If you’re ambivalent about celebrating Independence Day, you might celebrate Interdependence Day instead, as a friend of News You May Have Missed suggests. All the news reminds us of how we are connected, from the climate-crisis related issues such as the 171 fires in Western Canada and the five big fires in Northern California, to the condo collapse in Florida, where rising sea levels may have weakened the foundation and will certainly threaten many such buildings in the years to come. One way or another, we are in this together.
Independence Day is good day to review the extraordinary video compilation that the New York Times put together of the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. As Haley Willis, one of the producers, explained, “Our Visual Investigations team synchronized and mapped thousands of videos of the U.S. Capitol riot to provide the most complete picture to date of what happened on Jan. 6 — and why. This was a massive team effort over six months, involving resources from across the Times newsroom. We went to court to unseal police body camera footage, scoured law enforcement radio communications and interviewed witnesses.”
1. Members of the Saudi team that murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi were trained in the U.S.
Foreign military and security access to U.S. arms and military-style training, often provided by private firms, requires a license that must be issued by the State Department. The State Department, reports the New York Times, issues tens of thousands such licenses each year. Among those admitted to the U.S. for training in 2014-15 and 2017 were members of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s personal security team, the Rapid Intervention Force (RIF). Two of the RIF members receiving training during 2017 and another two who received training in both 2014-15 and 2017 were members of the team that murdered and dismembered journalist and U.S.-resident Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. In fact, one of the factors confirming that bin Salman’s directed the Khashoggi murder was the participation of the RIF. A U.S. intelligence report on the murder noted that “Members of the RIF would not have participated” without bin Salman’s consent because the RIF “exists to defend the Crown Prince [and] answers only to him.”
Note that this training occurred during both the Obama and the Trump administrations, illustrating the willingness of national leaders of both of the U.S.’s main political parties to allow repressive, authoritarian regimes to strengthen themselves using U.S.-based training. There are, of course, the arguments about Saudi Arabia being a vital U.S. ally in the Middle East, limiting Iranian aggression and acknowledging the existence of the state of Israel. And those political benefits are accompanied by significant profits for U.S. weapons manufacturers and security training companies. Those were the reasons then-President Trump cited for not sanctioning Saudis after Khashoggi’s murder. The Biden administration has instituted sanctions on some of those involved, but those being sanctioned do not include bin Salman. S-HP
You can share your disgust at the role played by our government and U.S. businesses in supporting authoritarian regimes through the process of State Department licensing and call for limits on State Department licensing to confirm that regimes whose representatives receive training in the U.S. have a clean human rights record. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW,Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111, @POTUS, and Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State, Department of State, 2201 St. NW, Washington DC 20520, (202) 647-4000. @ABlinken. Find your Senators here and find your Representative here.
2. Immigration news–some of it good
The Biden administration has been a disappointment for many who oppose immigrant detention and would like to see a more humane approach to those entering the country without documentation. However, some of the administration’s moves have been positive and might be starting places from which to push for additional changes.
◉ICE urged to drop cases: At a time when the U.S. has a backlog of 1.3 million deportation cases to address, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) attorneys have been issued new guidelines encouraging them to use their discretion “at the earliest point possible” to drop deportation cases—a contrast from the Trump administration’s determination to maximize deportations. According to the Hill, ICE attorneys are encouraged to take into consideration an individual’s time in the U.S., ties to community, and humanitarian concerns—which certainly could apply to Dreamers. Unfortunately, this policy will primarily benefit those who can afford immigration attorneys, who should know of the policy shift and be able to negotiate a better outcome for clients. Unrepresented individuals will have a much more difficult time arguing that their cases be dropped. The policy also specifically excludes anyone who entered the country after November 1, 2020. Greg Chen, of the American Immigration Lawyers Associations suggests a broader move that could easily be made using database information in order drop proceedings against two groups: those who have subsequently begun the process of applying for citizenship through U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and those whose cases have been backlogged for five or more years. Doing this could reduce the backlog by half.
◉Biden promoting naturalization:The Hill reports that Biden administration is promoting a goal that Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas described as “promoting naturalization to all who are eligible.” The administration has suggested immigration judges to inform eligible individuals about naturalization procedures. Government-issued U.S. Citizenship test prep materials will be offered in a great range of languages. One step the Biden administration has not taken is cutting increases in the cost of applying for citizenship. Under Obama, the cost to apply was $640; under Trump that cost was raised to $1,100 or more.
◉Biden bringing back deported veterans: One of the many disturbing aspects of the Trump administration immigration policy was its willingness to deport U.S. military veterans. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced a new effort to halt and undo the damage caused by those deportations, reports the Washington Post. A new DHS “Military Resource Center” will be available online and via telephone to assist current and former members of the military and their families with immigration applications. Deportation of veterans and their families preceded Trump’s time as president, but his administration pursued this policy with particular aggressiveness. The government did not screen veterans before deportation, so there is no specific data available on the number of individuals affected, but the Washington Post cites estimates that hundreds of veterans and thousands of their family members have likely been deported. In addition to offering eligible veterans and family members pathways to citizenship, DHS and the Department of Veterans Affairs have announced that they will work together to ensure that all veterans are receiving the healthcare they have a right to under their terms of service.
◉Those fleeing gang or domestic violence allowed to seek asylum: As we noted earlier, Attorney General Merrick Garland ended the Trump administration’s refusal to accept asylum-seekers who were fleeing domestic or gang violence, as NPR reported in June. However, new rules have yet to be drafted, and advocates for immigrants are concerned that asylum-seekers will be deported until new rules are in place. Still, as the Southern Poverty Law Center points out, this is an important first step: “We look forward to further action by Attorney General Garland to undo the enormous damage wrought by the Trump administration and finally protect the rights afforded to individuals seeking asylum,” the Center said in a statement.
◉Biden possibly ending Title 42–but not soon enough: The Biden Administration is also considering ending its use of Title 42 to unilaterally expel those entering the U.S. without documentation. Title 42 was activated purportedly as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The fact that the Biden administration points to its success against COVID-19 adds pressure to end Title 42. Axios reports that the administration may end use of Title 42 as early as July 31, but unless and until that happens, summary expulsions will continue. In the last four months, according to Axios, more than 350,000 adults have been expelled under Title 42. S-HP/RLS
You can thank the administration for these positive steps, and urge that they be taken further by not deporting asylum-seekers fleeing gang or domestic violence, dropping significant numbers of backlogged deportation cases, including those of Dreamers, and returning citizenship application fees to their pre-Trump cost. You can urge the administration to stop deportations under Title 42 as well. Addresses are here.
3. Finally! Good news on Bears Ears, other monuments
We’ve had some heartening news in the past few weeks that offer us opportunities to thank those responsible.
◉Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has recommended that full protections be restored to national monuments that were reduced during the Trump administration, including Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante, and Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monuments, according to a story first reported by the Washington Post. Under the Trump administration, the acreage protected at Bears Ears was reduced by 85% and the acreage at Grand Staircase-Escalante by 50%. Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument was opened to commercial fishing, essentially ending its protections.
◉The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will be reconstituting an advisory panel that was disbanded by Trump-era EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler. The Hill reports that the EPA’s science advisory board will soon issue a call for nominations to the Particulate Matter Review Panel. The panel is charged with advising the EPA on safe levels for particulate matter, which comes from sources like power plant, industry, and automobiles and which has been linked to heart attacks, asthma attacks, and premature death. The EPA desperately needs good advice–see our story below.
◉CNN was the first to report an announcement by Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough that Veterans Affair health coverage will be expanded to cover gender confirmation surgery for transgendered veterans, along with its existing provision of mental health services and hormone therapy. According to the Center for Transgender Equity, there are some 134,000 transgender U.S. veterans. In making his announcement, McDonough explained the decision to add gender confirmation surgery was based on the “recommendation of our clinicians, so this is a health care decision that has very real physical health care impacts as well as significant mental health impacts.” S-HP
You can find addresses for appropriate people to thank at this link and you can urge President Biden to follow through on Secretary Haaland’s recommendations: @POTUS.
4. What we can do to help protect Uyghur Muslims in China
According to NPR, Uyghur Muslims in China have been subjected to various kinds of persecution, ranging from torture to imprisonment; women in particular have endured sexual abuse and rape, according to the BBC. A recent Amnesty International report details the suffering of the Uyghurs. An earlier report noted that families are being separated and children put into orphanages. There are two very different ways in which we can act in opposition to Chinese genocide of Uyghur Muslims.
– On the legislative front, we can urge our Senators to support S.65, the Uyghur Forced Labor Act, which has made it through the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and can now move on to a vote of the full Senate. S.65 imposes importation limits on goods produced using forced labor in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China and imposes and expands sanctions related to such forced labor.
– In the private sector, we can join the Congress on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in opposing construction of a Hilton Hotel as part of a development being built on the site of a bulldozed Uyghur mosque. As CAIR points out, “The United States government formally recognizes that the government of China is committing ‘genocide and crimes against humanity’ against Uyghur Muslim and other Turkic minorities in the Xinjiang region…. Hilton has a unique opportunity to take a clear stance against China’s ongoing genocide of Uyghur Muslims and set an example for other prominent corporations…. by announcing it will cancel this project and cease any operations in the Uyghur region of China until its government ends its persecution of millions of innocent people.” S-HP
If you want to take action on this issue, ask your Senators to support S.65 and join calls for Hilton to cancel plans to build a luxury hotel in the site of a razed Uyghur mosque. Addresses are here.
SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT
5. Scientists at the EPA said their assessments of toxic chemicals were rewritten to favor industry
Four scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency were repeatedly pressured to modify their risk assessments of various chemicals—including carcinogens—in favor of industry, according to a story in the Intercept. When they refused, three of them were transferred out of the office. One who was transferred says that her assessments continue to be rewritten so that they understate the risks to human health and fetal development. Another who was transferred described the changes to his assessments this way: “So it went from being over 15,000 times over the safe dose to you just need to wear a dust mask and you’ll be fine.” One scientist is still there, but says that the pressure to change assessments continues—well post-Trump. The four sent a statement to Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER, is supporting the whistleblowers and has filed a complaint with the EPA Inspector General, and Michal Freedhoff, assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. RLS
If you are concerned about the impact of the EPA’s manipulation of environmental assessments, you could urge a prompt investigation of these allegations of political pressures and misleading rewrites at the EPA. Addresses are here.
6. Danger of the Delta Variant
If you’ve had just one shot, you should be quite concerned about the Delta variant of COVID. 15 million people in the US have missed their second dose, according to the Washington Post, and only 37% of Canadians have had both shots, according to CTV. One shot is only 33% effect against the variant (50% against the primary version), and the variant is sweeping multiple countries leading to surges of COVID in areas that previously appeared to have it under control, according to an article in Nature, which explains that in the UK, where it accounts for 99% of cases, people with Delta are twice as likely to be hospitalized. The biggest risk is to African countries, which still have not received adequate supplies of the vaccine. Delta is the most transmissible of the variants. Follow Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding’s Twitter thread for more on this story. Feigl-Ding is a senior scientist with the Federation of American Scientists. RLS
7. Women’s access to health care could improve in pending legislation
A number of pieces of legislation protecting women’s access—globally and within the U.S.—to reproductive healthcare, including abortion, are currently with the House and Senate.
◉The EACH (Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance; H.R.2234) Act’s official summary explains that “This bill requires federal health care programs to provide coverage for abortion services and requires federal facilities to provide access to those services. The bill also permits qualified health plans to use funds attributable to premium tax credits and reduced cost sharing assistance to pay for abortion services.” This legislation is currently with eight House committees: Energy and Commerce; Ways and Means; Natural Resources; Armed Services; Veterans’ Affairs; Judiciary; Oversight and Reform; and Foreign Affairs.
◉S.1975 and H.R.3755, the Women’s Health Protections Act, would “prohibit laws that impose burdensome requirements on access to reproductive health services such as requiring doctors to perform tests and procedures that doctors have deemed unnecessary or preventing doctors from prescribing and dispensing medication as is medically appropriate. Other examples of laws that make it more difficult for a woman to access an abortion include: restrictions on medical training for future abortion providers, requirements concerning the physical layout of clinics where abortions are performed, and forced waiting periods for patients,” as explained in a press release announcing the introduction of this legislation. Text is available online for S.1975. Text is not yet available online for H.R.3755, but should be identical to the text of S.1975. S.1975 is with the Senate Judiciary Committee. H.R.3755 is with the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
◉H.R.1670, Abortion Is Healthcare Everywhere, “authorizes the use of certain foreign assistance funds to provide comprehensive reproductive health care services in developing countries, including abortion services, training, and equipment,” ending what has been called the “global gag rule,” which prohibits the use of foreign aid funds to support any organization that provides or offers information on abortions. H.R.1670 is currently with the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
◉The official summary for H.R.556, the Global Health, Empowerment, and Rights Act, explains that it “establishes that a foreign nongovernmental organization shall not be disqualified from receiving certain U.S. international development assistance solely because the organization provides medical services using non-U.S. government funds if the medical services are legal in both the United States and the country in which they are being provided.” Although the summary does not explicitly identify abortion as one of these medical services that is, in fact, one of the legal services it is written to protect. H.R.556 is currently with the House Foreign Affairs Committee. S-HP
If you want to help nudge this legislation forward, addresses for appropriate people to write–including your Senators and Representative–are listed here.
You can see here how vulnerable rebar is to corroding and failing if it isn’t properly surrounded by cement. Condos in Florida tend to mix cement with beach sand because it is cheaper, but of course it is also salty, corroding the rebar supporting the building.
No More Deaths/No Más Muertes‘ three-part report, Left to Die, details how asylum-seekers in the desert are abandoned by the Border Patrol. Though 911 calls are routed to them, they did not respond in 63% of cases. Lee Sandusky’s piece of literary journalism, “Scenes from an Emergency Clinic in the Sonoran Desert,” eloquently describes the work No More Deaths/No Más Muertes does.
The National Lawyers Guild has a series of webinars on issues from the global repression of voting, the local suppression of voting and the detention of immigrants.
A trans hotline with both Canadian and US numbers–and with operators who speak Spanish–provides services by and for trans people. You don’t need to be in crisis to call, and if you are a friend or a family member of a trans person, you can also call to find out how to support them. If you would like to know more about the organization, see their staff bios here.
Moms Rising has actions you can take to celebrate Juneteenth–specific ways to work against inequality.
The Americans of Conscience checklist has new actions every other week that will enable you to make your voice heard quickly and clearly. In addition, they have a good news section that will help you keep going.
Among the organizations that supports kids and their families at the border is RAICES, which provides legal support. The need for their services has never been greater. You can support them here.
Al Otro Lado provides legal and humanitarian services to people in both the US and Tijuana. You can find out more about their work here.
The Minority Humanitarian Foundation supports asylum-seekers who have been released by ICE with no means of transportation or ways to contact sponsors. You can donate frequent-flyer miles to make their efforts possible.
The group Angry Tias and Abuelas provides legal advice and services to asylum-seekers at the border. You can follow their work on Facebook and see the list of volunteer opportunities they have posted.