Notes from the US

Freedom’s long-running US correspondent Louis Further does his monthly roundup of some of the lesser-known stories that have emerged over the last few weeks.

Racism

It would be a foolish observer of the United States who tried to argue that racism no longer exists: examples abound daily. At the start of last month, for instance, school authorities in San Antonio, Texas, had to launch an investigation when a pupil discovered a flyer for the Ku Klux Klan wedged between a soap dispenser and the wall in a toilet at East Central High School. A member of the school staff later found a second flyer – identical to the first – also in a boys’ toilets.

Perhaps judges can help? Possibly – but a new milestone was reached at the same time as this incident in Texas when the US Senate quietly confirmed four more of Donald Trump’s lifetime appointments to federal judicial posts. ‘Conservative’ judges successfully appointed by this administration now number more than 150.

What’s more, it was a majority of judges in the Supreme Court who cleared the way last month for the Trump administration’s rule to go into effect which dramatically limits the ability of Central American migrants to claim asylum while they are appealing.

An eight-and-a-half-month pregnant woman from El Salvador was sent back to Mexico last month by US immigration authorities, even after being treated in a US hospital when she began to experience contractions. The woman is one of more than 38,000 asylum seekers forced out of the US under the inhumane and likely illegal ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy of the present administration as Trump’s attempt to make America white continues. Informed assessments by immigration and medical experts are usually that pregnant migrants in Mexico often do not have access to medical care, or even sufficient food and clean water. This latest act of barbarism by Trump is at least the sixth known one.

That’s cruel enough, but it comes only days after Trump refused to allow climate refugees from the Bahamas into the US because Trump claimed that survivors from hurricane Dorian are actually “very bad gang members” and “drug dealers”.

Trump’s cruelty and attempts to destroy the lives of non-white, non-Americans took a step further at the beginning of this month. In what amounted to a ‘proclamation’, he stated that anyone wishing to enter the US will now need to prove that they can guarantee health insurance – something by no means either assured or easy. If they can’t, they will be denied a visa.

Only the day before this dictator-like act, the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union, the equivalent of Freedom in the UK) was a leading party in a federal lawsuit filed in the Arizona District Court, which ‘[seeks]… damages on behalf of thousands of traumatized children and parents who were forcibly torn from each other under the Trump administration’s illegal practice of separating families at the border from when it began in 2017 to the present.’

Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, makes the point unambivalently that “The suffering and trauma inflicted on these little children and parents is horrific… Tragically, it could take years for these families to heal. Some may never recover, but we are fighting to give them a chance…”

Environment

In the middle of September, Trump – as usual these days, acting entirely without the benefit of wiser minds – actually repealed the rule from the Obama presidency which protects drinking water for nearly a third of the country. Yes, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has announced that pollution controls for 60% of the bodies of water in the US have been scrapped.

One of the few ways to make sense of such recklessness is to see it as provocative and a rallying cry to the ignorant. There can surely be no other way to explain yet one more destructive act at exactly the same time in September: a Michigan man is now to be allowed to import the remains of a black rhinoceros which he shot and killed on a trophy hunt in Namibia in 2018. The black rhinoceros is a critically endangered species, of course. Trump’s sons are well known for exhibiting the same crass cruelty, cowardice and callous disregard form the rights of the living: they too have often posed next to a slaughtered carcass with the smirks of the wicked across their faces. So did the hunter, Chris Peyerk with his family. And Trump approved and lauded their idiocy thereby encouraging more death and destruction.

In Wyoming drilling for oil and gas on 300,000 acres of federal land was set to go ahead when a federal court temporarily blocked the disaster recently saying that the Interior Department had failed to take the impact of climate change into consideration when issuing leases. Going against the trends made worse by the élites, US District Judge Rudolph Contreras (of Washington, DC) wrote, “Given the national, cumulative nature of climate change, considering each individual drilling project in a vacuum deprives the agency and the public of the context necessary to evaluate oil and gas drilling on federal land before irretrievably committing to that drilling.”

In a more characteristic move, the Trump administration is to remove and weaken plans that would have promoted more energy-efficient light bulbs. The Energy Department announced last month that it is to reverse legislation passed by Congress 12 years ago to phase out inefficient incandescent and halogen bulbs, and replace them with LEDs or fluorescent light bulbs. As Jason Hartke of the Alliance to Save Energy said, “Wasting energy with inefficient light bulbs isn’t just costly for homes and businesses, it’s terrible for our climate.” Donald Trump said that energy-efficient light bulbs put his (facial) complexion in an unfavourable light.

The environmental rights group Global Witness released a report showing that the US is on track to dwarf other nations’ shares of new oil and gas production over the next decade. Over 60% of all new global production is likely to come from the United States. Murray Worthy, senior campaigner at Global Witness, said “The scale of new production forecast from the US is staggering… No other country comes even close.”

Two devastating reports were published last month in the journals ‘Science’ and ‘Biological Conservation’ further outlining the extent of the climate crisis: compared with the situation in 1970 there are three billion fewer birds in the US and Canada now; this represents the loss of almost 30% of North America’s birds. The same sharp decline is also being brought about by Indonesian humans’ ignorance, greed and lack of care for our only planet.

Last month it was announced that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is preparing to revoke California’s authority to set its own vehicle emission standards. In a lunatic move, the Trump administration will reverse measures introduced in the car-dense state to try and mitigate their effects from greenhouse gas emissions. Trump has always had it in for California. Another example came last month when Andrew Wheeler, the EPA’s chief, wrote to governor Gavin Newsom to blame the homeless in California for that state’s poor water quality!

In a parallel move highly detrimental to the same part of the United States Trump announced at the beginning of this month that he – again, acting as do dictators – alone had released nearly three-quarters of a million acres of wilderness and unspoilt land in California for destruction and ruin by drilling, mining and fracking. That’s in an earthquake zone too. If this goes ahead, it will add a huge amount of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere further hastening the climate catastrophe which also threatens Trump’s own family, something you’d think he’d care about (after himself) if nothing and no-one else.

In good news, the Attorneys general for 17 states have jointly filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s attempts to roll back the Endangered Species Act on which we reported last time.

Oppression

Alex Azar is the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary. If you’re naïve, you might expect him to care about people’s… health – including children’s health; and including those with Alzheimer’s; to care about the welfare of preschool children in families with low incomes; and care about the health of those with HIV and cancer. But No. Azar told Congress last month that he plans to divert US$385 (£308) million from many of the projects which benefit these members of the population in order to fund the ‘detention centres’ (cages and prisons) across the country where more than 15,000 young undocumented immigrants are currently being held – often illegally.

Last month – determined to get their way – Republican lawmakers in North Carolina seem to have used the chaos caused by hurricane Dorian to call a vote to override Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of their (the Republicans’) state budget: Democrats say they were tricked into not turning up on the understanding that there were to be no votes on that day so that lawmakers could attend a 9/11 memorial service. It thus became easy for the vote to pass ‘unopposed’.

A report in Axios suggests that an alliance between Trump and right-wing operatives is now attempting to raise at least US$2 (£1.6) million for a campaign to discredit journalists and editors at several major US media outlets critical of Trump… the Washington Post, Buzzfeed, New York Times, and HuffPost.

It was reported last month that a new surveillance scheme is bing tested in the United States midwest: millions are apparently being experimentally spied on by the state’s radar equipment attached to high-altitude balloons.

Bilal Abdul Kareem is an American journalist who believes he was placed on the US kill list. He filed a lawsuit after claiming that he was almost killed in five US drone and missile strikes in Syria. His attempts, though, to be removed from this list have met with a response from a US judge who sided with the Trump administration and rejected his case. Tara Plochocki is Abdul Kareem’s attorney. She said, “For the first time ever, a United States federal court ruled that the government may kill one of its citizens without providing him the information necessary to prove that he is being wrongly targeted and does not deserve to die.”

This happened after a number of murders by the US in Afghanistan: dozens of Afghanis were killed last month in the southern province of Helmand just days after a US drone strike killed at least 30 farmworkers in eastern Nangarhar province.

It was announced at the end of September that Trump is to stop food aid to as many as three million people in the United States, including 500,000 children. More dogma as he rolls back as many welfare programmes as he can – in this case, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

On and on it goes…

~Louis Further