News You May Have Missed for 2 December 2018, as well as tracking the less-known elements of major stories, has a comprehensive overview, meticulously sourced, of billionaire Jeffrey Epstein’s crimes against girls and how people at the highest levels of government (and in both political parties) were involved. Who needs conspiracy theories when the facts are so disturbing?
Some great sources on the Mueller investigation:
- Sheila Markin Nielson, a former assistant U.S. attorney, puts out the Markin Report, a blog with clear, readable explanations of what’s going on.
- Investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler writes “Empty Wheel,” a blog with solidly sourced reporting.
- Martha’s list this week includes opportunities to comment on specific pesticides and underground storage of hazardous waste. In addition, comments are open on Betsy DeVos’s proposal to weaken federal Title IX protections for sexual assault and harassment survivors in K-12 schools as well as colleges and university. Comments are closing soon on the Inadmissibility on Public Charge that can be applied to some permanent residents who may use services—even perhaps school lunches and ACA.
- Whether you care most about education, ethics, the environment, or other issues, Sarah-Hope’s list on her blog, Whatifknits, has snapshots of the most pressing issues and people to write to make your voice heard. See the link in the Resources comments.
1. Trump undercuts the Affordable Care Act—again
Trump administration policies continue to hammer on ACA effectiveness, as we have detailed before. Now Politico is reporting that sign-ups for 2019 have experienced a steep drop of 9.2%. The article notes, “Just 1 in 4 Americans who buy their own health insurance or are uninsured are aware that the deadline for enrolling in coverage is Dec. 15, according to the latest polling data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.” To sign up, go to healthcare.gov by December 15th. [Politico]
2. Thousands of teenagers in a detention camp in Texas
The AP reports that Tornillo, a “desert detention camp for migrant kids” has grown to house 2,349 teens and is still growing. These aren’t children taken from their parents, but those who arrived alone at the US border hoping to join family who already live here. In those cases where a parent lives in the US, they are likely eligible for permanent resident status under family reunification policies, even if they are not eligible for asylum.
The camp is being run by a San Antonio nonprofit, BCFS, along the same lines as the evacuation centers it normally runs to house people displaced by natural disasters. The migrant teens are apparently receiving no formal education, and there’s a severe shortage of mental health clinicians (one for every 50 children, vs. the one for every dozen children required by federal policies). BCFS claims that every child is seen every day, which would allow about 10 minutes per child. Further, the director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement waived the normal child abuse and neglect background checks for Tornillo workers. Perhaps most troubling is the unusual secrecy surrounding the facility, which rarely allows visitors and which, astonishingly, requires workers to sign non-disclosure agreements, prompting NYMHM to wonder what they are hiding, beyond the fact that we’re now keeping thousands of children in a concentration camp.
3. What refugees are fleeing: political violence, thanks to us, and climate
The tear-gassing of asylum seekers by the U.S. at the U.S. border with Mexico has received a lot of attention in mainstream media. What has received less attention is the role of the U.S. in creating the conditions asylum seekers are fleeing, and the role of climate change in exacerbating the poverty that makes those conditions so unbearable. Articles by Esquire on the former, and the Guardian and Washington Post on the latter, are linked in the comments. A brief quote:
“It didn’t rain this year. Last year it didn’t rain,” a caravan migrant from Honduras named Jesús Canan told the Guardian. “My maize field didn’t produce a thing. With my expenses, everything we invested, we didn’t have any earnings. There was no harvest. . . In past years, it rained on time. My plants produced, but there’s no longer any pattern [to the weather].”
[Esquire, Washington Post, Guardian, Reuters]
4. Iranian families separated by the travel ban meet in Canadian/American library
Though the horrors at the U.S. border with Mexico are in the foreground, other families are still wracked from the separations caused by the travel ban, upheld by the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision this summer. Under the ban, immigrants and visitors cannot receive visas if they come from the following Muslim-majority countries: Libya, Iran, Somalia, Syria and Yemen — plus North Korea and Venezuela. The ban keeps out refugees from Syria and Yemen, as well as the families of the many students in the U.S. from Iran. In the tiniest of loopholes, Iranian families have been permitted to meet in the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, which straddles the border between Quebec and Vermont. US residents from Iran can visit the library without leaving the U.S., and Iranians can visit it via Canada, which does not bar visitors from Muslim countries. [Reuters, NY Times]
5. Radioactive waste spread by wildfires?
Toxic material and radioactive waste may have been spread by the Woolsey fire, which burned 100,000 acres in Southern California. A former rocket testing site where a partial nuclear meltdown took place sixty years ago may have been the epicenter of the fire, according to Physicians for Social Responsibility. The site was supposed to have been cleaned up by 2017, but cleanup has not yet begun. Rain that has since fallen on the site will have washed toxic ash toward surrounding communities. [Truthout, Forbes]
6. The Senate votes to allow a vote on Yemen to advance
The civil war in Yemen, led by the Saudis and supported by the U.S., has killed 50,000 people and resulted in a humanitarian catastrophe, with children starving and the whole population suffering from lack of supplies and medical care. In an unprecedented bipartisan vote, the Senate agreed to allow a resolution to go forward which would withdraw all unauthorized U.S. military support. According to Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), the vote represents a significant break with Saudi Arabia. [The Intercept]
7. Women make half of men’s wages
We’ve heard it said that American women make 80 cents to male workers’ dollar, but apparently the news is much worse. A report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research shows that over 15 years, women make 49 cents to men’s dollar. The gender gap is due to in part to women taking time out of the workforce to care for children and sick family members; the longer women stayed out, the lower their wages. [IWPR, Vox]
8. Extraordinary web of crime involving Jeffrey Epstein, Donald Trump and others highly placed
Several women will testify against billionaire Jeffrey Epstein in December 2018. They allege that he “paid them for nude massages, and sometimes sex, at his mansion in Palm Beach” while they were underage, and further that hiding details of a 2008 plea agreement violated the Crime Victims’ Rights Act. [Miami Herald]
This story involves potential crimes by multiple people:
A. JEFFREY EPSTEIN
In 2008, he was convicted of solicitation of a minor. His defense was provided by Kenneth Starr (yes, that Kenneth Starr) and Alan Dershowitz. A former Bear Stearns banker, Epstein served a mere 13 months in the Palm Beach Jail from the 2008 conviction, due to an unusual sealed non-prosecution agreement he made with Alexander Acosta, who in 2008 was a U.S. Attorney and is now Secretary of Labor, apparently as a reward for information against Bear Stearns in the subprime crisis. Epstein’s alleged victims were not told of the agreement, which also provides immunity to federal prosecution for sex-trafficking and to any co-conspirators (unnamed in the agreement). An FBI investigation of his crimes was shut down, and any co-conspirators were never charged. [Miami Herald, QZ, Palm Beach Post, Slate, Mother Jones]
Epstein has “reached over two dozen out-of-court settlements with young women who have accused him of prostituting them to his friends and clients” [Sun Sentinel].
B. PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP
At least one of Epstein’s victims was introduced to him at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property. [Miami Herald]
Trump allegedly attended at least four of Epstein’s sex parties. The filings in Doe v. Trump and Epstein make for rather grim reading, including sections like this (trigger warning: graphic content):
During the course of this savage sexual attack, Plaintiff loudly pleaded with Defendant Trump to stop but with no effect. Defendant Trump responded to Plaintiff’s pleas by violently striking Plaintiff in the face with his open hand and screaming that he would do whatever he wanted.
A second witness (“Tiffany Doe”) stated that Trump knew Jane Doe #1 was 13 at the time. Doe #1 dropped her lawsuit following death and bomb threats and her firm’s website being hacked, apparently by Anonymous. Doe #1’s story has not seemed entirely credible to many journalists, partly due to two men she is associated with, Steve Baer and Al Taylor, whose antics are described in a well-sourced 2016 Vox story linked in the comments. [Vox, Guardian]
Separate from cases involving Epstein, Trump has been accused of more than 20 incidents of sexual misconduct, including multiple allegations of groping*, multiple allegations of forced kissing, multiple allegations of Trump entering changing rooms unannounced while underage beauty contestants were naked [Guardian], and at least one alleged attempted rape, of business associate Jill Harth [Newsweek]. Ivana Trump, his first wife, has also said he raped her while they were married.
*NYMHM notes that the media widely reports many of these allegations of groping as simply “groping,” but some of them may rise to the level of rape, at least under the definitions used in Tennessee law, where this writer is based, if Trump’s fingers caused “intrusion, however slight, of any part of a person’s body or of any object into the genital[s].” It’s beyond our expertise to evaluate.
D. ALAN DERSHOWITZ
Alan Dershowitz was one of Epstein’s defense attorneys in 2008. In 2014, he was named in a December 2014 filing from Jane Doe #3. He has retired from the law and from Harvard Law School, and is now a frequent CNN and Fox News commentator.
E. ALEXANDER ACOSTA
In 2008, when he struck the plea deal with Epstein, Alexander Acosta was a U.S. Attorney. He is now Secretary of Labor, which means he oversees international child labor and human trafficking laws.
Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants “the Justice Department’s inspector general to investigate whether Acosta engaged in misconduct when he made the secret plea deal.” [Mcclatchy, Mother Jones]
In his mansions and on his sex jet, the “Lolita Express,” Epstein is alleged to have facilitated the rape and molestation of underage girls by Prince Andrew, Duke of York [Guardian, Telegraph], president Donald Trump, former president Bill Clinton, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, director Woody Allen, actors Kevin Spacey and Chris Tucker, Harvard economist Larry Summers, and lawyer Alan Dershowitz [Gawker, Daily Beast].
Others named in suits against Epstein as participating in sex with underage girls include modeling agency owner Jean Luc Brunel [Jezebel] and Epstein’s ex-girlfriend, British philanthropist Ghislaine Maxwell [Vanity Fair, Telegraph].
It’s possible that Epstein may also have blackmailed at least some of the hundreds of powerful people he entertained, whether or not they were involved in sex with minors [Gawker].
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
9. Climate change may bring snowballing health challenges
A study issued by the United States government in conjunction with UN agencies and published in the public health journal “The Lancet” paints a grim future of compounded health problems associated with human-caused climate change. Higher global temperatures will mean more heat stress not only on farms but on farm workers, decreasing yields and leading to dangers of famine and malnutrition overwhelming current health infrastructure. On the other end of the spectrum, torrential downpours and massive floods may cause contaminated drinking water and the spread of water-borne illnesses from vectors such as mosquitoes spreading into wider, warmer areas that were once inhospitable. This study adds one more piece of evidence that while making the necessary economic changes to combat climate change are going to be costly, doing nothing will be even more so. [New York Times, Lancet]
10: Tariffs on Chinese rare earth materials backfire and harm US producer
China has for years had a dominant position as the global supplier of so-called “rare earth” metals, which are in high demand for high tech products, but tariffs put in place by the Trump administration to curtail their hold on the market might only be helping them. The issue is refining capacity, as the largest supplier China has most of the production capacity for refining the rare earth ores, so US mines actually ship their ore to China to be refined more cheaply than could be done here. In response to tariffs placed on Chinese rare earth metals, China has put in place tariffs on US goods entering their country, including rare earth ores, which makes China a more expensive proposition to provide refining. In the long run, this market pressure might induce more refining capacity here in the United states but as manufacturers devise ways to become less dependent on these scarce minerals for their products and other countries including Australia come into the market, the room for US companies to operate profitably seems to be shrinking. [Ars Technica]
11: Dirty water is the culprit for E. Coli outbreak, as is the Trump administration
The most recent outbreak of E. Coli, spread via lettuce and causing at least 210 hospitalizations and five deaths can be traced to an irrigation canal in Yuma, Arizona. The water from that canal was likely contaminated by runoff from a large cattle feedlot upstream. This didn’t have to happen: there was a similar outbreak involving spinach in 2006 that resulted in legislation requiring farmers to test their irrigation water for pathogens such as E. Coli; however, under pressure from farmers the Trump administration has pulled back on regulations due to go into effect this year. Now the rules are set to be delayed by as much as an additional eight years, leaving a gaping hole in our food safety system. The cost for complying with these regulations? 12 million dollars. The cost to provide healthcare for outbreaks such as these? An estimated 210 million dollars. [Wired]