NYMHM for 3 March 2019

News You May Have Missed not only illuminates stories that might have escaped your notice but tracks stories over time. Note the story below of parents whose children were taken from them: they have come back to the border–and this time been permitted to apply for asylum. Note that–as we knew but now we know more–children are not safe in detention. Note that the travel ban is still in place.

Still, we don’t overlook good news. An undergraduate may have discovered the secret to antibiotic resistance. Temporary Protected Status has been restored–at least temporarily–for Haitians and others. And Oakland teachers have fought the good fight.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Remember the travel ban? 37,000 visas denied.

Reuters reports that, in 2018, the U.S. State Department denied over 37,000 visa applications due to Trump’s travel ban, which was upheld by the US Supreme Court in June 2018. If you’d like to comment on this, Sarah-Hope’s list can tell you how.

2. Parents permitted to return to apply for asylum

Twenty-nine parents who were separated from their children last year and deported have been allowed to return to apply for asylum. The Washington Post has some of their stories—a Guatemalan woman who fled the country with her daughter when gang members began systematically killing her family members, a Honduran man who fled with his daughter when gang members threatened to rape her. Parents made the arduous trek back to the border and once again requested asylum, assisted by attorneys from El Otro Lado, a legal services organization in Tijuana.  The parents have not seen their children for almost a year; the Post describes a Salvadoran woman’s daughter as texting her over and over, “Fight for me.”

See the Families Belong Together twitter feed for updates.

3. Detained babies in poor health

Nine babies detained with their mothers in Dilley, Texas, near San Antonio are losing weight because of abrupt changes in their formula—one has lost a third of his body weight. The mothers, all from Honduras, have requested asylum; they have family members with whom they could stay while they wait for their claims to be heard. A complaint by the Immigration Council, the American Immigrant Lawyers Association and the Catholic Legal Immigration Network speaks to the lack of specialized care at the facility and its distance from hospitals. As the Center for Public Integrity reports, the Dilley facility is the same one where a toddler became ill and died of viral pneumonia after being released.

4. Thousands of migrant children sexually abused while in custody

Between October, 2014 and July, 2018, 4,556 complaints of sexual abuse against immigrant children in the custody of Health and Human Services (HHS) were filed, according to documents released by Florida representative Ted Deutch. 178 of these involved staff members; the rest involved other minors, according to The Hill.

According to CBS News, HHS did not dispute the allegations but objected to the characterization of the staff involved as federal workers; they may have been contract employes.  Details of some of the complaints of abuse by staff members are here.

If you want to call or write those who put children in this situation, Sarah-Hope’s list has contact information.

has contact information.

5. Kushner possible security risk according to CIA

The New York Times reports that President Trump ordered John F. Kelly, his chief of staff at the time, to give his son-in-law Jared Kushner a top-secret security clearance against the advice of career security clearance professionals. Both Kelly and Donald F. McGahn II, the then-White House counsel, wrote contemporaneous internal memos about the order and their concerns about Kushner.

Congressional Democrats want Kushner’s top-secret clearance revoked.

6. Oakland Teachers strike about broad educational issues

Negotiators for the 2,300 teachers in Oakland, California, reached a tentative agreement after a week-long strike—but whether members will accept it remains in doubt; teachers are due to vote on March 3. The increase would provide an 11% pay increase over four years, more support personnel for students (counsellors, nurses), a moratorium on charter schools, a moratorium on school closures, and a slight reduction in class size according to the strike website.

According to In These Times, the significance of the strike is that though wages were at issue, the big target was neoliberalism itself, the conditions that mean schools are not appropriately funded, teachers and students lack support, and class sizes are untenable. Some striking teachers do not think enough has been gained in terms of the non-wage issues.  73% of students in the Oakland Public Schools receive free or reduced-cost lunches, 30% are English learners, and 11.8% are white. (See the story below.)

NPR reports on the wave of school strikes over the last year.

7. White schools receive more funding

Meanwhile, the non-profit educational research group EdBuild has released a report noting that nationwide, the average white school district receives $2,226 more per student than districts with predominately students of color. Because school funding is based on property taxes and because people live in areas segregated by income and race, schools for children in the most need are underfunded. Even setting income aside, race alone has a drastic effect on school fund; in California, for example, predominately white schools in high-poverty areas receive $13,904 per student per year, while schools in high-poverty areas with mostly students of color receive $9,931. Paradoxically, non-white schools in low-poverty areas receive even less.

8. Lying while doing under-cover reporting is covered by freedom of speech

A number of states have passed so-called “ag-gag” laws, which make it a crime for undercover reporters to lie about their intentions at an agricultural production facility. Now a federal court in Iowa has struck down that law, on the grounds that it violates the right to free speech. Undercover reporting has been essential in revealing the mistreatment of animals as well as the violation of health and safety regulations in agricultural production. You can read the decision here.

The ACLU of Iowa filed the lawsuit. The Michigan State University Animal Legal and Historical Center summarizes some relevant cases.

9. Random grifter shows issues with robocalls

A guy named Matthew Tunstall has made hundreds of thousands of dollars by impersonating the president’s campaign through “Support American Leaders PAC” robocalls asking for donations. He then uses some of that money to buy more robocall ads and, presumably, spends the rest of it on hookers and blow or whatever. He’s able to do this in part because in 2018, a court threw out a poorly-worded Obama-era anti-robocall FCC rule; Ajit Pai (who celebrated at the time) is now asking phone companies to implement anti-robocall technology or face government regulation.

10. Popular vote compact

So far, 12 states (CA, CT, DC, HI, IL, MA, MD, NJ, NY, RI, VT, WA) have signed on to the so-called National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which “would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.” Colorado is poised to join the compact

Maine is considering it. Former Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, says, “What would happen if they do what they say they’re gonna do, white people will not have anything to say. It’s only going to be the minorities who would elect. It would be California, Texas, Florida.” His comments make explicit the logic behind all Republican efforts to suppress the votes of non-white citizens (some of which are outlined by Brennan Center for Justice).

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

11. Update on Haiti

After a flurry of stories around the U.S. State Department’s updated travel advisory to Level 4 (“Do Not Travel”), Haiti has mostly gone out of the U.S. news again, but although protests there have died down, their root causes remain unsolved.

Under Secretary of Political Affairs David Hale travelled on March 1st to Haiti to discuss “the path forward on dialogue and economic growth.” Hale is a career diplomat with Middle Eastern experience but no experience in Haiti. Haiti Libre reports that the opposition in Haiti believes Hale is wrong “for promoting dialogue, while the main obstacle is President Jovenel Moïse.”

In compliance with a court order, Homeland Security officials have formally extended temporary protected status (TPS) for Haiti as well as El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Sudan.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

12. Arizona moves ahead with bills to weaken vaccination rates

In the midst of six ongoing outbreaks of the measles, a preventable disease that can have debilitating or lethal consequences for young children, the State of Arizona has moved three bills out of committee that if passed will considerably weaken vaccination standards for the state. Citing “parental rights,” HB 2470 would expand access to religious and personal belief waivers for preschool and grade school children as well as eliminate the necessity to fill out a state authorization form, according to Ars Technica. HB 2471 and 2472 would require that parents receive a pamphlet about vaccination risks before vaccinating their children and require doctors to blood-test kids to see if they already possess immunity from the diseases covered by the requested vaccines. House Co-chair of the Health and Human Services committee Rep. Nancy Barto (R) sponsored all three bills, claiming that there is research “on both sides” regarding the alleged debate over vaccines. 

13. Mechanism for antibiotic resistance in bacteria found 

Research published by a professor of physics and a biochemistry undergraduate student at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada claims to have found the means by which bacteria fend off an important antibiotic of last resort called polymyxin b. The pair used an approach more similar to material than biomedical research and found that the cell walls of resistant bacteria thicken and change their electrical charge to be less attractive to the antibiotic. The result is that the resistant bacteria deal with far less of the antibiotic and are tougher when they do encounter it. The researchers reasoned that instead of treating every disease and antibiotic interaction as unique, they would instead look for the similarities across the board and utilized cutting-edge imaging and simulation software to make their discovery, according to the Toronto Star. The study was published in the journal Nature: Communications Biology

14. Google to keep app available to track women in Saudi Arabia

Google is coming under fire from civil rights groups and politicians for choosing to keep an app produced by the government of Saudi Arabia on its Google Play store, according to Gizmodo. The app allows Saudi men to track and restrict the travel of women and dependents under the country’s stringent guardianship laws which make the rights of women heavily dependent upon the consent of men in their family. The decision to keep the app comes after a letter was sent by fourteen members of Congress in which they requested the app be removed while acknowledging that it had legitimate civic uses such as registering for passports and vehicles. The letter said that 21st century American technology companies should not support 16th century style oppression of women and domestic workers. The group Amnesty International urged tech companies to consider the products they support in terms of risk to human rights abuses of women, calling out the Saudi app for its use in tracking and limiting the free movement of women in a disturbing system of discrimination against women under the guardianship system. The motto in Google’s code of conduct for years was ‘Don’t be evil’, which was removed in 2015. 

If you would like to write Google about this, see the Resources tab for Sarah-Hope’s instructions.

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