NYMHM for 11 Nov 2018

#newsyoumayhavemissed thinks Yogi Berra had it right: “It ain’t over till it’s over.” With recounts in Florida, Arizona and Georgia, key races are still undecided, even while Americans are tallying up some remarkable wins and heartbreaking losses. See Chrysostom’s summary—link in the Resources comments. Still, in what has become a pattern, we hardly had time to find our footing when tragedies hit—the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, the fires in California.


  • Want to say something about Trump’s attempt to block asylum claims? Drilling in Alaska? Prohibiting potential immigrants from using public services? Martha’s list has the sites where you can comment.
  • Sarah-Hope’s list of issues to address from November 2 is still relevant: lunches for children, preschool programs for low-income children, vaccines against diarrhea for children in developing countries.
  • Chrysostom, our elections correspondent, has a round-up of where the mid-term election stands as of November 9—it’s on Metafilter.


1. California wildfires the face of climate change

With the most destructive fire in California history still burning, the effects of climate change are painfully evident. Almost the entire town of Paradise has been destroyed, so quickly that most people could not collect possessions or protect their pets; many horses were released simply to fend for themselves. As of November 9, 6,453 homes and 260 businesses had been demolished; 29 people are known to have died, although many more are still missing. Elderly and disabled people may not have been able to dash out of their houses quickly enough.

Meanwhile, the Woolsey fire in Southern California has burned 130 square miles, with 177 homes destroyed. Increasing winds on Sunday fanned the flames. Firefighters had obtained some control over a smaller fire, near Ventura.

A 2016 study by scientists from the University of Idaho and Columbia University found that wildfires have become “twice as destructive over the past three decades due to climate change,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle. And last summer, the State of California issued a comprehensive report identifying the consequences of climate change, among them wildfires. As the LA fire chief put it:

…it’s evident from that situation statewide that we’re in climate change and it’s going to be here for the foreseeable future.

[SF Chronicle (1, 2, 3), Ca.gov, The Guardian]

2. Trump tries to cancel the 14th Amendment

The ACLU is suing Trump for attempting to cancel the portion of the 14th Amendment that permits children born in the U.S. to be citizens, regardless of the status of their parents. The ACLU argues that the constitution cannot be changed by executive fiat, as amending the constitution requires that both houses concur with a 2/3 majority and that ¾ of the states ratify. The ACLU reminds us of the origins of the 14th Amendment: in 1898, it repealed the Dred Scott decision, thereby permitting the children of former slaves to be citizens. Thirty other countries grant citizenship to children born there. For a more in-depth look at this issue, see the Harvard Human Rights Journal study (pdf). [ACLU, Axios]

3. Young evangelicals disenchanted with the GOP

The Republican Party has long counted on the support of evangelical Christians, but demographic data shows that younger evangelicals are increasingly disillusioned with the traditional hard line stances on moral issues, and by 2024 will no longer make up a significant voting block for the Republican Party. NYMHM would like to call your attention to “In God We Trump,” a documentary on Trump and evangelicals available on iTunes and Amazon Prime. [Newsweek]

4. Monday-morning suing

Arizona is suing to stop the count of mail-in ballots in the Senate race, a process which in Arizona (and elsewhere) is arduous, because voter registrars must verify the signatures and may contact the voter to verify them if they cannot be otherwise confirmed. Urban counties which are likely to favor Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema are particularly targeted in the suit. As of 11/10, Sinema was 28,000 votes ahead of Republican Rep. Martha McSally, with 49.5% of the vote for Sinema and 48.2% for McSally. [CNN, NBC]

5. Troops on the border: mission impossible

On Veterans Day (Remembrance Day in Canada), 5600 troops were stationed along the southwestern border, awaiting the arrival of the migrant caravan and providing photo ops of barbed wire to hearten Trump supporters before the midterms. They will likely be there through Thanksgiving, though their mission is ambiguous. Under U.S. law, they are not able to enforce immigration law; unless Trump declares martial law, they will not be able to do more than string wire. [NY Times]

6. Judge blocks Keystone XL pipeline

Saying that Trump ignored its potential effect on climate change, a Montana judge has blocked construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run for 1,200 miles—from Canadian oil sands to Texas refineries. As the Washington Post explained, “the administration ran afoul of the Administrative Procedure Act, which requires “reasoned” explanations for government decisions.” The restriction is temporary; the government now must do a thorough study of the project’s “adverse impacts,” including its effects on climate change. See the Post’s detailed analysis of the decision in the link below.

The company in charge of the Canadian leg of the pipeline, TransCanada, said it continued to be committed to the project. Indigenous groups in both Canada and the US have opposed the pipeline. [Washington Post, the Star]


7. Possible peace in Afghanistan

Thirty years after the Soviet Union was forced out of Afghanistan, Russia is hosting peace talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s High Peace Council. These talks come at a time when civilian casualties are at a record high, the Afghans are exhausted, and the Taliban controls ever-increasing territory.

The main demand of the Taliban is the removal of foreign troops, but the United States is not involved in the talks, though an observer is present. Writing in Cold Type, Conn Hallinan maps what a peace plan might look like and what some of the barriers to peace are, among them whether women’s rights can be preserved. [Washington Post, BBC, Cold Type]


8. DNA study tells a new story about South and Central America

A study on the genomes of 49 human remains conducted by experts at Harvard University and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Germany has found that there have been three major waves of migration into the continent of South America over 11,000 years. The first came with the so-called Clovis culture peoples, the first major identifiable Native American culture found in the archaeological record, at around 11,000 years ago. The Clovis people were completely displaced about 9,000 years ago by a people originating from the Channel Islands of California. A further migration completed the modern DNA makeup, starting around 4000 years ago.

A second study published in Science described the migration of peoples across the Americas. All of this presents a dynamic and fast moving picture of pre-Colombian migrations in the Americas, with quite few mysteries left unresolved including some markers of Australasian ancestry whose origin is completely unknown. [Quartz, Phys, Science]

9. Add droughts to hurricanes as climate-change induced threats to the Caribbean

Research done by Cornell University and published in Geophysical Research Letters shows an increase in severity and length of droughts occurring across the Caribbean, pointing to a severe widespread drought during 2013-2015 as an example of what can be expected to become more common. Data indicates that human-driven climate warming contributed to about a 15-18% increase in severity for the drought, which cost over half of Haiti’s agricultural output and put over a million people into food insecurity.

Additionally, water use problems are certain to be exacerbated as water tables become contaminated with sea water due to overpumping from aquifers during drought conditions. These factors combine to put around 2 million people into chronic food insecurity as a direct result of climate change. [Science Daily]

10. DEA and ICE are watching you

A piece written by Quartz using documents obtained from the federal government shows that the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency are spending large sums on concealed video cameras that are being hidden inside street lights, traffic barrels and other roadside infrastructure.

There is very little oversight or regulation regarding these cameras as they are placed in public areas using government-owned property; however, given the agencies’ extensive and aggressive use of facial recognition and tracking software, one can imagine the kinds of mass surveillance that can be possible with such a network of cameras. [Quartz]