Central issues of our time
• Do we (can we) have a clean, safe, adequate water supply?
• Issues that keep us awake at night
(or that others have handled better)
• Lesser issues, such as whether to keep daylight saving time
• Housing issues
• The immigration debate--er, debacle?
• Far right extremism
• Sexual misconduct, unwanted sexual and gender-biased behavior
• The student debt problem
• What's wrong with American prisons
• Russia's bad behavior
• Chicks in academia: Girls and women in science
• The flap about Larry Summers
Gender and sexuality
Gun violence, violent deaths, mass shootings
Chronic, rare, and invisible diseases and disorders (and disabilities)
The costs of neglecting the mentally ill
Drugs, Big Pharma, conflicts of interest, and why U.S. patients pay too much for medication
End of life decision-making in the critical care unit
The politics and policy issues of health care insurance and health care reform
The medical use of marijuana
Pros and cons of a single-payer system
Republicans vs Democrats: Some differences on hot topics
Repeal, Reform, or Replace
Single payer and other models of health care financing
Suicide prevention and awareness
Taking the mystery out of health care prices (the need for price transparency)
Understanding the issues health care reform should address
Vaccines and vaccinations
Why U.S. medical costs are so high and where the system needs fixing
Lesser issues, such as whether to keep daylight saving time
• Let’s lock the clock on standard time (Karin Johnson and Lynne Lamberg, The Hill, 3-10-23) "Decades of scientific studies show it’s actually permanent standard time that would foster better physical and mental health, according to Jay Pea, founder and president of Save Standard Time, a nonpartisan national nonprofit.
“Mounting evidence shows the dangers of seasonal time changes, which have been linked to increased medical errors, motor vehicle accidents, increased hospital admissions and other problems,” notes psychologist Jennifer Martin, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. More than 90 other community groups concur.
• AASM Position on Daylight Saving Time (Sleep Education, American Academy of Sleep Medicine) The annual change from standard time to daylight saving time is associated with increased risk of heart attacks and stroke. There are increased hospital admissions due to atrial fibrillation. There is also an increase in emergency room visits and missed medical appointments. Traffic accidents increase in the first few days after the change from standard time to daylight saving time. The spring and fall time changes have also been associated with mood disturbances and suicide.
---On Daylight Saving, There Are More Options Than You Might Think (Eduardo Medina, NY Times, 4-3-22) There are only so many hours of light in the day. When should we enjoy them?
---Why Do We Change the Clocks, Anyway? (Alan Yuhas, NY Times, 3-15-22) The twice-yearly ritual has roots in cost-cutting strategies of the late 19th century. A bill advancing through Congress would make daylight saving time permanent. The Senate passed legislation – with almost no warning or debate – that, if approved by the House and President Biden, would make daylight saving time permanent. Here are some answers to common questions on the subject.
---A Groggy Senate Approves Making Daylight Saving Time Permanent ( Luke Broadwater and Amelia Nierenberg, NY Times, 3-15-22) Legislation that passed unanimously would end the practice of setting clocks back one hour in the fall. Its prospects were uncertain in the House.
---Fall Back? Spring Ahead? How About Neither, Experts Say. (Amelia Nierenberg, NY Times, 3-11-22) Scientists and politicians have been pushing for a single time system for a while. But not everyone agrees on which one. Here’s where the debate over changing the clocks stands, and what it could mean for you.
---Daylight Saving Time: Why Does It Exist? (It’s Not for Farming) (Daniel Victor, NY Times, 3-12-16) Gas stations and the leisure industry tend to profit from the switch to daylight saving time. Farmers could do without.
• What’s Behind America’s Shocking Baby-Formula Shortage? (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic, 5-12-22) Three factors are driving the U.S. baby-formula shortage: bacteria, a virus, and (most important) a trade policy. "FDA regulation of formula is so stringent that most of the stuff that comes out of Europe is illegal to buy here due to technicalities like labeling requirements. Nevertheless, one study found that many European formulas meet the FDA nutritional guidelines—and, in some ways, might even be better than American formula, because the European Union bans certain sugars, such as corn syrup, and requires formulas to have a higher share of lactose."
• Copyright, work for hire, and other rights issues for writers (Writers and Editors website)
• The conservative case against Pope Francis — and why it matters (Tara Isabella Burton, Vox, 4-5-18) Ross Douthat’s new book To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism asks some important questions about Catholicism, and modernity as a whole. It’s a clear, concise, and fair summary of the conservative case against Francis. Francis has gone through what might be called "formal channels" in terms of advocating for allowing divorced-and-remarried Catholics to receive communion: He has attempted to influence formal church synods, like the 2014-'15 synods on the family, with a moderate degree of success.
Generally speaking, Catholic doctrine is understood to be unchangeable but subject to development or interpretation. There is greater room for change when it comes to ecclesiastical practice — say, the doctrine of priestly celibacy, which only dates to the 12th century — than when it comes to theology proper (say, whether marriage is indissoluble). But the point Douthat and his cohorts are making — that "progress" shouldn't be lauded for its own sake, and that our own "modern, liberal" cultural values should be investigated as thoroughly as the "outdated" Catholic ones — is still a valid, even vital one.
To be continued....when I have time. Suggestions welcome.
Housing and homelessness issuesA shortage of affordable housing, skyrocketing prices, speculation,
• Why Thousands of People Are Left Out of New York City’s Daily Homeless Census (Eric Lach, New Yorker, 7-31-22) In New York City, each month from January through May 2022, "more than sixty thousand people stayed for at least one night in city shelters, a number about twenty per cent higher than that reported by the Department of Homeless Services.“These are people who need permanent housing regardless of what agency is serving them.”
"One truth that Brand and his colleagues have come to accept is that the shelter count will always be a kind of shorthand. Even City Limits’s tracker does not account for the thousands of people who sleep on streets, under bridges, in cars, and in the booths of all-night restaurants in New York City every night. The city conducts surveys of the street homeless population, but housing advocates believe that the current numbers—some thirty-four hundred people—are a significant undercount."
• First-time homebuyers are getting squeezed out by investors (Chris Arnold and Anthony Tellez, NPR, 2-18-22) Record-high home prices and low inventory were already making things hard for first-time homebuyers, but new numbers show that investors are driving even more people away from homeownership.
• The Housing Shortage Is Significant. It's Acute For Small, Entry-Level Homes (Uri Berliner, NPR, 2-18-22) The no-frills entry-level home is just about vanishing in America.
• Investors bought a record share of homes in 2021. See where. (Kevin Schaul and Jonathan O'Connell, WaPo, 2-16-22) An analysis of 40 major metro areas revealed unequal levels of investor activity, with southern cities and Black neighborhoods disproportionately affected.
• ‘You Have to Learn to Listen’: How a Doctor Cares for Boston’s Homeless (Tracy Kidder, NY Times Magazine 1-5-23) Lessons from Dr. Jim O’Connell’s long crusade to treat the city’s “rough sleepers.” His patients, and prospective patients, were sleeping on benches, arguing drunkenly with statues in parks. Most if not all of the clinic’s patients had experienced severe trauma, and the typical doctor’s approach often terrified them. Nurses created this clinic, and one of them told O'Connell, “You have to let us retrain you If you come in with your doctor questions, you won’t learn anything. You have to learn to listen to these patients.” First she would show him how to soak feet. For O’Connell, what counted most were the practical lessons, the way this simple therapy reversed the usual order, placing the doctor at the foot of the people he was trying to serve...
• The Next Affordable City Is Already Too Expensive (Conor Dougherty, NY Times, 2-20-22) In Spokane, Wash., home prices jumped 60 percent in the past two years. The increase is fueled by buyers fleeing the boom in cities like Austin. Who will have to flee next?Whether it’s Boise or Reno or Portland or Austin, the American housing market is caught in a vicious cycle of broken expectations that operates like a food chain: The sharks flee New York and Los Angeles and gobble up the housing in Austin and Portland, whose priced-out home buyers swim to the cheaper feeding grounds of places like Spokane. The cycle brings bitterness and “Don’t Move Here” bumper stickers — and in Spokane it has been supercharged during the pandemic and companies’ shift to remote work.
---The Californians Are Coming. So Is Their Housing Crisis. (Conor Dougherty, NY Times, 2-12-21) Californians, fleeing high home prices, are moving to Idaho in droves. Is it possible to import growth without also importing housing problems? “I can’t point to a city that has done it right.”
---California Housing Problems Are Spilling Across Its Borders (Conor Dougherty, NY Times, 3-20-18) Reno is among several Western cities experiencing congestion and new tensions as California residents and businesses seek more affordable locations.
---Oregon Insight: Newcomers from California drive Portland’s growth, while more Portlanders are Seattle-bound (Jayati Ramakrishnan, Oregon Live, Oregonian, 9-12-21)
---Will Real Estate Ever Be Normal Again? (Francesca Mari, NY Times Magazine, 11-12-21) In Austin, Texas, and cities around the country, prices are skyrocketing, forcing regular people to act like speculators. When will it end? The current boom is compared to a river, one fed by streams that have long been visible on the horizon: high demand, low supply and a dysfunctional economy in which wages are stagnant while restrictive zoning and poor public policy have turned housing into an artificially scarce commodity.
---Construction of Starter Homes Is Driving the Housing Supply Shortage (My Home, Freddie Mac, 10-13-21) The main driver of the housing shortage is the decline in construction of entry-level, single-family homes. Other reasons for the housing shortage often cited include:
Residents opposing development in their local area
Land use regulations
Zoning restrictions in in-demand areas
Higher cost of land
Tightening of underwriting for loans financing the development of commercial real estate
Lack of available construction labor
Increased cost of raw building materials
• In San Francisco, Hundreds of Homes for the Homeless Sit Vacant (Nuala Bishari, San Francisco Public Press and ProPublica, 2-24-22) In spite of a growing Department of Homelessness with an annual budget of $598 million, eligible people still wait months or even years after being approved for assisted housing. Meanwhile, hundreds of units remain unused.
• The Costs of Aging The excellent National Aging in Place Council Handbook) With practical information about housing, health and wellness, home modification, costs of moving, health technology, personal finance, unanticipated costs of caregiving, supplemental health insurance, tyhpes of home health care Medicare will pay for, long-term care insurance,annuities, cost of using a financial advisor, college costs, car costs, average costs of entertainment, transportation, and social engagement. See chart on relative costs of housing in all 50 states.
• To Create More Affordable Housing, Make Zoning Hyperlocal (John Myers and Michael Hendrix, Bloomberg City Lab, 2-19-21) What if residents on a single block could make their own decision to allow denser housing? If ever there were a moment for pro-housing, “Yes In My Backyard” reforms that allow for the development of denser housing, it should be now.
• What Happens When Investment Firms Acquire Trailer Parks (Sheelah Kolhatkar, New Yorker, 3-8-21) The financial industry’s pursuit of profits from mobile-home communities is undermining affordable housing.
• Manufactured Insecurity: Mobile Home Parks and Americans’ Tenuous Right to Place by Esther Sullivan. A powerful addition to the "bourgeoning literature on the relational nature of poverty and sociology of eviction." ― American Journal of Sociology
• 'It’s a miracle': Helsinki's radical solution to homelessness (Jon Henley, The Guardian, 6-3-19) Finland is the only EU country where homelessness is falling. Its secret? Giving people homes as soon as they need them – unconditionally. But if Housing First is working in Helsinki, where half the country’s homeless people live, it is also because it is part of a much broader housing policy. See also Lessons from Finland: helping homeless people starts with giving them homes (Juha Kaakinen, The Guardian, 9-14-16) Sounds simple but Finland’s housing first model shows it’s always more cost-effective to try to end homelessness rather than manage it. "To say that the scarcity of funding in any western European country is the reason for lack of affordable social housing is either an understatement or a conscious misunderstanding. It is simply a question of political will."
• Kids in Maryland’s Poorest County Are Among the State’s Most Prepared for Kindergarten. Here’s Why. (Martin Austermuhl, WAMU radio, 5-8-19) "Located on the southern end of the peninsula that separates the Chesapeake Bay from the Atlantic Ocean, Maryland’s sparsely populated Somerset County is the state’s poorest. Household income in 2014 was $36,106 according to the U.S. Census, less than half that of the counties at the other end of the spectrum... But on Maryland’s 2018 kindergarten readiness assessment, Somerset County surpassed most of the state. It came in third among counties at 60 percent, 13 points ahead of the state average... Somerset school officials say the reason for the performance is simple: The county offers universal, full-day pre-K to all 4-year-olds."
The student debt problem (aka The Student Loan Program)
• Student debt has more than doubled over the last two decades. As of September 2022, about forty-eight million U.S. borrowers collectively owed more than $1.6 trillion in federal student loans. Additional private loans bring that total to above $1.7 trillion, surpassing auto loans and credit card debt.
• Why Aren’t Student Loans Simple? Because This Is America. (Ron Lieber,Student Loan Debt Relief, NY Times, 9-3-22) Instead of making higher education free, we subsidize it later through repayment plans and attempts at debt cancellation. The complexity is disrespectful. If we want higher education to cost less, we should make it cheaper when people enroll.
• The Subprime Loans for College Hiding in Plain Sight (Ron Lieber, Student Loan Debt Relief, NY Times, 9-17-22) Many families can borrow most of the cost of college using a Parent PLUS loan. This will not end well.
“The honest truth is that Congress created a subprime lending program unintentionally,” said Rachel Fishman of New America, the left-leaning think tank. Most parents don’t pay for college using this loan. But about 3.6 million of them — with about $107 billion in outstanding debt — have. Within that group are a number of low-income Black families at schools that may not have given their kids enough help in the way of scholarships. Many of those families are struggling to repay the money that the federal government so freely offered up.
An Urban Institute report from 2019 summed up the sorry state of affairs in this way: Parent PLUS loans are “a no-strings attached revenue source for colleges and universities, with the risk shared only by parents and the government.” "Unlike student loans ... Parent PLUS loans are not going to help them earn more. Repayment can last up to 25 years, which can push the bills well into what are supposed to be the retirement years."
• Biden’s Student Loan Plan Squarely Targets the Middle Class (Jim Tankersley, NY Times, 8-25-22) The big winners from Mr. Biden’s student loan plan are not rich graduates of Harvard and Yale, as many critics claim. It's the middle class. Independent analysts suggest this would be his most targeted assistance yet to middle-class workers — while trying to repair what he casts as a broken bridge to the middle class.
• Biden’s Student Debt Relief Program Is Excellent, but Student Loans Suck to Begin With (Timothy Noah, New Republic, 8-24-22) Bernie Sanders got this right: We’ll have to make college free, or close to it. Student loans were an invention of the conservative economist Milton Friedman and that they turned out to be a poor substitute for the direct investment in higher education that Friedman succeeded in averting—in large part because the loans never managed to impose the market efficiencies Friedman predicted. The student loan model is unsustainable and the time to shift toward debt-free access to higher education is now, before the whole thing collapses.
• Beware of Scammers Trying to Capitalize on Student Loan Forgiveness (Ann Carrns, NY Times, 9-2-22) The recent action on student debt is fodder for spam callers, who often try to trick borrowers into paying for loan cancellation.
• What About Tackling the Causes of Student Debt? (Kevin Carey, NY Times, 11-18-2020) Pros and cons of loan forgiveness aside, there’s a more fundamental problem.
• How the Biden Administration Can Free Americans from Student Debt (Astra Taylor, New Yorker, 11-23-2020) The books and authors referred to: Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber and
• Can't Pay, Won't Pay: The Case for Economic Disobedience and Debt Abolition by Collective Debt
• Who owes all that student debt? And who’d benefit if it were forgiven? (Adam Looney, David Wessel, and Kadija Yilla, Policy2020, Brookings,1-28-2020)
• President-elect Joe Biden says student loan forgiveness does figure in his economic plan: "It should be done immediately." (Tweet, Good Morning America, 11-16-2020) Read the comments.
• Dept. of Education Fail: Teachers Lose Grants, Forced to Repay Thousands in Loans (Cory Turner and Chris Arnold, Morning Edition, National Public Radio, 3-28-18) "Without any notice, [my grant] was suddenly a loan, and interest was already accruing on it," says Maggie Webb, who teaches eighth-grade math in Chelsea, Mass. "So, my $4,000 grant was now costing me $5,000."
Since 2008, the Education Department has offered these so-called TEACH grants to people studying to get a college or master's degree. The deal is, they get to keep the grant money if they spend four years teaching a high-need subject like math or science in schools that serve low-income families.
If they don't keep their end of the bargain, the grants convert to loans that need to be paid back. But, the study finds, many teachers believe they kept their end of the bargain but are now being asked to repay that money anyway.
Some early red flags were raised a few years ago by the Government Accountability Office. The GAO investigated the TEACH grant program and noted that teachers were improperly having their grants taken away. At least 2,252 grants were erroneously converted to loans by the servicer. Part of a special NPR series, The Trouble With TEACH Grants (click on that link to get to the full series).
• Were Your TEACH Grants Converted To Loans While You Were Teaching at a Qualifying School? (Chris Arnold, NPR, 12-9-18)
• Teachers, Lawyers and Others Worry About the Fate of Student Debt Forgiveness (Anya Kamenetz, NPR, 4-5-17)
• Teachers With Student Debt: These Are Their Stories (Elissa Nadworny and Julie Depenbrock, Morning Edition, NPR, 7-26-17) Teachers have one of the lowest-paid professional jobs in the U.S. You need a bachelor's degree, which can be costly — an equation that often means a lot of student loans. Factors that make teaching vulnerable to a ton of debt include chronically low teacher pay, the increasing pressure to get a master's degree, and the many ways to repay loans or apply for loan forgiveness.
• Student Loans: To Solve the Problem, Understand the History (Chad Chubb, Kiplinger, 6-10-19) If you plan on making $60,000 out of college, you should not take on more than $60,000 in loans. If you plan to make $60,000, but your education will cost $180,000, don’t do it!
• Been Down So Long It Looks Like Debt to Me (MH Miller, The Baffler, also a Guardian Long Read: The Inescapable Weight of My $100,000 Student Debt, ) M.H. Miller (the arts editor for The New York Times Style Magazine) left university with with more than $100,000 of debt, for which her father was a cosigner. "In a matter of months, my father had lost everything he had worked most of his adult life to achieve—first his career, then his home, then his dignity....The delicate balancing act my family and I perform in order to make a payment each month has become the organizing principle of our lives...The foundational myth of an entire generation of Americans was the false promise that education was priceless—that its value was above or beyond its cost."
• The Student Debt Problem Is Worse Than We Imagined (Ben Miller, NY Times, 8-25-18) New data reveals how colleges are benefiting from billions in financial aid while students are left with debt they cannot repay. The new data makes clear that the federal government overlooks early warning signs by focusing solely on default rates over the first three years of repayment. That's the time period Congress requires the Department of Education to use when calculating default rates. For-profit institutions have particularly awful results."The secret to avoiding accountability? Colleges are aggressively pushing borrowers to use repayment options known as deferments or forbearances that allow borrowers to stop their payments without going into delinquency or defaulting. Nearly 20 percent of borrowers at schools that had high default rates at year five but not at year three used one of these payment-pausing options."
• Student Loan Debt Can Sink Your Retirement Plan (Harriet Edleson, AARP, 9-18-18) If you've defaulted on a federal student loan, beware: The federal government can take up to 15 percent of your Social Security benefit. ... Most of those whose Social Security money was seized were receiving disability benefits, rather than retirement or survivor benefits, the GAO report said.
• An Administrative Path to Student Debt Cancellation (PDF, report by Luke Herrine, Greater Democracy Initiative, Dec. 2019)
• Is Student Loan Forgiveness Worth It? – Pros & Cons (Sarah Graves, Money Crashers) Followed by links to additional stories.
The Immigration Debate--and Crisis
Thousands of children in detention
• 'These people are profitable': Under Trump, private prisons are cashing in on ICE detainees (Monsy Alvarado, Ashley Balcerzak, Stacey Barchenger, Jon Campbell, Rafael Carranza, Maria Clark, Alan Gomez, Daniel Gonzalez, Trevor Hughes, Rick Jervis, Dan Keemahill, Rebecca Plevin, Jeremy Schwartz, Sarah Taddeo, Lauren Villagran, Dennis Wagner, Elizabeth Weise, Alissa Zhu, USA TODAY Network, 12-20-29) Private prison companies have detained immigrants for decades, but that business has exploded under President Trump. At least 24 immigration detention centers and more than 17,000 beds were added in the past three years to the sprawling detention system run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). They're called detention facilities but they're really prisons for immigrants.
• The Out Crowd (This American Life, 11-15-19) Reports from the frontlines of the Trump administration's "Remain in Mexico" asylum policy. We hear from asylum seekers waiting across the border in Mexico, in a makeshift refugee camp, and from the officers who sent them there to wait in the first place. This episode won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for audio reporting, the first ever given for audio journalism.
• For Private Prisons, Detaining Immigrants Is Big Business (Clyde Haberman, NY Times, 10-1-18) "Studies suggest that governments save little money, if any, by turning over prison functions to private outfits. And in 2016, under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department concluded that private prisons were in general more violent than government-operated institutions, and ordered a phaseout of their use at the federal level. Reversing that order was one of the first things that President Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, did on taking office. The Trump administration leaves no doubt that it will detain as many undocumented immigrants as it can and send them to for-profit centers. And to help make sure that happens, the companies spend millions on campaigns and lobbying efforts (not unlike businesses that sell cars, real estate or hamburgers).
• ‘What Part of Illegal Don’t You Understand?’ (Sonia Nazario, NY Times, 2-19-2020) 'Many on both the right and the left have argued that the choice Americans face on immigration and asylum is between zero tolerance and opening the floodgates. But this is a false choice. We can have an immigration policy that is sane and humane....[But] President Trump said he wanted a rigged asylum system, and that’s what he’s given us. In June he tweeted: “When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came.” He proclaimed from the Oval Office: “To be honest with you, you have to get rid of judges.”' Nazario is author of Enrique's Journey: The Story of a Boy's Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother.
• More than 14,000 immigrant children are in U.S. custody, an all-time high (Tal Kopan, SF Chronicle,11-16-18) 'That number tops records set just two months ago, putting further strain on an already overburdened system....The issue of immigrant children in government custody gained widespread attention in the spring and summer when the Trump administration separated thousands of families at the southern border. Almost all those separated children have since left Health and Human Services care, but the total number of children in the system has steadily grown....“Right now, unaccompanied children are being held in detention facilities or living in tent cities due in part to potential sponsors’ fear of retribution from ICE for coming forward,” Harris said in a statement. “This is an unacceptable obstacle to getting these children into a safe home, and we must fix it.” Trump is using background checks to identify undocumented families taking the children in.
• “Women to One Side, Men to the Other”: How the Border Patrol’s New Powers and Old Carelessness Separated a Family (Dara Lind, Zero Tolerance, ProPublica, 1-31-2020) Under Trump, Border Patrol agents wield nearly unchecked power over the fate of migrants — and their seemingly random decisions can cleave families apart. Border Patrol has long been criticized for carelessness in migrant processing. But under the Trump administration, agents have vastly expanded powers to decide migrants’ fates.
• A Group of Agents Rose Through the Ranks to Lead the Border Patrol. They’re Leaving It in Crisis. (Melissa del Bosque, Inside the Border Patrol, ProPublica, 2-10-2020) How several agents from a small outpost in Arizona, including recently retired chief Carla Provost, climbed to the top of the Border Patrol, then one by one retired, leaving corruption, misconduct and a toxic culture in their wake. Scroll down for many more pieces in this series.
• An Expert on Concentration Camps Says That's Exactly What the U.S. Is Running at the Border (Jack Holmes, Esquire, 6-13-19) Andrea Pitzer, a historian of concentration camps, is quoted as saying that the United States has created a “concentration camp system,” arguing that “mass detention of civilians without a trial” is what makes the camps concentration camps. "Things can be concentration camps without being Dachau or Auschwitz." During World War II we had Japanese-American internment camps, a shameful part of U.S. history. "Over time, the camps will turn those people into what Trump was already saying they are."
• The Supreme Court May Criminalize Immigrant Advocacy (Lorelei Laird, Slate, 11-18-19) One case (United States v. Sineneng-Smith) could let the government prosecute people for routine legal work or even sympathetic tweets. Iconcerns a little-used provision of immigration law that forbids “encourag[ing] or induc[ing] an alien to … reside in the United States” when the encourager knows that person has no legal status.
• Every aspect of America’s asylum system now seems broken (Tom K. Wong, Opinion, LA Times, 9-3-19) The Trump administration has attempted to close the door on asylum seekers who are looking for refuge in the United States. But even as it blocks entry — and sends tens of thousands of asylum seekers to Mexico to wait out their immigration proceedings — thousands of families with children are also being held in federal immigration detention facilities....From substandard conditions in immigration detention to verbal and physical abuse to serious due process concerns, the data show that the Trump administration is not abiding by its obligations under U.S. and international asylum and refugee law to treat humanely those who are seeking protection from persecution. With the administration now determined to hold asylum-seeking families for potentially as long as it takes for their immigration proceedings to play out (which could be years), conditions may get worse. Cruelty, after all, may very well be the point."
• Border Patrol Officials Dodged Congress’ Questions About Migrant Children’s Deaths (Robert Moore, ProPublica, 1-14-2020) The chair of a House Homeland Security subcommittee reprimanded Border Patrol officials for concealing information about migrant children’s deaths. Officials did not respond to the chairwoman's criticism. See also Six Children Died in Border Patrol Care. Democrats in Congress Want to Know Why. (Robert Moore, ProPublica, 1-13-2020) Video obtained by ProPublica contradicted the Border Patrol’s account of 16-year-old Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez’s death. Now, House Democrats are pressuring the agency to explain why six migrant children died under its care in less than a year. (Scroll down for more in this series.)
• Let My People Stay Jo Freeman, July 2019) On July 12 people gathered in over 700 cities to protest the treatment of people seeking asylum at our southern border. Here are Jo Freeman's photographs of the rally in Foley Square in Manhattan.
• ICE Raids Toolkit (Immigrant Defense Project) The first comprehensive guide and organizing resource to fight back against the Trump administration’s efforts to criminalize communities and deport millions of people.
• Asylum & Immigration Detainee Kits show love and care (MCC, Mennonite Central Committee) These kits show love and care to people released from detention centers. Kits containing clothing and hygiene products can help adults and children rebuild their dignity as they transition into life outside the detention center.
• Timeline of immigration legislation from the colonial period to the present (InfoPlease)
• The Unimaginable Reality of American Concentration Camps (Masha Gessen, New Yorker, 6-21-19) Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling the U.S.’s detention facilities for migrants “concentration camps” is not so far-fetched, but it's hard to admit.
• How Palermo Became a Host to African Refugees (Ashley Powers, Airbnb Magazine, 9-17-19) In a country whose borders are closing more tightly to migrants, Sicily’s capital has become a center of resistance. “If you ask me how many migrants are in Palermo, I reply, No one.”~Mayor Leoluca. The Mafia no longer dominates. Orlando
• I Know What Incarceration Does to Families. It Happened to Mine. (Michiko Kakutani, Opinion, NY Times, 7-13-18) The author compares Trump's border policy to "the 120,000 people of Japanese descent on the West Coast who were dispatched to internment camps during World War II....History is repeating itself. This time without even the pretext of war, and with added heartbreaking cruelty. Under Mr. Trump's "zero tolerance" border enforcement policy, nearly 3,000 children were separated from their parents, and while the administration later halted these separations, it neglected to keep proper records and is now struggling to find and reunite families." And yet: "there is no border crisis: In the last fiscal year, arrests of unauthorized immigrants had actually declined to levels not seen since the early 1970s....We have reached the point where more than a third of the country either buys into Mr. Trump's falsehoods or casually shrugs them off, putting loyalty to him or the Republican Party over facts, common sense and the Constitution."
• The Trump Administration’s Plan to Deport Victims of Human Trafficking (David Remnick, New Yorker Radio Hour, 6-21-19) Victims of human trafficking are facing greater hurdles under the Trump Administration. A reporter interviews one such victim and learns how the Trump Administration, says it has made combatting human trafficking a priority, is undermining a critical visa program that protects victims of human trafficking.
• Where 518 Inmates Sleep in Space for 170, and Gangs Hold It Together (Aurora Almendral, NY Times, 1-7-19) Misery and overcrowding are worse than ever in the Philippines’ pretrial jails, with guards so outnumbered that gangs increasingly keep the peace....“When you are detained in Philippine jails, you are being tortured,” said Leah Armamento, a member of the Philippine government’s Commission on Human Rights....The Philippine judicial system is riddled with inefficiencies, and there is a culture of bribery and structural incentives for judges and lawyers to move slowly, despite a constitutional right to a speedy trial..."
• Detained migrant children got no toothbrush, no soap, no sleep. It’s no problem, government argues. (Meagan Flynn, WaPo, 6-21-19) The government went to federal court this week to argue that it shouldn’t be required to give detained migrant children toothbrushes, soap, towels, showers or even half a night’s sleep inside Border Patrol detention facilities. The position bewildered a panel of three judges in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on Tuesday, who questioned whether government lawyers sincerely believed they could describe the temporary detention facilities as “safe and sanitary” if children weren’t provided adequate toiletries and sleeping conditions....Migrants are being held behind chain-link fences in pens, sleeping on the concrete floor with aluminum-foil blankets and nothing else to keep them warm. “To me it’s more like it’s within everybody’s common understanding: If you don’t have a toothbrush, if you don’t have soap, if you don’t have a blanket, it’s not safe and sanitary,” Senior U.S. Circuit Judge A. Wallace Tashima told Justice Department lawyer Sarah Fabian.
• Trump Administration Is Illegally Forcing Asylum Seekers Out of the United States (Michael Tan and Julie Veroff, ACLU, 2-14-19) The Trump administration claims there’s an immigration crisis at the border. But border apprehensions are near record lows.Last September, Bianca* was forced to flee Honduras because her partner’s father threatened to kill her for being a lesbian. Bianca could not go to the police in Honduras because they do not protect LGBTQ people from harm. So she left home to save her life. Before last month, after entering the country, Bianca would have been interviewed by an asylum officer to determine if she had a potential asylum claim, and once she passed that, her case would have proceeded in immigration court. She would only be deported from the United States if she did not succeed in her asylum application — that is, if she could not show that her fear of persecution was well-founded. However, because of a new Trump administration policy, border officers sent Bianca back to Mexico without even evaluating her request for asylum. The administration’s purported basis for the policy is a provision of the immigration laws that allows certain migrants to wait in Mexico or Canada while their immigration case is heard in immigration court. But that law was never meant to apply to asylum seekers like Bianca. See also A Look at Trump’s Biggest Border Lies (Brian Tashman, Political Researcher and Strategist, ACLU, 1-8-19) Lie 1: Border crossings are at or near an all-time high.Lie 2: Terrorists are entering the country through the southern border, creating a national security crisis. Lie 3: The wall would stop gang members. Lie 4: The wall would stop drugs from pouring in through the border. Lie 5: We need a new wall.
• Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration Economist Bryan Caplan makes a bold case for unrestricted immigration in this fact-filled graphic nonfiction, illustrated by Zach Weinersmith.
• What separation from parents does to children: ‘The effect is catastrophic’ (William Wan, Washington Post, 6-18-18) Research on child-parent separation is driving pediatricians, psychologists and other health experts to vehemently oppose the Trump administration’s border crossing policy, which has separated immigrant children from their parents.“To pretend that separated children do not grow up with the shrapnel of this traumatic experience embedded in their minds is to disregard everything we know about child development, the brain, and trauma,” the petition reads.
•Inside The Trump Administration’s Chaotic Effort To Reunite Migrant Families( Nour Malas and Alicia A. Caldwell, Wall Street Journal, 7-27-18) Officials spent months planning how to separate families coming across the border, but had no good plan when the White House suddenly reversed course. For months, federal immigration officials along the 268-mile stretch of border that separates New Mexico and West Texas from Mexico had been testing a policy of separating migrant parents from their children. What they didn’t plan for was how to reunite them. When a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to reconnect more than 2,600 children separated from their families after a national outcry, the two government agencies in charge—the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services—didn’t have a firm grip on the number of children involved or exactly where they were. (You can read hundreds of comments.) KHN heading: There Was No Precedent Or Playbook To Follow: A Look at the Chaos Behind the Family Reunification Process.
• Over 10,000 migrant children are now in US government custody at 100 shelters in 14 states (Michelle Mark, Business Insider, 5-30-18) The surge comes in the wake of the Trump administration's new tactic to criminally prosecute every person who crosses into the US illegally, which requires them to be separated from any children they brought with them while they're detained.'
Here's the 20-step vetting process refugees must follow to enter the US (Jacqui Frank, Business Insider, 1-31-17)
• Reporting on immigration? Choose your sources responsibly (Chloe Reichel, Journalist's Resource, 9-20-18) "If you’re looking to balance the viewpoints in your immigration stories, seek quotes from both conservative and liberal organizations – but avoid citing organizations that have been classified as hate groups by the SPLC, Ramos said. For example, he recommended the Cato Institute, the LIBRE Initiative and the Heritage Foundation as organizations with conservative viewpoints that don’t promulgate hate." Three organizations that have been criticized heavily by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC): the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) (both as "hate groups") and NumbersUSA (all three support "self-deportation," making "the lives of immigrants so awful that they leave the country”).
• Judge allows case over alleged forced labor in immigration detention to move forward (Kate Morrissey, San Diego Union Tribune, 5-17-18) "Two former immigration detainees will be allowed to bring a class action lawsuit against CoreCivic, the private prison company that owns and operates Otay Mesa Detention Center, for alleged labor violations, a federal judge ruled Monday. The complaint alleges that CoreCivic violated federal forced labor laws by making detainees clean and maintain the facilities for no pay and threatening them with punishments like solitary confinement if they didn’t comply. Otay Mesa Detention Center holds detainees in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency responsible for those with pending cases in immigration court, which is a civil court system, not a criminal one."
• Zero Tolerance: Trump’s Immigration Policy at the Border (ProPublica series)
The Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy called for the prosecution of all people who attempt to enter the country illegally, and has resulted in the separation of more than 2,300 migrant children from their parents since April. ProPublica is covering the ongoing developments.
---The Immigrant Children’s Shelters Near You (Decca Muldowney, Alex Mierjeski, Claire Perlman, Lilia Chang, Ken Schwencke, Adriana Gallardo and Derek Kravitz, ProPublica, 6-28-18)
---For a 6-Year-Old Snared in the Immigration Maze, a Memorized Phone Number Proves a Lifeline (Ginger Thompson, ProPublica, 6-21-18) As the U.S. attempts to reunite migrant families, children will bear the burden of helping to identify who and where their parents are. The 6-year-old girl heard asking to call her aunt on an audio recording from a detention facility this week has an advantage.
---I've Been Reporting on MS-13 for a Year. Here Are the 5 Things Trump Gets Most Wrong. (Hannah Dreier, ProPublica, 6-25-18) The gang is not invading the country. They’re not posing as fake families. They’re not growing. To stop them, the government needs to understand them.
---Listen to Children Who’ve Just Been Separated From Their Parents at the Border (Ginger Thompson, ProPublica, 6-18-18) Audio from inside a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility, in which children can be heard wailing as an agent jokes, “We have an orchestra here.”
---Here’s What It’s Like to Work at a Shelter for Immigrant Kids (Kavitha Surana and Robert Faturechi, ProPublica, 6-27-18) Some facilities are so overstretched, employees often wait hours for a break to go to the bathroom.
---About the Immigrant Children Shelter Map (Decca Muldowney and Adriana Gallardo, ProPublica, 6-27-18) Here’s how and why ProPublica mapped the immigrant children shelters, and how you can help them investigate.
---Do You Know Something About a Detention Center or Shelter Where the Government is Holding Children? (Adriana Gallardo, ProPublica, 6-27-18) Help ProPublica learn more about these facilities and assure the government agencies overseeing this process are accountable.
---Behind the Criminal Immigration Law: Eugenics and White Supremacy (Ian MacDougall, ProPublica, 6-19-18) The history of the statute that can make it a felony to illegally enter the country involves some dark corners of U.S. history.
---Video: The Voices Missing From the Immigration Debate (Vox and ProPublica, 6-19-18) A Vox-ProPublica collaboration delves into the Trump administration’s separation of parents and children at the border.
• Study finds refugees actually pay the US government thousands more than they get from it (Veronika Bondarenko, Business Insider, 6-13-17) "Despite widespread accusations of being a burden on the hardworking public's tax dollar, most refugees actually end up paying thousands more in taxes than they receive in government handouts from the US. A new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that refugees who entered the US as adults from 2010-14 paid, on average, $21,000 more in taxes than they got in any kind of welfare payments."
• This was the only refugee camp in America for Jews fleeing the Nazis (Nina Renata Aron, Timeline News, 6-22-18) Roosevelt’s effort to help came at the end of the war, but still spared nearly a thousand lives.
• Fact check: Did the Obama administration separate families? (Lori Robertson, Factcheck.org, 6-23-18) In defending its “zero tolerance” border policy that has caused the separation of families, the Trump administration has argued that the Obama and Bush administrations did this too. That’s misleading. Experts say there were some separations under previous administrations, but no blanket policy to prosecute parents and, therefore, separate them from their children. “Bush and Obama did not have policies that resulted in the mass separation of parents and children like we’re seeing under the current administration,” Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst with the Migration Policy Institute, told us....DHS told us that 2,342 children were separated from their parents between May 5 and June 9.
• How the Democrats Lost Their Way on Immigration (Peter Beinart, The Atlantic) In the past decade, liberals have avoided inconvenient truths about the issue.
• Separated migrant children face infectious disease and other health threats Bara Vaida, Covering Health, AHCJ, 6-21-18) 'Dr. Marc Siegel wrote in USA Today that “thousands of children now being housed in makeshift detention centers have been reported to suffer from large outbreaks of scabies, a highly contagious, itchy rash spread by tiny insects known as mites.” There also have been reports of outbreaks of lice, measles, flu, drug-resistant tuberculosis, dengue fever and Zika, Siegel added.'
• Reporters Were Let Inside a Detention Facility for Migrant Kids. Here’s What It Was Like. (Nomaan Merchant, AP, Boston Globe, 6-18-18) Check the photo on Twitter of children in cages.
• Staff describe Georgia immigrant detention center as ‘ticking bomb’ (Elly Yu,Reveal News, 6-5-18) One of the country's largest immigration detention centers had no psychiatrist on staff, "chronic shortages" of almost all medical positions and was described by its own staff as a "ticking bomb" because noncriminal detainees were mixed with high-security offenders. See Federal Records Reveal obtained from The Center for Investigative Reporting and Atlanta NPR station WABE show the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General found widespread problems at Stewart Detention Center in southwest Georgia, including drug smuggling and staffing shortages that employees said endangered detention officers and detainees.
• Immigrant Kids to Get Monitor After Forced-Medication Claims (Patricia Hurtado, Bloomberg, 7-27-18) A judge ordered independent oversight of U.S. immigration authorities' handling of detained children amid allegations that some were being forcibly medicated at a Texas facility. The Justice Department's Office of Immigration Litigation said in a May 25 court filing that the procedures for placing unaccompanied alien children in secured facilities are governed by a 2008 federal law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, rather than by a 1997 settlement that set standards for the treatment of immigrant children detained by the government.
• Separating families at the border isn’t just bad policy — it’s horrible for children’s health (Oscar J. Benavidez, STAT, 6-19-18) "What is even more disturbing to me is that these family separations are occurring in full public view, as if they are done with honor or pride instead of with shame."
• Government lowers number of migrant parents it says waived reunification with children (Amy Goldstein, WashPost, 8-3-18) The number of migrant parents who have signed away the right to be reunited with their children is significantly lower than the Trump administration has said before, according to fresh information the government filed in a family-separation court case. The latest figures show that 34 parents waived the chance to be back together with their children — compared with the 120 that the government reported a week earlier. Migrants' advocates and congressional Democrats have challenged the idea that large numbers of parents were signing away those rights, contending that some — traumatized by the separations — were misled, did not understand the form or never signed in the first place.
• Texas Health Officials: Immigrant Surge Presents a Medical Crisis (Alexa Ura, Texas Tribune, 6-24-14) As the state's top elected officials debate how to halt a surge of immigrants across the border, health officials and volunteer doctors are voicing concerns over what they say is the more serious challenge: a looming medical crisis. "Since October, authorities in the Border Patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector have detained an unprecedented 160,000 undocumented immigrants, including more than 33,500 unaccompanied minors."
• Asylum-Seekers Say Immigration Officials Are Ransoming Their Kids in Exchange for Deportation (David Boddiger, Splinter, 6-24-18) The U.S. government is continuing to use defenseless children as bargaining chips in its all-out assault on undocumented migrants mostly from Central America who are seeking safety and a better life in this country. A new Texas Tribune report says that immigration authorities at a detention facility outside Houston are telling the Central American men held there and separated from their children that they can get their kids back if they immediately sign a voluntary deportation order. Their statements appear to violate Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that, “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”
• Zeroing In On Immigration, Asylum Laws and the Border (On Point,, WBUR, National Public Radio 6-19-18)
• Obtaining Asylum in the United States (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services)
• What's the difference between legal immigration, asylum, refugees and DACA? (Obed Manuel and Brianna Stone, Curious Texas, Dallas News, 6-23-18)
• The U.S. Immigration Debate ( Backgrounder by Claire Felter and Danielle Renwick, Council on Foreign Relations, 3-13-18) Comprehensive immigration reform has eluded Congress for years, moving controversial policy decisions into the executive and judicial branches of government. What is the immigration population? How do Americans feel about immigration? What legislation has Congress considered? What actions have presidents considered? How are state and local authorities handling these issues? What are the prospects for immigration reform?
• The Trump administration’s separation of families at the border, explained ( Dara Lind, Vox, 6-11-18) Why children are being sent to “foster care or whatever” while their parents are sent to jail.
• Christian Non-Profit Faces Scrutiny Over Government Foster Care Contract for Separated Children (Dan MacGuill, Snopes.com, 7-11-18) Bethany Christian Services, which has links to the family of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has fostered out at least 81 children taken from their parents at the U.S. border, as part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy.
‘Why Did You Leave Me?’ The Migrant Children Left Behind as Parents Are Deported (Miriam Jordan, NY Times, 7-27-18) Adayanci Perez Chavez, who was separated from her father when they crossed the border from Guatemala more than two months ago, has watched as one playmate after another has checked out of the migrant children’s center in Michigan where they have spent their days studying, playing and meeting with their case managers. One by one over the past few weeks, 90 percent of the children at the center, managed by Bethany Christian Services in Kalamazoo, have been put on planes and reunited with parents who had been held at immigration detention centers across the country.
• Immigrant Kids to Get Monitor After Forced-Medication Claims (Patricia Hurtado, Politics, Bloomberg, 7-27-18) A judge ordered independent oversight of U.S. immigration authorities’ handling of detained children amid allegations that some were being forcibly medicated at a Texas facility. U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee said at a hearing in Los Angeles Friday that “persistent” problems require oversight and she’ll appoint someone in the next two weeks.
• How America's Idea Of Illegal Immigration Doesn't Always Match Reality (Hansi Lo Wang, Alyson Hurt, and Camila Domonoske, The Two-Way, NPR, 3-8-17) Border crossers, farm laborers, new arrivals from Mexico: There's no shortage of stereotypes about people living in the U.S. illegally. But the statistics tell a different story. Getting the numbers right.
• My Immigrant Patients (Joanna Sharpless, Pulse, 7-27-18)
• Toddler died after contracting infection at ICE family detention facility (Emma Platoff, Texas Tribune, 8-27-18) The toddler from Guatemala died six weeks after leaving an ICE family detention center in Dilley. She had not yet turned two years old. Vice reports: "Two doctors contracted by the Department of Homeland Security released a review of care in facilities including Dilley over the last four years. The doctors found a host of problems and called the practice of family detention “an exploitation and an assault on the dignity and health of children and families....“It didn't sound like she was in the best of health, but not something you anticipate dying from"
• This Italian Town Once Welcomed Migrants. Now, It’s a Symbol for Right-Wing Politics (Jason Horowitz, NY Times, 7-7-18) Macerata once had a reputation for tolerance. But the killing of a woman and a revenge shooting made the Italian town a symbol of rising right-wing politics.
• Seeing Immigrants: "She said to me, 'This is your day. You pass.' And I started to cry." (Encounters, Pulse, 7-27-18)
• A New Memoir Addresses America's Cruelest Immigration Policies From Inside the Border Patrol (Varun Nayar, Pacific Standard, 3-8-18) Francisco Cantú's memoir of his time as a Border Patrol agent asks some important questions about violence, complicity, and the blurred lines between people and the institutions they serve.
• An Educator’s Guide to the Immigration Debate (Maureen Costello, Teaching Tolerance, Summer 2014) What you need to know to facilitate classroom conversation about this controversial topic. Conversation starters: DREAMers. Republicans and Democrats agree it is time to provide Dreamers a path to legal residency—the question is how? What should DREAMers have to do to secure legal status? Amnesty or Deportation About 11 million unauthorized immigrants live and work in the United States today. Some say they should be deported, while others support a path to legal residency. What would deportation of 11 million people involve? What would be required to receive amnesty?
Path to Citizenship For 250 years, the United States has recharged its spirit and economy by extending citizenship to immigrants. The question now is, once the undocumented gain legal status, will we extend the same opportunity to them? If not, how do we reconcile that decision with our ideal of equality?
Visa Eligibility The current system’s quotas and preferences mean there is no way some people can ever enter the country. Guest-worker visas mean some will labor here with no representation, few legal protections and no chance to earn citizenship. How do we make rules that are fair, generous and in keeping with our values?
Enforcement From border security to deportation and fines, we must decide how to enforce the law with employers and employees who are undocumented. What’s realistic, and what reflects our goals and values?
• Three Key Immigration Issues Remain (Lanhee Chen, Real Clear Politics, 6-13-13) Three clear issues will determine if an immigration bill can get through Congress: Pathway to Citizenship, Healthcare: Who pays for it? Border Security: What to do with illegal border crossers, what exit system to have, how could illegal immigrants qualify for legal permanent residency?
• When Americans Feared an Invasion From Their Northern Border (David Vermette, What It Means to Be American, a conversation sponsored by Smithsonian and Arizona State University, 8-7-19) In the Late 19th century, the French Canadians Who Came to Work in Cotton Mills Were Treated as ‘Pawns in a Catholic Plot’
• 17 Famous Immigrants Who Helped Shape America (Nicki Fleischner and Erica Sanchez, Global Citizen, 5-23-17)
• The Wall: A 2,000-mile journey in the shadow of the border wall (Dennis Wagner, USA Today, 9-20-17) A USA TODAY NETWORK special report examines the impact of Trump's proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, exploring every foot of the 2000-mile boundary.
• Another Cause Of Doctor Burnout: Being Forced To Give Immigrants Unequal Care (Jake Harper, WFYI, KHN, 5-31-18) There are an estimated 6,500 undocumented immigrants in the U.S. with end-stage kidney disease. Many of them can’t afford private insurance and are barred from Medicare or Medicaid. Treatment of these patients varies widely from state to state, and in many places the only way they can get dialysis is in the emergency room. Avoidable emergencies strain hospital resources. Kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease, is treatable with routine dialysis every two to three days. Without regular dialysis, which removes toxins from the blood, the condition is life-threatening. Providing undocumented patients with suboptimal care because of their immigration status contributes to professional burnout and moral distress.
• Hack Brief: Hackers Stole a Border Agency Database of Traveler Photos (Brian Barrett, Wired, 6-10-19) "In its rush to gather biometric data from travelers in the US, Customs and Border Protection has apparently neglected basic safeguards to protect it. One of its subcontractors was recently breached, leaving photos of travelers and license plates in the hands of hackers.... It may be too late for the victims of this data breach, but it’s past time to help limit the damage before the next hack comes along."
• Writing About Immigration: From the AP Stylebook (Andy Hollandbeck, Copyediting, 6-6-18) DREAM Act vs. DACA. The DREAM Act (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) is a legislative bill that has yet to pass through either the House or Senate. DACA — Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals — does have the force of law, but it never went through Congress. It’s an administrative program (but not an executive order) enacted during the Obama administration. Choose your words carefully: Immigrants, Migrants, Asylum-Seekers, and Refugees. And so on.
Jeff Sessions says the Bible justifies separating immigrant families. The verses he cited are infamous. (Kyle Swenson, Wash Post, 6-15-18) When Southern preachers blasted Northern abolitionists for defying the Fugitive Slave Act in the decade leading to the Civil War, they cited the same lines.
Traveling While Muslim: The Case of the Exploding Chocolate by Qasim Rashid (Politico Magazine, 8-11-18) I got harassed at the airport by Customs and Border Patrol. Good thing I'm a lawyer—in the Trump era, others aren't so lucky.
• My Immigration Story The story of U.S. immigrants in their own words.
• ‘Stop Repeating History’: Plan to Keep Migrant Children at Former Internment Camp Draws Outrage (Ben Fenwick, NY Times, 6-22-19) For Satsuki Ina, who was born in a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II, the news that the United States would detain undocumented migrant children at this Army base in Oklahoma felt like an unwelcome wallop from the past. The base, Fort Sill, Okla., once held 700 Japanese-Americans who lived in tents in desertlike heat, surrounded by barbed wire and guards. They were among the more than 100,000 residents of Japanese ancestry who were rounded up by the government during the war and placed in detention camps around the country.
• 6 Immigrant Stories That Will Make You Believe In The American Dream Again (Monte Burke, Forbes, 10-25-16)
• America's Story: An Immigrant Story (Geri Mannion, Carnegie Corporation) Nearly one of every four Americans—70 million people—is an immigrant or the child of parents who came from another country. Some fled war, persecution, or environmental disaster; others pursued the American ideal of opportunity for all. "Will the United States become a nation that integrates these newcomers in all aspects of civic life, or a nation divided?" Changing perceptions. Combatting a backlash. Settling in. Overcoming barriers. "If we had a legal visa category that let people go back and forth, many wouldn't feel the need to put down roots and instead would work for a time and go back." Deportation costs. Reform benefits. Texas dreamers. Encouraging citizenship.
• The Hidden History of ALEC and Prison Labor (Mike Elk and Bob Sloan, The Nation, 8-1-11) Years after ALEC's Truth In Sentencing bills became the law of the land, its Prison Industries Act has quietly expanded prison labor across the country. "Although a wide variety of goods have long been produced by state and federal prisoners for the US government—license plates are the classic example, with more recent contracts including everything from guided missile parts to the solar panels powering government buildings—prison labor for the private sector was legally barred for years, to avoid unfair competition with private companies. But this has changed thanks to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), its Prison Industries Act, and a little-known federal program known as PIE (the Prison Industries Enhancement Certification Program). While much has been written about prison labor in the past several years, these forces, which have driven its expansion, remain largely unknown."
• • "You have to live in fear": One undocumented immigrant's story (Bigad Shaban, CBS News, 11-22-14)
• NPR stories about illegal immigration. The story of how that population grew so large is a long one that's mostly about Mexico, and full of unintended consequences -- plus many other stories.
• Listen to Children Who’ve Just Been Separated From Their Parents at the Border (Ginger Thompson, ProPublica, 6-18-18) Plus several other ProPublica stories on the topic, including Inside the Secret Border Patrol Facebook Group Where Agents Joke About Migrant Deaths and Post Sexist Memes (A.C. Thompson, ProPublica, 7-1-19). ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up for its Big Story newsletter,
Issues that keep us awake at night
Or that others have handled better
"The heresy of one age becomes the orthodoxy of the next" ~ Helen Keller
• The Lie That Made Me (Aviva Coopersmith, Toronto Life, 2-22-22) A long read. The first-person account of a woman investigating her own biological origins after her mother's charlatan fertility doctor was exposed. This kind of "doctor donor fraud", in which the practitioner takes advantage of the patient's desperation to conceive, is far more common than we might expect. Laws now tend to give donor children more rights to their own identity. (H/T The Browser, Recovering Lie)
• 9/11 was a test. The books of the last two decades show how America failed. (Carlos Lozada, Washington Post, 9-3-21) "Rather than exemplify the nation’s highest values, the official response to 9/11 unleashed some of its worst qualities: deception, brutality, arrogance, ignorance, delusion, overreach and carelessness. This conclusion is laid bare in the sprawling literature to emerge from 9/11 over the past two decades — the works of investigation, memoir and narrative by journalists and former officials that have charted the path to that day, revealed the heroism and confusion of the early response, chronicled the battles in and about Afghanistan and Iraq, and uncovered the excesses of the war on terror."
"Yet the legacy of the 9/11 era is found not just in Afghanistan or Iraq, but also in an America that drew out and heightened some of its ugliest impulses — a nation that is deeply divided (like those “separated states” bin Laden imagined); that bypasses inconvenient facts and embraces conspiracy theories; that demonizes outsiders; and that, after failing to spread freedom and democracy around the world, seems less inclined to uphold them here. More Americans today are concerned about domestic extremism than foreign terrorism, and on Jan. 6, 2021, our own citizens assaulted the Capitol building that al-Qaeda hoped to strike on Sept. 11, 2001."
• Food safety. Whistleblower report on baby formula didn’t reach top FDA food safety official(Kimberly Kindy and Laura Reiley, Washington Post, 5-25-22) A report alleging safety failures at a plant took four months to reach Frank Yiannas, the top food safety official. “The ignoring of the whistleblower complaint is just stunning to me and underscores the problems with how FDA is structured,” said Marler, the food poisoning attorney. “Everyone got that whistleblower report but Frank Yiannas — that makes no sense.”
• The Nuclear Worrier (Thomas Powers, NY Review of Books, 1-18-18). This review of Daniel Ellsberg's book The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner crystallizes Ellsberg's point: that most of us do not know how close to disaster the existence of nuclear bombs brings us, partly because we don't even know what or who can trigger a launch. (And how close the Cuban Missile Crisis brought us to the brink...)
• America's deepest and most dangerous divide isn't between Democrats and Republicans (Richard Eckersley, Salon, 1-16-22) When societies come under increasing pressure and strain, as America has, they tend to fracture along traditional fault lines such as class, religion, ethnicity or race. Those in power promote and exploit these fractures. Profound disquiet is easily manipulated, and expressed as more obvious or tangible grievances. America is particularly susceptible to a political focus on racial divisions and antagonism.
• The Costs of Aging The excellent National Aging in Place Council Handbook) With practical information about housing, health and wellness, home modification, costs of moving, health technology, personal finance, unanticipated costs of caregiving, supplemental health insurance, tyhpes of home health care Medicare will pay for, long-term care insurance,annuities, cost of using a financial advisor, college costs, car costs, average costs of entertainment, transportation, and social engagement. See chart on relative costs of housing in all 50 states.
• Kids in Maryland’s Poorest County Are Among the State’s Most Prepared for Kindergarten. Here’s Why. (Martin Austermuhl, WAMU radio, 5-8-19) "Located on the southern end of the peninsula that separates the Chesapeake Bay from the Atlantic Ocean, Maryland’s sparsely populated Somerset County is the state’s poorest. Household income in 2014 was $36,106 according to the U.S. Census, less than half that of the counties at the other end of the spectrum... But on Maryland’s 2018 kindergarten readiness assessment, Somerset County surpassed most of the state. It came in third among counties at 60 percent, 13 points ahead of the state average... Somerset school officials say the reason for the performance is simple: The county offers universal, full-day pre-K to all 4-year-olds."
• Why Poverty Is Like a Disease (Christian H. Cooper, Nautilus, 4-20-17) Emerging science is putting the lie to American meritocracy. If this science holds up, it means that poverty is more than just a socioeconomic condition. It is a collection of related symptoms that are preventable, treatable—and even inheritable. In other words, the effects of poverty begin to look very much like the symptoms of a disease.
• As First Federal Execution in 16 Years Nears, Will the Government Follow the Law? ( John Wonderlich, Sunlight Foundation, Bloomberg Law, 11-26-19) "The federal government recently signaled its intention to resume executions following a 16-year hiatus by simultaneously announcing its new lethal injection procedure and scheduling five execution dates, with the first to take place in early December.Unfortunately, the federal government unveiled its new execution procedures without going through the required rulemaking process that allows for public scrutiny and accountability. It is essential that the government’s new procedure follow the rulemaking process of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) before any execution may proceed....Lethal injection is a complex undertaking, and getting it right requires due diligence. Over the last decade, we have seen too many botched executions across the country. Execution drugs have failed to work as intended, leaving condemned prisoners alive and struggling for as long as two hours. Executioners have failed to set functioning IVs, injecting drugs into the prisoner’s flesh and potentially inflicting grievous pain. Some attempted executions, including one in Alabama in 2018, have been so mishandled and gone so wrong that the execution team had to abandon the effort altogether."
• The Summer of Chaos and God (Dahlia Lithwick, Slate, 9-5-19) 'A preference for chaos on the far right is connected to God in ways Democrats can barely talk about, much less comprehend, whether it’s the fundamental disconnect around evangelical support for unfettered gun rights or the right’s rejection of environmental protection or immigrants’ rights. But the more morally discordant Trump’s policies and politics are, the more he is seen as fighting for religious rights. This is not a claim that all or even most religious belief is nihilist—it is just a recognition that there is a deeply nihilist strain in some religious quarters, one that dovetails perfectly with the impulse to “blow it all up.”'
• Starving Seniors: How America Fails To Feed Its Aging (Laura Ungar and Trudy Lieberman, Kaiser Health News, 9-3-19) Millions of seniors across the country quietly go hungry as the safety net designed to catch them frays. Nearly 8% of Americans 60 and older were “food insecure” in 2017, according to a recent study released by the anti-hunger group Feeding America. That’s 5.5 million seniors who don’t have consistent access to enough food for a healthy life, a number that has more than doubled since 2001 and is only expected to grow as America grays.
• The Great Land Robbery. "This land was our land." (Vann R. Newkirk II, The Atlantic, 8-12-19) The shameful story of how 1 million black families have been ripped from their farms, robbed of their livelihood. Through a variety of means—sometimes legal, often coercive, in many cases legal and coercive—farmland owned by black people came into the hands of white people, who eventually sold to agribusiness, who eventually sold to Wall Street....His deeply reported piece traces how much of the rich and productive Mississippi Delta soil came to be owned by one of the largest pension firms in the United States, the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association (TIAA), and examines how black people living and working in the region have been completely uprooted. “For a people who were once considered chattel themselves, real property has carried an almost mystical importance. There’s a reason the fabled promise that spread among freedmen after the Civil War was not a check, a job, or a refundable tax credit, but 40 acres of farmland to call home,”
• Mass Dolphin Deaths in Peru Caused by Acoustic Trauma (Candace Calloway Whiting, Seattle Pi, 3-15-19) Elizabeth Batt describes the devastating loss of the dolphins and porpoises, and the swift action by filmmaker and author Hardy Jones to document the event. Now the necropsy results are in, and there is unequivocal evidence that the dolphins were killed by an acoustic trauma, such as loud sonar or explosive blasts."
• How Offshore Banking Destroyed Everything (Aaron Gilbreath, LongReads, 9-14-18) This is the story of how a handful of megarich ended up hoarding most of the world's wealth.
• The Future of Roe v. Wade: 3 Scenarios, Explained (4-minute video, by Adam Liptak, narrator, Robin Stein, Aaron Byrd, Natalie Reneau, Anjali Singhvi and Jonah M. Kessel, 9-6-18) Clear and interesting analysis for three broad approaches to getting rid of the Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal. (1a) Nuclear options would flip Roe on its head, saying Constitution prohibits abortion in interest of protecting fetal life (abortion=murder). 1b) Do away with right to privacy, which is basis for Roe v. Wade, and would flip the issue back to states. allow states to regulate abortion. (Right to privacy is the foundation for many other rights.) If right to privacy doesn't include the right to abortion; states could limit or do away with right to abortion. (2) Overrule Roe v. Wade. Right to privacy no longer includes right to abortion. States free to limit or forbid abortion. 3) Chip away at abortion rights(most likely scenario). The Supreme Court has already upheld some limits on abortion. More severe restrictons are a perfectly imaginable scenario. States can reinterpret "undue burdens" and poor women in red states would no doubt have a hard time getting abortions.
• The Growing Toll of the Global Gag Rule (Melody Schreiber, New Republic, 7-3-19) A new study published in Lancet shows abortions actually go up when the U.S. pulls funding from NGOs offering abortion referrals, "confirming what reproductive health experts have long suspected.... Surveying 26 countries in sub-Saharan Africa between 1995 and 2014 (a time period during which the gag rule was reinstated by Republican administrations and rescinded by Democratic ones), the countries relying heavily on U.S. aid saw much higher rates of abortion—40 percent more—when the gag rule was in place. It has the exact opposite effect of what conservative policymakers say they intend.That's only one way underserved populations suffer. (So far, First Amendment protections have kept conservative administrations from applying the gag rule to U.S.–based organizations, meaning American NGOs like Pathfinder International can continue to offer HIV prevention services with governmental funds while offering abortion services using other funds. But this discrepancy may soon end if the Trump administration’s domestic gag rule proposal continues to survive court challenges.)"
•How My Stillbirth Became a Crime (Leah Varjacques, Taige Jensen and Brian Dawson, NY Times video, Opinion, 12-29-18)
• A Slaughter in Silence (Nick Turse, Vice and the Investigative Fund, 8-1-18) How a brutal ethnic cleansing campaign in Democratic Republic of Congo was made worse by Trump's “America First” policies and the world's neglect.
• Who's responsible for high drug prices and who (and who not) benefits from price gouging
---Fighting drug price gouging and making drugs more affordable
---Doctors' incentives to prescribe expensive drugs
---Buying drugs and procedures smartly, cheaply, safely
• The N.R.A.'s Financial Mess ( Ave Carrillo and Steven Valentino, The New Yorker Radio Hour, 4-19-19) Central to the story of the N.R.A’s financial problems is an Oklahoma-based media agency called Ackerman McQueen. Ostensibly just a contractor, Ackerman influenced N.R.A. decision-making from inside, and the for-profit company seems to have used the nonprofit company as a vast source of funds to enrich itself. See also At the N.R.A., a Cash Machine Sputtering (Danny Hakim, NY Times, 5-14-19) At issue for investigators, tax experts say, would be whether money lavishly spent on top figures in the organization was being used for charitable purposes, as required by law, and not to help finance the N.R.A.’s political activities. [Back to Top]
Do we (can we) have a clean, safe, adequate water supply
• Troubled Water: An Investigation of Drinking Water in America News 21 investigates drinking water in America. Watch the documentary. And read online:
Chapter 1. Is Your Water Safe?. (Agnel Philip, Elizabeth Sims, Jordan Houston and Rachel Konieczny, News21, 8-14-17) Millions consumed potentially unsafe water in the last 10 years
Chapter 2. Industrial Polluters. (Jasmine Spearing-Bowen and Karl Schneider, News21, 8-14-17)
Chapter 3. Farming Waste ( Jackie Wang, Nicole Tyau and Chelsea Rae Ybanez, News21, 8-14-17) (Jasmine Spearing-Bowen and Karl Schneider, News21, 8-14-17) Farming activity contaminates water despite best practices
Chapter 4. Environmental Justice.. (William Taylor Potter, Brandon Kitchin and Alexis Reese, News21, 8-14-17) Crumbling pipes, tainted water plague black communities
Chapter 5. Tribal Lands. (Lauren Kaljur and Macee Beheler, News21, 8-14-17) Native American tribes fight for clean water and more money
Chapter 6. Borderlands. (Maria Esquinca and Andrea Jaramillo, News21, 8-14-17) Colonias on the border struggle with decades-old water issues
Chapter 7. Backyard Water (Bryn Caswell and Fionnuala O’Leary, News21, 8-14-17) Lax oversight puts millions of private well users at risk
Chapter 8. Lead in Schools. (Elissa Nuñez and Amy Molloy, News21, 8-14-17) Schools fail lead tests while many states don’t require testing at all
Chapter 9. Health Effects. (Amy Molloy, News21, 8-14-17) Fear of the unknown: The effect of water contamination on health
Chapter 10.The Pentagon Problem. (Corinne Roels, Briana Smith and Adrienne St. Clair, News21, 8-14-17) Military bases' contamination will affect water for generations.
Chapter 11. Cost of Contamination. (Bryan Anderson, News21, 8-14-17) Taxpayers pay billions for industrial contamination cleanup.
• Lead in drinking water: Key facts and reporting tips (Chloe Reichel, Journalist's Resource, 9-10-18)
• The Water Wars of Arizona (Noah Gallagher Shannon, NY Times Magazine, 7-19-18) Attracted by lax regulations, industrial agriculture has descended on a remote valley, depleting its aquifer — leaving many residents with no water at all.
• EPA Report Faults Response to Flint Water Crisis (Joe Barrett and Kris Maher, WSJ, 7-19-18) A spokeswoman for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality said the water crisis “highlighted the fragile nature of the aging infrastructure throughout the country, as well as a number of ways the federal lead and copper rule needs improvement and/or clarification.” She said that Michigan has “taken a lead role” in updating its lead and copper rule. Weak oversight at local, state and federal levels delayed action to protect the Michigan city’s residents from lead contamination. See also After Flint, Watchdog Urges E.P.A. to Monitor Drinking Water More Closely (Mitch Smith and Lisa Friedman, NY Times, 7-19-18) The Environmental Protection Agency’s failure to intervene earlier and stop the water crisis in Flint, Mich., exposed a need for wholesale changes to how federal officials monitor drinking water systems, a government watchdog said Thursday. A report from the E.P.A.’s Office of Inspector General said management weaknesses hobbled the agency’s response to the lead and other contaminants that poisoned Flint’s drinking water for more than a year and that federal officials should have taken stronger action to correct repeated blunders by state regulators.
• China may be most at risk for deadly, extreme heat waves (Andrew Freedman, Axios, 8-2-18) Heat waves in the North China Plain — China's breadbasket — are predicted to become so severe, they would "limit habitability in the most populous region of the most populous country on Earth," a new study finds.
• The Water Wranglers of the West Are Struggling to Save the Colorado River (Rachel Monroe, New Yorker,12-23-22) Farmers, bureaucrats, and water negotiators converged on Caesars Palace, in Las Vegas, to fight over the future of the drought-stricken Southwest. 'Negotiations can start to seem like a game of water-rights chicken: Why shouldn’t booming Salt Lake City use the water that it’s legally entitled to, given that Phoenix and Los Angeles once developed with little regard to water scarcity? Isn’t it absurd—oppressive, even—to ask tribal nations to accept strict limits so that water keeps flowing to lands that were stolen from them? Why should Arizona conserve water that will end up flooding an alfalfa field, which in turn will be shipped overseas? (Alfalfa is lucrative but water-intensive: in 2021, American farmers sent a record-breaking 2.86 million metric tons abroad, mostly to China and Japan; in Utah, alfalfa and hay fields swallow two-thirds of the state’s allocation of Colorado River water, but produce a fraction of one per cent of its gross domestic product.) The fear looming over CRWUA was the spectre of a “run on the river”—the liquid equivalent of a bank run. "We’re going to continue to see this tragedy of the commons manifest itself as we all continue to act in our own best interest, and the greater good suffers," Entsminger told me.'
• The Crisis on the Colorado River (John McChesney, Director of the Rural West Initiative, Stanford) "With Lake Mead at 39 percent capacity and Lake Powell at around 59 percent after an 11-year drought, there’s no question that there is a crisis on the Colorado River, and, experts predict, climate change will make things worse. With 30 million people dependent on the river, the outcome of disputes on distribution of Colorado River water is critical for the West. Researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography say Lake Powell has a 50 percent chance of becoming unusable by 2021. Some experts say that within the next 15 years, the Central Arizona Project, which supplies Phoenix and Tucson and the agricultural lands between them, may become the testing ground to see what happens when the water runs low. Is the 1922 Compact still the best law of the river?"
• Iowa must clean up its mess in the Gulf. Current funding, voluntary efforts aren't enough. (Editorial, Des Moines Register, 6-28-18) "If it weren’t for Iowa, the Gulf of Mexico would have less fish-killing fertilizer flowing into it from the Mississippi and Missouri rivers....Iowa now contributes about 40 percent of the excess nutrients that feed the dead zone, an oxygen-starved area in the Gulf where no marine life can survive. The barren area is forecast to exceed the size of Connecticut this year. We’ve long known that Iowa was a major part of the problem; now we are the problem...other states were also subject to extreme weather but managed to reduce their nitrate levels flowing into the Gulf. The study in particular cites Indiana, where farmers are ahead of Iowa in embracing the use of cover crops, which help hold nitrates in the soil....Iowa has had spent decades ignoring the fact that we’re poisoning the ocean. It’s past time to own the blame and take responsibility for cleaning up our mess."
Far Right Extremism
The Far Right
• How the Nazi Party Came to Power in a Democratic Country (Sara C, Medium, 7-19-18)
• House Panel Investigating Capitol Attack Subpoenas Proud Boys and Oath Keepers (Luke Broadwater and Alan Feuer, NY Times, 11-23-21; updated 1-5-22) Investigators believe three militia or paramilitary groups have information about the deadly siege on Jan. 6. The panel also subpoenaed the political operative Roger J. Stone Jr., the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and three others.
• What America Taught the Nazis (Ira KatzNelson, The Atlantic, Nov. 2017) In the 1930s, the Germans were fascinated by the global leader in codified racism—the United States. See Hitler's American Model: The United States and the Making of Nazi Race Law by James Q. Whitman. And see remarkable photos in American Nazis in the 1930s—The German American Bund (Alan Taylor, The Atlantic, 6-5-17)
• The Birth of Race-Based Slavery (Peter H. Wood, Slate, 5-19-15) By the 17th century, America’s slave economy had eliminated the obstacle of morality.
• How Christian Slaveholders Used the Bible to Justify Slavery (Noel Rae, Time, 2-23-18) From The Great Stain: Witnessing American Slavery
• The ‘Einstein of Sex’ and the Nazi burning of books (Alex Cochrane, 12-10-13)
• British Neo-Nazis Are on the Rise — and They’re Becoming More Organized and Violent (Ryan Gallagher, The Intercept, 5-3-18) “There is a sense that a culture war is happening,” says Pantucci. “We are seeing greater polarization in our public debate … We are seeing xenophobic views become mainstream. And that means the unacceptable edge, the violent edge, is getting pulled toward the center as well.”
• After Charlottesville, The American Far Right Is Tearing Itself Apart (Leighton Akio Woodhouse, The Intercept, 9-21-17)
• Family separation shows what Trump has in common with Europe’s far right (Zack Beauchamp, Vox, 6-20-18) Family separation reveals the cruelty at the heart of Trump’s worldview — and those of similar right-wing populists across the West.
• Trump’s Peculiar Sympathy for White South Africans (Peter Beinart, The Atlantic, Aug 2018) Despite the many graver human-rights problems plaguing Africa, Trump has somehow seized upon one affecting white people. See also Trump Believes Fox News—And South Africa Pays the Price (Matt Peterson, The Atlantic,8-23-18) In a late-night tweet, the president shows disdain for a long tradition in American foreign policy.
•Doxxing, assault, death threats: the new dangers facing US journalists covering extremism ((Jason Wilson, The Guardian, 6-14-18) "As violent street protests between the far right and anti-fascists become standard fare, rightwingers see the press as a threat – and aren't shy to act on it....This reflects a broader trend during the Trump era: rightwing groups stage incursions into liberal bastions like Portland, Berkeley and Charlottesville, and anti-fascist groups respond. The ensuing confrontations have resulted in violence, injury and, in Charlottesville, death."
•Antifascism: Fascists and antifascists compete in the streets and in the media (Kelly Kenover, Eugene Weekly, 10-19-17) Beneath the surface of liberal Eugene, there's a war brewing. And both sides are recruiting.
Sexual misconduct (unwanted sexual and gender behavior), sexual assault, sexual harassment (and #MeToo), sexual exploitation
"Sexual misconduct is an umbrella term for any misconduct of a sexual nature that is of lesser offense than felony sexual assault (such as rape and molestation), particularly where the situation is normally non-sexual and therefore unusual for sexual behavior, or where there is some aspect of personal power or authority that makes sexual behavior inappropriate."--Wikipedia
• What Is Sexual Assault? (RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation's largest anti-sexual violence organization. The National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or call 800.656.HOPE (4673). Get help 24/7.
• How Can I Protect My Child From Sexual Assault? (RAINN)
• We Need A Better Way To Talk About ‘Sexual Misconduct’ (Kathryn Casteel and Andrea Jones-Rooy, FiveThirtyEight, 4-17-18) Vague umbrella terms make an already difficult conversation even harder. Louise Fitzgerald and her team "created a framework for sexual harassment that distributes 16 behaviors — such as, “told sexual stories or jokes” and “made unwanted attempts to stroke, fondle or kiss” — across three categories": Gender hostility (sexist hostility, derogatory comments or actions that invoke sex or gender); unwanted sexual attention; and sexual coercion.
• Lessons learned from reporting on sex trafficking survivor stories (Margarita Birnbaum, Covering Health, AHCJ, 11-28-22)
• Healing Provided on a Texas Ranch for Men and Boys Who Have Survived Sex Trafficking (Sandy West, The Imprint, 9-21-22)
• New York's Catholic church leaders control billions outside the reach of abuse survivors (Edward McKinley, Times Union, 2-12-21) Just as lawmakers pushed for more liability around child sex abuse cases, Catholic Bishops in New York moved billions of dollars the church controlled into a foundation, shielding the money from abuse victims who brought their claims to court. "It has been the church’s practice across the country for more than a decade to divert swarms of abuse claims into bankruptcy proceedings rather than handling each in individual court proceedings. That strategy allows the church to often avoid public trials or witness depositions, and to handle claims in one court proceeding that potentially will preserve more of their financial assets." (H/T: Local Matters, a weekly roundup of the best investigative and watchdog reporting from local newsrooms around the country.)
• A Violent Defense: How Far Can Abused Women Go to Protect Themselves? (Elizabeth Flock, New Yorker, 1-20-2020) Brittany Smith faces life in prison for killing the man who raped and beat her. Fighting back against rapists and abusers is a valid legal defense. But women with persuasive self-defense claims continue to be charged with murder. Women have long been pathologized for acting in self-defense, says one expert. And in domestic cases, Stand Your Ground law works better for men than for women....in some states the laws have done little or nothing for women.
• Why many sexual assault survivors may not come forward for years (Denise-Marie Ordway, Journalist's Resource, 10-5-18) One reason is self-blame, said Karen G. Weiss, an associate professor of sociology at West Virginia University whose research focuses on sexual violence. Another reason: Many people who have been raped don’t recognize it as rape, even when it fits the legal definition.) Overall the findings indicate that most people who experience unwanted sexual contact do not report it. This article links to and summarizes many other resources on the topic. See also Many people who are stalked never tell anyone (Chloe Reichel, JR, 9-27-18) and Sexual harassment: Who suffers, and how (Chloe Reichel, JR, 10-25-17) Research on the health effects of sexual harassment and assault.
• The true story behind ‘Unbelievable,’ Netflix’s gripping new drama about the women who solved a serial rape case (Washington Post, 9-17-19) Or read the story itself: An Unbelievable Story of Rape (T. Christian Miller, ProPublica and Ken Armstrong, The Marshall Project, 12-16-15) An 18-year-old said she was attacked at knifepoint. Then she said she made it up. That’s where our story begins.
• The Case of Al Franken (Jane Mayer, A Reporter at Large, New Yorker, 7-22-19) A close look at the accusations against the former senator, who deserved and didn't get a fair hearing (and who we could use in the Senate again!). Scroll down for The Challenges of Reporting #MeToo (Ronan Farrow discussing the process of investigating sexual-assault allegations, in which getting victims to testify can be the hard part. "There are powerful people in every industry who are shutting down dissent, who are behaving in an objectionable way and using a vast system of tools at their disposal that are not at the disposal of people less powerful to shut down opposition, and that's wrong, and that victimizes a lot of people every day." Harvey W being the prime example.
• Pope Francis Addresses Abuse Of Nuns By Priests (All Things Considered, 2-6-19) NPR's Ari Shapiro speaks with Sister Carol Zinn, executive director of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, about the abuse of nuns and how the Catholic Church has dealt with the issue. See also Pope Francis Acknowledges, For First Time, Sexual Abuse Of Nuns By Priests (Richard Gonzales, NPR, 2-5-19) "Pope Francis, for the first time, acknowledged the sexual abuse of nuns by priests and bishops, including a case in which some clergy used women as sex slaves....'I think it is still going on because something does not stop just because you have become aware of it,' he added....After years of revelations of sexual predation by priests upon children and the growing public attention paid to the #MeToo movement, Francis and the church are being forced to address persistent reports of abuse of members of its own hierarchy: the nuns who serve the church in a secondary capacity to men." The pope said he is committed to ending the problem in the Roman Catholic Church.
• A Survivor’s Guide to Sexual Assault (Tapestry) Information about sexual assault, its effects, and how to support a loved one after an assault. Links to state resources for survivors of sexual assault.
• Many Voices "Words of hope for people suffering from trauma and dissociation." This is an old site, perhaps dated, but the wording may help you search for more current resources.
• Prison Rape Elimination Act (U.S. Office of Justice resources)
• Before #MeToo, There Was Catharine A. MacKinnon and Her Book ‘Sexual Harassment of Working Women’ (Ginia Bellafante, NY Times, 3-19-18)
• Sexpat Journalists Are Ruining Asia Coverage (Joanna Chiu, Foreign Policy, 5-18-18) Newsroom predators in foreign bureaus hurt their colleagues — and their stories. Often the worst damage is done by men ensconced in positions of influence in journalism, diplomacy, and international business.
• The Five-Forty-Eight (John Cheever's short story, The New Yorker) This is the story Bellafante's piece starts with. She writes: "Intended as a chilling admonition against female volatility, read 64 years later, amid the current reckoning, it presents itself least ambiguously as a chilling admonition against male entitlement."
• Catharine A. MacKinnon's book: Sexual Harassment of Working Women: A Case of Sex Discrimination
• The Woman Ending Harassment at the Grand Canyon (Annette McGivney, Outside, 8-21-18) For decades, the unofficial motto of Grand Canyon employees has been, “Suck it up, buttercup.” Whether from perilous terrain, throngs of demanding tourists, extreme weather, or hostile co-workers, Grand Canyon has always been a challenging environment for park staff. For decades, the staff of Grand Canyon National Park has lived with a culture of bullying and harassment. Can the park's first female superintendent heal the old wounds?
• Student journalist investigates lack of sexual misconduct records for teachers (Karen K. Ho, Columbia Journalism Review, 6-29-18)
• Photojournalism’s moment of reckoning (Kristen Chick, Columbia Journalism Review, 7-16-18) "Women of color are particularly vulnerable targets for harassment, both because they are less likely to be included in the so-called whisper networks used by women in the industry to warn each other about harassers, and because, as an already marginalized population, they have more to lose by speaking out. " "The complicity of men who witness harassment or abuse and simply look away or laugh is one of the most disheartening facets of the issue for Taylor-Lind."
• 2018 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Public Service: The New York Times, for reporting led by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, and The New Yorker, for reporting by Ronan Farrow There is a list of the stories reported on the two sites; you can click on links and read some of the stories.
• From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories (Ronan Farrow, New Yorker, 10-23-17) Multiple women share harrowing accounts of sexual assault and harassment by the film executive. This story won a Pulitzer Prize. Watch the video of Farrow, available online. Rose McGowan's public accusation of rape seems to have started the ball rolling.
• Harvey Weinstein Paid Off Sexual Harassment Accusers for Decades (Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, NY Times, 10-5-17) Winner of Investigative Reporters and Editors' highest honor for investigative reporting: the IRE medal. The judges' comments: "The New York Times’ reporting exposed a massive story hiding in plain sight and drove a worldwide movement to fight harassment, discrimination and abuse against women. This isn't just a tale of the famous, rich and powerful -- it is about women in all walks of life. You can draw a direct line from the journalism to a cultural moment still sparking scrutiny and action on issues that women have been forced to quietly tolerate and deal with in their professional and personal lives."
• Harvey Weinstein's Complicity Machine (Megan Twohey, Jodi Kantor, Susan Dominus, Jim Rutenberg, and Steve Eder, NY Times, 12-5-17) The producer Harvey Weinstein relied on powerful relationships across industries to provide him with cover as accusations of sexual misconduct piled up for decades. "Harvey Weinstein built his complicity machine out of the witting, the unwitting and those in between. He commanded enablers, silencers and spies, warning others who discovered his secrets to say nothing. He courted those who could provide the money or prestige to enhance his reputation as well as his power to intimidate....He gathered ammunition, sometimes helped by the editor of The National Enquirer, who had dispatched reporters to find information that could undermine accusers." At Creative Artists Agency "at least eight talent agents were told that Mr. Weinstein had harassed or menaced female clients, but agents there continued to arrange private meetings."
• The Power Of #MeToo: Why Hashtag Sparks ‘Groundswell’ Of Sharing — And Healing (Alicia Doktor, Aces Connection and KHN, 11-16-17)
• 'Where there is more rape culture in the press, there is more rape' (Denise-Marie Ordway, Journalist's Resource, 9-7-18) Rape occurs more often in communities where the news media reflects "rape culture" — in which the coverage can be interpreted as showing empathy for the accused and blame for victims, according to a new study published in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science.
• Silence breakers speak out against news industry’s hypocrisy ( Yardena Schwartz, Columbia Journalism Review, 4-5-18) Women who speak out about sexual harassment are often blacklisted by other news organizations
• New report highlights the online harassment faced by women in journalism, and the lack of training on how to cope (Catalina Albeanu, journalism.co.uk, 4-11-18) Many women interviewed by the Center for Media Engagement also reported they have changed the way they approach stories in order to minimise the risk of harassment.
• UC Berkeley professor fired nearly two years after sexual harassment claims substantiated (Sam Levin, The Guardian, 5-24-17) Dismissal of Blake Wentworth – who sued the women who filed the harassment complaints – marks a rare instance of termination for sexual misconduct
• The Troublesome Tara Reade Story (Joan Walsh, The Nation, 4-15-2020) Left- and right-wing Biden haters demanded that the media investigate her sexual assault charge. It did—and uncovered many reasons to doubt.
• How A Bad Boss Remade Himself As a Climate Hero (Zahra Hirji, Buzzfeed, 4-10-2020) George Luber says he was kicked out of the CDC’s climate program for fighting censorship. In fact, at least five women on staff had accused him of sexist behavior and being a bad boss.
Sexual harassment: records show how University of California faculty target students(Sam Levin, The Guardian, 3-8-17) Documents reveal patterns in how officials appear to target vulnerable students they oversee – in some cases dramatically impeding their studies and careers
• Backpage’s Sex Ads Are Gone. Child Trafficking? Hardly. (Timothy Williams, NY Times, 3-11-17)
• History of Abuse Seen in Many Girls in Juvenile System (Timothy Williams, NY Times, 7-9-15)
• California Today: A ‘See Something, Say Something’ Prostitution Plan(Mike McPhate, NY Times, 9-16-16) "On Saturday, Oakland is taking an unconventional step in fighting its image as one of America’s most crime-ridden cities, introducing a website, reportjohn.org, that city authorities hope will deter customers of the sex trade. Residents will be encouraged to note down the license plate numbers of suspected johns’ vehicles and describe the specific activity they witnessed. The sightings are uploaded to the police, who will send a letter to the address where the vehicle is registered."
• Accusations Of 'Frat House' Behavior Trail 'LA Times' Publisher's Career (David Folkenflik, All Things Considered, NPR, 1-18-18)
• Women In Medicine Shout #MeToo About Sexual Harassment At Work (Christina Jewett, Kaiser Health News, 3-20-18)
• Media Outlets Examine Sexual Harassment Allegations At WHO, UNAIDS (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2-7-18)
• Sexual Abuse or Assault (Rape) (Kaiser Permanente distinguishes between sexual abuse or assault (rape), nonviolent sexual abuse, and violent sexual assault.
• The NIH should follow the National Science Foundation’s lead on stopping gender violence in science (Kelsey Priest and Caroline King, STAT, 9-28-18) "As part of the National Science Foundation’s effort to prevent gender violence in science, its director, France A. Córdova, recently announced new terms and conditions for reporting gender violence to the organization. It is the kind of clear and bold approach that the National Institutes of Health should be taking. Instead, the NIH is sticking with its weak 'guidance' on anti-sexual harassment, shirking its responsibility and placing the burden for action on survivors, though it did launch a new website on the topic."
It’s not just the powerful (The Economist, 10-13-16) The politics of sexual assault: Privilege lets predatory men get away with a lot, be they rich and famous or not. The Republican Party gives Mr. Trump a pass on lewd and predatory behavior.
• The Epstein Case: How a Predator Operated in Plain Sight (Lisa Miller, The Cut, 7-15-19) The sexual revolution gave the elites and the circles orbiting them intellectual permission to downgrade sexual violence to a matter of taste. The sexual revolution at its most destructive abetted the annihilation of human people on the receiving end of unwanted sex acts, who were trapped, forced into sex — whose own ideas of pleasure and desire and liberation were overridden, obliterated...
• Woman with Northwest Arctic roots breaks silence on sexual abuse in memoir ( Shady Grove Oliver, The Arctic Sounder, reprinted in Anchorage Daily News, 1-4-18) Story about Tia Wakole, author of the self-published memoir "Starting A Fire: Bringing Light to the Dark."
Years after silently combating sexual trauma, female veterans seek help (Anna Casey, Kaiser Health News and PBS NewsHour, 10-1-17)
• Poll: 74 percent say sexual harassment must be addressed seriously (Wisconsin Gazette, 12-15-17) Over 84 percent of voters said that members of Congress should be barred from using public funds to settle sexual harassment and other workplace disputes, and over 89 percent said that the names of members of Congress involved in these settlements – past and future – should be made public.
• I now publish #MeToo stories on my blog, for free. Here’s why. (Michael Balter, Columbia Journalism Review, 9-4-19) "Over the past 18 months, I have published nearly all of my #MeToo reporting on my own site for free, and without libel insurance. I still employ the same strict journalistic standards I used when I worked for Science and other publications. I never report rumors or second-hand information, and I always have multiple sources for the statements in my stories—especially for any allegations that reflect badly on an individual or could be contested.... for every Harvey Weinstein, there are a hundred less powerful figures—academics among them—who are getting away with similar behavior simply because they don’t attract the same level of scrutiny. Sometimes a reporter can change that, even working alone."
What’s wrong with America’s prisons
The terms "jail" and "prison" are used interchangeably as places of confinement. Inmates in jails are typically either awaiting trial or are being held for minor crimes. Inmates in prison have been convicted of serious crimes. The focus here is usually (but not always) on problems in prisons.
"It's a stark fact that the United States has less than 5 percent of the world's population, yet we have almost 25 percent of the world's total prison population. The numbers today are much higher than they were 30, 40 years ago despite the fact that crime is at historic lows."
–Hillary Rodham Clinton (D), speech on criminal justice at Columbia University, April 29, 2015
Scroll down for articles about prisons as petri dishes for covid, hepatitis C, and other infectious diseases
• America's prison system is inhumane. Here's why. (Judith Lichtenberg, The Week/from Aeon, 9-30-16) "...people can find common ground on three fundamental moral norms that should govern the use of imprisonment as punishment. First, punishments should be proportional to crimes. Second, like cases should be treated alike. Third, criminal punishment should not do more harm than good. Unfortunately, the U.S. system violates each of these principles."
“American prisons have become warehouses for the mentally ill. Mass incarceration has been largely ruled by misguided drug policy and excessive sentencing, but the internment of hundreds of thousands of poor and mentally ill people has been a driving force in achieving our record levels of imprisonment.”
• Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration--and How to Achieve Real Reform by John Pfaff. See the review Why you can’t blame mass incarceration on the war on drugs (German Lopez, Vox, 5-30-17) ”The standard liberal narrative about mass incarceration gets a lot wrong. Drug offenders make up a small portion of the US prison population. The focus on the federal prison system may explain why many in the media and other experts think that drug offenses are such a huge driver of incarceration. "It's not drug offenses that are driving mass incarceration, but violent ones. It's not the federal government that's behind mass incarceration, but a whole host of prison systems down to the local and state level. It's not solely police and lawmakers leading to more incarceration and lengthy prison sentences, but prosecutors who are by and large out of the political spotlight."
“Hiring a police officer is probably about as expensive as hiring a prison guard, for example, but investing in police has a much bigger deterrent effect and avoids all the capital expenditures of prisons,” Pfaff argues. “Steven Levitt has estimated that $1 spent on policing is at least 20 percent more effective than $1 spent on prisons.”
• Prisons Have Become America’s New Asylums (Dahlia Lithwick, Slate, 1-5-16) Mentally ill people are locked up for trivial reasons and then get much worse. Ten times more mentally ill people are now in jails and prisons than in state psychiatric hospitals: In 2012, approximately 356,268 inmates with severe mental illness were in prisons and jails, while about 35,000 severely ill patients were in state psychiatric hospitals.
• Life After White-Collar Crime (Evan Osnos, New Yorker, 8-30-21) Life after prison is greatly changed for many white-collar criminals (with exceptions like Martha Stewart). See also
• Why They Do It: Inside the Mind of the White-Collar Criminal by Eugene Soltis. What drives wealthy and powerful people to white-collar crime? A look at the dark side of the business world.
• Insane: America's Criminal Treatment of Mental Illness by Alisa Roth. Jails in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago each house more people with mental illnesses than any hospital. As many as half of all people in America's jails and prisons have a psychiatric disorder. One in four fatal police shootings involves a person with such disorders. "A searing exposé about the criminalization of mental illness...Though the subject matter dictates that much of the book is relentlessly depressing, the author is such a talented information gatherer and fluid stylist that the narrative becomes compulsive reading. An eye-opening book that cries out for change."―Kirkus
• The Women's House of Detention: A Queer History of a Forgotten Prison by Hugh Ryan.This singular history of a prison, and the queer women and trans people held there, is a window into the policing of queerness and radical politics in the twentieth century.
• America’s Brutally Packed Prisons Are Slowly Emptying (Justin Ling, Foreign Policy, 11-2-2020) "America’s incarceration rate hasn’t been this low in nearly a quarter-century. In just the last decade, the population in prisons and jails across the country has shrunk by upwards of 150,000 inmates. All the while, the violent crime rate has plummeted....Decarceration advocates see a rare opportunity in the next administration. It’s a significant shift that has gone virtually unnoticed in the midst of a bitterly fought election campaign, even as it appears to mark the end of the bipartisan tough-on-crime consensus."
•The Dickensian Conditions of Life in a For-Profit Lockup (Nate Blakeslee, NY Times Book Review, 10-1-18) A review of American Prison: A Reporter's Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment by Shane Bauer. Bauer's "survey of profit-driven incarceration begins in the mid-19th century and strikes a familiar theme, that mass incarceration in the South was simply slavery by another name. But Bauer adds new details, especially about the history of convict leasing, in which entire prisons — filled mostly with African-American inmates — were rented out to individuals or companies to provide a captive work force....Death rates were staggeringly high; convicts, unlike slaves, cost nothing to replace. As much as anything, this is the story of the South trying to compete with Northern industry without disturbing the region’s existing power structure, which is to say, without labor unions. Inmates were the original scabs."
• Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson is worth reading, or watch the HBO documentary (True Justice: Bryan Stevenson's Fight for Equality). He writes about the four stages of racial injustice in the U.S.: Slavery, Lynching (1877-1950, after an 1876 Supreme Court decision allowed it to go on for years) aka "Jim Crow", Segregation, and Mass incarceration--the stage we're in now). Reading about the cases he's worked in makes vivid how unjustly blacks (and other minorities) have been treated.
• For Private Prisons, Detaining Immigrants Is Big Business (Clyde Haberman, NY Times, 10-1-18) A surging inmate population in the 1980s led to a boom in for-profit prisons. Today, despite their mixed record, private prison companies are overseeing the vast majority of undocumented migrants. The "appetite for locking people up was not matched by a willingness to spend taxpayer money on new government-run cells and support services. Enter for-profit prisons. They were ready to bear some of the burden — for a fee, of course. At federal and state levels, they now operate in more than two dozen states, often in relatively remote regions where jobs can be scarce." In 2016, "under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department concluded that private prisons were in general more violent than government-operated institutions, and ordered a phaseout of their use at the federal level. Reversing that order was one of the first things that President Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, did on taking office."
• The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. "Sometimes a book comes along and, after it is absorbed into the culture, we cannot see ourselves again in quite the same way," writes David Remnick in the New Yorker piece Ten Years After “The New Jim Crow” (1-17-2020), in which he interviews Alexander, a lawyer and civil-rights advocate who reflects on how her book, hardly an immediate best-seller, encouraged a discussion about criminal-justice reform and racism in America.Or listen to the interview on The New Yorker Radio Hour (co-hosted by Kai Wright, of WNYC) "So it was really as a result of myself representing victims of racial profiling and police brutality, and investigating patterns of drug-law enforcement in poor communities of color, and attempting to assist people who had been released from prison as they faced one closed door and one barrier after another to mere survival after being released from prison that I had a series of experiences that began what I have come to call my awakening....the scale of it was astonishing: seeing rows of black men lined up against walls being frisked and handcuffed and arrested for extremely minor crimes, like loitering, or vagrancy, or possession of tiny amounts of marijuana, and then being hauled off to jail and saddled with criminal records that authorized legal discrimination against them for the rest of their lives." See Mass Incarceration, Then and Now for a couple more related New Yorker stories on the Radio Hour.
• What Philip Zimbardo and the Stanford Prison Experiment Tell Us About Abuse of Power (Victoria Bekiempis, Newsweek, 8-4-15) As a colleague observed, "All these prison scandals started when the prisons were privatized (extremely lucrative--even more so with Trump wanting to keep asylum seekers locked up for indefinite lengths of time), a change massively pushed by Republicans. Glenn Greenwald wrote a lot about it at the time but no one really cared... even though it was costing us more and more money. And there's no incentive whatsoever to rehabilitate prisoners when you can employ them as slave labor."
"On anyone's list of evils, having private prison corporations lobby against liberalization of drug laws and in favor of harsher prison terms for drug users -- all to increase their profits by ensuring greater product (humans in cages) -- must be near the top." @ggreenwald
• The Problem with Private Prisons (Tara Joy, Justice Policy Institute, 2-2-18) A succinct argument. "The corporations running private prisons inevitably claim that they are saving the government money, but their true focus is on protecting their own bottom lines. In order to lower operating costs, these facilities cut corners, hiring fewer employees and paying and training them less....Despite all these cost-cutting measures, it’s unclear whether private prisons actually save the government any money. In-depth research from Arizona found that inmates in the state’s for-profit prisons rarely cost less than those in state-run prisons, and in some cases cost as much as $1,600 more per year....ny money saved by corporate-run prisons only benefits the corporations themselves, and these corporations are willing to go to extreme and horrifying lengths to preserve these profits. One particularly notorious example of this is the 2009 'Kids for Cash' scandal, in which two judges in Pennsylvania were revealed to have been accepting money from the owner of two private juvenile detention centers in return for sentencing juvenile offenders to time in those centers. Children were sentenced to time in detention centers for offenses like shoplifting DVDs or failing to appear at hearings they were never notified of."
• On the Yard by Malcolm Braly (about life in San Quentin and after). "Surely the great American prison novel" — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (Disclosure: Malcolm was a friend and colleague who really turned his life around, yet died far too early.)
• Freelance reporter reveals challenges in Georgia's inmate health care (Carolyn Crist, Covering Health, AHCJ, 4-24-2020) For more than a year, Atlanta-based freelance journalist and AHCJ member Max Blau investigated the troublesome health care delivery in jails across his state. Two of his stories: For sheriffs, healthcare for inmates can be a burden. For one doctor, it has been the opportunity of a lifetime. (Max Blau, Atlanta Magazine, 12-12-19) Local officials face a major challenge: asking for-profit medical providers to provide jail healthcare on the lowest possible budget. See also When county governments outsource jail health care, Georgia inmates pay the price (Max Blau, The Telegraph, 12-13-19)
• Crimes and punishments—what it’s like to care for a prisoner who is dying (Nikhil Sanyal, Opinion, BMJ, 11-19-19) How palliative care and the doctor-patient relationship are complicated when that patient is a prisoner
• The Presence of Justice: Beyond the age of mass incarceration (The Atlantic's epic, excellent series on failures in the criminal justice system). Includes Why Don't Police Catch Serial Rapists? An Epidemic of Disbelief (Aug 2019) Rape kits pile up untested for years. And The ‘Death Penalty’s Dred Scott’ Lives On (Annika Neklason, 6-14-19) In 1987, the Supreme Court came within one vote of eliminating capital punishment in Georgia based on evidence of racial disparities. Instead, it created a precedent that civil-rights advocates have been fighting for decades. Three of the Court’s conservative members have already joined their liberal peers in voicing unease about discrimination in individual capital cases. Check out this important Atlantic series.
• Why federal prisons like the one where Epstein was held aren’t held accountable (Aviva Stahl, Columbia Journalism Review, 8-20-19) The Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), the federal prison where Jeffrey Epstein died, "was overcrowded and understaffed, plagued by vermin and overflowing toilets, dogged by allegations of corruption and abuse, and beset by an almost total lack of medical care....Everyone held on 10 South, the unit where El Chapo was incarcerated, is subject to Special Administrative Measures (SAMs) that prohibit them from communicating with almost anyone in the outside world except immediate family members and attorneys...There are no advocacy groups focused on improving conditions at federal prisons, in large part because there aren’t really any elected officials responsible for safeguarding these institutions."
• Escapes, Riots and Beatings. But States Can’t Seem to Ditch Private Prisons. (Timothy Williams and Richard A. Oppel Jr, NY Times, 4-10-18) "The staying power of the two companies [Management & Training Corporation and the GEO Group] shows how private prisons maintain their hold on the nation’s criminal justice system despite large-scale failures. The field is dominated by a handful of companies who have swallowed the competition and entrenched their positions through aggressive lawyering, intricate financial arrangements and in some cases, according to lawsuits by the Mississippi attorney general, bribery and kickbacks....Private prison companies can be found at every level of government, housing 9 percent of the nation’s prisoners. They emerged in the 1980s, when the number of inmates was quickly outstripping capacity, and they have an outsize influence in certain states, including Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Mississippi and New Mexico."
• Inside a Private Prison: Blood, Suicide and Poorly Paid Guards (Timothy Williams, NY Times, 4-3-18) " Frank Shaw, the warden of the East Mississippi Correctional Facility, could not guarantee that the prison was capable of performing its most basic function....According to evidence and testimony at a federal civil rights trial, far worse things were happening at the prison than inmates strolling around during a lockdown: A mentally ill man on suicide watch hanged himself, gang members were allowed to beat other prisoners, and those whose cries for medical attention were ignored resorted to setting fires in their cells."
• More New York Times stories on prisons and prisoners
• Prison Reform: Reducing Recidivism by Strengthening the Federal Bureau of Prisons (U.S. Dept of Justice Archives)
• Taro Yamasaki and life inside Jackson State Prison (Michael Cunningham, NiemanStoryboard, 8-30-16). The photojournalist talks about how he got unprecedented access — and images — inside the world's largest walled prison. Includes his Pulitzer-winning story "Inside Jackson" (Nov. 1980, Detroit Free Press)
• The Truth about Mass Incarceration (Stephanos Bibas, National Review, 9-16-15) "America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, outstripping even Russia, Cuba, Rwanda, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. Though America is home to only about one-twentieth of the world’s population, we house almost a quarter of the world’s prisoners. Since the mid 1970s, American prison populations have boomed, multiplying sevenfold while the population has increased by only 50 percent. Why?"
• Let Prisoners Learn While They Serve (Editorial, NY Times, 8-16-17)
• In Jail, a $45,000 Bribe Buys a Cellphone, Alcohol and Vitamin C, Prosecutors Say (Benjamin Weiser, NY Times, 4-5-18)
• Prison Reform Talking Points (Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow, The Nation, 12-19-03) 1. The conditions of prisons are inhumane. 2. Prisons are “crime factories.” 3. Recidivism rates are exceedingly high. 4. Prisons are expensive. And so on.
• Why promote prison reform? (United Nati0ns Office on Drugs and Crime)
• Underfunded, Overcrowded State Prisons Struggle With Reform (Gaby Galvin, US News, 7-26-17) It took a correctional officer's death for Delaware's legislature to address its prison problem. "The state prison population spiked between the 1970s and 1990s as the federal government chased the "war on drugs."
• Life After Prison (Gerard Robinson and Elizabeth English, US News, 6-20-16) Innovative prison education programs are a national necessity. Our nation's recidivism problem starts well before prisoners leave prison. Many of the 2.2 million behind bars today lack a high school degree, and while they are in state custody, most receive little or no preparation for life after prison. Two programs – the Prison Entrepreneurship Program in Texas and the Prison University Project at California's San Quentin Prison – offer a window into what is possible.
• Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing by Ted Conover, a first-hand account of life inside the penal system.
• The Prison Book Club by Ann Walmsley. An attack in London left Ann Walmsley unable to walk alone down the street, and shook her belief in the fundamental goodness of people. A few years later, when a friend asked her to participate in a bold new venture in a men's medium security prison, Ann had to weigh her curiosity and desire to be of service against her anxiety and fear. “Quietly captures the transformative power of literature in a tough place.” —The Globe and Mail (A little hard to follow if you haven't read the book they discuss.)
• Worse than Slavery: Parchman Farm and the Ordeal of Jim Crow Justice by David M. Oshinsky. Drawing on police and prison records and oral histories, David M. Oshinsky presents an account of Mississippi's notorious Parchman Farm, and more broadly about the brutal conditions and inhuman treatment of African-Americans in Southern prisons.
• $1 an Hour to Fight Largest Fire in CA History: Are Prison Firefighting Programs Slave Labor? (Democracy Now, 8-9-18)
• Everything You Need to Know About the Prison Strike, One of the Largest in U.S. History (Amanda Arnold, The Cut, 8-29-18)
• Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee Prison Strike 2018: Rebels incarcerated in prisons across the nation declare a nationwide strike in response to the riot in Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum security prison in South Carolina. How to support the strike.
• Tweets by Samuel Sinyangwe (5-19-17) "I thought I understood racism and mass incarceration. But nothing prepared me for what I saw in Baton Rouge, Louisiana."
• Slavery Is Still Legal in the United States (Randal John Meyer, Newsweek, 8-25-15)
• Private Prison (the U.S. section of a Wikipedia entry on private prisons around the world). These Wikipedia entries provide a good overview, and lots of links to other material. See also Incarceration in the United States § Privatization and Prison–industrial complex.
• Keeping People Out of Jail Keeps People Out of Jail (David Byrne, Reasons to Be Cheerful, 7-12-21) To reduce incarceration, some counties and cities have stopped automatically prosecuting minor nonviolent crimes — and crime overall has gone down. A wave of policy and policing reform has followed. The key is keeping folks out of the criminal justice system.
• Mass incarceration is bad law enforcement policy. It’s bad for the economy, too. (Jennifer Rubin, Opinion, Washington Post, 7-14-21) The economy would be stronger, growth higher and wealth larger if these Americans were employed and paying taxes. This perfectly exemplifies the need to root out structural racism, not simply because of those it targets but for the betterment of the country as a whole.
• National Prisoner Resource List (NPRL) "We often hear from people that a resource on the National Prisoner Resource List (NPRL) helped them get the services they needed or simply made them feel less hopeless because they found someplace to turn for support."
• Books to Prisoners (Bar None)
• Victory in Maryland! New policy severely restricting access to books in Maryland state prisons has been rescinded. (DC Books to Prison)
• Donating books to prisons (Writers and Editors site)
• Prop. 47 spared offenders from prison, but they may find county jail harsher (Kerry Rudd, San Francisco Chronicle, 11-23-18) Proposition 47’s forgotten people are in dire need of relief. Low-level offenders, the people for whom our state sought to decrease penalties, have been buried under a tomb of harsher punishments. In 2014, California voters passed Proposition 47, after a federal court ordered the state to reduce its prison population, partly to reduce overcrowding in state prisons. Under new sentencing guidelines, directing nonserious, nonviolent, nonsexual offenders to serve their state prison terms in county jail. Consequently, “county prison terms” became a mandatory judicial sentencing procedure, and thousands of inmates never made it to prison. When Prop. 47 hit the ballot, it was promoted as a method to help small-time offenders by not sending them to state prison. Ironically, it’s delivering heavy-handed punishment to the very inmate population for whom it sought lenience. Efficient measures must be taken so that all Prop. 47 inmates, in every county in California, have access to rehabilitative opportunities. Equal protection and justice depend on it.
• What happened during my first visit to a prison since being released from one (Jason Rezaian, Opinion, WaPo, 3-26-19) What imprisonment often lacks is the promise of rehabilitation or “correction” that’s often officially implied in the process. When I mentioned “Animal Farm” and “Catch-22,” many of them smiled and nodded, knowingly. You don’t fully comprehend such books if you’ve never been swallowed by an institution. All societies recognize and try to rationalize the cruelty inherent in incarceration. More must take steps to reimagine it.
Jails and prisons as petri dishes for covid, hepatitis C, and other diseases
• Death Sentence (STAT News) There is a simple, outright cure for hepatitis C. But state prisons across the country are failing to save hundreds of people who die each year from the virus and related complications. A STAT investigation has found that more than 1,000 incarcerated people died from hepatitis C-related complications in the six years after a curative drug hit the market. The death rate in 2019 was double that of the broader U.S. population.
In the stories on this page, reporter Nicholas Florko documents prisons’ blatant refusal to test and treat people with the condition, even, in some cases, in the face of legal orders to do so. He introduces incarcerated people who watched their health deteriorate or lost their lives because of the rationing of hepatitis C drugs. Prisons say the medicine, even as its price drops, is too expensive for them to distribute widely. But incarcerated people are fighting back: Some have fought for the treatment in the courts and won, forcing the system to care for them and, in some cases, other incarcerated hepatitis C patients.
• Prisons and jails across the US are turning into 'petri dishes' for coronavirus. Deputies are falling ill, too. (Holly Yan, CNN, 4-10-2020)
---Why US jails and prisons became coronavirus epicenters (German Lopez, Vox, 4-22-2020) Jails and prisons in the US are reporting coronavirus outbreaks. That’s bad for everyone.
---Prisons Breed the Coronavirus. We Can Safely Free Thousands of Inmates. (Mara Gay, Opinion, NY Times, 4-3-2020) Nonviolent offenders, the medically vulnerable and those near the end of their sentences should be released. Those who remain deserve much better medical care.
---‘Disaster waiting to happen’: Thousands of inmates released as jails and prisons face coronavirus threat (Kimberly Kindy, Emma Brown and Dalton Bennett, Washington Post, 3-24-2020) Inside an Alabama county jail, two inmates threatened to commit suicide if newly arrived Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees they feared had been exposed to the virus were not removed.
---Medical Expert: Federal Jail Intentionally Destroying Medical Records and Hiding Extent of Coronavirus Behind Bars (Nick Pinto, The Intercept, 5-1-2020)
---Nearly half of the inmates tested in Michigan prisons have coronavirus (Steve Neavling, Detroit Metro Times, 4-30-2020)
Russia's bad behavior
• Killing Pavel (YouTube, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and Slidstvo.Info, Anna Babinets, Elena Loginova, Vlad Lavrov, Dmytro Gnap, Matt Sarnecki, Ilya Magazanin, Sergiu Brega, Timmi Allen (Bellingcat)) Also a winner of the IRE Medal. The judges' comments: "Killing Pavel is a riveting story documenting the murder investigation conducted by OCCRP and Slidstvo.Info to uncover who may have been responsible for the death of a colleague. Journalists showed incredible tenacity and courage by canvassing the scene of the crime, tracking down key witnesses, and digitally analyzing surveillance footage to uncover clues that were previously overlooked by police. Nothing could be more in the spirit of IRE."
• From Russia With Blood (A Buzzfeed News Investigation, 6-15-17) Lavish London mansions. A hand-painted Rolls-Royce. And eight dead friends. For the British fixer Scot Young, working for Vladimir Putin's most vocal critic meant stunning perks – but also constant danger. His gruesome death is one of 14 that US spy agencies have linked to Russia – but the UK police shut down every last case. A bombshell cache of documents today reveals the full story of a ring of death on British soil that the government has ignored.
• Life inside Chernobyl, one of the most polluted places on earth (Emma Thomson, Adventure.com, 4-16-18) Almost exactly 32 years after an accidental nuclear explosion reduced Chernobyl to rubble, Emma Thomson discovers the reality of life—and radiation—in this remote Ukrainian region as it begins to come alive again.
• Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster by Svetlana Alexievich. Fascinating, horrifying book, for which author was winner of the Nobel Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award. It took several kinds of courage to write this book.
• Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War also by Svetlana Alexievich. "Alexievich uses first-person accounts to illustrate the style of conflict the Soviet soldier faced, as well as to reveal the enormity of the betrayal of the ordinary Soviet citizen that may have contributed to the end of the U.S.S.R. A powerful, lyrical, and poignant portrait of a brutal chapter in modern history."--Library Journal
• 24-hour Putin people: my week watching Kremlin ‘propaganda channel’ RT (Tim Dowling, The Guardian, 11-29-17) “The annoying thing about RT is that some of the reporting is very good and genuine,” says Misha Glenny, the author of McMafia. “The trick is trying to differentiate that from the propaganda. The Russians have moved on since the days of Pravda, the Soviet Communist party newspaper, or Radio Moscow International during the cold war – at least then you knew it was all guff, coming out of the Ideological Secretariat. RT is designed to confuse and muddy the waters. That mixture of genuine and guff leaves you baffled and disoriented, which, I guess, is the point.”
• Russian spy poisoning: Scientist Vladimir Uglev 'helped create Novichok' (Stephen Rosenberg, BBC News, 4-19-18) Moscow continues to deny the existence of a chemical weapons programme called Novichok, but retired Russian scientist Vladimir Uglev says he created the Novichok nerve agent that was used in the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury on 4 March. Includes illustration of what the chemical does to the body.
Chicks in Academia
GIRLS AND WOMEN IN SCIENCE
From the National Science Foundation's New Formulas for America's Workforce by Pat McNees
• From the National Science Foundation: New Formulas for America's Workforce
These contain invaluable resources for how to engage girls and young women in activities that encourage their interest in science and engineering. No reason you can't do them at home or in camp.
• New Formulas for America's Workforce: Girls in Science and Engineering by Pat McNees. The original compilation of NSF grant awards made from 1993 through mid-2002 by the GSE program. Download by chapter (PDF) or download whole book, free.
• New Formulas for America's Workforce 2--Girls in Science and Engineering (available formats: HTML and PDF) NSF’s investment in projects to improve the representation of girls and women in the sciences, mathematics, engineering and technology, from mid-2002 through 2005.
• New Tools for America's Workforce (HTML or PDF, posted 8-8-07) New Tools catalogs a wide variety of products from NSF-funded projects to help teachers, employers, policymakers, and parents foster gender diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Science often operates under unacknowledged rules, norms, and expectations. And the intense power in faculty-student relations can last well beyond graduate school. Many graduate women are keenly aware of, and articulate about, the culture and institutional practices of science but are reluctant to speak up about them. Banu Subramaniam’s faculty-student research and action project at the University of Arizona was designed to break those silences.
One of their first discoveries was that graduate education is structured less around the classroom than around a protégé-master model. In this one-to-one model, interpersonal communication and relationships are central, and social markers of gender, class, ethnicity, and sexuality are ubiquitous—but talking about interpersonal communication, relationships, and social markers is forbidden.
They came to realize that graduate education is unique, with a “student” clearly subordinate to the faculty and in search of training from them, yet leaving school as a “colleague” to the very same faculty. Undergraduates learn about science and might even learn how to do experiments and interpret data, but graduate students learn how to “be” a “scientist.” For this, they must learn to present themselves as credible professionals —- network, design and carry out research projects, choose interesting and productive research topics, give talks, discuss science with colleagues, procure grants, publish results, recruit and motivate good students. So what began as a study of women’s experiences in graduate education became a look at scientists as knowledge-makers, who value not talking about and not recognizing the social world they create, maintain, and reproduce. How does this culture function? How does it reinscribe particular notions of gender, race, and class with the next generation of aspiring scientists?
Phase I, an institutional analysis, used questionnaires and interviews to determine how gender dynamics are “operationalized” in graduate education and what roles are played by male and female graduate students, post-docs, faculty, and department heads. Who determines the shaping of everyday science? The running of labs? The research questions asked? The methodologies employed? How do the power dynamics shape the participation of the different groups and in what ways?
Phase II featured a facilitated conversation between 20 faculty and 20 female graduate students about the strengths and limitations of graduate education for women, with an emphasis on gender issues. Four departments (math, chemistry, molecular and cellular biology, and ecology and evolutionary biology) were chosen because they had supportive chairs and represented different forms of research. It was important to the success of this part of the project — especially to student frankness — that students and faculty communicated through the facilitators and that participants’ identities remained anonymous to the other group. In a framework developed by Mary Wyer at Duke, two facilitators met separately with two faculty groups and two student groups in 20 two-hour sessions.
Student experiences varied somewhat (often shaped by lab groups and departments) but students were astonished at how similar some experiences were across departments. Persistent student issues were the lack of, and the need for, greater communication between faculty and students. There was departmental variation but on the whole students felt there were not enough occasions for faculty-student interactions. Overall, they did not believe faculty cared.
Faculty viewed their relationships with their students as particular and idiosyncratic. Anecdotes students offered as symptomatic of larger currents in graduate education were usually said by faculty to reflect problems of individuals. Students tended to view becoming a scientist or mathematician as a particular, constructed, and sometimes arbitrary process. They were interested in challenging and reinterpreting who could be a good scientist. Faculty tended to see the process as natural, involving the growth and maturation of something already inside the students in incipient form—a growth on which they had only limited influence. Their understanding of what happens often left little room for criticism in the sense that it emphasized a “stay if you fit in, leave if you don’t” perspective. To faculty, a student should be able to tell that s/he is “cut out to be a scientist” if graduate education seemed to come easy, be reasonable and rational. If not, the student was not meant to be a scientist.
Powerful insights came from an exercise in which each group was invited to name the unwritten rules governing graduate education. Students developed an extensive set of rules that demonstrated their commitment to being “good” and competent scientists—for example, Don’t complain, even about real problems; don’t have a personal life; pretend to be like your advisor; being a woman is a liability; you don’t have input, even on decisions that affect graduate school (even when asked); don’t exhibit “feminine” behaviors.
Students questioned the necessity and efficacy of many of these rules. Why must you work all the time? Why are research positions seen as a more “valuable” career track than teaching positions? Why are certain behaviors not allowed? Why is scientific culture silent on issues of gender? Why can you not have a personal life? Students consistently challenged the lists of rules and through that critiqued the scientific culture’s prototype of the ideal “scientist.” The students were willing to follow rules to do science; what they challenged was whether all of the rules defined by contemporary scientific culture produced good science — or, more important, whether not following those rules always produced bad science. They saw phase III as a place to envision a different scientific culture, one not hostile to their identities as women, one structured to create imaginative, empowered, and productive graduate student experiences.
In phase III, a subset of the faculty and students came together for an extremely successful open dialogue, aimed at re-envisioning graduate education, which highlighted the importance of communication as a way of clearing each group’s misperceptions of the other. Demonstrating that faculty and students could develop an open, honest, and constructive dialogue, this group developed constructive recommendations for change, posted at (http://w3.arizona.edu/~ws/science/nsf).
This project personally transformed many of the participants, but translating the recommendations into institutional change and transforming others within their departments proved difficult—because not all members of each department participated in the whole experience. A one-hour seminar or forum that brings faculty and students together does not recreate the process. To transform a department is extremely difficult because it requires breaking silences that have developed historically within the culture of science. Change requires concentrated work within a few departments, involving a significant number of faculty and graduate students, and in some cases all faculty.
• Academia is quietly and systematically keeping its women from succeeding (Marcie Bianco, Quartz, 4-30-16)
• Sexualized Images Undermine Women's Success In Academia (Zhana Vrangalova, Forbes, 10-30-17)
• True Confessions: Feminist Professors Tell Stories Out of School the book, edited by Susan Gubar. See Marina DelVecchio's review. Plus reviews of other feminist books.
• The More Gender Equality, the Fewer Women in STEM (Olga Khazan, Science, The Atlantic, 2-18, 18) A new study explores a strange paradox: In countries that empower women, they are less likely to choose math and science professions.
• Commission On Women In The Profession 22nd Report Card (2016-17)
• Cool science sites
• 6 Things Successful Women in STEM Have in Common (Laura Sherbin, Harvard Business Review, 4-27-18) They telegraph confidence, claim credit for their ideas, invest in peer networks, build up protégés, bring their authentic selves to work, speak up when they are overlooked, "speak on panels, sit on boards, and make their credentials or accomplishments known," and so on.
• Women in STEM: 'Change the World Like a Girl' (Alex Lardieri, US News & World Report, 4-6-18)
A lot of these articles came out at about the same time the NSF books on girls and sciene came out.
• Bias Literacy: A Review of Concepts in Research on Gender Discrimination and the U.S. Context by Ruta Sevo and Daryl E. Chubin, 2010.
• Where Popular Science Is Called Women's Work (Samuel G. Freedman, NY Times, 4-27-05)
• Why Janie Can't Engineer: Raising Girls to Succeed (Pat McNees, Wash Post, 1-6-04) Would your attitude toward physics have been different if your introduction to it had involved devising a catapult to send the head of a Barbie doll over a castle wall during a mock medieval siege?
• A Woman's Place in the Cosmos (Jennifer Frey, WashPost, 3-17-05) Some Scientists Want Harvard's Summers To See That for Girls, The Sky's the Limit
• Sex Ed: The Science of Difference (Steven Pinker, The New Republic, 2-14-05)
• The Revenge of Ellen Swallow (Editorial, New York Times)
• For Some Girls, the Problem With Math Is That They're Good at It (Cornelia Dean, NY Times, 2-1-05)
The flap about Larry Summers
Questioning the norms in graduate science education (in 2005)
Here are links both to what Lawrence H. Summers actually said in his remarks in 2005 about diversity at Harvard and to some of the more interesting pieces written in response to his comments about why more girls and women don't go into science and engineering. His comments certainly mobilized discussion. As for what to do to change things, read the story "Why Janie Can't Engineer" and take a look at the National Science Foundation book on the subject.
• The Man in The Ivory Tower: Harvard's Lawrence Summers Is a Study in Controversy (Philip Kennicott, Wash Post, 4-15-05)