NYMHM for 5 May 2019

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

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. More attacks on freedom of the press

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

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

2. Unreliable list of unreliable news sites

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

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

3. Heath care for LGBTQ+ patients compromised

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

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

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

4. More severe hardships imposed on asylum seekers

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. Hondurans drown in the Rio Grande

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

7. Indigeous rights to eagle feathers threatened

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

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

8. Disaster unrelieved

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

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

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

9. Climate emergency declared in the U.K.

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

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

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

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

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

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

11. Coup in Venezuela fails–for now

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

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

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

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

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

12. Second largest emperor penguin colony all but wiped out

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

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

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

RESOURCES

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

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