News You May Have Missed: January 31, 2021

Climate Change by Riccardo Maria Mantero

Many of us would like to feel that that four-year nightmare is over. But for people on the border, it is not. For people suffering unnecessarily with COVID, it is not. For people whose jobs have not returned or are unsafe, it is not. And for all of us, looking down the barrel of the climate crisis, it is not. Continued vigilance, continued action, is essential.


1. Climate crisis and environmental justice

Biden’s climate plan will focus on environmental justice, on reducing the impact of fossil fuels, toxic waste, uranium mines and industrial pollution on the most vulnerable communities, the Washington Post reports. The result of these patterns has been poorer health and higher mortality rates. Among the reasons that communities of color are more vulnerable to the coronavirus have to do with the higher asthma rates resulting from poor air quality. As the Post reports, however, whether Biden’s commitment will translate into more jobs in renewable sectors remains to be seen.

Biden has expressed a commitment to producing jobs through fossil fuel alternatives, according to Bill McKibben’s recent piece in the New Yorker. McKibben quoted Gina McCarthy, Biden’s climate “czar” who was head of the Natural Resources Defense Council: “We’re going to make sure that nobody is left behind,” she told reporters. “We need to put people to work in their own communities. That’s where their home is. That’s where the vision is. So we are creatively looking at those opportunities for investment, so that we can get people understanding that we are not trying to take away jobs.” RLS

2. Some deportees reunited with family, others continue to be expelled, including Walmart shooting survivor and witness

A few parents who had been separated from their young children for two years were permitted to return from Guatemala last week to reunite with their children, the LA Times reported in a heartbreaking story. Their return was made possible by a federal judge who had ruled that they were deported illegally because they had not been able to present their case for asylum, according to the AP. Though the decision in response to an ACLU lawsuit came down in 2019, the families were only now permitted to reunite. One father had sought asylum because his life was threatened for evangelical preaching, the AP said; border patrol agents gave him a form that he couldn’t read to sign, telling him that it would permit him to be deported with his son; they kept his son in custody anyway.

Despite this heartening news, there are still hundreds of thousands of people who were damaged by U.S. policies for whom no recompense has been organized. ​As Witness at the Border writes, “Between April and December, 417,000 people have come to our southern border to seek protection. 373,000 of them were summarily sent back by land into Mexico (I estimate 320,000) or by air to their countries with no due process.” Witness at the Border has also tracked the deportations by air in 2020, some 1008 flights. Twenty additional fights have gone out since January 22, perhaps because Biden’s 100-day moratorium on deportations has been blocked by a judge in response to a lawsuit from the Texas attorney general, according to CNN. Among those deported was Rosa, a young woman who survived the El Paso Walmart shooting and was serving as a witness. A traffic stop revealed that she had two citations from 2015, so she was summarily sent to Mexico, reported KFOX news.

Many of these deportations and expulsions have been conducted under the CDC order (Title 42) permitting the US to expel people from countries where a communicable disease is present. Harvard Law has a clear explanation of how the CDC order operates and says that the ACLU, Texas Civil Rights Project, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, and Oxfam have challenged the Title 42 process in court. A Biden-appointed CDC head could also end these expulsions. RLS

Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, is the 19th Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You could let her know that you would like to see Title 42 rescinded and expulsions stopped. @RWalensky. 800-232-4636.

3. Members of the Capitol police investigated for collaborating with rioters

The Brennan Center quotes Georgetown University law professor Vida B. Johnson, “The [law enforcement] system can never achieve its purported goal of fairness while white supremacists continue to hide within police departments.” Trust in the police remains low among people of color for good reason. We have seen over and over the double standard in policing white communities and communities of color. We have seen over and over how little value too many law enforcement members place on the lives of people of color. The Capitol police have had a disappointing record dealing with bigotry in the ranks, according to ProPublica.

While coverage remains sparse, USA Today points out that twelve members of the Capitol police are currently being investigating for possible cooperation/collaboration with the January 6 rioters. And reporting by the Center for Public Integrity explores the presence of bigotry within law enforcement across regions and ranks. Besides encouraging investigations of the violence at the Capitol, we can encourage our state leaders to demand that law enforcement recognize neo-Nazi groups and white supremacist groups as terrorist organizations and bar membership in these organizations for officers of the law. S-HP

To act on this , you could urge your state legislators to make it clear that membership in hate groups is unacceptable for those charged with fairly and impartially enforcing the law. • Find your state lawmakers here.

4. Who (else) incited the January 6 insurrection?

One of the elected officials to address the January 6 Capitol rioters before their rampage was Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL). Brooks exhorted the crowd of soon-to-be rioters: “I’ve got a message that I need you to take to your heart and take back home—and along the way, stop at the Capitol….Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass! Our ancestors sacrificed their blood, their sweat, their tears, their fortunes, and sometimes their lives to give us, their descendants, an America that is the greatest nation in world history. So I have a question for you: are you willing to do the same? Are you willing to do what it takes to fight for America?… The fight begins today!”

Brooks claims he was speaking metaphorically, but the rioters and many of those who had to shelter from their attack are convinced he was speaking literally. The House does have a way to deal with this kind of sedition: removing a Representative from office. H.Res.46, “Removing Representative Mo Brooks from the House of Representatives,” currently has 21 cosponsors and is with the House Ethics Committee. S-HP

If you think Brooks should be removed from office, you can urge quick, positive action by the House Ethics Committee on H.Res.46 • Representative Theodore E. Deutch (D-FL), Chair, House Ethics Committee, 1015 Longworth House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-7103. @RepTedDeutch. You can also see whether your representative is a co-sponsor, and thank or nudge them as you feel called to do so. You can find your representative here.

5. Mitigating Citizens United

Since the Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United that corporations’ campaign donations are a form of protected free speech, it will take a Constitutional amendment to get corporate money out of elections. H.J.Res.1 would do exactly this: amend the Constitution to allow States and the federal government to set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of campaign money. (The Brennan Center had a good piece in 2019 explaining Citizens United.) H.J.Res.1 currently has 42 cosponsors and is with the House Judiciary Committee. S-HP

Consider urging. swift, positive action by the House Judiciary Committee on H.J.Res.1 • Representative Jerrold Nadler: (D-NY), Chair, House Judiciary Committee, 2141Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-3951. @RepJerryNadler. Also consider seeing whether your representative is a co-sponsor, and nudging them if not.

6. Ending the Filibuster

Whether or not legislation will be frozen for (at least) the first two years of the Biden administration has in part to do with whether the filibuster remains a tool the Senate can use. For the moment, former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has backed away from a demand that the Senate commit to retaining the filibuster before undertaking any other work, but the issues may well rise again, and we might do well to contact those Democratic Senators (and one Independent) who seem most willing to give Mitch what he wants. S-HP

You might tell (or tweet) these waffling Senators, who should be well aware of the obstructionism of the Republican party, that you want an active, productive Senate, and that requires ending the filibuster.

7. Trump tries to erase the Russia Investigation–Reality Winner still in prison

Less than a day before he left office, former president Trump ordered certain documents relating to the investigation of Russia’s interference in the election declassified, though the Justice Department believes they still need to be redacted, according to Politico, which also points out that Trump seems to be trying to make the investigation disappear with his raft of pardons of key players.

Still unpardoned and still suffering from her role in revealing Russian interference in the 2016 election is Reality Winner. NBC has an analysis of how the story emerged and why she is still in prison. New York Magazine ran an in-depth profile of her in 2018 that illuminates her conscience and her commitments. As the Intercept explains, Winner is the last year of her sentence and has had her petitions for compassionate release due to COVID outbreaks in prison denied. Since she performed a crucial service to the nation when she brought attention to Russian interference in the 2016 election, President Biden has been asked to pardon her.

You can sign the petition for clemency for Winner, and ask for Biden to pardon her. • President Joe Biden, White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @JoeBiden.


8. Wood for Life: Saving freezing elders

Hopi and Navajo elders in Northern Arizona are in danger of freezing to death, given the recent closure of a coal mine which gave residents on the reservation free coal. Coal enabled them to stretch scarce, expensive wood for their wood stoves and avoid equally expensive space heaters, according to a wide-ranging story in Slate. It’s not that the Hopi nation wants the coal mine back–it depleted 45 billion gallons of water from their local aquifer. But the cleanup from the mine was supposed to bring new jobs, according to the National Defense Resource Council. Instead, the remnants of the mine sit empty. And because of the pandemic, the kinds of jobs–such as child care–that elders have done to supplement their income from Social Security–have dried up. As a result, people are burning things they cannot spare, like their sheep corrals. A new initiative, called Wood for Life, permits people to thin timber in overgrown forests prone to massive fires and to take the wood to people with little access to heat. The hope is that Wood for Life will sustain these communities until they can move toward solar power, for which the Navajo nation is advocating. RLS


9. Two arthritis drugs may ease COVID 19

A new study, released in advance of publication and not yet peer reviewed, suggests that two arthritis drugs may increase the likelihood of surviving COVID-19.  REMAP-CAP (Randomised, Embedded, Multi-factorial, Adaptive Platform Trial for Community-Acquired Pneumonia) investigators who are trying innovative new treatments looked into using the arthritis medications tocilizumab and sarilumab to reduce the inflammatory process that leads the body to attack its own organs. Some 400 critically ill patients in ICUs who were given the drugs were more likely to survive and had better outcomes overall. According to Docwirenews, however, previous studies found that tocilizumab had more mixed effects and that sarilumab was not effective–so clearly, more research will be required before these two drugs–or others–are an option. So far, only intravenous hydrocortisone seems to increase the survival rates of ICU patients with COVID, though the main study investigating it was stopped early, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). RLS


MomsRising is suggesting that we take five actions this week, the most important one focused on getting Biden’s COVID relief plan passed.

Heather Cox Richardson continues to illuminate the news, explicating everything from the GameStop story last week to the past twenty years of Republican ideology and action.

The Americans of Conscience checklist has clearly explained, useful actions you can take, this week focused around the integrity of elections.