1. Butterfly Center forced to close due to right-wing threats
The National Butterfly Center has been forced to close indefinitely as a result of false claims that it is a site used for human trafficking and illegal migration. Speaking with the Guardian, Marianna Treviño-Wright, the executive director of the National Butterfly Center, explained that these claims are not merely “conspiracies, they’re just outright lies. I think that’s a very important point that needs to be made. As long as they’re called ‘conspiracies,’ then it seems like there’s some plausibility.”
False claims about the National Butterfly Center first rose when the Center opposed the building of Trump’s border wall, which would have devastated the preserve. The situation worsened significantly in late January, leading up to and during a “We Stand America” event along the border. Ominously, center employees were warned by event planners to be armed or out of town during the event. Brian Kolfage, founder of We Build the Wall (now facing corruption and fraud charges) has distributed photos of the Center’s dock with a raft labeled “inflatable raft used by sex traffickers to smuggle through the Butterfly Center” on right-wing media. On January 21, the Center was visited by Republican extremist congressional candidate Kimberly Lowe, who was recorded demanding to see “illegals crossing on rafts” and claiming that Treviño-Wright was “OK with children being sex-trafficked, raped and murdered.” S-HP
If you are aghast at these falsehoods and threats, you can demand that the administration and Congress ensure adequate protection for the National Butterfly Center and cancel plans, still being legally contested, to build a border wall section through the Center. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS. Find your senators here and your representative here.
2. Mass deportations of asylum-seekers continuing under Title 42
This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that Title 42 should remain in effect along the U.S.-Mexico border. As the Los Angeles Times explained in the fall, under Title 42, the U.S. border can be closed because of a “public health emergency,” and this closure supersedes all the usual rules governing border crossings, including those pertaining to asylum seekers. Normally, individuals crossing the border in order to seek asylum due to a credible threat of violence in their country of origin have the right to remain in the U.S.—either released or in immigration detention—until they are granted an asylum hearing. Ordinarily, the U.S. cannot return asylum seekers to their country of origin, where they may face life-threatening danger. Under Title 42, those crossing the border do not have a right to apply for asylum and can be immediately expelled. For those from Mexico and Central America, that expulsion generally means being forced back across the border into Mexico. Asylum seekers from other countries are generally being flown back to their country of origin. S-HP
3. Venzulans turned away at the border, sent to Colombia
The Biden administration is also using Title 42 to send Venezuelans to Colombia if they have ever resided in that country, according to the Washington Post. The Border Patrol stopped 24,819 Venezuelans from entering the country in December, 2021; in December 2020, 206 were stopped. The lack of services in that country, a precipitous drop in employment, violence, waves of evictions, and the effects of COVID-19 have devastated the social landscape; in one of the largest diasporas in recent history, 5.9 million people have fled the country, most of them going to Colombia or Peru–or to the US border.
Because most people in Venezuela have no formal rental agreements and no access to rental assistance, evictions and subsequent homelessness are endemic. “No Home Away from Home,” a data visualization, details the devastating effects of evictions on families, most of whom are headed by women. It was produced by the Inter-Agency Coordination Platform for Refugees and Migrants from Venezuela (R4V), with funding from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, which argues that the world community and aid organizations must focus on the cost of homelessness on children’s educations, families’ safety, health (especially in the pandemic), and access to food and water. RLS
You can demand an end to the use of the Biden administration’s use of Title 42 and to its willingness to put asylum seekers in danger, either by forcing them to remain in improvised camps on the Mexican side of the border or by returning them to the country they fled in an attempt to escape violence and social chaos. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @POTUS. Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Department of Health and Human Services, 200 Independence SW, Washington DC 20201, (877) 696-6775. @SecBecerra. Find your senators here and your representative here.
4. Major corporations advertise during the Olympics, ignore genocide against the Uyghur Muslims
Major corporations are advertising during the winter Olympics being held in China without acknowledging ongoing Chinese genocide against Xinjiang Uyghur Muslims. These companies include Coca-Cola, Intel, Airbnb, Procter & Gamble, and Visa. Many nations, including the U.S., have sent athletes, but not diplomatic representatives to the game as a protest against the Uyghur genocide. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is leading a campaign demanding that Olympics advertisers speak out against the genocide. It’s also worth knowing that Tesla recently opened a new showroom in Xinjiang, despite the ongoing genocide in the region. S-HP
You can sign CAIR’s statement expressing outrage at corporate indifference to Uyghur genocide [link to press release with embedded petition link] and/or write directly to these advertisers.
5. Who are the protesting truckers–really?
The so-called “Freedom Convoy” of truckers opposed to the vaccine mandate is making Ottawa residents miserable. A judge has imposed a moratorium on honking, but with diesel exhaust pouring into their houses, protesters harassing them, even assaulting them on the streets, and the streets themselves in gridlock, life is not as they knew it. More alarming is Canada’s inability to deal with the invasion of trucks. Indicating that the situation is out of control, according to the CBC, Ottawa’s police chief Peter Sloly has declared a state of emergency, saying “This is a siege. It is something that is different in our democracy than I’ve ever experienced in my life.”
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network says that some of the truck protestors and those who support them have ties to the right-wing. They point out that a neo-Nazi was a featured speaker; the anti-immigrant group the Northern Guard was present; and that among the event’s supporters is the Diagolon network, which the Anti-Hate Network describes as “an accelerationist movement, which means they believe a revolution is inevitable and necessary to collapse the current system. It’s also rife with neo-Nazis.” Much has been made of Go Fund Me’s freezing of several million dollars raised for the protesters, but as the Washington Post points out, the group raised 3.5 million dollars in two days on a Christian fundraising site.
The Canadian Trucking Alliance, most of whose members are vaccinated and not opposed to vaccination requirements, says that many of the people at the protest are not connected to the trucking industry, and Police Chief Sloly says that “a significant element” are Americans, according to the Washington Post.
If the police are overwhelmed, politicians seem paralyzed as well. Canada seems to have no trouble rooting out those who protested the G20 Summit in Toronto or preparing to shoot Indigenous people who have protested against pipelines through their territory–but it has seemed unable to act against the truckers. As Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation told Fort McMurray Today, the RCMP could surely use the legislation that was passed to prohibit protests against infrastructure, legislation aimed at the Indigenous protests. As Chief Adam put it, “My question to the premier is if the law does not apply here, then who does the law apply to? If it only applies to First Nations, then the premier and his caucus should do away with it altogether.”
The trucker protest has identified some of the fault lines in Canadian politics today. The Progressive Conservative (PC) party is split, with significant voices in support of the protest, according to CTV. Doug Ford, the Premier of Ontario who may run for the leadership of the PCs, finally spoke out against the protest after days of silence, the Toronto Star reported: “Asked about a rally that saw protesters dance on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, urinate on the National War Memorial, place signs on the Terry Fox statue, and brandish Nazi banners and rebel flags of the pro-slavery Confederacy,” Ford criticized the actions of “some individuals.” Prime Minister Trudeau, who was isolating after a positive COVID test, was also incommunicado until the 7th, when Trudeau finally appeared and called for unity across party lines. He declined, however, to call out the military. RLS
SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT
6. Clean-up of abandoned oil and gas wells underfunded
A 2019 study indicated that the U.S. had a total of 56,500 abandoned oil and gas wells, but according to a survey released this year by the Department of the Interior (DoI), that number was too small by more than half. The number of abandoned oil and gas wells in the U.S. is actually 130,000, and those wells are spread across 30 U.S. states.
The infrastructure legislation passed in November included $4.7 billion to restore and plug abandoned wells. By early January, twenty-six of the states with abandoned wells had registered their intent to apply for the infrastructure funds.
However, those funds may be nowhere near enough. In a survey of 19,500 abandoned oil and gas wells by Resources for the Future, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology, the cost of simply plugging a well is around $20,000. If restoration as well as plugging is required, the median cost rises to $76,000. If all 130,000 wells required only plugging—an unlikely scenario—$4.7 billion would be more than sufficient. On the other hand, if restoration and plugging were needed for all those wells, $4.7 billion would be less than half the necessary funds. If we assume and average price for remediating abandoned oil and gas wells at around $48,000 (an off-the-cuff estimate based on our ability to add $20,000 and $76, 000, then divide by two, not a peer-reviewed datum), that $4.7 billion would cover remediation of approximately 75% of those abandoned oil and gas wells. S-HP
If you want to address this issue, you can tell the administration and your Congress members that while that $4.7 billion may seem like ample funding, it is almost certainly too little to solve the problem of abandoned oil and gas wells and call for additional funding. through the Center. 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. Find your senators here and your representative here.
7. Black women more likely to die of cervical cancer
Black women are one and a half times more likely to die of cervical cancer and more likely to have it diagnosed at a late stage, according to a report cited by NPR, which explained that lack of insurance, lack of sex education, and the “historic mistreatment of minorities at the hands of medical professionals” are at fault. The report, “We Need Access: Ending Preventable Deaths from Cervical Cancer in Rural Georgia,” was produced by the Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice (SRBWI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW); the writers point out that if it is caught early, cervical cancer is 90% curable. Nonetheless, approximately 4,290 women died of cervical cancer in 2021, the National Cancer Institute estimated. A myriad of political choices contribute to the vulnerability of women in Georgia, the report points out; because Georgia refused to opt for Medicaid expansion, 255,000 Georgians are without health care. The number of OB/GYNs has dropped precipitously and 38 labor and delivery units have closed since 1994.
Lack of access to medical care and sex education also deprives people in Georgia–particular those in predominantly Black rural areas–of access to the HPV vaccine, which protects against the HPV virus; only 50% of adolescents in Georgia have gotten it, even though pharmacists there can give it. In other US communities, parents’ refusal to allow their children to receive the vaccine, either because they do not believe the vaccine is safe, they do not think their children will engage in sexual activity, or they fear the vaccine will encourage them to do so. Since 2013, vaccine hesitancy around HPV vaccination has risen 200% in the US, according to the UPI. RLS
The ACLU has a new page, updated weekly, on legislation affecting LGBTQ+ people.
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 this week has a series of encouraging notes. They also provide a list of other short, effective actions you can take.
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.
Freedom for All Americans has a very useful legislation tracker on trans issues.