#newsyoumayhavemissed for November 4, 2018 is trying to remember that there is life after the midterms. Critical in that life is the climate change crisis—so we’re offering a climate change round-up, including info about a new group protesting climate change. See, too, the disturbing news about suspicious deaths among Ferguson activists. If you want to peek at the polls, see the first link in the resources section, and if you want to continue to be useful, see the links in the resources comments.
- Midterms! Our colleague Chrysostom has been posting daily updates on polls and prospects.
- Sarah-Hope’s most current list of places & people to write is at whatifknits.com. Sarah-Hope suggests that your congresspeople need plenty of mail when they return to their offices after the midterms; your comments could ensure that children have nutritious lunches, children in developing countries have access to the vaccine for a deadly diarrhea, and that low-income American children have access to low-cost, high-quality preschool programs.
- Martha’s list of places to comment on federal policy changes includes just the most urgent invitations. In particular, Tuesday is the last day to comment on the Flores agreement, which limits the number of days in which children can be incarcerated to 20. The Trump administration proposes to end Flores, so that children could be jailed indefinitely.
- It’s a good week to look at the Americans of Conscience checklist.
- If you would like to help address the famine in Yemen, the New York Times has a list of reputable places which can put your donations to work.
1. Climate change round-up
Even more devastating climate change on the horizon:
In October, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C.), which advises the United Nations on Climate Change, published its most alarming findings yet: with one degree of warming, the impacts of climate change are already severe; over 1.5, severe weather, crop failure, disease and economic collapse will become pervasive. We have only a few years to meet the target 1.5; even if all nations honored the Paris Accords (which Trump has pulled out from), by the century’s end, the climate will increase by 3 degrees. A meeting of international leaders to discuss climate will take place in December. [The New Yorker]
Climate lawsuit by young people:
After initially pausing the climate change case brought by young people, a pause authorized by Chief Justice John Roberts in response to a petition from the Trump administration, the Supreme Court has now allowed it to go forward. With 21 plaintiffs, the case argues that “the federal government is violating their Constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by promoting an energy system that exacerbates climate change.” [Climate Liability News (1, 2)]
A group of activists in the UK is preparing to commit civil disobedience to protest climate change. 500 people have signed up to be arrested, and they plan to bring “large sections of London to a standstill,” according to the Guardian. Bernie Sanders posted a link to the group, called “Extinction Rebellion”; the group is meeting with other environmental groups and is backed by a group of 100 academics including the former Archbishop of Canterbury. As one of the organizers told the Guardian, “Children alive today in the UK will face the terrible consequences of inaction, from floods to wildfires, extreme weather to crop failures and the inevitable breakdown of society. We have a duty to act.” [The Guardian]
Climate change is eroding the coast:
Coastal Californians may be interested in the article about climate change-related coastal erosion in California; Santa Cruz is the case study. [The Guardian]
Oceans have absorbed more heat than previously thought:
Once again scientists are being forced to revise upward the amount of danger the planet is in due to climate change after finding that the world’s oceans have already absorbed far more heat than had been thought. The ARGOS study involves hundreds of autonomous buoys that dive to specific depths and measure the temperature, salinity and current of the ocean around them. They then rise every ten days to beam that data to a satellite. The ARGOS probes have found that the oceans are absorbing 150% more energy that all human-produced electricity in any given year, dwarfing the warming found on land and in the atmosphere.
This warming has devastating implications as it makes the daunting demand to end all use of carbon fuels even more urgent, as the ability of oceans to absorb excess heat has already been used. As the earth’s great heat sinks, oceans have enormous effects on atmospheric and climate conditions: the more energy they contain, the more energetic the storms they will produce and the greater extreme swings that will be produced in rainfalls leading to more devastating floods and droughts. This is to say nothing of the grave threat posed to all ocean ecosystems which humans are dependent on, ecosystems which are highly sensitive to temperature changes. [Physics.org]
2. Children dying in Yemen
In Yemen, 400,000 children are in danger of starving to death, according to UNICEF; eight million people are relying on emergency rations and that number could double. The United Nations is urging the Saudi-led, US-supported coalition as well as the Houthi Shia rebels to cease hostilities so that food and medical supplies can be brought in. Food and fuel costs have skyrocketed as a result of the civil war, so that the civilian population can neither buy food nor afford to bring their children to hospitals. The New York Times published pictures of emaciated children, a strategy which engaged readers already and at last prepared to look critically at Saudi Arabia as a result of the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. See the link in the Resources comment for ways to help address starvation. [NY Times (1, 2, 3), Al Jazeera]
3. Women organizing against Bolsonaro
Women are at the forefront of organizing against newly elected President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, where a woman dies every two days from complications of an illegal abortion and where 4,500 women were killed and more than 60,000 were raped in the past year, reports the Atlantic, citing the Brazilian Forum for Public Security.
As a congressman, Bolsonaro voted to impeach Brazil’s first woman president, Dilma Rousseff, and dedicated his vote to the head of the torture unit; Rousseff herself was later tortured. He is famous for his anti-woman and anti-feminist remarks. A Facebook group, Women Against Bolsonaro, has 3.8 million members. [The Atlantic]
4. Militias head for the caravan
Armed vigilante groups, including the Texas Minutemen, are heading to the border, intending to assist the 7,000 troops that Trump is deploying. (Newsweek points out, however, that Trump was briefed on the fact that only 20 per cent of the caravan is expected to arrive at the border.) Not only local landowners but army commanders are uneasy about the situation, according to a leaked document obtained by Newsweek (a power-point presentation describing where troops will be located along with possible arrival points is on Newsweek’s site).
Meanwhile, the people in the caravan—who have struck such terror into the hearts of Republican voters—are struggling. The Post describes them as continuing to walk on “blistered, bleeding and bandaged feet,” when the Mexican government, not wanting to be seen by the U.S. as helping the caravan, blocked their buses. It is windy and hot—up to 100 degrees in the daytime—cold at night, and respiratory illnesses are endemic. Some are pregnant; others are on crutches. [Washington Post (1, 2, 3)]
5. Suspicious deaths among Ferguson activists & families
Danye Jones, son of Ferguson activist Melissa McKinnies, was apparently lynched on October 17. Authorities are calling it a suicide, but he was found hanging from a tree in his mother’s backyard with his pants around his ankles (a common feature in lynchings), and had just bought property. Essence notes that there have been at least three previous Ferguson-activist-related deaths, “In 2014, Deandre Joshua, 20, was found shot once in the head, and then set on fire inside his car the same day a grand jury refused to indict Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. Prominent Ferguson activist Darren Seals was also found dead inside of a burning car back in 2016. He had also been shot. And then there was the 2017 death of Edward Crawford, the activist captured in the iconic photo tossing a canister of tear gas away from those protesting Brown’s death. Police claimed that he died of a ‘self-inflicted’ wound while in the back seat of his own car.” [Essence (1, 2, 3), Atlanta Black Star, NY Times]
6. Birthright Citizenship
Mother Jones has an analysis of the origins of Trump’s ideas about birthright citizenship: two legal scholars whose work is widely repudiated. [Mother Jones]
7. ICE sending out fake court dates
In an effort to prevent immigrants from using the “stop-time rule” to stay in the country, ICE has been sending out fake court dates to immigrants. The “stop-time rule” permits immigrants to stay if they have been in the U.S. continuously for ten years and have a family member with citizenship or a green card. ICE is somehow hoping that by setting up fake dates, immigrants will not be able to use the “stop-time rule.” Immigration lawyers can check whether the dates are real, but immigrants who lack representation have gone to considerable expense and lost work time, only to find that the date and time given—midnight, say—are false. [Vice]
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
8. Kemp declares investigation into Democrats for hacking; evidence and details are scarce
Georgia GOP gubernatorial candidate for the state of Georgia, Brian Kemp, who is also the Secretary of State, has announced an open investigation into an attempted hacking of the state voter registration system, saying that the Georgia Democratic Party is a suspect. Mr. Kemp is no stranger to controversy regarding the use of his office as the state’s election commissioner to influence the election for governor, as ongoing questions surround his decision to purge thousands of voters from rolls and remove polling sites from predominately black communities.
Georgia is one of only five states not to have a paper verification of electronic voting, and Kemp has not made any effort to find funding to replace voting machines. He also declined support from the DHS to address vulnerabilities in Georgia’s voting infrastructure.
The allegations of hacking are puzzling as Mr. Kemp and his entire staff seem largely ignorant of the technologies used in the state election system, having accused the Department of Homeland Security in 2016 of attempting to hack the Georgia Secretary of State’s firewall. It later was explained that the ‘hacking attempt’ was in actuality a routine check of the state’s firearm license database as part of a standard background check for security guards assigned to a federal facility.
In this case, it appears that the “hacking attempt” was actually an attempt to alert state officials to security vulnerabilities found by IT security experts working for a variety of concerned parties, including the Coalition for Good Governance and the Democratic Party of Georgia. It’s quite a leap to go from being a good citizen pointing out potentially dangerous flaws and conflating it with a nefarious hacking attempt by the opposition party. [Gizmodo, Wired, NY Times]
9. Antibody found in llamas being tested to fight the flu
An international team of researchers has published their work in the journal “Science” showing that a vaccine utilizing antibodies derived from Illamas protected mice from a broad range of strains of influenza. The flu is notoriously tricky to pin down, mutating rapidly into several different strains yearly and existing vaccines are only effective for one strain, generally chosen to be the strain identified in any given year as the one most likely to be dangerous to a broad population.
The answer to creating a universal flu vaccine might be found in the antibodies produced by llamas exposed to flu viruses. Llama antibodies (antibodies are proteins produced by immune systems to neutralize pathogens and work by interrupting molecular processes by binding to certain areas in the invading germ) are remarkable in that they have the smallest binding site of any known antibody; less is more when it comes to versatility. Llama antibodies also have the benefit of being long lasting and easy to create in labs. Human trials are expected to follow soon, expedited by the great need for such a vaccine; the flu killed 80,000 people in the United States during 2017 alone. [Real Clear Science]