SCIENCE, HEALTH, TECHNOLOGY & THE ENVIRONMENT
1. Enbridge paid police to arrest pipeline protestors.
American police were paid $2.4 million by the Canadian company Enbridge to arrest protestors, according to the Guardian: “Enbridge has paid for officer training, police surveillance of demonstrators, officer wages, overtime, benefits, meals, hotels and equipment,” the newspaper reported. Beyond that, Enbridge met daily with police, letting them know when they wanted protestors arrested. Protestors in Minnesota were shot by rubber bullets and sprayed with Mace. This arrangement was established by Minnesota Public Utilities Commission rules in an effort to avoid the costs associated with pipeline protests.
Enbridge is replacing its Line 3 pipeline, which goes through wetlands and will carry 760,000 barrels a day of the heavy oil bitumen; the climate action group 350 says that “the expanded pipeline will emit the equivalent greenhouse gases of 50 coal power plants.”
In other fossil fuel news: A plan to store natural gas in Nova Scotia’s underground salt caverns has been shelved by AltaGas. The plan had been challenged in court by Indigenous activists, who said that flushing out the salt would contaminate the Shubenacadie River. As the Toronto Star explained, “Mi’kmaq elders said the brine would pollute the 72-kilometre waterway, which has been central to the Indigenous population for 13,000 years.”
Meanwhile, Indigenous protestors at the Coastal Gaslink site on Gidimt’en clan territory in British Columbia have been trying to stop the company from tunneling under the Wedzin Kwa/ Morice River. Coastal Gaslink is trying to build a pipeline to a fracking site in northern BC, according to the Narwhal. The river is sacred to the Wet’suwet’en people, and the land is an important archeological site, according to a letter from 25 archeologists protesting the excavations, the CBC reported. Two protestors were recently arrested, receiving rough treatment; as the CBC notes in another article, Indigenous protestors receive much harsher treatment from the RCMP, compared to the mostly white people who blocked roads to health care facilities earlier in September. RLS
If you’re rather appalled at the cozy relationship between Enbridge and Minnesota police that Minnesota Public Utilities Commission rules have established, you might ask the Minnesota Public Utilities Commissioners why they are allowing a foreign company to pay to have Americans’ constitutional right to protest blocked within their own country. Addresses are here. Canadians might want to ask @JustinTrudeau and RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki (@CommrRCMPGRC) why Indigenous protestors get “tackled, dragged and pepper sprayed” while white anti-vaxxers get a pass.
2. Miscarriages of Justice
In early October, an Oklahoma jury convicted Brittney Poolaw, a Native American woman, of first-degree manslaughter for miscarrying a pregnancy after 15-17 gestational weeks. Poolaw had sought medical attention after miscarrying at home. This conviction, reports local news station KSWO, was reached despite the fact that both a nurse and medical examiner testified to observing congenital abnormalities in the fetus and that the fetus had separated from the wall of the womb, a condition called fetal abruption, which can increase by eighteen times the likelihood of early fetal death by miscarriage, according to data published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Poolaw’s conviction is an example of what the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) warns is “the precipice of a shocking and dramatic expansion of its criminal legal system,” according to past NACDL President Nina J. Ginsberg, one of the coauthors of a report released in August by the NACDL titled “Abortion in America: How Legislative Overreach Is Turning Reproductive Rights into Criminal Wrongs.” The report concludes, “should Roe v. Wade be overturned, states across the nation are prepared to arrest and prosecute women, their friends, their providers, and all those who assist them obtain what is presently, a legal medical procedure…. State legislative efforts criminalizing abortion have proliferated [think of Texas’ S.B.4 allowing private prosecution of those assisting a woman in obtaining an abortion, which the U.S. Supreme Court has twice refused to block]…. Historic prosecutions related to conduct of pregnant individuals suggests that these prosecutions will impact the poor more than the wealthy, Black people more than white people, and women more than men.”
Such prosecutions of pregnant and miscarrying women are nothing new. An article titled “Arrests and Forced Interventions on Pregnant Women in the United States, 1973-2005: Implications for Women’s Legal Status and Public Health” appearing in a 2013 issue of the Journal of American Epidemiology, documents 413 such events in the period covered and states that that number is almost certainly a significant undercount. This article’s findings provide an early warning of the kinds of disparities inherent in such prosecutions. Consider this information on the demographics of those facing prosecution: 54% were Black, 59% were women of color (this includes the previous number), 41% were white. Eighty-six percent of these 413 women were prosecuted for at least one crime; 74% were charged with a felony. These women were overwhelmingly poor as evidenced that 71% of them were represented by “indigent defense” (another term for a court-appointed lawyer). S-HP
To prevent these unfair and unequal prosecutions, ask that the Senate take action on H.R.3755, the Women’s Health Protection Act, which was written to protect a person’s ability to determine whether to continue or end a pregnancy, and to protect a health care provider’s ability to provide abortion services; it has already been passed by the House. Find your Senators here.
3. EPA takes action to address the climate emergency
Given the Senate’s inability or unwillingness to pass meaningful climate change legislation, we—the U.S. and the world—need aggressive action from the Biden administration in response to the climate crisis. We can celebrate Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Michael Regan’s statement in an interview with the Washington Post’s “The Climate 202” that “EPA is at the center of the president’s ambitious climate agenda…. And in addition to the legislative pieces, EPA is already aggressively using its rulemaking authority to deliver the types of emission reductions that we need to protect people from climate pollution.” Regan explained that upcoming regulatory changes will help the U.S. meet the administration’s goal of a 50-52% reduction in emissions (as compared with 2005 figures) by 2030. One anticipated EPA move is targeting methane leaks from oil and gas operations. Another may be more aggressive greenhouse gas rules for power plants. S-HP
If you want to encourage further administrative action, thank Director Regan for this focus on what the administration can do while the Senate waffles and urge him to take all actions possible to reduce the climate crisis. Michael S. Regan, Director, Environmental Protection Agency, 1200 Pennsylvania NW 20460, (202) 564-4700. @EPAMichaelRegan.
4. Pig to Human kidney transplant performed successfully
In a long awaited confluence of technological advances, a genetically modified pig’s kidney was successfully transplanted into a human donor. The transgenic pig had been modified in such a way as to trick the human immune system and prevent rejection. Porcine organs are ideal candidates for human transplantation as they are the right size and rough biological capacity to substitute for human organs; indeed pig heart valves have been transplanted into humans for decades now, the BBC explains. The recipient of this kidney was brain dead and an organ donor themselves, allowing for an ethical way to experiment in a functioning human excretory system. Researchers suggest that if additional trials are successful, we could see pig organs become available for hearts, livers and lungs within a decade. JC
5. Wildlife Services kills wolf pups being studied by kids
For eighteen years, students at Timberline High School in Idaho have been studying a wolf pack in a nearby national forest. That wolf pack now faces threats to its continued existence.
According to wolf conservationist Suzanne Asha Stone, this spring, biologists observed that the pack’s den was unexpectedly empty. Then data released by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game revealed that eight wolf pups in the pack were killed this spring by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services. The USDA has since denied a request by conservationists that its killing of wolf pups on public lands be immediately halted, arguing that wolf populations are more apt to relocate after pups have been killed, limiting the need to remove adult wolves. At the same time, new Idaho legislation has made wolves and their pups even more vulnerable: Private contractors may legally kill off 90% of the state’s 1,500 wolves, wolves may be hunted using ATVs, snow mobiles, and helicopters, and pups can be killed on private land. Montana has enacted similar legislation.
In 2020, the Trump administration ended engendered species protections for gray wolves in the “lower 48” states. The Biden administration may reconsider that decision, but has not yet acted. Students at Timberline High School have been writing President Biden to reinstate engendered species protections for gray wolves. S-HP
You can join students from Timberline High School in calling on renewed Endangered Species protections for gray wolves. Addresses are here.
6. Remain in Mexico program likely to be reinstated
The Remain in Mexico program (formally called the Migrant Protection Protocol–MPP) is a Trump-era policy dismantled by the Biden administration. However, a district court judge in Texas, in a decision upheld by the Supreme Court, ruled that Biden had done so improperly and therefore that it had to be either properly ended or reinstated. As NPR explained on Saturday, the policy was not supposed to be applied to asylum seekers, who should not be sent back to where they were in danger. Some 71,000 people are currently waiting in Mexican cities near the border, where they risk assault and kidnapping and lack basic resources in terms of food and shelter. They also place an enormous burden on small border communities.
Rather than ending the program, Biden is preparing to reinstate it, the Texas Tribune reported last week. However, he must consult with Mexico in order to do so. The newspaper quoted an unnamed source as saying that the new program would use “temporary courts in tent facilities set up at the same border crossings in Brownsville and Laredo used by the Trump administration.” RLS
You can remind President Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris that they can can–and should–terminate MPP rather than reinstating it, and that they should work with Mexico to address the 71,000 people already there. President Joe Biden, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington. DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @JoeBiden. Vice-President Kamala Harris, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania NW, Washington, DC 20500, (202) 456-1111. @VP. Let your Senators and your Representative know your thoughts as well.
7. Thank the Bannon 9
Steve Bannon’s refusal to respond to a subpoena from the House committee investigating January 6 has been forwarded to the Department of Justice for investigation following a vote of the House. All House Democrats voted in favor of the forwarding. They were joined by nine Republicans. S-HP
You can thank the House Republicans who put constitution over party and voted to support efforts to hold Bannon responsible for his failure to respond to a Congressional subpoena. Addresses are here.
8. House could take action to assist Uyhgurs
The House has an opportunity to vote on two pieces of legislation in support of China’s badly abused Uyghur Muslim population. S.65, the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, was passed by the Senate in July. It has since been “held at the desk” in the House. S.65 puts limitations on imports from China produced with forced labor, particularly within the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and imposes sanctions related to such forced labor. It also expands existing asset- and visa-blocking sanctions related to Xinjiang to cover foreign individuals and entities responsible for serious human rights abuses in connection with forced labor.
H.R.4785, the Uyghur Policy Act, has made it through committee and can now be brought to a full vote of the House. This legislation calls for:
◉The XUAR to be open to Congressional visits
◉China to respect the distinct ethnic, cultural, religious, and linguistic identity of Uyghurs and members of other groups in the XUAR
◉China to cease all government-sponsored crackdowns, imprisonments, and detentions of people throughout the XUAR aimed at those involved in the peaceful expression of their ethnic, cultural, political, or religious identity
◉The appointment of a United States Special Coordinator for Uyghur Issues within the Department of State
◉An immediate closure all detention facilities and “political reeducation” camps housing Uyghurs and members of other ethnic minority groups in the XUAR
◉Opposition to any efforts to prevent the participation of any Uyghur human rights advocates in nongovernmental fora hosted by or otherwise organized under the auspices of any body of the United Nations
H.R.4785 goes well beyond any concessions the Chinese government might be willing to make in regards to its Uyghur population—in fact, concessions no matter how minor are unlikely. Nonetheless, it offers an opportunity to bring the current conditions of Chinese Uyghurs and others to U.S. and world attention. S-HP
To move these bills forward, you can urge Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer to see that S.65 is assigned to an appropriate committee or that other action is taken to bring it to the floor of the House and to see that H.R.4785 is brought to a vote of the House as well. Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Speaker of the House, 1236 Longworth House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-4965. @SpeakerPelosi. Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Majority Leader, 1705 Longworth House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-3141. @LeaderHoyer. You can also ask your Representative to support S.65 and H.R.4785.
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.