NYMHM for 24 Feb

News You May Have Missed is waiting for the shoe(s) to drop—the Mueller Report is expected. If you need an illustrated primer of who is who, the Washington Post offers one. But it would of course be a mistake to see Mueller as a super-hero: fundamentally, we will need to rescue ourselves.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. “The trolls want Democrats to eat each other.”

As potential Democratic presidential candidates have landed on the field, each one has been subject to destructive ad hominem attacks, undermining reasoned assessment. According to a report by Politico, these attacks are part of a coordinated strategy to spread disinformation, much of it racist or sexist in nature. A group of 200 accounts—the same accounts that worked to influence the 2018 congressional elections—produced many of the messages; tens of thousands of other accounts then broadcast those messages, according to the research group—Guardians.ai—that Politico used. Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) were those most frequently targeted. Slate points out that some of the attacks originate with the message board 4chan—but then they spread to the rest of us. As Slate put it, “The trolls want Democrats to eat each other.”

2. Why is the U.S. rushing nuclear technology to the Saudis?

According to a House Oversight Committee report, whistleblowers have reported that U.S. officials who have a conflict of interest have been trying to rapidly transfer nuclear technology to the Saudi government in advance of Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner’s visit there. You can read the interim report here (pdf).

According to the report, officials involved include “former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, former Deputy National Security Advisor K.T. McFarland, and former NSC Senior Director for Middle East and North African Affairs Derek Harvey, as well as with Thomas Barrack, President Trump’s personal friend of several decades and the Chairman of his Inaugural Committee, and Rick Gates, President Trump’s former Deputy Campaign Manager and Deputy Chairman of the Inaugural Committee who has now pleaded guilty to financial fraud and lying to investigators.” Flynn, of course, lied to the FBI about his exchanges with the Russian ambassador, as NPR reminds us.

The Washington Post has a detailed story on the dangers of transferring technology without a nuclear agreement and the risks of nuclear proliferation if the technology is given to the Saudis.

3. Missing missing person cases

In 2016, 5,712 American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls were reported missing, according to a new report (pdf) from the tribal epidemiology center Urban Indian Health Institute (UIHI). However, US Department of Justice’s federal missing persons database only recorded 116 cases. The UIHI used Freedom of Information Act requests, requests to law enforcement agencies, and reports on social media and from friends and family members to identify missing and murdered women. Of those missing or murdered, 506 were in 71 urban areas across the U.S. The report explains why the data are so contradictory and elusive.

In Canada, a wrenching and contentious inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls concluded in December; an interim report came out in 2018 (pdf) while a full report is expected in April. To see the scope and heartbreak of the problem, look at the CBC’s 308 profiles of women they have identified.

Anyone wishing to understand the history of Canada’s treatment of indigenous people would do well to read the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2015 report.

4. Another 1,157 children lost to gun violence since Parkland

Since the Parkland murders in February of 2018, 1,157 children have died by gun violence—accidents, suicides, murders—many of them children of color, according to the Miami Herald. The Herald is partnering with The Trace to document lives lost. The Herald also documents both some important advances and the lack of progress on gun control, as well as small victories—the Broward County League of Women Voters distributing gun locks, for example. In a retrospective piece, the CBC noted that in part due to the activism of Parkland survivors, 40 states introduced some kind of gun control legislation in 2018.

5. Scarce medical care in detention centers

An immigrant detention center in Colorado has 1,500 detainees, a chicken-pox outbreak—and only one doctor, according to Vice. When Colorado Rep. Jason Crow tried to visit the facility, he was refused access. Operated by the huge for-profit prison corporation GEO Group, the facility was the subject of a complaint last summer by the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association alleging serious lapses in medical care.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

6. Venezuelans walking over mountain passes to Colombia

Whatever the merits and faults of President Nicolás Maduro, whatever echoes of prior disastrous Latin American interventions are in the present situation, as usual the most vulnerable people are suffering the most. Without food or possibility, millions of Venezuelans are walking out of Venezuela, according to the New York Times—walking across mountain passes 11,000 feet high to get to Colombia and other countries. Some have infants; some are pregnant. All are hungry and exhausted.

Humanitarian aid is being used by the self-declared opposition president Juan Guaidó to force out Maduro—Guaidó’s theory apparently was that if Maduro refused to let desperately needed aid into the country, Venezuela’s armed forces would turn on him, according to The Washington Post. On Friday, militias—some of them irregular—fired on civilians; four were killed and 285 injured.

Maduro is accepting aid from international bodies such as the Red Cross—a fact generally under-reported, as FAIR points out; the refusal of aid from the U.S. is being used to set the stage for U.S. intervention, according to In These Times. For more detailed information, see Cold Type’s special issue on Venezuela.

7. Orwell in China?

Last year, News You May Have Missed summarized a story on China’s Social Credit system, in which citizens were blocked from travel for small occasions of bad behavior. Now the Independent reports that 17.5 million people were prevented from taking planes and 5.5 millions were kept off trains.

The country is also tracking Muslims, Christians, and other minorities, using security cameras and cell-phone technology, according to the Independent. Some of it is acquired from Western companies, raising human rights criticisms. Wired points out that one of the big concerns is the convergence between private and governmental reporting.

8. Haiti

Last week, we reported on the dire unrest in Haiti, spanning fuel riots and government corruption. The situation continues, with police firing rubber bullets at mourners, and businesses re-opening Monday for a brief respite before protests resumed on Friday.

Five Americans were arrested with weapons in Haiti last week. Prime Minister Jean-Henry Ceant called them “mercenaries” trying “to target the executive branch of the government.”

The Miami Herald points out that 46,000 Haitians with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) deserve better than to be kicked out of the US. The Trump administration tried to end TPS designations for four countries—El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Sudan—but a temporary injunction (pdf) from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California rejected the government’s arguments for ending the status and has restrained the government from doing so, for now.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND THE ENVIRONMENT

9. Suffering in Silence

A CARE International report, “Suffering in Silence,” finds that humanitarian crises, including several in which climate change played a big role, are going under-reported. Foreign Policy cites chronic droughts in Ethiopia, Madagascar’s withered crops, Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines, and chronic food shortages in Haiti, which was fourth on the 2018 Long-Term Climate Risk Index.

10. DDT exposure linked to increased risk of breast cancer

A sixty-year study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute involving over fifteen thousand women has found that early exposure to the pesticide DDT, especially in infancy, results in a substantial increase in risk of developing breast cancer. DDT was widely banned in the 70’s so the youngest cohorts to be routinely exposed as children are just now entering the window for increased diagnosis. Researchers identified a forty-year lag time between exposure and onset of cancer, with earlier exposure in infancy resulting in more pre-menopausal breast cancers. Researchers found that doubling the amount of DDT found in the bloodstream resulted in a three-fold increased risk in developing breast cancer.

11. Public health joins elections as a target for Russia

Scientists at George Washington University looking into Russian manipulation of social media during the period surrounding the 2016 presidential election found that vaccination was among the wedge issues used to sow divisions within the American electorate. The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, shows evidence that accounts linked to known Russian actors, both bots and trolls, posted an enormous volume of inflammatory content creating controversy around the subject of vaccination.

Some 1.6 million tweets posted between July of 2014 and September of 2017 were evaluated. Researchers found that these Russian-based accounts posted on the subject of vaccination 22 times more often than an average Twitter user. In addition, the posts often combined additional wedge subjects such as race, animal welfare, class and religion and also seemed to undermine the legitimacy of the US government by linking vaccinations to various conspiracy theories. Since the 2016 election, Europe has seen the largest outbreak of measles in decades and vaccination rates in the US continue to fall,  despite overwhelming public support for vaccination in polls, according to the BBC.

12. Becoming literal vampires is not a great idea, says FDA

The FDA issued an alert warning ageing, wealthy consumers against the practice of paying large sums of money in order to infuse the blood plasma of youthful donors, according to Ars Technica. At issue is the recent offerings of some clinics to transfuse the blood plasma of young people into the bodies of older adults, claiming a myriad of unproven health benefits.

The basis for these claims are a few legitimately interesting tests that suggest that the blood of young mice may have some regenerative effects when given to older mice. It should go without saying (you’d hope) that mice are not the same as people, and anybody following science news for any length of time could tell you the number of promising things that work in mice that don’t work in humans is vast. Still, the demand for young, healthy, life-giving blood was concerning enough for the FDA to issue an alert citing dangers of disease, allergic reaction and overloaded circulatory systems for those recipients with heart disease. One wonders what the demand would be if these claims were proven true. 

RESOURCES

  • In her list of places to comment, Martha maps the Title IX issue and the “gag” rule to be imposed on Planned Parenthood and others. She also recommends various other issues to comment on, among them Arctic Wildlife Reserve drilling (comments extended). The EPA is now seeking comment on Sierra Club’s lawsuit over rollback of clean air act vehicle emissions. She also alerts us to water issues, power plant rollbacks, and a HUD initiative that would replace contracts with grants—which lots of local housing agencies oppose.
  • If you want to support Planned Parenthood, you could look here.
  • Sarah-Hope has helpful information on asylum seekers, employees of federal contractors who never got back pay, diabetics dealing with the high cost of insulin, indigenous Brazilians in danger from the new government—if you would like to speak up for some people, or for Monarch butterflies, bees, and other wildlife.
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