NYMHM for 12 Aug 2018

#newsyoumayhavemissed (August 12) editors were relieved to find a few scraps of good news on the horizon—see our story on campaign financing and our immigration round-up (as well as the lawsuit against Monsanto, speaking of Roundup!). Then our friend Sarah-Hope, source of multiple opportunities for activism, alerted us to a site which focuses on good news, much of it originating in the judiciary. She has also posted a new list of people to write and call, if you are inclined to make change. And Martha has another great list of public entities inviting comment; you can weigh in on Reality Winner’s sentencing, the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, clean water, transgender rights…be heard! Finally, you’ll want to read about the earthquake in Indonesia and see the list of ways to help—see the news links.


1. Immigration roundup

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has prohibited the Trump administration from withholding federal funds from two Sanctuary Cities, as a result of a lawsuit filed by San Francisco and Santa Clara. The 2/1 decision held that withholding funds violated the principle of separation of powers. [Curbed SF]

Some weeks ago, we reported that the army had systematically discharged hundreds of legal immigrant recruits; over 10,000 of them are serving in the armed forces under a naturalization program set up after 9/11 and 110,000 have received citizenship through that process. The AP, who broke that story, reports that for now, the Army has stopped discharging immigrants.

A federal judge in D.C., upon hearing that a woman and her daughter were being deported to El Salvador at the very moment that their case was being heard, required that the plane bring them back, under threat of contempt against Attorney General Jeff Sessions. [NY Times]

As a result of the ACLU lawsuit, the government now has a plan to reunite deported parents with their children, and they have contact information for all but 26 of them. They do not have the option to reunite in the U.S., however; they must either receive their children in their home countries or relinquish them to stay in the U.S. [Mother Jones]

The government has apparently had these phone numbers for over a month and declined to turn them over to the ACLU, which could have been in contact with the parents and worked on arranging for reunification all this time. [Yahoo]

The Center for Investigative Reporting revealed that children separated from their parents were sent to a youth detention center where three children already had died under poor conditions. Children were sexually and physically abused by caretakers. [Reveal]

Meanwhile, twenty million legal immigrants would be unable to obtain citizenship under new policies being developed by the Trump administration. Any immigrant who has used any public benefit, including healthcare under the Affordable Care Act, would be ineligible. In addition, any Green Card holder who had committed any kind of offense, could have their immigration status revoked. Some immigration attorneys are advising those with Green Cards not to apply for citizenship, in case a background check should reveal a problem. [NBC]

2. Corruption follow-up

In our corruption roundup of July 15, we reported on commerce secretary Wilbur Ross and his partial ownership of Chinese state-owned enterprises, a shipping company tied to Russian oligarchs, and an auto parts player with a stake in Commerce’s trade policy decisions.

Forbes now reports that private equity manager David Storper brought a lawsuit against Ross (who was Storper’s former boss) three years ago in New York State regarding $4 million he says Ross stole from him. Two weeks ago, they came to a private settlement, so now there will be no court judgment and no publicized details about whether or not Ross is guilty of this particular theft. Forbes dug around, and found over $120 million in further lawsuits and reimbursements, plus an SEC fine. They state:

If even half of the accusations are legitimate, the current United States secretary of commerce could rank among the biggest grifters in American history.

3. Water for firefighting: the real agenda

In other Wilbur Ross news, he ordered the National Marine Fisheries Service to “facilitate access to the water” for firefighting, instead of using it to protect endangered species, even though the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection says they don’t need any more water, since the wildfires are next to existing reservoirs. A 2016 McClatchy article indicates this weird water directive may be a roundabout way of delivering to Devin Nunes water he promised California farmers. [Axios, NBC, McClatchy]

4. Investigations into Ryan Zinke—14 of them

In more corruption news, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) outlines 14 federal investigations into Ryan Zinke’s behavior since he became Interior Secretary in March 2017.

5. Chris Collins—indicted, campaign suspended

GOP incumbent Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY-27) is being indicted on charges of insider trading. [CNBC] Collins is on the board of directors of an Australian pharmaceutical company. The indictment states that he replied to an email from the CEO about a failed drug trial, and his phone records show that six minutes later he spoke to his son, who sold his shares and passed the information along to family who also sold their shares, all before the information was made public. There’s archival footage of him on his cell phone at the June 2017 White House Congressional Picnic at the time records show him talking to his son. [CBS] His son’s fiancée and her mother have settled with the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) [Buffalo News].

Collins has said he will serve out the remainder of his term but has suspended his election campaign.[ABC] New York already held their federal primary, so he may not be able to be replaced on the ballot due to New York’s arcane election regulations. The Democrat running against him is Nate McMurray [Mother Jones profile].

6. Campaign financing victory

Some good news in campaign financing: U.S. District Court judge Beryl A. Howell has ruled against a Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulation which allows anonymous donations to dark-money groups. “The challenged regulation facilitates such financial ‘routing,’ blatantly undercuts the congressional goal of fully disclosing the sources of money flowing into federal political campaigns,” Howell wrote. The FEC has 45 days to come up with interim regulations which force these groups to disclose donors, and 30 days to reconsider a previous decision in which they dismissed a complaint against Crossroads GPS. Crossroads may file an appeal, and if their commissioners are unanimous in doing so, so could the FEC. [Politico]

7. Election round-up

See our friend Chrysosmon’s election round-up, newly updated.


8. Hundreds dead, hundreds of thousands displaced in Indonesian earthquake

At least 321 people have died and 270,000 are displaced following a 6.9 magnitude earthquake in Lombok, Indonesia; a 6.2 magnitude aftershook followed. Relief agencies warn of an impending humanitarian crisis, as food, medicine and assistance cannot be gotten to remote areas and many children have been orphaned, according to Denise Graab, the Californian wife of an indigenous Sasak man originally from Praya, Lombok”; 75 per cent of buildings in northern Lombok, where the quake was centered, were destroyed. In addition, tourism, on which the economies of some of the islands away from the epicenter depend, is at risk. [CNN, Guardian, Reuters]

If you want to help, Graab tells us that the Red Cross is getting supplies in but that local organizations are more nimble. Project Karma, which focuses on child trafficking, is now doing relief work as well, and the Jakarta Post has a list of recommended local organizations. See the comments. Graab writes: “Project Karma has Western sophistication blended with local/grassroots connections and respect for local villages/people/culture without allowing injustice from ‘tradition’ or ‘the way it’s been.’” She recommends one crowd-funding site in particular; see “justgiving.”

Good Earth Global recommends strategies for rebuilding inexpensive earthquake-safe one-story homes in earthquake zones: see Engineering for Change.

9. Saudi Arabia and Canada dispute over human rights

Canada raised questions about Saudi Arabia’s detention of human rights activists and asked advocated for the release of arrested women’s rights activists. Saudi Arabia is responding by suspending new investment and trade with Canada, ordering banks to sell their Canadian assets, recalling their ambassador and asking Canada’s ambassador to leave, canceling scholarships for thousands of Saudi students currently studying in Canada and insisting that patients receiving medical treatment in Canada come home. The damage to Canadian hospitals could be considerable, once new residents are scheduled to start work September 1. [Business Insider, CNBC, Newsweek] Putin has sided with Saudi Arabia, according to a Saudi news source, while the US has declined to take a side. [Al Arabiya, AFP, CNBC]

10. 383,000 people displaced due to flooding in the Philippines

Metro Manila, nearby Rizal province, and other areas of the Philippines’ Luzon Island have flooded due to days of heavy rainfall, displacing about 383,000 people. The rain is expected to continue until Monday, and to be enhanced by tropical cyclone Karding/Yagi. So far no deaths have been reported. This is after widespread monsoon-related flooding in July. Authorities are warning of possible flash floods and landslides in the rest of the Philippines on Monday. [Rappler, Xinhua, PhilStar]


11. Ojibwe bands challenge Enbridge pipeline

On July 15, we wrote about the Enbridge Line 3 crude oil pipeline in Minnesota, which still has months of regulatory scrutiny to undergo.

An update: four Ojibwe bands (Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians and White Earth Band of Ojibwe) filed a challenge this past week with the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The environmental groups Honor the Earth and Friends of the Headwaters also filed appeals. The appeals say the state utility’s environmental impact statement minimized indigenous peoples’ concerns, ignored alternatives, and didn’t study the impact of an oil spill in Lake Superior.

A fifth tribe, the Leech Lake band, prefers a new pipeline over continued use of the old pipeline, which is corroding.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune states:

Line 3, along with five other Enbridge pipelines, cross both the Leech Lake and Fond du Lac reservations on the way to Superior, Wis. As currently proposed, Enbridge’s new Line 3 wouldn’t cross any reservations, but it would traverse land where the tribes claim treaty rights to hunt, fish and gather.

12. EPA permitting asbestos in products

As of June 1st, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is allowing asbestos into new products. About 40,000 people die every year from asbestos-related ailments. Russian mining company Uralasbestis IS stamping pallets of its asbestos products with Donald Trump’s face. [The Architect’s Newspaper/The Guardian]

13. Monsanto ordered to pay 289 million in damages for cancer causing herbicide

Global agri-chemical giant Monsanto produces the popular herbicide ‘Roundup’ which contains chemicals called glyphosates, linked in some studies to cancer. A California jury on Friday awarded 289 million in damageS, the vast majority of it punitive damages, to a former school groundskeeper suffering from terminal cancer. The verdict avoided the conflicting studies regarding glyphosates and instead asserted that his illness was caused by the interactions between the glycophates’ active ingredient and other chemicals contained within the herbicide. There are very few studies examining these complicated chemical interactions; Monsanto as well as its parent company Bayer have said they will appeal the verdict and that their product is safe. [Ars Technica, Common Dreams]

14. Blue light such as from phone and computer displays contributes to blindness

A study by the University of Toledo has found that blue wavelength light–which is commonly radiated from flat screen displays on computer monitors and smart phones, as well as contained in natural sunlight–contributes to photoreceptor cell death via a chemical reaction with a substance necessary for vision. Retinal is a compound produced by the human eye that is necessary for photoreceptors to detect light and send visual signals to the brain; however, when retinal is exposed to blue light, it breaks down into a toxic mix that leads to cell death. Once photoreceptor cells are dead, they cannot be replaced or repaired. The reaction is such that shining blue light on a photoreceptor cell without retinal present did not damage the cell, nor did retinal without blue light lead to damage: it requires both. Cell death is not unique to photoreceptor cells, as a large number of other cell types were supplied with retinal and exposed to blue light and they too died. It’s hoped that better understanding of this interaction can lead to treatment options to slow down age-related macular degeneration. Blue light blockers can be obtained on-line for your computer and built in to your prescription glasses.