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.

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