#newsyoumayhavemissed for August 19 has an extensive immigration round-up and some important science news. In case you’re new to this page, our mission (impossible) is to track significant stories that have gotten insufficient coverage and to bring context to stories that have been reduced to headlines. We appreciate all those who write these significant stories—e.g., the Center for Public Integrity, below.
- Jen Hofmann’s Americans of Conscience checklist is up.
- Sarah-Hope’s list of people to write to hector and praise for August 10 is still viable; a new list will be posted next week.
- Chrysostom is also away this week; we’ll post his page in the resource links once he updates election news.
- Take a look at Martha’s list of places to comment—on Reality Winner’s sentencing, endangered species, fracking, for-profit colleges, and more.
1. Accountable Capitalism
Elizabeth Warren has proposed The Accountable Capitalism Act, which would require corporations making more than $1 billion in revenue per year to change their primary focus from maximizing profit to considering the public good. One of her requirements would be “co-determination,” that a percentage of seats on boards of directors be elected by employees rather than shareholders. [WSJ]
Vox states her rationale:
if corporations are going to have the legal rights of persons, they should be expected to act like decent citizens who uphold their fair share of the social contract and not act like sociopaths whose sole obligation is profitability — as is currently conventional in American business thinking.
NYMHM observes that a Republican-led Congress would never pass such a bill, but this may become a talking point for Democrats in 2020.
2. Trump’s “advisors” on veterans’ issues
For the past two years, President Trump has been forcing the head of Veterans Affairs to listen to the ideas of three members of his Mar-a-Lago golf resort. They have no relevant experience or official title. Marvel Entertainment Chair Isaac Perlmutter, his doctor Bruce Moskowitz, and Moskowitz’s squash partner Marc Sherman, have been instrumental in the push for privatization of veteran health care, and in David Shulkin’s dismissal from his position as Secretary of Veterans Affairs. [ProPublica/WaPo/NYMag]
3. Dept. of Agriculture, Institute of Food and Agriculture reorganizing: impact on employees and policy
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture are being reorganized, forcing hundreds of federal employees to decide between relocating and taking a buyout, in the next year. The ERS will also report to Agriculture Secretary Perdue’s office. Government Executive notes, “The White House proposed slashing the Economic Research Service budget nearly in half in the president’s fiscal 2019 budget. It proposed cutting the National Institute of Food and Agriculture budget a comparatively modest 8 percent.” The USDA’s ERS says their mission is to “anticipate trends and emerging issues in agriculture, food, the environment, and rural America and to conduct high-quality, objective economic research to inform and enhance public and private decision making.” [Union of Concerned Scientists]
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been ordered by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide which can damage human nervous systems. The EPA was working on a ban under Obama, but that work was reversed when Trump took office. [Sacramento Bee]
NYMHM notes that studying the impact of Trump’s tariff war and environmentally-destructive policies on agriculture will be much more difficult with these organizations in disarray.
4. Immigration news round-up
(a) ICE intimidating reporters
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is intimidating reporters and using bureaucracy to deny them access to detainees, according to the Columbia Journalism Review.
(b) DACA in danger
Federal courts in California, New York, and Washington, D.C. have issued injunctions requiring Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to remain in place, despite the Trump administration’s decision to end the program. DACA currently has about 704,000 enrollees.
A Texas judge and George W. Bush appointee, District Judge Andrew Hanen, who has previously ruled against a similar program for immigrant parents, is hearing arguments from 10 states saying DACA is unconstitutional. Hanen is expected to order the government to shut down DACA, in defiance of the opposing court orders from other courts. The Supreme Court may be asked to come back from its summer recess to rule on the case, and with eight justices, a tie is probable.
Meanwhile, a DC judge ruled on August 17 that the government had to continue accepting and processing DACA renewals but did not have to accept new applications. [Buzzfeed, Center for American Progress, Vox, Chicago Sun-Times, memorandum, order]
(c) Rule change for legal immigrants
Putting the lie to their claims that the crackdown on immigration is only about legality, the Trump administration is changing the rules so that legal immigrants who have participated in government programs like Obamacare may no longer be eligible for citizenship. [NBC]
(d) Federal arrests of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record have tripled under Trump
In contrast to previous policies to focus enforcement efforts on undocumented immigrants who have committed crimes, under the Trump administration, law-abiding but undocumented immigrants are being arrested while going about their daily lives, an NBC News analysis of Immigration and Customs Enforcement data showed. Arrests of immigrants without criminal records have increased 203% while arrests of those with criminal records have increased only 18%. [NYMag]
(e) Arrests at the border indicate that splitting up families had not had the deterrent effect expected.
No fewer families crossed the border in July, despite Trump’s policy of separating families; conditions in their homelands must lead them to conclude that the attempt is worth the risk. Fewer families presented themselves at crossings where they could request asylum without illegally entering the country, perhaps because many had been turned away. [WaPo]
(f) Van of separated mothers crashed
ICE is now admitting that one of their vans crashed while full of mothers separated from their children, after twice denying to journalists that the crash had occurred. The van was towed, and nobody was taken to the hospital, though the Texas Observer notes:
The mothers said they refused to go to the hospital because they feared it would delay or prevent them from being reunified with their children.
(g) CEOs want immigration policies eased
On August 8, Politico reported that Trump met with CEOs who pressured him to soften immigration policies. “Trump yelled over to Chris Liddell, a deputy chief of staff in attendance, and told him to prepare an executive order for Monday that would allow top performers in schools, who he called ‘first in their class,’ to stay in the country for at least five years on a visa.” Monday would have been August 13, but as of August 17, the White House website lists no executive orders for the week.
(h) Immigration raids target workers and employers
Immigration raids in Minnesota and Nebraska on August 8th resulted in more than 130 immigration arrests and “17 business owners and managers indicted for fraud, wire fraud and money laundering,” according to the Star Tribune. NYMHM notes that arresting undocumented immigrants does not stop shady businesses from mistreating their workers, which was the rationale for these raids, but only allows those shady businesses to threaten their workers with deportation if they complain. Amnesty for the workers would be a more effective solution. [Star Tribune, Buzzfeed]
(i) Tying kids to chairs is not abuse
The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice has concluded that the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center is not legally guilty of neglect or abuse of their detainee residents, despite strapping the teenagers to chairs and putting mesh bags over their heads. [AP]
(j) Hurry up, says Sessions
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered immigration judges to speed up their handling of deportation cases to reduce the backlog. Judges should issue continuances only for “just cause,” he decreed. [VOA]
(k) Keeping immigrant children safe from traffickers and ICE
Who is responsible for unaccompanied immigrant children after the Office of Refugee Resettlement places them into homes with sponsors? HHS says they’re not responsible. The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations started an investigation in 2015 after they learned that HHS had given eight children to sponsors who turned out to be human traffickers. [ABC (1, 2)] NYMHM notes that we may actually not want federal authorities to track immigrant children closely, which can put whole communities at risk, but their care might be formally turned over to state-level agencies, who currently don’t appear to be kept in the loop.
(l) Plan to reunite children
The ACLU and the government are developing a plan to reunite children with their parents. 541 children are still separated from their parents in addition to 24 under age five. Some of these children had crossed illegally with their parents while the parents of others had requested asylum, a legal process. A new element of the plan would require the government to arrange transportation for the children to their parents, once located; however, the government has refused to allow parents to return to the U.S. to collect their children and continue with their asylum claims. [Reuters]
(m) Invasive body searches challenged in lawsuits
The Center for Public Integrity is tracking 11 lawsuits in which women—and two minor girls—legally entering the country allege that they were subjected to invasive body searches—including pelvic exams in front of others, xrays, and hospitalizations for which they were billed–by border patrol officials. [WaPo]
(5) US implicated in Saudi bombing of children in Yemen
The U.S. may have refueled the plane, and provided the munitions for an August 9th Saudi bombing in Yemen which killed 44 children. The U.S. does sell weapons worth billions of dollars, and provides intelligence as well as refueling to bombers, to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. On August 13, President Trump signed a defense policy bill requiring Secretary of State Pompeo to certify that the two countries are making efforts to prevent civilian deaths; if he can’t, then the U.S. will stop refueling Saudi and Emirati aircraft.
Later that night, the White House issued a signing statement claiming that 51 of the bill’s statutes, including the Yemen requirement, are, according to the NYT, “unconstitutional intrusions on his presidential powers, meaning that the executive branch need not enforce or obey them as written.” Also included in the statutes he claims he can ignore: a ban on spending money on recognition of “the sovereignty of the Russian Federation over Crimea” and a requirement to maintain the number of active-duty troops in South Korea. [NYT (1, 2)/WaPo/Defense News]
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
(6) Complete genome for wheat finally unraveled.
The long running project to map the genetic code of wheat has been completed, paving the way for tailored crops to cope with changing environmental conditions. Lagging far behind corn and rice, which were deciphered in 2009 and 2002, wheat’s genome is famously complicated, owing to ancient interbreeding among three different species of grasses in its 500,000 year history. These three ancestors of bread wheat each contributed two chromosomes resulting in wheat being hexaploid, containing six copies of its chromosomes, and with a pool of genetic information five times larger than human DNA. It will take many more years to comb through the information to find which sequences are repetitive duplicates and which contribute to desirable traits like pest and salt resistance. One fifth of all calories consumed by human beings comes from wheat, and it is the single largest protein source. [Ars Technica]
(7) US Telecoms are NOT utilities, unless subsidies are involved
In an argument breathtaking in its gall, two trade organizations representing broadband providers ranging in size from AT&T to small rural carriers have made a case that broadband service is a necessary service in line with water, electricity and sewer utility services and should therefore be subsidized by taxpayers. This is astounding as all major ISPs have for years fought back, recently successfully, the idea that they should be governed as utilities and regulated as common carriers as they were under the Obama FCC. Regulating ISPs as common carriers was the legal mechanism that allowed the FCC to enforce immensely popular net neutrality rules. The only conclusion one can come to is that ISPs want all the benefits of being a public utility without any of the compromises in the interest of the public good. [Ars Technica]
(8) Decline in copper prices could be canary in the coal mine for global economy
World copper prices have dropped 20% since June, alarming many economists who follow the commodity as a leading indicator of the health of the global economy. Copper is a useful index because unlike gold, whose pricing is based more on speculative, psychological and marketing pressures, copper is used across several industries as a necessary material. It’s hard to imagine automobiles, heavy equipment, electronics or construction trades growing without a corresponding increase in use (and therefore higher price) of copper. The reverse is also true; if industries are buying less copper because they anticipate or are getting fewer orders for goods, the price of the metal falls. Copper joins a variety of indicators warning that the global economy may be heading for a significant downturn. [phys.org]