At News You May Have Missed, we are continuing our experiment with integrating action items–as we are able to–with news summaries. We appreciate the meticulous work of Martha and Sarah-Hope who identify each week how we can be useful with regard to the topics we care about. In addition, this week Sarah-Hope has joined us as a writer, bringing her remarkable ability to encapsulate complex issues to writing news summaries.
1. Happy Mother’s Day: Consider 55,000 (more) homeless kids
As many as 55,000 children could become homeless as a result of a new regulation published by Ben Carson’s Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Until now, families with mixed-status–that is, families who have one or more undocumented members–could live in public housing as long as the family had one member who was eligible for federal subsidies, Mother Jones explains. Under this new regulation, all members would have to be eligible–so families with children who were citizens and one parent who was undocumented would have to leave their homes. By HUD’s own calculations, this change will affect 76,000 people; about them, HUD wrote, “HUD expects the fear of the family being separated would lead to a prompt evacuation by most mixed-status families.” If you would like to comment on this, you can do so here; comments are due July 9.
2. Happy Mother’s Day #2: Kids at Guantánamo
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is proposing to house separated migrant children at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, the Independent reported, though as the New York Times pointed out, the image of housing children next to terrorism suspects has kept the plan from moving forward. Still, because ICE is overwhelmed by immigrants–housing some 50,223 at this writing–the Department of Defense is looking at other military bases where they could be housed. The numbers are due in part to Attorney General Barr’s insistence that migrants seeking asylum be detained until their cases can be heard.
3. The entire ACA at risk
The entire Affordable Care Act could be struck down if the Trump administration prevails in a federal appeals court. The administration argues that the entire ACA is unconstitutional, a change in from its previous position that only part of it needed to be dismantled. If the court agrees with Trump, 21 million people will lose health insurance (see the story on maternal mortality, below). Many millions more will no longer be protected by its provisions–regarding pre-existing conditions, for example, according to the New York Times
4. Redefining poverty
The Office of Budget and Management is proposing a change in the way the national poverty threshold is calculated. The move would tie poverty measures to the “chained” Consumer Price Index, which minimizes increasing inflation by assuming that, rather than buying products whose costs are increasing at new, higher prices, consumers will move to purchasing less expensive items. As a result, the number of families qualifying for income-based services would grow more slowly than the actual growth in consumer prices, Bloomberg reports. The Obama White House tried a similar move with cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security in2014—a proposal that was abandoned after objections by Congressional Democrats.
If you have an opinion about this issue, you can find out where to write here.
5. Marginalizing US Department of Agriculture scientists
Last August, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue announced plans to move the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)—both agencies that play a key role in developing policy—outside the nation’s capital. While this proposal may sound inconsequential, fifty-six former United States Department of Agriculture and federal statistical agency officials, along with more than 1,100 scientists and economists have objected to this move. The move is apt to spark retirement or resignation of USDA scientists who do not wish to relocate, creating a loss of expertise that will take years to recover, reports farmprogress.com.
Government officials, policy makers, and scientists frequently consult with the ERS and NIFA. These consultations will be more difficult once the offices are relocated, particularly for out-of-area officials, who could formerly have included visits to the ERS and NIFA offices when conducting other business at the capitol. Susan Offutt, an ERS administrator during the Clinton and Bush (W.) administrations, explained “The USDA’s evidence-lite justification for USDA to so radically uproot its world-class research, economics and statistical agencies is the reason the Economic Research Service should be kept in Washington, DC, and in the USDA research arm. We need its objective and respected analysis to support evidence-based policymaking in our $1 trillion food, agriculture and rural economy.”
If you want to object to this move, here’s how to do so.
6. The plots thicken: Bolton and Cambridge Analytica
Between 2014 and 2017, John Bolton’s Super PAC received $5 million dollars from John Mercer of Cambridge Analytica, according to the Centre for Public Integrity, which has updated its 2018 story. In turn, Bolton gave back $1.1 million to Cambridge Analytica for data on voters. (Cambridge Analytica was the voter-profiling company whose ability to identify particular details about voters and then target them with fake news to shape their choices was instrumental in the 2016 presidential campaign and in the success of Brexit.) The Centre for Public Integrity’s source was Mark Groombridge, an advisor to Bolton.
The PAC, which Bolton says he disbanded in March but which had continued its operations well after Bolton became National Security Advisor April 9, was intended in part to explore Bolton’s nascent presidential ambitions. All in all, it donated some $6 million to right-wing candidates. Bolton’s PAC was made possible by the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court decision that allowed corporations and other entities to donate unlimited sums to political campaigns.
7. Foreign governments renting in Trump Tower
Seven foreign governments–Iraq, Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Thailand and the European Union–rented condos at Manhattan’s Trump World Tower, according to a Reuters story, possibly violating the emoluments clause; Congress must approve any gifts or payments from foreign governments. Other governments expressed interest in renting, as a Reuters graphic showing the timeline of these arrangements demonstrates.
8. Chinese repression of Uighar Muslims
As trade talks continue (or don’t) between the U.S. and China, one important topic is not on the table: the ongoing Chinese violations of of Uighar Muslims’ human rights. China is currently holding up to one million Uighars in detention camps. The vast Xinjiang region, where the Uighar detentions are occurring has a population of 24 million, almost half of whom are Muslims—and the majority of these are Uighars. The detentions, along with intensive monitoring of Uighars’ daily activities through the use of both cameras and informants are aimed at forcing Uighar abandonment of Islam and of resistance to Chinese rule. The New York Times describes the anti-Uighar programs as “a campaign of breathtaking scale and ferocity that has swept up hundreds of thousands of Chinese Muslims for weeks or months of what critics describe as brainwashing, usually without criminal charges” and noted that this is the country’s most significant internment program since the Mao era. China has called Uighar detention centers “mild corrective institutions” and claims that they provide job training. The Uyghar [sic] Human Rights Policy Act of 2019 (S.178 in the Senate and H.R.649 in the House), which calls for an end to arbitrary, detention, torture, and harassment of Uighar communities remains in committee in both houses of Congress: the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs, Intelligence, and Judiciary Committees.
If you want to speak up about Chinese Muslims, here’s whom to write.
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT
9. Pregnancy-related deaths high among Black and Indigenous Women
Pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S. are two and half to three times higher among Black and Indigenous women than among white women, according to the CDC’s weekly morbility and mortality report. Three out of five deaths were preventable; better health care, stable housing and reliable transportation would reduce the number of deaths, according to the CDC. The US has twice the number of deaths in pregnancy and childbirth compared to Canada and a number of other wealthy nations. Severe bleeding, heart disease and strokes caused most of the deaths; the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recently acknowledged that racial bias plays in role in maternal deaths, in that symptoms among Black and Indigenous women tend to be discounted, according to the New York Times.
10. Extinctions on the horizon
As many as a million plant and animal species are in danger of extinction, putting the survival of ecosystems and people at risk, the New York Times reports. Various ordinary human activities–from farming to poaching–have led to a 20 per cent decrease of plants and animals in major habitats. Climate change has intensified this process, shrinking the areas in which plants and animals can survive, a process that will result in profound loss of biodiversity. As the summary of the United Nations report puts it, “Climate change is a direct driver that is increasingly exacerbating the impact of other drivers on nature and human well-being.” We have covered this issue before, but are mentioning it again because the full summary is now available–the 1500 page report will be published later this year.
11. Ancient trees discovered in North Carolina
The bald cypresses of North Carolina were known to be long-lived—however, how long was a mystery until a recent study published in the journal Environmental Research Communications identified trees exceeding 2000 years in age, with one example recorded at over 2600 years. The trees are located along the Black River in a 16,000 acre preserve owned by the Nature Conservancy of North Carolina and these studies would set them around the third oldest trees with confirmed ages in the world. Old growth forests in the United States are exceedingly rare, with less than 1% of old growth cypress trees still in existence, according to BGR.
12. The US military has drones that fire knife-wielding missiles
The Wall Street Journal reports that the United States Department of Defense, in collaboration with the Central Intelligence Agency, has created a new version of the Hellfire missile that uses kinetic energy and blades to kill. Developed in response to a mandate by the Obama administration to reduce collateral casualties in drone strikes, the missile instead uses precision guidance, 100 pounds of metal and spring-loaded blades in an attempt to eliminate single targets. The missile, designated R9X, has been used about six times according to the WSJ, with two confirmed strikes against targets in vehicles in which the vehicles did not explode. In the strike against Al Qaeda leader Ahmad Ahasan Abu Kahyr al-Masri in February of 2017 the damage to his Kia was limited to a hole in the roof and a crack in the windshield, according to Ars Technica.
- Do you have something to say about fracking in California? The destruction of grey wolves? The requirement that asylum seekers pay fees to apply? If so, Martha can tell you how to weigh in. Here is her list.
- Sarah-Hope has identified even more action items than we have listed above, from ways to speak up about the dismantling of safeguards around off-shore drilling to subsidies of fossil fuels to Anita Hill’s call for federal protections against sexual harassment. See her list here.