NYMHM for 20 January

#Newsyoumayhavemissed for January 20, 2019 is circumventing the elephant in the room. The government shutdown is the big story, but you surely won’t have missed it—especially if you are someone who is working without pay (or not working and not getting paid). With the DACA deal a non-starter, a way out isn’t clear—and the costs are mounting, to individuals and to the social fabric (see #5 below). Meanwhile, migrants are still dying in the desert and children are still being taken from their parents the border—many more than we knew, according to a government report. 


1. What did he say and when did he say it?

If you want clarification on why Buzzfeed says that Trump directed his attorney to lie to Congress about plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and why Mueller’s office refutes it, a very lucid lawyer of our acquaintance recommends the blog post by Marcy Wheeler, who regularly writes about national security and serves on the Advisory Committee for the House Fourth Amendment Caucus. Wheeler explains why Mueller’s representative would have said what he did and why it doesn’t discredit Buzzfeed’s claims.

2. Child separations

a. Thousands more children

According to the Office of the Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General, many thousands more children were taken from their families at the border, a year prior to the so-called zero tolerance rule that was implemented in the spring of 2018 (pdf). No records of these children were kept in a central database, the Office of the Inspector General points out, and so reuniting them with their families has been a challenge. However, HHS itself claims it can locate such records.

b. The Trump administration is still separating families.

As the New Yorker points out, immigration agents can take children from their parents if they claim to have reason to believe that the parents are abusive or have criminal ties. They do not have to provide evidence for these claims.

c. Proof that policy to separate families a deliberate strategy to deter migrants

A 2017 draft memo leaked to Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) shows precisely how the Trump administration planned to separate children from their families to deter migrants from seeking asylum. The plan was/is to deny asylum hearings to children and to prosecute parents. The authors wrote that the “increase in prosecutions would be reported by the media and it would have a substantial deterrent effect,” according to NBC News. This is in direct contradiction to statements by Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, who said that there was no policy, only an effort to enforce existing law. NBC has posted the memo.

Senator Merkley has asked for a perjury investigation of Nielson, while Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) has called on Nielsen to resign, given the report about how many more children were abducted from their families than was previously acknowledged.

d. What you can do

Rogan’s list has a series of useful actions you can take to address the issue of children at the border and the shutdown.

3. Volunteers convicted of leaving food and water for migrants

Four women were convicted of misdemeanors for leaving food and water in the desert for migrants. The volunteers, who worked with the group No More Deaths, were found guilty of entering a wildlife refuge without a permit, the first such conviction in a decade. They could be sentenced to six months in prison and fined $500. Another volunteer for the organization said:

This verdict challenges not only No More Deaths volunteers, but people of conscience throughout the country. If giving water to someone dying of thirst is illegal, what humanity is left in the law of this country?

The bodies of 127 migrants were delivered to the Pima County medical examiner in 2018; others likely have not been found. On an average of twice per week, No More Deaths has found their containers of water destroyed by the Border Patrol. This is not illegal.

In July, LatinoUSA ran a photo essay of volunteers leaving provisions for migrants. For a vivid description of what it is like to do this work, see Lee Sandusky’s evocative essay published first on Literary Hub and then in Rebellious Mourning, an extraordinary anthology about political grief.

4. First Nations elder, Vietnam Veteran, harassed by white Catholic schoolboys

You likely won’t have missed the news that Nathan Phillips, an elder of the Omaha nation, was ridiculed by a group of students from Covington High School, a private school, according to Indian Country Today. Video of the students’ behavior has circulated widely. Still, it is useful to notice who Phillips is and how he comported himself in the face of outrageous provocation.

According to Buzzfeed, Covington High School may take disciplinary action against the students. The school and diocese have posted an apology. NYMHM doesn’t know this source, but Heavy has a detailed article about what happened; the details are congruent with other sources.

5. Flight risks

Flying has become less safe since the government shutdown, according to an official of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association. As Trish Gilbert, the executive vice-president of the union, told The Hill:

We are working with barebones crews. We have controllers there doing what they do very, very well – but how long can you expect them to do it without all of the systems behind them to keep the system safe? And the planes in the air?

Skeletal staffs result when thousands of FAA employees are home unable to work—or are working without pay. In response to a lawsuit from the Air Traffic Controllers and TSA employees’ unions, a federal judge refused to issue a preliminary injunction requiring the government to compensate employees who are working unpaid.

Passengers on a United Airlines flight from Newark had to spend 16 hours on the tarmac in Labrador in -22F degree weather when their plane was diverted due to a medical emergency; they could not leave the plane because there were no border officials working overnight.

6. L.A. teachers strike for lower class sizes, better staffing

After 21 months of unsuccessful negotiations, thousands of Los Angeles teachers went on strike last week. According to CNN, the issues separating the two sides have to do with staffing and class sizes. As one striker told CNN:

“It’s absolutely not the pay raise. It’s about class size reduction. In other words, hire more teachers,” said Andrea Cohen, who’s taught at John Marshall High School for 24 years. “We want to have fully staffed schools. That means librarians, nurses, psychiatric social workers and their interns. We have 46, 45, 50 students in a class. It’s unacceptable.”

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed additional funds, but it is not yet clear how L.A. will get those funds.

Enormous demonstrations have developed solidarity among L.A. teachers and inspired teachers around the country.


7. Canada’s vexed generosity

The Trudeau government accepted the asylum request of Rahaf Mohammed, a Saudi Arabian teen who barricaded herself in her hotel room in Thailand and begged the international community to help her escape her abusive family. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) investigated her case and recommended she be granted refugee status in a safe third country.

The very public nature of Canada’s welcome—foreign minister Chrystia Freeland met her at the airport—underscored the tensions between Canada and Saudi Arabia and Canada’s decision was criticized by those who have been waiting a long time to have their cases heard.

Writing for Medium, Syed Hussan—who also was able to immigrate from a Muslim country—explains the problematic nature of the Canada into which Rahaf was welcomed.

8. Gasoline fire deaths in Mexico illuminate fault lines

At least 79 people have died and many more are badly burned after a punctured pipeline exploded in the Mexican town of Tlahuelilpan, north of Mexico City. Residents, dealing with fuel shortages, had been collecting fuel from the line. Fuel thieves, known as huachicoleros, have made 12,581 illegal taps into pipelines in the first ten months of 2018, costing the government of Mexico—where fuel is nationalized—some three billion per year. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as Amlo, has shut down pipelines in order to do crack down on fuel theft. Fuel shortages have resulting, lead to scenes like those in Tlahuelilpan.

If you can read Spanish, the article by Ana Lilia Pérez in La Jornada, illuminates the situation vividly. Pérez has written four books on corruption in Pemex, the national gas company. Even the automatic translation page will give you a sense of the complexities.

9. Zimbabwe government crackdown

At least a dozen people have died in a violent crackdown by security forces against those protesting fuel prices having more than doubled, including live ammunition, door-to-door searches, and abridging access to information and preventing coordination by shutting down social media. Many Zimbabweans can no longer afford bus fares to work, amidst stagnating wages, high inflation, and intermittent internet access. The UN has called for a halt of the “excessive use of force.” [BBC]


10. First plants germinated on another world

China’s Chang’e-4 probe, part of a larger groundbreaking mission to the so-called “dark” side of the moon, has completed an experiment which saw tiny cotton plant seedlings sprout. This marks the first recorded instance of plant life growing from seed on another world, something we’ll need to learn much more about to live long-term in places like Mars. The sealed canister contained fruit fly eggs, seeds from cotton, mustard and potato plants and yeasts. The experiment ends as the landing site enters its two-week lunar “night” with frigid temperatures in the canister reaching -60F.

11. FCC moves to delay case to restore net neutrality, citing the shutdown

Oral arguments in a case before the DC circuit court of appeals are scheduled to begin in February; however, the FCC under chairman Ajit Pai requested that the hearings be delayed because of a lack of funding for the FCC due to the federal shutdown. The case has been brought against the FCC by an industry group called Incompas, representing companies such as Google, Netflix, Amazon, Twitter and Facebook. The request to delay has been denied.

12. Billionaire Sackler family found to be heavily involved in pushing Oxycontin 

Until now, the family behind Oxycontin-manufacturer Purdue Pharma, the Sackler family, has not been charged or faced penalties for their company’s actions, but a court filing by the Attorney General of Massachusetts may change that, with reams of evidence suggesting that not only did the Sacklers know about the activities for which Purdue has been heavily fined, but they also had a heavy hand in directing them. Ex-CEO Richard Sackler is shown to have relentlessly hounded sales reps to push the drug in marginal communities and demand all blame for opioid deaths be shifted to addicts, calling them “reckless criminals.”


Do you want to hold forth about any of the above? Are you ready to step into the fray? See our Resources page and the ideas below for opportunities to engage.

  • Sarah-Hope’s suggestions are well-informed and clear. To object to the use of eminent domain to build the wall, permit residents of US territories to vote in US elections (think Puerto Rico), or object to oil and gas companies being permitted to drill during the shutdown, type in (don’t click on) whatifknits.com and you’ll find them. 
  • Per Martha, Regulations.gov is taking comments. It went dark for a couple of days this week but the disclaimer about the site not being maintained has been taken down but added to the Federal Register site (aren’t these people fun?). This week: Navy assault on marine mammals and a new strategy for weakening the ACA. Also, the deadline to comment on the NLRB joint employer rule which holds subcontractors liable and not the overall contractor is now extended to Jan. 28 (think of Energy Transfer Partners behind KeystoneXL and several other damaging projects and their hundreds, if not thousands, of subcontractors whose workers get no benefits, are often injured, and under this, can’t sue).
  • Rogan’s list also has a series of useful actions you take to address the issue of children at the border and the shutdown.
  • Jen Hoffman’s Americans of Conscience checklist has a set of actions you can take around the shutdown.
  • If you would like to contact Covington Catholic High School and ask what lessons its students are learning, here is contact information, provided by Idle No More: Phone: (859) 491-2247; Principal Robert Rowe: browe@covcath.org; Tweet @supmikeclines (Superintendent of Schools Diocese of Covington).