Expert: Census citizenship question would hurt Latino count
By SUDHIN THANAWALA
Tuesday, January 8
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Asking people whether they are U.S. citizens on the 2020 census would worsen the undercount of Latinos and non-citizens compared with other groups, an expert in surveys said Monday at the start of a trial over the Trump administration’s decision to include the question for the first time in 70 years.
Colm O’Muircheartaigh, a professor at the University of Chicago, said the question would reduce the percentage of Latinos and non-citizens who respond to the census questionnaire. He testified in federal court for California and numerous cities that argue that asking about citizenship is politically motivated. The state and cities are suing the U.S. government to keep the question off the population count that is done every decade.
California has the largest number of foreign-born residents and non-citizens of any state, so an undercount would jeopardize its federal funding and congressional representation, the state said in the lawsuit.
Figures from the census are used to determine the distribution of congressional seats to states and billions of dollars in federal funding.
The U.S. Justice Department argues that census officials take steps to guard against an undercount, including making follow-up visits in person, so the final numbers will be accurate. Households that skip the citizenship question but otherwise fill out a substantial portion of the survey will still be counted, government attorneys said in court documents.
O’Muircheartaigh, who has served as an adviser to the Census Bureau, said the bureau’s additional efforts to count those people would not “remediate the damage caused by the introduction of the citizenship question,” referring to an undercount of certain groups.
It’s the latest battle between California and President Donald Trump’s administration, with both sides suing the other over immigration and other issues. The government has cracked down on immigration and border security, while California has some protections for immigrants in the country illegally.
U.S. Judge Richard Seeborg is scheduled to hear a week of testimony from experts and other witnesses in the census case before deciding whether to allow the question. Seeborg is the second federal judge considering the issue, with a ruling by the first judge expected soon after a trial in New York ended in November.
The Commerce Department announced the addition of a citizenship question in March, saying the Justice Department had requested it and it would improve enforcement of a 1965 law meant to protect minority voting rights.
Government attorney Carlotta Wells said in an opening statement that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross considered a range of opinions and evaluated data from census officials before making his decision.
The move sparked an outcry from Democrats, who said it would disproportionately affect states favoring their party. All households were last asked whether individuals were U.S. citizens in the 1950 census.
Documents in the litigation in New York appear to show that Ross was pushing for the question well before the Justice Department’s request and spoke about it in spring 2017 with former senior White House adviser Steve Bannon and then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
There was enough evidence “to infer that Secretary Ross was motivated to add the citizenship question for the partisan purpose of facilitating the exclusion of non-citizens from the population count for congressional apportionment,” California and other plaintiffs told Seeborg in court documents.
Ross’ interest in pursuing the question and his discussions with other people are not evidence of an improper motive, Wells said.
O’Muircheartaigh’s testimony is part of the plaintiffs’ effort to show the citizenship question would result in a costly undercount that they say would violate the constitutional requirement that the census include everyone in the U.S., even non-citizens.
The Justice Department plans to rely on its expert, Stuart Gurrea, to argue that the question would cause no change in congressional apportionment in any state and only a negligible dip in the distribution of federal funds to California.
Climate change: effect on sperm could hold key to species extinction
January 7, 2019
Author: Kris Sales, PhD Candidate in evolution, behaviour, ecology and entomology, University of East Anglia
Disclosure statement: Kris Sales does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of East Anglia provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.
Since the 1980s, increasingly frequent and intense heatwaves have contributed to more deaths than any other extreme weather event. The fingerprints of extreme events and climate change are widespread in the natural world, where populations are showing stress responses.
A common fingerprint of a warmer world is a range shift, where the distribution of a species moves to higher altitudes or migrates toward the poles. A review of several hundred studies found an average shift of 17km poleward, and 11 metres upslope, every decade. However, if temperature changes are too intense or lead species to geographic dead ends, local extinctions occur in the heat.
In 2003, 80% of relevant studies found the fingerprints were seen among species, from grasses to trees and molluscs to mammals. Some migrated, some changed colour, some altered their bodies and some shifted their life cycle timings. A recent review of more than 100 studies found 8-50% of all species will be threatened by climate change as a result.
High temperatures and extinctions
Currently, we have a disturbingly limited knowledge of which biological traits are sensitive to climate change and therefore responsible for local extinctions. However, a potential candidate is male reproduction, because a range of medical and agricultural studies in warm blooded animals have shown that male infertility happens during heat stress.
However, until recently this had rarely been explored outside fruit flies in cold blooded animals. This is despite the fact that ectotherms – organisms that rely on heat in their environment to maintain a suitable body temperature – comprise most of biodiversity. Astonishingly, nearly 25% of all species are thought to be a beetle.
The red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum) is a useful ectotherm for large experiments on reproduction, as they can go from egg to adult in a month at 30°C. Females can store male sperm in specialised organs called spermathecae and they only need to keep 4% of a single ejaculate to enable them to produce offspring for up to 150 days.
To look at the impact of heatwaves on reproduction, beetles were exposed to either standard control conditions or five-day heatwave temperatures, which were 5°C to 7°C above their preferred temperature. Afterwards, beetles mated and a variety of experiments looked for damage to their reproductive success, sperm form and function, and offspring quality.
We found that 42°C heatwave temperatures halved the number of offspring males could produce relative to 30°C, with some males failing to produce any and mature sperm in female storage also experiencing damage from heatwaves. However, the reproductive output of pairs where only the females endured a five-day heatwave event was similar in all temperatures.
The decline was likely due to a combination of males becoming worse at mating, less sperm being transferred, less sperm transferred being alive, less sperm being kept in the females’ spermathecae and more sperm being damaged and infertile.
Two results were particularly concerning. These beetles, and many cold-blooded animals, can live for years and are likely to see multiple heatwaves. When we exposed males to two heatwave events, ten days apart, their offspring production was less than 1% of that of unheated males.
This suggests that successive heatwaves can compound the damage of previous ones. The damage to offspring longevity and male fertility was another effect which was compounded over successive generations, and could lead to spiraling population declines.
Knowing what aspects of biology higher temperatures could compromise is essential to understanding how climate change affects nature. Hopefully, this new knowledge can help predict which species are most likely to be vulnerable, allowing conservationists to prepare for the trouble ahead.
David Iain Craig, logged in via Facebook: Aren’t falling fertility rates one of nature’s ways of controlling populations becoming too numerous. Sounds like excellent news.
Kim Jong Un travels to China ahead of possible 2nd US summit
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN
Tuesday, January 8
BEIJING (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was expected to meet Tuesday with China’s president at the start of a visit to Beijing believed to be an effort to coordinate with his only major ally ahead of a possible second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Kim’s trip, announced earlier by both sides, comes after U.S. and North Korean officials are thought to have met in Vietnam to discuss the site of a second summit.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang gave no details about Kim’s schedule or China’s role as an intermediary between the U.S. and North Korea. But he said Beijing remains supportive of efforts to end tensions over U.S. demands for a halt to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
“We always believe that, as key parties to the Korean Peninsula issue, it’s important for the two sides to maintain contact and we always support their dialogue to achieve positive outcomes,” Lu told reporters at a daily briefing.
He said further information about Kim’s activities, the outcome of his meetings and a possible visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to North Korea would be “released in due course.”
A long motorcade thought to be carrying Kim, including motorcycle outriders reserved for state leaders, left a Beijing train station shortly after the arrival of an armored train consisting of 20 to 25 cars — most of whose windows were blacked-out — along tracks lined by police and paramilitary troops.
The North’s Korean Central News Agency said Kim departed Monday afternoon with his wife, Ri Sol Ju, and other top officials. It said Kim is visiting China at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Tuesday also happens to be Kim’s birthday.
Kim is expected to stay at the highly secure Diaoyutai State Guest House in the capital’s west, with meetings held at the Great Hall of the People, the hulking seat of the legislature that sits next to Tiananmen Square.
The trip marked a break with past practice in that it was announced in advance of Kim’s arrival, a possible sign of growing confidence on the part of North Korea and China, the North’s most important trading partner and a key buffer against pressure from Washington.
After years of cool relations following Kim’s assumption of power 2011, ties have improved remarkably over the past year as Xi seeks to maintain his influence in the region.
Kim’s trip comes as the U.S. and North Korea look to settle the North’s decades-long pursuit of a nuclear arsenal.
The U.S. and North Korea seemed close to war at points during 2017 as the North staged a series of increasingly powerful weapons tests that brought it closer to its nuclear goal of one day being able to target anywhere on the U.S. mainland.
Possibly fearing the economic effect of crushing outside sanctions imposed over his weapons tests, Kim abruptly turned to diplomacy with Seoul and Washington last year. He also visited China three times, notably without a reciprocal visit from Xi in a break with diplomatic convention.
But even after what was seen as a blockbuster summit between Kim and Trump in Singapore last June — the first ever between the leaders of the war enemies — there’s been little real progress in nuclear disarmament.
Washington is pressing North Korea to offer up a detailed accounting of its nuclear arsenal, while the North says it has already done enough and it’s time for the U.S. to ease the harsh international sanctions that hold back the North Korean economy.
South Korean presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said Tuesday that Seoul hopes Kim’s trip to China will act as a “stepping stone” for a second Trump-Kim summit.
Trump has offered assurances that another summit will allow him and Kim to make a grand deal to settle the nuclear standoff and change a relationship marked by decades of animosity and mistrust.
However, outside analysts are highly skeptical that North Korea will easily abandon a nuclear arsenal constructed in the face of deep poverty and likely seen by Kim as his only guarantee of regime survival.
Instead, Kim may be seeking to gauge China’s attitude toward sanctions ahead of the talks, including what North Korea would have to concede in order to win Beijing’s support at the U.N.
China, a veto-wielding permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, has agreed to several rounds of punishing economic sanctions against the North. However, Xi has called on the sides to “meet each other halfway,” and China’s foreign minister in September urged some form of sanctions relief in response to any positive outcomes from the first Kim-Trump summit.
North Korea has held off on additional nuclear weapons and missile tests for more than a year, possibly in response to China’s displeasure, while carrying out its new diplomatic offensive.
“The two leaders will further communicate over the issue of sanctions to further refine their previously general and vague attitudes,” said Cheng Xiaohe, professor at Renmin University’s School of International Studies in Beijing.
“It is impossible to see the cancellation of all sanctions, but what kind of sanctions can be canceled and what are China and North Korea’s views on that will be discussed,” Cheng said.
Trump has pushed heavily for Chinese support in convincing North Korea to give up its weapons programs, suggesting that could win Beijing better terms in a trade deal with Washington.
Kim’s arrival in Beijing coincides with U.S.-China trade talks in Beijing that seek to end the trade dispute between the world’s two largest economies ahead of a March deadline.
Asked whether China was linking the two issues in an interview Monday with CNBC, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “The Chinese have been very clear to us that these are separate issues.”
“Their behavior has demonstrated that as well and we appreciate that,” Pompeo said. “China has actually been a good partner in our efforts to reduce the risk to the world from North Korea’s nuclear capability. I expect they will continue to do so.”
Lu echoed those sentiments in his response to a similar question, saying trade talks and the North Korean issues are “not the same thing.”
“Our positions on the trade talks are very consistent and clear and we don’t need any other techniques to help the U.S. to get our message.”
Associated Press writers Foster Klug and Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, contributed to this report.
Turkey appears to snub US; no assurances on Syrian Kurds
By ZEKE MILLER
Tuesday, January 8
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A senior U.S. official trying to negotiate the safety of Kurdish allies in northeastern Syria was apparently rebuffed by Turkey’s president who said Tuesday there would be “no concession” in Ankara’s push against what he describes as terror groups in the war-torn country.
White House national security adviser John Bolton met for roughly two hours with his Turkish counterpart Ibrahim Kalin and other senior officials at Ankara’s presidency complex but got no assurances on the safety of Syrian Kurdish allies — a condition for President Donald Trump’s planned withdrawal of U.S. troops from northeastern Syria.
Bolton relayed Trump’s insistence that Turkey refrain from attacking Kurdish forces that fought alongside U.S. troops against the Islamic State group, a guarantee Turkey appeared unwilling to grant.
“They had a productive discussion of the President’s decision to withdraw at a proper pace from Northeast Syria,” spokesman Garrett Marquis said in a statement, adding that direct military to military talks would continue Tuesday.
Shortly after Bolton’s meetings and in an apparent snub to the U.S. diplomatic push, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Ankara’s preparations for a new military offensive against terror groups in Syria are “to a large extent” complete.
“We cannot make any concessions,” Erdogan said, and also slammed Bolton over comments suggesting the United States would prevent attacks on Kurds.
Turkey insists its military actions are aimed at Kurdish fighters in Syria — the Syrian Kurdish Peoples Protection Units, or YPG — whom it regards as terrorists, and not against the Kurdish people. That has been Ankara longtime position and Turkey rejected any role for Kurdish fighters in restoring peace to the war-torn region.
Meanwhile, a top Syrian Kurdish official told The Associated Press that his fighters are prepared to confront Turkish forces if they enter northeastern Syria.
Shahoz Hasan, co-chair of the largest Kurdish group in Syria, the Democratic Union Party or PYD, said it was clear from Ankara’s latest statements that Turkey has a plan to go ahead with the offensive in Syria, but added that “we will be ready.”
Bolton departed Turkey without meeting with Erdogan, which U.S. officials said Saturday was expected. Marquis said U.S. officials were told Erdogan cited the local election season and a speech to parliament for not meeting with Bolton.
Trump’s shifting timetable for pulling U.S. troops out of Syria has left allies and other players in the region confused and jockeying for influence over a withdrawal strategy that appeared to be a work in progress.
After Bolton announced this week the U.S. pullout would not be as immediate as Trump had initially declared, U.S. allies were still seeking clarification from American diplomats. The Kurds, who have fought alongside U.S. forces against IS and fear an assault by Turkey if the U.S. withdraws, publicly said they awaited explanation from Washington.
Bolton said the U.S. would seek assurances from Turkey before withdrawing that it would not harm the Kurds — for the first time adding a “condition” to the withdrawal.
However, Erdogan’s remarks Tuesday to his ruling party lawmakers in parliament underscored the destabilizing impact of Trump’s spur-of-the-moment withdrawal announcement, with no details, leaving allies scrambling for answers and aides crafting a strategy that can satisfy all the players, including Trump.
Bolton had said the protection of U.S. allies in Syria, including the YPG, was among “the objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal” of U.S. forces.
Kurdish officials have held conversations with Moscow and Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government about protection, but Bolton called on them to “stand fast now.”
Bolton’s pronouncements were the first public confirmation from the administration that the pace of the drawdown had changed since Trump’s announcement in mid-December that U.S. troops are “coming back now.” Trump faced widespread criticism from allies about his decision, including that he was abandoning the Kurds in the face of Turkish threats. Officials said at the time that although many details of the withdrawal had not yet been finalized, they expected American forces to be out by mid-January.
At the time, Trump had also said that Turkey would step up the fight against the remnants of the Islamic State in Syria, but Bolton said Sunday U.S. troops will eliminate what remains of IS as another “condition” to northeastern Syria.
Trump on Monday struck back at the perception that his intentions in Syria had changed. “No different from my original statements, we will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight ISIS and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!…..” he said in a tweet.
While White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said last month the administration had “started returning United States troops home,” the Pentagon said Monday no U.S. troops have withdrawn from Syria yet, but added that there is an “approved framework” for withdrawal.
Bolton maintained there is no fixed timetable for completing the drawdown, but insisted it was not an indefinite commitment to the region. Still, some 200 U.S. troops will remain in the vicinity of al-Tanf, in southern Syria, to counter growing Iranian activity in the region, he said.
In meetings with Turkish officials Tuesday, Bolton was joined by the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, who will remain in Turkey for additional meetings with Turkish military officials, as well as Jim Jeffrey, the special representative for Syrian engagement and the newly named American special envoy for the anti-Islamic State coalition. Jeffrey will travel from Turkey into Syria to reassure the Kurdish fighters that they are not being abandoned, Bolton said.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, meanwhile, has begun an eight-nation trip of the Middle East. Both he and Bolton are seeking input and support for the specifics of the withdrawal plan, according to one official, who said U.S. partners were eager for details.
Meanwhile, on the ground in eastern Syria deadly fighting for the last area under IS control continued on Tuesday as the militants took advantage of bad weather to launch counterattacks. U.S.-led coalition warplanes and artillery pounded the Shaafa village in Deir el-Zour province near the Iraqi border, activists and a war monitor said as U.S.-allied Kurdish-led forces tried to advance.
Associated Press writers Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, Bassem Mroue in Beirut and Robert Burns and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.
What Catholics can learn from protests of the past
January 8, 2019
Author: Mara Willard, Visiting Assistant Professor, International Studies, Boston College
Disclosure statement: Mara Willard does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Pope Francis started the new year criticizing some Catholic bishops for their role in the church’s sexual abuse crisis. In a letter to bishops gathered at Mundelein Seminary in Illinois for a spiritual retreat, the pope said that the “disparaging, discrediting, playing the victim” had greatly undermined the Catholic Church. This followed the pope’s earlier remarks asking clergy guilty of sexual assault to turn themselves over to law enforcement.
Stories of clergy sex abuse have continued to increase. Among the more recent revelations, a Catholic diocese recently released the names of Jesuit priests who face “credible or established” accusations of abuse of minors. Church members learned that many priests accused of sexual abuse on Indian reservations were retired on the Gonzaga University campus in Spokane. And another external investigation has revealed that the Catholic Church failed to disclose abuse accusations against 500 priests and clergy.
Church attendance has been on the decline for some time, with the steepest fall of an average 45 percent, between 2005 to 2008. And with these latest scandals, as a theologian recently wrote, the Catholic Church is in the midst of its “biggest crisis since the Reformation.”
But what many do not realize is that staying in the church does not mean agreeing with its policies. In the past, Catholics have challenged the church through multiple forms of resistance – at times discreet and at other times quite dramatic.
I had already begun my training as a scholar of religion and society when I learned that the priest from whom I took my first communion was a known predator in the Boston Archdiocese. I have since then researched and written about the Catholic clergy abuse cover-up.
Back in the 1960s, some radical American Catholics were at the forefront of challenging U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam. Perhaps the most famous among them were the Berrigan brothers. Rev. Daniel Berrigan, the older brother, was an American Jesuit priest, who, along with with other religious leaders, expressed public concern over the war.
In New York, Daniel Berrigan joined hands with a group called the Catholic Workers, in order to build a “decent non-violent society” – what they called “a society of conscience.” Among their protests was a public burning of draft cards in Union Square in 1965.
Months earlier, the U.S. Congress had passed legislation that made mutilation of draft registration a felony. A powerful commentary by the editors of the Catholic “Commonweal” magazine described the event as a “liturgical ceremony” backed by a willingness to risk five years of freedom.
But some in the Catholic leadership were concerned that Daniel Berrigan’s peace activism was going too far. Soon after another Catholic protester set himself on fire in front of the United Nations in an act of protest, Berrigan disappeared from New York. He’d been sent to Latin America on an “assignment” by his superiors.
The word among Catholics was that Cardinal Francis Spellman had Berrigan expelled from the U.S. The accuracy of the decision is selectively disputed. However, the narrative had great power. The public outcry among Catholics was immense. University students took to the streets.
The New York Times carried a vehement objection that was signed by more than a thousand Catholic practitioners and theological leaders. The repression of free speech, they said, was “intolerable in the Roman Catholic Church.”
Catholic symbols of protest
In May 1967, Berrigan returned to the United States, only to renew his protest against the draft. Joined by his brother Philip, they broke into a draft board office in Baltimore and poured vials of their own blood on paper records.
In pouring vials of their own blood on draft records, they were extending the use of Christ’s blood of sacrifice, to promote peace, as part of Catholic teachings.
The next year they joined by seven other Catholic protesters in a protest action in Catonsville, Maryland. The group used homemade napalm to destroy 378 draft files in the parking lot of a draft board. Daniel Berrigan was put on the FBI’s most wanted list. Both brothers later served time in federal prisons.
After the Vietnam war, their protests continued under a group called Plowshares. The name came from the commandment in the book of Isaiah to “beat swords into plowshares.” The Berrigan brothers put their energy into anti-nuclear protests around the country. At a nuclear missile facility in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, they hammered on nuclear warheads and once again poured their own blood upon them, bridging Catholic symbols with religious protest.
Church leadership, they said, was too cozy with a heavily militarized America.
Protests inside the church
Around the same time, another group of Roman Catholics was challenging the leadership of the church using different tactics. In 1969, a group of Chicano Catholic student activists that called itself Católicos Por La Raza, objected to the money that the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was spending on building a new cathedral called St. Basil’s. They believed that money could be better spent on improving the social and economic conditions of Catholic Mexican-Americans.
Católicos Por La Raza posed a list of demands for the Catholic Church that included the use of church facilities for community work, providing housing and educational assistance, and developing health care programs.
On Christmas Eve, 300 people marched to protest at St. Basil’s. Outside, they chanted “Que viva la raza” and “Catholics for the people.” Some members also planned to bring the protest across the threshold of the cathedral and into the Christmas Eve Mass.
The church locked its front doors. The marchers were met at side doors by undercover county sheriffs.
Later, the protesters publicly burned their baptismal certificates. Catholic teaching maintains that, once baptized, Catholic identity cannot be divested. By burning these symbols of Roman Catholic belonging, members of Católicos Por La Raza were making a powerful statement of their renunciation of the religion that they perceived could not be reformed.
Back in New York, a generation later, Catholics also organized confrontations with Church leadership. At the height of the AIDS crisis, in 1989, the American Catholic Bishops drafted an explicit condemnation of the use of condoms to stop the spread of the AIDS virus. “The truth is not in condoms or clean needles,” said Cardinal John O’Connor. “These are lies … good morality is good medicine.”
In response, AIDS activists organized an action called “Stop the Church” to protest against the “murderous AIDS policy” at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan. Thousands of people gathered to protest. Outside, activists distributed condoms and safer-sex information to passers-by. Inside, some protesters staged a die-in.
And this does not even get into waves of protests over women’s ordination since 1976.
In all these protests, Roman Catholics were demanding that powerful members of the hierarchy acknowledge their demands for the ethics of the church.
Bringing change in the church
Similar resistance continued in 2002, when the Boston Globe Spotlight investigation team exposed the systematic cover-up of child sexual abuse in the Boston Archdiocese, under Cardinal Bernard Law.
On Sundays Catholics came out to protest in front of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, where the cardinal said Mass. They shouted and held up signs calling for his resignation. Other Catholics were creating pressure to have the cardinal removed by cutting off lay financial support for the Archdiocese.
They encouraged continuing giving to the poor or to the local parish. But until the cardinal was held accountable, those in the pews were encouraged to abstain from institutional giving. Before the next New Year, enough financial and legal pressure forced Cardinal Law to be removed from the Archdiocese.
February 2019 will bring a crucial meeting between the pope and the cardinals. Catholics today could well ask what is their way of showing resistance. After all, there is a rich Catholic heritage that shows that members of the church who put their bodies on the line can make a difference.