NYMHM for 14 Apr 2019

With Passover approaching, it is a good week to think about migrants and refugees, to consider what the liberation of all people might mean.

As well, in the Christian tradition, Maundy Thursday is approaching, the day when Jesus is said to have been asked, “And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” He is said to have answered, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.”

In these seasons, as well as others, we continue to report on the disenfranchised, and those who serve, represent and advocate for them.


1. Last day to comment on the “Dirty Water Act”

We’ve been running this under Resources but time has run out. Monday is the deadline to comment on the redefinition of the “Waters of the United States” regulations. These would significantly weaken the Clean Water Act by overlooking the connectivity of waterways (so that pollutants could be discharged into streams) and by narrowing the definition of a body of water. Wetlands are particularly at risk. The scientific community is opposed to it–as are farmers, surfers, fishermen and the NAACP. Polluters are in favor of it. As critical as this issue is, the mainstream media have been almost entirely silent. Only Vox, Politico, and The Hill–in addition to some trade journals–have run pieces.
 In a Google doc, Martha–of Martha’s list–has written a summary of the issues and explained how to comment.  Among the first things to ask for is an extended comment period.

2. Important victory for asylum-seekers

Among Kirstjen Nielsen’s legacies was the “Remain in Mexico” policy, which required asylum-seekers and other migrants to wait in border cities where they had no access to attorneys. In response to a suit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU, last week a judge blocked that policy. The decision is on the Mother Jones website.

3. Migrants dropped off, volunteers scrambling. Again.

Though it is not a Sanctuary City, migrants are being dropped in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where they staying in a homeless shelter and a recreation center. The city is asking for donations of food and personal care items, according to the Toronto Star. In addition, the New Mexico Medical Reserve Corps is asking for volunteers, particularly health care workers, as the organization believes more migrants will be dropped off in New Mexico due to “capacity issues” along the border, according to the Border Patro

4. Dangerous precedents coming

Attorney General William Barr is planning to make major changes to immigration courts in the name of efficiency, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. These changes would permit an appeals judge to issue rulings which would be precedental for the entire system, exactly when the Trump administration is hiring new appeals judges. Immigration judges are not supposed to be chosen based on their politics, but at least one candidate has alleged that they are.

5. Twice as many corporations are paying no taxes this year

Trump’s tax cut is functioning as apparently intended: 60 companies—twice as many as last year—reported a tax rate of zero, according to a report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. Among the companies able to avoid paying taxes are Amazon, Netflix, Chevron, Lilly, Deere & Co, Delta, Honeywell, IBM, Goodyear and others. The Center for Public Integrity has the full list. A million fewer individuals will receive refunds this year, and as of February, the average refund was down by 17 per cent, according to the New York Times.

6. Assange arrested on the wrong charge?

Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, has been charged with conspiracy to commit computer intrusion, essentially for offering to help Chelsea Manning with a password. The indictment against Julian Assange is a threat to press freedom, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists and other experts and organizations, arguing that it sets an alarming precedent for how journalists can interact with sources. “The US extradition request and the indictment itself – the fact it is alleging conspiracy with a source – means a publisher or journalist could be accused of conspiracy with a source,” Jennifer Robinson, a member of a legal team that has blocked US efforts to extradite hackers, told the Guardian. “It’s a terrifying precedent for all journalists.”

According to Democracy Now, Noam Chomsky sees the arrest of Assange as “scandalous,” illustrating the reach of the United States around the world. Others note his role in the 2016 election and in Brexit while women’s groups say he should be extradicted to Sweden to face the allegations of rape against him.

7. Death threats against AOC and Omar

Teen Vogue has come through again, running a story on how Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) challenged college Republicans for calling her a “domestic terrorist,” pointing out that such claims lead to a “spike in death threats” against her.

Critiques of Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) have resulted in similar threats, including one by a man who was arrested for calling her office and threatening to kill her. According to Vox, he told investigators that he “loves the president and that he hates radical Muslims in our government.” Trump has been trying to use criticisms of Omar to drive Jews away from the Democratic party, though he removed a video on Twitter suggesting that Omar was not taking 9/11 seriously. Sunday night she released a statement, saying “Since the President’s tweet Friday evening, I have experienced an increase in direct threats on my life—many directly referencing or replying to the President’s video,” reported The Hill.


8. Canada warming twice as fast as the rest of the world

Canada is warming at twice the global rate, according to a new report from Environmental and Climate Change Canada. Temperatures in Northern Canada, where communities are especially vulnerable, have increased 2.3 degrees C since 1948. Climate change is leading to “extreme heat, less extreme cold, longer growing seasons, rapidly thinning glaciers, and warming and thawing of permafrost and rising sea levels in Canada’s coastal regions,” Chris Derksen, a research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada told the Globe and Mail. Indigenous elders in the Yukon say that the caribou are moving north, following their food supply, according to the CBC. As if this were not true, the country’s conservatives are battling the imposition of a $20/ton carbon tax in provinces which have not established their own—even though most of it will return to consumers in their taxes. Ontario premier Doug Ford, who is challenging the carbon tax in court, tweeted, “Today’s the last day to fill your gas tank before the federal carbon tax makes life more expensive for your family.” The tax will rise to $50/ton by 2020.

9. Drastic changes recorded in Bering Sea

Sea ice in the Bering sea, located between the coasts of Alaska and Russia in the arctic circle, reached a new record low this past winter, worrying local residents, fishermen and scientists. Sea ice is vital for preserving an oasis of cold, salty water that is called a “cold pool” that serves as a refuge and habitat for the richest fisheries found in US waters. In addition, sea ice provides hunting grounds and resting places for sea mammals such as seals and walrus and a natural sea wall for native communities along the northwest coast, protecting them from winter storms. This past winter, for the first time recorded in 37 years of measurement, there was no cold pool in the Bering sea, and the village of Kotlik flooded from lack of sea ice protection in February. Fishermen had to fish further north for valuable Pacific cod and native Alaskan hunters had to follow the seals north as well, as the cold water retreated ever further towards the pole. Warm water brings a risk of algal blooms, fishery collapse and ecological catastrophe to the region.

10. Number of children and teens seen in hospitals due to suicide attempts double

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: Pediatrics shows that hospitalizations due to suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts have doubled from the period spanning 2007 to 2015. Data was evaluated from surveys of 300 emergency rooms gathered by the Centers for Disease Control for an age group spanning from five years to eighteen years of age, with an average age of just 13 years. Suspected causes for the dramatic increase include increased competitive pressure to succeed academically, anxiety about future economic prospects, bullying including cyber bullying and a critical shortage of child psychologists available, leading to long wait times for kids in crisis.