New You May Have Missed: November 21, 2021

“Lost childhood – Children of Aleppo, Syria” by FreedomHouse is licensed under CC BY 2.0

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. US armed forces cover up civilian casualties–new investigation

US forces dropped three large bombs on 70 civilians–women and children–during a  2019 battle against ISIS in Syria. The military officials supposedly in charge of the battle had not ordered the strike and even noted that it could be considered a war crime. However, almost immediately, military leadership began covering it up, according to the New York Times. An inspector general who tried to investigate it was removed from his job. An Air Force attorney who witnessed it spent years pressing for an investigation, even taking it to the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

After an exhaustive investigation, the Times found that bombing had been carried out by an American special operations unit, Task Force 9. While armed forces officials described the war against ISIS as preserving the lives of civilians, the special operations units ignored those principles, which they were allowed to do if they claimed they acted in self-defense. The TImes article is exhaustive, with remarkable detail about the trail of decisions and errors that resulted in those deaths and the evasion of procedures that meant they were not acknowledged until now.

The Defense Department is undergoing two reviews to address its policies on air strikes and civilian casualties, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced in response to the report. RLS

2. Republicans decline to censure Gosar

Historian and public intellectual Heather Cox Richardson warns that “Republicans have made it clear that they are comfortable with violence, and they are rigging elections to gain power. Unless Congress chooses to protect our votes with the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, the Republican performance in the House today [a refusal by all but two Republicans to vote for censure of Representative Paul Gosar for posting animated video showing him killing a Democratic member of the House] will become our norm.”

It’s not just Gosar, the New York Times points out. Democratic members of Congress regularly receive threats of death and violence against themselves and their families, requiring security protection just to drop their children off at school. S-HP

You might consider reminding your Congressmembers that voting rights are the foundation upon which a democracy is built and that these rights must include freedom from the threat of violence in electoral politics. It’s time for them to continue to (or begin) fighting for voting rights protections on the federal level through comprehensive legislation or—if that isn’t possible—through smaller, step-by-step pieces of legislation, as we suggested in our database. Find your Senators here and your Representative here.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

3. Climate crisis wreaks havoc in BC floods

The floods in British Columbia have left Vancouver completely blocked off, as all roads into the area are closed by flooding, Bloomberg explains. 17,000 people have been forced out of their homes, and three people have died. Thousands of farm animals in BC’s Fraser Valley have died, and others are stranded without access to food, drinkable water, or veterinary care, according to the Globe and Mail. Farmers on higher ground are responding to desperate Facebook pleas from other farmers, asking for help moving cattle up to their necks in water, as seen in the Calgary Herald.

The flooding is especially acute because of the fires last summer–the torrential rains run off the burned land, the New York Times explained. The Times quoted Merran Smith, the executive director of Clean Energy Canada, as saying, “In the last six months, B.C. has both burned and drowned. So there’s really no greater evidence of climate change right now than here in British Columbia.”

Among the sorrowful ironies of the flooding in BC is that it is in part a consequence of a decision a hundred years ago to drain what First Nations people called Lake Semá:th. At the time, the lake–which was an essential source of water and fish for the Sumas First Nation– was drained to provide farmland for white settlers, and the Sumas people were relocated away from their ancestral territory, as Global News explains. The Sumas Chief Dalton Silver points out that catastrophic flooding might have been averted if First Nations people had been allowed to continue to manage the land. “Our perspective is that we should be looking after everything around us that looks after us, which means the salmon, the animals, everything else,” he said. “We are the land and the land is us.”

One view is that Canada’s infrastructure is built on old climate data and assumptions, and that the process of adaptation to new climate contingencies has barely begun, as one Toronto Star reporter described it. That view focuses on how small vulnerable communities need to retrofit for the future and be able access federal funds, not on how the climate crisis could have been or ought to be mitigated. 

The Star quoted Joanna Eyquem, managing director of climate-resilient infrastructure at the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, as saying, “Climate change is often seen as a future problem but, actually, it is a now problem. It’s affecting people’s health. It’s not an environmental issue only, and it’s adversely affecting people’s lives.” RLS

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

4. Legislation to prevent maternal deaths stalled in committees

Recent New York Times reporting summarizes deeply troubling data about maternal health in the U.S. In the U.S. there are 20 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to six per 100,000 in Canada, four per 100,000 in Australia, and zero per 100,000 in Ireland, Norway, and Luxembourg. Twenty percent of women living in the American south live in counties with high risk of maternal death or poor maternal health outcomes. Native American and Alaskan Indian women are 2.6 times more likely to live under conditions that create problems during and after pregnancy; for Black women the figure is 1.6 times more. Black women are also 2.5 more times likely than white women to die giving birth—and that’s after controlling for age, education, and income. The NYT article notes that “Solving this worsening problem requires looking not just at the quality of care a woman receives but the entire environment around her—from her access to health care to the availability of food in her community.” Other factors that affect maternal health outcomes include pollution, housing quality, transportation availability, educational opportunity, and language barriers.

  H.R.959, the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act would begin to address maternal health broadly, calling on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to address maternal health threats presented by environment; it would extend access to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program (“food stamps” in the vernacular) to 24 months post-partum; it would increase access to maternal health care, alternative payment models for maternal health care, and maternal care training and technology. In addition it specifically addresses maternal health outcomes for the incarcerated and the effects of the climate crisis on maternal health. This legislation was introduced in April; since then, it’s been assigned to eight House Committees and an additional eight subcommittees. S-HP

Help jumpstart this bill! Insist that we need swift, positive action on the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act by House leadership, the appropriate Committees and Subcommittees, and your own Representative. Addresses are here.

5. Biden required to auction oil and gas leases

We’re facing a one-step-forward, two-steps back situation in terms of limiting new oil and gas leases on federal lands.

President Biden has announced an end to new oil and gas leases within ten miles of Chaco Canyon, a major Native American cultural site. This announcement follows years of tribal requests to protect Chaco Canyon.

  Protection for Chaco Canyon, however, does not address demands from Native American climate activists who say too little has been done to combat fossil fuel use. Among the continuing fossil fuel projects being criticized is the Line 3 pipeline that puts at risk watersheds and tribal lands in Minnesota.

This week, the Biden administration also held its first auction of oil and gas leases—which includes 308 tracts that cover 2,700 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico. On January 27, the Biden administration announced the suspension of all new oil and gas leases on federal lands until the impact of these sales could be individually studied. That move was challenged in a lawsuit by Attorneys General and other officials from 13 states, and in June U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty ordered that sales be continued. S-HP

Consider thanking President Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland for protecting Chaco Canyon and urging them to work toward an end of oil and gas leases on federal lands, despite the resistance from states and courts. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW.. Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS. Deb Haaland, Secretary of Interior, Department of Interior, 1849 C St. NW, Washington DC 20240, (202) 208-3100. @SecDebHaaland.

Since the courts have blocked Biden from suspending the leases, tell your Congressmembers that if we want to have a livable planet—not just in the distant future, but for those living today—we must end our reliance on fossil fuels and need to protect federal lands from being used as fossil fuel extraction sites. Find your Senators here and your Representative here.

6. Hope for Monarchs

The Build Back Better legislation President Biden just signed includes provisions first suggested in The Monarch and Pollinator Highway Act, legislation introduced Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and SenatorJeff Merkely (D-OR). This part of Build Back Better will protect monarch butterflies and other pollinators by providing grants to plant or seed native wildflowers and grasses along roadsides. More plants, more butterflies, more beauty, more hope. S-HP

You could thank Panetta and Merkely for introducing thelegislation that this provision of Build Back Better is based on: Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), 212 Cannon House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-2861. @RepJimmyPanetta. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), 531 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510, (202) 224-3753, @SenJeffMerkley.

RESOURCES

To keep track of countries’ pledges–and actions–on climate, you can use the Climate Action Tracker.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a podcast series of 70 years of displacement.

The Americans of Conscience checklist points out that there are only 55 weeks till the midterms, and suggests a series of actions you can take toward election security.

Are you trying to decide whether to go to an in-person event? The Canadian Institute on Ageing offers a detailed, well-grounded risk assessment tool.

Moms Rising always has clear, focused actions you can take to make change, this month focusing on juvenile justice.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has a useful FAQ about COVID-19 and the vaccines.

The World Food Programme estimates that 12.4 Syrians are food-insecure, an increase of 4.5 million over the last year. They are receiving donations for their work providing food for the most vulnerable families. The UNHCR is also requesting donations for displaced families in Syria and surrounding countries, particularly Lebanon and Turkey.

The UN Refugee Agency is requesting donations for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, especially for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people.  Not only because Afghan assets have been frozen, but because of massive inflation and the lack of funds to pay the salaries of public employees, the country is at risk of “a total breakdown of the economy and social order,” according to the UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.

The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.

Freedom for All Americans has a very useful legislation tracker on trans issues.

News You May Have Missed: November 14, 2021

“Washington DC: Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial – The Three Soldiers” by wallyg is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. An alternative to thanking them for their service

Veterans Day provides us with an opportunity to do right by current and former members of the military who have been unfairly deprived of access to benefits and, in cases, of citizenship. We can advocate for three paths of action to work towards this equity of treatment

1. We can support legislation that would pay families of Black service members from WWII for the housing and educational benefits those service members were denied or prevented from making full use of when they returned from war. Representatives Jim Clyburn (D-SC) and Seth Moulton have announced that they are introducing the G.I. Bill Restoration Act, which would address these historical injustices.

2. We can support H.R.5139, the Military Justice Transparency Act, which calls for a thorough study of and responses to racial, ethnic, and gender dispartities in the military justice system. This legislation is currently with the House Armed Services Committee.

3. We can thank the Biden administration for the efforts it has made to provide a path back to the U.S. for military veterans deported under the Trump administration and call on Biden to both continue these efforts and to improve access to military naturalization. S-HP

ASK the President and your Congress members for active support of all these measures. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW. Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS. Find your Senators here and your Representative here.

2. CDC official: Title 42 is unnecessary and unfair

Title 42, the controversial policy barring asylum-seekers from the U.S. under the justification that they threatened to spread the Coronavirus was, in fact, not needed to contain the spread of the virus, according to Ann Schuchat, until recently the second-highest ranking official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She recently testified before the House’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus crisis, reports CBS News. Previous reporting from multiple sources had indicated that then-CDC Director Robert Redfield approved Title 42 under pressure from Trump political appointees and over objections from public health officials. Schuchat identified the Director for the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, Marty Cetron, as one of the officials opposing Title 42: Cetron’s view “was that the facts on the ground didn’t call for this from a public health reason, and that the decision wasn’t being made based on criteria for quarantine. It may have been initiated for other purposes. So I don’t think he was comfortable using his authority to [activate Article 42] because it didn’t meet his careful review of what the criteria are.”

At a recent forum, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas explained that “Under Title 42, one doesn’t even get to make a claim of credible fear. One is expelled and that is why as a matter of immigration policy, it is so vigorously opposed and quite frankly, why we do not embrace it as a matter of immigration policy,” according to CBS. However, since March 2020, Title 42 has been used to justify at least 1.2 million expulsions of asylum seekers, according to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and these expulsions have continued under the Biden administration in a somewhat scaled back form. Unaccompanied minors and some families with children are no longer stopped at the border under Title 42, but other families and almost all single, adult migrants continue to be barred. S-HP

If you want to demand an end to the disingenuous use of Title 42 to keep those arriving at the U.S. southern border from making credible fear claims that initiate the asylum application process, write to President Biden (@POTUS), Vice President Harris (@VP), and Secretary of Homeland Security Mayorkas (@SecMayorkas). You can also thank the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis for its work to uncover how the Trump administration responded to the Coronavirus pandemic and urge the Subcommittee and your Congressmembers to call on the administration to end its use of Title 42. Addresses are here.

3. Federal contractors’ right to discriminate challenge

The Biden administration has announced that it intends to return to a more limited understanding of the kinds of religious exemptions to antidiscrimination law federal contractors may claim. A rule enacted by Trump’s Department of Labor allowed federal contractors to discriminate against workers and job applicants in the name of religion. The initial basis for this move was based on a George W. Bush era policy that allowed religiously affiliated non-profits to prefer coreligionists in hiring. The Trump administration extended that policy to include a broader range of employers, including some for-profit employers, and allowed federal contractors to use “religious” beliefs to fire LGBTQI+ employees, individuals using birth control, or “someone who is the ‘wrong’ religion or doesn’t practice the religion the ‘right’ way. As long as a corporation claims to hold religious beliefs, it could take taxpayer dollars and fire someone who doesn’t meet its religious test.”—as Americans United for Separation of Church and State explains.

Biden’s commitment here, however, could falter in the negotiations over the Build Back Better Act, according to the New York Times, given that the way the legislation is written, faith-based daycare and preschool educators would be defined as federal contractors if they receive federal money–and they want to preserve their right to discriminate. S-HP

You could thank the Biden administration for this move to ensure that freedom of religion doesn’t become freedom to discriminate for federal contractors and ask him to stick to this principal during the Build Back Better negotiations. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW. Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS. Marty Walsh, Secretary of Labor, Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., Washington DC 20210, (866) 487-2365. @SecMartyWalsh.

4. Lesbians still prevented from serving as foster parents

Kelly Easter wanted to become a foster parent via a federal foster care program for immigrant children, one which is run by channeling funding through existing organizations arranging foster care placements throughout the country. Unfortunately, according to Church and State magazine, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), which oversees the program, told Easter that only one foster care agency in her region worked with the program: Bethany Christian Services, a subgrantee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), which received federal funds for foster care services. Bethany did not allow Easter to apply to be a foster parent because she is a lesbian. Easter reported this discrimination to the ORR.

Then, earlier this year, the national Bethany organization announced it had changed its policy and would accept applications from LGBTQ families, so Easter decided to apply again to her local Bethany organization. Surprisingly she was again told she could not apply to be a foster parent because she is a lesbian. Why? Because Easter’s local Bethany is, as noted above, a subgrantee of the USCCB, it is required to abide by USCCB rules prohibiting fostering by LGBTQ individuals. USCCB policy trumped Bethany’s stated policy.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has an ongoing relationship with the USCCB.

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the federal government multiple times for providing health care funding to religious organizations (including the USCCB) that refuse access to birth control and abortion, even in cases of rape, and for funding foster care agencies refusing to work with LGBTQ individuals. These organizations serve unaccompanied immigrant minors and victims of sex-trafficking . Now Lambda Legal and Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) have filed suit against Health and Human Services, the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the Administration for Children and Families and leadership on behalf of Kelly Easter. AU President and CEO Rachel Laser explains, “The foundational American principle of church-state separation promises freedom without favor and equality without exception for everyone. The federal government is reneging on that constitutional promise by allowing a taxpayer-funded agency to discriminate against Kelly Easter because she doesn’t live according to its religious beliefs. Our laws cannot allow anyone to use their religious beliefs to harm others, and especially not vulnerable children and the commendable people like Kelly who want to help them.” S-HP

If you want to intervene in this issue, you can insist that federal agencies stop funding health care and fostering organizations that discriminate on “religious” grounds. Write to: President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111, @POTUS. Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Department of Health and Human Services, 200 Independence SW, Washington DC 20201, (877) 696-6775, @SecBecerra. JooYeun Chang, Acting Assistant Secretary, Administration for Children and Families, Mary E Switzer Building, 330 C St. SW, Washington DC 20201. And Cindy Huang, Director, Office of Refugee Resettlement, 901 D St. SW, Washington DC 20447, (202) 401-9246.

ASK the President and your Congress members for active support of all these measures. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW. Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS. Find your Senators here and your Representative here.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

5. Spinal cord injuries in mice healed

Spinal cord injuries are notable for being debilitating and irreparable; now, researchers at Northwestern University have healed injured mice with just one injection. The injection consists of a nanofiber suspension which when “tuned” to the nerve cells aligns them with their damaged counterparts and allows signals to transmit which prompt a cascade of self repair responses. Without the nanofibers, the nerve endings are constantly in motion and firing which prevents them from being connected with the nerve fibers that were in contact with them before the injury. The angle of using the molecular motion as a catalyst to induce healing is new with much potential for possible therapies for humans–especially important because life expectancy for spinal injury survivors has not changed since 1980. JC

6. Richer countries should cut emissions first

As the New York Times asks in reporting on the current climate crisis talks, “Who gets to keep using fossil fuels, and for how long, during the transition to clean energy?” Until relatively recently the use of fossil fuels that has created the climate crisis has been the result of activity in North America and Europe, and North American and European use of fossil fuels has generated substantial wealth. As a result, nations in these regions are in a much better position to transition to renewable energy without experiencing economic crises. S-HP

You could remind key figures of the wealth that has been generated in the U.S. as a result of the use of fossil fuels and insist that those profits create a greater responsibility for the U.S. to take the lead in fighting the climate crisis by transferring to renewable energy and absorbing the costs involved. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Energy, Department of Energy, 1000 Independence NW, Washington DC 20585, (202) 586-5000. Find your Senators here and your Representative here.

RESOURCES


To keep track of countries’ pledges–and actions–on climate, you can use the Climate Action Tracker.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a podcast series of 70 years of displacement.

The Americans of Conscience checklist points out that there are only 55 weeks till the midterms, and suggests a series of actions you can take toward election security.

Are you trying to decide whether to go to an in-person event? The Canadian Institute on Ageing offers a detailed, well-grounded risk assessment tool.

Moms Rising always has clear, focused actions you can take to make change, this month focusing on juvenile justice.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has a useful FAQ about COVID-19 and the vaccines.

The World Food Programme estimates that 12.4 Syrians are food-insecure, an increase of 4.5 million over the last year. They are receiving donations for their work providing food for the most vulnerable families. The UNHCR is also requesting donations for displaced families in Syria and surrounding countries, particularly Lebanon and Turkey.

The UN Refugee Agency is requesting donations for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, especially for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people.  Not only because Afghan assets have been frozen, but because of massive inflation and the lack of funds to pay the salaries of public employees, the country is at risk of “a total breakdown of the economy and social order,” according to the UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.

The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.

Freedom for All Americans has a very useful legislation tracker on trans issues.

News You May Have Missed: November 7, 2021

“Air pollution” by World Bank Photo Collection is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Any issue is a lens through which inequalities become visible. This week we focus on a range of environmental and health issues: Who is most vulnerable to cancer caused by air pollution, who is more likely to contract HIV, who is most affected by illnesses related to the climate crisis. Environmental justice advocates talk about “sacrifice zones”: these result in sacrificed people.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

1. 250,000 people live in “sacrifice zones”

The EPA allows corporations to contaminate the air, creating what environmental analysts call “sacrifice zones”–areas where cancer-causing pollutants raise residents’ cancer risks significantly. Do you live in one of these? You can put your zip code into the interactive map created by ProPublica, which has drawn on five years of EPA data to identify 1000 such sites in the US. ProPublica quoted Ana Baptista, an environmental policy professor at The New School, as saying that “industries rely on having these sinks — these sacrifice zones — for polluting.” Most of these sites are in southern states, and Black communities face more than double the risk of living in contaminated areas.

EPA regulators have allowed these conditions to continue for decades. Baptista refers to the “political calculus [that] has kept in place a regulatory system that allows for the continued concentration of industry. We sacrifice these low-income, African American, Indigenous communities for the economic benefit of the region or state or country.” RLS

2. Rural, Black communities in the South suffer from poor health

Southern Black communities suffer from poor health for other reasons as well. The Center for Public Integrity points out that health disparities are a legacy of slavery, in that social conditions and inadequate access to health care have resulted in predictable illnesses in Black communities. The spending framework recently approved by Congress could expand Medicaid coverage in a dozen states that have refused to make Medicaid available to working poor people; the Center notes that governors support Medicaid expansion when it includes large numbers of white people but not when it benefits primarily communities of color. The Center quotes Laura Harker, a senior policy analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank dedicated to reducing inequality, as saying that many of these states “have a long history of policy decisions, based on racist views of who deserves to get health services.” RLS

3. Climate and Health

The effect of the climate crisis on human health is becoming more visible, in part due to the Glasgow climate conference, the New York TImes points out. Wildfires, drought, and heat waves exacerbate difficulties in pregnancy and lung and heart disease, and cause heat-related deaths. And as the Times puts it, “the risks and harms are particularly severe in places that are the least able to respond.” Other health consequences include tick and mosquito-borne diseases, which proliferate in a warming climate and malnutrition, from crop failures due to flooding and drought. During one week alone last summer, the Pacific Northwest weathered over a thousand heat-related deaths, according to another Times article. Those who are older, work outside, or are homeless are more vulnerable to dying from heat. Climate researchers hope that awareness of these immediate consequences of the climate emergency will begin to shift the political climate as well. RLS

4. Americans experience depression and anxiety due to the climate crisis

The effects of the climate crisis are affecting the mental health of Americans, with 70% saying they are “worried” or “very worried,” and many experiencing anxiety or depression, according to a new study cited in ABC News. Over the last six months, most Americans say they believe in global warming and 55% say that they believe people are being harmed by it, according to the Climate Change in the American Mind survey, produced by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. The number of people who say they are very worried has increased by 10 points since March of 2021. As a result, a record number of voters–almost all liberal Democrats and even a record 45% of moderate Republicans– believe that the president and Congress should take definitive action. RLS

5. Wind and solar are viable

A study published in the journal Nature Communications asserts that the energy demands of the world’s largest countries can be met almost entirely by a combination of wind and solar sources. These sources could meet a range from 72 to 91 percent of total energy needs, with the United States able to get 85% of its energy needs met. Additionally, this would not require resorting to massive energy storage or excessive spare capacity which would add unacceptable costs to the system. The balance of energy demand would need to be met by a suite of other, preferably non-carbon sources such as hydro, geothermal, nuclear and tidal, Techexplore notes. JC

6. 20% of US deaths among new mothers are due to suicide

MindSite News, a site written by award-winning health journalists, launched in September. Among their recent pieces is one on a UK pilot project, an inpatient program for new mothers with psychosis and postpartum depression, a hospital-based program in which mothers do not have to be separated from their babies. Services are covered by the National Health Service. Nothing like it exists in the US, where deaths among new mothers are double those in high-income countries, and where suicide accounts for 20% of those deaths. The lack of mandatory paid maternity leave is partly responsible for the mental health crisis among new mothers in the US–as there is no time for them to recover from a traumatic delivery or be treated for depression. RLS

7. FDA finally requires doctors to warn patients about breast implants

Last week, the FDA put a “black-box” warning on breast implants, requiring doctors to inform patients that implants have been associated with lymphoma, along with “autoimmune diseases, joint pain, mental confusion, muscle aches and chronic fatigue,” according to the New York Times. Most alarmingly, the women most vulnerable to these side effects are those who have had breast cancer and who have had–or plan to have–chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Women who have had mastectomies are often encouraged to have breast reconstruction–and therefore implants. The FDA has known about this issue for a number of years, and declined to ban textured implants, which are associated with anaplastic large cell lymphoma, in 2019, despite the risks. Certain ingredients involved in the use of implants have a higher complication rate than others; within 30 days, manufacturers of implants are required to reveal what implants contain. RLS

8. Disparity in access to needle exchanges lead to HIV increase among Black people

Though they have safer sex practices than white people, Black people who use injected drugs are more likely to become infected with HIV–more than twice as likely, according to new reporting by Heather Boerner in Poz, drawing on data from the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality weekly report for October 22. This apparent paradox is likely due to their lack of access to needle exchange programs–only 40% of Black injection drug users had access to these services, compared to 51% of white people. In addition, Poz reported, “Black people who inject drugs received new syringes from pharmacists less than twice as often as their white counterparts and were less likely to access medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder,” perhaps due to lack of health insurance, Poz noted. RLS

RESOURCES

To keep track of countries’ pledges–and actions–on climate, you can use the Climate Action Tracker.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a podcast series of 70 years of displacement.

The Americans of Conscience checklist points out that there are only 55 weeks till the midterms, and suggests a series of actions you can take toward election security.

Are you trying to decide whether to go to an in-person event? The Canadian Institute on Ageing offers a detailed, well-grounded risk assessment tool.

Moms Rising always has clear, focused actions you can take to make change, this month focusing on juvenile justice.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has a useful FAQ about COVID-19 and the vaccines.

The World Food Programme estimates that 12.4 Syrians are food-insecure, an increase of 4.5 million over the last year. They are receiving donations for their work providing food for the most vulnerable families. The UNHCR is also requesting donations for displaced families in Syria and surrounding countries, particularly Lebanon and Turkey.

The UN Refugee Agency is requesting donations for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, especially for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people.  Not only because Afghan assets have been frozen, but because of massive inflation and the lack of funds to pay the salaries of public employees, the country is at risk of “a total breakdown of the economy and social order,” according to the UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.

The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.

Freedom for All Americans has a very useful legislation tracker on trans issues.

News You May Have Missed: October 31, 2021

“DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HURTS 025 altered” by ghetto_guera29 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Women at particular risk from partners with guns

In the U.S., a woman is fatally shot by a current or former partner every sixteen hours; gun homicides by intimate partners have risen 58% over the last decade; and in 2020, during the COVID pandemic, gun homicides involving intimate partners increased by 25%, according to reporting from the Guardian. More than two-thirds of those killed in these 2020 gun homicides were women. The Guardian piece was based on work by Reveal, a project of the Center for Investigative Reporting.

A particularly painful aspect of these murders is that many times the killers were legally barred from possessing guns. Reveal discovered that because of the lack of enforcement measures for such laws—on both the federal and state level—and failure by law enforcement to follow through on gun removal, at least 110 killings by intimate partners who were legally prohibited from possessing guns occurred from 2017 to 2020. There are no requirements for tracking murders by intimate partners barred from possessing guns, and Reveal only had access to (incomplete) data from 21 states, so the actual number of such murders is unknown and certainly much higher. The Guardian quotes Natalie Nanasi, an associate professor of law at Southern Methodist University: “Every one of these deaths is preventable. It’s absolutely outrageous that we’re losing people in this way, because we know what we need to do in order to prevent it from happening. We have laws on the books. We’re just not actually enforcing them.”

According to the American Journal of Public Health, gun possession increases by five times the likelihood an individual will kill an intimate partner. According to Biomedical Central (BMC), a clearinghouse of published scientific research, perpetrators of more than two-thirds of mass shootings had killed partners or relatives or had a history of domestic abuse.

Unfortunately, with the lack of universal gun registration and poor enforcement of existing laws, the number of such murders is not likely to decrease. While 33 states and the District of Columbia prohibit domestic abusers from possessing firearms, most of these laws do not “address how to get the guns away from people who aren’t supposed to have them. They don’t say how offenders who are banned from possessing firearms should surrender them. They don’t spell out procedures for confiscating them. They don’t create the legal infrastructure that is essential for keeping abuse victims, their families and communities safe from dangerous offenders,” as the Guardian puts it. Only seventeen of these 33 states require that those legally barred from own guns as a consequence of domestic abuse actually relinquish those weapons, and only three require proof of surrender. To put it simply, these gun laws depend, instead, upon an unofficial “honor system” by which abusers would know they are not allowed to possess guns and would voluntarily surrender them to law enforcement. S-HP

News You May Have Missed has developed a database of 39 pieces of gun-related legislation stalled in committee. If you want to address the issue of gun violence, here are a series of steps you can take. In addition, you can sign the petition asking the Senate to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which would close the loophole in which domestic abusers who are not legally married to their victims are allowed to buy guns.

2. American use of torture

For the first time, U.S. use of torture (“enhanced interrogation techniques”) against a detainee has been explicitly described in court. Majid Khan, a Pakistani citizen, born in Saudi Arabia, raised in Pakistan, had lived as a U.S. resident from the time he turned 16, before returning to Pakistan after 9/11 to join Al Quaeda. Captured in Pakistan in 2003, Khan was first held at a U.S. “black site,” then in 2006 was flown to the U.S. military base in Guantanamo, Cuba, where he has been held since.

As part of a plea deal, Khan has pled guilty to war crime charges and will provide testimony in coming trials of other Al Quaeda figures. At his sentencing hearing this week, he was allowed to describe the conditions under which he was held and his treatment at the hands of the U.S. According to the New York Times, among the horrifying abuses he described included:

• Being held in dungeon-like conditions

• Periods when he was kept naked with only a hood on his head

• Having his arms chained to an overhead beam in a way the made sleep impossible

• Suffering hallucinations as a result of sleep deprivation

• Twice being nearly drowned

• Being waterboarded

• Being beaten

• Being duct-taped into a diaper and having his eyes duct-taped shut when he was moved from one detention site to another

The military jury for Khan’s sentence, who were not told of his plea agreement, recommended a sentence of 26 years, one year over the minimum sentence for the crimes he was accused of. With time served (3 years in “black sites” and 15 years at Guantanamo) and with consideration of his cooperation in other prosecutions, he may be released at some time in the next year. Seven of the eight jurors who convicted him–all senior military officers–drafted a letter to Pentagon authorities calling for clemency because of the conditions he experienced as a detainee. S-HP

If you want to tell the administration “Not in our name!” and demand a commitment to permanently abandon the use of “enhanced interrogation,” addresses are here.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

3. Attack helicopters sold to Saudis–against policy

The White House purportedly has a policy barring the sale of “offensive” weapons to Saudi Arabia in order to protect the Yemeni Houthis. Nonetheless, reports the Guardian, the U.S. has just approved a $500 million contract with the Saudis to maintain its fleet of attack helicopters. These are the type of helicopters Saudi Arabia has used in past attacks against the Houthis in Yemen. This new, two-year agreement will support Saudi Arabia’s Apache helicopters, Blackhawks, and a future fleet of Chinook helicopters. It will involve training and service by 350 U.S. contractors and a pair of U.S. government staff.

The end to offensive weapons sales was, as the Guardian explains, “one of Joe Biden’s first foreign policy objectives, and reflected what the US president called his commitment to ‘ending all support’ for a war that had created ‘a humanitarian and strategic catastrophe.’” Earlier this year, the Biden administration exempted Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from sanctions, despite the fact that U.S. intelligence services had determined that bin Salman was the guiding force behind the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and journalist.

Current legislation in the House, H.R. 4718, the Stop Arming Human Rights Abusers Act, might make it more difficult for the administration to continue arms sales to the Saudis. H.R.4718 would prohibit security assistance to, the sale or commercial export of arms to, or the exchange of law enforcement with a foreign country that has committed genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes. In its 2020 World Report, Human Rights Watch notes that Saudi and UAE-led Coalition forces have since “March 2015 … conducted numerous indiscriminate and disproportionate airstrikes killing thousands of civilians and hitting civilian structures in violation of the laws of war, using munitions sold by the United States, United Kingdom, and others…. Human Rights Watch has documented at least 90 apparently unlawful Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, including deadly attacks on Yemeni fishing boats that have killed dozens and appeared to be deliberate attacks on civilians and civilian objects.” During the period before the 2020 Human Rights Watch report, the Saudi-led coalition had conducted more than 20,100 airstrikes on Yemen. Targets have included hospitals, school buses, markets, mosques, farms, bridges, factories, and detention centers. S-HP

If you want to decry this move that violates the administration’s own declared policy and allows for continued human rights abuses and urge swift, positive action on H.R.4718 by the relevant House Committees, addresses are here.

4. Myanmar’s use of torture

In late October, the AP reported on systematic use of torture by the Myanmar military government. It identified dozens of “interrogation” centers across the country. Since the military coup in February, more than 9,000 people have been held in detention and more than 1,200 people have been killed. According to the AP, “The vast majority of torture techniques described by prisoners were similar to those of the past, including deprivation of sleep, food and water; electric shocks; being forced to hop like frogs, and relentless beatings with cement-filled bamboo sticks, batons, fists and the prisoners’ own shoes…” Since February, the [Assistance Association for Political Prisoners] says, security forces have killed 1,218 people, including at least 131 detainees tortured to death.

The U.S. Department of State expressed outrage and called for an investigation, but global posturing alone is unlikely to yield results. There are, however, further ways the Mayanmar government could be pressured. According to U.S. News and World Report, “While the U.S., United Kingdom and European Union have already placed sanctions on high-ranking Myanmar military members and state-owned enterprises, they have yet to sanction American and French oil and gas companies working in Myanmar. That has allowed the military to maintain its single-largest source of foreign currency revenue, which the Tatmadaw [the military] uses, in part, to purchase weapons.”

Congress could also take steps in response to these reports of torture. In March, the House passed the Protect Democracy in Burma Act [Burma is another name by which Myanmar is known], H.R.1112, which is now with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The legislation calls for the State Department to report on the military coup and to describe U.S. efforts to engage with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to support a return of democracy to Myanmar and to encourage the United Nations to hold those responsible for the coup.

 The BURMA Act, H.R.5497 in the House; S.2937 in the Senate, would “authorize humanitarian assistance and civil society support, promote democracy and human rights, and impose targeted sanctions with respect to human rights abuses in Myanmar.” H.R.5497 has been reported by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, meaning that the committee has approved bringing the legislation to the floor of the House. H.R.5497 is still with three additional House committees: Judiciary, Financial Services, and Ways and Means. S.2937 is with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  The Rohingya Genocide Determination Act, S.1142, would require “the Department of State to report to Congress an assessment of the persecution of the Rohingya, a predominantly Muslim group in Burma (Myanmar), by Burma’s military and security forces, and whether the situation constitutes genocide under U.S. law, along with a description of U.S. government actions to ensure that those responsible are held accountable, and recommendations on further actions to take to ensure accountability and to prevent further mass atrocity crimes in Burma.” This legislation is also with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. S-HP

To intervene in this situation, you may want to insist that the administration take substantial action against the use of torture in Myanmar, including the possibility of sanctions on corporations functioning within the nation. In addition, you might urge swift, positive action on H.R.5497 by the House and the relevant House Committees, as well as on H.R.1112, S.2937, and S.1142 by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. All addresses are here.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

5. Chip shortages to continue indefinitely

The world economy has been hampered by a variety of product shortages but perhaps none so far reaching as the current shortage in computer chips, found in everything from toasters to luxury cars. The prevailing narrative has been that the shortage is due to ease sometime next year; however new analyses have brought some doubt to that optimistic prediction, according to Ars Technica. The problem is multi-faceted, involving a lack of industrial capacity combined with extreme expense in upgrading existing facilities, a fierce competition for scarce talent in the industry and compounding scarcity in related industrial products such as printed circuit boards (PCBs). The stage was set for a tight supply before the pandemic, but the uncertainty brought on by COVID delayed crucial investments in new manufacturing. The lag time in ramping up production combined with accelerating demand mean that the chip shortage is here to stay for the next few years.  JC

6. Rich nations called upon to make good on their promises

At the upcoming Glasgow climate conference, countries will be pressed to commit to new targets for the reduction of emissions. Likely those commitments will be inadequate and countries will not honor them in any case, according to the Washington Post. The Post features a chart indicating what countries committed to in Paris and what they actually did. In September, the UN indicated that unless significant changes were made in methane emissions, the world would warm by 2.7 degrees Celsius (4.9 degrees Fahrenheit). It has already warmed past 2 degrees Celsius in some areas, according to the Post, leading to the catastrophic weather-related events–fires, droughts, floods–that so many have endured.

Several conversations are needed at once. Fossil fuel companies are heavily subsidized — to the tune of $826 billion in price cuts and tax breaks, according to Rolling Stonenot counting any of the money that goes to dealing with the damage they cause. Canada contributed $18 billion to that number, according to a report last spring from Environmental Defence–and proposes to spend $15 billion on climate initiatives over the next ten years. As the Brookings Institution argued last summer, for any change to be possible, the U.S. has to take a leadership role, establishing a working group of G-20 nations to begin eliminating fossil fuel subsidies.

Rolling Stone recites the argument that China and India need to commit to climate goals–but points out that the damage to climate is cumulative. Historically, the United States has contributed the largest share of climate-changing emissions, some 20%, as Carbon Brief points out; Russian and China are the next in line, at 7% and 11% respectively. (Carbon Brief also has a series of articles on climate justice.) And poorer countries–on whom the burden of the climate crisis falls most heavily–insist that richer countries must do much, much more to mitigate the damage rising temperatures cause and to help them develop alternatives to fossil fuels, as Al Jazeera notes. Rich countries pledged $100 billion but the money is not expected to arrive before 2023. 

If you want to see how various countries are doing vis a vis their climate pledges vis a vis the Paris accord, the Climate Action Tracker has details. You’ll see that Canada’s responses are “highly insufficient” and the US’s are “insufficient.” 

A recent piece in the New Yorker reviews several books with theories on why “climate politics are frozen. The first step: “changing the way we think about the planet and its peoples.” RLS

To be heard at this critical moment, you can sign Avaaz’s emergency appeal for climate action. Food and Water Watch has a form where you can write Biden directly. Canadians can send a letter to their government at the Environmental Defence site, asking that subsidies to fossil fuel companies be discontinued.

RESOURCES

To keep track of countries’ pledges–and actions–on climate, you can use the Climate Action Tracker.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a podcast series of 70 years of displacement.

The Americans of Conscience checklist points out that there are only 55 weeks till the midterms, and suggests a series of actions you can take toward election security.

Are you trying to decide whether to go to an in-person event? The Canadian Institute on Ageing offers a detailed, well-grounded risk assessment tool.

Moms Rising always has clear, focused actions you can take to make change, this month focusing on juvenile justice.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has a useful FAQ about COVID-19 and the vaccines.

The World Food Programme estimates that 12.4 Syrians are food-insecure, an increase of 4.5 million over the last year. They are receiving donations for their work providing food for the most vulnerable families. The UNHCR is also requesting donations for displaced families in Syria and surrounding countries, particularly Lebanon and Turkey.

The UN Refugee Agency is requesting donations for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, especially for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people.  Not only because Afghan assets have been frozen, but because of massive inflation and the lack of funds to pay the salaries of public employees, the country is at risk of “a total breakdown of the economy and social order,” according to the UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.

The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.

Freedom for All Americans has a very useful legislation tracker on trans issues.

News You May Have Missed: October 24, 2021

“Pipeline protest” by vpickering is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

1. Enbridge paid police to arrest pipeline protestors.

American police were paid $2.4 million by the Canadian company Enbridge to arrest protestors, according to the Guardian: “Enbridge has paid for officer training, police surveillance of demonstrators, officer wages, overtime, benefits, meals, hotels and equipment,” the newspaper reported. Beyond that, Enbridge met daily with police, letting them know when they wanted protestors arrested. Protestors in Minnesota were shot by rubber bullets and sprayed with Mace. This arrangement was established by Minnesota Public Utilities Commission rules in an effort to avoid the costs associated with pipeline protests.

Enbridge is replacing its Line 3 pipeline, which goes through wetlands and will carry 760,000 barrels a day of the heavy oil bitumen; the climate action group 350 says that “the expanded pipeline will emit the equivalent greenhouse gases of 50 coal power plants.”

In other fossil fuel news: A plan to store natural gas in Nova Scotia’s underground salt caverns has been shelved by AltaGas. The plan had been challenged in court by Indigenous activists, who said that flushing out the salt would contaminate the Shubenacadie River. As the Toronto Star explained, “Mi’kmaq elders said the brine would pollute the 72-kilometre waterway, which has been central to the Indigenous population for 13,000 years.” 

Meanwhile, Indigenous protestors at the Coastal Gaslink site on Gidimt’en clan territory in British Columbia have been trying to stop the company from tunneling under the Wedzin Kwa/ Morice River. Coastal Gaslink is trying to build a pipeline to a fracking site in northern BC, according to the Narwhal. The river is sacred to the Wet’suwet’en people, and the land is an important archeological site, according to a letter from 25 archeologists protesting the excavations, the CBC reported. Two protestors were recently arrested, receiving rough treatment; as the CBC notes in another article, Indigenous protestors receive much harsher treatment from the RCMP, compared to the mostly white people who blocked roads to health care facilities earlier in September. RLS

If you’re rather appalled at the cozy relationship between Enbridge and Minnesota police that Minnesota Public Utilities Commission rules have established, you might ask the Minnesota Public Utilities Commissioners why they are allowing a foreign company to pay to have Americans’ constitutional right to protest blocked within their own country. Addresses are here. Canadians might want to ask @JustinTrudeau and RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki (@CommrRCMPGRC) why Indigenous protestors get “tackled, dragged and pepper sprayed” while white anti-vaxxers get a pass.

2. Miscarriages of Justice

 In early October, an Oklahoma jury convicted Brittney Poolaw, a Native American woman, of first-degree manslaughter for miscarrying a pregnancy after 15-17 gestational weeks. Poolaw had sought medical attention after miscarrying at home.  This conviction, reports local news station KSWO, was reached despite the fact that both a nurse and medical examiner testified to observing congenital abnormalities in the fetus and that the fetus had separated from the wall of the womb, a condition called fetal abruption, which can increase by eighteen times the likelihood of early fetal death by miscarriage, according to data published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.  

Poolaw’s conviction is an example of what the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) warns is “the precipice of a shocking and dramatic expansion of its criminal legal system,” according to past NACDL President Nina J. Ginsberg, one of the coauthors of a report released in August by the NACDL titled “Abortion in America: How Legislative Overreach Is Turning Reproductive Rights into Criminal Wrongs.” The report concludes, “should Roe v. Wade be overturned, states across the nation are prepared to arrest and prosecute women, their friends, their providers, and all those who assist them obtain what is presently, a legal medical procedure…. State legislative efforts criminalizing abortion have proliferated [think of Texas’ S.B.4 allowing private prosecution of those assisting a woman in obtaining an abortion, which the U.S. Supreme Court has twice refused to block]…. Historic prosecutions related to conduct of pregnant individuals suggests that these prosecutions will impact the poor more than the wealthy, Black people more than white people, and women more than men.” 

Such prosecutions of pregnant and miscarrying women are nothing new. An article titled “Arrests and Forced Interventions on Pregnant Women in the United States, 1973-2005: Implications for Women’s Legal Status and Public Health” appearing in a 2013 issue of the Journal of American Epidemiology, documents 413 such events in the period covered and states that that number is almost certainly a significant undercount. This article’s findings provide an early warning of the kinds of disparities inherent in such prosecutions. Consider this information on the demographics of those facing prosecution: 54% were Black, 59% were women of color (this includes the previous number), 41% were white. Eighty-six percent of these 413 women were prosecuted for at least one crime; 74% were charged with a felony. These women were overwhelmingly poor as evidenced that 71% of them were represented by “indigent defense” (another term for a court-appointed lawyer). S-HP

To prevent these unfair and unequal prosecutions, ask that the Senate take action on H.R.3755, the Women’s Health Protection Act, which was written to protect a person’s ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services; it has already been passed by the House. Find your Senators here.

3. EPA takes action to address the climate emergency

Given the Senate’s inability or unwillingness to pass meaningful climate change legislation, we—the U.S. and the world—need aggressive action from the Biden administration in response to the climate crisis. We can celebrate Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Michael Regan’s statement in an interview with the Washington Post’s “The Climate 202” that “EPA is at the center of the president’s ambitious climate agenda…. And in addition to the legislative pieces, EPA is already aggressively using its rulemaking authority to deliver the types of emission reductions that we need to protect people from climate pollution.” Regan explained that upcoming regulatory changes will help the U.S. meet the administration’s goal of a 50-52% reduction in emissions (as compared with 2005 figures) by 2030. One anticipated EPA move is targeting methane leaks from oil and gas operations. Another may be more aggressive greenhouse gas rules for power plants. S-HP

If you want to encourage further administrative action, thank Director Regan for this focus on what the administration can do while the Senate waffles and urge him to take all actions possible to reduce the climate crisis. Michael S. Regan, Director, Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania NW 20460, (202) 564-4700. @EPAMichaelRegan.

4. Pig to Human kidney transplant performed successfully

In a long awaited confluence of technological advances, a genetically modified pig’s kidney was successfully transplanted into a human donor. The transgenic pig had been modified in such a way as to trick the human immune system and prevent rejection. Porcine organs are ideal candidates for human transplantation as they are the right size and rough biological capacity to substitute for human organs; indeed pig heart valves have been transplanted into humans for decades now, the BBC explains. The recipient of this kidney was brain dead and an organ donor themselves, allowing for an ethical way to experiment in a functioning human excretory system. Researchers suggest that if additional trials are successful, we could see pig organs become available for hearts, livers and lungs within a decade. JC

5. Wildlife Services kills wolf pups being studied by kids

For eighteen years, students at Timberline High School in Idaho have been studying a wolf pack in a nearby national forest. That wolf pack now faces threats to its continued existence.

According to wolf conservationist Suzanne Asha Stone, this spring, biologists observed that the pack’s den was unexpectedly empty. Then data released by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game revealed that eight wolf pups in the pack were killed this spring by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services. The USDA has since denied a request by conservationists that its killing of wolf pups on public lands be immediately halted, arguing that wolf populations are more apt to relocate after pups have been killed, limiting the need to remove adult wolves. At the same time, new Idaho legislation has made wolves and their pups even more vulnerable: Private contractors may legally kill off 90% of the state’s 1,500 wolves, wolves may be hunted using ATVs, snow mobiles, and helicopters, and pups can be killed on private land. Montana has enacted similar legislation.

  In 2020, the Trump administration ended engendered species protections for gray wolves in the “lower 48” states. The Biden administration may reconsider that decision, but has not yet acted. Students at Timberline High School have been writing President Biden to reinstate engendered species protections for gray wolves. S-HP

You can join students from Timberline High School in calling on renewed Endangered Species protections for gray wolves. Addresses are here.

DOMESTIC NEWS

6. Remain in Mexico program likely to be reinstated

The Remain in Mexico program (formally called the Migrant Protection Protocol–MPP) is a Trump-era policy dismantled by the Biden administration. However, a district court judge in Texas, in a decision upheld by the Supreme Court, ruled that Biden had done so improperly and therefore that it had to be either properly ended or reinstated. As NPR explained on Saturday, the policy was not supposed to be applied to asylum seekers, who should not be sent back to where they were in danger. Some 71,000 people are currently waiting in Mexican cities near the border, where they risk assault and kidnapping and lack basic resources in terms of food and shelter. They also place an enormous burden on small border communities. 

 Rather than ending the program, Biden is preparing to reinstate it, the Texas Tribune reported last week. However, he must consult with Mexico in order to do so. The newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying that the new program would use “temporary courts in tent facilities set up at the same border crossings in Brownsville and Laredo used by the Trump administration.” RLS

You can remind President Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris that they can can–and should–terminate MPP rather than reinstating it, and that they should work with Mexico to address the 71,000 people already there. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington. DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @JoeBiden. Vice-President Kamala Harris, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington, DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @VP. Let your Senators and your Representative know your thoughts as well.

7. Thank the Bannon 9

Steve Bannon’s refusal to respond to a subpoena from the House committee investigating January 6 has been forwarded to the Department of Justice for investigation following a vote of the House. All House Democrats voted in favor of the forwarding. They were joined by nine Republicans. S-HP

You can thank the House Republicans who put constitution over party and voted to support efforts to hold Bannon responsible for his failure to respond to a Congressional subpoena. Addresses are here.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

8. House could take action to assist Uyhgurs

The House has an opportunity to vote on two pieces of legislation in support of China’s badly abused Uyghur Muslim population. S.65, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, was passed by the Senate in July. It has since been “held at the desk” in the House. S.65 puts limitations on imports from China produced with forced labor, particularly within the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and imposes sanctions related to such forced labor. It also expands existing asset- and visa-blocking sanctions related to Xinjiang to cover foreign individuals and entities responsible for serious human rights abuses in connection with forced labor.

  H.R.4785, the Uyghur Policy Act, has made it through committee and can now be brought to a full vote of the House. This legislation calls for:

◉The XUAR to be open to Congressional visits

◉China to respect the distinct ethnic, cultural, religious, and linguistic identity of Uyghurs and members of other groups in the XUAR

◉China to cease all government-sponsored crackdowns, imprisonments, and detentions of people throughout the XUAR aimed at those involved in the peaceful expression of their ethnic, cultural, political, or religious identity

◉The appointment of a United States Special Coordinator for Uyghur Issues within the Department of State

◉An immediate closure all detention facilities and “political reeducation” camps housing Uyghurs and members of other ethnic minority groups in the XUAR

◉Opposition to any efforts to prevent the participation of any Uyghur human rights advocates in nongovernmental fora hosted by or otherwise organized under the auspices of any body of the United Nations

H.R.4785 goes well beyond any concessions the Chinese government might be willing to make in regards to its Uyghur population—in fact, concessions no matter how minor are unlikely. Nonetheless, it offers an opportunity to bring the current conditions of Chinese Uyghurs and others to U.S. and world attention. S-HP

To move these bills forward, you can urge Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to see that S.65 is assigned to an appropriate committee or that other action is taken to bring it to the floor of the House and to see that H.R.4785 is brought to a vote of the House as well. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Speaker of the House, 1236 Longworth House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-4965. @SpeakerPelosi. Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Majority Leader, 1705 Longworth House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-3141. @LeaderHoyer. You can also ask your Representative to support S.65 and H.R.4785.

RESOURCES

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a podcast series of 70 years of displacement.

The Americans of Conscience checklist points out that there are only 55 weeks till the midterms, and suggests a series of actions you can take toward election security.

Are you trying to decide whether to go to an in-person event? The Canadian Institute on Ageing offers a detailed, well-grounded risk assessment tool.

Moms Rising always has clear, focused actions you can take to make change, this month focusing on juvenile justice.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has a useful FAQ about COVID-19 and the vaccines.

The World Food Programme estimates that 12.4 Syrians are food-insecure, an increase of 4.5 million over the last year. They are receiving donations for their work providing food for the most vulnerable families. The UNHCR is also requesting donations for displaced families in Syria and surrounding countries, particularly Lebanon and Turkey.

The UN Refugee Agency is requesting donations for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, especially for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people.  Not only because Afghan assets have been frozen, but because of massive inflation and the lack of funds to pay the salaries of public employees, the country is at risk of “a total breakdown of the economy and social order,” according to the UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.

The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.

Freedom for All Americans has a very useful legislation tracker on trans issues.

News You May Have Missed: October 17, 2021

“Newseum newspaper headlines” by m01229 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The increasingly slippery news cycle means that not only is it easy to miss news, but it is hard to keep track of where it went. This week we are circling back to a few key stories. By the way, you may have missed that our site is searchable and has a month-by-month archive; of course any good newspaper will be more comprehensive, but you might find you get a flavor of the times that are a-changin’ so quickly.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. What to do if voting rights legislation fails

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer plans to schedule a vote this week on the Freedom To Vote Act (S.2747), according to the New York Times, a vote Republicans are expected to filibuster. At the insistence of Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), the bill now only requires states to “allow a minimum of 15 days of early voting, ensure that all voters could request to vote by mail and make Election Day a national holiday, among other provisions.” Historian Heather Cox Richardson sketches the history and the stakes in this legislation, pointing out that “If the Democrats do not succeed in passing a voting rights law, we can expect America to become a one-party state that, at best, will look much like the American South did between 1876 and 1964.”

News You May Have Missed took a somewhat different position in August, when we suggested that it might be better to take up voting rights legislation piecemeal, in small chunks that would have a better chance of passing. We drew up a database of voting rights legislation already in the works and provided a contact list of committees which have these pieces of legislation in their purview. If the Freedom to Vote Act fails, this strategy will be essential. S-HP/RLS

2. Thousands of deported asylum seekers assaulted, killed

The right-wing myth of millions of migrants entering the U.S. with COVID has been entirely refuted by new data published on Friday. Since March 2020, 1,163,000 people seeking asylum were not screened for humanitarian assistance but expelled immediately under Title 42, the Trump era rule preventing asylum-seekers from entering the country under the guise of COVID 19 protection. Only 3,217 were considered for asylum and only 8% of those were allowed to stay–those who could prove they had a reasonable fear of being tortured, according to CBS News.

As CBS points out, Title 42 contravenes  U.S. and international refugee laws, which establish that people are allowed to seek asylum if they fear persecution in their own countries. Others have been allowed to stay under other rubrics; in particular, the Biden administration stopped deporting unaccompanied children. However, it continues to deport families with children, a policy which is being challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union and others; recently an appellate court gave the administration permission to continue summarily deporting families with children while the case proceeds, according to the LA Times.

Human Rights First and a long list of associated organizations have documented 6,300 instances of violence against those turned away at the border–murders, rapes, kidnappings, assaults. The groups have asked the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to stop the Biden administration from expelling asylum-seekers under Title 42, calling it a form of genocide. They point out that border officials assess and admit millions of travelers at the southern border every year, so the prohibition against entry by asylum-seekers is discriminatory. RLS

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

3. Afghan family mistakenly targeted will receive compensation, relocation assistance.

In September, we highlighted the story of the Afghan family killed in a drone attack, which the US government eventually admitted was a mistake. As of mid-September, no one from the military or the Biden administration had contacted the family. Now the US government has agreed to make “condolence payments” in an unspecified amount to the families of the 10 civilians killed, according to Slate. Zemari Ahmadi, the man mistakenly targeted, had worked for years as an engineer for Nutrition & Education International, a California company, providing assistance to farmers in Afghanistan. According to the Washington Post, the State Department is assisting family members who wish to relocate to the US, as the family is now visible as having worked for a US company. As Common Dreams points out, likely the family is being offered assistance and compensation because Ahmadi’s company got involved and is being represented by the ACLU. Too often, civilians suffer from the actions of the US military, which takes no responsibility. Common Dreams quoted Daphne Eviatar, director of the Security With Human Rights program at Amnesty International USA, as saying “President [Joe] Biden should show real concern for civilians by taking more meaningful steps to prevent civilian casualties as a result of all U.S. lethal operations, as well as to investigate and assist those harmed.” RLS

If you’d like to see this and other atrocities stopped, you can ask President Biden what the U.S. is doing to prevent civilian casualties in drone strikes and urge swifter, more transparent, and more humane responses to killings of civilians by the U.S. military. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @JoeBiden.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

4. Climate Change: Are we there yet?

The climate crisis, of course, is always news. At Biden’s request, 23 agencies listed their top climate concerns and their intended approaches to them; all agencies were asked to keep social justice in mind as they drew up their reports, according to the New York Times. The Times article provides a sketch of what we need to worry about, from food security to transportation challenges to climate refugees. 

The Guardian points out what we must know, that the crisis is already here. From fires to floods to severe heat waves to drought, the evidence is all around us. The Guardian piece meticulously details the relationship of these changes to apparently infinitesimal rises in temperature, quoting Katharine Hayhoe, a climate scientist at Texas Tech University and chief scientist at the Nature Conservancy as saying, “We have built a civilization based on a world that doesn’t exist anymore.”
Building on a 2019 article in Nature, a piece in Grist frames the issue differently, around tipping points in sea, ice and land; tipping points, as Grist sees them, are those moments that trigger others–along with contributing to climate change itself: “Warming increases the frequency of wildfires, which in turn increases the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere from burning trees, which leads to an increase in global temperature, which means, you guessed it, even more wildfires.” Grist sees social tipping points as the solution, as scientists writing in PNAS last year suggested, a rapid shift in social mores that could bring about change quickly. RLS

You can view federal agencies’ Climate Adaption Plans at https://www.sustainability.gov/adaptation/. Then you can urge swift action on these plans and remind them to act in ways that address social justice concerns. Addresses are here.

5. Migratory birds again (partially) protected

In September, 2020 and earlier, we described the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce protections for migratory birds when he attempted to institute a policy to block penalties for killing them if the deaths were incidental to something else–e.g., an oil spill. Now, the Biden administration has completely reversed Trump’s policy, restoring century-old protections, according to the Washington Post, which pointed out that the oil and gas industry benefited the most from Trump’s policy. Industry officials objected strenuously to the restoration of protections and hinted that the policy would be held up in court. The Post quoted Aaron Weiss, deputy director of the Center for Western Priorities, as celebrating the policy but calling for the cancellation of the oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico: As Weiss put it, “How many migratory birds are going to die from the effects of pollution when they are about to auction off the rights to a billion barrels of oil?” RLS

You can see live maps of migratory birds’ routes at a site developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

You might thank President Biden and Interior Secretary Haaland for reinstating migratory bird protections and point out that they could go even further in protecting migratory birds by cancelling oil and gas leaks in the Gulf of Mexico: President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @JoeBiden. Deb Haaland, Secretary of Interior, Department of Interior, 1849 C St. NW, (202) 208-3100. @SecDebHaaland.

RESOURCES

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a podcast series of 70 years of displacement.

The Americans of Conscience checklist points out that there are only 55 weeks till the midterms, and suggests a series of actions you can take toward election security.

Are you trying to decide whether to go to an in-person event? The Canadian Institute on Ageing offers a detailed, well-grounded risk assessment tool.

Moms Rising always has clear, focused actions you can take to make change, this month focusing on juvenile justice.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has a useful FAQ about COVID-19 and the vaccines.

The World Food Programme estimates that 12.4 Syrians are food-insecure, an increase of 4.5 million over the last year. They are receiving donations for their work providing food for the most vulnerable families. The UNHCR is also requesting donations for displaced families in Syria and surrounding countries, particularly Lebanon and Turkey.

The UN Refugee Agency is requesting donations for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, especially for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people.  Not only because Afghan assets have been frozen, but because of massive inflation and the lack of funds to pay the salaries of public employees, the country is at risk of “a total breakdown of the economy and social order,” according to the UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.

The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.

Freedom for All Americans has a very useful legislation tracker on trans issues.

News You May Have Missed: October 10, 2021

“Maple Leaf Structure” by jurvetson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

On Canadian Thanksgiving and Indigenous People’s Day, we want to acknowledge that News You May Have Missed is produced in three places: On the traditional land of the Awaswas people, whose contemporary descendants are the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. (They were called Ohlone by the Spanish and some still call themselves Ohlone.)  On the traditional land of the Huron-Wendat, the Seneca, and the Mississaugas of the Credit, land which is still home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island. And on the home of the Shawnee, Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Yuchi tribal nations. We are grateful and honored to be here.

You can locate yourselves on this map. We understand that acknowledging the land is only a beginning.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

1. Government of Canada must compensate Indigenous children

Indigenous children who had been taken from their families by child welfare authorities, as well as Indigenous children now in the child welfare system won a significant victory on the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (September 29). The Canadian Federal Court upheld the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s 2019 ruling ordering the Canadian government to pay $40,000 each (all that is allowed) to the children who had been removed from their homes since 2006, the Toronto Star reports. According to Canadian Lawyer, some 54,000 children and their parents or grandparents (except for those who had abused their children) will be compensated. The ruling also ordered the government to provide equal child welfare services to children on reserves. Astonishingly, the Canadian government has been fighting these orders since 2007, while a generation of Indigenous children on reserves has suffered from child welfare services that are desperately underfunded.

The government of Canada could still appeal the ruling. The original human rights complaint was filed by Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, along with the Assembly of First Nations. In response to the decision, Blackstock said to the CBC, “Will the federal government finally put down its sword and stop fighting First Nations children and treat them equally?” RLS

Cindy Blackstock encourages those who would like to see Justin Trudeau implement the decision rather than appealing it further to write him. @JustinTrudeau.

2. Climate activists among those trying to leave Afghanistan

Scientists left in Afghanistan fear their research will never be restarted, in part due to the pressures of the Taliban and in part because the grants that fund their labs are frozen, according to an article in the journal Nature. Climate activists, too, fear reprisals and have been trying–with mixed success–to leave the country. Though the Taliban says it wants to fight climate change, environmental activists fear they will be targeted, according to the Independent. Fridays for the Future has been trying to get activists out of the country, according to a tweet by Greta Thunberg at the end of August. RLS

If you want to help evacuate and relocate climate activists, donate if you’re able to Climate 2025 and ASK that your donation be earmarked for evacuation of Afghan climate activists: Climate 2025, 3 Concourse Way, Sheffield, England S1 2BJ, United Kingdom

You can also urge the House Judiciary Committee to take swift, positive action on H.R.4736, the Improving Access for Afghan Refugees Act, and to include Afghan climate activists among those whose qualify for assistance as victims of persecution. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chair, House Judiciary Committee, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-3951. @RepJerryNadler.

You can also urge the House Foreign Relations Affairs to take swift, positive action on H.R.5117, which blocks federal aid to Afghanistan and places sanctions on Afghanistan until the President certifies to Congress that all U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, coalition partners, and Afghan allies—which should include climate activists—who desire evacuation have been evacuated. Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Chair, House Foreign Affairs Committee, 2170 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-5021. You can also call on your Representative to support both H.R.4736 and H.R.5117 and on your Representative and Senators to act in support of efforts to help climate activists who wish to leave Afghanistan. S-HP

DOMESTIC NEWS

3. Four Black women per day were killed in the US in 2020.

The murder rate in the US jumped by 30% in 2020; 77% of these homicides were committed using firearms, according to the Guardian. Experts on gun violence attribute the rise in homicides to the pressures of the pandemic and the easy availability of guns. As Shani Buggs, an assistant professor at the University of California, Davis who studies these issues, put it, “you have mundane issues that are turning lethal because there is so much anger, and rage, and guns available.”

In the US, over half the homicide victims were Black, although Black Americans represent only 14% of the population. The increase in homicides meant that four Black women per day were killed in 2020. The circumstances of these deaths have not been tallied; some are the result of domestic violence, while others were accidental. Some analysts wonder whether so many Black women died because so many were essential workers during the pandemic and therefore were vulnerable to violence in the community, according to the Guardian. Kimberlé Crenshaw, a Black feminist legal scholar, told the Guardian that “many factors make Black women more vulnerable to violence, including widespread access to firearms, and barriers to access of preventive services and mental healthcare, factors that probably worsened during the pandemic.”

Our database of pending gun legislation–on which no progress has been made since we posted it on August 8–is available here.

In Canada, by contrast, the homicide rate increased by only 7% in 2020, according to Statistics Canada, to 1.95 homicides per 100,000 people. In the US, there are 5.8 homicides per 100,000 people, according to the CDC. However, Black Canadians account for 44% of these homicides, according to Toronto.com, though they are only 3.4% of the population; the rate of homicide for Indigenous people in Canada is 7 times that for non-Indigenous Canadians. RLS, S-HP

If you want to act on this issue, you can urge your Senators and Representative to:

1) Support gun control legislation (use our database) to see what legislation is with specific Senate and House committees;

2) Treat violence against women as the public health crisis it is;

3) Increase violence prevention programs;

4) Increase access—particularly for Black women—to preventive health services and mental health care.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

4. New/old approach to reproductive rights

Women in Texas were able to get legal abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy for just a day, when on Wednesday a judge–responding to a request by the Biden administration–held that women had been “unlawfully prevented from exercising control over their lives in ways that are protected by the Constitution,” according to the BBC. His ruling was almost immediately put on hold by the 5th Circuit in response to a suit by Texas officials. As a result, pro-choice activists nationwide have organized networks to enable Texas women to get abortions out of state, ABC News reports. These echo the underground “Jane” networks that operated pre-Roe v. Wade, eloquently described in a 2019 Vanity Fair article. 

The “Janes” relied on D & C (dilation and curettage) procedures) performed by doctors or others with some medical training–and ultimately they trained themselves. D&Cs are generally safe if they are performed by trained practitioners in sanitary settings, but they carry a small risk of uterine perforation or infection, according to the Mayo Clinic. A new group, Plan C, is trying to make medication abortion more easily available. Approved by the FDA over twenty years ago, medication abortion involves taking two drugs, Mifepristone and Misoprostol, 24-48 hours apart. The drugs can be used up until the 10th week of pregnancy; they work by blocking progesterone and thus causing what is in effect a miscarriage. These medications are not without risks; if a woman has an ectopic pregnancy (in her fallopian tubes), they will not work–an ectopic pregnancy is life-threatening. In addition, heavy bleeding or infection can follow, though these complications are rare and need to be weighed against the risk of pregnancy itself. For these reasons, the FDA previously required women to see health practitioners in person–in some areas, three visits were required, one for each dose and one to make sure the abortion was complete. During the pandemic, however, these drugs were allowed to be dispensed by mail, and it is this practice that Plan C activists are building on. 

There are still legal risks to Plan C, as Ms. Magazine explained last year. Groups such as Reproaction are advocating for widespread availability of self-managed abortion care, but caution that 21 women have been arrested for using Mifepristone and Misoprostol outside a clinic setting. The SIA legal team provides a detailed discussion of the issues. RLS

You can thank the Attorney General for defend the Constitutional right to reproductive health care, including abortion. Merrick Garland, Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington DC 20530-0001, (202) 514-2000.

You can also urge your Senators to support the Women’s Health Protection Act, already passed by the House, which guarantees women’s access to a full range of family planning services, including abortion (this legislation was H.R.3755 in the House; the identical Senate legislation is S.1975).

You can also urge the House Judiciary Committee and your Representative to support H.R.5226, Preventing Vigilante Stalking the Stops Women’s Access to Healthcare and Abortion Rights Act, which increases the maximum sentence for stalking if it involves an attempt to obtain a woman’s health records or to prevent her access to healthcare, including abortion and other family planning services. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Chair, House Judiciary Committee, 2141 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-3951. @RepJerryNadler. S-HP

RESOURCES

Are you trying to decide whether to go to an in-person event? The Canadian Institute on Ageing offers a detailed, well-grounded risk assessment tool.

Moms Rising always has clear, focused actions you can take to make change. Note in particular their suggestion to tell your Governor to stop playing politics with kids’ health. Apropos of which, note the CDC report from May that describes how masks and vaccines reduce transmission in schools.

The Americans of Conscience checklist has relaunched! They offer new actions every other week that will enable you to make your voice heard quickly and clearly. In addition, they have a good news section that will help you keep going.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has a useful FAQ about COVID-19 and the vaccines.

The World Food Programme estimates that 12.4 Syrians are food-insecure, an increase of 4.5 million over the last year. They are receiving donations for their work providing food for the most vulnerable families. The UNHCR is also requesting donations for displaced families in Syria and surrounding countries, particularly Lebanon and Turkey.

The UN Refugee Agency is requesting donations for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, especially for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people.  Not only because Afghan assets have been frozen, but because of massive inflation and the lack of funds to pay the salaries of public employees, the country is at risk of “a total breakdown of the economy and social order,” according to the UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.

The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.

Freedom for All Americans has a very useful legislation tracker on trans issues.

News You May Have Missed: October 3, 2021

“Secrecy for Sale” by thedescrier is licensed under CC BY 2.0

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. 29,000 off-shore accounts discovered: they drain tax revenues, support criminal activity

It’s hard enough to understand the world economic system as it is. But what if there were a second system, parallel to the first, which permitted huge sums of money–11.3 trillion dollars–to be siphoned off, invisible to world governments and therefore untaxed? According to a new trove of leaked documents, called the Pandora Papers, there is. As the Washington Post describes it, the 29,000 offshore accounts just discovered constitute a “parallel financial universe whose corrosive effects can span generations — draining significant sums from government treasuries, worsening wealth disparities, and shielding the riches of those who cheat and steal while impeding authorities and victims in their efforts to find or recover hidden assets.”

The information–buried in 11.9 million confidential files–was uncovered through a two-year investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and 150 media partners. 330 public officials–including a number of heads of state–are implicated. The Pandora Papers are a sequel, so to speak, to the Panama Papers, which revealed leaked records from just one law firm; the Pandora Papers revealed twice as many accounts. We describe these accounts as “offshore,” but some states–among them South Dakota and Nevada–have passed financial secrecy laws so stringent that some accounts are hidden there. Not only do secret accounts damage governments’ ability to function by draining profits that should be taxed, but they facilitate drug trafficking, human trafficking, arms deals, and child pornography.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) estimates that $15 billion in tax dollars are lost to offshore accounts, according to the Toronto Star. To keep this number in proportion, the province of Ontario projects that it will spend $8.9 billion on COVID-related health care costs in 2021-2022. The Star quotes Toby Sanger, executive director of Canadians for Tax Fairness, as saying, “That’s more than enough to have free tuition at all the universities and colleges across Canada. It’s more than enough for a national childcare program.” RLS

2. Building Back Better under siege

The second and third segments of  Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan, which would provide free community college, subsidized day care, universal pre-Kindergarten, paid family leave, and lower drug prices, according to CBS News, are at risk due to the intransigence of two Democratic senators and a well-funded right-wing siege. The Infrastructure Bill is estimated to cost $1.2 trillion over five years and the Reconciliation Bill, $3.5 trillion over ten years.

Not surprisingly, given that Biden plans to fund the bill through increases in corporate taxes, especially those corporations that acquire profits overseas, monied interests are fierce in their opposition.  Much of the press coverage has focused on the way Democratic Senators Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin III of West Virginia have held Biden’s agenda hostage, and indeed, as the Guardian notes, they could take down these two essential initiatives. It is not clear what either senator wants, and Sinema has been particularly enigmatic, Vanity Fair points out. From the right, the Koch Network–which is quite desperate to stop Biden’s agenda, according to Rolling Stone— has been lobbying moderate senators intensely. Various Koch affiliates (of which there are at least 100)–such as Americans for Prosperity, which is running ads headed “Tell Congress to stop the Biden-Sanders spending spree,” and the LIBRE Initiative, which is trying to persuade Latinos in the Southwest that Biden’s infrastructure plans would be bad for their communities–are part of the Network’s plan to undermine Biden and to fight Biden’s efforts against climate change. 

Twenty corporations have also lobbied against Biden’s bills, Sondra Youdelman explains, writing on the Institute for Policy Studies’ op/ed site, OtherWords, spending $201 million so far. The pharmaceutical industry is the largest of those in opposition. The organization Youdelman works for, People’s Action, has put out a report on the many ways in which corporations are working to undermine democracy. RLS

3. Bipartisan effort to bring back congressional authority to declare war

A bipartisan bill to rein in the power of presidents to wage war has been introduced in the House, rather astonishing given the high stakes legislative wrangling that is going on. Introduced by the Chairman of the House Rules Committee James P. McGovern (D-MA) and Representative Peter Meijer (R-MI), who is the ranking member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Oversight, Management, & Accountability, the National Security Reforms and Accountability Act (H.R. 5410) would restore the authority of Congress to declare war. As McGovern’s press release explains, the bill would “recalibrate the balance of power between the president and Congress by reclaiming congressional oversight of arms sales, emergency declarations, and the use of military force.”

As the Brennan Institute explains, the bill would both repeal and revive the War Powers Resolution of 1973, enacted near the end of the Vietnam War, which established that only Congress could declare war. Presidents since then, including Joe Biden, have used loopholes in the language of the Resolution to proceed without congressional authorization. A similar bill, the National Security Powers Act, was introduced in the Senate in July, and Congress has some interest in revisiting the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, which was passed following the 9/11 attacks and used to cover US military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq. 

Oddly, the only significant media outlet covering the bill is Politico, which points out that the bill will also require congressional authorization for certain arms sales and impose limits on emergency declarations. RLS

If you support these bills, you may want to alert your Senators and Representative: (HR 5410 in the House, S 2391 in the Senate). Find your Senators here. Find your Representative here.

4. Doing no harm

In 1993, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was passed to protect the rights of minority religious groups. However, according to the Human Rights Campaign, since then it has been subverted, used to allow religious groups to discriminate against others, as in the Hobby Lobby case, in which the Supreme Court upheld the right of a corporation to decline to provide insurance coverage for contraception.

H.R.1378, the Do No Harm Act, would clarify that the intent of RFRA was to protect the rights of minority religious groups, not permit those groups to do harm. The legislation was introduced in the House in February. As the Congressional summary explains, the Do No Harm Act would ensure that the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act is “inapplicable to laws or the implementation of laws that protect against discrimination or the promotion of equal opportunity (e.g., the Civil Rights Act of 1964).” It would also “require employers to provide wages, other compensation, or benefits, including leave; protect collective activity in the workplace; protect against child labor, abuse, or exploitation; or provide for access to, information about, referrals for, provision of, or coverage for, any health care item or service.” Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) has now introduced companion legislation in the Senate, S 2752. H.R.1378 is currently with the House Judiciary Committee’s Constitution, Civil Rights, and the Civil Liberties Subcommittee to which it was referred in March. S-HP

If you support the Do No Harm act, you might urge swift, positive action on the legislation in the House Judiciary Committee and its Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties Subcommittee and emphasize that real religious freedom should not include the right to discriminate or withhold basic workplace or civil rights. You might also tell your Senators and your Representative that you want to see them actively supporting the Do No Harm Act because real religious freedom should not include the right to discriminate or withhold basic workplace or civil rights. Addresses are here.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

5. Lessons from 50 years covering foreign policy

Instead of providing our own summary and commentary on international news this week, we recommend to you writer Conn Hallinan’s reflections on writing about foreign policy for the last 50 years, posted on Foreign Policy in Focus (which we also recommend). Region by region, Hallinan notes the patterns he perceives and the directions he suggests we go (spoiler alert: we need an international health care treaty).

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

6. Notification of Oil Spill Delayed Because?

Don’t go barefoot on the beach after an oil spill. You’ll carry the black, sticky patches on your feet for days, as well as the knowledge of what must be happening to sea birds. Southern Californians are facing this reality–and they have questions about why it took over 24 hours for the scope of the 126,000 oil spill to be announced, the LA Times reports. Coming from a platform owned by a Houston-based company, Amplify Energy, the leak is off the coast of Long Beach. Somehow the company was unable to stop the leak once they were notified of it. 

The oil has already reached sensitive wetlands in Orange County, according to the Times, killing birds and fish. The Times cites a wetland biologist who notes that the area is home to birds that are rare on the West Coast, including “gulls, willet, long-billed dowitchers, elegant terns and reddish egrets.” Oil destroys the waterproofing on birds’ feathers, the Canadian Wildlife Foundation points out, and as they try to remove it, they ingest the toxic material. Other sea life–dolphins, turtles, seals–also swallow the oil and can be poisoned by it; marine mammals with fur also suffer from encounters with oil, as it destroys the insulation they depend on, according to the National Ocean Service

Oil spills are only one of the hazards of fossil fuels, of course. Back in March, the Guardian published an article based on internal memos and documents from energy companies which revealed that these corporations–Exxon, Shell and others–had understood 50 years ago how fossil fuels put human health at risk and foresaw the effects on climate–yet continued to deny these facts. Indeed Exxon funded climate deniers, as the Guardian reported some years ago and scientists at George Mason university verified in a report called America Misled.

RESOURCES

Are you trying to decide whether to go to an in-person event? The Canadian Institute on Ageing offers a detailed, well-grounded risk assessment tool.

Moms Rising always has clear, focused actions you can take to make change. Note in particular their suggestion to tell your Governor to stop playing politics with kids’ health. Apropos of which, note the CDC report from May that describes how masks and vaccines reduce transmission in schools.

The Americans of Conscience checklist has relaunched! They offer new actions every other week that will enable you to make your voice heard quickly and clearly. In addition, they have a good news section that will help you keep going.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has a useful FAQ about COVID-19 and the vaccines.

The World Food Programme estimates that 12.4 Syrians are food-insecure, an increase of 4.5 million over the last year. They are receiving donations for their work providing food for the most vulnerable families. The UNHCR is also requesting donations for displaced families in Syria and surrounding countries, particularly Lebanon and Turkey.

The UN Refugee Agency is requesting donations for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, especially for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people.  Not only because Afghan assets have been frozen, but because of massive inflation and the lack of funds to pay the salaries of public employees, the country is at risk of “a total breakdown of the economy and social order,” according to the UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.

The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.

Freedom for All Americans has a very useful legislation tracker on trans issues.

News You May Have Missed: September 26, 2021

“Orange Shirt Day Across Delta” by deltaschools is licensed under CC BY 2.0

NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL NEWS

1. Truth and Reconciliation September 30

Gabby Petito, who disappeared while traveling in a van with her boyfriend and who later was found murdered in Wyoming, captured the heart of the Internet. But the intense interest in her story rings hollow to First Nations people, who point out that over the last 10 years, “710 Indigenous people were reported missing across Wyoming,” according to the Guardian. Indigenous people make up only three percent of Wyoming’s population, but over the last 20 years, 21% of all the people killed in Wyoming were Indigenous. A report from the University of Wyoming points out that “Only 30% of Indigenous homicide victims had newspaper media coverage, as compared to 51% of White homicide victims. Indigenous female homicide victims had the least amount of newspaper media coverage (18%).”

The issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls (MMIWG) is not particularly a rural problem. The Urban Indian Health Institute found that in 2016, there were 5,712 instances of missing Indigenous women and girls across the US. The cities with the highest number of MMIWG are Seattle, Albuquerque, Anchorage, Tucson, Billings, Gallup, Tacoma, Omaha, Salt Lake City and San Francisco. However, the Department of Justice missing persons department only had recorded 116 of those missing; the lack of data, as well as the lack of coverage, makes it difficult to address the issue. 

As we noted in May, Canada has also been grappling with the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Statistics Canada found that between 2000 and 2015, 25% of all homicide victims were Indigenous women and girls. The final report of an inquiry begun in 2016, “Reclaiming Power and Place,” found that “persistent and deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations and abuses are the root cause behind Canada’s staggering rates of violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people.” It includes 231 individual Calls for Justice, summarized here by the CBC.

September 30 is “Orange Shirt Day” in Canada–it is the first official Day of Truth and Reconciliation, commemorating all the Indigenous children who were taken away from their parents and forced to attend residential schools–places where they were stripped of their culture and sometimes their lives: thousands of children did not return home. The orange shirt refers to a story told by a residential school survivor, Phyllis Webstad, who at age 6 was given an orange shirt by her grandmother when she was sent away to school. When she got there, all her clothes were taken and she never saw the shirt again. The CBC tells Webstad’s story; if you search “Orange Shirt Day” and your area, you will find links to fundraisers for residential school survivors and ways to learn about and support them. RLS

2. Four land and environment defenders murdered every week worldwide

Every year since 2009, Global Witness has published a list of murdered land and environmental defenders. This year’s list is the longest ever, documenting 227 lethal attacks on environmental defenders—an average of more than four killings a week. Global Witness explains that “these lethal attacks are taking place in the context of a wider range of threats against defenders including intimidation, surveillance, sexual violence, and criminalisation. Our figures are almost certainly an underestimate, with many attacks against defenders going unreported.” Global Witness advocates for United Nations (UN) action: official UN recognition of the human right to a safe, healthy, and sustainable environment; the addition of human rights provisions to the Paris Agreement, the globe’s largest and best known multinational effort to slow climate change; and implementation of recommendations by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights.

 In an editorial in The Guardian, Bill McKibben emphasizes that the local activists being murdered are on the front lines of our struggle against catastrophic climate change. McKibben calls out corporations as a powerful, if insufficiently recognized, force behind these murders: “The demand for the highest possible profit, the quickest possible timeline, the cheapest possible operation, seems to translate eventually into the understanding, somewhere, that the troublemaker must go. The blame rarely if ever makes its way back up to a corporation’s HQ. But it should.” He argues that one of the key measures of global success in fighting global climate change should be a decrease in such killings.

 One piece of pending U.S. legislation that acknowledges the killing of climate activists is the Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, H.R.1574. H.R.1574 would prohibit U.S. military and police aid to Honduras until specific steps are taken to address the killing of climate activists, including:

◉The Honduran government has pursued all legal avenues to reach verdicts in the killings of Berta Cáceres and 100 small-farmer activists;

◉The Honduran government has investigated and prosecuted members of the military and police who have violated human rights;

◉The Honduran government has taken effective steps to ensure the rule of law.

This legislation is currently with the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Financial Services Committee. S-HP

If you want to take action on this issue, call on President Biden and UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield to promote Global Witness’s recommendations for connecting the intersection of the climate crisis and global human rights via the United Nations. Ask your Congressmembers what they are doing to investigate and respond to the intersection of the climate crisis and global human rights, and urge swift, positive action on H.R.1574 by the appropriate House Committees. All addresses are here.

3. California families, others, still trapped in Afghanistan

As the news cycle marches implacably on, those still stuck in Afghanistan after the precipitous US withdrawal are in danger of being forgotten. Among those are 41 Sacramento-area students, who had gone to visit family members before the Taliban takeover or who were with their families there. Some were scheduled to take flights out but were caught in the chaos after the bombing of the airport in Kabul, according to the Sacramento Bee. Sacramento is home to a large number of people from Afghanistan–almost ten thousand. 

Some San Diego families had also been stuck in Afghanistan, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune; as of early September, all but one family had escaped in what the Union-Tribune described as a harrowing process.

Others, too, are stranded in Afghanistan. Some Afghans who worked for the US and who were on lists to be brought to the US have still not been gotten out, according to CNN, particularly those who had to leave the airport when it was bombed. About 200 Ukrainians have been unable to leave; they are out of money and some need medical care, but no provision for their departure seems to have been made by Ukraine, according to Al Jazeera. An evacuation flight was permitted to leave September 19 with nationals from various countries, according to ABC News, but the coverage of both American and Canadian Afghan allies and citizens of countries elsewhere who need to leave Afghanistan and cannot is spotty. One source says that family members of Canadians are being told that no more evacuation flights are planned.

Meanwhile, nearly ten thousand Afghan refugees are in camps in Germany, waiting to be flown to their final destinations in Canada and elsewhere, CTV reports. RLS

If you are concerned about Sacramento area families who are stuck in Afghanistan, you can call the local offices of Rep. Ami Bera, D-Elk Grove and Rep. Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, the Bee suggests.Congressman Darrell Issa (R-California) worked to get San Diego families and others out; the form on his website is very informative.

4. Discrimination against Haitians seeking asylum

People around the world have been appalled by images of U.S. Border Patrol horseback units rounding up Haitian refugees in one South Texas encampment. In response, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas has suspended all use of Border Patrol horse patrols (which is not necessarily an entirely good thing, given that horse patrols—when not brutalizing asylum seekers—can perform certain kinds of rescues that are impossible on foot or by vehicle).

However, the history of relations between Haiti and the US has been problematic for centuries. In providing an outline of that history, the Associated Press points out the almost sixty-year struggle to get the US to recognize Haiti after its liberation, largely because of fears that the example of Haitian slaves rising up to fight for their freedom might inspire slaves within the U.S. After the assassination of the Haitian president in 1915, the US occupied Haiti and continued to control the country for nineteen years. Some 30,000 Haitian died during the brutal regime of Francois Duvalier, who was backed by the US. The country suffered a major earthquake in 2010 and another this year, destroying what infrastructure the country had.

  As The Guardian explains, many Haitians left to live in other countries following the 2010 earthquake, particularly in Chile and Brazil, and among those now struggling to enter the US are many who have not lived in Haiti in years and whose children born abroad don’t have Haitian citizenship. Some of these families are among the almost 2,000 people who were deported to Port-au-Prince last week. UNICEF has been tracking those deportations and estimates that 2/3 of deportees are women and children, and 40% of those deported are part of family units, reports the New York Times. The Hill reports that thousands of Haitians are being expelled from the US under Title 42, the controversial rule used extensively by the Trump administration, that grants sweeping powers to refuse entry to asylum seekers during a pandemic.

 Associated Press reporting also documents the higher rates of deportation of Haitian asylum seekers in comparison with other groups from Central America and the Caribbean. Only 4.62% percent of Haitian asylum seekers gain admittance to the US. For asylum seekers from El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Honduras, admittance rates range from 6.1% to 14.12%.

 An August piece from Reuters examines an increasing acknowledgement that many US immigration policies originate in racial bias and determination to keep the US “white.” In a ground-breaking ruling, a federal judge has determined that a policy categorizing initial undocumented entry into the US a misdemeanor, while reentry is categorized as a felony that can be punished by up to 20 years in prison was “enacted with a discriminatory purpose and… has a disparate impact on Latinx persons.” In fact, from 2008 to 2019, illegal entry and reentry have been the most prosecuted crimes in federal courts according to data from the Administrative Office of US Courts.

Reuters deems the August ruling as “a rare admission by the courts that the foundational elements of federal immigration machinery—enforcement policies we now take for granted—actually clash with Constitutional equal protection guarantees, and perpetuate a stigmatizing disparate impact on Latinos and Hispanic people.” The ruling is “a recognition that courts can and should strike down laws motivated by bias.”  In other legal news, Haitian Bridge Alliance, The UndocuBlack Network, Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI) and African Communities Together on Friday sent a letter of complaint to the Department of Homeland Security’s head of Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, according to The Grio, demanding that those who have been victimized and those who witnessed the abuse at the border be protected from deportation.

If you are interested in donating to support earthquake relief efforts, New York Magazine’s the Strategist reminds us that reporting from NPR and ProPublica found that the Red Cross—for many people a “go-to” relief organization—mismanaged aid donated after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. They urge donating to organizations already on the ground in Haiti, who have strong relationships with local communities and offer a list of suggested organizations to donate to. Charity Navigator gives the organization Hope for Haiti a four-star evaluation. S-HP

Other actions you can take include these (relevant addresses are here):

◉ Urging Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been charged with addressing US immigration policy, to speak out on the treatment of Haitian asylum seekers and calling for actions that can make a real difference in the treatment of those from the Caribbean and Central America.

◉Thanking Secretary Mayorkas for speaking out after the violence by Border Control horse patrols, but pointing that cancelling such patrols will not have the impact that investigating those responsible for them would have and urging him to take a more comprehensive approach to addressing abuse of asylum-seekers and migrants, particularly for those from regions or communities that have been subject to unfair bias in the past.

◉ Asking your Congressmembers what they are doing to address both the current treatment of Haitians seeking asylum and the racist underpinnings of present-day immigration law.

5. Benefits for those caught in “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

On September 20, the 10th anniversary of the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) announced a policy providing benefits to those who had been discharged under DADT and under previous, even more restrictive rules. In a piece for the VA blog, Kayla Williams, VA Assistant Secretary for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, writes “Today, we are… taking steps to clarify VA policy for Veterans who were given other than honorable discharges based on homosexual conduct, gender identity or HIV status. Under this newly-issued guidance, VA adjudicators shall find that all discharged service members whose separation was due to sexual orientation, gender identity or HIV status are considered ‘Veterans’ who may be eligible for VA benefits, like VR&E (Veteran Readiness and Employment), home loan guaranty, compensation and pension, health care, homeless program and/or burial benefits, so long as the record does not implicate a statutory or regulatory bar to benefits.” Williams acknowledges being bisexual and having presented as straight during the battle to repeal DADT and acknowledged that “It took many years for me to shed the toxic legacy of having served under DADT.” Williams’ blog contribution ends with a call for veterans dishonorably discharged under DADT or other homophobic rules to apply for a discharge upgrade. S-HP

You can thank President Biden and the Veterans’ Affairs Secretary for these changes in policy, President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS. Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, 1722 I Street NW, Washington DC20006, (800) 827-1000. And thank Kayla Williams for her articulate presentation of these policy changes and her personal testimony. Kayla Williams, Assistant Secretary, Veterans’ Administration Office for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, 810 Vermont Ave. NW, Washington DC 20420

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

6. Protecting Women’s Health

On September 24, the House passed H.R.3755, the Women’s Health Protection Act, which confirms that “Abortion services are essential to health care and access to these services is central to people’s ability to participate equally in the economic and social life of the United States.” H.R.3755 affirms that heath care providers have a right to provide abortion services. It also prohibits many limitations on the provision of abortion services, including requirements for specific tests or procedures that are not required for medically comparable procedures, requirements for medically unnecessary in-person visits to an abortion provider or to any entity that does not provide abortion services, and prohibitions on abortions after fetal viability if the health care provider determines that delaying the procedure poses a risk to the patient’s health. H.R.3755 empowers the Attorney General to commence civil action against any state or government official that violates the provisions of the law,  The vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act was 218-211. All 218 aye votes were cast by Democrats. 210 of the 211 nay votes were cast by Republicans, with the additional nay vote being cast by Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar of Texas. This legislation was introduced by Representative Judy Chu of California. Identical legislation, S.1975, is currently with the Senate Judiciary Committee.

If this issue is important to you, you can check how your Representative voted on H.R.3755 and thank or excoriate as appropriate. Find your Representative here. You could also tell your Senator that you are heartened by the passage of H.R.3755 and urge their support of S.1975. Call for swift, positive action on S.1975 by the Senate Judiciary Committee: Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chair, Senate Judiciary Committee, 224cDirksen Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510, (202) 224-7703. @SenatorDurbin.

RESOURCES

Are you trying to decide whether to go to an in-person event? The Canadian Institute on Ageing offers a detailed, well-grounded risk assessment tool.

Moms Rising always has clear, focused actions you can take to make change. Note in particular their suggestion to tell your Governor to stop playing politics with kids’ health. Apropos of which, note the CDC report from May that describes how masks and vaccines reduce transmission in schools.

The Americans of Conscience checklist has relaunched! They offer new actions every other week that will enable you to make your voice heard quickly and clearly. In addition, they have a good news section that will help you keep going.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has a useful FAQ about COVID-19 and the vaccines.

The World Food Programme estimates that 12.4 Syrians are food-insecure, an increase of 4.5 million over the last year. They are receiving donations for their work providing food for the most vulnerable families. The UNHCR is also requesting donations for displaced families in Syria and surrounding countries, particularly Lebanon and Turkey.

The UN Refugee Agency is requesting donations for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, especially for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people.  Not only because Afghan assets have been frozen, but because of massive inflation and the lack of funds to pay the salaries of public employees, the country is at risk of “a total breakdown of the economy and social order,” according to the UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.

The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.

News You May Have Missed: September 19, 2021

“Intravenous IV” by Twm™ is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Last week we described the other civil rights issues involved in the Texas abortion law allowed to stand by the Supreme Court–the ways it is set up to be enforced by vigilante actions; public officials are not allowed to enforce it. Vox explains why the bill was constructed the way it was: The law allows private citizens rather than officials to essentially prosecute women suspected of getting abortions after six weeks, as well as those who provide them, and anyone who assists a woman or a provider. Thus, officials cannot be sued for enforcing it. Among the dangers, Vox points out, is that if it is allowed to stand, any law could be constructed this way, putting it beyond challenge.

A striking array of corporations funded SB8, directly or indirectly. Here you’ll find mailing addresses for companies outside of Texas that have made substantial donations to the Texas legislators who sponsored SB8. And here you’ll see mailing addresses for Texas-based companies, so you can ask what they’re doing to respond to SB8. Finally, here are addresses for companies that are taking action in resistance to SB8.

DOMESTIC NEWS

1. Biden continues to deport families to Mexico

In response to a lawsuit from the ACLU, District Court judge in Washington D.C. has enjoined the Biden administration from continuing to deport families seeking asylum at the border, the Daily Mail reported on September 16. Biden has been using Title 42, the CDC policy developed under the Trump administration, to justify sending families to Mexico. Mexico, however, has become increasingly reluctant to take young children, especially those who are not Mexican, according to the Daily Mail. And the judge found in his ruling that “migrant families subjected to the policy are deprived of statutory rights to seek protection in the U.S. and ‘face real threats of violence and persecution.'”

The Biden administration almost immediately appealed the ruling, the LA Times reported. Under the ruling, the administration could still deport single adults but not families with children; at an earlier stage in the case, Biden agreed not to deport unaccompanied children.

In response to claims that unvaccinated asylum-seekers are leading to a surge in COVID-19 cases, the AP explained that in fact, unvaccinated Americans are responsible for it. Asylum applicants are tested and sent to hotels to quarantine, either through non-profit organizations or local governments. And in any case, the number of migrants with COVID is too small to be responsible for the surge in COVID cases, said the AP. As the local health officer in Hidalgo County, Texas, put it, “Is it a pandemic of the migrants? No, it is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” RLS

2. Haitians to be deported are threatened with whips–14,000 to be expelled in the next three weeks

The Biden administration has begun deporting Haitians seeking humanitarian assistance back to Haiti, despite that country’s objections. Haitian officials, according to the New York Times, say that because the already-impoverished country is coping with the assassination of its president in July and an earthquake in August, it cannot cope with those returning. 650,000 people–including 260,000 children–still need emergency assistance, the United Nations stated. Among those being deported are those whose homes were destroyed in the earthquake. The Times quoted the minister in charge of migration, Jean Negot Bonheur Delva, as saying that “’ongoing security issues’ made the prospect of resettling thousands of new arrivals hard to imagine. Haiti cannot provide adequate security or food for the returnees.” He asked the U.S. for a humanitarian moratorium. Instead, border agents on horseback charged those appealing for asylum with whips, according to the El Paso Times, and the U.S. is deporting them, many in shackles. RLS

If you would like to see the U.S. offer a humanitarian moratorium on the deportation of Haitians, let your Representative and your Senators know.

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

3. US admits it targeted the wrong man–offers no compensation

The drone strike that killed seven children, as we noted last week, had targeted the wrong person, according to a New York Times investigation. Now military officials have acknowledged that the strike targeted the wrong white Toyota Corolla, calling it a “tragic mistake,” according to the LA TImes. Zemari Ahmadi, who had for 16 years worked for a charity based in California that provides aid to farmers in Afghanistan, was killed in the attack, along with three of his children, one of his brothers, and his brother’s children. The death of Ahmadi and his family illustrate one of the problems with using drones; they tend to kill civilians, as foreign policy writer Conn Hallinan points out. 250 children were killed by drones in just the first year of the Trump administration. Heather Cox Richardson’s column for September 19 sketches the recent history of drone use and identifies the high human cost.

Left without its only breadwinner, the Ahmadi family is asking to be relocated to the US or another safe country, since they are now visible as having been connected to a US organization, according to the Washington Post. They also want those who surely could have seen that there were children in the household held accountable. They would also like headstones for the dead, which they cannot afford. A family spokesperson said that no one from the US military has contacted them. RLS

You might want to write Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees the Afghanistan operation, about relocating Ahmadi’s extended family quickly. You may want to point out that drones more often kill civilians than soldiers and terrorize local populations. @CENTCOM.

SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT

4. Anti-vaxxers happy to use expensive monoclonal antibodies

Last week we noted that monoclonal antibodies were an underused but effective treatment for mild-moderate coronavirus. We spoke too soon: the use of monoclonal antibodies has spiked. It turns out that people opposed to vaccines will take monoclonal antibodies when they get COVID, creating shortages. That is, they will accept a $2100 option after having declined the cheap, easily available vaccine, the New York Times points out. Surely non-scientists can’t know any more about what is in monoclonal antibodies than what is in the vaccine. Perhaps it is the FOG factor–the Fear of God factor–when people discover the disease is real? 

70 percent of the doses thus far have gone to patients in seven southern states, Alabama, Florida, Texas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Georgia and Louisiana, according to the Washington Post. Except for Florida, these are all states where the vaccination rates are lower than average. Monoclonal antibodies are targeted to people with significant COVID symptoms who are not yet hospitalized; they are given in an infusion which takes an hour and half of staff time. To make sure that the treatment continues to be available, the federal government just announced that it will take control of distribution, alarming some Southern governors.  RLS

5. Hospitals rationing care due to COVID explosion

Meanwhile, COVID cases in under-vaccinated states are through the roof, jamming emergency rooms and clogging ICUs, such that people with other urgent illnesses can’t be seen. An obituary for an Alabama man who had a heart attack noted that emergency staff contacted 43 emergency rooms before finding one that would take him. In Coeur d’Alene,  Idaho, where only 45% of the population has had even one shot, hospitals are running out of oxygen, and medical officers are talking about “death panels” that decide who can get treatment–real death panels, not those hallucinated by Sarah Palin to whip up opposition to the Affordable Care Act, according to the Seattle Times. In Canada, Alberta Premier Jason Kenny says the province could be out of ICU beds by September 27, according to the CBC, and will have to ration care. Kenny issued a tepid apology for ignoring the advice of public health officials, who had urged that the province not reopen early in the summer, CTV reported on Sunday. RLS

6. Profit or the Planet?

Warnings about the pace and trajectory of global climate change are growing more urgent. One of the latest comes from the U.N., which notes that while we need to cut emissions by 45% no later than 2030, actual emissions are projected to increase by 16% over that time period. Bottom line: “we” are making an irreversible decision to prioritize profit over planet. And, a corollary to that point is that profit will have to become less lucrative or much more difficult to obtain if we want to build momentum to change the fate of our planet. That means not just looking at new, cleaner sources of energy, but also making dirty energy more costly and difficult to produce—and making sure that all possible actors are taking on that challenge.

Case in point: the U.S. Treasury. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is currently reviewing ways federal banking regulators could protect our financial system from climate-related risks, the Washington Post notes. Yellin’s current approach is cautious—focusing on making corporations acknowledge the greenhouse gas emissions for which they are responsible and the risks these pose for investors. However, acknowledgement alone doesn’t guarantee any change in emissions output. For this reason, environmental advocates are urging Yellen to go further and use federal regulatory powers to mitigate climate change by, for example, making it more difficult for Wall Street banks to make loans to corporations that are major emitters of greenhouse gases. As Alexis Goldstein, an Open Markets financial expert, explained to the BBC, “Climate risk impacts all the firms that the financial regulators supervise. As a convener of regulators, Treasury needs to do more than acknowledge it—it should urge each financial regulator to use every tool at its disposal to tackle climate risks.” S-HP

You can add your voice to this conversation and urge Secretary Yellen to use the full range of her powers to slow global climate change; explain that fewer profits for some are needed now, if we’re to have a livable planet in the future. Janet Yellin, Secretary of the Treasury, Department of Treasury, 1500 Pennsylvania NW 20220, (202) 622-2000. @SecYellen

7. Communities with more white people receive more money to improve water quality

An analysis released last month by the Environmental Policy Innovation Center (EPIC) has determined that over the past decade, very little money from the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Drinking Water State Revolving Fund program has gone to smaller, more diverse communities. Plus, state release of these funds tends to favor loans over grants. While states can use up to 35% of funds from the program for grants and other cost reducing or eliminating strategies, nationally only 26% of funds are being spent that way, which reduces impoverished communities’ opportunities to improve drinking water infrastructure.

E&E reporting on the study cites a statement by Katy Hansen, senior water adviser at EPIC and a co-author of the study, who says that “[the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund is] a $45 billion program that’s been going for over 20 years, and there hasn’t yet been a wide-scale analysis that we’re aware of, of how the money is spent.” While poorer communities are receiving funds, funding among poorer communities shows significant racial disparities. Statistically speaking, the greater the proportion of Whites within a particular impoverished community, the more likely that community is to receive funding. S-HP

If you want to address this issue, you can ask the EPA what steps they are taking to address the biases found in EPIC’s study. Michael S. Regan, Director, Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania NW. 20460, (202) 564-4700. @EPAMichaelRegan

You can also alert your Congressmembers to the EPIC study’s findings, provide the internet site at which it can be viewed, and ask what actions they can take to support more equitable distribution of drinking water funds. Find your Senators here and your Representative here.

RESOURCES

Moms Rising always has clear, focused actions you can take to make change. Note in particular their suggestion to tell your Governor to stop playing politics with kids’ health. Apropos of which, note the CDC report from May that describes how masks and vaccines reduce transmission in schools.

The Americans of Conscience checklist has relaunched! They offer new actions every other week that will enable you to make your voice heard quickly and clearly. In addition, they have a good news section that will help you keep going.

The American Medical Association (AMA) has a useful FAQ about COVID-19 and the vaccines.

The World Food Programme estimates that 12.4 Syrians are food-insecure, an increase of 4.5 million over the last year. They are receiving donations for their work providing food for the most vulnerable families. The UNHCR is also requesting donations for displaced families in Syria and surrounding countries, particularly Lebanon and Turkey.

The UN Refugee Agency is requesting donations for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, especially for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people.  Not only because Afghan assets have been frozen, but because of massive inflation and the lack of funds to pay the salaries of public employees, the country is at risk of “a total breakdown of the economy and social order,” according to the UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan.

Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.

Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.

The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.

The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.