News You May Have Missed: December 15, 2019

The documents obtained by the Washington Post are what Danny Sjursen, a US Army strategist who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, has called “the Pentagon Papers of our generation.” The Post’s devastating six-part series reveals the many failures of the war in Afghanistan; we hope their coverage will stay on the radar amidst the din of impeachment news. See the story below.

Heather Cox Richardson had a chilling piece December 14 on how the Republican party became what it is today. Don’t miss it!

Rogan’s list this week is a special impeachment edition. On the site are many opportunities to support voters, challenge corruption, and show up at a pre-impeachment rally.

Plots are afoot to cut back SSI and SSDI–the two federal disability programs. Hundreds of thousands of people could be affected. Comments on this proposal are due January 31–see Martha’s list for how to respond to this and other critical policy changes.


1. 18-year war in Afghanistan failed in every way. Officials knew, covered up.

The Washington Post, in a six-part series, revealed this week that the US officials knew that the 18-year war in Afghanistan could not be won, yet they continued to claim that progress was being made. In a successful Freedom of Information Act suit, the Post obtained 2000 pages of documents, records of an immense government project assessing the war. These made it evident that every element of the enterprise in Afghanistan was a failure, marked by lack of purpose and incompetence, all denied at every turn. Danny Sjursen, writing for the Nation, makes the costs of this denial clear, not only for American troops in the country, but for the country itself: “What had it all been for—the 2400 American lives lost, the trillion dollars spent? And what of the cost to the real victims—the Afghan people? More than 100,000 Afghan civilian and security force personnel have been killed thus far…” RLS

If you want to advocate for an end to this failed policy that is costing far too much in both economic terms and in terms of lives lost, addresses of appropriate committee chairs are here.

2. New immigration law proposed to address decades of injustice

Trump’s draconian immigration policies have been enacted through a multitude of new rules. Less attention has been given to the 1996 immigration law enacted during the Clinton administration that underlies the entire U.S. immigration system. According to Vox, “the ’96 law essentially invented immigration enforcement as we know it today—where deportation is a constant and plausible threat to millions of immigrants.” The 1996 law expanded the number of offenses, a significant number of them nonviolent, for which immigrants (both documented and undocumented) could be deported and made this provision retroactive. The law fast-tracked deportation for undocumented immigrants apprehended within 100 miles of a border. It also increased the number of immigrants who had to be held in detention before deportation, making access to immigration attorneys much more difficult.

A new House bill would correct the worst of these abuses. H.R.5383, “To Reform the Process for Enforcing Immigration Laws of the United States”—also known as the New Way Forward Act—would would end mandatory detention, summary deportation, local police participation in mass deportations by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and criminal prosecution for undocumented entry into the U.S. It would also bar for-profit immigration jails and provide a pathway for some of those deported under the 1996 law to apply for readmission. S-HP

You can follow the Immigrant Justice Network to see how you can support this new bill. And you can write your elected representatives to urge them to support it. Addresses here.

3. Aid still illegally withheld from Puerto Rico

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) continues to withhold hurricane relief funds from Puerto Rico, NBC News reported last week. It has been three months since the HUD ignored a statutory deadline to issue a Federal Register notice detailing how Puerto Rico can use $8.2 billion in disaster relief aid appropriated by Congress through the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program. HUD continues to withhold $1.9 billion for electric grid upgrades. Puerto Ricans continue to suffer from major hurricanes that made landfall more than two years ago while HUD illegally withholds this aid. As Florida representative Darren Soto said at a press conference, “President Trump are you going to end your personal vendetta against Puerto Rico and finally do the right thing? These are Americans down on the island. Over 3.1, 3.2 million people who every day face the same indignation from your inaction, your anger against the island.”  S-HP

You can ask the Inspector General of HUD to investigate the agency’s failure to process Congressionally approved funds in a timely manner.

4. Facebook refuses to remove misleading ads about HIV prevention

People at risk of HIV can almost certainly prevent it with a daily dose of Truvada. Now, men have a new option: a one-time dose of four pills, two of them two hours before sex, one 24 hours later, and another 24 hours after that, reports Heather Boerner, writing for Medscape. (This option has not been tested in women because it is thought likely to be less effective in women.) Daily Truvada, a protocol known as PrEP, is almost 100% effective in preventing the transmission of HIV. Just last week, Health and Human Services launched an initiative to make PrEP available at no cost to people without medical insurance.

You could be forgiven for having missed this news; though it is widely available on health and activist websites, it is almost completely absent from the news. Compounding the problem, Facebook has been allowing ads which badly misrepresent Truvada. Personal-injury law firms have been running ads suggesting that Truvada has serious side effects, according to the Guardian. The ads, for example, say that Truvada causes bone damage, whereas the fact is that it can reduce bone density by just 1%. Facebook has declined to remove the misleading ads, putting people for whom HIV could be a death sentence at tremendous risk. RLS

If you want to say something to Facebook about running ads that endanger people’s lives, pertinent addresses are here.

5. Draconian anti-choice measure allowed to stand by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has allowed to stand a Kentucky law that requires doctors to perform ultrasounds on any woman receiving an abortion and to require that such women view fetal images and listen to fetal heartbeats—none of which are medically necessary—before an abortion is performed, according to NBC News. For women in early pregnancy, the Guardian reports, those ultrasounds would have to be transvaginal–which could be significantly traumatizing for survivors of sexual assault. This court ruling emphasizes once again that women cannot depend on Roe v. Wade to protect their right to individual reproductive choice.

If you are inclined to tell your Congressmembers that they need to act now to protect women’s right to reproductive choice, you will find addresses here.

6. Border Patrol lied about treatment of 16 year old who died

Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, the teenager from Guatemala who died of the flu in Border Patrol custody, died in a holding cell where he was put instead of being taken to the hospital, as the nurse who examined him recommended. The Border Patrol said that an agent had checked on him and found him unresponsive, but in fact his cellmate discovered he was dead after he had been visibly suffering for hours. Border Patrol logs say that an agent checked on him three times in the hours before he died, but video obtained by ProPublica shows that either no one had in fact looked at him or that they had seen him writhing on the floor and not intervened. The ProPublica story also has a sketch of Carlos’ life in Guatemala, where he played soccer and was a musician. When he was little, he used to play a game of “cross the border” with his friends.

In another example of Customs and Border Protection’s laissez-faire approach to the health of asylum-seekers, doctors were arrested last week at the Border Patrol headquarters in San Diego for protesting against the policy to deny flu shots to asylum-seekers in custody, the Washington Post reported. Sixty doctors had shown up at the San Ysidro facility prepared to offer free flu shots, but were turned away. “We see this as medical negligence on the part of the US government,” Dr. Bonnie Arzuaga, one of the doctors offering vaccinations, told the Guardian. “People are being held in close confinement and usually are under a lot of physical and emotional stress … and may be malnourished and may not have access to hygiene supplies. That puts them at risk.” RLS

If you want to call for humane treatment and prompt, appropriate medical care for those in custody with ICE and CBP and an investigation into the death of Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, addresses of appropriate people to write are here.

7. A new Space Force–while the war in Yemen goes on

Early on in the negotiation process, the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA, H.R.2500) included a number of important provisions: language withdrawing U.S. support for the war in Yemen, a reversal of the ban on transgender individuals serving in the military, new limits on the use of toxic chemicals, and broad family leave provision. None of these are included in the compromise NDAA language worked out by the House and Senate. The new NDAA does, however, include paid parental leave for federal employees, according to the Hill, and $22 billion for the formation of a new branch of the military—the Space Force. Ro Khanna and Bernie Sanders have argued in a joint statement that “this bill does nothing to rein in out-of-control military spending, prevent unconstitutional war against Iran, limit the poisoning of Americans’ drinking water, or end the obscenity of innocent children in Yemen being killed by U.S. bombs…Congress must say no.” S-HP

If you want to advocate for the key provisions of the original House legislation and speak your mind about billions for a Space Force, addresses of your members of Congress are here.

8. What happened to the Emoluments Clause?

The New York Times has pointed out that, while the Constitution forbids the president from profiting off the office by accepting “emoluments,” Trump continues to own his hotels, allowing politicians, lobbyists and foreigners to enrich him and curry favor with him by staying there. According to New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt, who notes eight areas in which Trump could be impeached, “[t]he Democratic-controlled House has done an especially poor job of calling attention to this corruption. It hasn’t even conducted good oversight hearings—a failure that, as Bob Bauer, an N.Y.U. law professor and former White House counsel, told me, ‘is just astonishing.’” S-HP

You can ask the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to investigate the probable violations of the emoluments clause.


9. Protests in Iran result in many deaths, injuries, arrests

Protests in Iran triggered by an increased in fuel prices have resulted in over 200 deaths and hundred more people injured, according to Foreign Policy. The United Nations has said that authorities are “shooting to kill” protestors, CNN reports. 7000 people have been arrested. Because of the internet blackout imposed by the government, family members in the US have difficulty getting information. City on a Hill press quoted an Iranian international student as saying, “…I don’t know what my classmates and friends are up to. I don’t know how many of them have been arrested. These are people that I’m close to, people that I grew up with and went to school with for years. These are students just like us that have been arrested protesting universities, these are working people just like us. They need to have their voices heard.”

The sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Iran have brought intensifying stress to its citizens, for whom everything from food to energy is more expensive. More sanctions against Iranian transportation companies were announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the 11th, the New York Times reported, allegedly for transporting nuclear material. The US imposed sanctions after it withdrew from the nuclear pact with Iran, even though “nuclear experts said earlier this year that Iran was complying with the agreement and had not been working toward building a nuclear warhead,” according to the Times. RLS


10. New sustainable substance can treat stormwater runoff 

Storm water runoff is a potential resource for increasingly thirsty cities, but contamination issues have restricted its use and raised concern about groundwater becoming tainted. Water that used to recharge aquifers is now collected along hard surfaces in cities and drained away from the soil into waterways, literally draining away a vital resource. Now researchers at the University of California Berkeley, publishing in Environmental Science: Water Research & Technology, have developed a sand coated with a natural nontoxic coating that can remove two different classes of contaminants, explains. The sand, which is simply ordinary sand, is coated with manganese oxide which is found naturally in soils everywhere. When water percolates and filters down through the sand, the coating removes both heavy metals and organic chemicals such as Bisphenol A (BPA), and can then more safely be allowed into the water table to be “stored” for use in drier times. JC

11. Genetic testing shows we were the culprit

The USA’s only native parrot, the Carolina parakeet, went extinct in 1918, with the last example dying in the same cage as the now-extinct passenger pigeon just four years prior. They were beautiful green and yellow birds that lived in large social groups in wetlands and riversides. Parrots are known for their intelligence and the Carolina parakeet was no exception; accounts tell of birds coming to the aid of injured or distressed members of their flock and remaining around their dead. Sadly, this intelligent behavior just allowed people to kill them more efficiently and a recent study shows that it is almost certainly people who are responsible for their extinction, the National Geographic explains. A known quality of distressed species is a lack of genetic diversity. Species barely hanging on in their habitats go through repeated depopulation events which reduce genetic diversity. Healthy species tend to have more diversity in their genome and a recent study by an international group of researchers published in the journal Current Biology shows that the genome of the Carolina parakeet was varied and healthy before its precipitous decline. In fact, their genome was more varied than many extant species with healthy populations. Without evidence of population pressure on the genome, or records of a catastrophe *other* than human hunting, the only conclusion is that we are solely responsible for the loss of the species. JC

12. EU eliminates or significantly cuts single-use plastics

In October, the European Union Parliament passed strict regulations for single use plastics, according to Forbes. Plastic items for which there are appropriate replacements would be fully eliminated by 2021. Other plastic items, such as some kinds of food packaging, for which there are currently no replacement would have to be cut by 25% by 2025. Also by 2025, a minimum recycling rate of 90% would be put in place for beverage bottles and cigarette butts would have to be reduced by 50%, moving up to 80% by 2030. S-HP

The U.S., too, could eliminate single-use plastics. Tell your elected representatives.

13. Cyanide bombs endanger wildlife, pets–and people.

Earlier this year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reauthorized the use of M-44s, also known as “cyanide bombs,” despite overwhelming public opposition to their use, according to the New York Times. Several states–among them Oregon, Idaho and Colorado –have banned them. M-44s are used to kill coyotes, dogs, foxes, and other wildlife perceived to be a threat to livestock. The devices first lure animals to food-baited traps, then release cyanide directly into their mouths as the animals eat. As the Center for Biological Diversity points out, M-44s are a threat to endangered animals like grizzly bears, lynx, and wolves. These devices also kill pets and, in one instance, injured a child. S-HP

You can ask the chairs of appropriate committees to ban the use of cyanide bombs.


  • The Americans of Conscience Checklist offer quick, easy ways to advocate for free lunches for children who need them, fair treatment for asylum-seekers, legalization for farmworkers, and much more.
  • Incredibly, it’s week 161 since the world turned upside down. To keep track of everything that has happened, take a look at The Weekly List of not-normal actions.
  • Many of Sarah-Hope’s action items are included above, but if you’d like to work from the whole list, you can find it here.
  • See Chrysostom’s comprehensive collection of election news here.