#newsyoumayhavemissed for December 16 suggests that if you want to weigh in on the deportation of 46 Cambodians, you can make a phone call Monday to the California governor’s office. In addition, you might want to call your senators to urge them to permit a mother of a dying child to come to the US to see him. See the stories below, as well as our pieces on voting rights in the US and Canada, journalists and journalism, and new news about the origins of life.
It is hard to know how to respond to the death of a child at the border. There is an abyss between what we ought to do and what is actually possible for most of us. We can, however, act on behalf of the living, The opportunities to act are legion and it can be overwhelming to respond. But any action is useful: drops in the bucket eventually fill it.
- Sarah-Hope has once again identified issues that merit our attention, issues that affect farmworkers, college students, dolphins—and all of us. The link is whatifknits.com—it’s best to type it in rather than click.
- Three of the opportunities Martha has offered to be heard on the record are closing today: drilling off the coast of Alaska, weakening of methane reduction regulations, and pesticide regulations.
1. Another child caught in US policies
The mother of a Yemeni two-year-old, named Abdullah, on life support in San Francisco has been prohibited from visiting him; he had been brought to the U.S. for medical treatment. Yemen is one of the Muslim-majority countries whose residents are not allowed to travel to the U.S. without a waiver. The mother has been waiting for a year for a waiver. The Council on American Islamic Relations is asking people to contact their representatives in Congress. [CBS]
2. 46 Cambodians scheduled for deportation
The adult children of Cambodians—legal residents—who survived the murderous Khmer Rouge regime are now being deported back to a country they do not remember. Protected under a 1995 agreement which has now been rescinded, the deportees will be separated from their families and severed from their jobs. Those scheduled for deportation were convicted of felonies in the past, in some cases decades ago. (Email the Governor of California to request that he block their flight.)
Meanwhile, in a reversal of long-standing policy, the Trump administration has declared that immigrants from Vietnam who came to the country before the restoration of diplomatic relations with the country in 1995 can be deported if they are subject to final orders of deportation for reasons of criminal convictions or other matters; this could include up to 8000 people, including some war refugees. The administration initially suggested this policy in August, but backed away. [NY Times, the Atlantic, petition]
3. People of the year: Journalists
Time magazine has named journalists it considers “Guardians” as Person(s) of the Year, starting with murdered reporter Jamal Khashoggi. Among those journalists commended is Maria Ressa, the Filipina journalist who turned herself when a warrant was issued for her arrest. Ressa had launched the Rappler, an on-line start-up critical of the Duterte government; Rappler was accused—falsely, says Ressa, of tax evasion, which could result in a ten-year jail sentence for Ressa. Ressa recently received the 2018 Knight International Journalism award and the Press Freedom Award by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Rappler has been critical of Duterte’s crackdown on drugs, resulting in the deaths of thousands. In response, Duterte has called Rappler “fake news” and its lead investigative reporter has received death threats. [NY Times]
4. While these journalists have been exemplary, some media organizations have been less so.
A new report has just gone to the Senate on how the Russians used every available social media venue to influence the 2016 election. As the Washington Post reported in a comprehensive piece:
Social media have gone from being the natural infrastructure for sharing collective grievances and coordinating civic engagement to being a computational tool for social control, manipulated by canny political consultants and available to politicians in democracies and dictatorships alike.
We think we’ve heard all we want to hear about Trump’s payoffs to various women, but this is new news: American Media, parent company of the National Enquirer, which made one of those payoffs in a “catch and kill” maneuver—buying a story in order to silence it—told a federal prosecutors in New York that the whole point of the payoff was to influence the 2016 election. We knew this . . . but . . . [Vice]
Fact-checkers at Facebook, including Brooke Binkowski, the former managing editor at Snopes, which had partnered with Facebook, have said that Facebook is not responding to their concerns quickly enough and seems to wants the appearance of fact-checking without actually restricting the flow of fabricated or misleading news. Binkowski now runs Truth or Fiction, an independent fact-checking site. [The Guardian]
An Alternative: Cold Type:
If you want to read reliable news, try a newish on-line magazine, Cold Type (pdf). The most recent edition has a piece by Conn Hallinan on what the lessons are of the Spanish election, a corrective piece on George H.W. Bush, an article on the protests in France, and much more. See the link in the comments.
5. Death at the border
The death of Jakelin Caal Maquin at the border needs to be seen in the context of what has been going on in Guatemala that would lead people to flee the country. As the Center for Public Integrity has pointed out, 18 Guatemalan Maya activists and journalists have been killed in 2018 alone. Violence against children is endemic. The U.S. began destabilizing the government in 1954, when it overthrew a democratically elected president. Decades of violent anti-leftist activity followed, further destablizing the country. The drug trade, made possible by US drug policy, has resulted in widespread violence. Jakelin is not the first child to die at American hands. [Center for Public Integrity, Washington Post]
6. Voting Rights in Florida
Florida officials, including the incoming Republican governor, are arguing that they need additional time for the state legislature to implement Amendment 4, which restores voting rights to most felons who have completed their sentence. The amendment, which passed with 64.5% of the vote, has no language requiring the involvement of the legislature. 23% of the state’s African-American adults have lost their right to vote because of previous felony conviction. [Business Insider]
7. Voting Rights in Canada
The Canadian Senate approved Bill C-76, which reverses several aspects of the previous Conservative government’s Fair Elections Act. It limits campaign spending, bans advocacy groups from using foreign money, and requires social media and other online platforms to maintain public digital records of all advertising during elections.
It will also restore the voting rights of Canadians living abroad, who were administratively disenfranchised prior to the passing of the Fair Elections Act. The Supreme Court of Canada still has the option of issuing a ruling on Frank and Duong v Canada (pdf); a ruling in favor of ex-pat voting would remove the threat of a future legislative reversal.
8. The NRA’s possibly illegal campaign contributions
In making its 30 million dollar contribution to the Trump Campaign, the NRA used an organization called Red Eagle Media, which ran ads that would reach a key voter demographic in Virginia. Through a firm called American Media & Advocacy, the Trump campaign bought ads to run on the same station in the same week, so that voters received complementary messages. Both firms are connected to a larger media consulting firm, National Media Research, Planning and Placement. The timing and placement of the ads suggests that there was collaboration—which is illegal. That is, any organization such as the NRA, may spend as much as it likes on a candidate, but once it collaborates with the campaign, it is subject to spending limits. [Mother Jones]
9. Trump and his father’s fiscal scams increased NY rents
The New York Times made the mistake of running its extraordinary investigative story on Trump and his father’s finances on the eve of the Kavanaugh confirmation—so it didn’t have the impact that it might have. But the story has enough tentacles to keep journalists in lattes for a long time. This week, the Times revealed that thousands of renters across New York saw their rents skyrocket—as a result of the Trumps’ strategy to inflate the value of their holdings. Inflating the value meant that they could increase the rents, even under New York’s stringent rent control laws. Some tenants are considering filing suit to regain the overpayments. If you haven’t read the original story, it’s still got legs (and teeth). [NY Times]
10. Utah Leases
Interior Secretary Zinke may be toast, but the policies he put into place are still demolishing the planet. 154,212 acres, some in pristine wilderness areas, were offered for oil and gas drilling across the state, netting a mere three million dollars. As the National Parks Conservation Area put it:
These decisions, happening with little to no opportunity for the public to weigh in, could irreparably damage these treasures for current and future generations.
11. SNAP (food assistance) preserved in Farm Bill
The Farm Bill was passed without additional requirements for SNAP recipients to work additional hours. They already must work 20 hours per week to qualify; they would have been required to work more (parents of dependent children do not have a work requirement). Also cut from the bill was a provision that would have mandated forest thinning. The activist group Moms Rising was instrumental in preserving access to SNAP. [WOWKTV, LA Times]
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
12. Asbestos found in baby powder, manufacturer knew for decades.
Investigators from Reuters examined internal documents for pharmaceutical and personal products giant Johnson & Johnson and found that the company was aware for decades that its signature talc baby powder was occasionally contaminated with carcinogenic asbestos. Johnson & Johnson is facing thousands of lawsuits over instances of lung cancer and ovarian cancer known to be caused by asbestos; talc is a mined mineral product and often occurs naturally in deposits with asbestos containing minerals. Company testing shows that asbestos was found in the talc used in their baby powder since the 1950’s, with the company going so far as to hide information about positive asbestos tests from regulators in the 70’s when the talc used was sourced from Italian mines known to be sources of asbestos. Talc since 2003 has been sourced from China and, unsurprisingly, has been claimed to be completely safe. The World Health Organization recognizes *no* safe limit for asbestos exposure. [Reuters]
13. Life on earth extends kilometers beneath the surface
Scientists working in the Deep Carbon Observatory, which combines over 1200 scientists working in a myriad of disciplines across 52 countries has completed a ten year study in which they reveal that life on earth penetrates far deeper beneath the surface than was ever expected. The results suggest that the vast majority of the Earth’s bacteria and archaea exist underground, with a combined weight of biomass equivalent to hundreds of times the combined weight of every human being on the planet. This life is very different from the kinds we are accustomed to, existing in extreme environments and on a timescale best described as geological, spanning thousands of years. These tiny microbes exist in a sort of stasis, only displaying activity in brief bursts as scraps of energy come their way or tectonic activity allows.
The scale of the new biosphere is massive, extending kilometers below the deepest ocean and across all continents, with some life not requiring energy derived from the sun at all but thriving on chemical energy released by geological processes. This calls into question some assumptions we have made about the origin of life: did life begin in shallow pools on the surface as has been imagined until now or did it in fact arise deep underground, before the surface was every hospitable and gradually migrate its way up? [The Guardian]
14. Zinke to resign by year end, under cloud of corruption investigations
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, whose work we at NYMHM recently showcased (in his ridiculous choices for the National Park advisory council among other things), has announced he will be stepping down by the end of the year. The stated reason for stepping down is the cost of defending himself from numerous lawsuits filed for alleged corruption charges, among them a land deal in Montana involving himself and Halliburton that was reportedly completed in the offices of the Department of Interior and another accusation of improperly blocking a casino from approval in Connecticut under possible political pressure. These charges are in addition to long standing charges of frivolous and extravagant spending on “security” and travel. The likely successor is undersecretary David Bernhardt, who also enjoys an extremely cozy relationship to the oil and gas industry. [Ars Technica, NPCA]