News You May Have Missed: December 13, 2020

“I’m a #Georgia voter #vote #america” by KennyS2468 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Control of the Senate–and hence what the Biden administration will be able to get done–both depend on the outcome of the two runoff elections in Georgia, where polls suggest those races are extremely close, according to FiveThirtyEight. The stakes are high not only globally but locally; just this weekend, Kelly Loeffler posed with a former KKK leader.

Fair Fight Action--founded by Stacey Abrams–can suggest ways you can be helpful in the Georgia runoff. NPR has an informative piece on the organization.


1. Georgia on our minds

Despite the good news coming out of Georgia, where the Republican attorney general and governor have refused to capitulate to Trump’s claims of voter fraud there, the state serves as an example of Republican efforts to win elections by limiting the franchise and impeding voting. Cobb County, the third-largest county in Georgia–which has a large Black and Latinx population and is a Democratic stronghold–had 11 early voting sites for the November election.

For the January runoff, which will determine that party that controls the U.S. Senate, only five early voting locations had been scheduled–though under pressure from the NAACP and other voting rights organizations, elections officials have added two more. The Washington Post reports that civil- and election-rights groups are protesting these cuts, many of which are in Black or Latinx neighborhoods. The cuts mean those voters will now have to travel 5-12 miles to access an early voting location—and the county has limited public transportation options. The Republican National Committee, the Georgia Republican Party, and other Republican organizations have also filed suit to require additional signature reviews on absentee ballots and stricter limits on the use of ballot drop boxes. These moves demonstrate the continued need for a new voting rights act. S-HP

Is it time to call for new voting rights legislation or an executive order to prevent these kinds of efforts to disenfranchise voters and impede voting? Here’s whom you can contact.

2. Senators in Georgia runoff sold stock based on insider information

You’ll likely remember that Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, who are currently in runoff elections in Georgia., were among those Congressmembers investigated for selling stocks likely to be`hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. The inquiries were dropped, but served as another reminder of the kinds of insider information Congressmembers have access to and of the possibility that they might take advantage of this information—whether deliberately or unintentionally—to make a profit. There have been regular calls for legislation that would ban Congressmembers from trading stock while in office or would ban stock holding by Congressmembers altogether. Now the Washington Post reports on research by political scientists Jordan Carr Peterson and Christian Grose published in Legislative Studies Quarterly which found that Congressmembers tend to vote in ways that benefit their portfolios. The Washington Post quotes these researchers as noting that Congressmembers’ votes are “significantly associated with the legislators’ ownership interests in the very companies subject to regulation, intervention, and potential rescue…. [and they tend to] maximize their wealth and the size of their asset portfolios.” The 2012 Stock Act prohibits insider trading by Congressmembers, but does not prohibit their voting in ways that profit them financially. S-HP

You can tell current House and Senate leadership that you want to see significant legislation prohibiting Congressmembers from voting on legislation that could benefit their stock portfolios—whether this means selling off portfolios or recusing themselves from such votes.

3. 19 Attorneys General ask for votes to be voided

No doubt you’re aware of the lawsuit the Texas Attorney General filed asking the Supreme Court to invalidate the Presidential Election Results in Georgia, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Yes, the Supreme Court treated it like the non-starter it was, but it’s deeply disturbing to think that not just Texas’s Attorney General, but also the Attorneys General of 18 other states joined this suit asking for millions of votes—legally cast according to the rules of the voters’ states—to be invalidated. We need to reckon with the fact that 19 of the top lawyers in this country could take such a stance.

See Heather Cox Richardson’s December 11 column for historical context on all this. S-HP

If you find it appalling that these state Attorneys General were willing to betray the Constitution in the effort to give Trump a second term in office following an election he clearly lost, you can tell them so. Their addresses are here. The good news with regard to the Texas lawsuit is that a larger group of Attorneys General from 24 states and territories joined the Attorneys General of the affected states in condemning this unconstitutional move. If you want to thank these Attorneys General for their defense of the Constitution, their addresses are here.

4. US is taking DNA samples from asylum seekers over 14

We’ve previously written about proposals to collect DNA samples from asylum-seekers entering the U.S. and about the problematic nature of facial recognition technology as it currently exists (there was that embarrassing moment in 2018 when an Amazon-produced facial recognition algorithm incorrectly identified 28 members of Congress, who were predominantly people of color, as other individuals who had been arrested for a crime). Such DNA collection and use of facial recognition algorithms are no longer just proposals. Recent press releases from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) describe the ways the techniques are currently being put to use.

 One press release describes a “pilot program” in use by CBP to “collect DNA samples from certain populations of individuals in [CBP] custody for submission to the Combined DNA Index Systems (CODIS) maintained by the FBI.” Who are these individuals? Those between ages “14-79, who are a [sic] non-U.S. citizens detained under United States authority and are being processed for inadmissibility or removal.” Now that the U.S. is using COVID-19 as an excuse to refuse admission to asylum seekers, forcing them to stay in Mexico, that means basically every individual hoping to claim asylum in the U.S. And what is CODIS? A criminal database, meaning that these individuals are being treated as criminals simply for applying for asylum as they are allowed to do under international law.

DNA has been collected and added to CODIS by many government agencies, but until this year the Department of Homeland Security, and therefore Customs and Border Patrol, had been exempt from the requirement. Now DHS has been given a three-year timeline to put a DNA sample gathering program in place. The press release, issued on December 3, describes a pilot program for DNA collection that began on January 6 in accordance with the publication of a Department of Justice (DoJ) final rule issued on March 9 that was to go into effect on April 8. In other words, the DNA collection began before the DoJ rule was in place.

 A second press release describes a new “Simplified Arrival” program being introduced at Las Vegas’ McCarren International Airport. Simplified Arrival is presented as “touchless experience”—clearly playing on fears of COVID-19 transmission. However, Simplified Arrival doesn’t involve social distancing or mask wearing. What it does involve is photographing individuals entering and leaving the U.S. so that those photos can be compared with passport and visa photos already on file. CBP assures us that the algorithm they’re using is “one of the industry’s highest ranked facial recognition algorithms (as assessed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology).” U.S. citizens and “select foreign nationals” may opt out of the program by notifying a CBP officer as they approach the “primary inspection point” that they do not want to be participate and be photographed. CBP promises that “New photos of U.S. citizens will be deleted within 12 hours. Photos of most foreign nationals will be stored in a secure Department of Homeland Security system.” S-HP

If you want to object (yet again) to DNA collection from asylum-seekers and to government use of demonstrably unreliable facial recognition algorithms, addresses are here.

5. Hate groups got Paycheck Protection Program funds

As part of the government’s COVID-19 response, Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds were supposed to keep small businesses and their employees afloat. But new data from the Small Business Administration makes it clear that these intentions were not carried out. One of the most disturbing stories comes from NBC News, which reports that at least $4.3 million of PPP funds were given to organizations recognized as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Recipients of PPP funds include:

◉The American Family Association (received $1.39 million), which leads national boycotts of businesses with what they call “pro-gay policies”;

◉The Federation for American Immigration Reform (received $683,600), an anti-immigrant group with ties to white supremacists and eugenics supporters;

◉ Liberty Counsel, (received almost $428,000), which pursues an anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ agenda;

◉The Church Militant/Saint Michael’s Media, (received $301,000), which supports “gay conversion” therapy and equates homosexuality with pedophilia;

◉The American Renaissance/New Century Foundation (received $51,600), a “think tank” promoting “scientific” studies that purportedly demonstrate white superiority over Blacks;

Other groups receiving PPP funds include the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies, the Ruth Institute; the anti-LGBTQ Pacific Justice Institute, the American College of Pediatricians, the anti-immigrant Remembrance Project; and the anti-Muslim Center for Security Policy. S-HP.

If this list troubles you, you could object to this use of federal funds to support hate groups and call for more careful vetting of groups receiving COVID-19 relief in any future legislation.

6. Being Evil: Google’s employment practices

Google’s record as an employer has been something less than stellar. In 2018, after management failed to seriously address claims of sexual harassment by senior executives, thousands of employees walked out in protest. Reporting by Ars Technica reveals that in 2019, the company took several actions that either impeded unionization by workers or failed to follow through on agreements the company had made after previous NLRB complaints (Ars Technica does not make clear the sequence in which these actions were taken):

◉Google lost an NLRB case, which was settled when the company agreed to inform employees of their rights under federal labor law—and of their right not to be retaliated against for exercising those rights.

◉Google brought in IRI Consultants, a firm well known for impeding unionization efforts.

-◉Google fired several workers during unionization attempts. Four of these workers went on to file the unfair labor practices complaint that resulted in a recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) complaint upheld against the company. While Google claimed these employees were violating data security policies, the NLRB has now found that these policies were created in order to “discourage employees from forming, joining, [or] assisting a union.”

◉Google separately fired an employee who had developed a Chrome tool that would notify workers of their right to organize. This employee has also filed a NLRB complaint.

 Columbia Journalism Review now reports that just this month Google fired one of the key members of its AI (artificial intelligence) ethics teams: Dr. Timnit Gebru, a Black, female researcher and founder of the Black in AI research initiative. Gebru has posted to a Google employee group, Brain Women and Allies, complaining about “all the micro and macro aggressions and harassments I received after posting my stories here” and telling others to “stop writing your documents [here] because it doesn’t make a difference… they don’t matter. Because there is zero accountability. There is no way more documents or more conversations will achieve anything.” Dr. Gebru followed this up with an email to company leadership outlining conditions that would have to be met for her to continue working at Google. Rather than engaging with Dr. Bebru, the company treated her email as a letter of resignation and fired her, effective immediately, because her posts to Brain Women and Allies “reflect behavior that is inconsistent with the expectations of a Google manager.” Some 1,200 Google employees and 1,500 academic researchers have protested her firing. S-HP

You can object to Google’s union-busting and violations of federal labor law and also insist that Dr. Gebru be rehired. Addresses and phone numbers are here.

7. Police hold scientist at gunpoint for insisting on the truth

 Holding her and her children at gunpoint, police raided the home of Rebekah Jones, who was fired from Florida’s Department of Health for refusing to change information on the Department’s public portal, the Washington Post reported. Jones said that the portal undercounted cases and overcounted tests in order to justify reopening, according to the Washington Post. After she was fired, she set up her own dashboard; she also is the co-founder of, which tracks cases in schools across the U.S. Police took her computers and her phone–which she said she would replace and get back to work. A Republican lawyer resigned from a Florida judicial panel in protest, saying the raid was “indicative of the state’s ‘reckless and irresponsible’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic,” according to another article in the Post. On Twitter, Jones wrote, “This is what happens to scientists who do their job honestly. This is what happens to people who speak truth to power.” RLS

If you want to condemn this harassment of Dr. Jones for her efforts to provide Floridians with accurate COVID-19 data, addresses are here.


8. The media are the message

In the midst of this pandemic that has resulted in almost over 1.6 million deaths worldwide and almost 300,000 U.S. deaths, too many Americans are COVID-19 deniers, refusing to socially distance and to wear a mask. The longer it takes to convince these people to take COVID-19 seriously, the longer it will take to get the disease under control. One way of accomplishing this might be a commitment by news sources to increase their coverage of what life is like for front-line healthcare workers and for patients on COVID-19 wards—and to be sure this coverage reports on a wide variety of U.S. regions, both urban and rural. The Johns Hopkins’ map makes the magnitude of the problem unmistakable. S-HP

You could ask these news outlets for increased coverage of the real life battle against and consequences of COVID-19.

9. The effectiveness of masks demonstrated

Preliminary research from the Mayo Clinic demonstrates that the combination of a mask plus a distance of six feet really does reduce the transmission of particles. However, a piece in the Washington Post piece uses infrared photography to watch breath particles; the videos you’ll see make it clear that more distance is preferable and that snug-fitting masks are more effective than regular surgical masks. RLS

10. Meat-packing workers endure bloody masks, must work while ill

We’ve reported earlier on the way meatpacking plants have become COVID-19 hotspots, on efforts to close plants or provide strict worker-safety measures, and the decision to classify meatpacking workers as essential employees, expected to continue working during the pandemic. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has now filed suit against meatpacking company Noah’s Ark Processors for its egregious disregard of worker safety, alleging that the company offers “a glaring example of the dangerous and abusive treatment meatpacking workers have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.” Specific allegations against Noah’s Ark Processor include:

◉pressuring workers to remain on shift when symptomatic;

◉failing to replace blood-stained masks during worker shifts;

◉failing to take any social distancing measures;

◉failing to provide onsite testing to identify emerging infection clusters. S-HP

Meatpacking work is dangerous even during healthy times. To increase its danger during a pandemic is unconscionable. You can excoriate Noah’s Ark Processors for their failure to provide reasonable pandemic protections for workers [be sure to mention the Hasting, NE plant as Noah’s Ark Processors operates many plants around the country].


The Americans of Conscience checklist offers quick, clear things you can do to feed hungry families this winter, advocate for COVID-19 relief for families and for prisoners, and volunteer to help with the Georgia runoff.

News You May Have Missed: December 6, 2020

“Silent Night, Holy Night — Claremont United Methodist Church Nativity Scene, 2019” by Thomas Hawk is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

For some of you, it is the second Sunday in Advent, when Western Christians anticipate the birth of Christ and his second coming. It is perhaps fitting on this day to remember the families who did not find room at the inn.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has a timeline of the family separation. Even if you have been reading the news daily, it is an unbelievable story.

1. Children at the Border: What can you do?

The 28 refugee children and their families who were scheduled to be deported without even having hearings for asylum have gotten a stay of removal; their attorneys, the People’s Justice Center (Aldea PJC), are waiting for a decision from the panel of judges. The parents were given the choice to be deported without their children and refused, according to NBC and MSN News. If the panel does not permit the families to stay until their hearings can be scheduled, no further appeals are possible. RLS

You can support their lawyers, ALDEA, a non-profit legal organization in Pennsylvania, or cover the costs of phone calls for detainees. Find their projects on Facebook. The Evangelical Lutheran Church has a letter-writing campaign asking that the families not be deported.

2. 1000 children in ICE custody have had COVID since March

More than 1000 children in ICE custody without their parents have been diagnosed with the coronavirus; 118 are still in medical isolation. Until a judge put a stop to it, COVID was used as an excuse to deport children without a hearing, and the Office of Refugee Resettlement claims that children are arriving at the border with COVID, according to CNN; however, they may very well be acquiring it in these facilities, where social distancing is a fiction. RLS

3. Pregnant women turned away at the border, required to give birth in shelters in Mexico

In a previous era, women who arrived seeking asylum at the border were permitted to give birth in American hospitals while they waited for their hearings. Now they are being sent back across the border, even in advanced stages of pregnancy. As the New York Times points out, women have already fled dangerous situations in Central America; they now must give birth in camps and shelters, where they cannot get prenatal care and where there have already been outbreaks of COVID-19. RLS

Witness at the Border offers a list of organizations working to assist children and families caught in the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols who are required to wait over the border in Mexico for hearings.

4. Data that would have helped find children’s parents only now released

Data that would have helped locate the parents of over 600 children has finally been released by the government–which has had it all along. About half the parents have probably been deported, while the other half are likely somewhere in the U.S. As Time magazine reported last week, this information includes phone numbers and addresses. A California judge has asked the government’s lawyers to account for their decision to withhold the data all this time; the families were separated in 2017 and 2018. Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) has been representing the children. Justice in Motion has called on President-Elect Biden–who has pledged to reunite the families–to find ways to grant them legal status. RLS

To help with legal fees, you can donate to KIND. Every.Last.One also works to get children released from detention and reconnected to families or sponsors; you can sign their petition at this link. You can get food to families waiting for hearings on the other side of the border; Team Brownsville is coordinating.

5. Presidential records: What did they keep and how did they keep it?

Following the legal seizure of Nixon’s presidential records during the unfolding of the Watergate scandal, Congress passed the Presidential Records Act (PRA), which requires the preservation of all records of “the activities, deliberations, decisions, and policies that reflect the performance of the president’s constitutional, statutory, or other official or ceremonial duties.” Any records or documents from a president’s administration are the property of the U.S. people, not the president or other members of that president’s administration.

In 2017, near the start of Trump’s term in office, an internal White House memo called for preservation of electronic records via screen shot—a practice that has been repeatedly challenged. Screen shots are problematic for at least two reasons. They do not include the actual text of any attachments transmitted with a particular electronic communication. Screen shots also make setting up the kind of metadata used to search presidential records much more difficult. These metadata categories include things like internal document citations, including citations of U.S. Statutes or U.S. Code. Despite the great noise made about Hilary Clinton’s use of private email, the Trump administration has made extensive use of non-official channels, such as WhatsApp, to engage in official business. Now the Washington Post reports on a suit filed by the American Historical Association, the Society for Historians of American Foreign Policy, the National Security Archive, and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to require compliance with public records rules and to rescind the policy treating screen shots as sufficient records. Records preservation is of particular concern given the ways the administration may try to make inaccessible documents related to legal or financial disclosure regarding Trump. S-HP

You can call on your elected representatives to strengthen the Presidential Records Act and insist that screen shots are not adequate records of government communications and actions.

6. Hazard pay for health workers

During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, many (though certainly not all) retail workers received an increase in hourly wages as “hazard pay,” in recognition of the risks of their extended indoor work with significant public contact. However, as winter COVID-19 numbers begin to eclipse those of the spring, very few retail workers are receiving hazard pay. Some are receiving “flexible bonuses,” which can come in the form of store credit, rather than an actual cash payment. Brookings calculates that following the late-spring spike in COVID-19 cases, the average U.S. retail worker has gone 126 days without hazard pay.

At the same time, many large retail businesses have seen a significant increase in profits. The New York Times quotes a statement from the Kroger’s grocery chain: “2021 results [earnings] will be higher than we would have expected prior to the Covid-19 pandemic.” Amazon, which ended hazard pay early this summer and has not reinstated it, saw third quarter profits almost triple over last year. Walmart reports third quarter profits of $6.7 billion, with COVID-19 costs for the business totaling $0.6 billion. Kroger ended pandemic pay raises and bonuses in June, though it has just issued employees with $100 store credits as “holiday appreciation bonuses.” Kroger’s third quarter profits rose by 50% over last year’s. According to Brookings, profits at all of the top ten U.S. retail companies were up by more than 50% over last year in the first half of this year.

Congress has had opportunities to mandate hazard pay for retail workers since the start of the pandemic, but has never followed through. The March CARES Act, which Congress passed, did not include a hazard pay provision. The original version of the House’s HEROES Act included hazard pay, but this provision was dropped during unsuccessful negotiations with the White House in September. In May, Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) proposed “Patriot Pay”: hourly wage increases with 75% funded by the government, 25% by employers. The Senate’s failed HEALS Act never included a hazard pay provision.

In Ontario, Loblaw’s and Metro decided to end the extra $2 per hour pandemic pay for their workers, despite skyrocketing profits, according to the Toronto Star. S-HP

In the US, you can advocate for ongoing hourly hazard pay for retail workers, rather than occasional bonuses—or no additional pay at all—and insist that this be part of the continuing U.S. COVID-19 response. You can find your elected representatives here. In Canada, you can sign North 99 ‘s petition to reinstate pandemic pay at Loblaw’s.

7. Pardon Reality Winner

Reality Leigh Winner has roughly one year left to serve of her 63-month sentence for leaking information about Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election to the Intercept. This past summer, she contracted COVID-19 in prison, from which she still suffers occasional difficulty breathing. Had Winner not leaked this information, the U.S. citizenry might never have learned of or might have learned much less about this election interference, which led to the impeachment of Trump by the House of Representatives. S-HP

You can ask President-elect Biden to consider pardoning Reality Winner for the “crime” of bringing the truth to light: President-Elect Joe Biden, 1401Constitution Ave. NW, Washington DC 20230


8. Provisional good news for DACA applicants

A judge told the Trump administration to reinstate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, accepting new applications and processing renewals for the some 700,000 people who were brought to the US as children. As we have been explaining (see our September 27 issue), because the limits on DAVA were imposed by someone who was not legitimately in the position (Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf), the limits themselves were illegitimate. However, DACA is still before the Supreme Court, and the last vote on it when Trump tried to end the program was 5-4, when Ruth Bader Ginsberg was on the court, Vox points out. RLS


9. Fatal consequences of climate change

“The overarching theme I stress to the incoming administration is making health central…. Climate action is a prescription for health.” Those are the words of Dr. Rene N. Salas, as cited in the New York Times. Salas is one of the authors of a recent Lancet report on health and climate change. The message of the report—which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been paying attention—is that climate change is already having a significant negative impact on human health and that we are on the cusp of a “pivotal” five-year period for stemming the worst effects of climate change: extreme heat, wildfires, and air pollution, according to he New York Times. In 2019, we lost an estimated 302 billion productive work hours globally due to climate change. The past 20 years have seen a global 50% increase in deaths among those older than 65. Crop yields have been dropping since 1981, due to climate-related factors. The warming brought by climate change favors the insect vectors of deadly diseases: for example, the mosquitoes that transmit dengue fever. The report also makes several key recommendations: an end to all fossil fuel subsidies, investment in public transportation and reduced use of nitrogen fertilizers in farming. S-HP

Call on your legislators to take action on climate change now, while there’s still time–and call for the three changes recommended above: no fossil fuel subsidies, increased investment in public transportation, and substantially reduced use of nitrogen fertilizers.

10. Evictions cause surge in coronavirus cases

Hundreds of thousands of coronavirus cases were caused by evictions, according to CNBC, and millions more could result as eviction moratorium bans end, according to research just published in SSRN. Kathryn Leifheit, one of the authors of the study, told CNBC that “When people are evicted, they often move in with friends and family, and that increases your number of contacts. If people have to enter a homeless shelter, these are indoor places that can be quite crowded.” The CDC had called for evictions to stop until the end of 2020 but not all states agreed to do so; to avoid an explosion of cases, experts say that they need to be banned well into 2021. RLS

11. The Wall destroys butterfly habitat, also

We’ve repeatedly noted the damage caused by Trump’s determination to expand the U.S.-Mexico border wall, which is being pushed into high gear as the end of Trump’s term in office approaches. The wall destroys habitat, pushes important plant and animal species closer to extinction, interferes with access to public water sources, destroys sacred Native American sites, and harms border communities. The National Butterfly Center is asking that we write president-elect Biden with a request that he “cancel all border wall contracts funded by and for Trump; declare an end to [Trump’s] fake state of emergency; and abandon property seizure proceedings against land owners.” You can use your own postcard or go to their web site (see article “Biden on Blast” on the homepage) to download a template for a preprinted “Mr. Biden, tear down this wall,” two-sided postcard template. S-HP

You can join the National Butterfly Center in asking Biden to immediately halt border wall construction, including land seizures: President-elect Joe Biden, 1401Constitution Ave. NW, Washington DC 20230


The Americans of Conscience checklist offers quick, clear things you can do to feed hungry families this winter, advocate for COVID-19 relief for families and for prisoners, and volunteer to help with the Georgia runoff.

Heather Cox Richardson continues to make excellent, if grim sense. This week she tells us that the Trump administration has no plan for the distribution of vaccines and that Pentagon officials are refusing to cooperate with the Biden transition team.

News You May Have Missed: November 29, 2000

“House of cards” by Brett Jordan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Trump seems to be trying to pull the world down with him as he departs, leaving incalculable damage. Like dismantling a circus tent or a house of cards, he is pulling out key supports, leaving Biden’s people–and the rest of us–to rebuild from the wreckage.


1. Trump trashing-out the turf

Trump seems to be trying to do as much damage as possible–or return as many favors as possible–on his way out the door. As Mother Jones so eloquently describes it, what he is doing resembles how angry homeowners have “trashed-out” the homes they have lost to foreclosure. From allowing chicken producers to speed up processing lines (thereby increasing the risk of worker injuries and salmonella transmission), to permitting the current level of soot in the air (despite the cost to people with respiratory illnesses, such as COVID), to lowering efficiency standards for water fixtures to making it more difficult for people to claim asylum, he seems to be accommodating corporate interests in some instances, appeasing his base in others and indulging his own preoccupations in still others, ProPublica explains. Or–as the Daily Beast reports–he is laying the groundwork for his 2024 candidacy, which he may launch during Biden’s inauguration.

Allowing states to execute people using firing squads and electrocutions are among the rule changes that Trump is trying to force through. This option may never be used, as Biden says he will put a stop to capital punishment–but Trump plans to execute five more federal prisoners before Inauguration Day.

In addition, he is trying to cement environmental rollbacks, according to the New York Times and is continuing to open up federal lands for oil and gas leasing, with bids starting at a mere $2 per acre. Earthjustice–along with indigenous hunting communities–is suing to stop drilling in the Arctic. ProPublica quotes Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich’in steering committee representing indigenous hunting communities, as saying, “We have been protecting this place forever. This fight is far from over, and we will do whatever it takes to defend our sacred homelands.” RLS

Pro Publica has an app to track the progress of Trump’s last-minute (de)regulations. You might want to let your elected representatives know that you want these reversed as soon as they can do so. They will be able to use the Congressional Review Act–if Democrats win the Georgia runoffs and take the Senate.

2. Trump targets disabled workers in one of his last acts

Disabled people who need Supplemental Security Income (SSI), a form of Social Security, will find it more difficult to get and harder to hold onto under new rules to be finalized by the Trump administration on December 16. People with disabilities will be subject to more frequent reviews, and administrative law judges will be replaced by lawyers internal to the agency, Daily Kos reported. The purpose of these changes is apparently to save two billion by dropping people off disability. Lest you think that multiple reviews are in some way a good thing, keep in mind that attending disability hearings requires organizing transportation, obtaining documents from medical providers, and enduring the anxiety of losing one’s income–all an extreme hardship for people with disabilities. Only 20% of people denied disability and told to get a job are actually able to do so, according to a report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. These new rules are targeted at older workers who become disabled on the job; very few workers in this category are able to find work at all, so they end up retiring with reduced Social Security benefits. RLS

3. Children continue to be detained and deported

Detentions and deportations continue at top speed. Over sixty children–some of them under a year old and one of them only a month old–were held for at least three days along the US-Mexico border over the last two months, according to CNN. The baby was held for sixteen days. An attorney visiting a border patrol substation last week said that social distancing measures were not being taken. In a declaration, she wrote, “Children reported sharing a cell with 16-20 other children. When I asked if there were social distancing measures being taken within the cells, the children told me there were not. Many children reported that they were very cold.”

Thirty-three children who came to the US without their parents were also expelled to Guatemala on November 26; their flight left minutes after a court issued an injunction against their expulsion. The children were released to Guatemalan officials rather than being brought back to the US, Buzzfeed reported. 13,000 unaccompanied children have been expelled from the country since March.
Also on November 26, CBS reported that almost 1,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended trying to cross the border during the previous six days. Trump is trying to persuade a court to overturn a ruling that refugee children can no longer be deported without a hearing or a screening for asylum. RLS 

4. Government may shut down over Trump’s border wall

The U.S. government is scheduled to shut down on December 11 if Congress doesn’t reach a budget agreement. Legislators have agreed upon an overall budget of 1.4 trillion–but it is not clear whether there is any coronavirus relief money included. The deal has to be finalized in just 12 days, and according to Forbes, the Republicans’ demand for two billion in border wall money may well be the sticking point for Democrats.

Meanwhile, Trump’s people are dynamiting the desert, desperately trying to finish 450 miles of new wall before Trump leaves office. Cutting through rugged terrain, the construction costs $41 million per miles. A fifth-generation cattleman told the New York Times, “Wildlife corridors, the archaeology and history, that’s all being blasted to oblivion or destroyed already. Tragedy is the word I use to describe it.” RLS

5. No singing hymns in bike shops

Amy Coney Barrett will bring in an era of “post-truth jurisprudence,” as Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, put it in an article for CNN. That assessment was borne out last week, when Coney Barrett was the deciding vote to overrule New York State’s decision to restrict religious gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID. Blogger and lawyer Scott Pilutik pointed out that Justice Gorsuch argued that when bike repair shops can remain open but not churches, churches are unconstitutionally targeted.

As Justices Sotomayor and Kagan wrote in their dissent, Justice Gorsuch “does not even try to square his examples with the conditions medical experts tell us facilitate the spread of COVID-19: large groups of people gathering, speaking, and singing in close proximity indoors for extended periods of time … Unlike religious services, which ‘have every one of th(ose) risk factors,’ … bike repair shops and liquor stores generally do not feature customers gathering inside to sing and speak together for an hour or more at a time.”


6. Iranian scientist assassinated to forestall Biden’s re-entry into the nuclear pact

An eminent Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated last week–very suspicious timing given Trump’s eagerness to bomb Iran’s nuclear sites on his way out the door (see our lead story last week). As the Economist points out, four other Iranian nuclear scientists were killed between 2010 and 2012. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh may have been killed to make it difficult for Biden to re-enter the Iran nuclear agreement, as he has said he would do. The New York Times speculates that Israel is behind the attack and wonders whether outgoing VP Pompeo was alerted to the plan on his recent visit to Israel.

Meanwhile, just days before the attack, in what Forbes called a warning to Iran, the US sent two B52s to Iran’s border. In possibly unrelated news, various players have been in semi-secret meetings–Pompeo with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, according to the BBC, and perhaps with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, though the Saudi foreign minister has denied that Netanyahu was there. RLS


7. EPA staff try to hold the line against Trump’s 11th hour dismantling of environmental regulations

There’s a reason why Trump is trying to eviscerate civil service. Trump tried to push through another regulatory nightmare before his departure, but Thomas Sinks, a senior scientist worked to stop him, as the New York Times reports. Trump was trying to prevent controls on air and water pollution as far as 10 years in the future; in his report, Sinks warned, “EPA scientists will be unable to practice scientific integrity, our agency will develop poor health-based rules, and the public may not be protected from environmental exposures.”

EPA staff also mailed out the results of a study that showing that half a million drivers of diesel pick-up trucks dismantled their emission control systems, allowing “570,000 excess tons of nitrogen dioxide, a pollutant linked to heart and lung disease and premature death,” the Times explained. EPA staff are in back-channel conversations with Biden’s transition team, according to the Times, but EPA head Andrew Wheeler is racing the clock, trying to impede science-based decision-making at the EPA. RLS

8. COVID-19 contact-tracing app

As the pandemic surges, contact tracing is becoming increasing difficult. Both Canada and the US have apps you can download that signal you if you have been exposed to someone diagnosed with COVID-19–provided that they also have the app. They use Bluetooth and maintain your confidentiality.

The Canadian app is used in every province except for BC and Alberta, the CBC reports.

The US app is not yet being widely used, in part because Apple and Google buried it, according to the Washington Post. But with the pandemic, it could be a lifesaver.


The Americans of Conscience checklist has a set of valuable things you can do to ensure the peaceful transition of power, advocate for the health of people in prisons, and support the rights of young voters. They calculate that you can get through the list in 25 minutes.

The most crucial political action you can take now is to help get out the vote in the Georgia run-off elections, which will determine the fate of the Senate–and in significant ways, the Biden administration. If you’re inclined, you can write non-partisan postcards to Georgia voters to urge them to vote. Moms Rising will send you a packet of 20 pre-addressed postcards.

You can also donate to Fair Fight Action--founded by Stacey Abrams. NPR has an informative piece on the organization.

News You May Have Missed: November 22, 2020

“File:Iran nuclear program map-en.png” by Yagasi, translation of the original work by Sémhur is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Look closely at the above map when you hear that Trump is considering bombing Iran’s nuclear sites. The Tehran Research Reactor, which the U.S. gave to Iran in 1967, is about 45 minutes away from the center of Tehran, with its 9 million people–just a little bigger than New York. (Al Jazeera published a video tour of the facility in 2019.) Likely you see the problem. As Foreign Policy in Focus put it, “…bombing Iranian nuclear facilities is like setting off nuclear weapons on the ground.”


1. Trump explores bombing Iran’s nuclear sites, draws down troops in Afghanistan

In the waning days of his regime, Donald Trump has fired Pentagon and security officials, withdrawn 2,500 troops from Afghanistan and Iraq, and had his national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, explore the possibilities of bombing Iran’s nuclear sites before Trump leaves office. The Natanz uranium enrichment plant, which was the subject of sabotage in August, is a likely target, since a number of sources note that it has increased its production. Natanz’s population is some 14,000 people.

While the New York Times sketches the issue, it leaves much unsaid, as Portside points out, noting that an attack on Iran could lead to an all-out regional war. Democracy Now explains that Trump is intensifying the sanctions on Iran which have devastated its economy in the midst of the pandemic; in addition, though it is not clear who is carrying them out, there have been cyber-attacks on the national gas company–just as winter is arriving. Portside quotes a tweet by Assal Rad of the National Iranian American Council: “To be clear, Trump wanted to (& still could) attack Iran to stop its ‘growing nuclear program,’ which is only growing [because] Trump quit the deal that set limits on it. This is the definition of a manufactured crisis. Trump wants to bomb away what he created.” 

The hope is that the military would balk at an all-out attack on Iran, but Trump may be intending to make it much harder for Biden to re-enter the Iran nuclear agreement, as he says he would do. If Trump does attack Iran, it will likely improve the prospects for hard-liners in Iran to win the summer 2021 election.

Some analysts are also concerned not only about what it means for Trump to be considering bombing Iran and replacing high-level defense officials in his last weeks in office, but about what he will do with the nation’s intelligence data, according to the Harvard Gazette–whether he will declassify it, share it with foreign leaders (as he did with Russian in 2017), or what. RLS

2. Michigan legislators trump Trump

Biden won the presidential contest in Michigan by more than 154,000 votes, but that hasn’t ended efforts to flip the state’s electoral votes to Trump. First, two Republican canvassers from Michigan’s Wayne County, the largest county in the state, temporarily blocked certification of Biden’s substantial win in that county claiming that the results might be tainted by voter fraud. Then, after an outcry from the county’s voters and political and religious leaders, they backed down and voted for certification. The next day, they tried unsuccessfully to rescind their votes. Now that those efforts to stymie the will of Michigan voters has failed, Trump has summoned members of the Michigan GOP to the White House in a bid to continue his attempts to invalidate U.S. election results. Two legislative leaders traveled to meet with the president: Michigan’s State Speaker of the House and Michigan’s Senate Majority Leader. However, according to CNN, they released a statement after the meeting saying that “We have not yet been made aware of any information that would change the outcome of the election in Michigan and as legislative leaders, we will follow the law and follow the normal process regarding Michigan’s electors, just as we have said throughout this election.” Trump apparently hopes to prevent the state’s certification process, pushing election results to the state House and Senate, where he hopes Republicans will hand the state’s electoral votes to him. S-HP

3. Pennsylvania judge slaps down Trump’s efforts to undo election result

In a scathing rebuke, a Pennsylvania judge dismissed Trump’s lawsuit asking that millions of votes be set aside. The judge wrote, “this Court has been presented with strained
legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative
complaint and unsupported by evidence. In the United States of America, this
cannot justify the disenfranchisement of a single voter, let alone all the voters of its
sixth most populated state.”

While Trump is not gaining any legal ground through his some 25 lawsuits, David Gergen and Caroline Cohen–in an opinion piece for CNN–caution that there is considerable cause for concern, pointing out that according to a recent poll, “32% of Americans think Biden won as a result of voter fraud.” Those who hold this point of view are abandoning Fox News and turning to purveyors of conspiracy theories, such as Newsmax (see the introduction to our issue last week). If a third of Americans do not believe in the legitimacy of the election, they point out, it will be difficult for Biden to govern. Going forward, Politico suggests, Trump’s purpose in all this is to disrupt and thereby maintain control over the GOP, freezing out other potential presidential candidates in 2024. RLS

4. Employees on Medicaid and food stamps while corporations make billions

Walmart. McDonald’s. Dollar Tree. Dollar General. Amazon. Burger King. FedEx. What do these major corporations have in common? Reporting in the Washington Post shows that they are the U.S. employers with the highest number of employees depending on Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP—or food stamps) for healthcare and to make sure their families have enough to eat—this according to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study undertaken at the request of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Initially, the GAO sought information on the employers of Medicaid and SNAP recipients in all fifty states, but the study focused on nine states in the case of Medicaid and six states in the case of SNAP (for a total of eleven states participating in one or both areas) because their data was determined to be most reliable.

In all eleven states, Walmart was among the top employers to have employees relying on Medicaid or SNAP. McDonald’s was in the top five in at least nine states. The study looked at the proportion of non-elderly, non-disabled people employed by these corporations in the states studied. In Georgia, Walmart employees (3,959) make up 2.1% of that group. McDonald’s employs another 1,480 or 0.8% of that cohort. In Oklahoma, Walmart employees (1,059) comprised 2.8% of that cohort, and McDonald’s accounted for another 1.4% (536). 3.1% (1,318) of Arkansas’ non-elderly, non-disabled people receiving SNAP benefits were employed by Walmart; another 2% (865) were employed by McDonald’s. Sanders, not surprisingly, was sharply critical of the “corporate welfare” claimed by these employers: “Taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize some of the largest and most profitable corporations in America. And what kind of profits do those corporations make? In the third quarter of 2020, Walmart reported income of $5.1 billion; McDonald’s reported $1.76 billion. S-HP

If you’re outraged, you can urge your Congressmembers to read and heed this GAO study and demand reductions in corporate welfare and increases in the minimum wage.

5. Supreme Court hears case on whether LGBTQ2s+ people can be foster parents

On November 4, the Supreme Court heard arguments in a case testing whether social service agencies operating foster parent programs can exclude lesbians and gay men as potential foster parents because of the agencies’ religious objections. The case arose in response to a Philadelphia decision to end a fostering contract with Catholic Social Services (CSS) because they would not accept applications from same-sex couples. Lower courts have upheld Philadelphia’s decision, with the Court of Appeals ruling that the decision was not targeting CSS for their religious views, but was ensuring that agencies the city does business with adhere to the city’s 40-year-old nondiscrimination policy. Reporting on the story, the Washington Post cited Stanford law professor Jeffrey L. Fisher who said the decision can’t come down to “judicial assessments of whether religious views are honorable or offensive” because if such an exemption prevailed, “police officers could decline on religious grounds to enforce particular laws, prison guards could insist on evangelizing to inmates.”

A key part of the arguments focused on which sorts of discrimination the government had a compelling interest in preventing. When asked repeatedly by Justice Kagan whether the government had a compelling interest to end discrimination against lesbians and gay men, Justice Department lawyer Hashim M. Mooppan said the government might have such an interest in the abstract, but that this was not Philadelphia’s only motivation. Justices also asked Mooppan if a religious fostering agency could exclude mixed-race couples from their programs if that was part of their beliefs. Mooppan responded that “race is unique in this country’s constitutional history, and eradicating that type of racial discrimination . . . presents a particularly unique and compelling interest.” Justice Stephen G. Breyer appeared to be looking for a compromise of sorts when he suggested that if CSS objects “to being required to evaluate and provide written endorsements of a same-sex relationship, add something onto any response you make and say that you do not endorse same-sex marriages. Say it.” As the Washington Post explains, one of the ironies here is that Philadelphia’s case rests on a precedent-setting. S-HP

6. Ban on conversion therapy struck down.

Meanwhile, Forbes reports on a November 20 ruling in Florida by Federal Judges Britt C. Grant and Barbara Lagoa, who were both appointed by President Donald Trump, that the City of Boca Raton, Florida, and Florida’s Palm Beach County do not have a right to ban controversial treatment of “minors with ‘any counseling, practice or treatment performed with the goal of changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity’”—in other words, Conversion Therapy. The widespread consensus is that such “therapy” causes serious harm, but the Florida ruling says that conversion therapy cannot be banned because doing so would “violate the First Amendment because they are content-based regulations of speech that cannot survive strict scrutiny.” This case also involved an unexpected irony in that the Judges argued that even though professional organizations have determined a therapeutic practice to be harmful, that is not sufficient reason to ban it–because such agencies can later reverse policy as the American Psychiatric Association did when it reversed its opposition to homosexuality. In a fierce dissent Judge Beverly C. Martin wrote that the conversion therapy ban was backed up by a mountain of rigorous evidence,” and that organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association Council of Representatives, the American Psychoanalytic Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the American School Counselor Association, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization have all found [conversion therapy] “pose[s] real risks of harm on children.” S-HP

You may want to seize this precarious time to remind your Congressmembers that the U.S. needs nationwide antidiscrimination legislation for LGBTQ+ individuals.

7. Battle over military bases with Confederate names

Both houses of Congress have passed—with what would be veto-proof majorities—a defense spending authorization bill that includes a provision requiring that military bases named after Confederate leaders be renamed. Military leaders also support the renaming of these bases. However, as the New York Times reports, James Inhofe (R-OK), Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is demanding that the renaming provision be cut from the bill before it is sent to the White House to avoid a veto. Even now as the Trump administration is in its final death throes, Republicans are doing all they can to avoid crossing Trump, even when that means abandoning their own values and disregarding the wishes of military leadership. S-HP

You can take various actions to address this issue. Tell Inhofe that his attempt to remove the renaming provision is blatant pandering to Trump against the wishes of Congress and the military and demand that he abandon the effort. You may want to urge the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee to do all possible to fight this capitulation to Trump’s bigotry, and insist to your Congressmembers that they fight to retain the renaming clause. You may need to explain to them that having military bases named after Confederates glorifies men who attempted to end the United States as it existed at that time in order to preserve slavery and continues to send a message that slavery is an aspect of U.S. history that we can refuse to acknowledge, even during this time when we have repeatedly seen deadly disregard for Black lives. Relevant addresses are here.


8. Trump is selling billions of dollars of arms to the U.A.E.

Last week, we discussed the Trump administration’s planned sale of $23 billion in advanced weapons technology to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Not only is the UAE located in a volatile region with absolutely no need for additional advanced weaponry, but the UAE also has a dangerous record of human rights violations. According to Human Rights Watch:

◉The UAE plays a lead role in the Saudi-led military coalition responsible for some 90 unlawful attacks in Yemen, a number of which could be potentially classified as war crimes.

◉The UAE has a record of detainee abuse both within the nation itself and internationally.

◉The UAE blocks visits by representative of international human rights organizations.

◉The UAE’s 2015 anti-discrimination law does not bar discrimination on the basis of sex or gender.

◉In the UAE, critics of the government are subject to detention, torture, and disappearance.

◉UAE law permits domestic violence with Article 53 of the penal code allowing the imposition of “chastisement by a husband to his wife and the chastisement of minor children” so long as the assault does not exceed the limits of Islamic law.

◉Marital rape is not a crime in the UAE.

◉In 2010, the UAE Federal Supreme Court issued a ruling, citing the penal code, that accepts husbands’ beating and infliction of other forms of punishment or coercion on their wives, provided they do not leave physical marks.

Three U.S. senators have said that they will introduce legislation in opposition to the sale: Democrats Bob Menendez and Chris Murphy and Republican Rand Paul. S-HP

You can tell tell Senate and House Committee leadership and your own Congressmembers that any U.S. sale of advanced weaponry to the UAE is unacceptable. Addresses are here.


9. One in 1,293 Americans are dead from COVID. Trump won’t permit Biden’s COVID response team to coordinate

Johns Hopkins’ most recent (as of midday, November 20) COVID-19 data shows the U.S. at nearly 12 million total cases and over 253,000 deaths. A little basic math—we’ll assume a U.S. population of 328.2 million—shows us that already one in every 1,293 Americans has been killed by COVID-19. And the case numbers and deaths continue to rise. President-elect Biden has quickly assembled a team to direct the nation’s COVID response once Biden is sworn in, but what that team can accomplish is limited at this moment by the refusal of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to work with it or to supply crucial data, such as the size of the national stockpiles of Personal Protective Equipment and ventilators or the nation’s current hospital bed capacity. Alex Azar, Secretary of HHS, is refusing to allow his department to work with the transition team because of the General Services Administration’s refusal to acknowledge the Biden win. In fact, HHS staffers have been ordered not to speak with any Biden team members who contact them and to immediately report attempted contact to the Deputy Surgeon General. The voices raised against this life-threatening policy decision include Dr. Anthony Fauci, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, and the American Nurses Association. S-HP

You can join Dr. Fauci and leading medical organizations in calling for immediate and full cooperation between HHS and the Biden transition team to allow for the most effective possible ongoing response to the pandemic. Write or call Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services, 200 Independence Ave. SW, Washington DC 20201, (877) 696-6775

10. Trump tries to force banks to invest in Alaska drilling

The Trump administration seems determined to create the maximum possible destruction and havoc in the two months it has remaining. The Washington Post reports that among the likely casualties of this executive branch destruction derby are vast tracts of publicly held land in Alaska, including parts of both the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA) and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The NPRA is some 23 million acres in size and almost half of it is already open to drilling. Plans announced in June would open nearly 7 additional million acres of that expanse to drilling, making 82% of the refuge potential drill sites. Yes, there are petroleum reserves under the NPRA, but its surface has been subject to wildlife protections for over forty years, and it provides critical habitat for polar bears and for migrating caribou and waterfowl.

This plan is currently being fought in the courts by a consortium of environmental groups. And even big banks are resisting; according to Common Dreams, five of the six large banks do not want to fund drilling projects due to objections from activist shareholders, but the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has passed a new proposal to force them to do so. This past Tuesday, the administration announced the first step in opening ANWR lands to drilling, posting a “call for nominations” in the Federal Register. Under a call for nominations, petroleum companies identify specific tracts of land they would be willing to bid on in future drilling lease sales. The Washington Post notes that the ANWR provides “habitat for more than 270 species, including the world’s remaining Southern Beaufort Sea polar bears, 250 musk oxen and 300,000 snow geese.” The small bit of good news in all this is that while the call for nominations focuses on identifying tracts to open up for drilling leases, the comment document soliciting these “nominations” is also open to comments critical of the idea of endangering this territory on which so many wild lives depend. S-HP

You can post a formal comment in opposition to the proposed auctioning off of drilling leases in ANWR; follow the instructions exactly. You can also inform your Congressmembers that you oppose opening these Refuge lands to drilling and ask them to fight against the creation of new drilling leases.


The Americans of Conscience checklist has a set of valuable things you can do to ensure the peaceful transition of power, advocate for the health of people in prisons, and support the rights of young voters. They calculate that you can get through the list in 25 minutes.

News You May Have Missed: November 15, 2020

“Piss Off the GOP and Vote” by Overpass Light Brigade is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

While Americans did heed the exhortations to vote–a higher percentage of the population voted than at any time in the last hundred years–false claims of voter fraud are rampant. While these are being systematically struck down in the courts, and by government elections officials, what these claims tell us is that we live in two different worlds, as Hank Williams so vividly explains: “That’s why we’re so far apart.” Whenever–or whether–Trump acknowledges that Biden won, these differences are likely to pervade the next four years.


1. A world of “alternative facts”

The alternate reality in which Donald Trump won the election is being sketched by officials on leave from their government positions, among them the chief information security officer, Camilo Sandoval, according to the Washington Post. And it is being loudly proclaimed by right-wing militia groups, among them the Oath Keepers, which has tens of thousands of members, reports the Independent, many of them emerging from the military or police forces. As founder Stewart Rhodes told the Independent, ““I think about half this country won’t recognize Biden as legitimate. They won’t recognize this election. What that means is that everything that comes out of his mouth will be considered not of any force or effect, anything he signs into law we won’t recognize as legitimate.”

Right-wingers who believe the election was somehow fraudulent have been massing on Parler, a Facebook-like social media site, where their assertions won’t be flagged as false. Parler, which now has 10 million members, is funded by Rebekah Mercer and her father Robert Mercer, long-time Trump supporters and funders of Breitbart, NPR notes. Parler has welcomed Steve Bannon, who is energetically promoting the claims of fraud.

Gab is another Facebook look-alike; its followers are notoriously anti-Semitic and white nationalist. Donald Trump or someone posting in his name continually posts on Gab alleging the theft of the election; a frequent motif that Trump himself has repeated is that that Dominion’s electoral software was hacked to throw the election to Democrats, an allegation that Snopes has carefully refuted. As Reuters points out, the claim that Dominion software was only used in the five states (Nevada, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia) whose results Trump is challenging is demonstrably false; it is used in 24 states. The Times reports some glitches in Dominion software, none which would have changed the outcome.

Some of these fraud claims have been constructed by Dennis Montgomery, the same guy who persuaded the Bush administration that he could discern that Al Jazeera was broadcasting terrorist code, according to the Daily Beast. He claims that “a deep-state supercomputer named ‘Hammer’ and a computer program named ‘Scorecard’ were used to change the ballot count.” (Keep track of these claims–once you know what to look for, you will see them repeated everywhere.) One of the more alarming outlets for invented news is “Distributed News,” which insists that because Trump declared a national emergency in 2018 to address the potential of foreign interference in the election, we are still in that emergency, and because Dominion was designed in Canada, their involvement in the election constitutes foreign interference. Therefore, Distributed says that “all top Democrats and deep-state traitors” can be arrested and their assets seized, while “all the Big Tech corporations and left-wing media propaganda” can also have their assets, including their domain names, seized.

There’s no way to know how many of the 73,125,600 people who voted for Donald Trump believe this stuff. But we must contend with the world they have invented. RLS

One way to preserve the reality you know is to donate to the Democratic candidates in the Georgia run-off elections, which will determine the fate of the Senate–and in significant ways, the Biden administration. Fair Fight Action--founded by Stacey Abrams–is good organization to follow. NPR has an informative piece on it.

See the Americans of Conscience checklist for quick, focused actions you can take to ensure the smooth transfer of power, insist on the factual accuracy of the election results, and engage in the Georgia run-off elections.

2. Charges of election fraud refuted by Trump’s own DHS

Politico reports that one of the voices raised in opposition to Trump’s claims of election fraud belongs to the Cybersecurity and Information Security Agency (CISA)—an agency overseen by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). CISA’s “Protect 2020 Rumor vs. Reality” website, which is still being updating regularly, is debunking election-fraud rumors as they arise, explaining that large numbers of dead people are not voting, that differing numbers of votes cast in down-ballot races are not an indication of election fraud, and that changing vote tallies after election night does not mean the final vote count cannot be trusted. S-HP

You might thank the Director of CISA for the agency’s provision of real-time factchecks in response to election rumors: Chris Krebs, Director, Cybersecurity and Information Security Agency, Stop 0380, Department of Homeland Security, 245 Murray Lane, Washington DC 20528-0380, (888) 282-0870

3. Election challenges for Black voters

In a piece in Slate, the NAACP’s Sharrilyn Ifill points out that, while many major news organizations reported that the November 3 election went smoothly, this was not the case, particularly for Black voters. Among the problems Ifill notes:

◉Hours-long lines at early voting locations and election day polling places;

◉Acts of voter intimidation in all of the ten states NAACP was closely monitoring;

◉Over 31,000 calls to a civil rights Election Protection hotline;

◉Armed Trump supporters at polling places on election day in Florida, North Carolina, and Louisiana;

◉A non-partisan poll watcher evaluating accessibility at Georgia polling places being threatened with arrest by a sheriff’s deputy if she continued in her work;

◉State barriers to mail voting that affected primarily Black voters;

◉A USPS refusal to honor a federal judge’s order that twelve mail centers be “swept” for ballots on election day after 300,000 ballots were found untraceable’

◉Robocalls to primarily Black voters in Flint, Michigan, telling them they should vote on Wednesday, November 4, by which time the election would have ended.

In other words, the U.S. is facing a voting rights crisis that can continue to disenfranchise voters unless Congress enacts new voting rights legislation. S-HP

If you want to insist that all Americans should be able to exercise the right to vote safely and simply and demand stronger voting rights protections, appropriate addresses are here.

4. In waning days, Trump shakes up the Pentagon and other departments

Since the November 3 election, a high-speed version of musical chairs has been taking place in the U.S. government under the direction of Donald Trump.

◉Most significantly, the Washington Post and many other sources have reported on a major shake-up at the Pentagon that unnamed sources are calling a takeover of the Pentagon by Trump’s Nation Security Administration staffers. The changes follow the replacement of Secretary of Defense Mark Esper by Christopher C. Miller. Follow-up reporting in the Washington Post notes that, while he has extensive experience in special operations, Miller has never served in the Pentagon’s upper ranks and had only just become the director of the National Counter Terrorism Center. Anthony J. Tata, a retired one-star general has taken over as acting undersecretary for policy—he had previously been nominated for, but not confirmed as, Undersecretary of Defense because of frequent tweets supporting conspiracy theories and claiming President Barak Obama is a terrorist. Speculation is that Trump has multiple motives for shaking up the Pentagon. First, he continues to consider withdrawing all U.S. troops currently serving in conflict areas overseas, a move seen as unwise and potentially dangerous by Pentagon leaders. Next he has made clear his resentment at not being allowed to use military equipment in parades and other public displays. Finally, the appointment of Trump loyalists will almost certainly make the transition to the Biden presidency more difficult.

As we pointed out last week, a number of significant heads of agency were fired or asked to resign by the outgoing president. Defense News reports that Lisa Gordon-Hagerty resigned (the New York Post claims she was fired) from her position as head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Both Defense News and Bloomberg say she resigned because of ongoing struggles with Secretary of Energy Dan Brouilette over issues of budget and the independence of the NNSA, which is only under nominal control by the Department of Energy. The Las Vegas Review-Journal claims that Brouilette told Gordon-Hagerty that Trump has “lost confidence in her.” Gordon-Hagerty was the first woman to lead the NNSA.

◉CNN reports on the ouster of Bonnie Glick from her position as Deputy Administrator (the #2 position) at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Glick received a note from the White House demanding that she resign from her position or be “terminated without cause at the pleasure of the U.S. President.” Glick refused to resign and was subsequently fired. CNN sources suggest that Glick’s firing was designed to allow Acting Administrator of USAID John Barsa to continue directing the agency. Barsa had reached the end of his legal term as acting head of USAID under the Federal Vacancies and Reform Act. Now that Glick has been removed, Barsa has been appointed to her position. As long as no one is named to Barsa’s former post as USAID head, this will allow Barsa to continue directing the agency from his new, number two spot.

Inside Climate News reports on the demotion of Neil Chatterjee, former chair of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), who will now serve as a commissioner, with the Commission’s other Republican member, James Danly. Chatterjee, who has generally been viewed as fossil fuel-friendly had voted in favor of two actions by the FERC that were opposed by the White House: a September order making it easier for small groups of solar and solar storage owners to sell electricity to the grid, potentially increasing the profitability of solar energy, and an October statement encouraging states and regional grid operators to explore the benefits of carbon pricing, under which energy producers are charged fees based on the amount of CO2 they release. Daly voted against both of these actions.

◉The Washington Post reports that climate scientist Michael Kuperberg had been demoted from his position as executive director of the US Global Change Research Program (USGRP), a program established by Congress to provide a regular National Climate Assessment looking at current and potential future harms caused by greenhouse gases. The Washington Post described USGCRP’s latest report as “detail[ing] the potentially dire consequences for Americans should the country take little action to cut emissions and prepare for climate change’s effects, such as sea-level rise, droughts and hotter, longer-lasting heat waves.” Speculation is that leadership of USGCRP will now go to meteorologist David Legates, who is a climate change denier.

◉NBC News reports that Richard Polger resigned from his position as Director of the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) Election Crimes Branch in response to Attorney General William Barr’s authorization for federal prosecutors to investigated claims of election fraud. DoJ policy in the past has been to avoid any overt investigation until all recounts are completed and final election results are certified. Polger saw Barr’s decision to break from this policy as politically motivated. In his letter of resignation, Polger explained, “Having familiarized myself with the new policy [to begin investigation before certification]… I must regretfully resign from my role as Director of the Election Crimes Branch.” Polger will remain at the D-J in another capacity. S-HP

Given everything, you might want to raise your concerns about these rapid turnovers, the politicization of what should be neutral agencies, and the effect this may have on the transition to a Biden Presidency with your Congressmembers.


5. New hope for DACA recipients

As we have been noting, the appointment of Chad Wolf–the acting secretary of Homeland Security–was not legal, as has now been affirmed by a second federal judge, according to the Washington Post. Thus, the memo he issued reducing the length of residence permits for those immigrants covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) from two years to one was also illegal. The judge has ordered both sides into a conference on the issue, so permits will not immediately be restored. RLS


6. Following removal of Pentagon leadership, US sells $23 billion in weapons to the UAE

Following U.S.-brokered negotiations leading to the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) recognition of the state of Israel, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has announced administration plans to sell over $23 billion in advanced weaponry to the UAE, including $10.4 billion worth of F-35 aircraft, $3 billion worth of drones, and $10 billion worth of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions according to reporting by CNN. Foreign Policy points out that this sale is inadvisable for several reasons. The UAE has been accused of committing war crimes in Libya, including the bombing of a refugee detention center, and of running a torture center in Yemen. In addition, the UAE has close ties to Russia, and Foreign Policy calls for a “tangible decoupling” of the UAE from Russia before any advanced weaponry sales proceed. CNN quoted House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Eliot Engel (D-NY), who said Congress would not rush approval of the sale, explaining “The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is a game-changing stealth platform…. The export of this aircraft requires very careful consideration and Congress must analyze all ramifications.” S-HP

You might thank Engel for his cautious approach to this sale and urge that the House Foreign Affairs Committee take all the time it needs to study this sale and related issues before considering approval: Representative Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), Chair, House Foreign Affairs Committee, 2170 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC 20515, (202) 225-5021


7. Turkish immigrants developed Pfizer’s vaccine without funds from Trump

The promising vaccine developed by Pfizer, according to Trump, was developed under his “Warp Speed” program. This is not true. While Pfizer has a contract to deliver doses to the US, it took no US money at all to develop its vaccine, as the AP notes, instead using its own money and relying on a partnership with BioNTech, a company in Germany. In fact, as Bloomberg explains, BioNTech was founded by Ugur Sahin and Ozlem Tureci, spouses who were immigrants from Turkey to Germany, where they weathered discrimination against immigrants to become scientific innovators. RLS

8. Very bad news about the pandemic

Some hospitals (in Mississippi, Oklahoma and Tennessee) are almost at capacity and mobile morgues are being set up in El Paso. As we explained last week (Story 5), we don’t tend to know this because there is no requirement that this data be reported except to a small circle of people in the Trump administration. Among the news that is being withheld is that hospitals in 43 states are nearing capacity, Laurie Garrett, the Pulitzer-prize science journalist, told WBUR. Because so many states are affected, states can’t ask for staff, PPE and ventilators from other states. Even the coronavirus task force, whose reports the Center for Public Integrity has gathered, says that all but eight states are in the red zone.

In addition to the lack of administrative leadership, this surge is partly caused by the way the coronavirus manifests; as much as 60 per cent of the transmission, she says, is coming from people with no symptoms. While, as Garrett points out, Canada has been much more protected than the US because of strict controls, the virus is likely to start leaking across the border. By Christmas, Garrett says, the US “could well have 400,000 cumulatively dead Americans, be seeing death rates at about 2,000 or more daily, and have such an out of control situation that when Joe Biden steps in, he’ll inherit the sort of disease equivalent of what Barack Obama inherited from George Bush in the financial sector.” RLS


◉The care that people who work with ballots at any stage demonstrate is evident in the New York Times Magazine’s photo essay this week; it is packed with “who knew” information and stunning photographs.

◉Keep reading Heather Cox Richardson for insights into the present moment and how we got here.

News You May Have Missed: November 8, 2020

“Crop Circle Art: 📮 Biden Harris 2020 🇺🇸” by jmf1007 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

At this writing, Trump has declined to acknowledge that Biden won. He is claiming that observers were not allowed to watch the counting and suggesting that fraudulent votes were counted–remaining silent, of course, about how many votes from likely Democratic voters were suppressed. In contrast, Biden is signaling his attention to put things right by releasing a list of executive orders he’ll issue, according to the Washington Post: to rejoin the Paris climate accords and the World Health Organization, to permit DACA applicants to stay in the country, to repeal the Muslim travel ban. Politico has an excellent outline of what Biden would like to do and what obstacles he will face. With the pandemic out of control, a New Deal-type stimulus package is essential, Politico notes. For more detail, see the Biden and Harris transition website, Build Back Better. Of course, what Biden can do depends on the two Senate runoffs in Georgia; according to The Hill, Stacey Abrams says that Democrats “absolutely” can prevail in those races.

At the same time, Trump is continuing to do damage, as NPR reports. He fired the heads of three crucial agencies (two of them women): the head of the  National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the nation’s nuclear weapons; the deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development; and the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. He has allowed his supporters to believe a QAnon conspiracy theory that the federal government watermarked ballots and so is able to track those that are fraudulent (impossible, Politifact explains–states print ballots). And Trump supporters–some of them armed–have shown up at the Maricopa county elections office in Phoenix, Arizona, according to Al-Jazeera. Others have massed in Lansing, Michigan and other state capitals as part of a campaign called “Stop the Steal,” according to USA Today. Trump supporters continue to be guided by their own media; according to the Daily Beast, right-wing outlet Newsmax has refused to call the election for Biden.


1. Central American children deported to Mexico–where they know no one

Among the long list of things to be mended in a Biden administration is immigration policy, beginning with how it is applied to children. While Biden said he would establish a task force to reunite the 545 children with their parents who have been deported, according to CNN, there is much more to do. Children unaccompanied by parents are even now being deported to Mexico–whether not they are from Mexico–in violation of international agreements, the NY Times reports. At least 200 Central American children have been sent to Mexico during the pandemic, even though they are from elsewhere and have no family connections in Mexico, according to NPR. They are now in the hands of Mexican child welfare authorities, and no information is available about whether their parents are being sought. As Witness at the Border points out, they are at risk of exploitation and trafficking (Witness has a chilling document identifying deportation flights in August.) RLS

58 House Democrats have asked the Trump administration to stop the summary deportation of both children and adults under the guise of the pandemic, according to USA News and World Report. If you want to add your voice, addresses are here.

2. Trump staff likely in violation of the Hatch Act

Reuters reports that, at the request of Representative Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), the U.S. Office of the Special Counsel (OSC) has launched an investigation into possible Hatch Act violations by the Trump administration, which reportedly used areas of the White House and the Eisenhower Executive Office Building as “command centers” during last week’s elections. If staffers from the White House or the Eisenhower Executive Office Building participated in election night activities, they would likely be in violation of the Hatch Act, which places strict limits on partisan political activities by federal employees, with the exception of the President and Vice President. The OSC is currently investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for his speech at the Republican National Convention in August. Also in August, Forbes explained the multiple violations of the Hatch Act, pointing out that there would only be prosecutions if the Justice Department decided to pursue them. In 2019, the OSC recommended that White House counselor Kellyanne Conway be fired for repeated violations of the Hatch Act. S-HP

If you want to object to repeated Hatch Act violations by the Trump Administration, addresses are here.

3. Immigration judges lose collective bargaining rights

Business Insider has reported that on election day, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) issued a ruling that revoked the collective bargaining rights of immigration judges. The immigration judges’ union was first recognized in 1979 and the judges’ unionization rights depend on a recognition of the judges as workers, not managers. Immigration judges have fought hard to maintain their independence—and their union rights—in the face of Trump administration’s increasingly draconian immigration policies. In January, the Department of Justice (DoJ) asked for decertification of the union, but in a July ruling Susan Bartlett, the Washington DC regional FLRA director, said that the DoJ had not convincingly demonstrated that immigration judges work as managers and upheld immigration judges’ collective bargaining rights. Now FLRA leadership has overridden the July ruling, declaring that because immigration judges’ decisions affect the implementation of policy, they are management. The FLRA’s leadership group is composed of a chair and two additional members. Not surprisingly, two Republican appointees voted to approve the decertification, with the single Democratic appointee dissenting. S-HP

You can object to this move to limit the independence of and workplace protections for immigration judges by writing the Federal Labor Relations Authority. Addresses are here.


4. Canada seeks new immigrants

Faced with the loss of revenue and a youthful workforce that comes with immigration, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday that he was offering a new path to citizenship for immigrants already in the country who are working, studying, or seeking asylum, according to the Financial Post. Health Care workers are especially needed. According to Immigration Canada, 1.2 million newcomers will be admitted between 2021 and 2023 in order to assist with the pandemic recovery; most of those admitted will be in the high-skill or family reunification categories.


5. Is your local ICU at capacity? The (present) government won’t tell you.

If you knew whether nearby ICUs were at capacity, would you take extra precautions against COVID-19? Very possibly. However, you don’t have access to that information because the government–at least as presently constituted–hides it from you. Documents obtained by NPR indicate that while hospitals are required to report this information to Health and Human Services, it is not released beyond a small circle of people. Health officers, state and local officials, and potential patients therefore have no way to plan. The most recent report NPR obtained, October 27, noted that in Atlanta, Minneapolis and Baltimore, “in-patient hospital beds are over 80% full, while particular hospitals in Tampa, Birmingham and New York “are at over 95% ICU capacity and at risk of running out of intensive care beds.” RLS

If you want to speak up about the refusal of Health and Human Services to release data about hospital capacity, you can write to the head of HHS and to your elected representatives. Addresses are here.

6. How will Biden deal with COVID-19?

Biden made it very clear in his speech that he has a plan to address COVID-19. NPR describes it: He’ll make sure that scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make recommendations based on evidence, invest in the distribution of vaccines and PPE, hire people to do extensive contact tracing, increase testing, develop the workforce of caregivers, and work with the governors to establish when and where masks are mandatory. Scientific American has a good piece from before the election that will make it clear the impact president-elect Biden will have on science and the environment.

Meanwhile, you might find the COVID-19 risk tracker from Brown University’s Alpert Medical School useful. You can put in an activity–such as grocery shopping–and tweak your plans to lower your risk. RLS

7. The United States dumps between 1.1 and 2.2 million metric tons of plastic into the oceans

U.S. contribution to worldwide coastal plastics pollution may be five times greater than previously understood, according to an article published in Scientific Advances, a journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As the New York Times noted in October, the study reflects increasing U.S. use of plastics, but the larger number is also a result of the study’s authors’ decision to include plastic waste that the U.S. ships to other countries, where that waste is often mishandled. As much as 88% of exported U.S. plastic waste is sent to countries that simply do not have adequate waste management infrastructure to recycle those materials. As the Times article explains, in 2016, “the United States contributed between 1.1 and 2.2 million metric tons of plastic waste to the oceans through a combination of littering, dumping and mismanaged exports.” S-HP

You can alert your Congressmembers to the findings of this study and remind them that we are long overdue for a serious reduction in the use and discarding of plastics.

8. Grey wolves losing federal endangered species protection

In an act that Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife called “premature and reckless,” the Trump administration announced that it would be removing endangered species protections this month, leaving the scattered populations of grey wolves under the management of individual states. Washington Post coverage of this action notes that gray wolves were originally listed as an endangered species in 1967, when the population of the wolves in the 48 contiguous U.S. states had dropped to 1,000. While the gray wolf population has increased since then, there are still fewer than 8,000 gray wolves in the 48 states: a total of about 6,000 individuals living in the Midwest states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota and much smaller, isolated populations in California, Oregon, and Washington. Ranchers and hunters are delighted with the decision. Defenders of Wildlife and several other environmental organizations have announced plans to file a suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to challenge this decision. S-HP

If you wish to join environmentalists in opposing the removal of endangered species protections for the still-vulnerable gray wolves, you can write the Secretary of the Interior and the Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Addresses are here.


◉ The Americans of Conscience checklist provides ways to make sure your ballot was counted and ways to help Georgia residents vote on the upcoming runoffs.

◉ Week after week since the 2016 election, Rogan’s List has provided clear, comprehensive analyses of the problems that beset us and quick, focused actions we can take. For the moment, Susan Rogan has ceased publishing but may revive the List in a somewhat different form. This week’s edition recommends other activist lists to follow. News You May Have Missed is very grateful to Susan for her consistent inspiration and concrete suggestions.


“Philadelphia PA – Liberty Bell 03” by Daniel Mennerich is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Like the Liberty Bell, the nation must be cast and recast, at risk of splitting along its visible cracks. With our world about to change–again–on Tuesday, the future rings with possibilities. Here are some ways to think about the days and months ahead, especially given that Trump has said he will declare victory if he thinks he is ahead–even if all the votes are not yet counted.

Re: Voting–the ACLU posted this: If someone is attempting to interfere with your or anyone’s right to vote, it may be voter intimidation and a violation of state and federal law. You should contact your local elections official to report the issue. You should also save the number for the Election Protection hotline and call or text if you witness voter intimidation: 866-OUR-VOTE (687-8683). The hotline is also available in other languages: Spanish 888-VE-Y-VOTA and Asian languages 888-API-VOTE..

If you still need to know where and how to vote in your state, the Washington Post can advise. 

Choose, the people who brought you Ten Things you Need to Know to Stop a Coup, has a list of actions to stave one off. Their main message is: be prepared. Don’t expect results on election night. Don’t believe outrageous claims. Be ready to act.

You might check Protect the Results for their take on appropriate action if the election is undermined. The Atlantic recommends three strategies: Keeping protest action non-violent, reaching out to the center, and slowing things down–through rolling strikes, for example.

We see five possible outcomes of Tuesday’s election–which are not mutually exclusive. 


The Washington Post points out that gun sales are skyrocketing, right-wing groups are muttering on the internet about civil war, and Trump is openly praising a MAGA caravan in Texas that tried to run a Biden bus off the road, CNN reports. A white supremacist group, the Patriot Front, is preparing for civil war, according to the UK’s Independent. On the upside, the LawFare Blog argues that right-wing extremist groups are splintering.

Insiders in the Trump administration are also worried, as several of them told the New York Times on condition of anonymity. An FBI official the Times writer spoke to said “We’ve been talking to our state and local counterparts and gearing up for the expectation that it’s going to be a significant law-enforcement challenge for probably weeks or months. It feels pretty terrifying.”

The National Guard is to be deployed to cities across Texas before the election, according to the Texas Tribune, and Homeland Security agents are on standby, CNN reported.

Trump is planning to argue that mail-in ballots not counted by the end of the evening on election day are not legitimate and should not be counted, Axios reports, quoting Trump’s comments to reporters that “We’re going to go in the night of, as soon as that election’s over, we’re going in with our lawyers.” In a decision about a proposed six-day extension for the receipt of mailed ballots in Wisconsin, Justice Kavanaugh signalled support for Trump’s position. As SF Gate wrote,  “Kavanaugh suggested sympathy for Trump’s unsubstantiated contentions that votes received after Election Day would be tainted by fraud, warning that ‘charges of a rigged election could explode’ if late-arriving ballots change the perceived outcome.” 

As Slate notes, “This is the entire Republican strategy in 2020: not to win the election but to make the winner unknowable, so that Trump can claim victory.”

However, there are significant legal barriers to Kavanaugh and Trump colluding to prevent ballots arriving after November 3 from being counted: States have the right to establish their own electoral procedures, according to lawyer (and biographer of RBG) Teri Kanefield. Check out her “Things to do” tab.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, various corporations–among them Blackstone and Charles Schwab–have funded the many almost-identical lawsuits brought by the Republican National Committee against mail ballots, despite the fact that according to an investigation by the Brennan Center for Justice, voter fraud is very rare, amounting to 0.0009% of votes.


The interregnum–the period between regimes–is especially dangerous this election cycle. 

Politico points out that when Trump has nothing left to lose, “nearly everyone expects an unprecedented flurry of presidential pardons in his last 77 days — a way both to reward friends, protect his family, tweak his opponents and curry favor with those who may help him when he is back in private life.” These could include pre-emptive pardons for his family and friends.

He could also, Politico suggests, continue his assault on the so-called “deep state,” with executive orders like those he already has issued, depriving civil servants of basic job protections. Mass firings, destruction of documents, and covert military actions are also possible.

The chances of a COVID-relief bill, stalled just before the election, will drop precipitously once Trump sees no political advantage in it. The costs–to people who are ill from the virus, unemployed and at risk of losing their housing due to the virus and the economic downtown, desperately in debt due to the virus–are immeasurable.

Meanwhile, a report from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) and MilitiaWatch warns that right-wing violence is likely in several states following the election: “Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Oregon are at highest risk of increased militia activity in the election and post-election period, while North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, California, and New Mexico are at moderate risk,” they say. 


If Biden wins but Republicans take the Senate, paralysis ensues. Bloomberg thinks this is not a bad thing, grumbling about “partisan overreach.” Certainly there would be no more seats on the Supreme Court. Legislation would be entirely stalled (compare Obama’s first two years to his last six). Trump has certainly fouled the nest, with a pandemic raging, the economy struggling, and the basic safety of BIPOC, LGBTQ+ people, immigrants, women and children at risk. Would there be COVID relief? What would happen to the 400+ bills the House has passed but refused to consider? Without the stranglehold Trump and McConnell have on the Senate, would some bipartisan legislation pass? The Atlantic thinks not, musing that Biden has ideas about collegiality that simply won’t hold up.


Hint: Biden can’t do it alone. We can’t relax during a Biden administration.

Biden has said that one of his first actions as president would be to establish a task force to reunite the 545 children with their parents who have been deported, according to CNN. He would also need to establish a pathway to citizenship for those children’s parents, establish speedy immigration hearings for those now in detention and those trapped in the refugee camps in Matamoros, Mexico, stop deporting unaccompanied children, re-establish humane asylum policies for people who have been terrorized in their home countries, make provision for the Dreamers, and rapidly process applications from those who were excluded by the Muslim ban.

The comment at the end of the piece by Lawyers Defending American Democracy is worth reading. They recommend that we look closely at the bill Amy Klobuchar sponsored, the Protect Our Democracy Act, pending in both houses. They also suggest we think about the 12 recommendations in the massive “Report on the Department of Justice and the Rule of Law” from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL).

Trump has reversed 72 rules pertaining to the climate crisis, toxic substances, and environmental protection; he is in the process of reversing 27 more, according to the New York Times. This will be a list for Biden (and the rest of us) to work from.


Discovered having contributed white supremacist talking points to Brietbart, Steven Miller, architect of Trump’s cruel immigration policy, has made it clear that there will be more of the same–and worse–to come, according to an interview with NBC News. “Limiting asylum grants, punishing and outlawing ‘sanctuary cities,’ expanding the so-called travel ban with tougher screening for visa applicants and slapping new limits on work visas,” are on the agenda. Refugee admissions would be eliminated entirely. Add that to what is already going on–children who are not from Mexico deported to Mexico without a hearing; planes full of asylum-seekers forced to agree to their own deportation, sometimes to death; women given hysterectomies without consent.

The cost to Black Americans if Trump wins would be high. As Politico points out, Black people are more likely to work at the front-line or essential jobs that put them at risk for COVID-19. They are also less likely to have access to health care and may encounter racism when they do access it. Black employment rates are recovering from the pandemic much more slowly than white employment rates, while regulations to prevent discrimination in housing are being scrapped. Most critically, when anti-Black violence appears to have support at the highest levels, violence against Black people increases.

Foreign Affairs suggests that a second Trump term would eliminate America’s position as a world leader–if the first term has not done so already. His America First policies and his decimation of anyone in the administration with foreign policy expertise, Foreign Affairs points out, means that foreign policy will be chaotic at best.

Closer to home, the criminalization of dissent that has already prevailed will likely intensify. Reveal News (from the Center for Investigative Reporting) vividly describes the ways in which Black Lives Matter protesters (especially those of color) are targeted by the justice system, given federal charges for small infractions–or no infractions at all. The Intercept provides the history of how the Trump administration has imposed harsh charges on protestors–but not on his right-wing supporters. About BLM protesters, Trump told the Governors in a conference call in June that “These are terrorists. They’re looking to do bad things to our country.” 

Already Trump is punishing his perceived enemies, threatening to withhold funds for COVID and HIV, even screenings for newborns, in so-called “anarchist cities,” Politico reports. New York, Portland, Ore., Washington, D.C., and Seattle are likely targets. We can expect more of this.

Lawyers Defending American Democracy has a comprehensive list of the damage Trump has done, from the (mis)use of acting appointments, the violation of the separation of powers, the use of the Justice Department as his personal agents, retaliation against government officials who disagree with him, nepotism, supporting right-wing terrorist organizations–and much more. 

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has recorded Trump’s 3,400 conflicts of interest. Expect more of the same.

The New Yorker suggests that the 25th Amendment might need to be invoked, if Congress agrees he is “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” Of course, the vice-president would succeed him. House Speaker Pelosi introduced a bill to establish a Commission on Presidential Capacity to Discharge the Powers and Duties of the Office, which Trump claims was written in case Biden was incapable of serving. 


The Texas Supreme Court has ruled against the Republican Party’s suit to block 127,000 drive-thru votes in Harris County, according to the Texas Tribune. Republicans, however, are banking on a similar suit they have filed in federal court.

The U.S. Supreme Court has–at least for now–allowed a ruling to stand permitting Pennsylvania to count ballots arriving up to three days after election day, even if the postmark is not legible, according to CNN. On Wednesday, the Justices also permitted North Carolina to count ballots arriving nine days after election day, as long as they were postmarked by November 3, another CNN story noted. You can read the orders on CNN’s website. Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in either set of deliberations.

Children of same-sex couples were refused passports by the State Department, even though their parents were American citizens. State Department lawyers argued that the children had to have a biological connection to their citizen parents in order to have citizenship from birth. Federal judges found these policies to be illegal and the State Department withdrew its appeal, according to Lambda Legal.

The Texas regulatory board that oversees social workers has reversed its ruling allowing social workers to refuse services to LGBTQ+ clients, according to Pink News. For more information, note our story #4 on October 25, 2020.

A federal judge said that the Department of Justice could not defend Trump against a lawsuit by E. Jean Carroll accusing him of rape, the Hill reports. The judge wrote that because the alleged assault occurred over twenty years ago, “neither the media reports nor the underlying allegations have any relationship to his official duties.” 

News You May Have Missed: October 25, 2020

“Polling Place @ the Belmont Library!” by San Mateo County Libraries is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


1. Challenges in voting

We probably won’t know the results of the November 3 presidential election by November 4. In fact, when we get them and whether they pass first through the Supreme Court are both up for grabs. And once we have them, who knows when or if we’ll know the full story of the election: particularly which ballots were counted and what pressures voters faced at polling places. Last month, Trump supporters rallied outside a Virginia polling place. They didn’t block the entrance, but prospective voters had to move around them as they approached the entrance. Earlier this week, Trump operatives filmed Philadelphia voters leaving their ballots at secure ballot drop boxes, a practice that Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania’s Attorney General, called “blatant violations of the Pennsylvania election code” in a letter to the Trump campaign.

 Meanwhile, mail-in ballots are already being rejected. Using data from the Democracy Fund Voter Study (DFVS), the New York Times has assembled a slide show comparing rates of ballot rejection for key voting blocs—voters in the 18-25 year age range, Black and Hispanic voters, and first-time users of mail-in ballots—in swing states. All three of the groups lean Democratic. This is a change for mail-in ballots projected by DFVS using survey data. In the past the majority of mail-in ballots were cast by Republicans, but this year 71% of first-time mail-in ballots will be submitted by Democrats. In Florida voters in the 18-25 age range are two times more likely to have their ballots rejected than are voters in the 26-65 age range and four times more likely to have their ballots rejected than voters in the 66+ age range. In Florida, Black and Hispanic voters’ ballots are being rejected at over two times the rate for white voters.

In North Carolina, where data from ProPublica and the Guardian show that 6,779 ballots had been rejected as of October 15. Drawing once again on New York Times reporting, Hispanic voters were over 2 times more likely to have ballots rejected than white, while for Black voters that frequency of rejection was over four times greater. First time-Florida mail-in voters are more than two-and-a-half times likely than experienced mail-in voters to have their ballots rejected. In the most recent race for one of Florida’s two Senate seats, a Republic won by a margin of just over 10 thousand votes; 5.7 thousand Democratic votes have already been rejected by that state.

  The good news is that in Florida, voters whose ballots are rejected have an opportunity to “cure” their ballots. Voters whose ballots are rejected must be informed. They then have until 5p.m. on November 5 to submit a signed affidavit that the ballot is theirs along with a copy of their ID. North Carolina does not have a similar policy. S-HP

You can write to your Secretary of State and insist that every ballot be counted. You can also let your Members of Congress know that we need national legislation creating a voter’s bill of rights. Addresses are here.

2. “Well-regulated” militias are not protected by the Constitution unless controlled by the state

The so-called “Boogaloo Bois,” who have been responsible for several instances of domestic terrorism—the murder of a federal security officer in Oakland, a threat to supply arms to Hamas to use against US troops, the firing of an AK-47 into a Minneapolis police building during a protest against the murder of George Floyd—are now alleged to be part of a nationwide organization, according to a federal indictment. Their purpose, according to Buzzfeed, is to incite violence around the country. Though Boogaloo has been banned from Facebook, it was on there long enough to establish networks which have now moved to encrypted channels.

Meanwhile, a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a security think-tank, found that white supremacist groups were responsible for 67 per cent of “terrorist plots and attacks,” according to the New York Times. The Times raises the concern that if Trump loses the election, these groups will erupt into widespread violence, with people of color, Jews and Muslims the likely targets. Indeed, a Proud Boys supporter posted a You-Tube video promising Civil War if Biden won, Newsweek reported. On the video, the supporter says that the Proud Boys understood Trump’s statement during the debate that they should “stand back and stand by” to mean that “the president is telling them to ‘wait for my orders’ And that’s exactly what we’re waiting for,” he says on the video, which is posted on Newsweek’s website.

Mary B. McCord, who was the acting assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice from 2016 to 2017, wrote an opinion piece for the Times on the plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan. She says that “’well regulated’ in the Second Amendment meant that the militias were “trained, armed and controlled by the state,” not that unregulated militias are sanctioned anywhere in the U.S. RLS

3. Cameroonian asylum-seekers tortured in US detention

Asylum-seekers fleeing torture in Cameroon were apparently tortured by immigration officials in the US, who choked, beat, and pepper-sprayed them in an effort to get them to sign their own deportation orders, the Guardian reports. Many refused to sign, as they had asylum hearings scheduled and feared they would be killed if they were sent back. Some had their fingerprints forcibly applied to the documents in lieu of a signature. English-speakers are a minority in Cameroon and have been severely persecuted. Nonetheless, many were deported anyway. Witness at the Border tracked the flight which left October 13. One detainee, who was taken off that flight, said, ““I was crying, ‘I can’t breathe,’ because they were forcefully on top of me pressing their body weight on top of me. My eyes were so hot … I was dragged across the ground,” he told the Guardian. “The officers told me to open my eyes. I couldn’t. My legs and hands were handcuffed. They forcefully opened my palm. Some of my fingers were broken. They forced my fingerprint on to the paper.” RLS

Miles4Migrants flies Cameroonians and others who have been granted asylum to their destinations in the United States; using donated miles; immigration officials tend to simply drop them off without money or bus tickets. See their Facebook page for information on how to donate miles (their web page is down). Witness at the Border tracks deportation flights and works to restore asylum. They too are on Facebook.

4. Social workers in Texas may reject LGBTQ+ clients.

Until recently, ethical guidelines from the Texas State Board of Social Work Examiners (BSWE) prohibited social workers from turning away clients because of disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity, reports the Houston-based Chron. However, following a recommendation from the office of Governor Greg Abbott that these anti-discrimination protections should be removed because “the code [of conduct’s] nondiscrimination protections went beyond protections laid out in the state law that governs how and when the state may discipline social workers,” BSWE unanimously voted to withdraw these protections. This move raises the question of the differences between what is legally required and what is ethically responsible. Much of Texas suffers from a systematic shortage of social workers, which means that those turned away due to disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity may find accessing mental health services extremely difficult—which is particularly problematic given the documented risk of trauma and related mental health conditions within the LGBTQ+ community. S-HP

You can write–or call–members of the BSWE to object to this abandonment of ethical responsibility—which can quite appropriately extend beyond legal requirements. Addresses are here.

5. US concealed information from those trying to find immigrant children’s parents

1,100 additional children were separated from their parents in 2017, under a pilot program that presaged the “zero tolerance” policy of family separation that has become well known. Now, a draft Justice Department Inspector General’s report has revealed that 545 of those children have parents who were deported and cannot be found—in large part because the U.S. government kept information from agencies who were searching for them, including volunteers who are going door-to-door in Guatemala and Honduras. 60 of these children were under 5 at the time. They are now living with relatives or foster parents while the search for their parents continues. As a lawyer for the ACLU told the New York Times, “The fact that they kept the names from the court, from us, from the public, was astounding. We could have been searching for them this whole time.”

The policy to separate children from their parents was entirely strategic, intended to deter terrified people from seeking asylum, the New York Times reports. Even after the costs of family separation were clear from the 2017 pilot, in a 2018 conference call, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “We need to take away children,” according to the notes of those who were on the call. In a second conference call, Rod J. Rosenstein, who was then  the deputy attorney general, told federal prosecutors that “it did not matter how young the children were.” Even federal prosecutors were aghast. According to the Inspector General’s report, one wrote, “We have now heard of us taking breastfeeding defendant moms away from their infants.”

A Washington Post editorial points out that “family separation” is a misnomer: “For all intents and purposes, these children were kidnapped by the U.S. government.” RLS

You can donate to the ACLU, which is trying to track down every child’s parents and assist them in reuniting. Al Otro Lado assists people who have been deported.

6. Congressmembers not allowed to visit postal processing facilities

Here’s the latest from the United States Postal Service (USPS) under the leadership of new Postmaster General Louis DeJoy

At the end of the week, a federal judge affirmed a lower court ruling requiring the USPS to reinstall high-speed mail-sorting machines—which had been dismantled and removed under DeJoy’s order—at facilities that can’t process first-class election mail efficiently because of COVID-19 modifications.

 According to the Wall Street Journal, individual Congressmembers and Congressional groups have been attempting to tour postal processing facilities in recent weeks, concerned that changes put in place by DeJoy may interfere with timely processing of election mail. The USPS has been blocking these visits using a variety of justifications. The USPS claims a policy, never cited during previous election season visits, bars visitors from postal facilities for 45 days preceding an election. Some Congressmembers have been told that allowing them to visit would constitute a violation of the Hatch Act, which bans the executive branch from engaging in partisan political activity, a claim that is dubious for several reasons. First, Congressmembers are part of the legislative branch of government, not the executive. Second, Trump has been regularly using White House sites for election-related events. In addition, the Wall Street Journal notes that guidance issued by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel regarding the 2018 elections determined the Hatch Act doesn’t prevent lawmakers from visiting “federal facilities for an official purpose, to include receiving briefings, tours, or other official information.”

  Finally, CBS News offers evidence that DeJoy’s business ties could lead to conflicts of interest. DeJoy left the board of shipping company XPO Logistics in 2018, but still holds a multi-million-dollar stake in the business. XPO is also currently leasing properties controlled by DeJoy for $2.3 million annually in a contract that doesn’t expire until 2025. Now, XPO has been awarded an eighteen-month, $5 million contract with XPO. CBS News reports that “The USPS database shows the contract has one of the highest annual rates out of more than 1,600 contracts the Postal Service initiated with outside firms in its most recent quarter, which is the first full quarter DeJoy has served as head of the agency.” S-HP

You can insist that Congressmembers be allowed access to USPS processing facilities and that mail processing be increased in compliance with the federal court order and request a Congressional investigation of DeJoy’s conflicts of interest in his position as Postmaster General. Addresses are here.

7. Loyalty tests in the federal workforce

Trump has frequently indicated a desire to be able to subject government employees to “loyalty tests,” claiming that many of these employees serve the “deep state” rather than Trump himself—though their real employers are the American people, who rely on their nonpartisan work to maintain fairness and transparency across different administrations. Now, using what Government Executive calls “the biggest effort in history to sweep aside 140 years of federal policy promoting professional expertise in government,” Trump has created a new class of federal employees via executive order: Schedule F employees.

Schedule F employees will have none of the usual protections guaranteed to federal employees, including protections against discrimination, forced reassignment and relocation, and the right to appeal personnel decisions, among others. Schedule F employees could also be summarily fired for any reason. And who will these Schedule F employees be? Anyone whose work can be classified as having “a confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or a policy advocating character.” None of these terms are defined with any specificity in the executive order, which means almost any employee who has reason to write a memo making suggestions to a higher-up. Government Executive warns that “This is an aggressive effort to uproot the traditions of a highly skilled and politically impartial public service that have made the country great for more than a century. It is a bold effort to shift the constitutional balance of power, to weaken Congress, and to push aside the public’s right to participate in the process that shapes the regulations affecting them.” SHP

You can object to this attempt to make government employment a partisan business and to deny an unknown number of federal workers basic workplace protections they currently have. Find your Members of Congress here.

8. US collaborates with conservative nations to restrict abortion

In 2018 the United Nations Human Rights Council issued a document declaring access to abortion a universal human right. In a delayed response, a group of conservative nations, including Egypt, Uganda, Belarus, Saudi Arabia, Hungary—and the U.S.—has signed what it calls the “Geneva Consensus Declaration on Promoting Women’s Health and Strengthening the Family.” This declaration is an interesting document. It opens by affirming the widely embraced human right of equality before the law, but then moves on to declare an increasingly convoluted series of “rights” premised upon this initial right. After identifying the right of equal access to resources and equal sharing of responsibilities within families it states that “women and girls must enjoy equal access to quality education, economic resources, and political participation.” So far, so good. 

Then after affirming the “inherent right to life” and “dignity and worth of every human person,” it moves to a statement that “in no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning” and that “any measures or changes related to abortion within the health system can only be determined at the national or local level according to the national legislative process” and claims that “the child… needs special safeguards and care… before as well as after birth.” It goes on to call the family “the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” 

 Strangely enough, at this point the declaration moves from this “family values” assertion to a call for universal access to health care. Universal healthcare is hardly top-tier concern for Trump’s brand of Republicans, but the subsequent paragraph contextualizes that call for universal healthcare by affirming “the importance of national ownership and the primary role and responsibility of governments at all levels to determine their own path towards achieving universal health coverage, in accordance with national contexts and priorities.” In other words, universal healthcare may vary widely from nation to nation and is what national governments declare it to be. The fact that this declaration has been issued at the same time that the Trump administration seeks to end abortion access by creating a conservative majority on the Supreme Court through the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett is not coincidence. S-HP

You can speak up about logic underlying this declaration that uses the language of human rights and healthcare access to affirm a governmental right to limit the health services women have access to. Contact information is here.


9. Judge tosses lawsuit against states mailing ballots

A federal judge has dismissed the Trump administration’s efforts to stop the state of Nevada from mailing ballots to all residents. Trump had alleged that the mailing of ballots would lead to “widespread fraud.” The judge responded that the allegation was “impermissibly speculative,” according to Bloomberg. As we noted on August 1 and above, the issue will be whether, given the assault against the Post Office, the voters will be able to return their ballots. RLS

10. No more private prisons and detention centers by 2028

A federal judge has upheld California’s ban on private prisons and immigrant detention centers, with one exception: pre-trial facilities that are holding federal prisoners, the LA Times reported. Four immigrant detention centers holding some 5,000 people would have to be closed by 2028 and contracts with companies that were signed after the law was signed would be void. Private detention centers and prisons have been accused by immigrant advocates of having inexcusable conditions and of having a vested interest in keeping people incarcerated. RLS


11. “Extinct” man challenges Canadian policy

Whether or not Native Americans have rights to hunt and fish without a license on their ancestral lands in Canada has just been heard before Canada’s Supreme Court. Richard Desautel, a U.S. citizen and member of the Lakes Tribe of the Colville Confederated Tribes in Washington State, shot an elk in British Columbia on his ancestral lands, those of the Sinixt, a Canadian First Nation whose people had been declared “extinct” in 1956 by the Canadian government, according to the Seattle Times. In fact, their descendants live in Washington State and are scattered among other First Nations in BC. Crown prosecutors argue that because the successor groups of the Sinixt did not hunt in the area and because Desautel is not a Canadian, he does not have a right to do so. Two judges so far have disagreed, pointing out that the Sinixt did not leave their territory voluntarily and that they never relinquished claims to the area; British Columbia Provincial Court Judge Lisa Mrozinski wrote, “I am left with no doubt that the land was not forgotten, that the traditions were not forgotten and that the connection to the land is ever present in the minds of the members of the Lakes Tribe.” RLS


12. Most of the nurses dying from COVID-19 are Filipino

Almost 70%  of the California nurses who die from COVID-19  are Filipino, according to the Mercury News, though only 20% of nurses are Filipino. Nationally, 30% of the nurses who have died are Filipino, though only 4% of nurses are Filipino. Their deaths are a tragedy not only for them, but for their families in the Philippines, whose hopes of seeing them are dashed and who have been counting on the money they send home. Filipino nurses are concentrated in critical care and other areas where they have intensive patient contact; they also have historically been relegated to lower wage jobs in health care so may have had to take second jobs elsewhere. Many are also caring for elders or others at home. The Mercury piece eloquently evokes the stories of those who have been lost and those who are still working. RLS


Rogan’s List has excellent information on how to support families who are reunited, how to speak up about Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination, how to get out the vote.

The Americans of Conscience Checklist has excellent ideas about how to get out the vote (including assisting people with transportation) and about how to protect the vote.

News You May Have Missed: October 18, 2020

“Yemen IDPs 6” by IRIN Photos is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

These days, we need to know exactly where we stand. Thus, this week we have a special issue on regulations that are being forced through by the Trump administration even now–and what can be done about it.

The entire Sunday review section of the New York Times is devoted to the case against Donald Trump. Even if you think you know all you need to know, don’t miss this.

And if you want to be reminded of how we got here, see the excerpt from Amy Siskind’s list of Trump’s violations of basic norms. The Post offers 340 of her 34,000 items.

Georgetown Law School’s Institute for Constitutional Law and Advocacy has state-by-state fact sheets on the laws surrounding unregulated militias, as well as an information sheet on voter intimidation.

You can still sign up to be a volunteer to protect the vote, via Common Cause’s “Protect the Vote” project. Their site also has numbers to call if you encounter problems while voting. 

Read Rebecca Solnit’s piece on Facebook for October 18 if you need encouragement to get through till November 3–and then till January 20.

With everything going on, we may need to remind ourselves that the rest of the world continues turning. See in particular information below on the emergency in Yemen.


1. Search warrant would require all Facebook data–names, addresses, messages, content.

A coalition of 12 immigrant rights groups along with Public Citizen filed a motion to quash a search warrant seeking five days of all the data from the Facebook page “Free Them All VA,” according to the Washington Post. Someone from the organization painted “Free Them All” in English and in Spanish on the sidewalk in front of Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s home, a misdemeanor. The slogan was painted on the same day that ICE flew detainees–dozens of whom had the coronavirus–from one facility to another in order to justify flying federal agents to police the DC protests against the death of George Floyd (see our September 13th story 2, for more explanation). The perpetrators’ faces were briefly posted in the page, but Public Citizen argues that the warrant would jeopardize undocumented immigrants, who regularly post questions. Setting an alarming precedent, the warrant asks for information about “the page’s subscribers, including phone numbers, addresses, credit card information and IP addresses, as well as all posted content, messages, chats, photos, videos and deleted materials,” according to the Post. RLS

2. Republican drop box machinations in Florida, “unofficial” drop boxes in California, contested drop boxes in Texas

The Republican Secretary of State in Florida is trying to shut down ballot drop boxes, Slate reports. Florida has allowed absentee ballots for years, and two million people have already voted absentee. State law permits drop boxes, but the Secretary of State now insists that boxes be monitored 24 hours a day by election officials, who must scrutinize each ballot (now they are sometimes monitored electronically or by volunteers). The backstory, Slate proposes, is that since election officials are free to ignore the Secretary of State’s demand, if the election is contested, the use of drop-boxes could be grounds to nullify the count.

Perhaps the same plot is at work in California, where Republicans have openly set up over a hundred unsanctioned drop boxes in churches, gun stores and gas stations, despite a cease-and-desist order from the state, NPR reports. Though no one is signing the ballots that are dropped off and it is not clear who is monitoring them, the state has backed off enforcement efforts.

A federal judge on Friday ruled that Texas Governor Greg Abbott had to allow Texas counties to allow multiple ballot drop boxes, according to CNN. The judge said that the Governor had not persuasively shown that voter fraud was an issue. It looked briefly as if Harris County, which tends to vote Democratic (and is 60% Black and Latinx), could have 11 drop boxes, easing transportation concerns in an area bigger than the state of Rhode Island. However, another judge blocked the first judge’s ruling, allowing the Governor to authorize only one drop box per (enormous) county. RLS

3. Covert lawmaking

What happens in the pivotal months before and after a presidential election and the installation of a new administration? The administration that is departing (or is at risk of being voted out) rushes to finish off its list of regulatory changes, hoping to continue its impact. Recent reporting in the New York Times highlights ways the Trump administration is busy doing just that.

Ignoring Public Comments: The first tool for making last-minute rules changes is one the Trump administration has been using since its inception: simply ignoring the public comments submitted during the (usually) 60-day period that is required for rules changes. Changes to internet neutrality rules, which were overwhelmingly opposed in public comments (even with fraudulent supporting comments submitted in significant numbers) nonetheless went through. New rules that would allow liquified natural gas to be carried by freight trains–known as “bomb trains,” as they create a risk of deadly explosions and fires that would overwhelm first responders–were subjected to a similarly limited comment period. These rules changes regarding the transportation of liquified natural gas are now being challenged in the courts by a group of fourteen states.

Limiting Public Comment Periods: As noted above, federal rules changes are generally subjected to a 60-day comment period, but a number of recent rules changes have been limited to 30 days of public comment. Recent proposed rules changes open for limited public comment periods include new, more restrictive financial requirements for sponsors of immigrants (still open for comment–only 18 people have commented to date and the comment period ends on November 2 ). Other proposed rules provide for the collection of biometric data by the Department of Homeland Security and its agencies (also still open for comment); and new guidelines limiting which workers (primarily those working in the “gig economy”) can be considered independent contractors.  Only 133 people have commented on this last proposal; your voice could have an impact. Comment here.

“Interim” Final Rules: If an agency feels it has “good cause” to issue a new rule without public comment, it can issue that rule as an “Interim” Final Rule. The agency may, but is not required, to open the rule to public comments. It may also simply announce the rule as final at a later date without public comments. Recent interim rules changes include an exemption for many long-haul agricultural truck drivers from rules governing maximum continuous driving hours, and more restrictive rules governing visas for skilled workers; you can still comment on those rules here.

Appointments to Advisory Boards: Many positions on advisory boards for federal agencies run independently of the four-year presidential term in office. As a result, recent Trump appointees to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Science Advisory Board will be able to remain on the board through 2023. This means that once climate-change deniers or heard-immunity supporters are appointed, they can continue to influence agency rule-making under a new administration.

The Congressional Review Act: There is a way to eliminate some of the last-minute rules changes made by an outgoing administration. The Congressional Review Act, which was signed into law during the Clinton administration, allows Congress the opportunity to both cancel and prohibit “substantially significant” rules passed during the last 60 legislative days of an outgoing administration through a joint resolution. The specification of legislative days is significant, since Congress generally meets four days a week and takes frequent, sometimes extensive, breaks.

Obama-Era Rules Revoked Using the Congressional Review Act: Generally speaking, the Congressional Review Act (CRA) has been used rarely. The Congress elected along with George W. Bush revoked only one Clinton Administration rule change via the CRA. The Congress elected along with Barak Obama revoked no Bush Administration rules using the CRA. In contrast, the Congress elected along with Donald Trump revoked 16 Obama-era rules using the CRA. According to Ballotpedia, these included rules involving educational accountability and teacher preparation; broadband consumer privacy protections; access to family planning; protections for Alaskan wildlife refuges; arbitration rules protecting consumers; workplace safety; water protections; and equity rules for loans used to purchased automobiles.

The Congressional Review Act: Looking Forward: A very rough estimate of the remaining days during which Congress will hold legislative sessions suggests that the CRA may cover Trump-era rules changes going back to early October of this year. What will determine whether the CRA can be put to use reversing Trump-era rules changes is the composition of both houses of Congress. Under the CRA, a joint Congressional resolution is required to revoke rules changes made by an exiting administration. If the U.S. is run by a Democrat-controlled House and a Republican-controlled Senate, which presumably would continue to be led by Mitch McConnell, the possibility of any action via joint resolution is beyond scant. In other words, the longevity of Trump-era rules changes hinges on electing not just a Democrat for President and a Democrat-controlled House, but also a Democrat-controlled Senate. S-HP

We recommend that you read the entire New York Times article to see more of what is being done in your name. If you want to comment on the rule changes that are still pending, the links to do so are in bold, above. If you wish to speak out on issues affected by last-minute Trump administration rules changes, this list explains how to do it.


4. Four million Yemenis at risk of starvation

Four million people in Yemen are on the brink of starvation, due to a drop in donor contributions, commentator Juan Cole reports. Malnutrition in Yemen was already widespread, due to the war being waged since 2015 by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates–and backed by the Trump administration, which approved arms sales to the Saudis without obtaining congressional approval, as we noted May 31. Foreign Policy in Focus, which produced a detailed piece on Yemen in September, observes that four years ago, the State Department was warned that the U.S. could be liable for war crimes charges due to its complicity in the death of civilians.

In Yemen, Cole says that a third of the infrastructure has been destroyed and 100,000 have been killed. According to Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, farms are targeted and humanitarian access has been refused. The United Nations has called on the United Arab Emirates to provide aid to Yemen, but they have refused; the Saudis and Kuwaitis were also asked, but they have provided less than is required. As Lowcock said, “The window to prevent famine in Yemen is closing.” RLS


5. No vaccine before the election

Lest you had your hopes up, there will be no vaccine before the election. Pfizer–the last company to possibly be on track to produce one–has said it will not be ready to request emergency authorization from the FDA, according to Politico. Against the recommendations of his own scientists, Trump promised a vaccine by November 3. Though researchers have been working at breakneck speed, Pfizer is still enrolling people in its trials and the FDA will want two months of safety data on at least half of its participants. Two other companies, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson recently paused their trials based on safety concerns; each had one participant come down with a serious illness that may well not be related to the vaccine but that nevertheless must be investigated. Politico–and other sources–say that a vaccine is most likely to be available in January 2021, but as we noted in our story #10 last week, other issues in the supply chain, such as a shortage of syringes, may impede the launch. RLS

6. EU can test for Legionnaires disease but the US can’t/won’t

The EU now has the technology–and the political will–to test drinking water systems in every country for Legionella pneumophila, according to Euractiv. Legionella causes most cases of Legionnaires disease, an infection which can result in deadly cases of pneumonia. Rates of Legionnaires disease have been rising due to the effect of climate change on water temperatures, a German scientist told Euractiv last year. Ontario does investigations if two or more cases of Legionnaires disease are related but only does water sampling if there is an outbreak, according to Public Health Ontario. In the US, where 8,000 to 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires disease each year, water testing takes place on “an ad hoc basis, spanning from regulations that require some buildings to have water management plans that include monitoring of water samples for Legionella along with treatment, to no requirements at all,” according to a book on the topic published by the National Academies of Science. RLS


◉ The Americans of Conscience checklist offers ways to assist in election audits, report voter intimidation, support Indigenous sovereignty–and more.

Rogan’s List suggests ways to object to the way the census was cut short, how to help get out the vote and how to send pizza to voters standing in hours-long lines.

◉ Read Heather Cox Richardson nightly in order to make sense of unfolding events; last week she unpacked the bizarre story of Hunter Biden’s laptop and why it is absurd–even though Biden’s lead has slipped a bit because of it.

News You May Have Missed: October 11, 2020

“Shredded Paper” by RLHyde is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

You might have thought we were indulging in hyperbole when we ran a picture from The Handmaid’s Tale in this space last week. But it turns out that Amy Coney Barrett, the Supreme Court nominee who is likely to get rushed through confirmation hearings, actually was a “handmaid” in the Christian group she is part of, according to the Washington Post. People of Praise changed the name of women in that leadership position once the web series based on Atwood’s book came out, and of course “handmaids” in the movie had a rather different role than those in Barrett’s organization. Still, the group’s position on the subservience of women is alarming, as is the fact that Coney Barrett apparently concealed her membership in the sect when she was nominated to serve in the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, according to the Daily Mail.


1. Destruction of records by Homeland Security, ICE, Border Protection

During Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Oregon, and Washington DC, the administration made legally questionable use of federal officers—including agents from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—to pursue administration purposes that excluded local leadership and conflicted with local policy. Now DHS, ICE, and CBP want to destroy the records that would show how they distorted their own missions to serve the Trump administration

ACLU News and Commentary reports on its efforts, in cooperation with other organizations, to ensure that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) maintain full records from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to be accessed for future study. This really shouldn’t be an issue. NARA maintains inactive federal agency records expressly so they can be available for legal researchers, academics, and journalists in the future. CBP, however, has asked permission to destroy a number of records, rather than passing them on to NARA. As the Intercept points out, if they succeed, records of forced hysterectomies, coronavirus infections, allegations of sexual abuse in detention will all be gone. According to the ACLU, these include “‘records developed to track and monitor complaints that are or will be investigated by DHS Civil Rights and Civil Liberties (CRCL) regarding alleged violations of civil rights and civil liberties’; ‘records pertaining to administrative and criminal investigations on [CBP] employees, contractors, and those in CBP custody’; and records and reports of Prison Rape Elimination Act allegations.”

In arguing against the destruction of these records, the ACLU cites a Cato Institute study of records dating from 2006 to 2016 showing that CBP’s “misconduct and disciplinary infractions outstripped all other federal law enforcement” and “it is virtually impossible to assess the extent of corruption or misconduct… because most publicly available information is incomplete or inconsistent.”

The ACLU points out that ICE has already received permission for a similar destruction of its records. The destruction of these records could make it impossible to ever accurately track ICE and CBP actions—particularly those in violation of civil right and civil liberties and those against detainees—under the Trump administration. In June, George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis Police Office Derek Chauvin, was buried in Pearland, Texas, a Houston suburb. After receiving records via a freedom of Information Act request, the ACLU discovered that not only mourners, but a great many others—including sixty-six paramilitary agents and six snipers provided by CBP, 100 Texas National Guard members, DHS drone operators, and FBI surveillance plane crews—were present at Floyd’s burial. The ACLU reports that, “federal agents were given instructions to escalate use of force should there be protests against racial injustice and police brutality at the burial service. The plan included authorized use of gas munitions… against the crowd if the people went beyond “verbal aggressive language” or threw objects more dangerous than empty water bottles, and authorized ‘use of deadly force anytime under [the] Texas Penal Code’ if people went beyond throwing full water bottles or bricks.” ACLU federal immigration policy lawyer Madhuri Grewal observed that “It is not lost on us that CBP deployed snipers and federal agents to surveil and potentially use military-style force against people mourning George Floyd, who died because police officers killed him.” Without these records, we would never have known. S-HP

You might object to the use of CBP agents against US citizens in a role well outside their legal mandate and to the deliberate effort to erase ICE and CBP abuses from the historical record. You might also call for legislation to limit this kind of interference in domestic affairs and insist that records be maintained so that ICE, CBP and their employees can be held responsible for their actions. Addresses are here.

2. Trump wants documents declassified

An October 6 tweet from the Tweeter-in-Chief announced “I have fully authorized the total Declassification of any & all documents pertaining to… the Russia hoax.” (Actually, he didn’t just call it the Russia hoax, he called it “the single greatest political CRIME in American history.”) Later that night, another Trump tweet claimed “All Russia Hoax Scandal information was Declassified by me long ago. Unfortunately for our country, people have acted very slowly, especially since it is perhaps the biggest political crime in the history of our Country. Act!!!” Two days later, Buzzfeed took Trump at his word and filed an emergency motion asking a federal judge to order the declassification and release of all documents related to the investigation of Russian election interference and allegations that Trump tried to impede the investigation. S-HP

You could go on record as insisting that the Tweeter-in Chief make good on his claims and take executive action to ensure that all Russia-related documents are released immediately—unredacted. Donald Trump, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington DC 20500, (202) 456-1111

3. Administration’s own documents acknowledge the threat of white supremacists

Which domestic terrorists are the “most persistent and lethal threat in the homeland?” According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), that would be white supremacists. And what nation is the primary threat to the U.S. via use of disinformation? According to DHS, that would be Russia. As reported by the New York Times, a long-delayed DHS annual threat assessment has drawn these conclusions, which contrast with administration fear-mongering over groups ranging from anti-fa to Black Lives Matter protesters. In fact, a DHS whistleblower who worked on that assessment claims to have been pressured to downplay the threats posed by white supremacists and Russia and instead to emphasize possible dangers presented by left-wing groups and by China and Iran in order to make DHS findings align with claims made by Donald Trump. The White House has denied that any such pressures were exerted. Bottom line, the assessment has now been released, and even Chad Wolf, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security and a Trump loyalist, acknowledged in the report’s introduction, “I am particularly concerned about white supremacist violent extremists who have been exceptionally lethal in their abhorrent, targeted attacks in recent years.” S-HP

You could insist that Congress consider legislation responding to the threat represented by white supremacists and ask your Congressmembers to stop supporting and/or to criticize misleading statements by the administration downplaying the real threat of white supremacist violence. Addresses are here.

4. Black girls much more likely to be disciplined in schools than white girls

Earlier this year in Orlando, a six-year-old Black girl had her wrists zip-tied behind her back by police because she had a tantrum earlier in the day, the Orlando Sentinel reported. Vox posted a video pf her arrest on charges of misdemeanor battery taken from an officer’s body cam. Another Black six-year-old girl’s hands and feet were cuffed in an Ontario school; as the CBC reported in March, an investigation found that police officers actions were based on race. A study by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies in 2015 showed that Black children were 3.5 times more likely to be suspended than white children; because of these disparities and others,  the Common Application for post-secondary education has stopped asking students to report their disciplinary history, which can be a barrier to admission. 

That Black boys face harsher discipline than white boys has been widely discussed, but as the New York Times reported last week, the disparities in the way Black girls are disciplined are less well known but equally damaging. A study by researchers at Georgetown Law School’s Center on Poverty and Inequality, “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood,” found that “adults view Black girls as less innocent and more adult-like than their white peers, especially in the age range of 5–14.” In school, Black girls are penalized for clothing that white girls wear with impunity; they are said to be loud, disrespectful and mature for their ages, the New York Times article reported. The effects on their well-being and their educational opportunities are catastrophic. RLS

5. Administrative arm-twisting resulted in border closure that resulted in 8,800 children turned away

In March, the Trump administration was urging the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to use its emergency pandemic powers to close both the northern and southern US borders to asylum-seekers. A CBS News report catalogs the results of that “pandemic emergency” border closing. Previously, unaccompanied minors who arrived at the border, were housed at state-licensed Health and Human Services facilities before being placed with relatives. As of September, more than 8,800 unaccompanied minors seeking asylum have been denied asylum hearings and expelled from the U.S. The numbers, provided by the Trump administration in a petition seeking to continue parts of its immigration policy, show that an additional 7,600 members of families with children were peremptorily expelled during that period as part of a total of 159,000 asylum-seekers who were not admitted to the U.S.

 More recent reporting by the Associated Press (AP) spells out the process by which that pandemic emergency closure was put in place. Originally, Dr. Martin Cetron, who leads the CDC’s Division of Migration and Quarantine, refused to issue such an order because there was no valid health reason for closure. Following this refusal, administration figures—particularly Trump aide Stephen Miller and Vice-President Pence looked for ways to accomplish this goal by working around the Division of Migration and Quarantine. The ultimate result, reports AP, was that a Health and Human Services (HHS) lawyer wrote the order the administration wanted and that order was subsequently sent directly to CDC Director Robert Redfield, who signed it in mid-March, closing our borders to asylum seekers.        

When the order was first issued, many physicians, medical organizations, and public health organizations objected. AP shared an excerpt from a letter written by Dr. Anthony So of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to Redfield arguing that “The decision to halt asylum processes ‘to protect the public health’ is not based on evidence or science. This order directly endangers tens of thousands of lives and threatens to amplify dangerous anti-immigrant sentiment and xenophobia.” S-HP

If you wish to object to the ‘pandemic emergency’ border closings that as of September had resulted in 159,000 asylum seekers being denied the due process they sought when fleeing violence to come to the U.S., and to insist that Congress institute a COVID-safe asylum process that ends the preemptory denial of the rights of asylum-seekers, addresses are here.

6. Biden’s platform would support asylum-seekers

Since the mainstream press continues to favor soundbites and Trumpian tantrums over political reporting that looks carefully at the policy proposals of the two presidential candidates, we’re continuing to look each week at a particular aspect of Biden’s policy proposals. For the most part, Trump’s Central American policy has been combative: tighten our borders to keep “them” out, portray asylum seekers as criminals, and create inhumane asylum processes that rely on the use of punitive detention facilities and the abrogation of the rights of asylum-seekers. The “Biden Plan to Build Security and Prosperity in Partnership with the People of Central America” contains elements that won’t sit well with many (including this writer) such as continuing support of police to fight corruption, which one could argue can actually serve authoritarian regimes. But many of Biden’s proposals compare positively with current initiatives like “build the wall,” “zero tolerance,” and a “pandemic emergency plan” that essentially ends all access to the asylum process.

         Biden proposes a retargeting of Department of Homeland Security funds to mobilize private investment in Central America through programs developed in cooperation with multi-lateral development banks (such as the Inter-American Development Bank); to bolster microfinance, prioritizing programs that empower women; and to modernize shipping, transportation, and power infrastructure.

         Biden proposes pairing violence reduction measures with job training programs and broader access to service for victims of violence, including domestic violence—including a promise to restore domestic violence as one of the grounds on which asylum may be sought.

 Biden also proposes addressing food insecurity, conditions for returning migrants, and the climate crisis through programs developed with national governments. S-HP

You might thank Joe Biden for any of these proposals you find particularly valuable, object to any you find problematic, and suggest to your Congressmembers that you’d like them to work toward the similar goals, regardless of who is elected in November. Addresses are here.


7. Couple indicted for pointing weapons at Black Lives Matter protestors.

In the now-famous photo, Mark McCloskey (in a pink polo shirt) pointed an AR-15 rifle and Patricia McCloskey pointed a handgun at peaceful Black Lives Matters protestors in St. Louis. Trump subsequently invited them to speak at the Republican National Convention. A grand jury has now indicted them on charges of exhibiting a weapon and tampering with evidence, according to the Hill. RLS

8. In California, immigrants who endured maltreatment in detention centers can sue

Immigrants detained in California’s immigrant detention centers can now sue the companies that run the centers if their treatment did not meet “minimum standards of care,” according to a bill Governor Gavin Newsom signed last week, according to the American Immigration Council. A report released at the end of September by the House Oversight and Reform Committee detailed the mismanagement of medical care in detention centers–from ordinary chronic medical issues to “grossly negligent” responses to contagious illnesses to severely inadequate medical care, the Texarkana Gazette reported. Some of this negligence may have contributed to immigrant deaths. RLS


9. Pence will not consider requiring masks on public transportation

One in 1550 people have died from COVID-19. But last month, when the CDC wanted to make masks mandatory on public transportation, the White House Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, refused to discuss it, the New York Times reported. Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Oregon), Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, said “It’s especially outrageous because the science is so clear: masks save lives.” This was not the first time the Trump administration over-ruled the CDC. Church-reopenings, cruise ship launchings, and guidelines on seniors flying all were deleted or delayed by the White House, which also had a hand in removing the description of COVID-19 as being transmitted through airborne particles, a phenomenon described by the BMJ (British Journal of Medicine); the reference to aerosols appears to have been restored, per the CDC website. RLS

10. A vaccine is on the horizon–but will there be syringes to deliver it?

A coronavirus vaccine could arrive as early as January of 2121–but not by election day–according to an AP story which quoted Robert Kadlec, the Department of Health and Human Services  assistant secretary of preparedness and response. However, shortages in the supply chain–vials, syringes, needles–could set that date back. As the AP  pointed out last week, in a story produced cooperatively with Frontline and the Global Reporting Centre, the lack of PPE is likely responsible for the high death rate in the U.S. Their story weaves together the heartbreaking narrative of a nurse who had inadequate PPE dying of COVID with a meticulous analysis of the flaws in the supply chain. As they explain it, then-Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt raised the alarm state by state about preparedness for a potential pandemic in 2005. From the Bush administration forward, it was not a priority. A 2019 pandemic simulation revealed the lack of preparedness, but nothing was done despite frantic warnings to the Trump administration.  Now, the country faces a shortage of materials it will desperately need once a vaccine becomes available. As the AP writers wrote, “ Last week, the department of Health and Human Services refused to say if — or how many — needles and syringes have been delivered, claiming that information is ‘business sensitive.’” RLS


Rogan’s list offers concrete ways you can insist that Congress pass a coronavirus stimulus bill, advocate for the safety of White House staff, argue for vaccine safety guidelines–and more.

◉ The Americans of Conscience Checklist this week offers clear, useful things you can do to ensure the viability of the election.

◉ Cox Richardson’s nightly letters make sense out of a world that sometimes seems surreal at best.