Trump demands border wall money; shutdown showdown nears
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE
Friday, December 7
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — President Donald Trump said Friday that Congress should provide all the money he wants for his promised U.S.-Mexico border wall, and he called illegal immigration a “threat to the well-being of every American community.”
Trump spoke hours after signing a short-term spending bill that covers key government departments for two more weeks, until Dec. 21, setting up a pre-Christmas showdown over the wall.
The president wants the next spending package to include at least $5 billion for the proposed wall. House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California rejected that a day earlier.
At an appearance in Kansas City, Missouri, Trump accused Democrats of playing a political game, and said it was one that he ultimately would win.
“Congress must fully fund border security in the year-ending funding bill,” Trump said as he helped close the 2018 Project Safe Neighborhoods law enforcement conference, which was sponsored by the Justice Department. “We have to get this done.”
“They’re playing games,” he said of Democrats. “They’re playing political games. I actually think the politics of what they’re doing is very bad for them. We’re going to very soon find out. Maybe I’m not right. But usually I’m right.”
He also said money for a program that encourages federal, state and local authorities to collaborate on crime-fighting strategies was increased by $50 million this year. The president said he will ask Congress for more money next year, but didn’t say how much.
Trump said his administration is giving law enforcement officials the resources they need to do their jobs. He said there are more than 200 new violent crime prosecutors nationwide and cities have access to $600 million worth of surplus military equipment.
Introducing Trump was acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. Trump announced before leaving Washington that he planned to nominate William Barr, who was attorney general under President George H.W. Bush, to again lead the Justice Department.
The short-term spending bill avoided a partisan fight that had been expected this week as Washington. It was put on hold for ceremonies honoring Bush, who died Nov. 30.
Trump is set to meet Tuesday at the White House with Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York. Republicans control the House and Senate now, but Democrats will retake the majority in the House in January after midterm election victories last month.
The president said the money he is demanding from Congress would fully pay for Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers, attorneys, detention beds and the border wall, which he said is needed “more than ever.”
Trump has been agitated by multiple caravans of Central American migrants that have made their way to the U.S.-Mexico border. Several times he has threatened to seal off entry into the U.S. He claims many of the migrants are criminals or individuals unwanted in the U.S.
“Every American citizen is entitled to a safe community and a secure border,” Trump said.
Associated Press writers Zeke Miller and Deb Riechmann in Washington contributed to this report.
Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervillap
Opinion: A Trip Through Trump’s Embattled Borderlands
By Laiken Jordahl
Deep in this beautiful wilderness of sagebrush, wildflowers and soaptree yucca, a freshly minted 18-foot-high steel barrier towers over the landscape. Out here in the remote New Mexico desert, the new border wall is the only man-made structure in sight.
This is a serene and silent place. There’s no military. No Border Patrol. No signs of migrant crossings. And, until recently, there was no border wall. The mass of metal, 20 miles long looks more like an abstract art installation than a border-security tactic. It seems absurdly out of place.
In April bulldozers descended on this peaceful stretch of desert to rip open the earth and erect 20 miles of President Trump’s border wall. To rush construction, the Trump administration illegally waived dozens of environmental and public-health laws that protect endangered wildlife, Native American graves, clean air and clean water, among other things.
The wall here is already doing real damage. It’s an impassable barrier that stops animal migrations essential to the survival of many wildlife species.
That’s not speculation. Radio-collar data show an endangered Mexican wolf migrating across the border through this very stretch of desert in 2017. Wolves know no borders. They need vast expanses of wild habitat to survive. Had the wolf found a hulking steel barrier in his path, he’d have had no choice but to turn back, axing his chances of finding a mate and undercutting the odds of his species’ recovery.
The bollard-style walls will also obstruct the natural migration of species like kit foxes, bighorn sheep and ringtail cats. The border wall will stop these animals from finding food and water, fragment wildlife populations and increase the risk of disease.
The Center for Biological Diversity, where I work, has sued to challenge border wall construction here. A hearing in U.S. District Court in Washington is scheduled for Dec. 18.
I first visited the area, just west of the Santa Teresa Port of Entry, in January, soon after the Department of Homeland Security waived dozens of laws and signaled its intention to start construction. I came back in June to join more than 400 community members, scientists and activists to protest this senseless and destructive project. And I returned again recently to see the status of construction.
Although I knew what to expect, it was heartbreaking to see. This wall in the wild is a $73 million eyesore, an insane waste of taxpayer funds and an affront to immigrant and border communities. It’s an immovable metal mass, baking in the sun and waiting to rust.
Politicians from both parties voted to fund this section of wall by approving a provision bundled into the 2017 appropriations bill. It didn’t get much coverage, and media still claim that Trump hasn’t built any new border wall. But no one who’s seen this New Mexico desert before and after this year’s construction could say that.
Now, Congress is pushing for more border wall funding before Democrats take the House in January. Trump and Republicans want $5 billion, and Trump says he’s willing to shut down the government to get it. That’s enough to build hundreds of miles of new border walls.
As negotiations and rhetoric ramp up, we need to remind Congress and Trump what most of the U.S.-Mexico border really looks like.
Our sprawling borderlands are peaceful and among the most biodiverse regions in the country. You’re more likely to see mountain lions, bobcats and javelina than cross paths with immigrants or smugglers. These landscapes are a national treasure, home to endangered species and protected wilderness areas, national parks and wildlife refuges.
It’s not too late to stop more miles of wall from being funded, but members of Congress need to hear from people who oppose it. We can’t afford to lose another inch of these spectacular wild places to Trump’s border wall.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Laiken Jordahl works at the Center for Biological Diversity, where he focuses on protecting wildlife, ecosystems and communities throughout the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.
5 things to know about Guantanamo Bay on its 115th birthday
December 10, 2018
Associate Professor of History, Tulane University
Jana Lipman has been an adviser to the Guantanamo Public Memory Project. She has also received the US Army Military History Institute’s General and Mrs. Matthew B. Ridgway Military History Research Grant.
The naval base at Guantanamo Bay is quietly commemorating its 115th anniversary.
On Dec. 10, 1903, the United States established its first overseas military base on 45 square miles of Cuban territory.
Today, the base at Guantanamo Bay is infamously associated with images of Muslim detainees wearing orange jumpsuits – alleged terrorists detained after the Sept. 11 World Trade Center attacks.
But there’s much more to this naval base than its use as an offshore prison, as I documented in my book, “Guantánamo
A Working-Class History between Empire and Revolution.”
Here are five things you probably don’t know about Guantanamo Bay.
1. The U.S. won it as a spoil of war
The United States intervened in Cuba’s decades-long battle for independence from Spain in 1898, waging a six-week military campaign that Secretary of State John Hay memorably described as a “splendid little war.”
The Spanish quickly surrendered, signing the Treaty of Paris and then handing over Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam to the United States.
To achieve full independence, the U.S. required the Cuban government to amend its new Constitution to allow the U.S. to “sell or lease” territory for a naval base. The Cubans did so grudgingly.
Unlike most leases, this one has no end date. The U.S. military may use the site indefinitely.
The base in Guantanamo Bay has been a reminder of American imperialism in the Caribbean ever since.
Cuba wants the land returned. In his historic meeting with Barack Obama in 2016, President Raúl Castro cited the base as a key obstacle in improving U.S.-Cuban relations.
2. The Cuban revolution took place nearby
When I tell people I study Guantanamo, they immediately imagine the military base. I’ve never set foot there.
My research is about the eastern Cuban city of Guantánamo, located some 15 miles inland from Guantanamo Bay.
Guantánamo, home to about 200,000 people, is an 18-hour bus ride from Havana in an eastern Cuban region called Oriente – a stronghold of the Cuban Revolution.
Starting in December 1956, brothers Fidel and Raúl Castro and a small group of guerrillas began a military campaign in Oriente that would ultimately overthrow Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.
Cuban base workers at Guantanamo Bay aided the Castros’ insurgency by raising money on the base and pilfering supplies like gasoline. Evidence suggests that some U.S. military personnel secretly funneled arms to the guerrillas. The sons of three American servicemen even ran off to join the uprising in 1957.
The Cuban base workers generally escaped punishment, but at least one U.S. sailor faced a court martial for supporting the Castros’ revolution.
3. Jamaicans and Filipinos are the main workforce
Approximately 6,000 people live on the Guantanamo Bay naval base today, including American military personnel, their families and civilian staff.
Historically, most of the staff at Guantanamo Bay were Cubans from the city of Guantánamo. The base offered steady jobs at wages far higher than those on local sugar plantations.
But in 1964 Fidel Castro cut off the base’s Cuban water supply in a diplomatic conflict with the United States. President Lyndon Johnson ordered most Cuban workers fired to make the base more self-sufficient.
Jamaican and later Filipino guest laborers were brought in to take their place. Today, these guest workers live in trailers and old barracks on the base and do everything from construction and food services to laundry. Many are paid less than the U.S. minimum wage.
4. Guantanamo Bay is a mostly Constitution-free zone
The 1898 Guantanamo Bay lease agreement created a paradox over who has legal authority on the base by stipulating that Cuba retains “ultimate sovereignty” over the territory while the U.S. has “complete jurisdiction.”
Local Guantánamo journalist Lino Lemes wrote about the practical implications of this legal contradiction in the 1940s and 1950s. He observed that the working conditions of Cubans employed at Guantanamo Bay complied with neither Cuban nor American labor laws.
In 1954, U.S. officers on the base jailed a Cuban employee for two weeks without trial for allegedly stealing a couple hundred dollars in cigarettes from the naval exchange where he worked.
Leaders of the base workers’ union said that his detention violated due process.
“We could not conceive that in a naval establishment of the most powerful nation in the world, champion of democracy, things like this could happen,” they wrote.
More recently, in the 1990s, the Coast Guard intercepted thousands of Haitians fleeing post-coup political unrest in boats and brought them to Guantanamo Bay. Most were denied asylum and sent home.
But 205 HIV-positive refugees were detained at Guantanamo Bay for months. Though they had been granted asylum, immigration officials would not admit them into the United States because of their health status.
Human rights lawyers and law students took on their case, charging that the base was a “legal black hole.”
A federal judge agreed, writing in 1993 that the base had become “an HIV prison camp.” He ordered all the Haitian asylum-seekers released and the Guantanamo Bay detention center closed.
The Haitians were admitted to the United States, but the unused facilities remained. And the base’s nebulous legal status – and therefore the question of whether the Constitution applies there – remained unresolved.
5. Dozens of people are still detained at Guantanamo Bay
This set the stage for the Bush administration to transform Guantanamo Bay into a prison for alleged enemy combatants after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The U.S. has held 780 men from more than 35 countries at the base. Conditions there have included imprisonment in cages, sensory deprivation and forced feedings – treatment that many believe amounts to torture.
Arguing that this was “contrary” to American values, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the detention center in 2009 during his first days in office. Nearly 200 prisoners were released to their home countries or resettled elsewhere.
But 40 people are still detained there. The vast majority were never charged with a crime.
President Donald Trump has since ordered the Guantanamo Bay military prison to remain open indefinitely.
The naval base in Guantanamo Bay will likely have many more anniversaries. Whether anyone celebrates is another matter.
Food-Borne Illness & Climate Change: What’s The Connection?
By Roddy Scheer
Dear EarthTalk: I read the federal government’s recently released climate change report, and was surprised to learn that global warming is even being blamed for an increase in food-borne illness. What’s the connection?
—Jeremy Brotherton, Camden, ME
Yes, the new federal climate report (the “Fourth National Climate Assessment”) paints a dire picture of our future—including compromised food safety—if we don’t rein in greenhouse gas emissions.
According to the non-profit Stop Foodborne Illness (SFI), climate change is already starting to affect food safety as a result of increased bacterial adaptation to fast changing environmental conditions brought on by warming surface temperatures. In essence, the bacteria that rules the world is getting better at adapting to new environments. The stronger the bacteria, the better it can do colonizing new territory—and making more of us sick. One side effect of increased bacterial resistance is much more use of antibiotics by veterinarians, farmers and ranchers to keep animals healthy. But it’s a zero-sum game: The more antibiotics we use on ourselves and animals, the better bacteria get at developing resistance to them.
Additionally, global warming brings increased flooding, which spreads pathogens from misdirected waste streams across soils, including where children play and food crops grow. Meanwhile, warming-induced drought compromises overall soil health and brings new bacterial challenges to farmers and ranchers.
Another way global warming contributes to more food-borne illness is by increasing the incidence and severity of natural disasters where first responders may not prioritize food safety and many of the affected are left without power or running water that could help them sanitize food.
Likewise, agricultural experts worry that exaggerated “mycotoxin” growth in a warmer world could also contaminate food sources. “Mycotoxins are a group of highly toxic chemical substances that are produced by toxigenic molds that commonly grow on a number of crops,” reports SFI. High temperature, humidity and precipitation brought on by climate change can create optimal conditions for mold growth.
“At high doses, mycotoxins produce acute symptoms and deaths, and particular mycotoxins may possess carcinogenic, immunosuppressive, neurotoxic, estrogenic and teratogenic activity,” adds SFI. What’s scary is that we could already be ingesting these contaminants—and surely will be more so in the future—by eating inadvertently infected crops and/or meat derived from livestock raised on contaminated feed.
And then there’s “zoonosis,” the transmittal of diseases from pets and livestock to people through direct contact with infected animals, meat or wastes. Climate change will increase the susceptibility of animals to disease, says SFI, thus increasing the likelihood of our contracting illnesses from animals.
While we can try our best to eat responsibly grown foods and stay out of the way of potentially infected animals, the solution to global warming-induced increases in food-borne illness is to stop emitting greenhouse gases. But as we are finding, that’s much more easily said than done.
Open government issues surrounding city council texts are not trivial
Editorial from The Cincinnati Enquirer
December 7, 2018
To the average citizen, all this fuss over a few text messages among the majority of Cincinnati City Council might seem trivial. But it’s not. The content of Council members Wendell Young and Tamaya Dennard’s disappeared text messages may be innocuous, but to haughtily flout the law sends a signal that council members don’t care about voters or open government.
This is one of the reasons we trumpet transparency and opposed Issue 12, which granted council the ability to meet behind closed doors in executive session. Young testified before a grand jury this week about whether he destroyed text messages that a judge ordered turned over as part of a lawsuit alleging the council members illegally held meetings via text.
If true, Young’s actions are disturbing and potentially criminal. As a former police officer, Young knows the importance of preserving evidence, so intentionally destroying texts vital to a court case would be unconscionable and would bring into question his fitness to serve. We’ll give Dennard the benefit of the doubt about dropping her cell phone in a pool, resulting in her lost texts. Given Mayor John Cranley’s mishap with his cell phone and a hot tub earlier this year, perhaps it’s time for some rules governing council members’ cell phone use near bodies of water.