News You May Have Missed, July 7

Action is the only solution we know for the paralysis terrible news creates. We regularly recommend the Americans of Conscience checklist; we’re highlighting it today because Jen has a link you might particularly want to know about: Actions Supporting Decency Immigration, which lists many places you can work with or donate to, as well as many actions you can take to restore decency to the immigration and asylum process. See our Resources list below for many more opportunities for action.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Border Patrol officers knew for months about conditions in centers

Border patrol higher-ups knew for months about the atrocious conditions at the Clint detention center, a joint investigation by the New York Times and the El Paso Times reveals. “Some children had no beds to sleep on, no way to clean themselves and sometimes went hungry,” the Times reports. Agents apparently told their superiors again and again about the conditions there, but received no response. Agents told reporters that “outbreaks of scabies, shingles and chickenpox were spreading among the hundreds of children who were being held in cramped cells. The stench of the children’s dirty clothing was so strong it spread to the agents’ own clothing — people in town would scrunch their noses when they left work. The children cried constantly.” RLS 

If you have something to say about the conditions in which children are being held, there are people to write.

2. Deportation raids to begin soon

Immigrant families received a two-week reprieve when Trump agreed to hold off on immigration raids in order to force Democrats to compromise on changes to asylum rules. That reprieve ended Saturday, leaving immigrants in dread, staying inside or going into hiding. ICE officials acknowledge that they expect to make “collateral” arrests of others they encounter who are in the country without documents, according to the Washington Post.

The Post quoted Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles as saying, “Even if the numbers are small, the purpose of the raids and the show of force is to scare a larger population. The threat is purposely meant to affect and destabilize a whole group of people. It’s that psychological attack. Maybe they’ll come for me. Maybe they won’t. Maybe it’ll be my neighbor. It’s very mentally draining.”

Various organizations have resources to help individuals and groups respond to immigration raids. There are lists on our June 23 issue (scroll down) as well as at the Americans of Conscience link above. Or click here for information.

3. High stakes of the citizenship question

After the Supreme Court voted 5-4 not to permit the Trump administration to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, Trump declared that he was considering an executive order to do so, according to The Hill. The ACLU has said it will bring further legal action if he does so.

Drawing on data from Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy , the Washinton Post explains what the stakes are in the citizenship question. By looking at how many Hispanic families declined to answer the question in the
Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, researchers were able to estimate what the consequences would be if it were included in the 2020 census. Hispanics of all backgrounds–including people in the country legally–would be undercounted, leading to seats lost in Congress and massive amounts of funding lost to states and key programs. California, Arizona and Texas would lose Congressional seats while Montana, Minnesota, Alabama and Ohio would gain them. RLS

4. Not enough refugees

The number of refugees admitted to the US has fallen to a historic low, according to data from the Migration Policy Institute. The US accepted only 22,491 refugees in 2019, NPR reported, part of a comprehensive effort to reduce immigration of all kinds into the country. The Trump administration has agreed to accept no more than 30,000 in 2019, according to the International Rescue Committee. That number would increase to a minimum of 95,000 if the GRACE (Guaranteed Refugee Asylum Ceiling) Act is passed. The Grace Act (S.1088; H.R.2146) would also require that the annual number of refugee admissions take into consideration global needs. Co-sponsored by Kamala Harris, this legislation is currently in the Judiciary Committees of both houses of Congress. S-HP, RLS

If you want to speak up about the GRACE Act, here is how to do it.

5. Border Patrol officials have known for years about demeaning Facebook groups

Secret Facebook groups have been used by Customs and Border Patrol Agents to mock and dehumanize migrants, according to ProPublica and CNN. The groups, called “I’m 10-15” and “The Real CBP Nation,” have featured memes that were used to dehumanize migrant families and demean Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. After the existence of “I’m 10-15” was revealed by ProPublica, the group’s name was first changed to “America First,” then archived to prevent future posts or comments on the page. This move–as well as the members who left the group in the wake of the ProPublica article–was decried in “The Real CBP Nation.” Politico points out that as far back as February 2016, Customs and Border Patrol seems to have been aware that officers were participating in closed Facebook groups; in 2018 they issued a memo reminding employees that the CBP code of conduct prohibits employees from certain conduct and communication both in the workplace and while off duty on the grounds of discrimination and harassment. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of the Inspector General is investigating the matter. JM-L

If you are inclined to speak up about these Facebook groups, here are some possibilities for people to write.

6. No interpreters, hearings via video link

Asylum-seekers will no longer have access to in-court interpreters during their first deportation hearings if a Department of Justice (DOJ) plan is put into effect. At these initial hearings, asylum-seekers receive information on their rights and are given a schedule for follow-up hearings. Under the DOJ proposal, asylum-seekers would watch a video in Spanish or an indigenous language that would give an overview of their rights and of the hearing process, but would then attend the initial hearing without an interpreter. Ashley Tabaddor, president of the National Association of Immigration Judges points out that this new policy highlights the DOJ’s refusal to see immigration as “real” courts. One immigration judge, speaking on the condition of anonymity to a San Francisco Chronicle reporter warned, “[The policy] is a disaster in the making. What if you have an individual that speaks an indigenous language and has no education and is completely illiterate? You think showing them a video is going to completely inform them of their rights? How are they supposed to ask questions of the judge?” S-HP

An even more extreme proposal to hold immigration hearings via video in huge tents in Mexican border cities was revealed by the Intercept last week . Those asylum seekers who are being required to wait in Mexico would have their cases heard en masse by judges in far-away cities. Reporters, observer and family members would be barred; it’s not clear whether attorneys would be permitted on site. The Intercept quoted Taylor Levy, an immigration lawyer in El Paso, as saying, “I have never seen so much crying in court. People are so afraid to go back to Mexico. Sometimes the proceedings have to stop because the crying is so loud that the recording equipment can’t pick up words.”

You can speak up about these proposals: addresses are here.

7. Undocumented family members of troops no longer protected

Under a practice called “Parole in Place,” undocumented, immediate family members of active-duty troops have been able to apply for temporary residency. This is not a path to citizenship; it is simply permission to remain in the country the family member—parent, child—is serving during the term of that service. The intent of this practice was to prevent situations in which active-duty troops would be disrupted in their work by concerns for family members who might be deported. Now, according to NPR, family members who would have qualified for “Parole in Place” are receiving notices that the program is being terminated. S-HP

If you wish to say something to the Senate Armed Services Committee about the end of this policy, here are their addresses.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

8.Avoiding war with Iran?

Iran and France agreed on Sunday to discuss the conditions for re-opening talks that could save the 2015 Iran nuclear deal which Trump unilaterally renounced while ramping up sanctions, the BBC reported. Iran announced on Saturday that it would be breaching the limit the deal established on enriched uranium unless European countries stepped up to mitigate U.S. sanctions. Sanctions have caused the price of staples, such as meat, vegatables and cheese, to double, and caused shortages of foreign-produced goods, such as baby diapers, according to the Statistical Centre of Iran. RLS

If you want to act against war with Iran, some possibilities are here.

9. Canada pension plan divests from detention camps

The Canada Pension Plan has divested from two companies that run private prisons. As of last year, the CPP had invested millions in The GEO Group and CoreCivic, two of the companies that own many of the detention camps holding asylum seekers and their children in filthy and overcrowded conditions, according to the Toronto Star.

.In response to the divestment, New Democratic Party MP Charlie Angus urged the Canadian government to speak up more strongly about the camps. “When you’re talking about children being denied toothbrushes, migrants being told to drink out of toilets, children getting separated from their families — these are forms of abuse that contravene the basic standards of international law,” he said. “…This offends Canadian values.”

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

10. Tariffs on solar undercuts renewable energy

Donald Trump is once again ensuring that fossil fuels and renewable energy won’t compete on a level playing field in what Time calls “the biggest blow he’s dealt to the renewable energy industry yet.” He is placing tariffs of up to 35% on solar equipment made outside the U.S. The administration claims this move will protect the U.S. solar energy industry from unfair foreign competition, but that claim is undermined by the fact that 80% of the parts used in the U.S. solar energy industry are produced abroad. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, the solar energy industry had created 260,000 jobs in the U.S., but that number is predicted to drop by tens of thousands as a result of Trump’s move. S-HP

If you want to speak up about this effort to undermine solar power, you can write to the people listed here.

11. Drought uncovers ancient palace complex

A drought in northern Iraq has resulted in low water levels in the reservoir contained by the Mosul dam on the Tigris river, revealing a large palace complex built by a little known civilization called the Mittani Empire in the years between 1200 and 1300 BC. Working quickly, a team of German and Iraqi archaeologists managed to uncover eight of ten rooms, finding fired brick floor tiles and ten cuneiform tablets currently being translated. Of particular interest are the remains of vibrant red and blue wall murals, a common feature of elite buildings of the time which rarely survived the centuries. The Mittani are known from period references on tablets and a few scattered archaeology sites but their empire stretched from modern day Turkey, down the Mediterranean coast of Syria and into northeastern Iraq. They were regarded as equals by contemporary Egyptian and Assyrian accounts, known for their skilled horsemen and chariots but believed to have been overcome by invasions by Hittites and Assyrians, according to a report from the Smithsonian Magazine.
JC

12. Gigantic algal blooms here to stay

Researchers at the University of Southern Florida working with satellite imagery supplied by NASA have found the largest algal bloom in the world, stretching entirely across the North Atlantic ocean from the Gulf of Mexico to the shores of West Africa. The bloom is composed of the brown algae Sargassum, which grows in clumps in warm open waters and washes up frequently on beaches. Sargassum growth has exploded since 2011, closing beaches and prompting a national emergency for the island of Barbados; scientists now understand why the mega blooms have occurred and how they’re are likely here to stay.

For Sargassum to grow to these proportions, nutrient rich waters must rise from the colder deeper waters off of the cost of Africa and combine with nutrient rich runoff from the Amazon river in South America. It’s the waters of the Amazon that are providing the critical boost, as deforestation and fertilizer use have increased the nutrient content of the river water. This is unlikely to change, particularly under the aggressive deforesting policies of current Brazilian president Bolsonaro, meaning that beaches throughout the tropics can expect to see millions more tons of the algae wash up in coming years. JC


13. Surgery restores lost hand function in tetraplegic patients

Results of a series of surgeries performed by Australian doctors on a small group of 16 spinal injury patients were published in the journal The Lancet, detailing how a novel procedure called nerve transfer surgery was able to restore the use of a hand in 12 of those studied. The patients had all lost use of both their arms, legs and torso due to spinal injury and such patients have reported regaining the use of an arm and hand to be their top priority above walking or sexual function. Doctors were able to painstakingly connect nerves from above the injury site to corresponding nerves below the injury in a series of surgeries and after intense physiotherapy patients who were unable to even register a score on standard pinch and grasp tests are now able to perform most of the tasks of daily living for themselves. While this procedure has been successful before, this is the first standardized study of the procedure with a group of patients undergoing the same treatment and testing. The data derived from studies such as this one will assist surgeons in selecting the most promising candidates for the surgery JC

Arts & Culture

Malian singer kept away from music festival by draconian visa rules

International artists are finding it increasingly difficult to navigate the labyrinthian visa system and visit the United States. Recently, Hawa Kassé Mady Diabaté, a distinguished Malian singer, was prevented from coming to the Kronos festival due to new vis complexities.

As the San Francisco Classical Voice puts it, “But the question is whether the system is fair and efficient, as well as transparent and consistent and whether its subjective nature could be used to irrevocably undermine privacy laws, and also be used to reflect, even normalize racial, religious, or, conceivably, cultural biases.”

First-ever retrospective of North American women artists opens in Minneapolis

“This is the first, believe it or not, show devoted to Native women artists,” said Jill Ahlberg Yohe, who co-curated the exhibit with Teri Greeves, told the Guardian. “It’s the first to honor Native women from ancient times to the contemporary moment…90% of Native art is made by women. Native artists know this. It’s just non-Native people who haven’t recognized that.” The show is at the Minneapolis Institute of Art until August 18, with over 115 artists from 50 Native communities represented.

No more Mad Magazine in a mad world

Sad news for anyone who grew up with its satire and snark: Mad Magazine will stop publishing original material, making past issues available only to subscribers, according to Open Content. Mad was an essential force in supporting 12 year olds in questioning the status quo; does the status quo itself serve that function now?

Alaska: the only state without an arts council?

 Alaska’s Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy moved last week to cut 41% from Alaska’s university system.  He also proposes to completely do away with the state’s art council. Democratic legislators do not expect to be able to overturn his veto, according to Hypoallergenic.

Resources

  • Some recommendations from Sarah-Hope’s list follow relevant stories; here are others.
  • Martha’s list provides numerous opportunities to comment for the public record–on issues ranging from the dangers of diesel exhaust for miners to Trump’s plan to increase surveillance of travellers to the government’s proposal to open 80 new plutonium pits.
  • Rogan’s list has many useful items, including a toolkit from Never Again, the Jews organizing against the detention camps; a locator from United We Dream that indicates how many people are being held where; talking points for calling your congressperson about the camps, and much more.

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