What’s Yours Is Mine
October 28, 2021
The Good News
- HHS pledges more effort, resources toward harm reduction for drug users (WaPo, $)
- Alphabet’ has a new, open-source device that makes clean drinking wate (Fast Company)
“Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate, and to humble.” — Yehuda Berg
What’s Yours Is Mine
The wheels of justice can move exceedingly slowly, if at all, and it often depends on whether an aggrieved group has much political recognition or clout. Issues linked to mainstream religious freedom can speed their way to the Supreme Court’s shadow docket in record time, while religious and environmental justice issues for Native Americans can simmer on the system’s back burner for a lifetime.
The sprawling Navajo reservation, located in parts of Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico, is the largest and most populous Native American reservation, almost 28,000 square miles. Its Four Corners area (the three states plus Colorado) is rich in radioactive uranium ore. From 1944 to 1986, nearly four million tons of uranium ore were extracted from the reservation under leases with the Navajo Nation. Many Navajo worked the mines, often living and raising families close by. The federal government knew, from at least the early 1950s, of severely harmful health effects from uranium mining, but it kept that information from the Diné, as Navajo people call themselves.
The Navajo Nation declared an end to uranium mining on their lands in 1986, but that was far from the end of the story. In the early 1990s, Hydro Resources Inc. (HRI) applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for a license to conduct uranium mining at four sites in the Navajo communities of Church Rock and Crownpoint, in northwest New Mexico. HRI intended to use a method of extraction called in-situ leaching (ISL) or in-situ recovery, the most relevant risk of which is contamination of groundwater. In 1994, Rita and Mitchell Capitan founded Eastern Navajo Diné Against Uranium Mining (ENDAUM) to fight the mining operation. Despite clear evidence of environmental contamination, including drinking water sources with elevated levels of radiation, the NRC approved HRI’s license in 1998.
The New Mexico Environmental Law Center (NMELC) represents ENDAUM, and together they have been fighting for compensation, cleanup, and ceasing further harm being done to Navajo communities from uranium mining proponents. There has been some success with the first two goals. But the third is still in flux, and the U.S. legal system has not been helpful.
Last week ENDAUM submitted a new ‘substantial evidence’ filing with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a part of the Organization of American States, alleging the U.S. government and its NRC have violated their human rights by licensing uranium mines in their communities. The petition with the commission won’t necessarily offer ENDAUM legal recourse. But a favorable recommendation could help them in future legal proceedings against uranium mine projects. It’s a fight 70 years in the making — and counting. (Guardian, NCBI, NMELC, NM Political Report, NRC, EPA)
Southern Europe Faces Deadly Storm
- This week, a medicane — a hurricane-like storm — formed over the Mediterranean Sea and is dumping torrential rain that’s causing flooding in parts of Europe. In Southern Italy, two people died and a third person was missing late Tuesday. Red warnings have been issued for Wednesday and Thursday on the island of Sicily and the Linguaglossa region, where the city of Catania is located. Over 600 rescue operations have been carried out in Catania and schools and non-essential shops and offices are ordered to stay closed until Friday.
- The storm is an ominous warning for global leaders preparing to gather in Rome for a G20 summit. Climate concerns are high on the agenda at the event, which will be immediately followed by a critical COP26 meeting in Scotland. Science shows that human-made climate change is causing more frequent and intense weather events. It’s also contributing to swings between drought and floods in parts of the Western U.S., the Middle East and Africa. (CNN)
Pill The Beans
- U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturer Merck has agreed to allow other drugmakers around the world to produce its COVID-19 pill, called molnupiravir, in a move aimed at helping millions of people in poorer countries get access to the potentially life-saving drug. Merck reported this month that molnupiravir cut hospitalizations and deaths in half among patients with early symptoms of COVID-19.
- The Medicines Patent Pool, a U.N.-backed public health organization, said Wednesday it had signed a voluntary licensing agreement for the pill with Merck and its partner, Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. The agreement will allow the Medicines Patent Pool to grant further licenses to qualified companies approved to make the medication; however, it excludes Brazil and China, both of which have strong, established capacity to produce anti-viral medicines.
- Neither Merk nor Ridgeback Biotherapeutics will receive royalties under the agreement for as long as the World Health Organization deems COVID-19 to be a global emergency. None of the makers of COVID-19 vaccines has agreed to a similar deal, despite repeated requests from governments and health officials. (LA Times)
Additional World News
- India’s Supreme Court orders independent probe following Pegasus Project investigation (WaPo, $)
- A cyberattack paralyzed every gas station in Iran (NPR)
- Poland told to pay €1m a day in legal row with EU (BBC)
- Judge leading Beirut blast probe presses on amid opposition (LAT)
- Lebanese Forces supporters protest party leader’s summoning (Al Jazeera)
- Brazil senators back criminal charges against Bolsonaro over Covid handling (BBC)
- Sudan strongman is seen as an insider with powerful allies (AP)
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So It Is Ritten
- At Monday’s pretrial hearing of Kyle Rittenhouse, Kenosha County Circuit Judge Bruce Schroeder made a ruling that suggests a jury should find for the defense. Rittenhouse was 17 in August 2020, when he shot three protesters, two of them fatally, in Kenosha, Wisconsin during a demonstration against the police shooting of a Black man.
- Numerous videos taken during the protests show Rittenhouse carrying an AR-15-style rifle and walking the city’s streets with a group of armed men, who said they were there to protect businesses after nights of arson and looting. The situation turned deadly after the teenager scuffled with the unarmed protesters near a car dealership. Rittenhouse is claiming self-defense.
- Schroeder told prosecutors that at trial, the men Rittenhouse shot can potentially be referred to as “rioters” or “looters,” but they cannot be called “victims.” One legal analyst said “rioter” and “looter” were “loaded” and “pejorative” terms that suggested the victims “deserve what they got…[maybe] even deserved to die.” She added with his decision, the judge is “definitely signaling something to these jurors.” (CNN)
Let’s Make A Deal
- Congressional Democrats signaled Wednesday they are closing in on a long-elusive deal to overhaul the nation’s health care, education, climate, and tax laws. The White House met again with conservative Democratic holdouts Senators Joe Manchin (D-WVA) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AR) ahead of the president’s departure on Thursday for summit meetings in Italy and Scotland.
- The Dems will likely get more than $500 billion in new money to combat climate change, and a temporary program that would help low-income people afford health insurance in a dozen states that haven’t expanded Medicaid. Before Wednesday, the party had neared consensus over a slew of other programs to aid families, including expanded tax credits for parents and new, free and universal prekindergarten for their children.
- But unfortunately, many other initiatives were scaled back or jettisoned as a result of demands from Manchin and Sinema. A heavily supported promise by Biden to provide paid family and medical leave to millions of Americans appeared to fall out of the bill entirely by late Wednesday. (WaPo)
Additional USA News
- Nor’easter: 440,000 outages as Massachusetts hit by strong winds (NBC)
- Democrats unveil new billionaires’ tax plan to help pay for Biden agenda (Guardian)
- US begins legal appeal to get Julian Assange extradited (BBC)
- Election-Rigging Claims Fuel Virginia Governor’s Race (WSJ)
- White House plans for $500B for climate in Democratic spending bill (The Hill)
- US marshal, Georgia officer indicted in death of man shot 76 times (NBC)
- Investigators confused Brian Laundrie’s mother for him while watching their home, police reportedly acknowledge (CNN)
Making X-Cellent Progress
- Dana Zzyym (pronounced “zim”) is an intersex Colorado resident who has been in a legal battle with the State Department since 2015. Zzyym was born with ambiguous physical sexual characteristics, but was raised as a boy and underwent several surgeries that failed to make Zzyym appear fully male. Zzyym served in the Navy as a male, but later came to identify as intersex while working and studying at Colorado State University.
- Zzyym was denied a passport for failing to check male or female on an application. According to court documents, Zzyym wrote “intersex” above the boxes marked “M” and “F” and in a separate letter requested an X gender marker instead. The State Department’s denial of Zzyym’s passport prevented Zzyym from being able to travel to an Organization Intersex International meeting in Mexico. In June, the State Department announced it was moving toward adding a third gender marker for nonbinary, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people, but said it would take time because it required extensive updates to its computer systems.
- On Wednesday, the first US passport was issued with an “X” gender designation, a milestone in the recognition of the rights of people who don’t identify as male or female. The State Department said it expects to offer the option more broadly next year, as the passport application and system update with the X designation option still needs to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget, which reviews all government forms before they can be issued. The U.S. now joins a few countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Nepal and Canada, in allowing its citizens to designate a gender other than male or female on their passports. The department did not announce to whom this first passport was issued, but Zzyym seems like the best candidate. (LA Times)
- First penny black stamp could fetch up to £6m at auction (Guardian)
- Why do only mammals have tusks? Study traces their surprising origins (CNN)
- Cambridge college, Paris museum return looted African artefacts (Reuters)
- Scientists reveal why great white sharks might attack humans (CNN)
- Neutrino result heralds new chapter in physics (BBC)
- This AI Predicts How Old Children Are. Can It Keep Them Safe? (Wired)
- Ancient DNA from Sitting Bull’s scalp lock confirms living great-grandson (Ars Technica)
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