandon the use of coal completely by 2025.  JC

15. Facebook fine in limbo as the FTC bickers

Last year, we summarized reports explaining how Cambridge Analytica used Facebook to siphon off the data of users’ friends and families, then targeted them with political ads that likely influenced the 2016 American election as well as the Brexit vote. Facebook has now been hit with a five billion dollar fine by the FTC.

However, as CNET reports, disagreements between Republicans and Democrats on the FTC have kept the fine from being imposed. Meanwhile, a Delaware court has ordered Facebook to turn over records on this privacy breach to shareholders.

Facebook has also refused to take down a doctored video of Nancy Pelosi in which she appears to be drunk. Representatives told politicians in Ottawa that it will not take down “false or misleading content,” saying that “it’s not Facebook’s role to decide the line between ‘free speech’ and ‘censorship.'” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and COO Sheryl Sandberg refused to honor a summons from a Canadian parlimentary committee, the Toronto Star reports. RLS

ARTS & CULTURE

“The House On Mango Street” to become an opera

The House on Mango Street tells the story of Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, and has been a favorite worldwide for 35 years.  Author Sandra Cisneros is collaborating with composer Derek Bermel on the project, according to Bookriot.

Transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera featured on a monument in Greenwich Village.

Fierce transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera will be recognized for their roles in the gay liberation movement, the New York Times reports. Johnson and Rivera were active in the Stonewall uprising, and also worked to assist homeless LGBTQ+ youth and people with HIV/AIDS.

The world’s largest protest banner produced by Sudanese artists

The textile banner will have hundreds of paintings, interspersed with the signatures of activists and portraits of protestors who died in the struggle in Sudan. 1.9 miles long, it will cover the length of the plaza in front of the military headquarters.

The Central Park Five now the subject of Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us”

Netflix presents a 4-part docudrama of the infamous case of five young men wrongly convicted for the rape of a woman in Central Park.  Then wise-guy, now president Donald Trump took out full-page advertisements in the local papers calling for their execution, according to the LA Times.

Survivors of sexual violence now have a national monument

The Monument Quilt is on display May 31 – June 2 on the National Mall in Washington DC, the Huffington Post reports.

RESOURCES

  • The Americas of Conscience Checklist is focusing on voter empowerment for the month of June. See their site for an explanation and easy actions you can take.
  • Sarah-Hope’s list also has some actions you can take around elections, as well as a way to pressure Justice Kavanaugh to rescue himself on the abortion issue, ways to address gun violence and more.
  • Martha’s list focuses on the attacks on LGBTQ+ civil rights; she says the big news is how the Trump administration is changing how it measures things – pollution deaths, poverty and a new standard called “natural law,” likely a further challenge to LGBTQ+ rights. See her list for ways to engage with these issues.

NYMHM for 26 May 2019

News You May Have Missed for May 26, 2019: We’re continuing to draw on the meticulous work of Sarah-Hope and Martha, so that if you want to act on the news you read, you can see how you might do so. In addition, Melissa has discovered more art that offers rsistance and sustenance in the world we find ourselves; see her listings below.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Protections eroding for trans, LGBTQ+ people in health care

Health-care providers could discriminate on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity, if new rules from Health and Human Services go into effect. Discrimination on these grounds had been prohibited by the ACA, though these regulations have been continuously litigated. The new rules have not yet been published for public comment, but you can read HHS’s comprehensive argument here. Look in particular at page 44 and 103, where HHS writes, “It is also the position of the United States government that “Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination . . . does not encompass discrimination based on gender identity per se, including transgender status.” 

As the New York Times explained it last year, “The Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth, the most drastic move yet in a governmentwide effort to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under federal civil rights law.”​ For more discussion, see this piece by Charlotte Clymer,  as well as her twitter feed, @cmclymer. 

The Transgender Law Center says you can write to HHS here. If you’d like to see how HHS describes this initiative, you can read their press release. See Martha’s list for a more full discussion of a range of transgender discrimination issues. 

2. More apprehended children dying in custody

On May 20, the Associated Press reported that a fifth Central American child, a sixteen-year-old boy from Guatemala, had died in U.S. custody. But on May 23, CBS News revealed that child was actually the sixth to die in U.S. custody. The administration had not previously announced the death of a ten-year-old Salvadoran girl on September 29, 2018. The girl’s name had not been released as of this writing. In an interview with CBS News, Representative Joaquin Castro, Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus responded to the girl’s death, “I have not seen any indication that the Trump administration disclosed the death of this young girl to the public or even to Congress, and if that’s the case, they covered up her death for eight months, even though we [the Hispanic Caucus and Congress at large] were actively asking the question about whether any child had died or been seriously injured. We began asking that question last fall.”

Manuel Castillo, Consulate General of El Salvador in Aurora, was also surprised by the report of the September death. He told CBS News his office had no knowledge of the girl’s death and was hoping the CBS News report would help him track down the family. Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, the boy who died, had been held in custody for six days —twice as long as federal law permits—and had been transferred to a second holding facility, even though it was known he had been diagnosed with influenza. As The New Yorker puts it, in the system of border enforcement, “the quality of mercy is under extreme strain.”

If you want to comment on the deaths of minors in custody, here are some options.

3. More children separated from their parents

Meanwhile, 1,700 additional children–so far–have been identified as possibly having been separated from their parents before the so-called “zero tolerance policy” went into effect, according to NBC News. Under court order, the Trump administration is reviewing 50,000 files on children and families to determine whether the children might have been separated; the Department of Homeland Security will then review the files to confirm whether they were. The ACLU, which brought the case, is trying to locate the families.

4. People arrested for giving food and water to migrants

People protesting the border policy and the treatment of immigrants are being targeted by the Border Patrol, according to documents obtained by Shadowproof. Those involved in peaceful protest–such as at the United States Border Patrol museum–are being hit with felony charges. Border Patrol units are attending seminars with Paul Laney, “a leading architect of the militarized police response to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests on the state’s Great Plains in 2016 and 2017,” according to Shadowproof.  In addition, the Border Patrol has recently admitted that it surveilled journalists, protesters and legal aid workers on the border, according to the Intercept.

People who give food and water to migrants in the desert have been arrested and convicted. And one woman–not an activist but a parent and a city attorney–who stopped to help three ill young people on a Texas highway was arrested but not charged earlier in May, according to the New York Times. The Intercept ran a long, evocative, detailed piece earlier in May on the history of the Arizona sanctuary movement and on Scott Warren, an Arizona community college teacher who helps identify bodies found in the desert so that families can be notified and who has organized humanitarian volunteers to leave food and water for migrants through the organization No More Deaths/No Mas Muertes. Warren goes to trial next week, facing three felonies. His parents have written a plea for people to make phone calls to support him.

To stay tuned to this and other stories, you can follow investigative reporter Will Parrish on Twitter, @willparrishca.

5. Pipeline protest criminalized

In other efforts to criminalize protest, five states–Louisiana, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa–have passed laws “making trespassing on “critical infrastructure” property” a felony, carrying heavy fines and jail time, according to Grist. Other states are poised to do the same. The intent here is to prevent protests under the guise of protecting infrastructure. The laws are close to identical, suggesting the involvement of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) an organization backed by the Koch Brothers which produces “model” conservative legislation. The International Center for Not-For-Profit law has been tracking this legislation.

6. New immigration rules changing the face of the country

Trump’s proposed new immigration rules would vastly reduce the number of people admitted to join family members, give preference to people based on skills and education, and require English fluency for Green Cards. They make no provision for Dreamers, long-term undocumented immigrants, and people with Temporary Protected Status. The language requirement could “definitely change the racial makeup of who’s coming here,” said Peter Isbister, an attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center.​ In addition, he says, “the family-based immigration system is so central to who we are as a country.”​

7. California teachers pay their own subs

If they are sick longer than ten days, California teachers must pay for their own substitutes, up to up to $240 per day​, Buzzfeed reports. Teachers have endured this situation since 1976, but it has not been well-known until a Go-Fund-Me campaign was organized for a San Francisco elementary school teacher who had to go out for the rest of the year for breast cancer treatment. To add inj​ury to injury, teachers nationwide have not recived an increase in real wages since 1996, according to Daily Kos. And to compound the injury, teachers in California and fourteen other states cannot receive Social Security–even if they paid into it through other jobs. Even their spousal Social Security payments have their retirement pensions deducted from them, NPR reported in 2018.

If you want to speak up on behalf of teachers, you might press the state-wide offices of teachers’ unions–National Education Assocation or American Federation of Teachers–to take this up. It’s been over 40 years.

8. Cuts to Job Corps target marginalized youth

The Trump administration is planning to end its involvement in the Civilian Conservation Corps, laying off 1100 federal employees and cancelling a program that provided job training in rural areas for marginalized young people. There is bi-partisan opposition to the cuts, according to the Washington Post, but it is not at all clear that those opposed will prevail.  

To advocate for Job Corps programs, see this link.

9. Russia plans for 2020 and beyond

Russia intends to create racial tension in the US and undermine the electoral process well beyond 2020, new documents obtained by NBC news through the Dossier Center suggest. (The Dossier Center is funded by Russian opposition leader Mikhail Khodorkovsky.) Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla, who sits on the House Intelligence Committee and who saw the documents, commented that “Russia understands how critical the African American vote is to determining the outcome of elections. “And because we have not effectively dealt with racism as a country ourselves, I believe we’ve made ourselves vulnerable to foreign powers like Russia to continue to try to undermine us.”

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

10. Slouching toward war with Iran?

The Trump administration seems to be ambivalently but alarmingly moving toward war with Iran. It pulled out of the Iran nuclear agreement, while other signers have stayed in. National Security Advisor John Bolton, who has long wanted a reason to press for regime change in Iran, said earlier this month that the U.S. has seen “a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” coming from Iran. The US has sent “an aircraft carrier strike group and land-based bombers,” NPR reported, and is proposing to send another 5000 troops along with military equipment, including Patriot missiles. It is not clear what Bolton is referring to; apparently Iran loaded missiles onto small boats and then unloaded them, reported the New York Times.

The build-up of weapons is alarming, according to Colin H. Kahl, who was deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East from 2009 to 2011. His piece in the Washington Post sketches how easily the US and Iran could fall into a war through a tragedy of errors.

Last fall, Conn Hallinan, writing for Foreign Policy in Focus, reviewed a new book by Middle East reporter Reese Erlich, The Iran Agenda Today: The Real Story Inside Iran and What’s Wrong with U.S. Policy. The book, says Hallinan, “certainly provides enough historical context to conclude that an attack on Iran — which would likely also involve Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and possibly Israel — would unleash regional chaos with international repercussions.”

There are key differences between Iran and Iraq that would complicate any invasion, points out professor of history, Juan Cole, among them that “the US would need 2.4 million troops to occupy Iran”; the US has 281,900 active military personnel and 1,860,000 reservists, he says.    (You can follow Juan Cole at @jricole)

If you’re worried about the looming threat of war with Iran, be aware that H.R.2354 and S.1039, both titled the Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act, would explicitly deny Trump the authority he needs to go to war with Iran. H.R.2354 is with the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees; S.1039 is with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

If you want to urge your representatives to support these bills, you can locate them here.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

11. Rogue NSA program cripples Baltimore city government computers

A secret NSA cyberweapon was stolen by hackers back in 2017 and since then has caused havoc around the world, according to the New York Times.. First used by North Korean operatives in the Wannacry virus, which crippled the British healthcare networks and German train systems, the tool has now been leveled at US city governments, which suffer from old outdated software and lax IT standards.

The core of these attacks come from a program made to exploit a flaw found in Microsoft software called EternalBlue, named for the so-called blue screen of death which occurs when the Microsoft operating system crashes. This security flaw was not passed on to Microsoft for five years while the NSA made full use of it until it was appropriated by foreign actors. While Microsoft has now released a patch, many networks used by smaller city governments remain vulnerable. Baltimore is one of the latest victims with its ability to process real estate sales, water bills, health alerts or utilize city email compromised; the system is being held ransom for $100k which Baltimore—at least so far—refuses to pay. 

12. FDA sat on 50,000 “hidden” reports of cardiac device malfunction

The FDA has decided to eliminate an “alternative” reporting system offered as a special exemption to some medical device manufacturers. Ordinarily medical devices are required to report any instances of malfunction or failure to a public database called MAUDE, Manufacturer and User Facility Device Experience, but a number of devices acquired exemptions to this requirement and were permitted to use a private database accessible only to the FDA. This was done ostensibly to streamline reporting but since its inception, over one million reports have accumulated, all out of public view, including 50k reports of an implanted defibrillator in widespread use made by Medtronic. The device itself was recalled by the manufacturer in 2007 but tens of thousands of patients have not had access to information needed to make an informed decision about whether to remove the devices or continue with possible malfunction, Ars Technica reports.

RESOURCES

  • See Martha’s whole list for other issues affecting trans people, along with many opportunities to comment on the record, including proposals to loosen restrictions on RoundUp, frack California, tighten asylum rules and make eagle feathers available to non-indigenous people for non-indigenous religious observances.
  • If you want challenge locking up asylum-seekers or requiring them to wait in Mexico while their cases are being heard, if you want to advocate for preserving NASA’s Carbon Monitoring System or for keeping the EPA’s system for monitoring the health of children, see Sarah-Hope’s full list.

Arts & Culture

A queer film festival in Tunisia

It is illegal to be queer in Tunisia–but nonetheless for four days in March, the
Mawjoudin Queer Film Festival was a sanctuary for LGBTQ+ people. Mawjoudin, the New York Times reports, means “we exist.”

Black Lives matter–in stained glass windows

Though the show, called Lamentations, has closed, you can still see Kehinde Wiley’s extraordinary stained glass windows representing the beauty and tragedies in Black lives at this site.

Charts and graphs about climate change become art

Alisa Singer, a data visualization artist, is turning scientific data about climate change into art pieces. Her work is part of a show, Environmental Graphiti, which you can see at this site.

Women prisoners healing from PTSD through dance

The “Dance to be Free” program, which uses dance as therapy to assist women prisoners coping with PTSD and which trains women prisoners to serve as teachers, has expanded to eight prisons in five states. You can get a sense of it here.

New Chicago major hangs piece in her office on red-lining

Lori Lightfoot, the new mayor of Chicago, hung an art piece on red-lining, just in time for her inauguration. Produced by the community print studio, Spudnik Press, the piece is one of a series produced by Amanda Williams and Natalie Y. Moore, all based on maps of Chicago.” You can see it here.

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.

DOMESTIC NEWS

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.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

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.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

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.

ARTS & CULTURE

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

RESOURCES

  • 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.