Watch this space on January 1: #Newsyoumayhavemissed is emigrating to a website! We’ll still flag the key issues here and will post the site weekly, but people who don’t use Facebook will be able to find us. Our fierce founder Joanne has not only designed the site but posted all the archives as well. So if February 2018 has become blurred in hindsight, you can look up the key stories. Our site will be easier to use as well, as you’ll be able to click directly on the sources.
The government has shut down but you don’t have to: you can still post comments for the federal register. Martha’s list has an interesting note about the state of emergency the U.S. has declared regarding human rights abuses around the world—but of course, there’s a state of emergency right here at home. Her list addresses the issue of coal-fired power plants, which we reported on last week; the denial of endangered species status, hazardous waste, asylum, immigration…
If you want to comment on the shutdown, Sarah-Hope’s list will tell you how—as well as how to address multiple issues (docx) in addition: Church-state separation, seismic testing in the ocean, oil and gas drilling, and much more.
Meanwhile, NYMHM hasn’t shut down either: see particularly our international stories this week.
1. Some victories!
It’s not all bad news! Check out the Activism Yearbook from Political Change, an organization that endeavors to reach young voters.
2. ICE released hundreds of migrants: Rooms opened at the Inn
Possibly because of the government shutdown (we can’t know for sure because public relations staff are furloughed), Immigration & Customs Enforcement dropped off hundreds of migrants at the El Paso greyhound station—on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day—without notifying the social service agencies which would ordinarily have helped them. Rep. Beto O’Rourke and other volunteers from El Paso and elsewhere worked to help them find places to stay and to give the children in the group toys and stuffed animals for Christmas. People locally and around the country paid for motel rooms and sent bus tickets so they could contact family members prepared to take them in. Key coordination was and will be provided by Annunciation House (link if you want to contribute). In addition, a Muslim charity is funding medical exams and baby care items. [El Paso Times]
3. Trump is partying on our dime during the government shutdown.
Taxpayers are paying at least $54k for party tents for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago New Year’s Eve party while roughly 800,000 federal employees are on unpaid leave for the government shutdown. [GovExec]
4. Violence Against Women Act has lapsed.
Trump’s shutdown has prevented the renewal of the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, which provides “funding for programs that help victims of sexual assault, domestic abuse and stalking.” [Washington Post]
5. Migrant deaths in U.S. custody.
Another migrant child has died in U.S. custody. That’s two deaths that we know of. This week, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen refused to, or was unable to, tell the House how many people have died in their custody. While the government is claiming it is doing everything it can, CNN reports that doctors disagree. Icy holding cells, lack of access to basic hand-washing facilities, and the absence of monitoring by people who know how illness presents in children all contribute to health risks. [Vox, Washington Post, CNN]
6. Sexual assaults on children in our care.
Some children in immigrant children’s shelters are being sexually assaulted, and their cases are being ignored. Propublica has collected hundreds of police reports alleging sexual assault, but cases are being closed almost as soon as they are opened. Parents of children in shelters feel powerless to intervene because of their own legal situation. [Propublica]
7. Trump’s conflict of interest in attacking the Federal Reserve’s rate hikes.
Why is Trump attacking the Fed? As Bloomberg put it:
President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell’s interest-rate increases as a drag on U.S. economic growth. … Every time the Fed raises rates, Trump’s payments on some $340 million in variable-rate loans go up.
8. HIV+ service members.
The military is kicking out HIV positive service members. Two members of the Air Force have filed suit, alleging a violation of their equal protection rights. The military claims that members of the Air Force destined to serve in the Middle East cannot be HIV positive, but the two members point out that if they take a supply of anti-retrovirals with them, the virus is suppressed. [WaPo, Hill Reporter]
9. It’s not those on government assistance who are voting Republican.
It’s a common observation of poor Republicans that they vote against their own interests, for example in this New York Times piece. But Data for Progress dug into the numbers and found that while aggregate data shows that while the more government assistance a county receives, the more likely its voters are to skew Republican, the individuals in those counties voting Republican are not likely to be those receiving the aid. That is, well-off voters in those counties tend to vote Republican, and those who receive government assistance tend not to vote. That’s how we get a county where 60% are on Medicaid, but 80% vote for the guy who wants to destroy Medicaid. [NYT, Data for Progress]
10. China is hacking corporate computers across the globe.
If it weren’t for everything else that’s happening right now, this would be big news: the U.S. has indicted Zhu Hua and Zhang Shilong, alleged to be members of a Chinese-government-affiliated hacking group known variously as the APT10 Group, MenuPass, and Stone Panda “for a 12-year campaign of cyberattacks that vacuumed up technology and trade secrets from corporate computers in 12 countries, affecting almost every major global industry.” [WaPo]
According to ABC:
The Justice Department said that through the ‘technology theft campaign’ that reached into companies and organizations in several U.S. states, APT10 ‘stole hundreds of gigabytes of sensitive data’ from a ‘diverse array’ of industries, from space and satellite technology to pharmaceuticals.
Ars Technica reports that Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK have all criticized China for breaking a 2015 economic espionage agreement. Not mentioned in the Ars Technica article: with the U.S., these are the members of the post-WWII Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, which are also sharing information on China’s activities with “other like-minded countries” including France, Germany, and Japan, to counter China’s espionage, foreign lobbying, influence operations, and investments in technology. [Reuters]
This concern about China has also led the United States to pass the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA) as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which blocks some kinds of foreign investments, especially into technology, and requires the president to try to convince our allies to adopt similar legislation, as Australia has already done and Germany is investigating doing. [Lawfare, Reuters] “While China has been the main focus, discussions have also touched on Russia,” according to officials interviewed by Reuters. [Treasury Dept]
11. Russia, Syria, Mattis and McGurk
Putin supports the US leaving Syria [Politico], and Trump has been talking about withdrawing from Syria since April [CNN] and has finally decided to do it [WaPo] without consulting aides, allies, or the usual internal agencies [WaPo, AP], according to CNBC’s Christina Wilkie. Officials are trying to slow things down [Daily Beast].
ISIS militants in Syria
Abandoning Syria means abandoning our allies, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, to Turkey’s on-again-off-again [NYT] threats of ethnic cleansing [Reuters], with NATO membership and UN sanctions the only leverage against them absent U.S. support for the Kurds. Without U.S. support, the Kurds lack the capacity for war crimes trials and will likely be unable to continue to detain about 2,700 ISIS militants and their family members currently being held in Kurdish prisons in Syria [WaPo].
The 44 countries the militants come from (largely Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, and Russia) don’t want to repatriate ideologically-extreme citizens, or, like Germany, will allow their citizens to return but won’t provide consular assistance to those imprisoned in Syria due to the ongoing fighting.
Brett McGurk, the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, who has served in the region since Bush was president, has resigned in protest, in another blow to US institutional memory [WaPo]. Before he left, he warned that ISIS will take years to defeat [CNBC]. ISIS has at least $400 million in funding hidden away [WaPo]. Trump says he doesn’t know McGurk; from any other president, it would be an astonishing admission that you’d never bothered to even meet your own expert in a region before making sweeping decisions there. [Twitter]
12. 70th anniversary of NATO downplayed so Trump won’t ruin it.
NATO’s 70th anniversary, instead of being celebrated at a leaders’ summit as you would expect, will instead “occur at the foreign-ministers level (it will be hosted by Pompeo in Washington, D.C.),” because other countries don’t trust Trump not to mess it up. They’ve noticed “that things went off the rails whenever the president was directly engaged, which was usually on a foreign trip” and “decided to deliberately reduce the opportunities for him to be involved.” [The Atlantic]
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
13. US military bases poisoning water around the world
At least 126 military bases around the world and in the US have contaminated local water supplies with the chemicals PFOS and PFOA, according to Truthout, which has posted a story which has been almost invisible in mainstream media, as far as we can tell. (Note: Truthout says that you will find multiple references if you google the issue, but we didn’t find them.) PFOS and PFOA are contained in firefighting foam; once they sink into the groundwater, they are implicated in miscarriages, birth defects, kidney cancer, liver damage, low sperm counts, and more. The Military Times has covered this story in a series by Tara Copp. Note, too, this attached DOD document containing the EPA’s list (an earlier incarnation of the EPA) of all affected bases.
14. News organizations hacked—distribution impeded
A number of major news organizations, including the LA Times, were affected by a malware attack, one which interfered with distribution of the Times, as well as the West Coast edition of the NY Times, the San Diego Union Tribune and many other papers. Because newspapers around the country share production platforms, the virus spread widely and quickly. The LA Times believes that the attack originated outside the US, but has no information (that it is publishing) about perpetrators [LA Times].
15. New Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo
319 people (271 confirmed) are reported to have died in an Ebola outbreak in the North Kivu province of the Congo. 542 cases have been reported of which 494 have been confirmed. WHO efforts to contain the outbreak have been hampered by an unwillingness to engage by local communities and armed conflict in the region. This is the Congo’s 10th Ebola epidemic since 1976 and their second this year. [CNN]