News You May Have Missed: August 18, 2019

News You May Have Missed tries to help with information overload by calling your attention to noteworthy but undercovered stories–or stories which badly need context. At the same time, we look for significant good news. See in particular the first story in the Science & Technology section, which tells us something about how we got here.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. States suing the administration over rules blocking immigrants from services

Following Oregon, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, Maine has joined the lawsuit California has brought against the Trump administration for its policy blocking legal status for those who use or are thought likely to use public services such as federal housing assistance, food stamps, or Medicaid, according to the Press Herald. As Vice points out, the new rules will hit low-income immigrants with disabilities especially hard, making it impossible for them to access caregivers and wheelchairs, for example. As a result of the proposed policy, immigrants are not accessing programs that would provide food and medicine for their U.S. citizen children, for fear that their own legal status will be jeopardized. RLS

If you wish to write your senators and representatives about this issue, you can find the link here.

2. “Reprogramming” money meant for FEMA

Once money is allocated to a federal agency, that agency may request to transfer (or unilaterally transfer) some of those monies from one account within the agency to another. Last year, for example, the Department of Homeland Security “reprogrammed” (that’s the official term for the process) $200 million to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) from a variety of other accounts including FEMA (this transfer was made at the start of hurricane season), the Coast Guard, and the Transportation Security Administration, Politico reports. DHS has indicated it intends to do the same in the coming fiscal year and has filed reprogramming requests with the House. Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard, Chair of the Appropriations Committee’s Homeland Security subcommittee, has confirmed the submission of the reprogramming request. It is not clear how essential Congressional approval to this transfer of funds is. The Democratic House is likely to reject increased ICE funding by whatever means, but the administration may try to make the moves unilaterally. S-HP

To voice your opinion on this issue, write to relevant committee chairs.

3. Cops working with/for ICE

In 2017, then-Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Values Act, SB-54, into law. SB-54 prohibited California’s local law enforcement agencies (LEAs) from using resources to help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) identify, detail, arrest, and/or transfer custody of immigrants. In SB-54’s first five months (January-May 2018), California saw a 41% decrease in ICE arrests in local jails, but further study has revealed a pattern of non-compliance with the California Values Acts by many LEAs. A repost released by Asian Americans Advancing Justice—Asian Law Caucus, the University of Oxford Centre for Criminology, and Oxford’s Border Criminologies Program shows that some 40% of 169 LEAs are out of compliance with the California Values Act.

The most common method LEAs use to evade SB-54 requirements is a cynical exploitation of a rule that allows the release of “information generally available to the general public” to ICE and CBP. These LEAs have adopted new, post AB-54 practices of posting information online about release dates, court hearing dates and locations, and identifying information for immigrants. The agencies frequently supply information about to be posted to ICE and CBP in advance, according to Rewire. Any transfer of an immigrant from an LEA to ICE is required to be reported to the California Attorney General, but in fact LEAs are providing ICE with non-reported access to non-public, secure areas of jails to arrest detained persons immediately before they are released. A movement is now underway to ask for the following practices from the California Attorney General and Department of Justice:

  • auditing of LEA compliance with SB-54 and advice in modifying practices to comply with SB-54
  • establishing a clear, accessible process for reporting and reviewing alleged SB-54 violations
  • providing full public access to all data on SB-54 compliance and all materials from SB-54 violation reviews. S-HP

Californians can write their representatives about this issue. Here is how to find them.

4. State Department employees routinely bullied, report says

Numerous State Department employees, most of them junior, were harassed by senior management, particularly Assistant Secretary Kevin Moley and former senior adviser Mari Stull. According to a report by the State Department’s inspector general, employees thought insufficiently loyal to Trump were berated, retaliated against, and had promotions denied. RLS

5. Christian books exempted from tariffs

The Republican administration recently announced a new series of tariffs to be levied against goods produced in China. The new tariffs included a 10% levy on books published in China—where a quarter of all books sold in the U.S. are produced. Shortly after, the Republican administration back-pedaled on some of the tariffs, saying they would delay putting these in place in order to “not ruin Christmas.” The goods allowed this tariff delay included children’s books and Bibles and religious texts. Almost all other types of books remain on the current tariff list, including art books, text books, dictionaries and encyclopedias, and technical, scientific, and professional publications, according to the Washington Examiner.

These actions are cause for concern for two reasons. First, they show a deliberate governmental action in support of religion that violates the First Amendment. Second, as Shelf Awareness (a major publishing news source) explains, “A tariff on books is a tax on information, and at odds with longstanding U.S. policy of not imposing tariffs on educational, scientific and cultural materials.” S-HP

If you are troubled by the concept of tariffs on books, here’s how to intervene.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

6. 25% of Hong Kong’s population marched in the pouring rain

In the face of a threatened five-year jail term, 1.7 million people marched from a rally to the government center in Hong Kong, undaunted by torrential rain. Protestors demand the complete withdrawal of the extradition bill which would have permitted people to be sent to China for trial. According to the Guardian, they are asking for independent investigations of police violence and the free election of Hong Kong’s leaders–a measure which was provided for in the handover agreement of 1997, in which Britain returned control of the territory to Beijing, but never implemented. RLS

7. Silence on nuclear issue

On August 5, India revoked the special status of Kashmir that had given it limited political autonomy; at the same time, it silenced all communications, shutting down newspapers, telephones and the internet. Some 4,000 people have been arrested, according to Al Jazeera, under a law which permits people to be imprisioned for up to two years without being charged or tried. Pakistan has condemned India’s actions. The BBC has a useful background piece clarifying the origins of the conflict between India and Pakistan over the state of Kashmir. However, the BBC, along with most media outlets other than Al Jazeera, does not mention the acute danger of the conflict, given that both countries have nuclear weapons, as Foreign Policy in Focus explains. RLS

8. Books & writers endangered in Turkey

Publishers have been closed, writers have been silenced, and books have been destroyed since the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey. Now Turkey’s education minister, Ziya Selçuk, announced that the destruction of some 300,000 books that are claimed to reference Fethullah Gülen, the US-based Muslim cleric whom the Erdogan administration believes was behind the 2016 coup attempt. 50,000 people have been detained over the last three years, the Guardian reports. For a backgrounder on Turkey, see Conn Hallinan’s piece in Foreign Policy in Focus. RLS

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

9. A beautiful discovery hints at the origin of life

One of the great mysteries in science is exactly how and under what conditions life first arose on Earth. Thanks to research submitted to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States (PNAS) by a team at the University of Washington in Seattle, we may understand the process a little better. All life is composed of cells, which are essentially bags of fatty acids containing proteins and DNA/RNA. Without cell walls, it would be impossible for a cell to perform the activities of life. How exactly that winning combination of container and contents managed to arise and self organize from a primordial soup of ingredients has been an open question, and contentious, reports the Atlantic. One major problem is that fatty acids, which can naturally form balloon-like structures in water, don’t form membranes in the presence of salts. Since life arose in our salty oceans and amino acids require salt ions, explaining that contradiction was necessary.

The team at the University of Washington discovered that the key is in the ingredients of life themselves. When fatty acids are combined in the presence of amino acids (the base ingredients of DNA and RNA) in a salt water solution, they will form bubbles of fatty acids containing amino acids, the first step to a rudimentary cell. The amino acids provide structure for the fatty acids to assemble while the enclosing fatty acid bubble serves to concentrate the amino acids together into a self-reinforcing structure. Indeed, not only do the amino acids allow for the formation of fatty acid membranes it, for reasons yet unknown, forms them into a layered double wall somewhat resembling an onion. This double fatty acid layer is the same as is found in our own cell walls. JC

10. Feeding the world will mean more beans

A recently released UN report found that 25% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions come from agriculture, with the production of meat being a significant portion of that total. Feeding a still-growing world population with plant-based proteins will be a formidable challenge but achievable with legumes like chickpeas and beans taking a leading role, according to Phys.org. Currently only 10% of cropland is devoted to the production of legumes, in order to replace animal-based protein with vegetarian protein, that total will need to increase to 25%. This presents some challenges as the amount of money spent on genetic research for legumes has been dwarfed by that spent on cereal grains used to feed livestock. Additionally, legumes are harder to grow and more susceptible to disease and pests than most cereal crops. The change will be necessary, however, as predictions indicate that by 2050 we will have to feed each person on Earth with just half as much land devoted to farming as we did in 1960.  JC

11. Impending water shortages

By 2030, four out of ten people worldwide will not be able to access clean water, according to a 2016 U.N. report cited by Alternet. Water shortages have become particularly acute in the Middle East, due to climate change and mismanagement. In response, various countries have been building dams and canals which deprive other countries of water; privatization and illegal wells exacerbate the problem, according to Foreign Policy in Focus, which earlier this month wrote that only international cooperation and water treaties will address the issues. RLS

12. Endangered species even more so

A million species are facing extinction, according to the IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, which came out this spring. An immense effort involving hundreds of researchers from 50 countries, the Report makes it clear that only intensive intervention worldwide will prevent massive losses to biodiversity, with acute consequences to human life as well. Nonetheless, the Trump administration announced a series of new rules this past week which would significantly weaken the endangered species act. Notably, as the New York Times points out, the new rules go to great lengths to avoid taking account of how the climate crisis might affect endangered species. RLS

If you would like to suggest that Congress take on this threat to endangered species, here is how to contact your legislators.

13. Keeping pesticides away from endangered species

The Environmental Protection Agency is considering a rule change affecting the process for approving the use of hazardous chemicals that “may affect” endangered species or critical habitats. The change would make the “may effect” determination more difficult, meaning it would be applied less often. Current practice requires that when the “may affect” determination is made for a specific chemical, the EPA must consult with wildlife agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, to determine the likely impact of a chemical and methods for mitigating that impact. Essentially, this change will shut federal agencies beyond the EPA out of many applications for pesticide use. A group of Attorneys General and affiliated legal and scientific figures from California, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington have submitted a letter opposing the proposed changes. The formal title for this document is “Receipt of a Pesticide Petition Filed for Residues of Pesticide Chemicals in or on Various Commodities for June 2019.” The public comment period ends on September 3. S-HP

If you want to comment on this issue for the public record, here is how to do it.

RESOURCES

  • The Americas of Conscience Checklist is an excellent source of action items.
  • Americans of Conscience also  recommends this list of actions you can take to support those imprisoned at the border.
  • Sarah-Hope’s action items follow the stories above, but here’s her whole list if you’d like to have it.
  • Martha tells us that there are two particularly alarming items on her list this week: The DOJ “Privacy ACT” on creating a new court database for immigrants to be used by ICE and DHS and the “Implementing Legal Requirements Regarding the Equal Opportunity Clause’s Religious Exemption.” She lists many more policies and rules in process to be aware of.
  • Rogan’s list is on hiatus until after Labor Day, but there are still many useful and topical suggestions on it.
  • Margaret Atwood recommends that you follow @projectdrawdown on Twitter, and indeed it is a great source for the many evidence-based reports that have emerged recently.



News You May Have Missed: August 11, 2019

There are numerous elephants in the room in this past week’s news, and we can’t corral all of them. But we have tried to bring issues to the surface that you might not have read about, and to pull together the complex elements of the stories you’ve skimmed. Consider our action items: even if you feel as if your one letter won’t make a difference, it may make a difference for you.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Children left behind struggle to cope

August 7 saw the largest workplace immigration sting in the U.S. in over a decade. The raid involved seven poultry processing plants in Mississippi run by Koch Foods. It resulted in the arrest of 680 allegedly undocumented and mostly Latino workers, but not of any of the Koch executives, Esquire reports. And it occurred during the first week of the 2019-2020 public school year in Mississippi. As a result, the children of those 680 arrestees came home to find one or both parents missing. In many cases, they were locked out of their own homes because their parents held the keys. Schools have been stepping up to assist children whose parents were taken away, MSN reports, as have perfect strangers, and immigrant communities, though terrified, are taking in children whose parents have not been released, the AP reports. Take the time to watch eleven-year-old Magdalena Gomez Gregorio plead for the release of her father.

It seems no coincidence that ICE targed the Koch plants, as workers there had had just won an EEOC case against the company for sexual harassment and racial discrimination, according to Democracy Now. ICE has a history of arresting and detaining activists against immigration policies, even when those activists would not fall into enforcement priorities, Jacobin Magazine reports. RLS/S-HP

If you want to make contributions to assist targeted families or to speak up about the raids, information is here.

2. Where are the children of Homestead?

Remember the Homestead detention center, privately run via a contract with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)? DHS has reported that as of August 3 no one was being housed at Homestead, according to the Miami Herald, but prior to that date Homestead was a particularly large facility for imprisoning unaccompanied minors entering the U.S. to seek asylum. From March 2018 through August 2019, some 14,300 children passed through Homestead. Now that Homestead is closed, questions remain.

  • Where are the children who were formerly detained at Homestead—have they been released to family members or moved to other detention facilities?
  • While DHS says it has emptied Homestead, it plans to refit the facility with 1,200 beds (down from the previous 2,700). So who will be held there in the future and what will conditions be like for them? A youth care worker described the conditions in Homestead to CBS News.

The administration’s continuing lack of transparency and lack of effective organization in caring for detained minor asylum seekers suggest that overall treatment of these children may not have been significantly improved despite the temporary closure of Homestead. S-HP

If you want to raise concerns about the location and well-being of children who had been held at Homestead, here are some addresses of appropriate people to write.

3. Neither secure nor protected

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Lindsay Graham has used a political maneuver to move his “Secure and Protect Act” (S.1494) out of the Judiciary Committee, making it eligible for consideration by the full Senate, Politico reports. This legislation will be the subject of legal wrangling, regardless of any decisions made by the Senate, but it’s worth looking at what effect S.1494 would have if it became law. Its effects would be most severe for children being held in immigration detention facilities, expanding the maximum length of detention for children from twenty days to one hundred, and allowing unaccompanied minors to be given “expedited deportation” within forty-eight hours of their arrival in the U.S.

S.1494 would give the Secretary of Homeland Security sole discretion over standards for child detention—including issues like sanitation and nutrition, as well as immigration/asylum processing. It would make immigration officers’ decisions regarding unaccompanied minor children final and unreviewable. S.1494 also limits asylum seekers to entering the U.S. through one of four official port of entry. It requires many asylum seekers to request asylum from within the countries where they fear for their lives and will require significant payment for the processing of asylum claims. It changes the criterion for asylum from “credible fear” to “reasonable fear,” essentially a change from “possible” to “more likely than not.” S-HP

If you would like to let Senator Graham–and others–know what you think about the Secure and Protect Act, information to do so is here.

4. Background checks, mental health and gun violence

At the moment, Trump and the Republican administration are blaming gun violence on individuals’ mental health issues. We can debate whether this is an appropriate approach—and certainly there are others like white supremacy and toxic masculinity—but let’s assume that it is. (Note that almost all mass shooters have a history of domestic violence, according to Business Insider.) Back in February 2017, one of Trump’s early actions was to nullify Obama-era legislation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase guns, NBC News reported. So any Republican “concession” or “compromise” on background checks is actually just a return to what currently would be gun policy in the U.S. if not for Trump’s nullification. S-HP

You can propose meaningful action against gun violence here.

5. Legislation against gun violence

After yet another weekend of gun madness in the U.S. even Trump has come out in favor of universal background checks and briefly floated the idea of an assault weapons ban (these before castigation from the National Rifle Association), NPR reported. As we ask Congress why they aren’t doing more, we can point out some opportunities they have for action. First off, this year the House has already passed two different pieces of background check legislation, H.R.8 and H.R.1112. Both of these have been sent to the Senate—where Mitch McConnell has not even assigned them to a committee. Then, we have the Assault Weapons Ban of 2019, (H.R.1296 in the House and S.66 in the Senate). Panetta is a co-sponsor of H.R.1296. Feinstein introduced S.66; Harris is a co-sponsor. These are with the Judiciary Committees of their respective houses, waiting for action before they can be brought to the full legislative body. S-HP

If you want to urge action on legislation against gun violence, you can do so here.

6. Preserving FOIA

A June Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruling significantly broadened the interpretation of the “trade secrets exemption” in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). This might seem trivial, but it isn’t. When one files an FOIA request that includes not just the government, but private contractors/companies the government works with, the question of what a “trade secret” is has significant implications. Is a trade secret limited to something like the formula for Coca-Cola? Is it the amount the contractor/company is actually billing the government? Does it involve connections between those working for a government agency and those with the contractor/company? Is it the minimum nutritional standards for a detention center? The SCOTUS ruling could easily lead to an answer of “all of the above” for this set of questions.

In response, a bipartisan group of Senators (2 Republicans, 2 Democrats, including Dianne Feinstein) has introduced the Open and Responsive Government Act of 2019, S.2220, reports the Toledo Chronicle. This legislation would explicitly require a standard of “substantial harm” (as opposed to, say, “possible harm”) before the trade secret exemption could be used, the Muckrock explains. S.2220 offers two more important guideline clarifications for the FOIA. First, S.2220 would specify that Congressional requests for information, unlike those filed by private individuals or organizations, cannot be redacted for trade secret reasons. The second of these prohibits redacting information produced in response to an FOIA request because it is “nonresponsive,” meaning not immediately connected to the central issue of the FOIA request. The more material labeled “nonresponsive,” the more subsequent FOIA requests will be necessary for full understanding of context and implications. S.2220 is currently with the Senate Judiciary Committee

If you want to speak up about FOIA, you can do so here.

7. Who are the terrorists?

Let’s look at some recent data on extremist violence in the U.S.

  • According to the Anti-Defamation League extremist-related murders rose 37% from 2017 to 2018 and the distribution of white supremacist propaganda saw a 300% increase over the same period;
  • In 2018, every extremist-related murder in the U.S. was carried out by a right-wing extremist, according to Business Insider. A report suppressed by the FBI confirmed this, Salon reports.
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center saw a 30% increase in hate groups in 2018, NBC News reports.

Now, with that information in mind, let’s consider the 2018 counter-terrorism focal points identified in a leaked FBI document. The FBI labeled the top threats as Black Identity Extremists (a term that has been highly criticized in public discourse), Animal Rights and Environmental Extremists, and Anti-Authority Extremists. The document also predicted “attrition” within white supremacist and nationalist extremist groups. See the mismatch? S-HP

If you want to speak up about public safety and who the real terrorists are, here are some possibilities.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

8. Climate crisis increasingly critical

Just in case you’re tempted to move the climate crisis to the back burner, given everything else, let’s consider this potpourri of data:

  • On a single day at the end of July, more than 12 billion tons of ice melted in Greenland, as we reported last week.
  • 7 million acres of the Arctic, primarily in Siberia, are on fire, devastating wildlife that includes bears, foxes, deer, boars, wolves, elk, lynx, hares, mice, and hedgehogs.
  • The smoke blanket from the Siberian fires is larger than the surface area of the entire European Union.
  • Temperatures in Siberia have been exceeding yearly averages by as much as 10° Celsius (18° Fahrenheit).

On top of all that, a leaked United Nations report warns that global temperatures cannot be kept at safe levels without significant changes to our land use and food consumption, including an end to draining of peat bogs, significantly reduced meat consumption, early warning systems for weather and crop yields, according to the Guardian. The Atlantic also has a useful summary of the issues. This report also points out that extreme weather events exacerbate land degradation, meaning every flood, fire, hurricane, and the like, will make feeding the world on the available land increasingly difficult. S-HP

If you want to urge action on the climate crisis, here are some options for doing so.

9. ICE contracts reveals extensive data sharing

A report on every contract awarded by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) by investigative website Sludge has found a 3.8 million dollar agreement to streamline criminal coding between ICE and the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications Agency (NLETS). NLETS is actually not a government agency; it’s a private non-profit run by the states in order to facilitate communication across jurisdictions between local, state and federal authorities. To this end, NLETS provides comprehensive access to state driver’s license information; when you get your license run by the police in a traffic stop, chances are it’s getting information from NLETS. The problem with ICE paying to get better key word searches for driver’s license information is that over a dozen states have laws allowing undocumented residents to obtain driver’s licenses. According to the Oakland Privacy site, the intent of this collaboration is to aid in enforcement. If ICE can index these types of licenses with a criminal code indicating their immigration status, it would provide home address and other information needed for ICE to detain and deport thousands of people. JC

10. Cyanide bombs

M-44s, also known as “cyanide bombs,” are used to kill coyotes, dogs, foxes, and other wildlife perceived to be a threat to livestock. The devices first lure animals to food-baited traps, then release cyanide directly into their mouths as the animals eat. At the end of last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) opened public comments on a proposed reauthorization of cyanide bomb use. The public comments, as the EPA itself admits, were overwhelmingly opposed to continued use of cyanide bombs, citing their cruelty and indiscriminate impact. One study of the comments places the total proportion of opposition comments at 99.9%, CBS News reports. Nonetheless, the EPA has decided to reauthorize the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services’ use of cyanide bombs in South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Texas. The EPA did some “fine-tuning” to directions for the use of cyanide bombs. The devices may not be used within 100 feet of a public road or pathway (increased from the previous 50-foot prohibition), but it has also lowered the previous requirement for warning signs where these devices are used from a 25-foot radius to a 15-foot radius. S-HP

If the continued use of cyanide bombs in the face of public opposition troubles you, you can write to the addresses listed here.

11. Obama did it so it MUST go

The Trump administration quietly shut down an advisory committee set up at the close of the Obama presidency that was formed to help guide regulatory issues surrounding the emerging technology of self-driving cars, according to the driving website Jalopnik. It’s perplexing because the committee was heavily slanted towards industry with representatives from essentially every major player in the autonomous vehicle game, the kind of move Republicans of just a few years ago would have applauded. The stated reason for shutting it down was cost–which is pretty amusing considering its budget of $41,244 (that’s right… thousands, not millions) went mostly towards payroll time for Department of Transportation staff and the sum is less than the amount spent on hotel rooms for security for Trump’s oldest son’s at a recent golf course opening. The move was SO quiet and quick that sitting members of the committee weren’t even made aware it was no longer extant. So like other instances of advisory committees being gutted or shut down in the FDA, EPA and Dept. of Interior, regulators and lawmakers will have less guidance on the industry they are charged to govern. JC

ARTS & CULTURES

Ngurrara II: A collaborative painting to argue for land rights

This is an amazing story about a critical case in Australian law, which resulted in native land claims being recognized for the first time.  The key to the decision was a collaborative painting depicting water holes. You can watch the painting evolve at this site. MW

Stories of the border: a mural with voices

Artist Lizbeth De La Cruz Santana created an interactive mural on the border, where the voices of the subjects are heard when a cell phone is pointed at their portrait.  The border continues to be a site of profound art arising out of profound pain. MW

Help transcribe Suffragist papers

The Library of Congress has turned to crowdsourcing to transcribe over 16,000 pages of speeches, diaries, and other written materials.  Anyone with online access can help transcribe these documents. The Smithsonian’s website describes this and other projects. MW

A play in the form of a high school debate

“What the Constitution Means to Me” takes on the form of a high school debate to examine what the playwright describes as a“boiling pot in which we are thrown together in sizzling and steamy conflict to find out what it is we truly believe.” MW

RESOURCES

  • Americans with Conscience recommends this list of actions you can take to support those imprisoned at the border.
  • Sarah-Hope’s list of actions to take is mostly integrated into the stories above, but the link has the whole list.
  • Martha’s list offers dozens of ways to comment for the public record on issues ranging from environmental policy changes limiting comment and environmental review on national forests logging; a policy change which would not permit California to require a toxic warning on RoundUp; cuts to food stamps; Trump’s Asylum Ban and expedited removal of aliens, the Medicaid work requirement and much more.
  • Rogan’s list suggests offers numerous opportunities for public comment.

News You May Have Missed August 4, 2019

It has been a week of terrible news–and yet we have to go on. We hope that News You May Have Missed will give you the overview you need on the news, as well as ways to take action rather than just feeling besieged. We recommend the action items suggested by Sarah-Hope, Martha and Susan–see the links at the end of this page and on the Resources page. And for sustenance, we recommend art–see Melissa’s Arts and Cultures listings.

Our elections correspondent, Crysostom, has added some new items; his takeaway message: “Based on the president’s current net approval rating and the current House generic ballot, the Democrats would be likely to make modest gains in the House elections and have a real chance to win control of the Senate.” This outcome requires hard work and constant vigilance, of course.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. FBI memo outlines danger of internet-propagated conspiracy theories

Yahoo News obtained an FBI memo published within the department in May describing how “conspiracy theory driven domestic extremists” are a growing threat. The memo specifically mentions both the Pizzagate and Q-Anon conspiracy theories, saying that internet-fed extremists radicalized by these theories will become a growing threat. It is noteworthy that both of these theories originate in the right wing of the US political spectrum, Pizzagate targeting the Clinton family as a cabal of pedophiles and Q-Anon depicting an incredibly convoluted and confusing set of beliefs that boil down to an effort by Donald Trump to take down the so-called “Deep State” Both of these theories have gained a high level of exposure and notoriety thanks to the efforts of Alex Jones’ InfoWars and other alt-right media figures. Adding into the mix is the Russian program to promote divisive conspiracy theories within the United States, even creating one in the Seth Rich conspiracy theory. This is the first document that specifically highlights the alt-right as an emerging terrorist threat in the United States.  JC

2. Trump ending family reunification programs

The Republican Administration has announced that it is ending two immigration “parole” family-reunification programs. Despite the name, “parole” programs have nothing to do with criminal justice. Under immigration parole, candidates for family-reunification immigration may enter the U.S. before receiving green cards and can then do the waiting in the U.S. alongside family members. The first of the programs being cancelled was established in 2016 and allows Filipino WWII veterans to bring family members to the U.S.—a move that is clearly time-sensitive due to the age of these veterans. Senator Mazie Hirono who advocated for this program, has argued for its importance due to the “decades long visa backlog” for individuals in this category. The second cancelled program, which has been in place since 2014, allows family members of some Haitian refugees to move to the U.S. while their green cards are in process. The logic underlying this program was that a facilitated immigration process would allow those Haitians in the U.S. to make more significant contributions to earthquake recovery and rebuilding efforts in their country of origin, CNN reports. S-HP.

If you think “parole” programs should be continued, here’s whom to write.

3. Guns from Nevada

While California has among the strictest gun laws in the country, nearby states like Nevada and Arizona have no such laws. As a result, these border states have become hotspots for gun traffickers and criminals eager to bring weapons into California, accordin to the New York Times. In fact, the gun used on July 29 at the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival was procured in exactly this way. In California, the weapon the gunman purchased is illegal, regardless of the purchaser’s age—and rifles cannot be sold to anyone under the age of 21 (the shooter was 19). What’s needed is a national law that allows gun sales to individuals only in accordance with the laws of that person’s state of residence. Had such a law been in place, the Nevada arms dealer who sold the weapon used would have been prohibited from making that sale. S-HP

To speak about the necessity of state-of-residency gun legislation, write to the people listed here.

4. Good news/bad news for Syrian refugees

In a win-lose decision, the Republican administration’s Department of Homeland Security has approved an eighteen-month extension of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for some seven thousand Syrians in the U.S. , according to Think Progress. That’s the “win” part of the decision. TPS grants temporary work authorization to some individuals from countries affected by war, natural disasters, or disease. It does not provide a path to U.S. citizenship. The decision’s “lose” half is that there will be no TPS redesignation for Syria, which means that those living in Syria will not be eligible for TPS status, despite the ongoing military conflict and humanitarian crisis in that country. S-HP.

If you want to speak up about the situation of Syrians, you can write to those on this list.

5. Protecting trans students

During the Obama administration, the Department of Education (DoE) developed guidance for protecting transgender students. In 2017, early on in her work as Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos revoked this guidance, the New York Times explains. In 2018 DeVos officially confirmed that the Department of Education was no longer investigating complaints regarding a range of anti-transgender discrimination. These actions were taken despite the fact that courts have repeatedly held that Title IX, which prohibits discrimination in education on the basis of sex, applies to discrimination against transgender students.

A report by the Center for American Progress has reviewed DoE action in response to transgender students’ complaints over the past eight years—which includes part of the Obama administration, as well as all of the Trump administration. Key findings for this period included the fact that transgender students are over-represented in sexual orientation and gender identity complaints. While only an estimated 6-21% of the LGBTQ student community is transgender, 42.6% of complaints involved anti-transgender discrimination, indicating the pervasiveness of this type of discrimination. Among transgender students, 75.9% of complaints alleged sexual or gender harassment. That percentage was slightly lower for the LGBTQ student population overall, at 72.5%. Among the general student population, only 19.9% of complaints alleged sexual or gender harassment. When the research is narrowed to the current administration, only 2.4% of complaints by transgender students received corrective action, as opposed to a rate of 22.4% under the Obama administration. S-HP

To advocate for trans students, you can write to the addresses listed here.

6. Bill would impose minimum standards for imprisoned immigrants

Current minimal standards for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention facilities are that CBP must take “every effort to provide food and water” to detainees. As we’ve seen, even these minimal requirements are not always met in meaningful ways with detainees being poorly fed or underfed and often having access only to toilet water for drinking and hygiene. Two pieces of legislation recently passed by the House and now before the Senate would make these minimal standards more specific and comprehensive. H.R.3670, the Short-Term Detention Standards Act, is currently with the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. This bill would require shelter, bathrooms, showers, water, nutrition, personal grooming items, and appropriate sanitation for CBP detainees. H.R.3239, the Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act, is now being considered by the Senate as S.2135 and is currently with the Senate Judiciary Committee. In addition to making requirements like those in H.R.3670, S.2135/H.R.3239 also calls for unannounced Department of Homeland Security (DHS) inspections of CBP detention facilities, with follow-up reports to Congress. The Government Accountability Office has the power to assess DSH and CBP compliance with this bill. S-HP

To support legislation requiring minimum standards in prison camps at the border, write to the elected officials listed here.

7. Citizenship for international adoptees

The Child Citizenship Act guarantees citizenship to children adopted internationally by U.S. citizens. Unfortunately, when it was passed, it was not made retroactive, so international adoptees who were 18 or older when the legislation was made law have not received citizenship via this means., Big Island Now reports. H.R.2731, the Adoptee Citizenship Act of 2019, would close this loophole, granting citizenship to international adoptees who had already reached adulthood when the Child Citizenship Act went into effect. H.R.2731 is currently with the House Judiciary Committee’s Immigration and Citizenship Subcommittee. S-HP.

To advocate for legislation providing citizenship for international adoptees, write to those listed here.

8. Danger to family members no basis for asylum

Individuals can apply for U.S. asylum on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a “social group.” In the past, the term “social group” has included family units. Because of this inclusive definition a girl whose brother had been killed for refusing to join a gang would have a right to seek asylum under the “social group” criteria. The same would be true of the child of a mother who had been raped and killed for refusing to engage in drug trafficking. Now Attorney General William Barr has announced that families are not necessarily “social groups” as referred to in immigration law, Time reports. As head of the Department of Justice, Barr has the right to overturn immigration court rulings, so he likely has the ability to exclude family members from “social group” asylum, a move that may  result in thousands of asylum requests being denied and those asylum seekers being returned to locations of life-threatening violence. S-HP

Write to object to this change in policy–addresses are here.

9. Miners hold the line: “No Pay, We Stay.”

Miners in Harlan County, Kentucky, blocked a coal train with 100 cars from leaving the mine after they learned their paychecks had bounced. The owner of the mine, Blackjewel LLC, is a subsidiary of Revelation Energy LLC, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on July 1st, according toe WYMT in Eastern Kentucky. The train has about a million dollars worth of coal on it, according to WSAZ. The mines went up for auction August 1 but media were not permitted to be there. Labor Notes is a good source on this issue, with links to the twitter feeds of the two radio stations in the area. RLS

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

10. US sells arms likely to be used against Yemenis to Saudi Arabia

Eight billion in arms will be sold to Saudi Arabia, now that the Senate has failed to over-ride Trump’s veto of bills intended to stop the sale, according to the Hill. Part of the plan is for the U.S. to co-produce weapons with Saudi Arabia, giving them access to sensitive technology, NBC News reported in June. According to William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Washington-based Center for International Policy, these weapons “…will almost certainly be used in the war in Yemen. ‘The weapons are going to be put to use in a civilian slaughter.’ ” RLS

11. Syria’s Assad is starving refugees

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad is deliberately starving 11,000 displaced Syrians in an effort to get them to leave a refugee camp on the Jordan border, according to Foreign Policy. Since February, Assad has refused to allow the U.N. to bring humanitarian aid to the camp. A refugee organization reported that residents “are suffering from severe malnutrition, surviving on bread made with ingredients normally used to feed animals.” Many have food poisoning. The Washington Post reported that the U.S. is also refusing to feed them, though there is a U.S. military garrison 10 miles away and the military has the capability to feed them. James Jeffrey, the U.S. special representative for Syria, told the Post why the United States won’t feed the residents of the camp: “First of all, if we feed them, it will look like we are going to stay there forever…” RLS

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

12. Twelve billion tons of ice melt in one day

This is not a typo: twelve billion tons of ice melted in Greenland on Wednesday, science writer Laurie Garrett reported on Twitter. The recent heat wave accounts for the catastrophic melting, reports CBS news; July 2019 was the hottest month on record, according to the  World Meteorological Organization . It’s worth reading Democacy Now’s interview with Jason Box, professor and ice climatologist at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, on this and other indicators of the climate crisis. RLS

13. “Exterminating the Future”: Brazil’s new government permits destruction of the Amazon.

Since Jair Bolsonaro became president of Brazil in January, 2019, deforestation has been intensifying. Compared to June of 2018, deforestation in June of 2019 had increased by 88%. According to Democracy Now, Bolsonaro has allowed illegal logging and burning and reversed regulations protecting the Amazon–the Amazon is critical to addressing the climate crisis. In an interview with Carlos Rittl, the executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, a network of Brazilian civil society organizations, Democracy Now pointed out that the recent attacks on indigenous people in the Amazon are entirely connected to the issue of deforestation. RLS

14. Regulating Alexa and Siri

Right now, devices like Alexa and Siri can record your conversations and the information contained in those conversations can be sold without your consent. A bill in California, AB-1395 would require manufacturers of smart speakers—which would include voice command systems built into tablets and mobile phones—to obtain permission from a consumer before the device saves recordings of commands or conversations it hears. It would create an opt-in system for consumers to consent even when the device hears certain “trigger” words designed to alert it to take action. AB-1395 had made it through the Assembly and is now with California Senate Judiciary Committee. Hearings on AB-1395 were set on July 9, but then cancelled. S-HP

15. Gene-editing technique successful at treating blood disorders

A paper submitted by a team at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and published in the July issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine outlines a gene therapy technique utilizing CRISPR case 9 technology and a type of blood stem cell to effectively treat several blood disorders such as sickle cell and beta-thalassemia. CRISPR is a gene editing technology that uses a specific tailor-made enzyme to snip out precisely targeted segments of DNA and replace them with edited versions; it has revolutionized gene therapy and genetic medicine in the relatively short time it has existed. The proof of principle study took a subset of adult blood stem cells, which create all the blood supply in the human body, and using the CRISPR technology, reactivated a sequence of DNA that normally gets deactivated in people by the age of one that produces a fetal version of hemoglobin.

The production of fetal hemoglobin shuts down the production of abnormal hemoglobin carrying cells that cause disease, and once edited, reproduce themselves with the edited DNA providing a continuous reservoir of modified blood. With just a 30% replacement of blood with the healthier fetal hemoglobin, people with these blood disorders would see their symptoms reverse–effectively providing a cure, Science Daily reports. The team hopes that similar approaches can be used to treat blood cancers and HIV. Because the number of blood cells needed is relatively small, only 5% of human blood cells are this particular variety of stem cell, so the amount needed to be modified would be small and potentially less expensive. JC

Arts & Cultures

New cartoon features indigenous girl

For the first time in US history, a tv show features a Native girl as the main character.  Molly is Gwich’in/Koyukon/Dena’ina Athabascan, and the cartoon explores what it means to be Native American in modern American culture. Molly of Denali is on PBS, Sojurners explains.

“Resistance is fertile”

With the motto “Resistance is Fertile,” Rise Up Review publishes poetry “meant to be disseminated like tiny manifestos.”  The summer issue features the work of 29 poets.

In 2020, a year of exhibitions of work by women

Despite tweets to the contrary, there is a lot of good going on in Baltimore, including its art museum’s effort to address gender diversity in its exhibition space.  During 2020, the Baltimore Museum of Art will focus on the work of women artists.

A font out of gerrymandered districts

Connoisseurs of typefaces will be amazed by Ugly Gerry. As Melissa says, “this is the sort of genius response to political issues that makes my heart sing.  I suggest you download this font and use it to create postcards to send to all Congressional Republicans.”

Unity across the wall

Children and adults on both sides of the border wall were brought together with this set of seesaws that that architects designed to use the wall itself as a fulcrum.: An ingenious use of existing infrastructure to comment on and re-imagine what divides us.

RESOURCES

  • The Americans of Conscience Checklist recommends that you take some time to re-inspire yourself. Americans with Conscience also recommends this list of actions you can take to support those imprisoned at the border.
  • Many of Sarah-Hope’s action items follow the news summaries above–but there are more! See her list.
  • Martha’s list for this week includes ways to comment for the public record on cuts to food stamps, Trump’s asylum ban, expedited removal of aliens, drinking water, nuclear weapons, defense installations, pesticides residues allowed, RoundUp, right of federal employees to unionize, exposing miners to diesel exhaust, the ACA and more!
  • Rogan’s list suggests ways to comment on the fact that 911 more children have been separated from their parents since a judge prohibited the practice. She recommends ways to address gun laws, strategies for supporting immigrants, and much more.



News You May Have Missed July 28, 2019

Our elections correspondent, Chrysostom, is back–and just in time! This week he analyzes the effect of retirements, critical Virginia elections, and the gerry-mandering decision. And he speculates on what Susan Collins is really going to do. Find him here.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Heather Heyer’s murderer sentenced

James Alex Fields Jr., a self-described white supremacist, was sentenced to life plus 419 years for killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens during the August 12, 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Vox reports. JM

2. McConnell receives donations from voting machine companies, blocks election security measures

Despite repeated warnings of Russian election interference (including a very clear warning from Robert Muller during his House testimony on July 24), Mitch McConnell continues to block Senate votes on election security measures, using the specious justification that Democratic election security legislation is being championed for “political benefit” and is “partisan legislation,” reports the Hill. McConnell’s position disregards the Senate’s own report, which came out hours after the vote, which concludes that “leading up to the 2016 election, Russians hacked voting machines and registration rolls in all 50 states, and they are likely still doing so,” according to reports from PBS and Slate.

One piece of election security legislation McConnell is currently blocking is H.R.1, the For the People Act, which expands voter registration and voting access, makes Election Day a national holiday, limits the removal of voters from voting rolls, establishes nonpartisan redistricting commissions, supports improvement of election-related cyber-security systems, expands federal code of ethics requirements for candidates and others, requires release of presidential candidates’ tax returns. McConnell is also blocking Senate action on H.R.2722, the SAFE Act, which would provide grants for election system upgrades and paper ballots and mandate particular election security minimums. Earlier this year, McConnell received donations from voting machine companies, according to Newsweek. S-HP

If you have something to say to McConnell about election security, you can write to him here.

3. Another assault on immigrants

The Trump administration has announced a new “expedited removal” process, which has been posted on the Federal Register for public comments. Undocumented immigrants who cannot prove they have been continuously present in the U.S. for the previous two years will be subject to immediate deportation. As Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project Omar Jadwat put it, in a written statement cited by Politico, “Under this unlawful plan, immigrants who have lived here for years would be deported with less due process than people get in traffic court.” S-HP

If you would like to comment for the public record on the “expedited removal” policy, see the instructions here.

4. Ruling could invalidate thousands of convictions

Thousands of people were prosecuted for crossing the border illegally, prosecutions which made possible the separation of children from their parents. Now a ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals invalidates part of the statute on which those prosecutions were based, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Hundreds of families could be affected by the ruling. RLS

5. Rule change would limit access to food stamps

Some three million people could have their access to food stamps limited if a proposed federal rule change goes through, according to the Washington Post.. At the moment, people who qualify for federal or state aid also automatically qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The rule change would require that SNAP benefits only be given after a separate income verification, in addition to those already used by the federal and state governments. The Republican administration claims that SNAP benefits are being misused and inappropriately given to people whose income doesn’t merit the support. However, given the difficulty of qualifying for federal and state aid programs, it’s unlikely that anyone is getting “underserved” food assistance via current SNAP qualification practices. Instead, this looks to be the deliberate creation of a new “hoop” for those qualifying for aid to jump through, in the hopes of preventing qualified applicants from accessing SNAP by creating additional an additional barrier to program participation. S-HP

If you wish to submit a comment for the public record about this rule change, or want to write relevant people in Congress, here is how to do it.

6. Who might be implicated by Epstein documents?

A hearing in the Epstein case scheduled for July 24 has been postponed, according to Bloomberg. Documents in the case have been ordered unsealed by an appeals court, the Miami Herald reports. Bloomberg suggests that names of Epstein’s associates may be revealed. Epstein himself was found injured in jail three days after being denied bail; the New York Times says it is not clear whether he was assaulted or whether the marks on his neck were self-inflicted.

Florida Senator Lauren Book told the Miami Herald that she had asked for help from the Capitol police after receiving anonymous threatening phone calls telling her to stop pressing for an inquiry into Palm Beach Sheriff Ric Bradshaw’s handling of Epstein’s work release.

Recall that a 2016 lawsuit was filed by a woman who says that she was sexually assaulted by Epstein and Trump when she was 13. Snopes has a good summary of the situation surrouning the suit: The suit was at first dismissed because of improper paperwork, then refiled, then dropped when the plaintiff said she was afraid to pursue it. Her affiavit in a court document from 2016 is unsettling. RLS

7. Greyhound: Working for ICE

Greyhound continues to let Border Patrol agents board its buses to question and arrest passengers without a warrant or any suspicion of wrongdoing. As the American Civil Liberties Union puts it, “the company is throwing its loyal customers under the bus.” Because of Greyhound’s intransigence, the ACLU is urging that we pressure the owners of Greyhound: FirstGroup, a United Kingdom-based transportation group. The FirstGroup Code of Ethics and Corporate Responsibility reads, “We are committed to recognising human rights on a global basis. We have a zero-tolerance approach to any violations within our company or by business partners.” Greyhound’s continued participation in unwarranted, unjustified Border Patrol searches is a clear violation of FirstGroup policy. S-HP

If you would like to suggest that FirstGroup require Greyhound to honor its code of ethics, write to: Mike Murray, President and Chief Executive Officer, FirstGroup America Headquarters, 600 Vine St., Suite 1400, Cincinnati, OH 45202, (513) 241-2200.

8. Good blockades make good neighbors

In Hermitage, TN, this week, a man was confronted by ICE agents attempting to pull over the vehicle he and his son were in. After a 4 hour standoff where the agents called the Metro Nashville Police Department and neighbors and local activists formed a human chain around his vehicle, the ICE agents left to de-escalate the situation and the man was able to return to his home, surrounded by his neighbors, accordimg to CNN. JML

The ACLU won a suit earlier in July confirming that the Border Patrol may not require passengers on domestic flights to show identification and proof of citizenship. It also reminds us that they provide a “Know Your Rghts” pamphlet.
Scroll down–it is also available in Spanish.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

9. Bill would provide support to Latin American countries

The movement of asylum seekers from Central America to the U.S. has a great deal to do with  U.S. foreign policy in the past: our focus on military assistance, which builds violence and government intransigence; our exporting of firearms; our collaboration in silencing the voices of those speaking out for representative government, social justice, and environmental protection. The U.S. looms like a huge shadow over Central America, and until we find ways to turn that shadow to light, asylum-seekers are going to continue northward because of the danger and hopelessness of life in Central America. An excellent way to shine that light would be to enact H.R.2615, the United States-Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act, which has made it through the House and is now with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. H.R. 2615 has been almost completely ignored by the mainstream media; the Yonkers Tribune has the story. S-HP

If you want to encourage positive rather than punitive engagement with Central America, here are some senators you might write.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

10. Green New Deal passes in New York

New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill described as New York’s own “Green New Deal,” focusing heavily on renewable energy production. The so-called “Green New Deal” endorsed by progressives in Congress is actually more of a platform, a host of wide-ranging policies advocating everything from a universal basic income to changes in agricultural policies. The New York version is much more focused on the expansion of renewable “green” energy in the state with a particular emphasis on boosting off-shore wind generation. With a signed contract for two new wind farms generating a total of 1.7 gigawatts, New York is poised to become the largest producer of off-shore power. The bill also provides for a Climate Justice Working Group in order to help ensure that the benefits of green energy are enjoyed by low-income communities as well as wealthier areas, according to Ars Technica.
JC

11. Russian bots pushing anti-Vax “debate”

A study conducted by George Mason University on twitter bots from Russian troll farms found that the bots post about vaccine conspiracy theories far more than an average poster would, according to CBS News. This fits with the generally accepted theory that along with election interference, the goal of this disinformation blitz is to foster division among Americans. The bots also appear to be starting to propose conspiracies about health risks associated with 5G digital networks, suggesting they cause cancer, autism and Alzheimer’s. The United States is in the midst of the worst measles outbreak in decades; health agencies and social networks are pushing back and attempting to remove these dangerous bits of propaganda–but a lot of damage has already been done, just as with our political system. JC

12. “Unprecedented” fires in the Arctic

Last month, the Guardian reported that permafrost in the Canadian north is melting 70 years earlier than expect. Now, following the hottest June on record, wildfiles are raging in the Arctic, across Alaska, Siberia and Greenland., covering so much territory that they can be seen from space, according to Science Direct. Fires in Alaska have already burned 1.6 million acres, with no end in sight. The fires are both created by and contributing to global warming. Describing the fires as “unprecedented,” Mark Parrington, a senior scientist at the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecast, told the Independent that “the amount of CO2 emitted by Arctic wildfires between 1 June and 21 July 2019 is around 100 megatonnes and is approaching the entire 2017 fossil fuel CO2 emissions of Belgium.” RLS

Satellite photo of the wildfire in the Qeqqata Kommunia, Greenland (Pierre Markuse/Creative Commons)


RESOURCES

News You May Have Missed July 22, 2019

Be inspired–by the protestors in Puerto Rico, by the four activists who have hounded Big Pharma for twenty years, by the attorneys working doggedly to protect the rights of asylum-seekers, by the reporters who uncover these stories, and by Martha, Sarah-Hope and Susan Rogan, who offer significant ways to respond to the news.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. New Rule blocks most asylum-seekers

A new rule, published in the Federal Register, bars asylum-seekers who pass through another country on the way to the U.S. from seeking asylum in the U.S., according to the LA Times. Unless civil rights organizations succeed in getting it blocked, as of Tuesday asylum requests on the southern border could only be made by Mexican citizens. All other asylum-seekers would be expected to request asylum from the first nation they enter. This rule would apply to all asylum-seekers, including unaccompanied children. Individuals who are refused asylum in the first nation they enter could then continue to the U.S. to request asylum, but the asylum process can take years. For example, if this rule holds, a Guatemalan or Honduran asylum-seeker could not come directly to the US to request asylum; they would have to request asylum in Mexico or any other country they passed through, a process which would take a very long time. A coalition of organizations that serve immigrants filed suit in federal court the day after the policy was announced, according to the NY Times. S-HP

If you want to ask your members of Congress to keep the U.S. a welcoming country, here is how to find addresses. If you want to comment for the public record, here is the Federal Register site.

2. ICE won’t release detainees to family, sponsors

Congresspeople visiting the detention center in McAllen, Texas were horrified by the cries of babies and toddlers, by the level of filth, and by the refusal of ICE to release detainees, even children, to family members or sponsors–even though the facilities are overwhelmed and overcrowded, according to People magazine. California representative Jackie Speier’s twitter feed has details. RLS

If you wish to speak up about conditions in detention centers, addresses are here.

3. FBI and ICE using drivers’ license photos without permission

In early July, the Washington Post reported that over the past five years the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have been making use of state drivers’ license databases, scanning photos into their facial recognition program without consent of state legislators or individual license holders. While law enforcement can have access to data taken from criminal suspects, the vast majority of citizens whose data is now being taken are law-abiding citizens.

As has been repeatedly reported, facial recognition software is still unreliable, particularly in identification of people of color. For instance, in a test of facial recognition software last year by the American Civil Liberties Union, Amazon’s facial recognition software falsely identified thirty-eight members of Congress as people who had been arrested for crimes. California, Missouri, Louisiana, Mississippi, Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont have privacy legislation on the books preventing this sort of sharing of Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) databases—and Oregon asserts that it has privacy legislation of a scope that would also prohibit such database use. However, as the Vermont ACLU recently revealed, while the state has privacy legislation that should prevent this sort of data sharing, the state’s DMV has allowed law enforcement full access to license databases on a number of occasions. In fact, the Vermont use of DMV databases disproportionately focused on individuals of color. Blacks were targeted in such database searches at seven times the rate whites were. Hispanics were targeted at rates twelve times higher than were whites. S-HP

If you want to speak up about privacy protection vis a vis drivers’ licenses, the addresses are here.

4. Puerto Rico’s government shaken by chat messages, inaction, corruption

Protestors have rocked Puerto Rico for over a week, demanding an end of corruption and lack of action on long-standing economic and social issues following Hurricane Maria, the Washington Post reports. Igniting the protests was the release of 889 pages of chat messages, in which Governor Ricardo Rosselló and his associates make fun of their opponents, female journalists, and those who lost everything in the hurricane. You can read the messages (in Spanish) here. Though thousands of people have been in the streets and the governor faces impeachment, the mainstream media noticed only yesterday (July 20), as Columbia Journalism Review points out. RLS

5. Opioid epidemic

76 billion opioid pills, leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths, were distributed across the US, according to new data obtained following a lawsuit by the Charleston Gazette-Mail and the Washington Post. The chain of responsibility runs from manufacturers–the original producer, Purdue Pharma and the three generic companies who now produce most of the pills–to distributors to unethical pharmacies and doctors to desperate patients and addicts. The DEA had devolved regulatory responsibility to the industry, for the most part, and when it tried to intervene found its hands tied by members of Congress who pushed through legislation favorable to the industry. When companies were fined, the fines were miniscule compared to profits.

Areas where people are suffering from work injuries and from economic stress–such as Appalachia–were flooded with opioids. You can see how many pills (per person per year) went to your county between 2006-2012 at the Post’s site. The truth about Big Pharma’s culpability in oxycontin addiction was first articulated twenty years ago by activists–just four of them–who had lost family members to the disease. As their numbers grew, they became an implacable force, according to the New York Times.

Canada, which also has an opioid crisis, has launched a new initiative to make naloxone, which can reverses overdoses, more readily available, according to the CBC. Already, anyone can get a free naloxone kit at any pharmacy. Canada’s very detailed Pain Task Force Report, released in June, clearly identifies the suffering of people who live with chronic pain and cannot get opioids or who become addicted to them, describes how acute pain becomes chronic pain, and explains options for treatment. RLS

6. Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights

Senator Kamala Harris and Representative Pramila Jayapal have introduced a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights (S.2112 in the Senate; H.R.3760 in the House). This legislation would include domestic workers in basic workplace protections like overtime pay and freedom from harassment and discrimination, from which they are now excluded, according to Elle. It requires written contracts for such workers and access to healthcare and retirement benefits. The legislation also includes enforcement provisions including “know your rights” information and a confidential hotline for reporting violations of the act. S.2112 Is with the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. H.R.3760 is with five (!) House committees: Education and Labor; Energy and Commerce; Ways and Means; Judiciary; and Oversight and Government Reform. S-HP

If you want to urge prompt action on these bills, write to these folks.

7. Accounting firms supporting ICE

McKinsey Consulting has ended its contracts with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), but several major accounting firms continue to work with ICE, often despite employee objections, according to Newsweek. A quick rundown on some of these:

-Ogilvy and Mather has contracts with Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) to recruit new CBP employees. In defending these contracts Chief Executive Officer John Seifert has claimed that Ogilvy and Mather is not doing any work against its values and beliefs.

-Deloitte U.S. has $140 million in ICE contracts. Chief Executive Officer Joe Ucuzoglu has been a strong advocate for workplace diversity and for LGBTQ rights. U.S. Board Chair Janet Foutty worked on behalf of girls, via MakerGirl and Storycatchers, during corporate Impact Day.

-PricewaterhouseCoopers has $5 million in ICE contracts for “detention compliance and removals.” Their corporate human rights statement notes “we depend on each other to be mindful of our ethical responsibilities.” S-HP

If you want to inquire how corporate values are served by child detention camps, here are the relevant addresses.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

8. Humanitarian aid diverted to the opposition in Venezuela

A July 11 memo, obtained by the Los Angeles Times, notified Congress that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is transferring $41.9 million earmarked for humanitarian aid to Juan Guaido and his party, who have been operating in opposition to the country’s President Nicolas Maduro. According to the Los Angeles Times, “All of the money being diverted will go to Guaido and his faction, the memo said, to pay for their salaries, airfare, ‘good governance’ training, propaganda, technical assistance for holding elections and other ‘democracy-building’ projects.” The humanitarian aid was previously earmarked for Guatemala and Honduras and would have been used in anti-poverty and anti-violence projects. The logic of the transfer is questionable, given the administration’s focus on ending the movement of asylum-seekers from these two nations to the U.S. If there is no hope of improving conditions in Guatemala and Honduras, asylum-seekers have all the more reason to begin the journey north. S-HP

If you want to speak up about the re-routing of humaniarian aid, here are the addresses.

9. Syrian refugees may be deported

In less than two weeks, Syrians with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) in the U.S. will hear whether they’re at risk of deportation to a war zone. There aren’t many options left for Syrians fleeing humanitarian crises created by eight years of war. Syrian families with TPS were already forced to flee nearly a decade of incessant attacks from the Assad regime, Iran, Russia, the Islamic State, and the United States’ bombing campaigns in cities like Raqqa. If TPS is ended, Syrians will be vulnerable to deportation—to a war zone amidst humanitarian crises of mass food insecurity, lack of access to health care, and torture that the U.S. hasn’t meaningfully helped stop. So far, the most effective strategy to pressure the Homeland Security and State Departments to keep TPS for Syria—is for Congress to make noise, issue statements and defend TPS. S-HP

If you’re in favor of TPS status for Syrian refugees, you can speak up here.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

10. Plan to help agriculture sequestered

Politico has reported on a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) plan, completed in 2017 in the early part of the Trump administration, for dealing with climate change. Public release of the plan, a follow-up to a 2010 plan that had been publicly released, was blocked by the new administration. The plan was intended to help agriculture anticipate and respond to the effects of climate change. It examined what would be necessary to make agriculture carbon neutral. It outlined essential research that should be conducted to meet the needs of the nation over the next five to eight years. It documented the ways climate change is already affecting U.S. farming and ranching. It specifically considered the impact of climate change on insect populations, crop maturation, and livestock reproductivity. Finally, the plan called on the USDA to “increase public awareness of climate change.” S-HP

If you would like to urge that this (publically funded) research be released, write to the addresses listed here.

11. Another toxic pesticide spared by Trump

In a victory for the chemical industry and agribusiness, the Environmental Protection Agency under Trump appointee Andrew Wheeler has decided not to ban the chemical chlorpyrifos, despite well-researched damage to children’s health. Conceding that the agency would continue to “monitor” the use of the chemical through 2022, the agency concluded that the data presented supporting a ban was not “sufficiently valid, complete or reliable,” according to the New York Times. Sold under the name Lorsban, it has already been banned for household use but remains in use in agriculture on hundreds of thousands of acres in California alone. The EPA had moved to ban the chemical in 2015 under the presidency of Barack Obama, citing research done by the agency itself showing potential harm to brain development in children. However, the ban had not yet come into effect when it was stopped by the Trump EPA in 2017. The move to regulate the use of chlorpyrifos now moves to the states where Hawaii has already banned it, with New York and California considering bans.  

If you would like to recommend stronger action on chlorpyrifos, the people on this list need to hear from you.

12. Popular browser extensions provide user data for sale 

An investigative report by the Washington Post has found that six popular web browser extensions offered for use by both the Firefox and Chrome browsers have been compiling user data and offering it for sale. The extensions are Hover Zoom, SpeakIt!, SuperZoom, SaveFrom.net, Helper, FairShare Unlock and PanelMeasurement, with over four million combined users. Consumers may be under the assumption that browser extensions must abide by the brower’s privacy policies; however, this is not so. Each has their own end-user agreements which explicitly state they collect user data, with two saying they collect browsing data. End-user agreements have long been criticized as insufficient for disclosure purposes as consumers simply do not read them in the vast majority of cases. Upon being informed, both Mozilla (the maker of Firefox) and Google (the maker of Chrome) deactivated the extensions, according to Digital Trends. Cited in the Post’s piece is a massive study revealing organizations that sell your data: scroll 3/4 of the way down and be amazed.

ARTS & CULTURES

Art & Climate Change

What is the role of the artist and our art institutions during the climate emergency?  The keynote address of ART&CLIMATE=CHANGE 2019 features Beka Economopoulos and Jason Jones of the Natural History Museum, a collective that works at the intersection of art, activism, and theory.  You can skip the first 10 minutes of credits and donor thanks. To learn more about the Natural History (pop-up) Museum, take a look at their website.

As biodiversity is depleted, so is linguistic diversity

An interesting look at how we frame the world with our choice of words – and why it matters.  This piece from Jstor daily is one you’ll want to hold on to–and it is packed with useful links. A new word to learn: ecolinguistics.

“A Guide to Essential, Underrated, and Flat-Out Extraordinary Films by Black Women Directors”

The headline says it all: an amazing list of more than 50 films by black women directors, many with links for online viewing.

RESOURCES

  • The Americas of Conscience Checklist recommends this list of actions you can take to address issues at the border.
  • Sarah-Hope’s recommendations for action are linked to the stories above; to see the whole list–including her brilliant riff on impeachment–look here.
  • Martha’s list offers opportunities to comment for the public record on a multitude of issues, including changes to long-term care, natural gas drilling in Alaska, increased plutonium production, and much more.
  • Rogan’s list is a weekly repository of news items and ways to respond to them–always responsible and reliable.

News You May Have Missed: July 14

There’s a little light even as more information comes to light. The Lights for Liberty protests; the hard work of immigration nonprofits; the work of #AuthorsAgainstBorderAbuse, a group of writers offering consultations in exchange for donating to border organizations; and the many efforts to lobby Congress all suggest that a consensus about the detention of children is building. But see the piece from Reveal on the detention of infants, and see our backrounder on Sanctuary–as well as important science and health news, below.

DOMESTIC NEWS

“Classrooms, not Cages”: Lights for Liberty protests you may have missed

750 events were held around the country–including large ones in
New York, Philadelphia and Milwaukee and Southern California–and in Canada to protest the conditions in which asylum seekers are being detained. You wouldn’t know this unless you were there, however, or unless you read or listened to your local media outlet or saw USA Today. The events were ignored by the Washington Post and the New York Times. Among the participants at the DC event were members of the American Federation of Teachers, with signs reading “Classrooms, not Cages.” At that event, Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president and CEO of Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Services, whose family fled the Sri Lankan civil war when she was a baby, said of immigrants, “We admit them not because they are American, but because we are American.” RLS

More detention centers holding children and infants–without their parents

The U.S. government is opening more shelters housing children and infants–without their parents, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting’s news site, Reveal. One such site in Phoenix has 12 children under 5, the youngest three months old. Another site in Arizona has a newborn, while a center in Modesto, California has a two-week old baby who was born in the U.S. and is therefore a citizen. Reveal  was unable to find out where the children’s mothers are.

Reveal notes that the children are supposed to be provided with legal services–but that the centers had delayed signing contracts with anyone who could provide them. Hundreds of children are being held in the Carrizo Springs shelter near San Antonio; attorneys at the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES), said that they intend to provide legal services for children at the center regardless of whether the Office of Refugee Resettlement gives them a contract. RLS

Massive child detention facilities planned

According to Fortune, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is soliciting bids for new, long-term (with initial twenty-year leases) immigration detention facilities for children. Sites in Georgia, Texas, and Arizona are reportedly under consideration. These plans imply that the government intends to make detention of children (and family separation) an ongoing practice, lasting well beyond the twenty-day limit mandated by the Flores Settlement. S-HP

If you have an opinion about child detention centers, you can voice it here.

Sexual assaults, punishments in retaliation against children at the border

Between April 10 and June 12, Health and Human Services (HHS) caseworkers collected almost thirty accounts of sexual assault and retaliation for protests from children being held in a Yuma, Arizona, Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) facility, according to NBC News. All of these children had been held at the facility beyond the legal maximum of seventy-two hours. Children claim they’ve had their sleeping mats taken away after complaining about the quality of food and water, have been punished for sitting or standing too near windows, are called “putos” by staffers (an offensive term for male prostitutes that is often used as an insult implying both cowardice and homosexuality), and are kicked awake.

A fifteen-year-old girl described an officer conducting what was supposed to be a standard “pat-down” by grabbing her breasts and pulling down her underwear, all while joking with other staffers who watched the assault. A CBP spokesperson said such incidents did not align with common practices at their facilities and that the sexual assault was under investigation. According to the report from NBC News, Representative Matt Gaetz (R-FL) visited this facility in April and described it as “the worst state of the human condition I have ever seen in my life” and that Homeland security and Border Patrol agents “were dealing with conditions that they had not trained for [and] were not equipped to handle.” S-HP

If you are inclined to speak up about this, the people who need to hear it are at this link.

Immigrants fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for taking sanctuary

The Trump administration has begun levying fines against individuals without documents with final orders of removal that have totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars, including those who have taken refuge in churches and other houses of worship where they have been offered sanctuary, ABC News reports. Edith Espinal-Moreno, originally from Mexico, who has been living in a church in Ohio since 2017 was issued a fine of $497,770 for “willfully” refusing to leave the country to comply with ICE orders, according to NPR. According to ICE, they have the right to impose fines of  up to $500 for each day an individual is in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act, although immigration lawyers say they have never heard of the law being used in this way. Pro-immigrant groups argue that imposing these fines is designed to instill fear in both immigrant communities and the churches who offer sanctuary. JML

Sanctuary in houses of worship explained

While it is widely believed that law enforcement is not allowed to enter houses of worship when they have offered sanctuary to those facing injustice, the matter is more complicated. There is a history going back to the middle ages of churches offering protection, although in the United States, there is no legal protection for this practice. Going back to the 1980s, the Sanctuary movement in the United States has been made up of faith communities– Presbyterians, Methodists, Unitarian Universalists, Catholics, Mennonites, Quakers, and others– offering Sanctuary to Central American refugees fleeing civil conflict but denied asylum due to federal immigration policies that made it difficult for Central Amercans to obtain. Starting in the early 2000s, the New Sanctuary movement was made up of faith communities publicly offering sanctuary to individuals facing unjust deportation orders, often housing a single person or family within the walls of the church while lawyers worked with courts or immigration authorities to obtain a more favorable outcome.

Members of the Sanctuary movement have participated in both civil disobedience (defying laws for moral purposes) and civil initiative (upholding laws they thought their own government was violating). While there are no protections in law for houses of worship, there is a 2011 memo issued by ICE stating that certain locations were considered sensitive and enforcement activities at these locations should be limited, CNN explained.. The locations in the 2011 memo were schools, hospitals, houses of worship, the sites of funerals, weddings, or other public religious ceremonies, and during public demonstrations such as rallies, marches, or parades, according to Justice for Immigrants. In January, 2018, ICE published a clarification to the memo stating that courthouses do not qualify as sensitive locations, although enforcement in non-criminal areas of courthouses should be limited or avoided. The Sensitive Locations memo doesn’t entirely prevent actions in these locations, but in many cases it has done so. Official guidance states that the primary reasons for enforcement actions is exigent circumstances, such as national security threats, pursuit of dangerous felons, imminent risk of harm, or risk of destruction of evidence in a criminal case. The policy also doesn’t apply to certain ICE activities such as obtaining records, serving subpoenas, or participating in community meetings. It also doesn’t apply to certain enforcement activities within 100 miles of any land or sea border, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Homeland Security and Customs and Border Patrol, in accordance with the 2001 Patriot Act.  Because the Sensitive Locations Memo is not a statute or regulation, it could be disregarded or eliminated at any time. JML

Subpoenas you might have missed

There’s a lot going on in the world of Congressional subpoenas. The House Judiciary Committee has approved subpoenas for twelve individuals who were key witnesses in the Russian Election Interference and Russian-Trump Campaign investigation led by Robert Mueller. These include former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, former White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, former White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter (that’s a lot of “formers”), as well as Presidential advisor/son-in-law Jared Kushner. Additional subpoenas for unnamed individuals have been issued in relation to the administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy that has led to family separations. In a related move, the Judiciary Committee has also voted to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt for refusal to turn over documents related to the attempted addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. S-HP

If you’d like to thank the House Judiciary Committee, here’s how.

More subpoenas needed

Before resigning as head of the Department of Labor due to a potentially illegal plea deal brokered in 2007 for Jeffrey Epstein when he was accused of multiple counts of raping children (let’s skip the euphemisms “engaging in sex acts” and “underage women”), Alexander Acosta proposed an 80% cut to the Department of Labor’s International Labor Affairs Bureau (ILAB). “International Labor Affairs Bureau” may sound like a relatively boring, box-ticking sort of crew, but it is actually in charge of globally countering human trafficking (including child sex trafficking), child labor, and forced labor (in other words, slavery)—a rather odd move, given the administration’s frequent citing of child trafficking as a justification for its border policies. Last year the ILAB had a budget of $68 million. Acosta’s proposal would have reduced that budget to $18.5 million for next year. On the other hand, the budget passed by the House in June would increase ILAB funding to $122 million for next year. A Congressional inquiry into the process and reasoning by which Acosta decided on this proposed cut seems appropriate and could begin with a subpoena for the new Acting Secretary of Labor (and former Deputy Secretary of Labor) Patrick Pizella. S-HP

Do you want the House Judiciary Committee to look into this? Write the chair of the Committee.

US tries to move asylum-seekers out of the US, deprive them of attorneys

The Trump administration is working on a plan not only to declare Guatemala a “safe third country” but to send asylum seekers to Guatemala to await their hearings, according to the New Yorker. 

Guatemala is plagued by corruption and by violent criminal groups, according to Human Rights Watch, with women, girls, and LGBTQ+ people especially at risk. Hunger is rampant, due to crop failures and drought; 76,000 asylum-seekers from Guatemala attempted to cross into the US in February alone, accordinng to the NY Post.RLS

In January, the administration implemented the inappropriately named Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which require Central American asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico until their asylum cases are heard. The MPPs leave asylum-seekers stranded in dangerous, overstretched, under-resourced communities where contact with attorneys who could help them with the asylum process is very difficult.

The MPPs have been gradually expanded to different regions, and were made policy in El Paso-Cuidad Juárez more than three months ago. The Texas Tribune is now reporting on changes to the implementation of the MPPs in El Paso-Ciudad Juárez that are making the asylum process increasingly difficult and opaque. In late June, the Justice Department ordered an end to “know your rights” workshops that attorneys and immigrant rights groups held for those who would be facing asylum hearings, claiming that because technically the asylum seekers were in federal custody (even if not in the U.S.) only their attorneys were allowed to speak with them—but, as explained above, most asylum seekers don’t have attorneys because they are stranded in Mexico. This week the Justice Department has also ended the participation of “friends of the court,” trained volunteers who were allowed to assist judges and asylum seekers during hearings by explaining court procedures, providing translation, and relaying information to judges. The results have reportedly been an “exponential” increase in the chaos and level of fear in asylum courts. S-HP.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

US Army Corps of Engineers admits to toxic releases of water in Florida

In a meeting of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, US Army Corps of Engineers Major General Scott Spellmon admitted that the agency was responsible for release of toxic waters polluted with massive blooms of blue-green algae into sensitive Floridian estuaries via canals from Lake Okeechobee, according to the Miami New Times. The blooms of blue-green algae are the result of agricultural runoff pollution spilling into the lake, which has had threateningly high water levels necessitating releases so as to preserve the integrity of the levee system. At issue is that the algae wreaks havoc on the environment and that the releases were, while possibly necessary, done without notifying affected communities.  JC

Non-profit hospital chain highlighted for ruthless collection practices

A ProPublica investigation has found that a system of non-profit hospitals in the Memphis area has pursued relentless collections practices despite clearing 86 million dollars in profits for 2018. Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare operates six hospitals serving a city with a poverty rate of 25%, clearing more than two billion dollars in revenue. Nonetheless, it filed suit against 8300 patients between 2014 and 2018 for unpaid medical bills, securing garnishment orders in 46% of those cases, according to Ars Technica. This has happened despite a nationwide easing of collections practices in the non-profit healthcare sector, after bi-partisan criticism of the punishing practices. Said GOP senator Chuck Grassley in a 2017 op-ed “The arrangement is a compact between tax-exempt hospitals and the entities that grant tax exemption. Federal, state, and local governments forgo billions of dollars in taxes to tax-exempt entities that have been deemed to meet a pressing societal need.” In one illustrative example. Carrie Bennett, who was treated in a two-night stay for shortness of breath and chest pain, accumulated a bill of just over $12,000, which has ballooned with interest judgments to $33,000. Ms. Bennett has never made more than $12 an hour and in 2018 earned a total of $13,800.  JC

No stats on bees

Citing fiscal cuts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced that it is suspending National Agricultural Statistics Service data collection for and publication of the Honey Bee Colonies Report. This data is normally collected quarterly, but under the suspension, available data will run from January 1, 2018 to April 1, 2019. There will be no data for the May 2019-July 2019 quarter and those following. According to The Hill, this is the bee data-gathering project that has been scaled-back under the Trump administration. Earlier, the Trump administration had ended a 2014 ban on the use of neonicotinoid pesticides that was put in place because of the threat these pesticides represent to bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. How will the rollback affect bee populations? That’s going to be hard to find out. S-HP

Want to let someone know what the stakes are of the loss of bees? Here is a list of whom to write.

Get your (drug-resistant) UTIs cultured!

Urinary tract infections are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, according an article in the New York Times. A third of UTIs in Britain are resistant to the antibiotics ordinarily used; because we don’t have a nationwide health care system, we don’t know what the percentage is here. The increase is due in part to antibiotics used in poultry, according to a study published in the
American Society of Microbiology. UTIs are ordinarily caused by e coli, which reside in the colon. When people consume chicken–which may contain antibiotic resistant e coli–the bacteria end up in their gut–and can migrate to their bladders. Resistant UTIs can be dangerous, resulting in kidney infections; at a minimum they mean that the misery is prolonged while different antibiotics are tried. Getting a UTI cultured at the time of diagnosis can reduce how long that misery goes on as well as the consumption of the wrong antibiotic. RLS

RESOURCES

  • The Americas of Conscience Checklist recommends this list of actions you can take to address issues at the border.
  • Some recommendations from Sarah-Hope’s list follow relevant stories; here are other opportunities to be heard.
  •  Martha’s list provides numerous opportunities to comment for the public record–on issues including privacy, the migratory bird hunting on Tribal lands, Alaska drilling, multiple state-by-state changing ozone standards, reducing energy efficiency standards for appliances – heaters and furnaces, and much more.
    Rogan’s list has many useful items, that ActBlue Charities has a fund supporting a group of organizations working at the border; 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; and ways to take action on nearly any issue that concerns you.

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.

NYMHM for 30 June

We think readers might be missing the news of children in detention camps not because the headlines aren’t there but because the news is so hard to read. If you read the news here, you’ll also see the ways you can intervene in it–and get a glimpse of the many others who are acting as well.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Children kept in detention beyond legal time limits.

Half of the 2,300 children kept in a “temporary” tent shelter in Homestead, Florida have been there longer than the 20 days permitted by law. Many have been in the crowded, chaotic facility for months, according to the New York Times. As the Times explains, because it is temporary, it “is not subject to state regulations and inspections intended to guarantee child welfare — only to a loose set of Department of Health and Human Services guidelines. ” RLS

2. Children returned to troubled detention center

Over the night of June 23-24 some 270 children were removed from the Clint, Texas Border Patrol Station where they had been housed for weeks in inhumane conditions, as we noted last week. On Monday, approximately two hundred and fifty of these children were placed in a shelter network run by the Health and Human Services Office of Refugee Resettlement shelter, the AP reported.. The remainder were moved to a Custom and Border Patrol “tent city.” By June 25 over one hundred of those children had been returned to Clint because the “overcrowding situation” had been “relieved.” No information is available on the locations of individual children, the conditions at those sites, how soon they will be shipped to yet another facility and what is being done to re-unite them with their parents. Also on June 25, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Acting Commissioner, John Sanders, tendered his resignation. It is now being reported that Mark Morgan will become Acting Commissioner. Morgan is a favorite of Steve Miller (more or less Trump’s chief-cooking-up-ways-to-abuse-asylum-seekers guy), and had been previously suggested for the acting Commissioner position, but his appointment had been blocked at that time by Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan. S-HP

3. Federal judge gives government two weeks to “remediate” conditions at detention centers

Judge Dolly Gee has directed the monitor she appointed last year to act quickly to address conditions in detention centers, in response to a motion from lawyers who visited the centers. She has also insisted that doctors be permitted in the facility, according to CNN. Monitors from the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General also reported significant problems due to overcrowding, according to the New York Times. In May, Reuters ran pictures from above of a make-shift detention camp in McAllen, Texas, where people were sleeping on the ground and the overcrowding is evident.

As the Times reported, “the conditions under which children are being held ‘could be compared to torture facilities,’ Dolly Lucio Sevier, a pediatrician who visited the Clint facility, said in her declaration. ‘That is, extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water, or adequate food.'”

A seven-year-old girl being held in the Clint facility is showing signs of severe trauma; she is allowed to call her parents, who live and work in the U.S., but she can only sob uncontrollably on the telephone, according to an AP story. RLS

Yes magazine has a list of 20 ways to help immigrants. See Rogan’s list for other options.

4. 60,000 asylum-seeking children entered the U.S. in the last 40 days.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan reported that 60,000 refugee children had been detained at the border in the last 40 days, according to the BBC. Some arrived along with their families; others came alone. The BBC did not provide further details. RLS

5. Asylum officers’ union protests “remain in Mexico” policy

The union representing asylum officers, whose job it is to enforce the policy formally called “Migrant Protection Protocols which requires asylym seekers to remain in Mexico until their cases can be heard, says that the policy threatens asylum-seekers’ lives and “creates a conflict between their professional responsibility and the president’s directives,” NPR reported.
“[The Migrant Protection Protocols program] violates our Nation’s longstanding tradition and international treaty and domestic obligation not to return those fleeing persecution to a territory where they will be persecuted,” the union wrote in its filing to the 9th Circuit Court, according to NPR. RLS

6. Advocating for refugees

Two important pieces of legislation that would protect asylum-seekers from unreasonable detention have been languishing in the Senate Judiciary Committee since February. S.397, the Shut Down Child Prison Camps Act, introduced by Jeff Merkley, would prohibit Health and Human Services from operating unlicensed temporary shelters for the detention of asylum-seeking children. S.388, the Families Not Facilities Act, introduced by Kamala Harris, would prohibit civil immigration actions that harm unaccompanied children and set guidelines for ensuring their safety and welfare S-HP

Last week we gave you a list of organizations that are helping asylum-seekers. You can see that list here. This week, we offer you some points to consider when writing legislators.

7. Tillerson testified, Mueller scheduled to testify

Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, whom Trump fired in 2018, testified before Congress last month that Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner left him out of various diplomatic initiatives, according to the Washington Post. In the transcript recently made available, the Post reports that Tillerson testified that “Kushner ‘met often’ with Mohammad bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.”

Robert Mueller will be testifying before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees in July. In an opinion piece for NBC, Mimi Rocah explains why Mueller’s testimony matters. We should be familiar by now with the way much testimony before Congressional committees is conducted. Each committee member is allotted time for posing her/his questions of the person being interviewed—and quite frequently the Congressmember uses the bulk of that time to pontificate on her/his views, rather than to ask questions that might provide new, important information on the topic of the testimony. The last thing we need when Mueller testifies is for that time to be eaten up by commentary by those hostile to the investigation. S-HP

If you want to speak up about the grandstanding that might prevent Mueller from being heard, write the Judiciary and Intelligence Committee Chairs.

8. Trump withholding information

The Trump administration continues to withhold information regarding five meetings Trump has had with Vladimir Putin. For months, the Chairs of three House committees—Intelligence, Foreign Affairs, and Oversight and Government Reform—have been trying to obtain documentation from these meetings, which should be preserved under the Presidential Records Act. White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney has twice failed to respond to written Congressional inquiries regarding these materials. The Washington Post quotes Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chair Elijah E. Cummings as explaining, “The Presidential Records Act is at the core of the Oversight Committee’s legislative and oversight jurisdiction… the White House has disregarded these legitimate congressional inquiries and dissembled about basic facts. These actions do not serve the interests of the American people, and they obstruct and frustrate the Committee’s review.” Now a pair of progressive nonprofits—American Oversight and Democracy Forward—have filed suit against Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in hoped of gaining the release of these materials. The lawsuit argues that under the Federal Records Act, Pompeo is required to preserve any meeting notes prepared by State Department employees. S-HP

If you want to speak up about the withholding of documents, here is where to write.

9. Ensuring Election Security

The House has passed H.R.1946, the Securing American’s Elections Act. H.R.1946 would allocate $600 million for improved state-level election security and would provide an addition $175 million every two years for continued maintenance and improvement of state election systems. It also requires specific cybersecurity measures, including a ban on wireless communication devices in election systems. Republicans are claiming that this legislation is a form of federal overreach and that election security should be a state-level issue, despite the number of failures we’ve seen in state elections over the past few years. Now that this legislation has been passed by the House, it needs to be taken up by the Senate, where Mitch McConnell seems determined to prevent serious consideration of any election security legislation, Salon points out. S-HP

If you would like to tell your senators that election security matters to you, the information you need is here.

10. Avoiding war with Iran

“That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.” This is the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, passed three days after 9/11, which the Trump administration could use to launch an attack on Iran without seeking Congressional approval, the New Yorker points out. RLS

Nonetheless, Congress has some options for trying to end this war before it is launched. Senators can refuse to support the National Defense Authorization Act until it includes the bipartisan Udall-Paul amendment to prohibit unauthorized military operations in or against Iran. Senators can also support S.1039, which explicitly denies the administration authorization to go to war with Iran—Feinstein and Harris have both done this. S.1039 is currently with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Representatives can insist on a similar House amendment to the Defense Authorization Act and co-sponsor H.R.2354, the House companion to S.1039. H.R.2354 is currently with the House Foreign Affairs and Armed Services Committees. Both Senators and Representatives can issue public statements making clear that Congress has not authorized the use of any military force against Iran. S-HP

If you want to speak up about a possible war on Iran, you can find the names and addresses of people to write here.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

11. Canada resettled the most refugees–but still not enough

Of the 92,400 refugees who were resettled last year, 28,100 were received by Canada, according to the U.N. The United States resettled 22,900. The UN High Commissioner on refugees attributes Canada’s success in resettling refugees and moving them toward citizenship to the system of private sponsorship, which gives them more opportunities to integrate into Canadian society, according to the CBC.

However, some 70 million people worldwide have been displaced from their homes due to persecution or conflict.. Most of them are hosted in temporary arrangements outside North America,: “Turkey hosted the largest number of refugees worldwide, with 3.7 million people in 2018, while Pakistan hosted 1.4 million and Uganda 1.2 million,” according to the CBC. RLS

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

12. Agriculture

The Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) is known globally for the abilities of its scientists and the quality of research it produces. This research is unique in that, while it is peer-reviewed, it is aimed directly at farmers and consumers, instead of being limited to appearing in scientific journals. In a “normal” administration, the Department of Agriculture would be publicizing the findings of government-funded studies by ARS. But at the moment, there are significant gaps in what the Department of Agriculture does and doesn’t choose to bring to public attention—with at least 45 completed studies not receiving the promotion that would usually accompany their release. An investigation by Politico has documented this change in Department of Agriculture practice and has found a common factor among the unpublicized findings: they all address the effects of climate change. These are studies looking at the likely impact of rising temperatures, volatile weather, and increased carbon dioxide levels—which most certainly are occurring, even if the administration insists that scientists remain silent on the causes of these.

The findings of these studies include the following:
–Rice, which is the basis of the diet of over 800 million people, loses vitamins in a carbon-rich environment;
–The quality of grasses used in raising cattle is reduced by climate warming;
–Warm temperatures boost pollen counts, creating longer and worsen allergy seasons;
–Agriculture pollution and nutrient runoff, which are responsible for the growing dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, will increase with warming, but could be avoided with specific conservation practices;
–Coffee is a useful plant for studying interactions among plants, pests, and our changing environment.

Bottom line: these are studies with important implications for farming and public health, but ordinary Americans may miss much of this information because of what the Department of Agriculture now leaves out. S-HP

If you want to speak up about omissions in Department of Agriculture reports, you can write officials at the addresses here.

RESOURCES

  • The Americas 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.
  • Some of the items from Sarah-Hope’s list are integrated with the stories above; see the full list for more opportunities to be heard.
  • Martha’s list  provides opportunities to comment for the public record. This week she covers natural gas drilling in Alaska, toxins in drinking water, relaxed requirements for transporting nuclear weapons, protections for LGBTQ health, and many other issues–in particular proposals to redefine how the government measures things – poverty rates, pollution.
  • Rogan’s list has ways to speak up about the need to investigate Kavanaugh for perjury, multiple options for addressing the crisis of children in detention, the importance of pressing Democratic presidential candidates on climate change–and more.

NYMHM for 23 June

You won’t have missed the news about the planned–and cancelled–deportation raids, nor the children kept in egregious conditions on the border, nor the planned–and cancelled–attack on Iran. Still, we’re covering these issues because we think they are the tip of the iceberg. We try to provide a glimpse of the rest, along with some strategies to keep us from careening into it. (Titanic metaphor deliberate.)

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Children caring for children in detention

The special mix of cruelty and surreality that underlies federal treatment of unaccompanied minors seeking asylum was on full display recently before a 9th Circuit Court panel on June 18, when a Justice Department representative argued that a legal settlement requiring “safe and sanitary” facilities for such detainees does not require provision of soap and toothbrushes nor does it require any sleeping accommodations beyond cement floors and foil blankets.

The “safe and sanitary” requirement came out of the 1985 Flores Agreement that established guidelines for the humane detention, treatment, and release of minors taken into federal custody. The Department of Justice Representative pointed out that the [Flores] agreement did not specifically enumerate things like soap and bedding and that, therefore, those conditions were “left to agencies to determine.” U.S. Circuit Judge William Fletcher responded, “or it was relatively obvious. And at least obvious enough so that if you’re putting people in a crowded room to sleep on a cement floor with an aluminum foil blanket on top of them that it doesn’t comply with the agreement.”

Meanwhile the Associated Press (AP) has released an article describing conditions for detained children at a Customs and Border Patrol facility outside El Paso, Texas. The article is based on interviews conducted by a legal team with sixty of those children. On June 19 there were three infants in the station, all with their teen mothers, along with a 1-year-old, two 2-year-olds and a 3-year-old. There are dozens more under 12. Fifteen have the flu, and 10 more are quarantined. Older children look after younger children: an eight-year-old has been looking after a four-year-old; a group of girls ages ten to fifteen have been caring for a two-year-old who needs constant holding. The daily menu is monotonous: oatmeal, a cookie, and a sweetened drink for breakfast; instant noodles for lunch; a burrito and a cookie for dinner. Meals do not include fruits and vegetables. Children have gone for weeks without bathing or a change of clothes. The AP quotes Holly Cooper, a member of the interview team and co-direct of UC Davis’ Immigrant Law Clinic, saying “In twenty-two years of doing visits with children in detention, I have never heard of this level of inhumanity.” S-HP

To speak up about the conditions of children in detention, write to those on this list.

2. Protests and responses to incarcerated kids

The news coverage of the children in this detention center has been widespread. PBS has an interview with Warren Binford, the professor who was on site A Marketwatch piece last year suggested that the best way to help parents separated from their children is to post their bail.

In response to the circumstances of children in detention, various actions have launched. Three Texas educators and parents, Nathanael O’Reilly, Tricia Jenkins and Jeremy Bennett, raised $3000 in 12 hours to buy basic toiletries and provisions for the children in the Border Patrol facility in Clint, Texas. If they are not permitted to deliver them, they will take the supplies to Annunciation House in El Paso, which provides services to immigrants. The fundraiser is closed; the organizers recommend that people contribute to Annunciation House, RAICES Texas, Catholic Charities Archdiocese of San Antonio, or Angry Tias and Abuelas, who take food and a backpack with daily hygiene supplies to immigrants leaving detention and provide transportation to respite houses. See the CBS story about them. Outside of Texas, the Florence Project provides legal and social services to men, women and children threatened with deportation in Arizona, where 5000 refugees per day are detained.

Lights for Liberty is organizing vigils in many cities for July 12. Amy Siskind (Americans of Conscience Checklist) has a public post on Facebook where various people are posting places to donate and actions to take. RLS

3. Raids delayed for two weeks

On June 17, Trump announced that “millions” of people in the country illegally would be arrested and deported in a coordinated series of raids. The raids were designed to apprehend parents with children. The logistics for families were harrowing, as parents could be deported while children were in school or day care. ICE officials had said that the raids were not imminent and that they had not known that Trump intended to announce them, according to the Washington Post.

Then, on Saturday, Trump announced by tweet that he would delay the raids for two weeks, unless Democrats agree to changes in asylum law. Nancy Pelosi had phoned Trump to ask him to call off the raids and publicly urged Trump to cancel the raids. Insiders in Homeland Security themselves were debating the viability of Sunday’s proposed raids, partially because detention facilities are overcrowded and because they believe sustained, unannounced raids over a period of time are more effective. The New York Times quoted thirteen-year-old Candi has saying, “I am kind of happy. But if it happens in two weeks I am still scared. I don’t want to lose my mom.” RLS

Various organizations have resources to help individuals and groups respond to immigration raids.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) has “Know Your Rights” flyers in multiple languages. 

You can print or order “red cards” that explain people’s rights from the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC).

United We Dream has a whole page of resources for assisting immigrants, in everything from education to mental health.

The Immigrant Defence Project has a toolkit for dealing with ICE raids.

The ACLU has a video in multiple languages that explains what to do if ICE arrives on your doorstep.

Lawyers for Good Government suggests a variety of steps individuals can take to support the legal rights of asylum seekers.

4. Trump not attacking Iran–yet

In response to the shooting down of an American drone, Trump asserted that he cancelled a planned attack on three sites in Iran with 10 minutes to spare after he learned that it would have killed 150 people. However, other sources say that he knew all along what the death toll would be, according to the New York Times. The Times also says that there are two different versions of what happened coming from Iran: one that Iran intended to shoot down the drone and the other that a rogue official ordered it. Complicating these narratives is the statement by an unnamed Trump administration official–buried in the middle of the New York Times article–who said that the drone–or another American aircraft–may indeed have violated Iranian airspace.

Instead of launching missiles, the US launched a cyber-attack instead, according to Vox. It has received comparatively little coverage.

Nicholas Kristof has a valuable column in the June 22 NY Times, in which he demonstrates that Trump’s strategy of applying “maximum pressure” to complex situations invariably backfires, and suggesting a set of principles for interventions. For background on the apparently inexorable drive toward war on Iran, see Conn Hallinan’s book review in Foreign Policy in Focus last fall. RLS

It’s Time to Fight has issued a list of recommended responses including the following. You can get a script for phone calls if you follow Celeste Pewter on Twitter–which is worth doing anyway. She’s a former political staffer who sends out an email action list.

*ask Congressmembers to condemn the Trump administration’s initial decision to go forward with strikes without Congressional approval, particularly in light of the fact that the House had voted to end the 9/11 authorization for use of force the previous day-

*remind White House they cannot revisit issue of strikes without Congressional approval

*declare public support for an independent investigation, as requested by the European Union, into the alleged Iranian attack on a tanker, rather than unilateral action

*request an investigation by the House and Senate Intelligence Committees to consider the following: why was the order to stand down issued after the strikes were initiated, planes were in the air, and ships were in place? What decision-making process is the White House using to decide whether to initiate strikes? S-HP

5. Foreign aid ending to three Central American countries

The State Department has announced its intention to end all foreign aid to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador until these countries take “concrete actions to reduce the number of illegal migrants coming to the U.S. border,” Axios reports. Currently, World Bank data place the poverty rate in these countries as follows: Honduras, 66% (2016, most recent year available); Guatemala, 59.3% (2014, most recent year available); and El Salvador, 31% (2016, most recent year available). While cross-national comparisons are difficult, we can note that the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the U.S. poverty rate at 12.3% in 2017 (most recent year available). CIA data on Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador note significant numbers of “internally displaced persons” (those forced to relocate involuntarily within a country, but not immigrating outside of that country) due to violence, extortion, forced gang recruitment, ongoing drug cartel violence, and ongoing gang violence. Given these data, it’s hard to see how foreign aid cuts will reduce migration—except, perhaps, through extreme militarization of borders, which will do nothing to address the challenges of violence and poverty faced by these countries’ residents. As California Senator Kamala Harris put it in a recent posting, “Refugees are fleeing violence in Central America and these [foreign aid] investments are crucial to addressing the root of these problems. Gutting resources isn’t the answer.” S-HP

If you have things to say about this policy, here’s whom to write.

6. Happy Pride. Good news/bad news

Popular Information has raised questions about the accuracy of the Human Rights Campaign Fund’s (HRCF) “Corporate Equity Index,” which it uses to identify the best workplaces for LGBTQ employees. Companies hoping to win this recognition must respond to a detailed questionnaire produced by the HRCF. Components of the index include policies regarding LGBTQ employees and advocacy on LGBTQ issues.

The HRCF also publishes a Congressional Scorecard, that examines Congressmembers’ votes on confirmation of anti-gay cabinet officials, healthcare for transgendered troops, and similar issues. Here’s where things get interesting. Popular Information has identified nine companies that received perfect Equity Index scores from the HRCF, but that also donated nearly $1 million or more from 2017 to 2018 to campaigns of Congressmembers who had received a zero rating on the HRCF Congressional Scorecard. Those companies are

-AT&T, which gave $2.75+ million to anti-gay politicians between 2017 and 2018

-UPS, which gave $2.3+ million to anti-gay politicians between 2017 and 2018

-Comcast, which gave $2.1+ million to anti-gay politicians between 2017 and 2018

-Home Depot, which gave $1.8+ million to anti-gay politicians between 2017 and 2018

-General Electric, which gave $1.3+ million to anti-gay politicians between 2017 and 2018

-FedEx, which gave $1.2+ million to anti-gay politicians between 2017 and 2018

-UBS, which gave $1+ million to anti-gay politicians between 2017 and 2018

-Verizon, which gave $1+ million to anti-gay politicians between 2017 and 2018

-Pfizer, which gave just under $1 million to anti-gay politicians between 2017 and 2018

All of these companies have taken stands supportive of LGBTQ Americans—but they have also contributed substantially to the campaigns of politicians determined to limit the rights or and protections for LGBTQ Americans. S-HP.

If you want to say something about this to the Human Rights Campaign Fund or to these specific companies, here are addresses.

7. Happy Juneteenth! A call for reparations

For thirty years, the proposal to develop a House commission to study possible reparations for slavery and systematic discrimination by federal agencies,—such as the Federal Housing Administration and its policy of preventing Black home ownership through “redlining”—has largely been ignored. Now, the House is considering forming such a commission and has begun hearings on the issue. The last time such hearings were held was over ten years ago. H.R.40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparations Proposals for African-Americans Act, has sixty-six cosponsors in the House, all of them Democrats. Ta-Nehisi Coates, whose 2014 essay in the Atlantic, “The Case for Reparations,” has helped fuel the push for reparations study is quoted in the New York Times explaining “This is about more than slavery; this isn’t about litigating things that happened 150 years ago. There are people who are alive today who are impacted by the policies that came out of slavery…. We can’t say that things that happened 150 years ago don’t matter but somehow the American revolution does matter. Either the past matters or it doesn’t.”

If you want to say something about reparations, here is how to find the addresses for your members of Congress.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

8. Climate Change: Canada unclear on the concept

On Monday, the Canadian parliament passed a resolution declaring a climate emerency, which said that Canada would have to reduce its fossil fuel emissions to reach the targets established in the Paris accords. The next day, Trudeau’s cabinet approved
Trans Mountain pipeline expansion (TMX) , according to Vice. Approval of the pipeline had been stalled because a Federal Court of Appeal had ruled that consultations with First Nations were inadequate. The Court now says that the subsequent consulations are sufficient, but some First Nations groups are preparing to block the pipeline.

A 2015 study from the journal Nature said plainly that for Canada to meet the terms of the agreement it signed to keep global warming under 2 degrees, it would have to leave most of its fossil fuel reserves unextracted. As the CBC put it then, “no more than 7.5 billion barrels of oil from the oilsands can be produced by 2050 — a mere 15 per cent of viable reserves and only about one per cent of total bitumen.” In addition,
“Canada would also have to leave some of its conventional oil and natural gas, and almost all of its coal, untouched.” RLS

9. New report reveals Saudi government engineered journalist’s murder

At a time when the Republican administration is selling arms and providing nuclear technology to the Saudis, a newly released U.N. report has concluded that the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a legal U.S. resident, as well as a Saudi citizen, was probably orchestrated at the highest levels of the Saudi government, according to the New York Times. The report’s author Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions for the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) Agnes Callamard included the following findings:
​1) there was “credible evidence [of] the crime scenes having been thoroughly, even forensically cleaned”; 2) Saudi coverup efforts included scrubbing down of rooms, blocking investigator access, and possible burning of evidence; 3) on the day of the killing, a Saudi autopsy specialist reassured others involved that dismembering Khashoggi’s body would “be easy…. Joint will be separated. It will not be a problem”; 4) both the Saudi Consul General  and officials in Riyadh played an active role in the killing and cover-up.

The report has called for further investigation of the Khashoggi assassination by both the United Nations and by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, due to his status as a U.S. resident. S-HP

If you want to join the calls to investigate the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, here are people to write.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT


10. Arctic temperatures soar, leading to unprecedented melting

Temperatures in Greenland were 40 degrees higher than normal, spurring massive melting of 2 billion tons of snow and ice, a melt exceeded only in extent by the one in 2012 but occurring earlier in the year, setting the stage for a new record. The Greenland ice sheet is the second largest body of ice on the planet, smaller than only the Antarctic icecap. Should all the ice melt, sea levels would rise 24 feet.

In Alaska and across northern Canada, permafrost is melting about 70 years faster than scientists had predicted, the result of a string of summers with record high temperatures. Permafrost is underground ice, freezing the soil down to bedrock; it has been for the last 5000 years (at least), frozen throughout the year. The results of permafrost melting are profound, changing the landscape from frozen plains to wavy rises and depressions as the ground buckles, with liquid water ponds fueling plant growth, the Guardian reports. Of great concern is that the permafrost throughout the arctic is a vast C02 and methane sink, so vegetation locked away frozen for centuries is now decomposing and releasing vast amounts of greenhouse gas, which will further exacerbate global climate change. JC

11. Huge aquifer found in the Northeast United states under the ocean floor

A survey conducted by Columbia University and published in the journal Scientific Reports, published by Nature, shows that a vast underground reservoir of fresh water lies under the US coast running from at a minimum Massachusetts in the north to southern New Jersey in the south. Estimated to contain 670 cubic miles of water, the aquifer extends out in places 75 miles from shore, varying from 1 part salt in a thousand to 15 parts (terrestrial fresh water is 1 part per thousand). The water closer to shore is less salty. The location of the fresher water is significant because it suggests that the source of the water may not be “fossil” water trapped by glaciation but instead water pulled from the landmass, possibly by tidal action working as a “pump.” While 15 parts per thousand isn’t exactly “fresh,” it’s considerably less salty than the 35 parts per thousand in sea water, which would make it much easier and less costly to desalinize. It’s hoped that similar aquifers exist offshore around the world which might provide a vital source of fresh water for future coastal cities, according to phys.org. JC

12. Sulfoxaflor: Not the bees’ knees

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued an “emergency” exception to allow eleven states to use the pesticide sulfoxaflor–thought to be an alternative to the pollinator-harming neonicotinoids–on cotton and sorghum. A study published in Nature last year (and you can’t get much more scientifically credible than Nature) found that sulfoxaflor inhibits bumblebee reproduction. In most of the eleven states, this is the fourth year that the emergency exception has been allowed, according to the Hill.. A 2015 lawsuit by beekeepers led to a temporary ban on sulfoxaflor, but use of the chemical was reinstated in 2016 (which was during the Obama administration), with instructions on how to use the pesticide to minimize its impact on bees. S-HP.

If you want to remind the EPA that sulfoxaflor is dangerous to bees, you can get the address here.

Arts & Culture

Corcoran redeems itself for canceling Mapplethorpe show

The Corcoran School of Art & Design has an exhibition on the cancellation of a retrospective show by Robert Mapplethorpe at the behest of Jesse Helms, the Republican senator from North Carolina who inveighed against its gay themes.

MacArthur “genius” Rhiannon Giddens to compose opera based on slave narrative

Musical polymath Rhiannon Giddens has been commissioned to write an opera based on the autobiography of Omar Ibn Said, a Muslim-African man who was enslaved and transported to Charleston, S.C. (Some 10-20 per cent of slaves were Muslim.)

An interview with filmmaker Tom Kalin on art and LGBTQ politics

Hypoallergenic has an interview with filmmaker Tom Kalin on his 1992 film Swoon, as well as his work with ACT UP and activism in the age of Trump: “When Trump was elected,” he said, “I realized I had incredible body memory for activism.” About the 80s, he says, “All I felt was fear of dying.”

A database of 600 women artists you might have missed

A Space of Their Own is an illustrated online database of over 600 female artists working in the US and Europe between the 15th and 19th centuries, most of whom have been overlooked and under-rated.  Many works in the database have been restored in preparation for their online debut.

RESOURCES

  • The Americas 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.
  • Many of the action items above are from Sarah-Hope’s list; see the google doc for more, include ways to comment on private prisons, fossil fuel, and energy costs.
  • Martha’s list has a variety of ways to comment for the record, including on protections for LGBT people, increases in plutonium production, reductions in environmental protections, and much more.
  • See also Rogan’s List  for summaries of issues and addresses for postcarding.

NYMHM for 16 Jun

Astonishingly, given the news week it has been, there has been some good news. In response to protests by hundreds of thousands of people, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong suspended (but did not scrap) a bill that would have permitted the extradition of those accused of crimes to mainland China. The head of the NIH has said he will no longer participate in panels with only male speakers. Nicaragua has released one hundred political prisoners. And no elephants have been poached in a protected African park for over a year (see below for how it has been possible). In short, collective action opens possibilities.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Challenges to restrictions on foster parents based on religion

A joint investigation by the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) and USA Today has examined the impact of “Project Blitz,” a “religious freedom” program pursuing the right to be able to deny services and goods based on religious grounds, across several policy areas. The official title of the key Project Blitz document is “Report and Analysis on Religious Freedom Measures Impacting Prayer and Faith in America,” and it outlines a plan for codifying a Christian (one very narrow type of Christian) nation. A particularly disturbing trend supported by Project Blitz is the creation of legislation allowing child placement agencies the right to turn away prospective foster and adoptive parents who don’t share their religious beliefs or moral convictions—Catholics, Jews, LGBTQ+ Americans, and many other groups.

The most recent active challenge to such legislation is taking place in South Carolina, where a Catholic prospective foster parent was rejected because Catholics do not consider the Bible the “only… authoritative Word of God.” The first bill allowing such religious freedoms was passed sixteen years ago in North Dakota. Similar laws have recently been passed in Texas, Alabama, Michigan, and South Dakota. CPI used its model legislation tracker to identify similar legislation and found language matching that original North Dakota bill in a total of sixty-six bills across twenty-one states and in the House of Representative. The Project Blitz playbook was first publicly released by the Congressional Prayer Caucus Foundation—a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization with members at all levels of state and national government—in 2017. S-HP

If you want to speak up about this legislation, here are some options.

2. Asylum-seekers kept outside in wire cages

Asylum seekers of all ages are being kept in untenable conditions.

–An NBC News analysis has determined that 24 asylum seekers have died in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention since Donald Trump took office. This number does not include deaths among asylum seekers held by other government agencies nor does it include deaths of asylum seekers following their release from ICE detention.

–Customs and Border Patrol has been holding hundreds of asylum seekers outdoors for weeks in El Paso, Texas, where the high temperature this month was 101. Those detained are using scraps, mylar blankets, and anything else they can find to create shade during the day. A university professor who observed these conditions was quoted in the Texas Monthly as calling the facility “a human dog pound.”

–Unannounced investigations in 2018 as well as this month have revealed unacceptable conditions at five detention centers: Adelanto, California; LaSalle, Louisiana; Aurora, Colorado; Essex, New Jersey; and a Border Patrol processing facility in El Paso, according to the Guardian. Each site inspection found at least some of the following at these five locations: expired and incorrectly stored perishable food, unsanitary condition, lack of required provisions, and dangerous overcrowding.  

Legislation toward ending these practices includes the Shut Down Child Prison Camps Act (H.R.1069 in the House; S.397) in the Senate and the Families Not Facilities Act (S.388). The Shut Down Child Prison Camps would, as the name suggest, prohibit the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from operating unlicensed temporary emergency shelters for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers. In the House, this legislation is with the Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. In the Senate, it is with the Judiciary Committee. S.388, Families not Facilities, introduced by Kamala Harris and cosponsored by Dianne Feinstein, is also with the Senate Judiciary Committee. It would “reduce the ability of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to engage in inappropriate civil immigration enforcement actions that harm unaccompanied alien children and to ensure the safety and welfare of unaccompanied alien children.” S-HP

If you want to speak up about the treatment of those seeking asylum (which, we need to remind each other, is not a crime) or to support one or more of these bills, here are some options.

3. 4 month old separated from his parents. Premature baby left untreated for a week in detention.

In a moving photo essay, The New York Times has identified the youngest child separated from his parents. Four-month-old Constantin Mutu, from Romania, was separated from his asylum-seeking father and spent five months in foster care. Because his father had a criminal record, he was advised that his asylum case would not proceed and was deported without his son. Constantin has been reunited with both his parents in Romania (his mother and four-year-old brother had become separated from his father in Mexico). At 20 months, Constantin still does not speak or walk on his own.

A teenager seeking asylum was found by an immigration advocate to have a premature baby under her sweatshirt, according to the AP. The baby should have been in a neonatal unit, the advocate said, but instead was kept with her mother for a week in the McAllen processing facility, known for its terribly cold “cages.” The baby’s mother, age 17, had had an emergency cesarean section in May and was in extreme pain, unable to walk unassisted. She said that people had carried her through the Rio Grande. RLS

4. Legislation to protect Indigenous women stalled

Native American and Alaskan Native women face levels of violence far above the average, according to CBS News. The data is uneven because of a lack of protocols for reporting but consider the following:

–the National Crime Information Center reports that 5,700 Native American and Alaskan Native women had gone missing as of 2016

– the National Institute of Justice reports that 84% of Indigenous women experience violence in their lifetime and that 97% of that violence is perpetrated by non-native individuals

– the Urban Indian Health Institute found 506 cases of missing and murdered Native American women in law enforcement records across 71 cities—and also found evidence of another 153 cases that did not appear in these law enforcement records. Savanna’s Act, S.227, would begin to create structures to make crimes against Native American women easier to investigate and to improve record-keeping regarding such crimes. S.227 would increase federal and tribal agency cooperation; improve tribal access to law enforcement databases; require the Justice Department to consult with tribes on further development of these databases; and create standardized guidelines for reporting cases of missing and murdered Native American women. It would also require the Justice Department to report annually to Congress on data regarding missing and murdered Indigenous women. This legislation has been sitting with the Senate’s Indian Affairs Committee since late January. S-HP

As we reported June 2, Canada’s inquiry into murdered and missing Indigenous women has finally been completed after two and a half years; the report came out June 3.
As the Globe and Mail reports, “The commissioners concluded that the thousands of Indigenous women and girls who were murdered or disappeared in Canada are part of a genocide against Indigenous Peoples, through actions and inaction by governments that are rooted in colonialism.”

If you want to urge legislators to act on S. 227, here’s how to do it.

5. Bills on election interference

You won’t have missed President Trump’s remarkable comments that he thinks the FBI director is wrong in saying that foreign offers of “oppo” research must be refused and reported to the FBI (see CNN’s explainer).  We would not have to depend on Trump’s ethical standards if the following bills pass: H.R.2353, the Duty to Refuse and Report Interference in American Elections Act. H.R.2353 is currently with the House Administration Committee.

On the Senate side, the Foreign Influence Reporting in Elections Act, S.1562, would require candidates to report any attempted election interference by foreign entities and would require compliance systems to ensure accurate reporting of such events. Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) attempted to have this legislation passed by unanimous consent on June 12, but that move was blocked by Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn (TN) who claimed the reporting requirement would be unduly onerous for campaigns, Axios points out. For now, this legislation remains with the Senate Rules and Administration Committee. It currently has no cosponsors. S-HP

If you want to urge your representatives to protect the integrity of elections, here is what to do.

6. Nuclear technology delivered to the Saudis

Last week, we reported on the Senators on both sides of the aisle who have promised to introduce extensive legislation to block the multi-billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia.
What is just becoming clear, however, is that this deal is not just an arms sale. The deal allows the U.S. firm Raytheon to share technology with the Saudis—including technology that is used in Raytheon’s Paveway smart bombs, technology that had been closely guarded by Washington until now, Al Jazeera reports.

Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Todd Young (R-IN) are using a provision in the Foreign Assistance Act to request a report from the administration on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. While doing this could eventually trigger a vote to halt billions in arms sales, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is moving forward despite congressional opposition. The Secretary of Energy has announced that so far this year the Energy Department has approved 37 sales of nuclear technology to foreign governments, seven of which have been to Saudi Arabia. S-HP

If you’d like to speak up about the spread of nuclear technology, here is a list of whom to write.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

7. The Gulf of Tonkin Oman

On May 26, we reported on the apparent drive to war with Iran and the forces discouraging it; NPR had a good explainer. On June 13, two oil tankers–one Japanese, one Norwegian–were attacked in the Gulf of Oman; Trump, Secretary of State Pompeo and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia insist that Iran is behind the attack. However, Japan, Germany and the EU express grave doubts, according to the Washington Post. The U.S. says that a blurry video shows Iranians removing an unexploded mine from one of the ships; Japanese officials say that the damage was caused not by a mine but by objects from above. RLS

8. Many chickens coming home to roost in Honduras

Over the past ten years, funding for public education and healthcare in Honduras has been significantly reduced. These cuts have occurred over a time when the cost of living in Honduras has been steadily rising. These facts are part of the impetus for the current rise in migration from Honduras to the U.S. They have also inspired civil protests, the most recent of which began this April. Honduran Security forces have responded violently to the protest, even firing live ammunition at protestors.

After denying Honduras aid, despite the protests of former military officials who say that cutting off Honduras will only encourage further asylum-seekers, the U.S. response has been to send Marines to Honduras to provide “training and security cooperation” with Honduran security forces—in other words to help sharpen their protest-quashing skills, according to a detailed analysis by the School of the Americas Watch.  H.R.1945, the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act (named for a slain Honduran environmental activist), would suspend U.S. security aid to Honduras until security force assaults on civilians end and perpetrators are prosecuted. H.R.1945 is with the House Foreign Affairs and Financial Services Committees. S-HP

If you would like to encourage positive action on H.R. 1945, these are the legislators to write.

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

9. Fracking is depleting the water supply

A study at Duke University has revealed that hydraulic fracking is having a catastrophic impact on U.S. water supplies. Apparently, fracking is using far much more water than before, and putting a huge dent in the amount of drinkable water available. This is particularly troubling because the water used for fracking is exposed to chemicals that make it is nearly impossible to treat. In other words, water lost to fracking will be water permanently lost for human use. S-HP

Here is where you can speak up about ruining aquifers for the sake of fossil fuel production.

10. Chinese-American researchers are being purged

Basic scientific research around the world has for decades been essentially borderless. Scientists routinely collaborate with colleagues working in other countries and results are published in journals that are available to anyone. This fruitful environment has led to astounding and rapid advances in every field one can think of– yet now, there appears to be official pressure from various federal agencies to commodify research, with rhetoric that supposes that basic research somehow belongs to our country as essential intellectual property. This is puzzling as this research is pre-patented and widely available so that the world can benefit, not just US corporations.

It is this avenue of thought that has led to sweeping and chilling surveillance, prosecution and distrust of Chinese-American scientists who seem to be under incredible scrutiny and suspicion simply for their national origin. In particular, the National Institutes of Health and the FBI are “cracking down” on supposedly unlawful collaboration with Chinese institutions resulting in several high profile resignations of accomplished researchers including the former director of the Center for Public Health and Translational Genomics at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Bloomberg reports. JC

11. No elephants poached in one year

No elephants have been poached in one of the largest protected parks in Africa for over a year now, a turnaround that gives elephants a chance to recover and a possible road map for other parks. Niassa reserve in northern Mozambique is enormous, the size of Switzerland, and had seen its elephant population plunge from 12,000 to 3,600 in the years up to 2015. Now, aggressive rapid response patrols and air surveillance has reduced the losses to the extent that the last known poaching took place in May of 2017. Members of the rapid response units are empowered to make arrests, are more heavily armed than park rangers and can have charges in front of a prosecutor in just 72 hours. Simply being caught with a firearm in the park is considered intent to poach. Elephant losses in nearby Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania which connects to Niassa have also plunged as a result of similar techniques, Phys.org reports. While this is a hopeful development, losses still exceed births and elephants face tremendous pressure from habitat loss and human encroachment. JC

Arts & Culture

The Thrown Out (Gay Pride) Flag

40% of teens who come out to their parents are made to leave their homes. Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness and Calvary-St. George’s Parish in Chelsea created the “Thrown Out Flag” campaign to support “thrown-youth.” The church runs an outreach program that helps LGBTQ+ homeless youth find housing, counseling, and healthcare.

The sobbing of detained children pervades New York City

Twenty-four art installations depicting migrant children in cages popped up in New York City. Actually audio of children sobbing for their parents–and Border agents laughing in the background–was broadcast through speakers. The project was conceived by the ad agency Badger & Winters in support of RAICES, which provides support and legal advice to asylum seekers on the border.

“Tiny Pricks Project” immortalizes Trump’s quotes in needlepoint

Starting with “I am a very stable genius,” needlepoint artist Diana Weymar began embroidering Trump’s memorable sayings but could not keep up; as friends stepped up to help, she ended up with hundreds of needlepointers rendering the quotes, with the hope of having 2020 pieces by the election. The project is supported by the Lingua Franca boutique.

“The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Through Food” 

After losing the “Top Chef” competition, Ghanaian-American chef Eric Adjepong presented a four-course meal illustrating the African diaspora through its food. The head “Top Chef” judge offered Adjepong his restaurant to present the entire dinner.

RESOURCES

  • The Americas 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 takes up many of the issues above, along with gun control, farmworker wages, health care and more.
  • Martha reminds us that two Alaska drilling/mining proposals are closing soon, and that an opportunity to comment on one of the LGBTQ/abortion rights healthcare attack proposals was posted. See her full list for opportunities to get your voice on the record. And they’re taking nominations for Nominations: National Environmental Justice Advisory Council–you can nominate.