News You May Have Missed: July 19, 2020

John Lewis. United States House of Representatives / Public domain

“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Do not become bitter or hostile. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble. We will find a way to make a way out of no way.” John Lewis

Heather Cox Richardson offers us the quote above from the late John Lewis. She has a comprehensive tribute to Lewis in her July 17 column. In it, she also comments on CNN’s analysis that the reason Trump and DeVos are pressing schools to reopen has to do with Trump’s effort to recapture white women voters in the suburbs who are tired of teaching their kids at home and need to return to their jobs. We wonder whether there is also a calculation that by the time teachers and children (or their parents and grandparents) die from the disease, the election will be over.

Speaking of elections, our indefatigable elections correspondent, Chrysostom, reports this week on recent primaries. He also reminds us that the Supreme Court declined to intervene in the ongoing litigation concerning Florida felon disenfranchisement, meaning that, at minimum, many people will be blocked from voting in the upcoming primary there.

The multi-billion dollar CARES Act, which was supposed to help small businesses keep their workers during the pandemic, was in fact a debacle rewarding billionaires and Trump associates. See our story below on the many layers of corruption and graft.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Honoring John Lewis

As we mourn the death of Civil Rights hero John Lewis, we can think about appropriate ways of honoring his legacy. Here are two suggestions:

  • Rename the Voting Rights Advancement Act, H.R.4, in his honor and insist that it be passed by the Senate (the House has already done so). The Supreme Court’s 2018 Shelby County v. Holder ruling gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965. H.R.4 would restore those voting rights protections. As of July 19, H.R.4 had been languishing in the Senate Judiciary Committee for 223 days.
  • Rename the Edmund Pettis Bridge, site of an attack on peaceful voting rights activists by Alabama State Troopers (the protestors were praying at the time the Alabama Troopers launched their assault) and now a National Historic Landmark, in honor of the leader of that protest.

If you want to urge your Congressmembers to support these actions in memory of John Lewis, their addresses are here.

2. New DACA applications rejected–DACA under siege

While the Supreme Court ruled that Trump’s cancellation of the Dream Act (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or DACA) was improper, our Dreamers aren’t safe yet. First, the Supreme Court made it clear that, while the grounds Trump had used for ending DACA were inadequate, Trump can end the program if he finds an appropriate rationale (see the note under Martha’s list–Resources). Ending DACA is of particular concern during the COVID-19 pandemic, as over 62,000 U.S. healthcare workers are Dreamers, according to the New American Economy Research Fund. Two issues are pressing now: First, as The Hill reports, the administration made it clear almost immediately after the ruling that it would be issuing a new executive order ending DACA. Second, in a blatantly unconstitutional move, KQED reports that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) has been rejecting all new DACA applications in defiance of the Supreme Court ruling.

Now a federal judge has ruled that the administration must begin operating the DACA program along its original guidelines, allowing both new and renewal applications. In June, USCIS went so far as to issue a statement claiming that the Supreme Court “opinion has no basis in law and merely delays the President’s lawful ability to end the illegal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals amnesty program…. The constitutionality of this de facto amnesty program created by the Obama administration has been widely questioned since its inception.” Dreamers are not “safe,” and they will not be safe until Congress acts to provide them ongoing legal protections. This could be accomplished with Senate passage of H.R.6, the American Dream and Promise Act (H.R.6 has already passed in the House). On June 10, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell placed H.R.6 on “general orders,” which means it is not being forwarded to any Senate committees and will almost certainly not be considered by the full Senate. S-HP

You can tell your Senators that you want them to fiercely and continuously press McConnell for serious Senate consideration of H.R.6, and urge Joe
Biden, who was part of a group proposing legislation in 2013 that would have given Dreamers and other undocumented individuals a path to citizenship, to take immediate action to protect Dreamers should he become President. Addresses are here.

Children still in detention–may be release without their parents

ICE has been given an extra ten days to release a group of children who are in detention with their families. Judge Dolly Gee has been overseeing the order to release them, and just permitted ICE to take until July 27 to do so, a story in the Toronto Star explains. (The extension has been undercovered in the U.S., with mainly local news outlets reporting.) Judge Gee, however, does not have the authority to insist that families be released with their children. The unfortunate but likely outcome is that parents will be forced to choose between signing a waiver permitting the children to be released to family members without them, or keeping the children in detention with them. RLS

RAICES, a very reliable immigration support group in Texas, has a toolkit you can use to contact your member of Congress and to support the children in detention–or you can call or email–contact information is here.

4. Repression of protestors escalates

Federal agents in unmarked vans have been grabbing protestors in Portland, Oregon since at least July 14th. Officers have been driving up to people and detaining individuals with no explanation of why they are being arrested, and driving off. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden said that one protestor was shot in the head by Customs and Border Patrol agents, the Washington Post reported. This appears to be an escalation in federal use of force deployed on Portland city streets, as federal officials and the President have said they intend to quell the nightly protests that have been happening over the past 6 weeks outside the federal courthouse and the Multnomah County Justice center. However, Oregon Public Broadcasting has interviewed individuals who have been detained on Portland streets that aren’t near federal property, and it is not clear that those being arrested have been engaged in criminal activity. Demonstrators have said they think federal officers are targeting individuals who are simply wearing black clothing in the area of the demonstrations. 

Acting deputy director of the Department of Homeland Security, Ken Cuccinelli, confirmed to NPR on Friday that officers have used this tactic once near the federal courthouse in Portland, but did not confirm that it had happened more than once. He did confirm the involvement of the Federal Protective Services officers, who guard federal buildings such as courthouses, and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers. According to Cuccinelli, the officers were attempting to arrest “violent rioters.”

These actions appear to have been taken under a July 1 memo obtained by The Nation, regarding “CBP Support to Protect Federal Facilities and Property,” which was created in response to the President’s Executive Order on Protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues and Combating Recent Criminal Violence. The memo instructs CBP officials not to answer questions regarding arrests, citing “operational security.” There is no indication when CBP’s involvement will end, although the memo says “we hope this support will be short-term, just for the July 4th weekend.” Unlike other federal law enforcement officers, those under the jurisdiction of DHS are not required to do anything in marked vehicles or wear clothing that identifies them as law enforcement agents; after the use of armed agents who had removed their insignia in Washington, D.C. on June 1, agencies found they could do this with minimal “blowback from Congress.” 

Agencies under the umbrella of DHS, created by the 2001 Patriot Act, have increasingly been involved in law enforcement activities, and have broad and expanded powers. The authority of these agencies has further expanded since Trump’s Covid-19 emergency declaration, which triggered the Title 42 pandemic law. 

The Oregon ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration to stop this DHS activity. The lawsuit against DHS and the US Marshall service aims to “block federal law enforcement from dispersing, arresting, threatening to arrest, or using physical force against journalists or legal observers.” The mayor of Portland has asked Federal law enforcement to stop these practices and the US Attorney for Oregon has stated his intent to investigate these actions. 

Like many officials in the Trump administration, Deputy Secretary Cuccinelli, recently interviewed by NPR, is serving in an “acting” capacity, and therefore has not been confirmed by the Senate. According to February reporting by the Washington Post, Trump has had acting officials serve more than three times as much as Obama did. At the head of DHS during Trump’s 3 years in office, there have been three acting secretaries, with no nominee in sight, including Cuccinelli’s boss, Acting Secretary Chad Wolf, who has been serving in that role since November 13, 2019. In February of 2019, Trump told CBS Face the Nation, “I like ‘acting’ because I can move so quickly. It gives me more flexibility,” NPR noted. Because these individuals have not been subject to Senate confirmation, their qualifications and actions have not been subject to the same degree of scrutiny as those of permanent appointees. JM-L

5. House vote to end the Muslim ban

On Wednesday, July 22, the House will be voting on the National Origin-Based Antidiscrimination for Nonimmigrants Act (H.R.2214, also known as the NO BAN Act). This legislation responds to the Trump administration’s blanket prohibition on visas for people living in a number of predominantly Muslim countries and to the Supreme Court ruling upholding that ban. H.R.2214 repeals Trump’s Muslim ban that targeted refugees for extreme vetting. It amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to explicitly prohibit religion-based discrimination in the issuing of visas, and makes it clear that all nondiscrimination protections for visa applicants apply to both immigrants and nonimmigrants. H.R.2214 would require that such restrictions not be enacted until after both the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have demonstrated that they respond to a specific (not generalized) threat to U.S. security or public safety and after both Departments have consulted with Congress. Both Departments must also report to Congress within 48 hours of such a restriction being put in place or the restriction will be immediately invalid. S-HP

The timeline for this issue is tight, but you can call or email your representative about it and you can use this link to generate an electronic letter in support of H.R.2214 for your Representative.

6. Farmworkers endangered by COVID-19

Cronkite News has reported on a United Farmworkers’ campaign to ensure farmworkers are given appropriate COVID-19 protections. One of the employers failing to provide such protections is Primex Farms in Wasco, California. A total of 97 Pemex workers and additional 63 of their family members, at least 28 of them children, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Primex Farms manages 5,000-plus acres of pistachio orchards and processes millions of pounds of nuts each year and employess some 400 workers. When employees first heard about positive COVID-19 at the site, a few workers went to human resources in early June. But, according to UFW secretary-treasurer Armando Elenes, officials dismissed their concerns as rumors.

On June 23, Primex confirmed 31 workers had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. A group of about 50 workers staged a one-day strike, demanding improved transparency and sanitation and protective gear like face coverings and gloves. Primex then closed its facility for a deep cleaning, reopening at partial capacity on July 2. Primex tested workers, insisting all be present at once for the tests, including those who had already recently tested positive, essentially guaranteeing further infections. Primex is now providing workers with gloves and masks, but that was only after the company had told workers it would have to buy them at a cost of $8. On July 1, Primex announced employees 65 and older who did not want to continue working could stay home and get paid for the time they took off. Those with symptoms and who tested positive would also be paid for their time off. But later, workers received paychecks that reflected only the time they had worked.

This issue and others would be addressed by the HEROES Act, H.R.6800, which has already been passed by the House. H.R.6800 would accomplish a number of things: it would require employers to develop and implement infectious disease control plans, would create a fund for providing premium pay for essential workers (farmworkers are considered essential), and would extend and expand the existing foreclosure moratorium. It also would expand the Paycheck Protection Program, allow for additional payments to individuals, provide coverage for medical expenses, extend the freeze on student loan collections, and provide support for the post office and for federal elections (see below for another HEROES Act write-up). On June 1, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell placed H.R.6800 on “general orders,” which means it is not being forwarded to any Senate committees and will almost certainly not be considered by the full Senate. S-HP

Ontario–and much of Canada–also depends on migrant workers to harvest their food. In Canada, migrant workers are particularly vulnerable because they are only permitted into the country if they have a contract with one employer; if the employer proves neglectful or abusive, they risk deportation if they complain and are fired. Because they live in close quarters, they are at risk for COVID-19. At one farm, TVO reported, 164 out of 222 workers had tested positive for COVID-19. Despite the risk of the coronavirus, employers are continuing to house workers who are positive for the virus along with those who are not. Workers are given only one mask per week, and inspections these days are conducted only virtually, according to the Globe and Mail. RLS

The UFW is now encouraging that calls and letters be directed to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, asking him to investigate condition at Primex and to ensure the company obeys the law. You can also ask your Senators to vocally advocate for passage of the HEROES Act. Addresses are here.

7. Deporting the virus

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has continued to deport asylum seekers to other nations, including asylum-seekers with the novel Coronavirus. It has also moved individuals in immigration detention across state lines, regardless of their COVID-19 status. Both the Marshall Project (in collaboration with the New York Times), and Palabra (with support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism), have documented the impact of these failures to follow what should be ordinary safety procedures during a pandemic. The New York Times has identified four deportees who tested positive for the novel Coronavirus shortly after arriving at the destination to which they were sent—deportees from India, Haiti, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Given the extended incubation period for the novel Coronavirus, it is a near certainty that these deportees were carrying the virus before they were removed from the U.S. As a result, US deportations have been spreading COVID-19 across the world. Even with limited testing, ICE has identified at least 3,000 individuals in its custody who are Coronavirus-positive.

From March through June, ICE has overseen 750 flights within the U.S. moving asylum-seekers, including an undetermined number with COVID-19 symptoms, across state lines. In the same period, it has overseen over 200 deportation flights, again with an undetermined number of individuals displaying COVID-19 symptoms among the deportees. Several news sources, among them the Center for Economic Policy and Research, report that at least eleven countries have confirmed that deportees have returned home with the Coronavirus, among them Guatemala, Colombia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Ecuador. Palabra reports on one case in which 22 deportees on a single flight to Colombia tested positive for the Coronavirus within ten days of their arrival.        

One individual battling COVID-19 while attempting to gain asylum in the U.S. is Maura “Katty” Hernandez Chan, who has been placed in quarantine four times at the ICE El Paso Processing Center after repeated exposures to the novel Coronavirus while in the facility. “Quarantine” in this case means isolation of an entire barracks after a single occupant tests positive, which may hinder the spread of Coronavirus to other barracks, but almost guarantees that virus-free residents of that barracks will be infected. According to the Texas Tribune, Katty and her sister Maria were born in Guatemala. Maria, then age 18, left the country in 2013 to seek asylum in the U.S. because her family was receiving repeated threats from gangs, who said they would attack her siblings if she did not provide regular payoffs. Maria was granted asylum. Now, in 2020, twenty-year-old Katty is seeking asylum in the U.S. after being kidnapped by a gang who claimed her parents were not paying monthly “fees.” Katty, who speaks K’iche’ Mayan, was ordered deported after failing a credible fear interview that was conducted in Spanish. Katty was lucky enough to have that deportation order rejected by a judge, a rare occurance, but she remains in immigration custody. Katty’s sister has been fighting to have Katty released as soon as she no longer tests positive for Coronavirus. The one person who can approve that release is Corey Price, the director of the ICE El Paso Processing Center. S-HP

The Free Katty resource page has information on how you can help her. You can also urge your Congressmembers to prioritize the issue of ICE flights’ impact on U.S. and global health. Information about this and other actions you can take is here. You can also follow Witness at the Border (formerly Witness: Tornillo) on Facebook; their members regularly track deportation flights.

8. Corruption in the Cares Act–billions gone to big companies, Trump associates

The CARES Act, passed on March 27, established a number of COVID-19 relief programs, including the $484 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses and the $32 billion Payroll Support Program (PSP) for companies in the airline industry. Data on the distribution of the funds allotted to these programs was initially difficult to get—multiple newspapers and public-interest groups have filed multiple Freedom of Information Act; requests for data and several lawsuits for materials not yet released are pending. But even with the limited information available, it is clear that in many instances the loans (which can be converted to grants) awarded through these programs often don’t support the types of businesses or business practices for which they were intended.

The PPP was intended to provide support for small businesses (defined as businesses with fewer than 500 employees) that would prevent layoffs or firing, and the program’s success was to be measured by the number of jobs saved. Some of the PPP monies did make it to small businesses, but large dollar amounts went to businesses that only fit the definition of “small” by manipulating numbers and that are owned by individuals who cannot honestly be described as small-business owners. The applications for these monies contain significant omissions or uninvestigated conflicts of interest, and many of the loans/grants have gone to religious organizations, raising questions about First Amendment protections regarding separation of church and state. Some examples (note that figures given by the Small Business Administration are generally represented as a range, $1-3 million, for example. In every case, this write-up uses the lowest amount mentioned):

  • The Washington Post reports that 90,000 recipients of PPP loans did not include a promise to rehire workers or create jobs.
  • Applications required that borrowers indicate how many jobs would be retained as part of the application. A Washington Post analysis found that 8,922 loan recipients reported that no jobs would be retained. Another 40,506 loan recipients left this part of the application blank.
  • As reported by the Washington Post, the Trump administration–supported by the Small Business Administration and at least one Democratic member of Congress–added language to the CARES Act waiving the usual conflict of interest rules, which at a minimum would have been subject to interviews by the SBA’s Standards of Conduct Committee before loans could be awarded to individuals connected with the current administration and Congress.
  • $350+ million was awarded to the family of Transportation Secretary Elaine Cho to support their shipping business.
  • PPP loans were received by at least seven members of Congress or their spouses, including three car dealerships owned by Representative Mark Kelly (R-PA), which received a minimum of $450,000.
  • Three plumbing businesses affiliated with Representative Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) received between $350,000 and $1 million each.
  • ProPublica reports that a minimum of $1.78 million went to businesses affiliated with the Kushner family (Jared Kushner, husband of Ivanka Trump, is an adviser to the President).
  • The law firm at which the lawyer who represented Trump during the Mueller investigation received at least $5 million.
  • Multiple tenants at Trump-owned buildings received PPP loans according to the Washington Post. These included 22 companies housed at Trump’s 40 Wall Street (as a group, they received a total of $16.6+ million), the Jean-Georges restaurant at Trump’s Central Park West hotel ($2+ million), and Sushi Nakazawa at Trump’s Washington DC Hotel ($150,000+).
  • Forbes notes that at least 50 companies, backed by 17 billionaires, received PPP loans. Six companies at least partially owned by Virginia’s billionaire Governor Jim Justice received PPP loans, as did 13 hotels and 6 additional businesses belonging to hotel magnate Robert Rowling. In a two-fer of shoveling money to billionaires and ignoring church-state issues, $2+ million was awarded to the Museum of the Bible, founded by David Green who has an estimated net worth of $7.9 billion.
  • Reuters found that some 88,400 of these loans went to religious organizations. The First Baptist Church of Dallas, whose pastor sits on Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board, received at least $2 million. Cross Church of Arkansas, which has a pastor emeritus who sits on Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Board, received $1.8+ million. City of Destiny, Inc., which lists Trump’s “Spiritual Advisor” as an oversight pastor, received at least $150,000. The Pat Roberts-founded Nonprofit American Center for Law and Justice, which describes its focus as “Defending Churches, Praising God, and Religious Liberty” received $1+ million. (Fun fact: this organization is also represented by the lawyer who represented Trump during the Mueller investigation).
  • According to ProPublica, the airline- and air travel-focused PSP loan recipients included three companies (Gate Gourmet, Flying Food Fare, and G2 Secure Staff) worth a total of $338 million, which laid off thousands of employees immediately before applying for PSP loans in order to meet the no-layoffs expectation, but then applied for funds based on the size of their pre-layoff staffs.
  • A Washington Post analysis shows that, while the administration claims over 51 million jobs have been saved through these programs, the documentation provided thus far by the Small Business Administration (SBA) is so unreliable as to make that claim worthless. Some of their findings:
  • 4.9 million loans went to companies that the SBA claims have retained more employees than they actually employ (three businesses with 20 or fewer employees are cited by the SBA as having saved over 500 jobs each).
  • The SBA reported 114,000 jobs saved in the field of landscape architecture, more than three times the number of individuals employed in that field in 2019 according to Labor Department figures.
  • 875,000 loan recipients (roughly three in every seventeen) listed zero jobs to be retained or listed no job retention figures in their PPP applications.        

While there is general agreement that minority-owned businesses have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, it appears that only a small proportion of such businesses are included among PPP loan recipients according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis. Provision on the race or ethnicity of business owners was optional on loan applications and only 14% of applicants provided such data. Among the businesses that included such ownership information and that received PPP loans, 83% were white-owned, 6.6% were Hispanic-owned, and just 2% were Black-owned. A study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, reported on by Politico, found that Black and white applicants for PPP loans experienced statistically significant differences in encouragement to apply for PPP loans, in loan “products” offered, and in the information provided by loan officers, with Black potential applicants receiving poorer treatment on all three measures. S-HP

You can tell the Administration and your Congressmembers how you feel about this mix of violations of program requirements, self-dealing, First Amendment conflicts, and inaccurate data and point out that small businesses owned by those in the middle and lower economic classes are still lacking the support the CARES Act was intended to provide them with: Addresses are here.

9. Victory for Indigenous groups in the U.S.

A landmark decision by the Supreme Court declared that the Eastern half of Oklahoma is–for the purposes of criminal prosecution–Native American land, according to Vox. The Court decided that despite various government violations of the treaty with Muscogee (Creek) people, the treaty itself remained intact. Therefore, in that section of Oklahoma–to which Native American people were driven on the Trail of Tears–Indigenous people accused of a crime must be tried in Federal court, not state court. And it may permit the reservation to provide independent social services. The decision, written by conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, does not–contrary to what Ted Cruz tweeted–“give away half of Oklahoma.” Indian Country today celebrated the decision as a victory for sovereignty. Scotusblog offers several webinars on the legal arguments made in the case. RLS

10. Heroes Act would prevent evictions, forstall foreclosures, save the Post Office

The HEROES Act, H.R.6800, addresses important concerns including conditions for farmworkers (see story above). It extends and expands current limits on foreclosures and evictions—an estimated 20-28 million people in the U.S. will face eviction between now and September, according to CNBC. The “foreclosure crisis” of 2008, which affected 10 million individuals over the course of several years, pales in comparison to this current threat.

         The HEROES Act would also provide a much needed $25 billion to the post office, which is under new leadership by a Trump appointee who seems determined to create enough inefficiencies to justify privatizing U.S. mail services, the Daily Kos points out. Louis DeJoy, the new Postmaster General, has issued a plan that would cut overtime pay for hundreds and thousands of workers, thereby lengthening and delaying mail delivery times. The state of the U.S. Post Office (USPS) is a matter of particular concern this year because we have federal elections coming up in November and will likely see a larger-than-usual number of mail-in ballots submitted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In general, mail-in ballots are counted only if they are received by election day, regardless of when they were mailed. At the moment, mailing a ballot in a week before election day would probably be sufficient to have one’s vote counted, but if mail services are deliberately slowed, even people who are careful to mail ballots in advance may not find their votes counted.

Two recent Supreme Court rulings emphasize the vulnerabilities of mail-ballots. In April, hours before election day, the Court ruled against Wisconsin advocates for an extended acceptance period for mail-in ballots (an additional week after election day) because of increased pressures on mail delivery, as the New York Times noted. This month, as NPR reported, the Supreme Court blocked an effort to make voting by mail easier in Alabama—where casting a mail-in ballot requires providing a copy of one’s ID to apply for the ballot and either notarization or two witness signatures for any received mail-in ballots to be counted. Post Office funding isn’t just about sending Aunt Thelma a postcard from your latest vacation (whenever we’re able to go on vacations again); it’s about preserving our democracy and ensuring that all eligible individuals have an opportunity to vote easily and safely during a pandemic.  On June 1, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell placed H.R.6800 on “general orders,” which means it is not being forwarded to any Senate committees and will almost certainly not be considered by the full Senate.

Rise and Resist urges you to ask your senators to ask them to insist that H.R. 6800 be considered. You can also find their addresses here.

11. Russian interference

The 5th and final report of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian election interference was sent to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) on May 15. That office is run by John Ratcliffe, a Trump loyalist, who would likely consider it in his personal interest to delay the public release of this report. The report is immense, and the Senate Intelligence Committee attempted to speed its release by providing redaction recommendations for almost 1,000 pages of the document, as the Hill reported. But on the cusp of a national election, the redactions have not been released. S-HP

You can call for the expedited release of Volume 5 of the Senate Intelligence Committee Report by the ODNI: Contact John Ratcliffe, Director of National Intelligence, Washington DC 20511, (703) 275-3700.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

12. CDC sidelined

Coronavirus information will now no longer go to the CDC but to a database overseen by the Department of Human Services, where information is private. Researchers, reporters and ordinary citizens will now no longer have access to it, according to the Chicago Tribune. Health officials trying to make decisions about reopening will not have the information that they need. Former heads of the CDC say that this politicization of the CDC is disastrous, PBS reports. Bad news about the virus is inconvenient for Trump, so he retweets those who say that the CDC and others are “lying,” according to Politico.

Move On has a petition you can sign to insist that data continue to be forwarded to the CDC. You can also insist that Health and Human Services is not the appropriate site for COVID-19 data collection and demand both a return to CDC data collection and public access to this data. See the addresses here.

13. Trump dismantles Environmental Protection Act

Trump began to dismantle the fifty year old National Environment Protection Act (NEPA) last week, according to the BBC, cutting down the time the public has to comment and speeding up the approval process of infrastructure projects. The BBC quoted the The Center for Biological Diversity, as saying that the changes will “weaken safeguards for air, water, wildlife and public lands.” And a writer for the Washington Post points that the loss of NEPA will disproportionately damage communities of color, because companies have deliberately located polluting operations near communities with less political power. A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences points out that Black people have a “pollution burden” that is “56 per cent higher than that of other Americans,” and that Latinx people have a pollution burden that is 63 per cent higher. 

Trump has also eliminated 68 significant environmental regulations and is attempting to eliminate 32 more, according to the NY Times, which is tracking the rollbacks closely, using date from Harvard and Columbia law schools. The Times provides a summary of the 100 regulations that have been or will be deleted–in areas ranging from air pollution and emissions to drilling to animal protection to toxic substances. Even though we are in the midst of a pandemic that affects the lungs, 27 of the regulations he is challenging have to do with air pollution and rules around what automobiles and power plants can emit. Trump’s initiatives have undermined efforts to address the climate crisis; “carbon dioxide emissions rose by 3.4% in 2018,” according to the BBC. RLS

If you want to insist to your Congressmembers that they refuse to accept these destructive policies and continue to fight Trump’s cuts to environmental regulations, their addresses are here.

14. Fracking ends, environmental damage persists

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a collapse of oil prices, which has many fracking companies either declaring bankruptcy or considering doing so. The problem is that abandoned and unrestored fracking sites can lead to massive environmental damage from unplugged methane leaks and other maintenance issues left unaddressed when the company declares bankruptcy. As Vice reported last year, the Trump administration deregulated the release of methane by the fossil fuel industry. According to the New York Times, the U.S. already has over three million abandoned oil and gas wells, two-thirds of which are unplugged and currently releasing annual emissions equivalent to those produced by 1.5 million cars. S-HP

You might ask your national and state environmental agencies and your legislators to assure that fracking companies applying for bankruptcy are required to clean up the sites they abandon. Addresses are here.

RESOURCES

  • The Americans of Conscience checklist is tracking good news this week–on the national, state and local level; there are dozens of items.
  • Rogan’s list warns us about an upcoming PPE shortage (again), upcoming evictions and homelessness,  McConnell’s plan to provide federal immunity from lawsuits for owners of nursing homes, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s intention to release a human rights report (?).
  • Amy Siskind’s weekly list of not-normal events has 268 items on it.
  • Sarah-Hope’s list is mostly integrated above, but she has some additional California-specific items.
  • Martha’s list: See item number 4. The Trump administration is trying to demonstrate that it is following the Administrative Procedures Act (not following it is why they lost the Supreme Court decision). This invitation to comment is very weird, in that they are requesting to seek information on eligibility when they have no intention of considering new applications. Is this the first step in following the APA – with the ultimate aim of a rule rescinding DACA? You can comment that people brought here as children are eligible for DACA and that DACA is a legitimate program. You can also comment on a number of the environmental regulation rollbacks described above. You can also comment on DeVos’ efforts to permit CARES act funding for religious schools, efforts to prevent ICE violence against women in detention centers and more.