1. US armed forces cover up civilian casualties–new investigation
US forces dropped three large bombs on 70 civilians–women and children–during a 2019 battle against ISIS in Syria. The military officials supposedly in charge of the battle had not ordered the strike and even noted that it could be considered a war crime. However, almost immediately, military leadership began covering it up, according to the New York Times. An inspector general who tried to investigate it was removed from his job. An Air Force attorney who witnessed it spent years pressing for an investigation, even taking it to the Senate Armed Services Committee.
After an exhaustive investigation, the Times found that bombing had been carried out by an American special operations unit, Task Force 9. While armed forces officials described the war against ISIS as preserving the lives of civilians, the special operations units ignored those principles, which they were allowed to do if they claimed they acted in self-defense. The TImes article is exhaustive, with remarkable detail about the trail of decisions and errors that resulted in those deaths and the evasion of procedures that meant they were not acknowledged until now.
The Defense Department is undergoing two reviews to address its policies on air strikes and civilian casualties, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced in response to the report. RLS
2. Republicans decline to censure Gosar
Historian and public intellectual Heather Cox Richardson warns that “Republicans have made it clear that they are comfortable with violence, and they are rigging elections to gain power. Unless Congress chooses to protect our votes with the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, the Republican performance in the House today [a refusal by all but two Republicans to vote for censure of Representative Paul Gosar for posting animated video showing him killing a Democratic member of the House] will become our norm.”
It’s not just Gosar, the New York Times points out. Democratic members of Congress regularly receive threats of death and violence against themselves and their families, requiring security protection just to drop their children off at school. S-HP
You might consider reminding your Congressmembers that voting rights are the foundation upon which a democracy is built and that these rights must include freedom from the threat of violence in electoral politics. It’s time for them to continue to (or begin) fighting for voting rights protections on the federal level through comprehensive legislation or—if that isn’t possible—through smaller, step-by-step pieces of legislation, as we suggested in our database. Find your Senators here and your Representative here.
3. Climate crisis wreaks havoc in BC floods
The floods in British Columbia have left Vancouver completely blocked off, as all roads into the area are closed by flooding, Bloomberg explains. 17,000 people have been forced out of their homes, and three people have died. Thousands of farm animals in BC’s Fraser Valley have died, and others are stranded without access to food, drinkable water, or veterinary care, according to the Globe and Mail. Farmers on higher ground are responding to desperate Facebook pleas from other farmers, asking for help moving cattle up to their necks in water, as seen in the Calgary Herald.
The flooding is especially acute because of the fires last summer–the torrential rains run off the burned land, the New York Times explained. The Times quoted Merran Smith, the executive director of Clean Energy Canada, as saying, “In the last six months, B.C. has both burned and drowned. So there’s really no greater evidence of climate change right now than here in British Columbia.”
Among the sorrowful ironies of the flooding in BC is that it is in part a consequence of a decision a hundred years ago to drain what First Nations people called Lake Semá:th. At the time, the lake–which was an essential source of water and fish for the Sumas First Nation– was drained to provide farmland for white settlers, and the Sumas people were relocated away from their ancestral territory, as Global News explains. The Sumas Chief Dalton Silver points out that catastrophic flooding might have been averted if First Nations people had been allowed to continue to manage the land. “Our perspective is that we should be looking after everything around us that looks after us, which means the salmon, the animals, everything else,” he said. “We are the land and the land is us.”
One view is that Canada’s infrastructure is built on old climate data and assumptions, and that the process of adaptation to new climate contingencies has barely begun, as one Toronto Star reporter described it. That view focuses on how small vulnerable communities need to retrofit for the future and be able access federal funds, not on how the climate crisis could have been or ought to be mitigated.
The Star quoted Joanna Eyquem, managing director of climate-resilient infrastructure at the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, as saying, “Climate change is often seen as a future problem but, actually, it is a now problem. It’s affecting people’s health. It’s not an environmental issue only, and it’s adversely affecting people’s lives.” RLS
SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT
4. Legislation to prevent maternal deaths stalled in committees
Recent New York Times reporting summarizes deeply troubling data about maternal health in the U.S. In the U.S. there are 20 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, compared to six per 100,000 in Canada, four per 100,000 in Australia, and zero per 100,000 in Ireland, Norway, and Luxembourg. Twenty percent of women living in the American south live in counties with high risk of maternal death or poor maternal health outcomes. Native American and Alaskan Indian women are 2.6 times more likely to live under conditions that create problems during and after pregnancy; for Black women the figure is 1.6 times more. Black women are also 2.5 more times likely than white women to die giving birth—and that’s after controlling for age, education, and income. The NYT article notes that “Solving this worsening problem requires looking not just at the quality of care a woman receives but the entire environment around her—from her access to health care to the availability of food in her community.” Other factors that affect maternal health outcomes include pollution, housing quality, transportation availability, educational opportunity, and language barriers.
H.R.959, the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act would begin to address maternal health broadly, calling on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to address maternal health threats presented by environment; it would extend access to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program (“food stamps” in the vernacular) to 24 months post-partum; it would increase access to maternal health care, alternative payment models for maternal health care, and maternal care training and technology. In addition it specifically addresses maternal health outcomes for the incarcerated and the effects of the climate crisis on maternal health. This legislation was introduced in April; since then, it’s been assigned to eight House Committees and an additional eight subcommittees. S-HP
Help jumpstart this bill! Insist that we need swift, positive action on the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act by House leadership, the appropriate Committees and Subcommittees, and your own Representative. Addresses are here.
5. Biden required to auction oil and gas leases
We’re facing a one-step-forward, two-steps back situation in terms of limiting new oil and gas leases on federal lands.
President Biden has announced an end to new oil and gas leases within ten miles of Chaco Canyon, a major Native American cultural site. This announcement follows years of tribal requests to protect Chaco Canyon.
Protection for Chaco Canyon, however, does not address demands from Native American climate activists who say too little has been done to combat fossil fuel use. Among the continuing fossil fuel projects being criticized is the Line 3 pipeline that puts at risk watersheds and tribal lands in Minnesota.
This week, the Biden administration also held its first auction of oil and gas leases—which includes 308 tracts that cover 2,700 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico. On January 27, the Biden administration announced the suspension of all new oil and gas leases on federal lands until the impact of these sales could be individually studied. That move was challenged in a lawsuit by Attorneys General and other officials from 13 states, and in June U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty ordered that sales be continued. S-HP
Consider thanking President Biden and Interior Secretary Deb Haaland for protecting Chaco Canyon and urging them to work toward an end of oil and gas leases on federal lands, despite the resistance from states and courts. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW.. Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS. Deb Haaland, Secretary of Interior, Department of Interior, 1849 C St. NW, Washington DC 20240, (202) 208-3100. @SecDebHaaland.
Since the courts have blocked Biden from suspending the leases, tell your Congressmembers that if we want to have a livable planet—not just in the distant future, but for those living today—we must end our reliance on fossil fuels and need to protect federal lands from being used as fossil fuel extraction sites. Find your Senators here and your Representative here.
6. Hope for Monarchs
The Build Back Better legislation President Biden just signed includes provisions first suggested in The Monarch and Pollinator Highway Act, legislation introduced Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and SenatorJeff Merkely (D-OR). This part of Build Back Better will protect monarch butterflies and other pollinators by providing grants to plant or seed native wildflowers and grasses along roadsides. More plants, more butterflies, more beauty, more hope. S-HP
You could thank Panetta and Merkely for introducing thelegislation that this provision of Build Back Better is based on: Representative Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), 212 Cannon House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-2861. @RepJimmyPanetta. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR), 531 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington DC 20510, (202) 224-3753, @SenJeffMerkley.
To keep track of countries’ pledges–and actions–on climate, you can use the Climate Action Tracker.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has a podcast series of 70 years of displacement.
The Americans of Conscience checklist points out that there are only 55 weeks till the midterms, and suggests a series of actions you can take toward election security.
Are you trying to decide whether to go to an in-person event? The Canadian Institute on Ageing offers a detailed, well-grounded risk assessment tool.
Moms Rising always has clear, focused actions you can take to make change, this month focusing on juvenile justice.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has a useful FAQ about COVID-19 and the vaccines.
The World Food Programme estimates that 12.4 Syrians are food-insecure, an increase of 4.5 million over the last year. They are receiving donations for their work providing food for the most vulnerable families. The UNHCR is also requesting donations for displaced families in Syria and surrounding countries, particularly Lebanon and Turkey.
The UN Refugee Agency is requesting donations for humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, especially for the hundreds of thousands of displaced people. Not only because Afghan assets have been frozen, but because of massive inflation and the lack of funds to pay the salaries of public employees, the country is at risk of “a total breakdown of the economy and social order,” according to the UN Special Envoy on Afghanistan.
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.
Freedom for All Americans has a very useful legislation tracker on trans issues.