July 28, 2020
Last week we witnessed responses to President Trump’s decision to deploy federal agency police to cities against their will —and the sometimes bloody, tear-gasing – and fatal – consequences of his act. This week we examine the background out of which police brutality arises. And assess the dangers of a reckless man in the nation’s highest office, ready now to unleash violence on citizens protesting brutality. We also explore further the intersections with other issues of the seemingly endless battle to get the United States governments at all levels to mean “all” when the law says says “all;” “every person” when the law states “every person;” “no one” when it says “no one.”
But first the news.

About The Banner

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Table of Contents

Viewing this email on a mobile phone and finding the links don’t work?
For a better experience go to our online edition at thebanner.news

NY & Northeast Activist News

National Activist News

Responding to Autocratic Ambitions

Indigenous Peoples News

Intersections

Resilience & Deep Adaptation

Science & Climate

Industry News

Regulatory & Court News

Politics & Economics

International News

In Case You Missed It

And Now for Something Completely Different


Action Alert! Stop the Gowanus Power Plant
in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
Fight like you live here.

GowanusPlantBrooklyn

A proposal from Astoria Generating Company aims to build a new fracked gas power plant facility in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. This proposal is an affront to environmental justice, and New York’s climate law, and Governor Cuomo must step up to deny the project.

The project would turn a “peaker plant” that runs only during periods of high energy usage into a fracked gas plant that run more frequently, adding more greenhouse gas emissions and toxic air pollution to the most vulnerable communities.

Even worse, the plant would literally float by the highly polluted waters of the Gowanus Canal, and be sited in a neighborhood already plagued by environmental injustices. Sunset Park Brooklyn is a working class neighborhood and is predominantly Latinx, Asian, and Black. Sunset Park residents are already forced to deal with the most immediate impacts of climate change and systemic injustices. This proposed plant would further threaten the community – leaving vulnerable people more susceptible to chronic illness spurred by the air pollution.

Call Governor Cuomo at 877-235-6537 and tell him to reject the Gowanus fracked gas plant and commit to shutting down existing peaker plants.

Cuomo must prioritize the health and safety of New Yorkers– he cannot do that by approving new fossil fuel infrastructure. Instead of fracked gas, Cuomo must uphold his climate law and replace peaker plants with renewable energy now!

Text “Cuomo Mondays” to 69866 to sign up for weekly text reminders about calling Cuomo to stop fossil fuel projects.

Join us for a socially distanced in-person protest outside the proposed site at the Gowanus Peaker Power Plant in Sunset Park! While the fossil fuel industry wants to burn more gas on our already polluted water, we’ll be there to tell Governor Cuomo to stand up for the working class, environmental justice communities whose air and water are threatened by this plant. The project is completely out of line with our state climate goals and we must retire peaker plants like Gowanus, not invest further in frack gas failures.

We’ll be picketing and hearing from residents and public officials including Jabari Brisport and Marcela Mitaynes, outside the site of the current Gowanus peaker plant. Now is the time to close fossil fuel peaker plants, not expand them!

Wednesday, July 29th at 6:00PM
Gowanus Power Plant
28th St and 2nd Ave in Brooklyn

Facebook Event page: Brooklyn v. Fracked Gas

Further info: Call (203) 522-2130 lshindell@fwwatch.org Laura Shindell, New York Organizer, Food & Water Watch, Food & Water Action

Fight like you live here.

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No North Brooklyn Pipeline: A Sane Energy Project

Ride Against the North Brooklyn Pipeline Action: Frontline communities come together to bike ride along the entire seven miles of the pipeline route through residential neighborhoods, and hearing from local leaders at stops along the four hour ride that ended at the liquefied fracked gas (LNG) facility that National Grid is seeking to expand with multi-millions of our rate-payer dollars. —Wayward Z Productions

NoBrooklynPipeLineBikeRide

Hidden Costs: 50 years after the second largest oil spill in US history was discovered leaking under North Brooklyn, a fracked gas pipeline is under construction in the same community. —Claire Haughey

HiddedCosts

National Grid Emergency Response: Community members from across North Brooklyn rallied at Manhattan Avenue and Moore Street near the construction site of National Grid’s disastrous Metropolitan Reliability Infrastructure (MRI) project. The MRI project is a new 30inch high-pressure fracked gas transmission pipeline through Brooklyn destined for a National Grid depot on Newtown Creek, where the company also wants to expand its LNG facility and begin transporting LNG in and out by truck.

The community called on National Grid to permanently halt construction of the pipeline. They also called on Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo to stand with the community and oppose National Grid’s proposed rate hike to pay for the projects. —Owen Crowley

NationalGridEmergencyResponse


…The Companies [National Grid, Brooklyn Union Gas Company] and other parties recognize the CLPCA was an important change that will impact future service but there is disagreement between parties on what impact the CLPCA should have in this rate case. When determining how the CLCPA should be applied to this case we should keep in mind the circumstances that led New Yorkers to fight for the passage of the CLCPA in the first place, a very narrowing window of time to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and decades of environmental justice communities bearing the brunt of fossil fuel pollution.

We support EDF’s position that any rate order must be consistent with CLPCA requirements and that section 7 of the CLCPA applies to this case.

We do not support the Utility Intervention Unit’s (“UIU”) position “that any proposed changes to utility rate design and revenue allocation resulting from goals and activities pursuant to the CLCPA must be determined in a statewide generic proceeding.”

Staff and the Companies have taken a similar position to UIU, arguing that the impacts of the CLCPA must be determined statewide and have urged the Commission to reject EDF’s position that “utilities should be responsible for developing economy-wide GHG inventories”. The City of New York argued that “The Commission also must ensure that important climate change policies are pursued,” citing both the CLCPA and NYC law.

As outlined in our Initial Brief and throughout the proceeding, Sane argues that by failing to look at upstream methane emissions, greenhouse gases emitted when the product is combusted, and using outdated and grossly underestimated warming potential for methane, the Companies have presented in inaccurate picture of the climate impact of the gas they deliver throughout the record and consequently the impacts of the investments in infrastructure they are seeking approval of.

While we agree the Climate Action Council and other statewide proceedings will no doubt refine methods for calculating greenhouse gas inventories, we can not ignore the basic realities of climate science and the limited timeframe left to take action. We cannot kick the moral and legal obligation to dramatically reduce methane emissions down the road any further.…—”REPLY BRIEF OF SANE ENERGY PROJECT (PDF),” Sane Energy Project, Proceeding on Motion of the Commission
as to the Rates, Charges, Rules and Regulations Case 19-G-0310 Of The Brooklyn Union Gas Company d/b/a National Grid NY for Gas Service.|New York Public Service Commission


Send your comment to the Public Service Commission on this matter. This link provides excellent talking points, and a direct access tool for writing to the Public Service Commission: Take Action! Send a Comment

Background Info: Brooklyn, NY is fighting to stop a massive fracked gas expansion in our neighborhoods and a rate hike on our monthly bills. We filed over 8,000 public comments, sent a letter signed by 160 organizations, and every elected official in our districts oppose National Grid’s fracked gas plans and rate hikes. We demand renewables, efficiency, and affordable bills.

National Grid’s response to the public has been egregious:

  • In response to our opposition, they accelerated construction of the pipeline through North Brooklyn.
  • And to add insult to injury, National Grid has just restarted confidential settlement negotiations in the rate case that will lock out the public.

We must continue to send thousands of comments to the Public Service Commission (PSC) and to Governor Cuomo demanding they reject National Grid’s proposal to expand their LNG facility and build pipelines through our communities.

Write to the Public Service Commission: Take Action! Send a Comment—”No North Brooklyn Pipeline: A Sane Energy Project,” Claire Haughey, Owen Crowley, Wayward Z Productions, Sane Energy Project 7/22/20

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Dogs are dying from blue green algae:
What pet owners need to know

For many, time near a lake or pond is the perfect way to spend a lazy, summer day.

But recently, a fun day on the water turned deadly for pets.

On Aug. 8, Melissa Martin and Denise Mintz took their three dogs to a pond in Wilmington, North Carolina. Their doodle mix, Harpo, got in the water, while the two West Highland terriers, Abby and Izzy, stayed on the water’s edge.

Later that night, the three dogs became seriously ill, with all of them experiencing symptoms such as seizures or foaming at the mouth. Despite Martin and Mintz taking their pets to a veterinary hospital, the dogs died the next day.

The cause of death was the blue-green algae in the pond. The aquatic plant has also killed two dogs in Texas and another one in Georgia.

Learn what blue-green algae is and how to protect pets from getting in contact with it…—”Dogs dying from blue green algae: What pet owners need to know,” Micah Walker, Detroit Free Press, 8/13/19

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U.S. Department of Transportation Issues Final Rule
for Rail Tank Car of Liquefied Natural Gas

[Editor’s note: PHMSA discusses this ruling in terms of risk analysis and steps taken to reduce risk. Nowhere does the agency discuss the consequences of a simultaneous physical explosion and chemical explosion of liquefied Natural Gas tank cars. As noted below, EarthJustice calculates that the explosion of 22 tankers would be the equivalent of the Hiroshima bomb. Why would any regulator take steps to assemble such a catastrophe then take all possible steps to make sure it doesn’t happen?]

WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), in consultation with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), issued a final rule authorizing the bulk transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) by rail. Specifically, the rule will permit the bulk transportation of LNG in DOT-113C120W9 (DOT-113) specification tank cars with enhanced outer tank requirements and additional operational controls. Today’s publication complies with Executive Order 13868 (EO 13868), “Promoting Energy Infrastructure and Economic Growth,” issued in April 2019.

“The Department’s new rule carefully lays out key operational safeguards to provide for the safe transportation of LNG by rail to more parts of the country where this energy source is needed,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Further reading Hazardous Materials: Liquefied Natural Gas by Rail |Federal Register
16 States Oppose PHMSA Proposal for LNG Rail Shipments | Pipeline & Gas Journal
Liquefied natural gas on trains: Trump plan draws widespread opposition | The Washington Post
What You Should Know About Liquefied Natural Gas and Rail Tanker Cars | Earthjustice
Rail Transportation of Liquefied Natural Gas: Safety and Regulation (PDF) | Congressional Research Service

It would only take 22 tank cars to hold the equivalent energy of the Hiroshima bomb. A train of 110 tank cars filled with liquefied natural gas would have five times the energy of the Hiroshima bomb.—EarthJustice

With FRA approval, LNG has previously been authorized for transport by rail in a portable tank. Federal Hazardous Materials Regulations have also authorized the transportation of other flammable cryogenic materials for many years in DOT-113 tank cars. Importantly, this final rule also incorporates newly designated additional safety requirements, such as an enhanced thicker carbon steel outer tank.

The rule also requires remote monitoring of the pressure and location of LNG tank cars. In addition, to improve braking, the rule requires a two-way end of train or distributed power system when a train is transporting 20 or more tank cars loaded with LNG in a continuous block, or 35 or more such tank cars of LNG anywhere in the train consist. Furthermore, the rule requires railroads to conduct route risk assessments to evaluate safety and security.

EO 13868 recognized the growth of energy production in the U.S., coupled with an increased global demand for U.S. natural gas. The rule prescribes regulations that reflect best practices and best-available technologies, sets increased regulatory certainty, and provides policies that promote America’s natural resources.

The official version of the final rule has been published by the Federal Register (https://www.federalregister.gov) and can also be found at docket no. PHMSA-2018-0025 on the regulations.gov website (https://www.regulations.gov).—”U.S. Department of Transportation Issues Final Rule for the Safe Transportation of Liquefied Natural Gas by Rail Tank Car,” Benjamin Kochman, PHMSA, 6/19/20

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Will New LNG-by-Rail Industry
Repeat the Mistakes of Oil Trains?

Over and over again, attendees of the 2016 Energy by Rail Conference heard that “LNG by rail is ready to go!”

LNG, or liquefied natural gas, is methane that has been cooled to the point of being a liquid. So, how do we know that shipping this hazardous flammable material on America’s aging rail infrastructure is “ready to go”?

When trains carrying Bakken oil started derailing and exploding, there was a lot of head scratching about how this could happen since “crude oil doesn’t explode like that.” But a lack of research beforehand resulted in industry loading up unsafe rail cars with highly volatile oil in unit trains of 100 tank cars or more, stacking up the risk factors and increasing the likelihood of the accidents that followed.

With that knowledge in hand, will the burgeoning LNG-by-rail industry receive more scrutiny prior to being approved?

Not if the industry has anything to say about it. And it does.

Robert Fronczak, Assistant Vice President, Environment & Hazmat at the Association of American Railroads, a railroad industry group, explained the industry position to conference attendees in October.

While the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is researching the risks of LNG by rail, according to Fronczak, “That could take several years to do and we don’t think it’s necessary to wait all that long … We think they should allow it immediately.”…—”Will New LNG-by-Rail Industry Repeat the Mistakes of Oil Trains?” Justin Mikulka, DeSmog, 1/11/17

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A Pipeline Is Quietly Ordered Shut in New Signal of Shale’s Woes

Earlier this month, a federal judge stunned the U.S. energy sector with an order to shut down the Dakota Access pipeline. Environmentalists hailed it as the first time a fully operating system had been forced to close by a legal challenge.

As it turns out, it was actually the second time an oil pipeline was ordered shut in a matter of four days.

In the case of High Plains, which delivers oil to Marathon Petroleum Corp.’s 74,000 barrel-a-day Mandan refinery, the U.S. Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs ordered it shut after determining the pipeline was trespassing on Native American land. The ruling also found the company responsible for $187 million in damages and gave it 30 days to appeal.

On July 2, a lesser-known conduit called Tesoro High Plains was ordered shut for the first time in its 67 years of operation. Together, the two pipelines ship more than one-third of crude from America’s prolific Bakken shale formation to market. Their travails signal the ebbing of the oil industry’s sway in the U.S. heartland and underscore the growing heft and savvy of challengers who’ve become emboldened to demand higher compensation and safeguards.

“In the past, it was a shotgun approach of challenging pipelines,” said Brandon Barnes, an analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence. “Now, the resources are more plentiful and the challengers are far more nuanced and sophisticated in their approach.”

The stakes are high. If the shutdown of both pipelines proceeds, it would force the region’s drillers to turn to more expensive options to ship their oil — or shut in production altogether, just as the entire oil industry is reeling from depressed prices that have pushed a steady stream of producers into bankruptcy.…—”A Pipeline Is Quietly Ordered Shut in New Signal of Shale’s Woes,” Catherine Ngai, Bloomberg, 7/20/20

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Responding to Autocratic Ambitions

How Oregon Is Pushing Back Against ‘Kidnap and False Arrest’ by Trump’s Agents

As state decries constitutional abuses by federal officers, Trump threatens to impose tactics nationally

The state of Oregon is suing the Trump administration in federal court to halt what it likens to the “kidnap and false arrest” of protesters in downtown Portland, alleging that the administration’s secret-police tactics are violating core constitutional rights.

In a harrowing new tactic, reminiscent of fascist regimes, armed federal officers without agency badges have begun grabbing protesters off the street, throwing them into unmarked cars and jailing them without formally arresting them, according to court records. The state of Oregon is seeking a permanent injunction to prevent what it alleges are violations of the Fourth Amendment’s protections against “unreasonable seizures” and the Fifth Amendment’s guarantees of due process.

Demonstrators in Portland have been protesting police brutality for seven weeks since the killing of George Floyd. The city’s cops have cracked down on these protests with even more brutality, turning a small area of downtown into a nightly battle space. Typically, minor provocations by individual agitators — throwing water bottles, removing fencing, or defacing buildings — have been met with overwhelming and indiscriminate police violence against the crowds, including the use of tear gas, pepper spray, flashbang grenades, less-lethal munitions, and baton beatings.…

Further reading Portland Officials Threaten to Fine Feds for Courthouse Fence—It’s Blocking a Bike Lane | Willamette Week
This Is Abhorrent’: Portland Mayor Tear Gassed by Federal Officers | Truthout
An Air Force Special Operations Surveillance Plane Is Lurking Near Portland During Federal Crackdown | The Intercept|Reader Supported News

Picking up where the PPB has been constrained, federal agents have subjected demonstrators to chemical agents and physical violence. One nonviolent protester who tossed away a tear gas canister at his feet was shot in the head with an impact munition, hospitalizing him with a fractured skull. Oregon officials, from Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler to Gov. Kate Brown to Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have called on the feds to withdraw from the city. Federal officials have insisted they’re not about to leave: “That’s just not going to happen on my watch,” tweeted acting Homeland Security chief Chad Wolf.…—”How Oregon Is Pushing Back Against ‘Kidnap and False Arrest’ by Trump’s Agents,” Tim Dickinson, Rolling Stone|Reader Supported News, 7/24/20

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Order Temporarily Blocks Feds From
Targeting Press and Legal Observers in Portland

A federal judge has temporarily blocked federal law enforcement officers deployed to Portland, Ore., from targeting journalists and legal observers at the protests against police violence and racial injustice that have intensified in recent days.

U.S. District Judge Michael Simon issued a restraining order Thursday preventing federal agents from “arresting, threatening to arrest, or using physical force” directed at anyone they know to be a journalist or legal observer, unless they have probable cause to believe they have committed a crime.

The order also blocks the defendants from seizing any photographic, audio and video recording equipment and press passes from people in those two categories, as well as from ordering them to stop recording or observing a protest.

It took effect at 5 p.m. on Thursday and will last for 14 days.

The order comes in response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon, on behalf of a group of legal observers and local journalists.

Further reading: Federal agents’ use of force at protests faces internal U.S. government probes | Reuters

They wrote that they were seeking to stop local and federal defendants from attempting to intimidate the press and “assaulting news reporters, photographers, legal observers, and other neutrals who are documenting the police’s violent response to protests over the murder of George Floyd.”

The order details several examples of journalists, identifiable by press passes, clothing and gear, being fired upon, pepper sprayed and hit with batons by federal agents. They described being shot with pepper balls and what are identified as “less lethal munitions.”

In one instance, Noah Berger, a photojournalist of 25 years on assignment for the Associated Press, describes being attacked repeatedly by federal agents with batons and pepper spray, even as he was clearly not participating in the protest and, in a later incident, leaving the area.

The order also detailed the story of photojournalist Jungho Kim, who has covered protests in California and Hong Kong and has experience “distinguishing himself from a protester.” Kim was recording protesters on the scene when federal agents pushed them away from the area.

“He was around 30 feet away from federal agents, standing still, taking pictures, with no one around him,” reads the order. “He asserts that suddenly and without warning, he was shot in the chest just below his heart with a less lethal munition. Because he was wearing a ballistic vest, he was uninjured. He also witnessed, and photographed, federal agents firing munitions into a group of press and legal observers.”…—”Order Temporarily Blocks Feds From Targeting Press and Legal Observers in Portland,” Rachel Treisman, NPR|Reader Supported News, 6/24/20

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Federal agents’ use of force at protests
faces internal U.S. government probes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Two U.S. federal watchdogs on Thursday launched probes into the use of force by federal law enforcement agents in Portland, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., during recent protests against police violence and alleged racial bias in the justice system.

The probes address both the response by camouflage-clad federal agents to the Portland protests over the past month and a June incident when federal agents on horseback used tear gas to clear a square near the White House to allow President Donald Trump to pose for a photo holding up a Bible near historic St. John’s Episcopal Church.

The inspectors general of the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security launched the probes, as officers from both departments were involved in the crackdowns.

Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz said his office would look specifically at whether officers in Portland had proper identification and if they complied with federal policies on using force in law enforcement, in a case that could lead to criminal charges.

Trump, who is seeking re-election in November, has been stepping up the use of federal officers to respond to a wave of protests across the United States sparked by the death in May of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. He has targeted Democratic-run cities, provoking criticism that he is using law enforcement resources for political ends.

The White House did not immediately comment on the announcement.

“Unidentified forces in military fatigues using tear gas and weapons against peaceful protesters are scenes from an authoritarian crackdown, and have absolutely no place in America,” Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon said.…—”Federal agents’ use of force at protests faces internal U.S. government probes,” Sarah N. Lynch, Mark Hosenball, Reuters, 7/23/20

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The Lead Federal Agency Responding to Protesters in Portland
Employs Thousands of Private Contractors

Congress needs to shine a light on the use of private security firms, including ‘Blackwater’ legacy companies, in Trump’s response to ongoing civil rights protests

The Trump administration’s deployment of federal law enforcers in Portland, Oregon, as part of a supposed effort to protect government property has prompted at least two lawsuits alleging that their show of force has resulted in abuses of authority and the unnecessary use of violence against peaceful protesters, journalists and observers.

What has not been reported widely in the media, however, is the fact that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) unit that is coordinating the “crowd control” effort — an agency called the Federal Protective Service (FPS) — is composed largely of contract security personnel. Those contractors are being furnished to FPS by major private-sector security companies like Blackwater corporate descendant Triple Canopy as well as dozens of other private security firms.

In fact, FPS spends more than $1 billion a year on these contract security guards who are authorized to conduct crowd control at federal properties, such as those in Portland. And, based on available photographic and document evidence, it appears those private contractors are now part of the federal force arrayed in Portland and are likely to be part of the federal response President Trump has promised to stand up in multiple other cities, including Chicago, Detroit, New York, Philadelphia and other urban centers led by Democratic mayors across the country.

There is a major problem, however, with using these FPS contract guards — who are supposed to be limited to patrolling and securing federal facilities and grounds — in long-running “civil disturbances” like those unfolding now in Portland, and elsewhere around the country. The FPS has a long history of failing to properly vet and adequately monitor and ensure that these guards have proper training and certifications, including proper firearms training.

That lack of training can pose a great risk to the safety of protesters and the law enforcers they work with alike should a situation become heated.

As outlined in a prior story on Medium, U.S. Government Accountability Office reports published between 2009 and 2014 on the FPS security guard program have uncovered guards with felony convictions; a large percentage of guard files examined with at least one expired certification, including a declaration they have not been convicted of domestic violence; and multiple security-guard files that were missing documentation on weapons training and security clearances, among other issues.…—”The Lead Federal Agency Responding to Protesters in Portland Employs Thousands of Private Contractors,” Bill Conroy, Medium, 7/22/20

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Kid vs. Alien: Garbage Day

FxGuyKidVid2

James is afraid to take the garbage out. Something’s in the garage.

FULL CREDITS: Starring James Hashimoto as himself, Sophia Hashimoto as Drew Barrymore, Jabari Phillips as the Xenomorph, Stuff That Wasn’t Real Productions by Hashi.—”Action Movie Kid vs. Alien: Garbage Day,” Daniel Hashimoto, YouTube, 4/26/18

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Trump’s Paramilitary Units Trained at the Border
for the Assaults on Portland Moms

Federal violence against protesters in Portland, Oregon, has escalated this week, with federal officers in military gear and helmets using batons and tear gas against protesting moms late on Tuesday night. Throughout the past week, uninvited and heavily militarized Customs and Border Protection agents have been violently seizing and detaining protesters. On Monday, the president promised to expand this operation to Chicago and other majority-Democrat cities. CBP agents are normally tasked with policing the border. So why are they in our cities, potentially violating the First, Fourth, and Fifth amendment rights of Portlanders in ways that clearly have nothing to do with enforcing immigration law? Unfortunately, court decisions created loopholes that have emboldened CBP’s lawless behavior against undocumented immigrants at the border, abuses that are now being exported into the interior of the country against American citizens by President Donald Trump.

Further reading: Wall of Moms Beaten, Tear-Gassed in Portland Protests | Rolling Stone

The White House has deployed the Border Patrol, claiming that their presence is needed to “protect court buildings” and monuments, and enforce criminal law in American cities. The CBP is normally tasked with enforcing immigration law and apprehending undocumented migrants. It is unclear why the White House enlisted CBP in the current mission. CBP and the Department of Homeland Security more broadly are better-funded than interior federal law enforcement agencies, like the FBI. However, CBP has a very different mandate and culture. The tactics that are now being decried as indicative of fascism or authoritarianism have been deployed by the CBP for years. The authorization of federal authorities in a realm that is generally in the purview of state and local law enforcement may be a symbolic show of federal force and it’s unclear what these actions are meant to achieve other than dangerous political theater.

After Sept. 11, when immigration, and specifically the Southern border, began to be portrayed as a national security threat, the border became increasingly militarized and the agency’s influence grew exponentially. An expansive definition of terrorism helped justify the agency’s doubling in size from 2003 to 2019, along with its budget. In 2020, the CBP budget was $18.2 billion, a nearly 20 percent increase from just 2019 and triple what it was in 2003.…

As Yale historian Timothy Snyder, the author of On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century, told the New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg: “This is a classic way that violence happens in authoritarian regime .” When fascistic escalations have happened in the past, the “people who are getting used to committing violence on the border are then brought in to commit violence against people in the interior.”—”Trump’s Paramilitary Units Trained at the Border for the Assaults on Portland Moms,” Linus Chan and Carrie L. Rosenbaum, Slate|Reader Supported News, 7/23/20

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Noam Chomsky Responds to Trump Bragging He Aced
a Dementia Test

Trump is sometimes, even by experts in the topic, called moving toward fascism. I think, frankly, that gives him much too much credit. Fascism was a serious ideology. I think it’s well beyond his ken or concern.

NOAM CHOMSKY: As you say, the test is given for dementia, incipient dementia, a serious mental illness. But what can you say about a person who, before speaking before an adoring crowd, raises his eyes to heaven and calls himself the chosen one? What can you say about an administration where the secretary of state says, “Perhaps Trump has been sent by the good lord to save Israel from Iran”? The country is being run by madmen.

There is no parallels to this. In fact, you can see it in everything that is happening. You go back to late March or so, the United States was about the same as Europe in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths. It was roughly the same. Take a look at the chart since. Europe has sharply declined. It is not over the problems, not doing as well as Asia or Oceania, but way down. The United States remains stable. You look at the medical journals, they point out that Trump’s malfeasance and incompetence, whatever, just lack of concern for the welfare of the population, has killed maybe 100,000 people. That’s a pretty significant slaughter.

And that is why he is flailing around wildly to find somebody to blame it on. That is why he is using the current opportunity to send quasi-military forces, more or less paramilitary, to set up violent confrontations with Democratic mayors and governors. And there’s no precedent for sending militarized forces to control a city in opposition—when there is total opposition on the part of the mayor, the governor, the senators, obviously the population. This is treating the country like occupied territory, with the totally clear purpose of trying to set up confrontations which will somehow save him from electoral defeat.

And if there is defeat, he may just refuse to leave the White House, as he intimated on Fox News the other day, in which case you really have to ask, what happens next? Does the military move in and remove him? Or what happens when—or militias start surrounding the White House? We don’t know. This is a situation which has never arisen in a functioning democracy apart from the fascist takeovers in Italy and Germany, some other countries, in the interwar period.

IsTrumpFascist

CREDIT: The Washington Post

Trump is sometimes, even by experts in the topic, called moving toward fascism. I think, frankly, that gives him much too much credit. Fascism was a serious ideology. I think it’s well beyond his ken or concern. This is more like a minor dictator in a small country that is subjected to military coups over the years. There is no conception of introducing real fascist ideology. In fact, in some ways, we are almost the opposite of it. The fascist systems were based on the principle that the powerful state under the leadership of the ruling party and the maximal leader should basically control everything. They should run and control the society, including the business community. We are almost the opposite. It is the business community controlling the government. And any infringement on their power would lead to a kind of confrontation that is almost unimaginable.

Further reading The Ugly Terror of a Fascist Abyss Lurks in the Background of This Pandemic | Truthout
Is Trump a fascist? | The Washington Post
Twelve signs Trump would try to run a fascist dictatorship in a second term | The Washington Post

So I don’t think it is fascism. It is essentially tin-pot dictatorship. And he is desperate, will do anything, almost anything imaginable to try to keep himself from being tossed out of the White House. How this will eventuate, we don’t know, but it is going to be a very difficult couple of months ahead.—”Noam Chomsky Responds to Trump Bragging He Aced a Dementia Test, Amy Goodman, “Democracy Now!|Reader Supported News, 7/26/20

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How Trump’s Use of Federal Forces in Cities
Differs From Past Presidents

Legal scholars fear the president is trying to take on a job that the Constitution did not give the federal government.

Federal forces went into Los Angeles to control the Rodney King riots. They entered Washington, Chicago and Baltimore in the days after the killing of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. They went into Detroit during a race riot in 1943, and then again in 1967. They were in Little Rock, Ark., during school integration. For the Pullman Strike of 1894 in Chicago, and across numerous cities during the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, they were there, too.

So in some ways, the scenes of officers clad in riot gear this week in Portland, Ore., have a long American lineage in federal responses to domestic unrest. But there is something different in this moment, too, in President Trump’s repeated vows to send forces to other American cities for reasons that slip between protecting specific federal properties, restoring general order and combating violent crime.

“The idea of bringing in troops or law enforcement in its many forms to quell civilian protest is as American as apple pie — it is foundational to this nation,” said Heather Ann Thompson, a historian at the University of Michigan. But then the president began talking about crime in Chicago, and naming cities where protests this summer haven’t turned violent.

“This is what is alarming about where we are now,” she said. “There is a way in which he is taking this to the next level.”…

Elected officials in Oregon have said they do not need or want federal help managing what have become nightly clashes outside the federal courthouse in Portland. Residents in Oakland, Calif., and Detroit, two cities the president has also suggested have gotten out of control, point out that things have been relatively calm this summer. In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city could use help containing violent crime, but cautioned that it “did not welcome dictatorship.”…—”Trump and Portland: How His Use of Federal Forces in Cities Differs From Past Presidents,” Emily Badger, The New York Times, 7/23/20

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Senators Merkley, Wyden, and Blumenthal
on Federal Law Enforcement and Protests

MerkleyWidenSenateSpeeches

Senators Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Ron Wyden (D-OR), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) expressed their opposition to the Trump administration’s use of border patrol agents in response to recent protests in Portland, Oregon. Senator Merkley asked unanimous consent that the Senate consider an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would scale back the use of federal law enforcement agents and require them to be identified at all times when assisting in crowd control or arrests. The request was blocked by Senator James Inhofe (R-OK).—”Senators Merkley, Wyden, and Blumenthal on Federal Law Enforcement and Protests,” C-SPAN, 7/21/20

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Donald Trump’s divisive method culminates in Portland

The president’s growing authoritarianism is a sign of weakness not strength

IN “IMAGINED FRONTIERS”, a book about the role of lines on maps in American art and culture, the historian Carl Abbott notes that because “they mark difference, they are also edgy places where change can happen—like the spark that re-balances electrical potential.” This is Donald Trump’s main political insight.

The wall that the president promised to build along the southern border was always more about defining differences—and making sparks fly—than immigration control. It marked who he and his voters were against: explicitly “rapist” migrants, but implicitly diversity, the Republican leaders who took a relaxed view of it, the liberals who celebrated it. This is why hardly any of the president’s fans seem to mind that he has not laid a brick of his promised wall (though he is extending a pre-existing border fence).

Ahead of the 2018 mid-terms, Mr Trump re-imagined the same political frontier, this time making an approaching column of Central American asylum-seekers emblematic of it. Now in need of another burst of electoral re-balancing, with Joe Biden far ahead in the polls, he has reconfigured his frontier more audaciously. By deploying immigration law enforcers—trained for shoot-outs with Mexican gangsters on the southern border—against racial justice protesters in Mr Abbott’s hometown of Portland, Oregon, he has moved his dividing line 1,100 miles north of San Diego. This has made explicit what was previously implied: that his and his supporters’ enemies are already within. It is the apogee of Mr Trump’s divisive method and, for rule-of-law implications alone, one of his most reckless moves yet.

The context in Portland is somewhat peculiar. Even so, this should be understood as a rerun of the stunt Mr Trump attempted last month in Lafayette Square, when federal police and troops tear-gassed peaceful protesters to clear a space for him to brandish a Bible outside a nearby church. That gambit failed for two reasons. Executed on hallowed terrain—a park dedicated to the revolution upon which Americans’ freedoms are founded—it was too prominent and egregious for even timorous Republican lawmakers to stomach. And the push-back from the embarrassed Pentagon was even stronger. The country’s foremost military officer, General Mark Milley, apologised for having been involved in the charade, thus condemning it. In the rerun playing out in Portland, where paramilitary-style operatives have been filmed hustling peaceful protesters into unmarked cars even as the president denounces them as “anarchists”, neither safety-check applies.

First, because of the city’s circumstances. Most urban places are liberal citadels with conservative peripheries; Portland, a place of vegan strip-bars with a reactionary hinterland, is an extreme case. This made it a magnet for far-left anarchists and far-right white thugs, often leading to rowdy and occasionally violent confrontations, even before Mr Trump’s election further raised the temperature on its streets. The nationwide race protests that erupted in May, following the police killing of George Floyd, have been predictably angry and sustained in the city. Though still largely peaceful, and confined to a few blocks around its federal courthouse, they have provided images of vandalism and bottle-throwing for conservative media to fume about, yet another no-win situation for the city’s police, and, for those who believe the answer to civil unrest is always cracking heads, a case for action.…—”Donald Trump’s divisive method culminates in Portland,” The Economist, 7/23/20

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Activists, officials slam Chicago police for
brutality in Columbus statue standoff

One activist was left with her teeth knocked out when a police officer punched her in a video-recorded encounter. Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the reports of excessive force — and the actions of some protesters — both “unacceptable.”

After an evening of mayhem between Chicago police and protesters who tried to tear down the Grant Park statue of Christopher Columbus, a video surfaced on social media showing an officer punching an 18-year-old activist in the mouth, knocking out some of her teeth.

The violent confrontation that injured Miracle Boyd, an organizer with the group Good Kids Mad City, was one of many dust-ups that several progressive officials pointed to on Saturday as the latest cases for defunding the city police department.

The video shows an officer hit Boyd in the face with his left arm as she appears to back away.

Boyd had recently graduated from high school and was offered an internship in the office of state Sen. Robert Peters, D-Chicago.

“She’s someone who fights every day for gun violence prevention, who fights for a safe community,” Peters said a day after the chaos near Roosevelt Road and Columbus Drive. “And what did she face? Abuse.”

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the incident should be investigated and properly handled.

“Ms. Boyd was badly injured by an officer — an inexcusable action for someone sworn to maintain public safety,” Preckwinkle said.

Several journalists also reported being roughed up by officers during the Friday standoff that lasted several hours before police dispersed the crowd.…—”Officials slam Chicago police for brutality in Columbus statue protest; activist’s teeth knocked out,” Mitchell Armentrout, Chicago Sun-Times, 7/18/20

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Trump is creating his ‘own personal militia’ –
and must be stopped

Five years ago last spring, fear of a federal takeover of Texas grew so heated in some circles that Gov. Greg Abbott deployed the state guard to shadow U.S. Special Forces during a training exercise to ensure Texans’ “safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed.”

It was absurd, of course. Operation Jade Helm 15 was nothing more than advertised: eight weeks of training in Texas and six other states. But the fear — stoked online, the CIA later confirmed, by Russian bots — was real. Some residents stocked up on ammunition and stowed weapons as rumors of impending martial law raged.

This summer, a true threat to civil liberties, with all the hallmarks of genuine authoritarianism, is spreading from city to city and yet the outrage on the right has been, to put it gently, muted. Why?

President Donald Trump has sent a swarm of Department of Homeland Security officers — many of them border patrol agents, trained to enforce immigration laws, not to police American cities — to Portland under the pretext of protecting courthouses and other federal property. On Wednesday, he announced hundreds of federal agents under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security are headed to Chicago to confront a spike in gun violence and shootings he says local police have failed to stem. Agents are already in Kansas City and are expected soon in other cities, from Albuquerque to Detroit.

Further reading Trump ‘Trying To Look Strong’ By Sending Federal Agents To Portland, Mayor Says | NPR
Trump’s use of federal agents in Portland is how not to police protests | Vox
Why Trump’s Paramilitary Force Is Unconstitutional | WBUR|Cognoscenti
Trump to send ‘surge’ of hundreds of federal agents to cities | BBC News
An overview of the federal police force | PoliceOne

“In recent weeks, there has been a radical movement to de-fund, dismantle, and dissolve our police departments,” he said Wednesday, wildly exaggerating a spectrum of proposed reforms. “Extreme politicians have joined this anti-police crusade and relentlessly vilified our law enforcement heroes.”

Since local officials can’t be trusted, according to the president, he is sending in his own troops. That should alarm every American.…—”Editorial: How is this American? Trump using anti-terror forces for ‘own personal militia’,” The Editorial Board, Houston Chronicle, 7/23/20

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‘A Profoundly Un-American Attack On Civil Society’
Why Trump’s Paramilitary Force Is Unconstitutional

A protester flies an American flag while walking through tear gas fired by federal officers during a protest in front of the Mark O. Hatfield U.S. Courthouse on July 21, 2020 in Portland, Ore. The federal police response to the ongoing protests against racial inequality has been criticized by city and state elected officials. (Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

We are being confronted in city after city with a nationwide paramilitary force, its troops unidentifiable and its vehicles unmarked, directed in deliberately vague terms to protect property and preserve domestic order.

It began in Portland, Oregon where chilling video shows men in combat gear seizing unarmed protestors, packing them into rented minivans and driving off. Some victims of these kidnappings remain in the dark about their abductors even after being freed. In one dystopian scene, a Portland man was seized, blindfolded, transported, imprisoned and finally released — without once being told who had abducted him and why.

Widespread criticism of these secretive police has not cowed the president. Instead, egged on by his lackeys, Trump plans to expand this paramilitary force. He has mobilized 2,000 agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and the Coast Guard, placing them on standby to quickly deploy domestically. If Trump’s words are to be believed, these troops are staring down the barrel at Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and more.

This is not mere disregard for the rule of law — this is outright disdain.

This astonishing federal takeover of public streets and spaces previously devoted to peaceful protest has targeted jurisdictions and individuals selected specifically (and at times admittedly) for their dissent from the policies of the incumbent national regime. Portland has seen 54 consecutive days of protests — the vast majority peaceful — in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. Chicago, Trump’s next target, has seen similar dissatisfaction. Boston, a city with Democratic leadership that proudly proclaims “Black Lives Matter,” could be next on the list. If the militia descends on Boston, our city’s leaders can and should arrest and prosecute anyone who unlawfully assaults and kidnaps civilians. The district attorney of Philadelphia has already promised as much.…—”‘A Profoundly Un-American Attack On Civil Society’: Why Trump’s Paramilitary Force Is Unconstitutional,” Laurence Tribe, Cognoscenti|WBUR, 7/23/20

Laurence Tribe is the Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law Emeritus at Harvard Law School, is the author of the treatise, “American Constitutional Law.”

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The Coronavirus Unleashed Along the Amazon River

The virus swept through the region like past plagues that have traveled the river with colonizers and corporations.

It spread with the dugout canoes carrying families from town to town, the fishing dinghies with rattling engines, the ferries moving goods for hundreds of miles, packed with passengers sleeping in hammocks, side by side, for days at a time.

The Amazon River is South America’s essential life source, a glittering superhighway that cuts through the continent. It is the central artery in a vast network of tributaries that sustains some 30 million people across eight countries, moving supplies, people and industry deep into forested regions often untouched by road.

But once again, in a painful echo of history, it is also bringing disease.

As the pandemic assails Brazil, overwhelming it with more than two million infections and more than 84,000 deaths — second only to the United States — the virus is taking an exceptionally high toll on the Amazon region and the people who have depended on its abundance for generations.

In Brazil, the six cities with the highest coronavirus exposure are all on the Amazon River, according to an expansive new study from Brazilian researchers that measured antibodies in the population.

The epidemic has spread so quickly and thoroughly along the river that in remote fishing and farming communities like Tefé, people have been as likely to get the virus as in New York City, home to one of the world’s worst outbreaks.…

The virus is exacting an especially high toll on Indigenous people, a parallel to the past. Since the 1500s, waves of explorers have traveled the river, seeking gold, land and converts — and later, rubber, a resource that helped fuel the Industrial Revolution, changing the world. But with them, these outsiders brought violence and diseases like smallpox and measles, killing millions and wiping out entire communities.

“This is a place that has generated so much wealth for others,” said Charles C. Mann, a journalist who has written extensively on the history of the Americas, “and look at what’s happening to it.”

Indigenous people have been roughly six times as likely to be infected with the coronavirus as white people, according to the Brazilian study, and are dying in far-flung river villages untouched by electricity.

Even in the best of times, the Amazon was among the most neglected parts of the country, a place where the helping hand of the government can feel distant, even nonexistent.

But the region’s ability to confront the virus has been further weakened under President Jair Bolsonaro, whose public dismissals of the epidemic have verged at times on mockery, even though he tested positive himself.

The virus has surged on his government’s disorganized and lackluster watch, tearing through the nation. From his first days in office, Mr. Bolsonaro has made it clear that protecting the welfare of Indigenous communities was not his priority, cutting their funding, whittling away at their protections and encouraging illegal encroachments into their territory.…—”The Coronavirus Unleashed Along the Amazon River,” Tyler Hicks, Julie Turkewitz, Manuela Andreoni, Jeremy White, The New York Times, 7/25/20

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Mangrove forest restoration boosts Costa Rica communities

“Twenty years ago, I collected between 600 to 800 a day – now I’m lucky if I can harvest 150.” Adrian Torres holds a black, shining, wrinkled mollusk (Anadara tuberculosa) the size of a small chicken egg. It is known as the “mud cockle,” or here along Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, as the piangua.

  • Mangrove forests are key ecosystems that host high levels of biodiversity, temper storm surges, and sequester large amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.
  • Despite their importance, mangrove forests endure high levels of deforestation for coastal development, charcoal production, and shrimp farms.
  • For World Mangrove Day on July 26, we share a report on an ambitious mangrove restoration effort in the Terraba Sierpe National Wetland in Costa Rica.
  • This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.…—”Mangrove forest restoration boosts Costa Rica communities,” Andrew Whitworth, Mongabay, 7/24/20

Source: news.mongabay.com/2020/07/mangrove-forest-restoration-boosts-costa-rica-communities-commentary/

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Ojibwe Grandmother has walked 17,000 km
to raise consciousness about water

“She takes care of the Lifeblood of Mother Earth – water.”

 

A First Nations elder who has “walked the equivalent of half the earth’s circumference” to build awareness about pollution, laws, fracking, and the selling of the water, is being honoured today in Toronto.

Josephine Mandamin received the Lieutenant Governor’s Ontario Heritage Award for Excellence in Conservation at a ceremony held at Queen’s Park.

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee said Mandamin, who hails from Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory [also known as Wikwemikong First Nation], has walked the shorelines of five Great Lakes as well as in all four directions of Turtle Island. —”Ojibwe Grandmother has walked 17,000 km to raise consciousness about water,” White Wolf Pack, 7/12/20

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From Alabama to the Capitol,
the Journey to Honor John Lewis

JohnLewisPettisBridge

Representative John Lewis, the congressman and civil rights figure who died July 17, began his long journey home this weekend.

On Saturday, his friends and family remembered him at a service in Troy, Ala., where he grew up.

His brother Samuel remembered when a young John Lewis left home. “Mother told him not to get in trouble, not to get in the way,” he recalled. “We all know that John got in trouble, got in the way, but it was a good trouble.”

The memorial service, on the campus of Troy University, was the start of a series of tributes that will follow Mr. Lewis’s path through life.

On Sunday, his body was carried across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., where he helped lead voting rights demonstrators as they marched on March 7, 1965. He will lie in state at the U.S. Capitol on Monday and Tuesday, and on Wednesday, he will be brought to the Georgia Capitol in Atlanta. On Thursday, his funeral will be held in Ebenezer Baptist Church, an Atlanta sanctuary with deep ties to the civil rights movement.—”From Alabama to the Capitol, the Journey to Honor John Lewis,” The New York Times, 7/25/20

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How Police Unions Fight Reform

In May, just days after a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, Lieutenant Bob Kroll, the bellicose leader of the city’s police union, described Floyd as a violent criminal, said that the protesters who had gathered to lament his death were terrorists, and complained that they weren’t being treated more roughly by police. Kroll, who has spoken unsentimentally about being involved in three shootings himself, said that he was fighting to get the accused officers reinstated. In the following days, the Kentucky police union rallied around officers who had fatally shot an E.M.T. worker named Breonna Taylor in her home. Atlanta police staged an organized sick-out after the officers who killed Rayshard Brooks were charged. Philadelphia police sold T-shirts celebrating a fellow-cop who was caught on video clubbing a student protester with a steel baton. The list goes on.

PoliceUnionsVsReformAlong with everything else about American society that was thrown into appalling relief by Floyd’s killing, there has been the peculiar militancy of many police unions. Law enforcement kills more than a thousand Americans a year. Many are unarmed, and a disproportionate number are African-American. Very few of the officers involved face serious, if any, consequences, and much of that impunity is owed to the power of police unions.

Further reading: Call 911: How Police Built Military Arsenals And A Firm Grip On Local Budgets, And Why Defunding May Be Inevitable | Forbes

In many cities, including New York, the unions are a political force, their endorsements and campaign donations coveted by both Republicans and Democrats. The legislation they support tends to get passed, their candidates elected. They insist on public displays of respect and may humiliate mayors who displease them. They defy reformers, including police chiefs, who struggle to fire even the worst-performing officers. In an era when other labor unions are steadily declining in membership and influence, police unions have kept their numbers up, their coffers full. In Wisconsin, the Republican governor, Scott Walker, led a successful campaign to eliminate union rights for most of the state’s public employees. The exceptions were firefighters and police.

Police unions enjoy a political paradox. Conservatives traditionally abhor labor unions but support the police. The left is critical of aggressive policing, yet has often muted its criticism of police unions—which are, after all, public-sector unions, an endangered and mostly progressive species.

In their interstitial safe zone, police unions can offer their members extraordinary protections. Officers accused of misconduct may be given legal representation paid for by the city, and ample time to review evidence before speaking to investigators. In many cases, suspended officers have their pay guaranteed, and disciplinary recommendations of oversight boards are ignored. Complaints submitted too late are disqualified. Records of misconduct may be kept secret, and permanently destroyed after as little as sixty days.

With the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement, criticism of the police has become less muted. Calls resound to de-fund police forces, and to abolish the unions. But the United States has eighteen thousand non-federal police agencies in its hyper-localized system, with more than seven hundred thousand officers represented by unions. They will not be easily dislodged.…—”How Police Unions Fight Reform,” William Finnegan, The New Yorker, 7/27/20

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As Climate Change Burns Arizona,
State Has More Imprisoned Firefighters Than Employees

Arizona is using prison labor to close its firefighting budget gap as climate change drives more and larger fires each year.

As three historic wildfires burned through over 384,300 acres of Arizona in June, the state deployed nearly 200 firefighters to bring the blazes — which were visible on NASA and NOAA satellites in orbit 23,000 miles above — under control.

State prison inmates made up two out of three of those firefighters, under a program that Arizona uses to lower the costs of coping with the ever-worsening wildfire seasons brought on by climate change. The program pays prisoners pennies on the dollars paid to state employees for the same hard and dangerous work.

The Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation & Reentry hires the prisoners via the Inmate Wildfire Program. Recent budgetary figures show that these firefighters earn minuscule wages of $1.50 per hour while fighting fires, $1 an hour for other fire suppression work, and $.50 per hour for other non-fire labor. To put that in context, according to Tiffany Davilla, a spokesperson for the Department of Forestry and Fire Management (DFFM), the median pay for non-incarcerated firefighters is $22.31/hour, or an average annual salary of $58,006 for the standard 50-hours-a-week fireman’s schedule. If they worked standard firefighter hours, incarcerated firefighters would earn just under $4,000 for the year.

Despite the rising climate change-fueled wildfire risks, the state spends far more on its prisons and law enforcement apparatus than it does on direct costs of firefighting.

In March, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a fiscal year 2021 budget allotting just $9.1 million for the Department of Forestry and Fire Management (DFFM) for 88 full-time employees as well as 192 workers in the Inmate Wildfire Program. According to the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry, six crews totaling 113 prisoner firefighters from a half-dozen state prison complexes aided in fighting the June wildfires.…

In the same state budget, the 9,695-employee Department of Corrections and Juvenile Corrections received $1.2 billion for the 2021 fiscal year, while the Arizona Department of Public Safety, which employs about 2,000 people across the state’s highway patrol, narcotics enforcement, intelligence and forensics bureaucracies, and a dedicated “strike force” at the border with Mexico, received $322.7 million.

The state’s 2020 and 2019 budgets allocated funds along similar lines.

Arizona state Rep. Kirstin Engel, whose Tucson district sits near the site of June’s 119,000-acre Bighorn Fire, called the budget figures “really disturbing.”

“What these numbers say to me is they’re using inmate labor to close the budget gap,” said Engel, also a professor at the University of Arizona College of Law whose research focuses on climate change and environmental law. “It’s really the state’s responsibility to, along with the federal government, fight these fires. But that should be done primarily with paid workers.”…

The daughter of Thai immigrants, Tiwamangkala received a three-year sentence for driving with a suspended license and under the influence of marijuana and alcohol, convictions that could have led to up to 12 years in prison.

She entered the Inmate Wildfire Program seeking “redemption for being locked up and causing my family hurt and pain,” she said. “I wanted to do something that was serving the community, even if it pushed me to my limits physically and mentally.”

While taking “pride in the experience” of keeping the public and landscapes safe from fire, Tiwamangkala said she “couldn’t help but feel exploited” as she advanced through the program.

“I ended up quitting because I was feeling the pressure from the officers and our morale was becoming toxic,” she said, adding that the state took two-thirds of her money to pay for alcohol counseling required as part of her sentence.

“They also would punish us with excruciating workouts,” Tiwamangkala said, “and we had constant anxiety of whether it was a good or bad day for the officers because if it was a bad day, we got punished more.”

While Tiwamangkala came away feeling negative about her stint as an inmate firefighter, Feldman [anthropologist at the University of Memphis who has studied the Arizona program] has found that many program participants come away with more positive experiences. But prison labor programs are still “inherently exploitative,” she said, and have troubling racial dimensions emanating from the Constitution’s 13th Amendment which makes slavery and involuntary servitude legal punishments “for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”

“Given the prison system’s direct ties to slavery in the US, and given that all states have an over-population of Black people and people of color behind bars, we can ascertain that prison labor is inherently exploitative and exists to uphold an unjust system,” Feldman — who wrote a 2018 paper about Arizona’s prison wildfire program which she researched in part by spending 15 months in the program herself — said via email. “Pay discrepancies between incarcerated and non-incarcerated wildland firefighters make this clear: incarcerated individuals are doing the same risky work, but are paid a fraction of what their non-incarcerated colleagues make.”…—”As Climate Change Burns Arizona, State Has More Imprisoned Firefighters Than Employees,” Steve Horn, Drilled News, 7/24/20

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Environmental Watchdogs Failed
Neighborhoods of Color During Pandemic

A nationwide study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health links a higher rate of death from COVID-19 for people living in areas with high levels of air pollution. Contamination from refineries and trucking in Los Angeles County and Long Beach, California, are exposing communities to an alarmingly high risk of respiratory infection, and laying bare the disproportionate effects of air pollution and environmental racism in the region.

EnvironmentalRacismThe East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice in Commerce, California, is raising awareness of the detrimental effects of heavy industry, where 40 percent of all U.S. goods arrive in neighboring ports. Laura Cortez and Cindy Donis of the East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice discuss how they are fighting back.

Cindy Donis: The work that we do is across different parts of Los Angeles. That includes Boyle Heights, East L.A., Southeast L.A. and Long Beach. And we’re working around environmental justice issues. These communities are overburdened with industrial contamination and the impacts of that exposure. The health impacts include asthma, cancer, cardiovascular [and] other respiratory illnesses. And so we’re helping folks understand and create the link between those health impacts that they’re dealing with and the things that surround our communities and are embedded with our communities. And we’re giving them the tools to be able to advocate, to create a better world and a better community that they’re residing in.…—”Environmental Watchdogs Failed Neighborhoods of Color During Pandemic,” Laura Flanders, Truthout, 7/19/20

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During the Virus, Portland Officials Chose
to Let This Homeless Camp Take Root.
That Could Soon Change.

Women campers have put down stakes along
one portion of a North Portland trail. They’ve
grouped together to keep one another safe,
they say. CREDIT: Brian Burk

The Peninsula Crossing Trail is now a campground: dozens of tents, a garden, even a makeshift general store where you can buy a Coke.

Torri Quesinberry, 33, has lived on the streets of Portland since 2015, when she was evicted from her mobile home. And her residence since COVID-19 broke out in Oregon has been in a camp along the Peninsula Crossing Trail, a paved bike and jogging path at the edge of the University Park neighborhood near North Lombard Street.

Quesinberry, who has a warm smile and bleach-blond hair with bright red highlights, lives in a tent she has outfitted with battery-powered LEDs, a bed and a makeshift kitchen that even has a hanging basket for fruit. Outside her tent: pots of petunias, bursting in pink and red.

She’s not alone.

Her blue tent sits next to an electric transformer station, just north of where the miniature goat herd called the Belmont Goats grazes in a pasture. And she has many neighbors: dozens of tents, a garden, even a makeshift general store where you can buy a Coke.…

For several years, Portland City Hall policy would be to uproot this camp as soon as it grew beyond a few people and scatter its residents to other places. But the city suspended such sweeps the first week of March, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That decision gave Quesinberry and her fellow campers a semi-permanence she hasn’t enjoyed since she was evicted and relapsed into heroin addiction.

“I want a house so bad,” she says, “I made one out of tarps.”…

Last month, the region passed a $250 million-a-year tax measure to address the root causes of homelessness. Yet the city is poised to return to the controversial practice of sweeps, which no one disputes is anything other than triage.

“It’s been a failed strategy,” says Israel Bayer, a longtime advocate for homeless people in Portland. “Sweeps are police violence. It falls on mayors to change course.”…—”During the Virus, Portland Officials Chose to Let This Homeless Camp Take Root. That Could Soon Change.” Rachel Monahan, Willamette Week, 6/10/20

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Under Hedge Fund Set to Own McClatchy,
Canadian Newspapers Endured Big Cuts

Since Chatham Asset Management took over Postmedia, Canada’s largest newspaper chain, 1,600 employees have been laid off and more than 30 papers shut down.

In October 2016, a New Jersey hedge fund assumed ownership of Canada’s largest newspaper chain with very little fanfare. Few people noticed, including some of the chain’s employees.

Chatham’s track record as an owner of a major newspaper chain is grim, according to 10 current and former Postmedia employees who spoke with The New York Times on the condition of anonymity because they feared retaliation.

The fund, Chatham Asset Management, acquired two-thirds of Postmedia, the publisher of The National Post, The Vancouver Sun and several other major Canadian papers, by trading a portion of the money it was owed for the majority ownership stake. The deal happened so quietly that Postmedia’s own financial news site described it as a debt restructuring in a report that included a single mention of Chatham as “one of the investors.”

Further reading Journalism is under attack from coronavirus and the White House. But we’re winning. | NBC News
Why Are So Many Journalists Under Attack? | Foreign Policy
Twice as many people live in repressed countries compared to a year ago | Civicus Monitor
Journalism is under attack. Here’s how it must fight back | Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism

Last week, that kind of financial maneuvering reappeared in another major newspaper deal, when Chatham emerged as the winning bidder in a bankruptcy auction for the McClatchy Company, a chain with 30 media outlets including The Miami Herald, The Kansas City Star and The Sacramento Bee. With roots going back to 1857, McClatchy, a consistent winner of top journalism awards, was one of the last major family-run news publishers.…—”Under Hedge Fund Set to Own McClatchy, Canadian Newspapers Endured Big Cuts,” Edmund Lee, The New York Times, 7/19/20

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As the Culture Wars Flare Amid the Pandemic,
a Call to Speak ‘Science to Power’

A growing number of National Academy of Science members sign a statement decrying the Trump administration’s “denigration of scientific expertise.”

More than a thousand of the nation’s top scientists say it’s time to speak “science to power,” as Covid-19 deaths top 141,000 nationally and cases continue to rise in 43 states. The scientists are calling on policymakers to restore evidence-based decision-making—especially when it comes to managing life-and-death challenges like the global pandemic and climate change.

More than 1,240 National Academy of Science members have now registered their personal concern about the Trump administration’s denigration of science.

The effort began when 375 academy members signed an open letter in 2016 warning that then-candidate Trump’s threatened withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement would harm American credibility and leadership. Hundreds more added their signatures to a statement posted online in 2018, after President Trump set the withdrawal in motion.…

Further reading: Politicians and Business Interests Pushed Health Officials Aside to Control Reopening. Then Cases Exploded.| Pro Publica

At a time when a cohesive and science-based approach is crucial, Santer said, the Trump White House has doubled down on attacking the government’s most prominent infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, over his advice to respond more aggressively to Covid-19.

“It’s a teachable moment,” said Santer, who works at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, one of the nation’s 17 national laboratories. “And the hope is that the lesson learned from the last few months is that science matters. Ignore it at your peril.”…—”As the Culture Wars Flare Amid the Pandemic, a Call to Speak ‘Science to Power,” Judy Fahys, InsideClimate News, 7.18/20

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“No Return to the ‘Old Normal’
for Foreseeable Future,” Warns WHO Chief

“If the basics aren’t followed, there is only one way this pandemic is going to go. It’s going to get worse and worse and worse.”

The head of the World Health Organization warned Monday that a “return to the ‘old normal'” was not in “the foreseeable future” and urged global leaders to act cooperatively to control the coronavirus pandemic.

“Let me blunt, too many countries are headed in the wrong direction,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a media briefing.

Tedros’s remarks came as the total number of total coronavirus cases continued ticking upward, nearing 13 million globally. More than 570,000 Covid-19 deaths have been recorded worldwide, over 134,000 of which were in the United States.

The U.S.—which has the highest number of cases in the world—recorded over 3.2 million cases as of Monday, an increase of over 60,000 Sunday. Infections continue to rise in dozens of U.S. states including Florida, which on Sunday broke the national record for the largest single-day increase in coronavirus cases with over 15,000.

TRUMPvsWHOVidThe WHO chief didn’t single out the U.S. in his comments but noted, “The epicentre of the virus remains in the Americas, where more than 50% of the world’s cases have been recorded.”

The trajectory of the pandemic if governments fail to “roll out a comprehensive strategy focused on suppressing transmission and saving lives” and individuals don’t take public health measures like wearing masks is clear, said Tedros.…

“I want to be straight with you,” he continued, “there will be no return to the ‘old normal’ for the foreseeable future.”

But, he stressed, “it is never too late to take decisive action.”…—”No Return to the ‘Old Normal’ for Foreseeable Future,” Warns WHO Chief,” Andrea Germanos, Common Dreams News, 7/16/20

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Trump’s New Ad Is Amazing

…The latest ad from the Trump campaign running on The Facebook is an attempt to get the olds worked up about their LAW & ORDER PRESIDENT. Here’s the ad, courtesy of the sharps at Business Insider:

Pretty standard stuff. With one exception. That picture on the right where the evil hippie scum from Stumptown are whailing on the gallant law enforcement officer who’s trying to protect God and country?

It’s from 2014.

That’s not the bad part.

It’s from Ukraine.

But that’s not the bad part, either.

The “evil hippie scum” are actually pro-democracy protesters. And the policeman getting beat up is a member of the riot police who had been brought in to try to protect the authoritarian president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was attempting to turn Ukraine into a one-party state by extralegal means.

Still not at the bad part.…—”Trump’s New Ad Is Amazing,” Jonathan V. Last, The Bulwark, 7/22/20

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Whose Allegiance?
Three Percenters Militia
Working in Bakken Oil Patch Raises Concerns
of Domestic Terrorism Risk

The Three Percenters, a loosely organized group of far-right militants, appear to have established a significant presence in North Dakota’s Bakken oilfield, one of the most productive oilfields in the nation. “There is a lot of membership in the oil and gas industry up there,” says Matt Marshall, a Three Percenter running for state legislature in Washington. “The fact that you have a lot of Three Percenters working in the oilfields of North Dakota is not surprising.”

The Three Percenters are so named for the dubious historical claim that only three percent of American colonists took up arms in the Revolutionary War. Their adherents have frequently been involved with incidents of ​armed protests, hate speech, and ​threatening behavior across the U.S., and the group’s members have shown up prominently at recent protests related to both pandemic response measures and police brutality.

In April, Marshall, wearing a colonial tricorn hat with bullets strapped to the side, and a Hawaiian shirt, helped lead a coronavirus stay-home order protest at his state’s capitol in Olympia, Washington. Hawaiian shirts are described by the Anti-Defamation League as a coded reference to coming civil war, although Marshall denies the link.

He says he is aware of Three Percenters who are working in oilfields in Colorado, Texas, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and Alaska. And also according to Marshall, top officials with two North Dakota chapters, the North Dakota United Patriots Three Percenters and North Dakota Three Percenter Originals, work in the oil and gas industry.

We are mostly blue-collar workers who want to put in a hard day’s labor, support our family, pay a limited amount of taxes to get the services we require and at the end of the day be left alone,” says Marshall. “I don’t think there is any concern about having a bunch of threepers working in that industry,” referring to an alternate name for the group.

But points of significant concern emerged in a multi-month DeSmog investigation that involved interviews with former Department of Homeland Security and FBI officials, and local residents of North Dakota, who live in a state still pumping out more than a million barrels of oil a day.

According to a whistle-blower who contacted DeSmog, Three Percenters have established a prominent presence at a Bakken oil and gas facility regarded as critical infrastructure by the Department of Homeland Security. Militia-related patches, flags, and artwork have popped up across the Bakken oil patch, and a thriving gun culture among its workers has led to a Mad Max-mentality of chaos plaguing residents of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation.…—”Whose Allegiance? Three Percenters Militia Working in Bakken Oil Patch Raises Concerns of Domestic Terrorism Risk,” Justin Nobel, DeSmog, 7/21/20

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The Great Climate Migration Has Begun

New research suggests climate change will cause humans to move in unprecedented numbers. The Times Magazine partnered with ProPublica and data scientists to understand how.

Today, 1% of the world is a barely livable hot zone. By 2070, that portion could go up to 19%. Billions of people call this land home.

This article, the first in a series on global climate migration, is a partnership between ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine, with support from the Pulitzer Center. Read more about the data project that underlies the reporting.

Early in 2019, a year before the world shut its borders completely, Jorge A. knew he had to get out of Guatemala. The land was turning against him. For five years, it almost never rained. Then it did rain, and Jorge rushed his last seeds into the ground. The corn sprouted into healthy green stalks, and there was hope — until, without warning, the river flooded. Jorge waded chest-deep into his fields searching in vain for cobs he could still eat. Soon he made a last desperate bet, signing away the tin-roof hut where he lived with his wife and three children against a $1,500 advance in okra seed. But after the flood, the rain stopped again, and everything died. Jorge knew then that if he didn’t get out of Guatemala, his family might die, too.

Even as hundreds of thousands of Guatemalans fled north toward the United States in recent years, in Jorge’s region — a state called Alta Verapaz, where precipitous mountains covered in coffee plantations and dense, dry forest give way to broader gentle valleys — the residents have largely stayed. Now, though, under a relentless confluence of drought, flood, bankruptcy and starvation, they, too, have begun to leave. Almost everyone here experiences some degree of uncertainty about where their next meal will come from. Half the children are chronically hungry, and many are short for their age, with weak bones and bloated bellies. Their families are all facing the same excruciating decision that confronted Jorge.

The odd weather phenomenon that many blame for the suffering here — the drought and sudden storm pattern known as El Niño — is expected to become more frequent as the planet warms. Many semiarid parts of Guatemala will soon be more like a desert. Rainfall is expected to decrease by 60 percent in some parts of the country, and the amount of water replenishing streams and keeping soil moist will drop by as much as 83 percent. Researchers project that by 2070, yields of some staple crops in the state where Jorge lives will decline by nearly a third.

Scientists have learned to project such changes around the world with surprising precision, but — until recently — little has been known about the human consequences of those changes. As their land fails them, hundreds of millions of people from Central America to Sudan to the Mekong Delta will be forced to choose between flight or death. The result will almost certainly be the greatest wave of global migration the world has seen.…—”The Great Climate Migration Has Begun,” Abrahm Lustgarten, The New York Times, 7/23/20

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Gas Flaring and Preterm Births

New research on gas flaring suggests that the practice poses a significant risk to expectant mothers.

The study, published this month the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that pregnant women who lived near areas where flaring is common had 50 percent greater odds of giving birth prematurely than those who did not. These births occurred before 37 weeks of gestation, when incomplete development raises a baby’s chance of numerous disorders, even death.

“It’s on par with the increased risk you see for women who smoke,” said Lara Cushing, an assistant professor of environmental health sciences at the University of California, Los Angeles, and lead author of the study. Unlike smoking, however, “it’s not really something you can do much about on an individual level,” she said.

Scientists do not know what causes some women to give birth prematurely, said Dr. Heather Burris, a neonatologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine who was not involved in the study. But the new research adds to growing evidence that environmental factors play an important role.

Further reading: Study Links Gas Flares to Preterm Births, With Hispanic Women at High Risk | The New York Times

In the case of flaring, researchers say the mechanism may involve particulate matter, volatile organic compounds and other toxic substances. “It seems pretty plausible that it would have an effect on premature birth given that air pollution and preterm birth are well linked,” said Elaine Hill, a health economist at the University of Rochester Medical Center who was not involved in the study.…—”Gas Flaring and Preterm Births,” Julia Rosen, The New York Times, 7/22/20

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Dr. Bill Ripple – A Scientist Warning the World

BillRippleWarningDr. Bill Ripple’s decades of ecology research in the forests led him to many realizations. Chief among them was that humanity is exceeding the limits of the planet, destabilizing the biosphere, and courting a disaster for our own and all other species. He is the moving force behind the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity, and other peer-reviewed papers that the Alliance of World Scientists (AWS) has published. Thus he is responsible for a remarkably strong ‘wake up call’ to humanity.

Here Alison Green interviews Dr. Ripple for http://ScientistsWarning.org, the public face of the AWS, which I founded but have passed on to a capable team so that I can focus on subduing the cancer I’ve contracted. – Stuart Scott

Please Subscribe to both FacingFuture.TV and ScientistsWarning.TV, as we will publish different, but overlapping videos. Click the Bell for notifications, and Share actively.—”Dr. Bill Ripple – A Scientist Warning the World,” Allison Green, FacingFuture.TV|YouTube, 7/23/20

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The Atlantic Ocean is now hurricane fuel

“The Atlantic is coming alive.”

Tropical Storm Gonzalo formed in the Atlantic Ocean on Wednesday, the earliest time on record for the seventh named storm of the season to form (a tropical storm, which earns a name, has wind speeds of at least 39 mph). The Atlantic’s seventh named storm doesn’t usually occur until around September 16. The earliest third, fifth, and sixth storms also formed in 2020, though none reached hurricane intensity.

The major storm culprit this year has been warmer than usual sea surface temperatures of over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Warmer oceans fuel tropical storms as more water naturally evaporates into the air, giving storms energy and moisture to intensify.

Plot of elevated Atlantic ocean temperatures in the “Main Development Region,” in percentiles, for the week ending July 20th. Grid points that exceed the 95th percentile (within the top 3 ranks) are outlined in white
Click for full view

“It’s certainly been active,” said Brian Tang, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Albany. “Ocean temperatures in the Atlantic are running much warmer than normal.”

Though these early 2020 Atlantic storms have been relatively weak, warmer ocean temperatures may provide ample fuel for the approaching peak of hurricane season.

Of note, temperatures in a critical zone of the Atlantic called the “Main Development Region,” extending from the African coast to the Caribbean Sea, are about 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer than average — which is a big deal. Most hurricanes form in this region during the most active part of hurricane season, which lasts from about mid-August through mid- to late- October. During this time, clusters of thunderstorms from Africa travel over the Atlantic, and their destiny largely rests on water temperatures.

“That extra degree makes it more likely the thunderstorms will survive going across the Atlantic,” said Chris Slocum, a research meteorologist at the NOAA Center for Satellite Applications and Research. As they pass over warm waters, these storm systems can mature into rotating, powerful hurricanes.…—”The Atlantic Ocean is now hurricane fuel, inviting big storms,” Mark Kaufman, Mashable, 7/22/20

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Houston’s surge of COVID-19 cases
overwhelms contact tracing efforts

The surge in COVID-19 cases since mid-May has strained the ability of Houston and Harris County’s health departments to investigate infected residents and find each person whom they could have exposed to the virus, public health officials leading the effort said.

Delays of up to several weeks in receiving lab results, which sometimes contain sparse or inaccurate contact information, mean contact tracers often miss a critical window to warn potentially pre-symptomatic COVID carriers to isolate away from family, friends and coworkers — a crucial step to limit the spread of the virus.

The county’s average daily new caseload of 1,579 is more than twice the number investigators can process, a failure that leaves the Houston area, once lauded by the White House as a model for how to manage COVID-19, struggling to regain control of the pandemic.

“The volume of new cases is more than we can keep up with at this point,” said Dr. David Persse, Houston’s health authority. “If people don’t isolate and don’t quarantine, that’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s what slows down the virus.”…—”Houston’s surge of COVID-19 cases overwhelms contact tracing efforts,” Zach Despart, Todd Ackerman, Houston Chronicle, 7/18/20

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Photos show scale of massive fires
tearing through Siberian forests

This week, Greenpeace International released a series of dramatic photos revealing mega-fires burning in the Krasnoyarsk region of Siberia, Russia. The images, captured on July 16 by drone, show red flames tearing through the Siberian boreal forests, razing trees and producing large plumes of hazardous smoke.

This year, the fire season started early in Russia after an unusually hot winter and spring, which led to extreme temperatures in remote Siberian towns. By June 17, Verkhoyansk, a town located in the Arctic region of Siberia, recorded a reading of more than 38° Celsius (100° Fahrenheit) — the highest temperature ever documented north of the Arctic Circle.

According to satellite monitoring data from Russia’s ISDM-Rosleskhoz forest fires monitoring system, the burning began in February, but picked up speed in March.

Since the start of 2020, it’s estimated that fires have burnt through 20 million hectares (49 million acres) of the Russian landscape, which is an area bigger than Greece, and about 10.9 million hectares (27 million acres) of forest, according to Greenpeace International. For context, the global extent of tree loss in 2019 was 11.9 million hectares. That means fires this year have affected an area of forest in Russia nearly equivalent to the planet’s tree loss last year even though it’s only mid-July.…—”Photos show scale of massive fires tearing through Siberian forests,” Elizabeth Claire Alberts, Mongabay, 7/23/20

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TV news’ near silence on record-shattering temperatures in the Arctic is part of a disturbing trend in climate coverage

On June 20, a small Siberian town hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the highest-ever recorded temperature in the Arctic Circle, following a several month-long pattern of temperatures in the region being 50 degrees hotter than normal. But only one show across major broadcast and cable news TV networks mentioned this record-breaking incident.

Climate change is without a doubt amplifying the rise in Arctic temperatures, which is warming nearly twice as fast as the global average. Temperature anomalies for the Arctic in May 2020 would’ve been a one-in-100,000-year event if not for climate change. Rising temperatures in the Arctic are also accelerating ice melt and fueling unprecedented wildfires in the region, both of which are thawing permafrost and in turn releasing massive amounts of carbon into the atmosphere. All these events tie into MIT climatologist Judah Cohen’s statement: “What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic.” Climate change’s effects in the region extend across the globe.

According to climate scientist Jonathan Overpeck, “alarm bells should be ringing” because of what’s going on in the region:

Unfortunately, broadcast and cable news have not been treating these developments as an alarm — in fact, they’ve barely covered it at all.…

Broadcast and cable TV news has been nearly silent about the unfolding climate catastrophe in the Arctic

TVArcticReportingSince the record-breaking temperature was recorded on June 20, only one show across major broadcast and cable news TV networks — NBC’s Today on June 22 — mentioned the Arctic temperatures. NBC News meteorologist Bill Karins mentioned the temperature in a short segment, which treated the Arctic heat as an isolated event and did not provide additional context as to what it means for the Arctic, and the planet, as a whole. Karins stated, “This is a weather event. This isn’t a climate event. But climate change makes weather extremes like this more likely, and it makes them worse.”…—”TV news’ near silence on record-shattering temperatures in the Arctic is part of a disturbing trend in climate coverage,” Ted MacDonald, Media Matters for America, 6/25/20

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Some Real Shady Behavior

The nation’s largest gas utility is trying to prevent regulators from learning more about its anti-climate political tactics.

I want to direct you to Sammy Roth’s latest story in the Los Angeles Times. It’s an important look at how Southern California Gas Company, the nation’s largest gas utility, is trying to prevent regulators from learning more about its tactics to prevent meaningful climate policy across California.

You learned about some of these tactics earlier this month, when HEATED reported on SoCalGas’s failed efforts to kill zero-emission building standards in the small city of San Luis Obispo.

It was a truly wild story. To prevent a relatively small climate policy, SoCalGas first sent in a front group to advocate against it. Then, a company union leader threatened a “no social distancing” protest if lawmakers voted on it. Finally, amid nationwide protests over George Floyd’s murder, a well-known energy industry consultant tried to spread a manufactured story that the policy was racially discriminatory. Advocates suspect, but have not confirmed, that he was working for SoCalGas.

Roth’s story takes a larger look at SoCalGas’s efforts to kill climate policy across the state—and what the company is doing to prevent the public from finding out more about them. I encourage you to read it in full, but I’ve also summarized it below, and provided a bit of added context at the end.…—”Some real shady behavior,” Emily Atkin, HEATED, 7/27/20

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The Food Industry Puts Profits Over Public Health
Using Big Tobacco’s Playbook

Public health advocates were winning. City after city was innovating ways to reduce smoking and protect public health between the 1960s and 1970s. As former industry lobbyist Victor Crawford observed, you’d “put out a fire one place, another one would pop up somewhere else.”

But in the mid-1980s, this momentum stopped. Big Tobacco had discovered a way to reverse local gains. And according to a 2020 study in the American Journal of Public Health, the industry’s counteroffensive has led to more disturbing and enduring ramifications for public health — and our democracy — than previously understood.

The strategy is called state or “ceiling” preemption: Promoting weaker state public health laws to override stronger local laws. Between 1986 and 1991, the tobacco industry rammed through seven state preemption laws. In the following five years, the industry gained steam, foisting 17 additional preemption policies on states. Laws restricting youth access to tobacco products would be reversed or never see the light of day. Laws establishing smoke-free environments were overridden. Tobacco tax increases were stalled. Restrictions on tobacco retail licensing were loosened.

Perhaps the study’s most concerning finding is that it takes an average of 11 years to repeal these laws — if they’re repealed at all. As of 2019, no preemption laws on youth access or tobacco marketing, and fewer than half of state preemption laws on smoke-free places, have been repealed. The tobacco industry has a long-documented history of targeting people in low-income communities and communities of color with the very tactics — like children-targeted marketing — preemption laws sought to protect. Consider the costs to public health and progress — especially in Black communities and other communities of color — when scarce resources are bound-up in undoing bad policies versus securing new public health protections. The smoking-attributable mortality rate is 18 percent higher among Black Americans than for white, with disproportionate childhood exposure to second-hand smoke and target marketing of products such as menthol among the heightened risk factors for the Black community.…—”The Food Industry Puts Profits Over Public Health Using Big Tobacco’s Playbook,” Gigi Kellett, Truthout, 7/25/20

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Zurich Insurance drops cover
for Trans Mountain oil pipeline

(Reuters) – Insurer Zurich has decided not to renew cover for the Canadian government’s Trans Mountain oil pipeline, said a spokeswoman for the project, which is opposed by environmental campaigners and some indigenous groups.

All financial services companies are under pressure from environmental campaigners to cease doing business with the fossil fuel industry.

A planned expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline, which ships oil to British Columbia from Canada’s main oil-producing province of Alberta, has also drawn ire from some First Nations leaders anxious about the impact on their communities.…

Other insurers that have provided cover for the Trans Mountain project this year include Liberty Mutual and Munich Re unit Temple.

Munich Re said it would review the contract given its new underwriting guideline on oil sands, which have a higher carbon footprint than conventional oil, but no renewal decision had been made.…—”Zurich Insurance drops cover for Trans Mountain oil pipeline,” Reuters, 7/22/20

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The future of food: inside the world’s largest
urban farm – built on a rooftop

In Paris, urban farmers are trying a soil-free approach to agriculture that uses less space and fewer resources. Could it help cities face the threats to our food supplies?

On top of a striking new exhibition hall in the southern 15th arrondissement of Paris, the world’s largest urban rooftop farm has started to bear fruit. Strawberries, to be precise: small, intensely flavoured and resplendently red.

They sprout abundantly from cream-coloured plastic columns. Pluck one out to peer inside and you see the columns are completely hollow, the roots of dozens of strawberry plants dangling into thin air.

From identical vertical columns nearby burst row upon row of lettuces; near those are aromatic basil, sage and peppermint. Opposite, in narrow, horizontal trays packed not with soil but coco coir (coconut fibre), grow heirloom and cherry tomatoes, shiny aubergines and brightly coloured chards.

“It is,” says Pascal Hardy, surveying his domain, “a clean, productive and sustainable model of agriculture that can in time make a real contribution to the resilience – social, economic and also environmental – of the kind of big cities where most of humanity now lives. And look: it really works.”

Hardy, an engineer and sustainable development consultant, began experimenting with vertical farming and aeroponic growing towers – as those soil-free plastic columns are known – on his Paris apartment block roof five years ago.…—”The future of food: inside the world’s largest urban farm – built on a rooftop,” Jon Henley, The Guardian, 7/6/20

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We Don’t Really Have Time

WeReallyDontHaveTime As the title says, we really don’t have time for procrastination and delay any more. Every day that passes without humanity changing on a grand scale pushes us further into overshoot. The epidemic and the ensuing lockdowns have slowed the climate and ecological overshoot, but it will take a willful, concerted effort for fundamental change to the human economy to give our children a fighting chance for a life-sustaining climate.

Well worth a watch and a share. While your at it, please subscribe and click the bell for notifications.

Stuart has been suffering from cancer but continues his climate activism, albeit scaled back some. If you want to help crowdfund his cancer therapies (none of the good stuff is covered by insurance… only the toxic chemotherapy that ‘Big Pharma’ pushes) you may do so with a one time contribution at https://bit.ly/healingstuart or even the smallest recurring contribution at https://patreon.com/FacingFuture.—”We Really Don’t Have Time…” Catarina Rolfsdotter-Jansson, Stuart Scott, FacingFuture|YouTube, 7/10/20

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Arizona House Passes Industry-Backed
Pre-Emption Bill to Keep Natural Gas Flowing

If passed, the legislation would stymie local efforts to encourage cleaner energy and mitigate climate change.

An industry-backed bill that would curb the ability of Arizona’s cities and towns to mitigate climate change at the local level sailed through the Arizona House of Representatives on Wednesday afternoon.

If it becomes law, HB 2686 would prevent Arizona cities or towns from imposing greater fees or restricting permits for buildings that use certain utilities, like gas. None actually do that now, but the bill would stymie future efforts by local municipalities to mandate cleaner energy and air.

Further reading: 5 More Things Arizona Cities Can’t Do Thanks to State Pre-emption Laws

Cities and towns “may not deny a permit application based on the utility provider proposed,” the bill reads. Municipalities are also prohibited from charging higher permit fees for some utilities than others, it says, and they are barred from passing codes or ordinances that could “have the effect of restricting a person’s or entity’s ability to use the services of a utility provider.”…—”AZ House Passes Industry-Backed Bill to Protect Natural Gas,” Elizabeth Whitman, Phoenix New Times, 2/12/20

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Would-be Dreamers sue as
Trump freezes out
86,000 Texans eligible for DACA

WASHINGTON — The number of Dreamers in Texas could nearly double if the Trump administration begins accepting applications for the federal program that offers them legal protections and work authorizations.

The Supreme Court last month blocked President Donald Trump’s 2017 order to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects from deportation people brought as children to the U.S. by their families without legal authorization. Many of the so-called Dreamers have known no other home than the U.S.

CoronaChronicleNow, after nearly four years of waiting for the final ruling, dozens of Houston-area immigrants are suing to force the White House to take their applications.

By at least one estimate, some 86,000 Texans are eligible for the program, in addition to the 106,000 Dreamers in Texas who have already enrolled. The backlog has grown over the past four years, as more of the children have graduated from high school but were not allowed to apply.…—”Would-be Dreamers sue as Trump freezes out 86,000 Texans eligible for DACA,” Houston Chronicle, 7/27/20

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They spent millions to protect polluters.
Then they got busted by the FBI.

The strange Ohio case offers juicy details on how corporations block environmental campaigns.

A year ago, the Ohio legislature rammed through a law to save four unprofitable nuclear and coal-fired power plants from retirement, while it rolled back energy efficiency and renewable targets and passed on the $1.3 billion cost to customers. Opponents of the HB6 law, which included an unlikely alliance of environmentalists and the natural gas industry, began to organize a referendum to repeal it, saying it amounted to a corporate bailout for the utility player FirstEnergy.

What ensued was an aggressive and bizarre counter-campaign launched by a set of mysterious actors that didn’t disclose their donors, all singularly focused on preventing the referendum from gathering enough signatures before its deadline. One single-issue group began running ads with false claims that the Chinese government had orchestrated the referendum. Another group, Generation Now, hired the Democratic firm Fieldworks to deploy “petition blockers” who stood near signature gatherers and tried to discourage people from signing the referendum. At one point there was a physical confrontation between a referendum staffer and a petition blocker, and police responded.

When corporations do their work right, they can prevent an initiative from ever reaching a vote—without the public even realizing it could have been a choice

By October, it was clear the referendum failed to gather enough signatures, and the debate over the corporate bailout seemed settled—until Tuesday, when federal agents arrested the main architect of the law, Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, for a racketeering conspiracy. The FBI charged that Householder, his aide, a former Ohio GOP chairman, two lobbyists, and Generation Now of a “conspiracy to participate, directly or indirectly, in the conduct of an enterprise’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity.” The 82-page complaint outlines an enterprise that steered $61 million into campaign contributions to ensure Republicans gained control of the House, bribes, and shadowy groups all to pass and protect the controversial bailout.…—”They Spent Millions to Protect Polluters. Then They Got Busted by the FBI.” Rebecca Leber, Mother Jones, 7/24/20

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Politicians and Business Interests
Pushed Health Officials Aside to Control Reopening.
Then Cases Exploded.

Interviews and internal emails show that Utah prioritized the health of businesses over keeping coronavirus case counts down. As case counts rise, the state will now allow indoor gatherings of up to 3,000 people.

Back in April, when public health officials were still helping lead Utah’s response to the coronavirus, the spread of the disease had slowed, stabilizing at fewer than 200 reported cases a day.

Then came a shift in power, and priorities.

With key health experts cut out of the decision-making process, including the state epidemiologist and local officials who were stripped of their ability to issue their own restrictions, the governor and the commission quickly swept aside restrictions meant to slow the virus’s advance in Utah.

State legislators who felt Gov. Gary Herbert was not moving quickly enough to lift restrictions on businesses created a commission to set guidelines to reopen. “It’s not meant to give economic outcomes a higher weight, but it is time to give them some weight,” said Sen. Daniel Hemmert, a Republican who sponsored the bill and took his seat on the commission alongside other politicians, bureaucrats and business leaders.

ProPublica-DonateEmail correspondence and interviews with more than a dozen state and local officials in Utah show that the health of the state’s businesses was prioritized over the health of the public, as officials stopped slowing the spread of the virus and instead calculated how many sick people its health system could bear.…—”Politicians and Business Interests Pushed Health Officials Aside to Control Reopening. Then Cases Exploded.” Lisa Song, Mollie Simon, Pro Publica, 7/21/20

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Climate notes on the Democratic platform

The Democratic Party’s formal governing body, the Democratic National Committee, released a draft of its 2020 policy platform on Wednesday. The document is intended to represent Democrats’ official policy priorities for the next four years.

Clocking in at a whopping 80 pages, the draft document shows that “progressives are continuing to make step-by-step progress in pushing Biden and the party left,” Politico reported yesterday. However, Politico added, the document also “shows the limited sway of the left, with the paper largely reflecting Biden’s centrist vision for the country.”

This interpretation rings true in the draft platform’s climate section. On the one hand, it’s more extensive than it’s ever been. “Whereas DNC’s 2012 platform included just a half a page on climate policy and the 2016 platform grew a bit to three pages, the 2020 draft devotes four pages to climate policy proposals, including some notable bright spots,” Earther’s Dharna Noor reports. Those “bright spots” include an incorporation of Joe Biden’s new climate policy, which pledges to fully decarbonize the power sector by 2035 and direct 40 percent of the economic benefits from clean energy investments toward disadvantaged communities.

At the same time, some climate language contained in the Democrats’ 2020 draft platform actually appears less aggressive than the climate language contained in the 2016 platform—at least as it pertains to the most important subject in climate policy: fossil fuels. Unlike the 2016 platform, the 2020 draft does not pledge to stop massive government subsidies and tax breaks to fossil fuel companies. Nor does it pledge to start charging them for their pollution via a carbon tax or price on carbon.…—”Climate notes on the Democratic platform,” Emily Atkin, HEATED, 7/23

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B.C. rarely inspects hazardous waste handlers despite companies frequently breaking rules

B.C. rarely inspects hazardous waste handlers even though the province knows companies routinely break the rules, an investigation by The Narwhal reveals.

The Narwhal has also learned that even when provincial environmental compliance and enforcement staff do check companies, it’s virtually impossible for them to effectively investigate because the government stopped producing a digital database of shipments at the end of 2014 and now stuffs paper documents into cardboard boxes without a filing system.

Provincial investigators — as well as journalists and members of the public — can no longer easily access information on where companies are picking up and moving hazardous waste such as batteries laden with corrosive acids, dangerous flammable liquids, spent and carcinogenic dry cleaning fluids, biomedical waste from hospitals, lung-destroying asbestos fibres and industrial sludges contaminated with heavy metals and pesticides.

And if anyone outside of the government wants access to that information, they’ll have to pay an exorbitant amount. When The Narwhal requested a complete paper record of the most recent year of hazardous waste shipments, it was told it would have to pay $125,910 to obtain the documents.

Andrew Gage, a lawyer with West Coast Environmental Law, said the change to a paper-only system is “hugely problematic” from a law enforcement perspective given the “high levels of non-compliance” by companies in an industry that has associations with organized crime.…—”B.C. rarely inspects hazardous waste handlers despite companies frequently breaking rules,” Ben Parfitt, The Narwhal, 7/20/20

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Canada is failing to track the true climate cost
of clearcut logging in boreal

Greenhouse gas emissions created by logging in Canada’s boreal forest aren’t being properly regulated or accounted for, threatening the country’s ability to meet its 2050 climate targets, according to a new report released on Thursday.

The report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Nature Canada and Environmental Defence challenges the “creative accounting” that has allowed industry and government to claim that forestry in Canada is carbon neutral.

“Industry has perpetuated a narrative of perfect regrowth: for every tree cut down another one is regrown,” Jennifer Skene, the report’s author and an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an interview.

“When you cut down a forest in the boreal, it’s not returning. And this has a very devastating impact not just for species but also for the climate.”

While industry has long maintained that harvested forests will eventually regain their ability to sequester carbon dioxide if new trees are planted, Skene pointed to evidence to the contrary.

She cited a recent study in northern Ontario that found 14 per cent of clear-cut areas simply will not regrow, even decades later. Logging roads and other infrastructure used during harvesting compact the soil and render it useless for replanting.…—”Canada is failing to track the true climate cost of clearcut logging in boreal: report,” Matt Simmons, The Narwhal, 7/16/20

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Freiburg: Germany’s futuristic city set in a forest

This picture-perfect medieval city is celebrating its 900th anniversary, but its innovative design makes it one of the world’s most sustainable and liveable cities.

“900 years young” reads the bold slogan emblazoned on the side of the tram as it rattles through Freiburg im Breisgau’s historical Old Town. Celebrating its 900th anniversary since originating as a merchant settlement in 1120, the medieval German city nestled at the foot of the Black Forest near the border triangle of Switzerland, France and Germany is arguably quite old.

It does, however, have youth on its side. Around 10% of the city’s 220,000 residents attend the prestigious Albert Ludwig University, making the population one of Germany’s youngest. Mayor Martin Horn was just shy of 34 when he was inaugurated at Town Hall in 2018. And the colourful half-timbered houses and car-free cobblestone streets lining its Old Town are, in fact, relatively young, as they were faithfully reconstructed after World War Two bombings. These ingredients have all helped create a Freiburg that is one of Germany’s, if not the world’s, most liveable, progressive, sustainable and child-friendly cities. So, while the city reflects on its 900-year history, I’m here to find out what makes it a city of the future.

For most, the city’s sustainable turning point can be traced back to February 1975. Thousands of protestors camped out for nine months on a patch of land 30km north of Freiburg deep in the Black Forest. “The protest was peaceful at the time, deeply rooted in solidarity,” said Axel Mayer, who took part in the event and is now the managing director of BUND (Federation for Environment and Nature Protection Germany). Though spearheaded by locals, the eclectic group of protesters grew to include left-wing activists, Alsatian winegrowers, skiers, German farmers, architects, doctors, educators, journalists, orchestral musicians and police officers, all united in their mission to stop construction of the proposed Wyhl nuclear power plant.

As the trucks rolled out nine months later, with construction permanently halted, this exemplar of citizen-led activism led Freiburg to become a breeding ground for alternative thinking and birthed a green movement. In the decades since, Freiburg has quickly developed as an environmental economics and solar research hub with a packed green CV…—”Freiburg: Germany’s futuristic city set in a forest,” Kat Barber, BBC, 7/16/20

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A New Wave of Pan-Africanism
Seeks to Combat Global Anti-Black Racism

The pandemic has restricted global air travel, but Pan-Africanism is not defeated — it constitutes a growing force.

The COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately hurting African Americans and racist killings of Black people continue. A massive uprising is occurring throughout the U.S. in response to the Minnesota police killing of George Floyd and systemic police violence against Black people; this uprising has inspired similar protests against anti-Black racism around the world. A new wave of Pan-Africanism is emerging and is actively challenging these ills.

Earlier this year, before the pandemic hit the U.S., celebrities like actor Samuel L. Jackson, rapper Ludacris and rapper/singer Cardi B had been taking steps to return to their African roots. Cardi B traveled to Nigeria and both Ludacris and Samuel L. Jackson gained citizenship in Gabon. Jackson traced his ancestral roots to the Benga people of Gabon, while Ludacris’s wife, Eudoxie Mbouguiengue, is Gabonese. Cardi B filed for Nigerian citizenship, partially citing the Trump administration’s policies as her reason to do so. NFL player Malcolm Jenkins, who, like Colin Kaepernick, protested the national anthem to bring attention to racial injustice, “is buying land to build a vacation home in Ghana. After having visited three times, Jenkins continues to explore history,” according to NBC News.

Meanwhile, African governments and the African Union are increasingly engaging with the African diaspora in concrete ways, sometimes by offering citizenship and indefinite stays. These efforts are part of a new chapter in empowering Black people globally and making Pan-Africanism, the unity of all peoples of Black African descent around the world, a reality. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted global air travel, the Pan-African spirit is not defeated — it constitutes a growing force against global anti-Black racism.…—”A New Wave of Pan-Africanism Seeks to Combat Global Anti-Black Racism,” Adam Hudson, Truthout, 7/19/20

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Yet Another Thing Not to Try!

Three Kids Tried To Get Spiderman Powers – By Letting A Black Widow Bite Them

Three boys in Bolivia learned the hard way that with great power comes fevers, tremors, and muscle pains as they tried to inherit the powers of Spider-Man by letting a black widow spider bite them. The boys aged 8, 10, and 12 fortunately didn’t succumb to the unfortunate incident and were released from hospital a week later, sadly sans superpowers.

According to a report from Ministry of Health officials, the three boys from Chayanta, Bolivia, were herding goats when eight-legged inspiration struck as they discovered a spider whose black and red markings reminded them of the superhero. Spurred on by the allure of spidey senses, the ability to climb walls, and shoot webs, they decided to try and make the spider bite them so they could be like the famed hero. Unaware of the creature’s potent venom, they decided to poke the spider with a stick in an attempt to goad it into biting them. The angry black widow took the bait and bit all three boys who were later found crying by their mother.

She rushed the boys to a nearby health center where, as no medications seemed to be improving their condition, it was decided they should be transferred to hospital. By the time they reached the Children’s Hospital in La Paz they were experiencing fevers, tremors, and muscle pains. After a week of treatment, the boys were eventually discharged from the hospital and sent home to recover from their less than Marvel-ous adventure.…—”A Black Widow Delivered Some Harsh Truths To A Trio Of Aspiring Spider Men,” Rachael Funnell, IFLScience, 5/29/20

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And That’s A Wrap! Thanks to everyone who sent in news, action announcements and comments this week. Send kudos, rotten tomatoes and your story ideas, your group’s action events, and news of interest to intrepid climate change and environmental justice warriors! Send to editor@thebanner.news.