News You May Have Missed: November 8, 2020

“Crop Circle Art: đź“® Biden Harris 2020 🇺🇸” by jmf1007 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

At this writing, Trump has declined to acknowledge that Biden won. He is claiming that observers were not allowed to watch the counting and suggesting that fraudulent votes were counted–remaining silent, of course, about how many votes from likely Democratic voters were suppressed. In contrast, Biden is signaling his attention to put things right by releasing a list of executive orders he’ll issue, according to the Washington Post: to rejoin the Paris climate accords and the World Health Organization, to permit DACA applicants to stay in the country, to repeal the Muslim travel ban. Politico has an excellent outline of what Biden would like to do and what obstacles he will face. With the pandemic out of control, a New Deal-type stimulus package is essential, Politico notes. For more detail, see the Biden and Harris transition website, Build Back Better. Of course, what Biden can do depends on the two Senate runoffs in Georgia; according to The Hill, Stacey Abrams says that Democrats “absolutely” can prevail in those races.

At the same time, Trump is continuing to do damage, as NPR reports. He fired the heads of three crucial agencies (two of them women): the head of the  National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the nation’s nuclear weapons; the deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development; and the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He has allowed his supporters to believe a QAnon conspiracy theory that the federal government watermarked ballots and so is able to track those that are fraudulent (impossible, Politifact explains–states print ballots). And Trump supporters–some of them armed–have shown up at the Maricopa county elections office in Phoenix, Arizona, according to Al-Jazeera. Others have massed in Lansing, Michigan and other state capitals as part of a campaign called “Stop the Steal,” according to USA Today. Trump supporters continue to be guided by their own media; according to the Daily Beast, right-wing outlet Newsmax has refused to call the election for Biden.


1. Central American children deported to Mexico–where they know no one

Among the long list of things to be mended in a Biden administration is immigration policy, beginning with how it is applied to children. While Biden said he would establish a task force to reunite the 545 children with their parents who have been deported, according to CNN, there is much more to do. Children unaccompanied by parents are even now being deported to Mexico–whether not they are from Mexico–in violation of international agreements, the NY Times reports. At least 200 Central American children have been sent to Mexico during the pandemic, even though they are from elsewhere and have no family connections in Mexico, according to NPR. They are now in the hands of Mexican child welfare authorities, and no information is available about whether their parents are being sought. As Witness at the Border points out, they are at risk of exploitation and trafficking (Witness has a chilling document identifying deportation flights in August.) RLS

58 House Democrats have asked the Trump administration to stop the summary deportation of both children and adults under the guise of the pandemic, according to USA News and World Report. If you want to add your voice, addresses are here.

2. Trump staff likely in violation of the Hatch Act

Reuters reports that, at the request of Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), the U.S. Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) has launched an investigation into possible Hatch Act violations by the Trump administration, which reportedly used areas of the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building as “command centers” during last week’s elections. If staffers from the White House or the Eisenhower Executive Office Building participated in election night activities, they would likely be in violation of the Hatch Act, which places strict limits on partisan political activities by federal employees, with the exception of the President and Vice President. The OSC is currently investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for his speech at the Republican National Convention in August. Also in August, Forbes explained the multiple violations of the Hatch Act, pointing out that there would only be prosecutions if the Justice Department decided to pursue them. In 2019, the OSC recommended that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway be fired for repeated violations of the Hatch Act. S-HP

If you want to object to repeated Hatch Act violations by the Trump Administration, addresses are here.

3. Immigration judges lose collective bargaining rights

Business Insider has reported that on election day, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) issued a ruling that revoked the collective bargaining rights of immigration judges. The immigration judges’ union was first recognized in 1979 and the judges’ unionization rights depend on a recognition of the judges as workers, not managers. Immigration judges have fought hard to maintain their independence—and their union rights—in the face of Trump administration’s increasingly draconian immigration policies. In January, the Department of Justice (DoJ) asked for decertification of the union, but in a July ruling Susan Bartlett, the Washington DC regional FLRA director, said that the DoJ had not convincingly demonstrated that immigration judges work as managers and upheld immigration judges’ collective bargaining rights. Now FLRA leadership has overridden the July ruling, declaring that because immigration judges’ decisions affect the implementation of policy, they are management. The FLRA’s leadership group is composed of a chair and two additional members. Not surprisingly, two Republican appointees voted to approve the decertification, with the single Democratic appointee dissenting. S-HP

You can object to this move to limit the independence of and workplace protections for immigration judges by writing the Federal Labor Relations Authority. Addresses are here.


4. Canada seeks new immigrants

Faced with the loss of revenue and a youthful workforce that comes with immigration, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday that he was offering a new path to citizenship for immigrants already in the country who are working, studying, or seeking asylum, according to the Financial Post. Health Care workers are especially needed. According to Immigration Canada, 1.2 million newcomers will be admitted between 2021 and 2023 in order to assist with the pandemic recovery; most of those admitted will be in the high-skill or family reunification categories.


5. Is your local ICU at capacity? The (present) government won’t tell you.

If you knew whether nearby ICUs were at capacity, would you take extra precautions against COVID-19? Very possibly. However, you don’t have access to that information because the government–at least as presently constituted–hides it from you. Documents obtained by NPR indicate that while hospitals are required to report this information to Health and Human Services, it is not released beyond a small circle of people. Health officers, state and local officials, and potential patients therefore have no way to plan. The most recent report NPR obtained, October 27, noted that in Atlanta, Minneapolis and Baltimore, “in-patient hospital beds are over 80% full, while particular hospitals in Tampa, Birmingham and New York “are at over 95% ICU capacity and at risk of running out of intensive care beds.” RLS

If you want to speak up about the refusal of Health and Human Services to release data about hospital capacity, you can write to the head of HHS and to your elected representatives. Addresses are here.

6. How will Biden deal with COVID-19?

Biden made it very clear in his speech that he has a plan to address COVID-19. NPR describes it: He’ll make sure that scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make recommendations based on evidence, invest in the distribution of vaccines and PPE, hire people to do extensive contact tracing, increase testing, develop the workforce of caregivers, and work with the governors to establish when and where masks are mandatory. Scientific American has a good piece from before the election that will make it clear the impact president-elect Biden will have on science and the environment.

Meanwhile, you might find the COVID-19 risk tracker from Brown University’s Alpert Medical School useful. You can put in an activity–such as grocery shopping–and tweak your plans to lower your risk. RLS

7. The United States dumps between 1.1 and 2.2 million metric tons of plastic into the oceans

U.S. contribution to worldwide coastal plastics pollution may be five times greater than previously understood, according to an article published in Scientific Advances, a journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As the New York Times noted in October, the study reflects increasing U.S. use of plastics, but the larger number is also a result of the study’s authors’ decision to include plastic waste that the U.S. ships to other countries, where that waste is often mishandled. As much as 88% of exported U.S. plastic waste is sent to countries that simply do not have adequate waste management infrastructure to recycle those materials. As the Times article explains, in 2016, “the United States contributed between 1.1 and 2.2 million metric tons of plastic waste to the oceans through a combination of littering, dumping and mismanaged exports.” S-HP

You can alert your Congressmembers to the findings of this study and remind them that we are long overdue for a serious reduction in the use and discarding of plastics.

8. Grey wolves losing federal endangered species protection

In an act that Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife called “premature and reckless,” the Trump administration announced that it would be removing endangered species protections this month, leaving the scattered populations of grey wolves under the management of individual states. Washington Post coverage of this action notes that gray wolves were originally listed as an endangered species in 1967, when the population of the wolves in the 48 contiguous U.S. states had dropped to 1,000. While the gray wolf population has increased since then, there are still fewer than 8,000 gray wolves in the 48 states: a total of about 6,000 individuals living in the Midwest states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota and much smaller, isolated populations in California, Oregon, and Washington. Ranchers and hunters are delighted with the decision. Defenders of Wildlife and several other environmental organizations have announced plans to file a suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to challenge this decision. S-HP

If you wish to join environmentalists in opposing the removal of endangered species protections for the still-vulnerable gray wolves, you can write the Secretary of the Interior and the Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Addresses are here.


â—‰ The Americans of Conscience checklist provides ways to make sure your ballot was counted and ways to help Georgia residents vote on the upcoming runoffs.

â—‰ Week after week since the 2016 election, Rogan’s List has provided clear, comprehensive analyses of the problems that beset us and quick, focused actions we can take. For the moment, Susan Rogan has ceased publishing but may revive the List in a somewhat different form. This week’s edition recommends other activist lists to follow. News You May Have Missed is very grateful to Susan for her consistent inspiration and concrete suggestions.