#newsyoumayhavemissed suspects that after the events of this week, you may want to become more active and informed. Note the various possibilities in the Resources section for actions you can take. Don’t be overwhelmed—just pick a few. And to get informed, start with the NY Times story on Trump’s tax shenanigans vis a vis his father’s wealth; it confirms everything you might have suspected—and more.
- If you would like to help those whose lives were devastated in Palu, Indonesia (see story below), Denise Graab—a friend of News You May Have Missed who has family connections to Indonesia—says that she can vouch for this fundraiser, Palu Love. It is being run by friends of hers who will take contributions directly to those who need it most.
- Inclined to object to the warehousing of separated children in a south Texas tent city? Believe you shouldn’t be fined for protesting on public lands? Think US weapons should not be used to bomb Yemen? Sarah-Hope’s list of people to write has meticulous summaries of issues along with contact information for decision-makers. See the second link in the Resources comments.
- Martha, who sorts through the many invitations for public comment and recommends the most important, posts a google doc with various options. It includes a petition to impeach Kavanaugh. See the story below.
- Our colleague Chrysostom has a new list of election-related news.
- Finally, it’s a particularly good week to start following the Americans of Conscience checklist.
- If you would like to send a thank you card to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford:
c/o Palo Alto University
1791 Arastradero Rd
Palo Alto CA 94304
1. Indonesia devastated by earthquake, tsunami
Many thousands of people may have died in the city of Palu, Indonesia, where 821 deaths have already been confirmed. The area was hit by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, followed by a tsunami. The city is devastated, in desperate need of food, water and medical aid. Rescue efforts are still being carried out mostly by hand, as people are trapped in the wreckage. One of the causes of the catastrophe appears to be that the tsunami warning was lifted too soon. The Washington Post had a piece on Saturday the 6th on how multiple conditions added to the disaster and why all the preparation the country had done did not save Palu.
Adding to the tragedy, Palu has been the center of activism in support of those who survived Indonesia’s violent persecution in the mid-sixties of those alleged to be communists. Elsewhere in the country, survivors remain marginalized. Some of those active on behalf of survivors have not yet been accounted for. [NY Times, The Conversation, The Guardian, Washington Post]
2. Shock troops in Mexico assault student protestors
For decades, student protestors in Mexico have been besieged by goon squads, called “porros,” as we reported a month or so ago, squads comprised of other students whom local authorities recruit to terrorize protestors. Now Nidia Bautista, a free-lancer, has produced a full story on the issue, noting that incoming president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has promised to stop the porros but has not indicated how he will do so. [Latin Dispatch]
3. Canada still in the fold
Canada was not after all left out of the new trade deal, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), which is slated to replace NAFTA. Not yet clear is the damage it might do. Canadian farmers say they will surely suffer, as they encounter foreign competition and disruption to their production schedules. Auto manufacturing seems to have been protected, and Canadians should benefit from lower customs charges, which have until now undermined on-line shopping. Canada agreed to lengthen patent protection for new drugs to ten years—an extension which will likely increase prices for consumers and provinces. Of great importance to producers of Canadian content and French language programming; the NAFTA language protecting it appears to be unchanged. [Globe & Mail, CBC, WaPo]
4. Trump’s riches came from tax scams
Far from being a self-made billionaire, Trump got wealthy through a combination of $431 million given to him by his father and a series of tax scams he set up to help his parents dodge real estate taxes and take deductions that they were not entitled to. These strategies reduced the taxes he had to pay when their money was transferred to him. In the course of making the transfers, his parents saved about $500 million in taxes, since in one transfer alone, they paid only about 5% of what they would have owed, all this according to a vast investigation by the New York Times. (A lawyer for Trump says that the Times’ assertions are false and defamatory.) The investigation was based on interviews with Trump’s father’s employees, tens of thousands of pages of documents, and Trump’s father’s tax returns. The whole story is astonishing, very much worth reading. [NY Times]
5. LGBTQ visa denials—and where to write
As we noted last week, the Trump administration has begun denying visas to the unmarried same-sex partners of U.N. diplomats. Only 12% of U.N. member states have legalized same sex marriage, which makes this requirement a burden to many. Even if couples were to marry in the U.S. and become thereby able to stay together, they would risk criminal prosecution when they return to their home countries. [The Hill, NY Times]
If you find this policy troublesome, Sarah-Hope has a list of whom to write—in the Resources links.
6. Water Protector partly blinded by sheriff arrested
A Standing Rock activist shot in the eye by a sheriff’s deputy is now being prosecuted for “criminal trespass and obstruction of a government function,” charges which carry a two-year jail sentence. Marcus Mitchell, then a mechanical engineering student at the University of Arizona, is now blind in one eye and has hearing loss. After the injury, he was shackled to his bed, interrogated while in pain and on medication, and deprived for days of contact with his family. [The Guardian] About his ordeal, Mitchell said:
I don’t want my grandchildren to live in a world that’s barren and dead. I want them to live in a world that’s fertile and full of water. I don’t want to tell my grandchildren that I did nothing.
7. Homeland Security critical of ICE facility
A California ICE facility owned by GEO (which contributed $250,000 to President Donald J. Trump’s inauguration) has been criticized by Homeland Security for lack of medical care, inappropriate segregation, excessive discipline, and inadequate facilities for disabled inmates. A suicide and a number of suicide attempts have been attributed to conditions there. According to Freedom for Immigrants, an organization that advocates for detainees, the population in the huge facility includes “asylum seekers, victims of human trafficking, legal permanent residents (who’ve been placed in detention for some reason) and other immigrants.” [Center for Public Integrity (1, 2)]
8. No protection in/for wildlife areas
Managers of wildlife refuges will no longer have law enforcement authority under a new policy announced by the Trump administration. They will no longer be able to carry firearms and will not be able to enforce regulations, right at the time when some of these same refuges are being opened to hunting and fishing. Damage to the environment and wildlife will likely result, according to wildlife managers themselves. [The Hill]
9. Confirmation hearings galvanized protest
Over a thousand people took over the Senate office building on Thursday and over a hundred were arrested; demonstrators carried banners reading “We believe Christine Blasey Ford” and “November Is Coming.” Demonstrators also converged on the Supreme Court during the vote to confirm Kavanaugh, with 150 arrested.
Meanwhile, dozens of judicial misconduct complaints against Kavanaugh were sent to Chief Justice Roberts in the weeks before the confirmation, but Roberts has so far declined to refer them to an investigation. [Common Dreams, WaPo (1, 2)]
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
10. “Artificial flavors” hide many sins
The FDA agreed to ban seven food additives at the request of environmental and consumer advocacy groups because they have been linked to increases in cancer. The compounds are used in wide variety of foodstuffs to mimic mint and cinnamon but consumers would have little idea whether or not they were consuming these specific ingredients as they have been allowed to fall under the category of “artificial flavoring.” The FDA has given food manufacturers 24 months to remove the substances and find acceptable replacements but has issued a statement saying that the level of risk to consumers is low as these compounds are used in tiny amounts.
The federal law that compels the FDA to ban these substances is known as the “Delaney Clause” of the 1938 Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act, which states no substance known to cause cancer may be approved for human consumption. Critics say that the law is too restrictive and unnecessarily bans substances that are safe in the amounts typically consumed by humans, only showing a cancer risk in lab animals consuming huge amounts. [NPR]
11. Op-eds against SpaceX not what they seem
A series of op-eds published in newspapers in cities with close ties to the aerospace industry have claimed SpaceX was being cavalier in its safety standards for its upcoming human-crewed launches. What is interesting isn’t the content of the op-eds, whose veracity is questionable at best, but the way in which they were distributed. In contacting the author of the op-ed, a retired NASA employee with conservative politics named Richard Hager, Ars Technica found that he did not actually submit many of the op-eds published. Instead, they were submitted by a Washington DC public relations firm called Law Media Group, which lists Boeing as one of its major clients. Boeing is the primary competitor to SpaceX in the crewed-launch vehicle market, and a long standing giant in the aerospace/industrial arms industries. The blurring of lines between politics, news, PR and propaganda appears to extend to our local newspapers, now merely another vehicle to distribute misinformation. [Ars Technica]
12. Facebook is selling your phone numbers too
Anybody who has used Facebook has been helpfully prompted to update their security to “two-factor” authentication by providing a phone number so that would-be hackers would need not only your password but possession of your phone in order to take control of your account. Engadget reports, however, that Facebook has even monetized the supposedly-confidential information you use to log in and is selling users’ phone numbers for advertising purposes. Facebook asserts that the company’s “Data Use Policy” outlines its ability to do so and that all users may decide whether to opt in and can remove their information at any time. Engadget found that nowhere in the Data Use Policy was security information listed as fair game for purposes of advertising. Data security experts are dismayed that such a practice might discourage people from participating in two-factor authentication, one of the strongest tools for data security that is widely available. [Engadget]