NYMHM for 2 Sep 2018

#newsyoumayhavemissed for September 2, 2018. It’s another crazy day in the neighborhood: Mr. Rogers would be appalled. News You May Have Missed tries to help you stay oriented with some labor stories below, as well as more critical news of the border and Trump’s machinations around Canada and NAFTA—so ironic, given the vehement opposition to NAFTA in Canada when it was first negotiated. A couple of the science stories will cheer you up.



1. Labor Day round-up

Victory for Unions

A large section of the Trump administration’s new policy to restrict the role of federal employee unions was struck down by U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. In particular, Trump had tried to eliminate “official time,” the right of union representatives to handle grievances during their regular work hours, reduce the scope of issues over which unions could bargain, and to cut back the rights of workers to appeal poor performance evaluations. The judge found that the policies would have interfered with collective bargaining. As she put it, “the collective bargaining process is not a cutthroat death match.”

Federal Workers pay freeze

Raising concerns about “our nation’s fiscal situation,” Trump cancelled 2.1% pay raises for almost two million federal workers. The American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, arguing that the pay cuts undermines employees’ right to collectively bargain. [Politico]

Days later, Common Dreams points out, Trump proposed another $100 billion (with a “b”) tax cut for the rich, indexing capital gains to inflation—a cut which would benefit the richest of the rich.

2. Parents were “coerced” to waive rights to reunification

Immigrant parents were manipulated into signing forms relinquishing their right to reunite with their children, using methods that were unethical and abusive, according to a lawsuit filed by the American Immigration Council and American Immigration Lawyers Association. Initially, the forms were only in English. Some officials refused to tell parents that they had a right to an attorney. Still others brought families into a room, gave them the forms, and took away the children of those who refused to sign. Some parents report having been told that they would never see their children again if they did not sign the forms. [NPR]

3. Citizenship on the border

Hundreds—perhaps even thousands—of citizens along the US southern border are having their passports questioned or revoked; they are being accused of having fraudulent birth certificates as a result of having been delivered by midwives, as is common in Latina communities. (A midwife in the 1990s admitted to having provided false documentation in two cases.) Some have been jailed under deportation proceedings; others have been stuck in Mexico, their passports revoked. Legal fees to have their passports restored and their citizenship affirmed are prohibitive for many people

The State Department has denied that passport revocations are increasing, but as Snopes points out, both the Washington Post investigation and interviews with immigration attorneys confirm the surge. The ACLU is considering a lawsuit. [Snopes, Washington Post]

4. Children’s right to eat a fatty, sugary school lunch

Free or low-cost lunches for poor children became healthier as a result of Michelle Obama’s advocacy; lunches were required to be under particular calorie and sodium limits, and had to have a percentage of whole grains. The “Local Control of School Lunch Act” would eliminate these restrictions; advocates argue that fewer children participated in the program because nutrition requirements led to price increases. 18.5% of children and adolescents are obese, opponents of the measure point out.

5. Betsy DeVos: No bathroom access for transgender students

Betsy DeVos has refused to permit investigations into instances in which transgender students have been denied bathrooms, and has rejected complaints brought by five students. [Politico]


6. Trump to dump NAFTA if Congress insists on including Canada

The Trump administration developed a preliminary trade agreement with Mexico, leaving out Canada. While negotiations to include Canada have begun, they may well not succeed by Trump’s deadline. Congressional leaders have said they will not agree to a trade agreement that does not include Canada, but Trump has said he will dismantle NAFTA entirely if they block it. It is not clear that he has the legal authority to do so.

Meanwhile, Trump apparently made disparaging remarks about Canada in an off-the-record moment to a Bloomberg reporter. A Toronto Star reporter got ahold of the remarks and published them, to Trump’s chagrin. Trump said that any deal with Canada would be on his own terms and that he would not compromise; he said that he regularly threatened Canada with imposing tariffs on Canadian-made cars. Prime Minister Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland declined to comment, as is their wont. [The Star, Slate, New Yorker, WaPo]

7. Ending aid to Palestinians, promoting terror.

Last week, the Trump administration cut $200 million in development aid to Palestinians; on Friday, Trump cut an additional $300 million from aid to Palestinian refugees, aid administered by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. The UNRWA accuses the U.S. of making the cuts in support of Israel’s position that the UNRWA advocates for Palestinians’ “right of return.” Spokespeople for the Palestinian authority point out that the American decision will strengthen the hand of terrorists. [The Star]


8. California to pass most aggressive laws in country mandating carbon free energy.

California Senate Bill 100 passed on Wednesday, August 29th and is now heading for the Governor’s desk; it is expected to be signed into law. The bill requires that all electrical utilities supplying power in the state obtain their energy via carbon-neutral means by 2045, and that 60% of all electricity be carbon neutral by 2030. In addition lawmakers cut out a huge potential loophole and mandated that all energy supplied to California from other states also be carbon neutral, eliminating the possibility of essentially pushing the state’s pollution onto neighboring states with less regulation. [Ars Technica]

9. CRISPR gene therapy holds promise to cure one form of muscular dystrophy

A researcher at the University of Texas Southwestern medical center has been working with CRISPR gene editing techniques to combat mutations in a type of segment of DNA (called an exon) in mice and human heart cells, specifically mutations linked to the disease muscular dystrophy. Of the nine types of muscular dystrophy, one, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy or DMD, afflicts approximately 300,000 people worldwide and strikes during childhood, leading to catastrophic loss of muscle tissue resulting in death.

Dogs also get a form of this type of muscular dystrophy; researcher Eric Olsen selected a line of dogs whose male line often develops the disease, giving four beagles a modified virus engineered to deliver the CRISPR editing enzyme to correct the disease-causing mutation in the dog’s DNA. The results have been dramatic: the method restored 92% of function to the dogs’ heart tissue and 58% to diaphragm muscles; indeed every muscle group saw significant improvement with the exception of the tongue. While this is early in development, it looks to be among the most promising avenues for treatment of this terrible disease. [Smithsonian]

10. Medical researchers alarmed by China withholding necessary flu samples

For years researchers all over the world have operated under an agreement under the World Health Organization to share biological samples of emerging diseases so as to facilitate the development of new treatments and monitor outbreaks. For the last year, however, China has refused to supply samples of a deadly strain of bird flu called H7N9 to U.S. labs, potentially leaving the world less prepared for a global outbreak. Cooperation appears to have stopped as trade tensions between the two countries rose under the Trump administration, and this sort of brinkmanship has been criticized as being very dangerous, as influenza strains mutate quickly and can cause huge loss of life in a pandemic. [Ars Technica]