News You May Have Missed: February 28, 2021

Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. Cengiz was waiting outside the Saudi embassy where Khashoggi was killed; he had gone into the embassy to get documents for their wedding. “The Administration’s Inaction on the Killing of Jamal Khashoggi” by POMED is licensed under CC BY 2.0


1. U.S. intelligence report asserts Saudi Crown Prince ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Canadian dissident apparently forced to give up names of Saudi activists

The Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to an intelligence report that had been sequestered by the Trump administration and that Biden administration has now released, according to the LA Times. The Biden administration is sanctioning top Saudi officials–but not the Crown Prince. However, the State Department is imposing a “Khashoggi Ban” which will “limit travel visas for people who threaten or harm journalists and activists on behalf of foreign governments,” the Times reported. Biden is distancing himself from the Saudis–he has cut support for the war in Yemen that the Saudis have pursued and is working to re-establish the Iran nuclear agreement. As Amnesty International put it, using the arms the US has sent them, “the Saudi and UAE-led Coalition carried out scores of indiscriminate and disproportionate air strikes on civilians and civilians’ objects, hitting homes, schools, hospitals, markets, mosques, weddings and funerals.”

Saudi activists outside the country now feel even more endangered by the country’s treatment of dissidents. A 24-year-old activist, in an eerie echo of the Khashoggi killing, went to the Saudi embassy in Ottawa, Canada, where–he told friends–he was required to give up the names of Saudi activists who had been using pseudonyms. He then disappeared for several weeks, but reappeared in Saudi Arabia. His Twitter account, which had referenced Khashoggi and challenged various Saudi positions, was deleted–then replaced with a new Twitter account and a picture of the Crown Prince, according to the Washington Post. Other dissidents report having their families and friends in Saudi Arabia threatened, and fear that they will be further targeted. The Canadian government has not commented, according to the Post, and the Canadian media have been entirely silent about the case. RLS


2. Biden permits asylum-seekers in Matamoros to enter the country for hearings–but re-opens notorious shelters for children

Biden’s record on immigration is already mixed. He has reopened a camp to house up to 700 teenagers, aged 13-17, one that was only open for a month during the Trump administration, according to the Independent, which notes that 5,700 children were apprehended at the border in January. Administration officials say that more space is needed in order to maintain distancing requirements under COVID. The Biden administration is also preparing to re-open a Homestead facility in Miami, one that was notorious for sexual abuse allegations and for toxic waste in the area, as the Southern Poverty Law Center points out. An attorney for the SPLC argues that “There are community-based, humane alternatives to detention such as NGOs, nonprofits and community sponsors that are ready to safely care for migrant children from the safety of homes. These options are safer and less traumatizing and will end our reliance on profit-driven private detention corporations.”

On the other hand, asylum-seekers who had been stuck in a freezing camp over the border in Matamoros (see our story from last week) are being admitted to the U.S. to wait for their hearings and permitted to stay with family and friends. Witness at the Border describes the rejoicing as people who had been stranded come into the country. There are, of course, some very troublesome stories as well. Deportation flights continue, justified by the CDC’s order to remove people from the country to avoid the spread of COVID-19: Witness at the Border calculates that some 74 flights went to eight countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

It is no wonder that more people are trying to migrate, fleeing not only violence but hunger. As Reuters points out, four times as many people are hungry in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua compared to two years ago. The economic crisis triggered by COVID-19, in addition to two hurricanes that destroyed infrastructure in the area, mean that 15 per cent of people surveyed by the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) say that they intend to migrate. RLS

Witness at the Border urges everyone to send a postcard about the re-opening of detention centers for children. You can find the template here.

You can also donate miles (or money) to Miles for Migrants, to help people released from detention get to their families. ICE tends to release detainees with little or no notice and no form of transportation.

3. Unpacking the Capitol insurrection–and planning for the next one

You may want to be alert on March 4, when QAnon adherents believe that Trump will be inaugurated. Vox explains their complex narrative by which Trump is the “real” president who will be inaugurated on what should be Inauguration Day. Washington police say they have not seen evidence of a mass mobilization, but they are prepared nonetheless. Trump may well have fueled these kinds of plans with his speech at the CPAC convention, where as another article in Vox notes, he insisted again and again that he had won the election.

Meanwhile, Yogananda D. Pittman, the acting chief of the Capitol police force told a House appropriations subcommittee that extreme right-wingers and militia groups are still planning to attack the Capitol, aiming especially for when Biden gives his first address to Congress, reports the New York Times. She also says that phone records show that her predecessor had called for National Guard backup starting at 1 PM on January 6, the day of the insurrection, and called many times thereafter; the Pentagon did not approve the deployment of the National Guard until 3 PM, when it was very much too late. RLS

4. If all your exes live in Texas, they need a energy regulation

On February 25, a class-action suit was filed against Griddy, the power provider in Texas that charged customers whose power remained on up to $17,000, Forbes reports. Then, on February 28, the Texas power-grid operator, ERCOT, removed all customers from Griddy and transferred them to other power providers, according to the Mercury News. ERCOT, of course, is the body that ordered power cut, leaving 4.5 million residents without heat, lights or running water in a snowstorm. According to the CBC, at least 30 people died, including six homeless people, reported the Texas Tribune, which also notes that Texas officials understood after a major storm in 2011 that a significant storm could cause major power outages but left the decision about whether to upgrade in preparation to power companies. They declined to do so. As Ed Hirs, an energy fellow at the University of Houston noted about Texas’ insistence on opting out of energy regulation, “If you’re going to say you can handle it by yourself, step up and do it. That’s the incredible failure.”

Hourly workers in Texas were not paid for the days when they could not work, and now struggle to pay March rent, the Tribune noted, while the Hill points out that big corporations in the area are requiring workers to use vacations days to cover the days they were unable to work.  RLS

5. Incarcerated firefighters, others, would be protected from deportation under new bill

In last summer’s California fires, incarcerated firefighters risked their lives fighting the blazes. Two of these people were turned over to ICE after they finished fighting the fires and completed their sentences. One of them finished serving a 22-year sentence for a robbery he had committed when he was a teenager; he is scheduled to be deported to Laos, which he fled with his family as a two-year old refugee, the Guardian explains.

California’s AB-937, the Voiding of Inequality and Seeking Inclusion for Our Immigrant Neighbors (VISION) Act, would stop state prisons and jails from handing over immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after they have completed their sentences. Currently state prisons and jails are able to make such hand-overs because they are exempt from California’s sanctuary laws barring cooperation between local law enforcement and ICE. Governor Gavin Newsom has defended the practice. The Asian Law Caucus reports that, in 2020, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation transferred some 1400 people from its custody to ICE. In 2018 and 2018, some 3700 such transfers were made from local jails to ICE. AB-937 is currently with the California Assembly Public Safety Committee. S-HP

You can urge swift positive action on AB-937 by the Public Safety Committee, ask your Assemblymember and California Senator to support AB-937, and tell Governor Newsom (@GavinNewsom) that you oppose his support for this practice which subjects immigrants, both documented and undocumented, to a particularly cruel form of double jeopardy. Addresses are here.


7. Climate Map: What will your county look like in 2040?

Livable regions in the US will shift north, while southern regions will become uninhabitable according to a climate map produced by ProPublica and the New York Times magazine, drawing on data from the Rhodium Group, which has additional resources on flooding, climate and inequality, and more. Food production, too, will have to relocate northward, as extreme heat and flooding will undermine crops. Some areas–California for example–will be vulnerable to multiple catastrophes, such as fires and drought. You can put your own county in the search bar and see what the climate future is likely to look like where you live. RLS

8. Bill in the Senate would address the structural racism in health care

The COVID-19 pandemic is providing a heart-breaking and irrefutable example of the structural racism at the heart of the U.S. healthcare system. As we explained last week, Black, Latinx and Indigenous people are more likely to suffer from COVID-19. Many factors are behind this phenomenon: they are more likely to live in crowded conditions, do front-line work or high-contact work, lack health insurance, deal with racism in health care, and so forth, according to the Center for Pubic Integrity: “Black Americans have been more likely than whites to test positive for COVID-19, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show, almost four times as likely to be hospitalized, and nearly three times as likely to die of the disease,” the Center wrote.

S.162, the Anti-Racism in Public Health Act, would begin to address this issue. It would amend the Public Health Service Act to provide for public health research and investment into understanding and eliminating structural racism and police violence. This legislation is currently with the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

You can urge swift, positive action on S.162 by the HELP Committee. Addresses are here.

9. Endangered Sharks

Shark populations have declined by 70% in the past sixty years, and several shark species currently face the possibility of extinction. Sharks die at human hands in significant numbers for a variety of reasons, including the collection of their fins for cooking purposes. They also die as bycatch in commercial fishing, since the fish species sharks prey upon are often the same species humans consume (tuna, for example). They are also endangered by sport fishing and by a shark souvenir industry; shark teeth and jaws as well as bottled shark pups are popular tourist items. One easy source of shark souvenirs is OceanKin Conservation is currently running a petition campaign aimed at ending the sale of shark souvenirs on Amazon. S-HP

Consider signing OceanKin Conservation’s petition or, better yet, write to Amazon founder and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos to demand an end to the sale of shark souvenirs on Amazon: Jeff Bezos, Chief Executive Officer, 410 Terry Ave. North, Seattle, WA 98109, (206) 266-1000. @JeffBezos.


Heather Cox Richardson continues to document government policies and practices, putting them in historical context. She has particularly helpful insights into Biden’s approach to the intelligence report on the death of Jamal Khashoggi, Biden’s decision to bomb Syria, and the For the People Act, which would provide for automatic voter registration. 

The Americans of Conscience Checklist continues to offer clear, effective actions we can take, this week focused on protecting the midterm elections, getting asylum-seekers released and resisting anti-Black racism.

Moms Rising recommends some important actions for this week focused COVID relief, including getting Biden’s COVID relief bill passed