Department of the Interior proposal would gut the Endangered Species Act

Under newly proposed guidelines from the Trump Administration’s Department of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would be forced to take “economic impacts” into consideration when deciding whether to protect species. While this has a veneer of fiscal responsibility laid over it, the policy would potentially allow large corporations to move ahead with projects that would otherwise be prohibited under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The department proposal also includes provisions to stop extending similar levels of protection to animals and plants listed as either “endangered” or “threatened,” and would remove language preventing illegal “takes”—the harming or killing of species—for animals that have been newly added to the “threatened” list.

The ESA has the approval of some 90 percent of Americans.

“These proposals would slam a wrecking ball into the most crucial protections for our most endangered wildlife,” Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “If these regulations had been in place in the 1970s, the bald eagle and the gray whale would be extinct today. If they’re finalized now, [Secretary] Zinke will go down in history as the extinction secretary.”

The ESA was enacted in 1973 and has become “one of the most successful environmental laws in U.S. history,” according to the Center for Biological Diversity—currently protecting more than 1,600 species from extinction. Fewer than one percent of species have gone extinct once listed as protected under the Act. The regulations have kept fossil fuel companies, loggers and developers from interfering with their habitats as well as protecting many species from hunting.

“These regulations are the heart of how the Endangered Species Act is implemented,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who is now president of Defenders of Wildlife. “Imperiled species depend on them for their very lives. The signal being sent by the Trump administration is clear: Protecting America’s wildlife and wild lands is simply not on their agenda.”

Israel passes nation-state law enshrining “apartheid” policy

In a 62–55 vote (with two abstentions), the Knesset—Israel’s legislature—passed a controversial “nation-state” law on July 19, 2018, that critics immediately condemned as “an apartheid bill.” The law declares that “the state of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people” and “the actualization of the right of national self-determination in the state of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

The law establishes Israel’s national symbols, designates Hebrew as the state’s official language—downgrading Arabic, which had been an official language for more than 70 years, to “special status”—and claims the “unified and complete” city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The city is home to some of the holiest sites in both Judaism and Islam, and most countries do not recognize it as Israel’s capital. This included the United States up until earlier this year when the Trump Administration made the controversial decision to move the American embassy in Israel to the holy city.

The law also asserts that Israel “views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment,” though that line is a scaled-back version of the original language. As Reuters explained, “clauses that were dropped in last-minute political wrangling—and after objections by Israel’s president and attorney-general—would have enshrined in law the establishment of Jewish-only communities, and instructed courts to rule according to Jewish ritual law when there were no relevant legal precedents.”

[Related from the Washington Post: “Is Israel an ‘apartheid’ state? This U.N. report says yes.”]

The development of Jewish settlements outside of Israel proper has been ongoing for years and has resulted in the continued demolition of Arab villages, the displacement of Palestinian families, the partitioning and bisecting of Palestinian land and the fracturing of Palestinian communities. These settlements are illegal under the terms of the 4th Geneva Convention which prohibits an occupying force from transplanting populations into an occupied territory (i.e. colonizing the area).

“Israel is now openly and unblushingly a racist, apartheid state,” said human rights activist and former British diplomat Craig Murray after the vote.

Arab lawmakers ripped up paper copies of the legislation in protest, then were forced to leave the Knesset hall. Ayman Odeh, chairman of the “Joint List,” a coalition of Israel’s four Arab-dominated political parties, said in a statement that Israel has “declared it does not want us here,” and that it “passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citizens.”

Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of the U.S.-based Jewish Voices for Peace, tweeted: “Congrats Israel, you played yourself. Enshrining apartheid into law for all the world to see.”

“I announce with shock and sorrow the death of democracy,” Ahmed Tibi, an Arab lawmaker, told journalists. Tibi and fellow Arab legislator Ayeda Touma-Souliman confronted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the vote, according to Haaretz, saying, “You passed an apartheid law, a racist law.”

“Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and respects the rights of all of its citizens,” Netanyahu responded. “This is our country, the Jewish state. In recent years there have been those who have tried to undermine that and question the principles of our existence. Today we made it into law: This is the country, the language, the anthem, and flag.”

About 1.8 million Arabs live in Israel today. The majority are the descendants of Palestinians who stayed on their land during and after the creation of Israel—which displaced some 750,000 Palestinians during a traumatic, forced eviction movement Palestinians call “Al Nakba,” or “The Catastrophe.” Arabs make up about 20 percent of the population of Israel proper.

“Those who remained have full equal rights under the law but say they face constant discrimination, citing inferior services and unfair allocations for education, health and housing,” Reuters noted. Critics warn that “the new law will deepen a sense of alienation within the Arab minority.”

Millions of Palestinians also live under military occupation and military law within the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The military law that governs Palestinians in the OPT has resulted in brutal conditions for Palestinians. Gaza has been under blockade for more than a decade now, and human rights groups have likened the situation there to the largest open-air prison camp in the world.

In a sardonic summation, Palestinian-American journalist Ali Abunimah tweeted: “I welcome passage of Israel’s new ‘nation-state law’ which serves to clarify, for any who were confused, the apartheid and racist nature of the occupying entity since it usurped the land of Palestine 70 years, 2 months and 5 days ago.”

European Union hits Google with another record-setting multi-billion dollar antitrust fine

The European Union (EU), on July 17, hit tech giant Google with a record-breaking €4.34 billion ($5.06 billion) antitrust fine and ordered the tech giant to make changes that will scale back its dominance of the mobile phone market.

The Wall Street Journal characterized the fine as “the EU’s sharpest rebuke yet to the power of a handful of tech giants”:

[T]he bloc’s antitrust regulator found Wednesday that Google had abused the dominance of its Android operating system, which runs more than 80 percent of the world’s smartphones, to promote and entrench its own mobile apps and services, particularly the company’s search engine.

Android phones come preloaded with Google apps and services, including Search. Competitors have long complained that Android’s dominance gives Google an unfair advantage in attracting users to those apps—and then using data from them to devise and target advertising. The preloaded apps stifle competing apps, the EU said.

With the decision, the EU argues that Google behaved illegally by leveraging its market power to encourage handset makers to pre-install those apps and services on their devices. At issue are several types of agreements that Google imposes on phone makers and telecommunications companies if they want to sell Android-based devices to their users—conditions that applied to handset makers even though Google provides the operating system to manufacturers free of charge.

“These practices have denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits. They have denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition in the important mobile sphere,” declared EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager. “This is illegal under EU antitrust rules.”

The commission concluded that Google has “imposed illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators” since 2011,
and warned that “Google must now bring the conduct effectively to an end within 90 days or face penalty payments of up to five percent of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.”

News of the fine, which “accounts for around 40 percent of Google’s 2017 net profit of $12.62 billion,” has already had an impact—the Journal reported that following the announcement, “Shares in Alphabet, the company’s parent, fell as much as 1.1 percent in premarket trading.” Google says it will appeal the decision.

According to The Verge, the penalty “dwarfs Google’s previous €2.4 billion ($2.7 billion) record-breaking fine from the EU last year over manipulated search results.” Facebook was also fined last year, to the tune of €110 million ($128 million).

Some tech experts, like Open Markets Institute fellow Matt Stoller, have suggested that the company should be broken up. Executive director of the European Publishers Council, Angela Mills Wade, meanwhile, urged EU regulators to go after Google for its dominance in digital advertising, tweeting: “Google’s bundling of search, chrome and Play and pre-installations are illegal, harmful and must now stop. Next @vestager has to stop it’s end to end dominance of the buy and sell side of digital advertising built on its #data dominance.”

Congressional Democrats to form Medicare For All Caucus

Some 60 House Democrats have announced the formation of an official Medicare for All Caucus to examine specific policy components of a single-payer healthcare system and to discus its implementation in the United States.

“This is another sign that we are winning the fight for Medicare for All,” tweeted Bonnie Castillo of National Nurses United. “And it wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of grassroots activists that door-knock, phone-bank, and table in their communities every day. This fight, like many others, will be won in our own neighborhoods.”

“This is a sea change from just four or five years ago and people are more likely to see healthcare as a right,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) told Vice News, which broke the story on Wednesday, July 18.

Jayapal is one of the Democrats who will join Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), National Nurses United and other progressive groups to officially launch the caucus with an announcement on the morning of July 19.

“Every day more Americans are rallying behind the need for fundamental reform of our flawed and fragmented healthcare system that denies care to millions of our neighbors and family members,” NNU co-president Deborah Burger added in a statement. “With polls showing increasing support for Medicare for all, and new signs every day of a system that is out of control, the formation of this congressional caucus could not be more timely.”

A Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 51 percent of Americans—and 74 percent of Democrats—support a single-payer healthcare plan over the current for-profit system, which has left around 30 million Americans without any health insurance.

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) proposed “Medicare for All Act” currently has 15 Democratic co-sponsors, while the House “Medicare for All” bill—introduced by Ellison—has the support of nearly two-thirds of the Democratic caucus.

“The impetus for this caucus is to have a real discussion and work with our offices to see how a system would really work as we think about implementing it,” Jayapal said. “It’s about a growing movement to bring a Medicare for All system into being.”

Ending RIMPAC, feeling peace

Reflections on trans-Pacific peace efforts in the midst of the largest military war-games exercise in Oceania.

Sam Ikehara Militarism Read
“Zero tolerance” immigration policy: mass trials, children taken from parents

It used to be rare to charge migrants seeking asylum with crimes. If they did so, they were put into detention with their children while they pursued their claims. Now, not only are parents finding themselves charged with the crime of “illegal entry,” but the government is breaking up families, sending children to detention centers, often hundreds of miles from their mothers and fathers, or to distant foster homes. Read more from The Intercept

Maui candidate urges supporters to refrain from retaliation after campaign signs vandalized

A race for Hawaiʻi State House appears to be getting rather heated. John-Bull English, a candidate for House of Reps., District 13, posted an image to Facebook today showing one of his signs vandalized with red spray paint. The paint spells out the words “Vote - Lynn DeCoite,” the incumbent currently representing the district. According to English, seven of his signs have been stolen and three have been torn apart in addition to the spray-painted sign.

In the post, English urges his friends and supporters to refrain from retaliating, saying:

Momentum has swung our way and only our emotional reactions to distractions can shift it. We need to stay focused on the goal. We can do it!

Rep. DeCoite emailed a prepared statement in response to inquiries about the incident:

I was made aware of the vandalism to John Bull- English’s sign(s) this morning. I have already spoken to him to let him know that in no way do I condone any type of actions like this. I know first hand what it is and how it feels to have signs vandalized and I would never support that being done to another candidate/person.

I fully support anyone’s right to run for office and feel they and their campaign materials should be treated with respect.

One of the things that makes this race interesting is the fact that the district encompasses the islands of Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe, as well as the remote Hāna coast of East Maui. DeCoite is based on Molokaʻi, while English is based in Hāna. How the distance between the different communities represented by DeCoite plays out in the race for her House seat is an interesting consideration. English did not respond to our inquiry by publication, but the story will be updated when he does.

Podium 002: Kim Coco Iwamoto

Editor Will Caron interviews candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Hawaiʻi, Kim Coco Iwamoto.

Calling for an end to RIMPAC war games

A coalition of demilitarization and decolonization activist groups has written an open letter to the U.S. and Hawaiʻi state governments calling for an end to the annual Pacific military exercises known as RIMPAC which, the group argues, perpetuates violence and domination across multiple levels of global society.

Kelsey Amos Militarism Read
Hawaiʻi will ban chlorpyrifos, establish meaningful pesticide regulations

With Governor Ige's signature, SB3095 will become law and Hawaiʻi will lead the nation in establishing progressive policy that protects the health and safety of its people and environment.

After more than four years of dedicated organizing and advocacy at the legislature, activists seeking meaningful, statewide pesticide regulations can celebrate: The governor is signing SB3095 SD1 HD1 CD1 into law. The new statute will restrict pesticide use near schools, prohibit the use of the dangerous pesticide chlorpyrifos, and require transparency and disclosure for the use of Restricted Use Pesticides (RUPs) in large quantities. The measure puts Hawaiʻi at the forefront of leadership on pesticide reform in America.

“Protecting the health and safety of our keiki and residents is one of my top priorities,” said Governor Ige. “We must protect our communities from potentially harmful chemicals. At the same time, Hawai‘i’s agriculture industry is extremely important to our state and economy. We will work with the Department of Agriculture, local farmers and the University of Hawai‘i as we seek safe, alternative pest management tools that will support and sustain our agriculture industry for generations to come.”

“As a mother who agonized about the dangers of sending my children to a school next to Monsanto’s fields where RUPs were sprayed regularly, I am so grateful to see this bill become law,” said Molokai lawyer and activist Keani Rawlins-Fernandez, who is running for Maui County Council’s Molokai seat.

“Hawaiʻi’s efforts have set a precedent, and we hope this will pave the way for other states that are looking to enact similar legislation,” said Leslee Matthews, a Richardson Law School student and legislative aid for the Pesticide Action Network.

More specifically, the law will:

1. Place a prohibition on use of pesticides within 100 feet of a school during instructional hours. “School” is defined as any public or private kindergarten, elementary or secondary school, excluding home schools; and “normal hours” are from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

2. Totally ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos effective Jan 1, 2019. The Department of Agriculture is authorized to issue exemptions through Dec. 31, 2022 to allow agricultural businesses time to adjust to the ban.

3. Provide a $300,000 appropriation from Pesticides Revolving Fund to effectuate the measure, including expenses for staffing, education and outreach.

4. Provide a $300,000 appropriation from general revenues to develop a pesticide drift monitoring study to evaluate pesticide drift at three schools within the state.

5. Require commercial agricultural entities to regularly report their pesticide use.

The United States Environmental Protections Agency (EPA) under the Obama Administration was poised to ban chlorpyrifos in the U.S., but the Trump EPA reversed that decision almost immediately after President Trump took office.

“This law is our message to the EPA and to the chemical companies that we will no longer tolerate being ground zero for the testing of toxic pesticides that are damaging our children’s health and poisoning our environment,” said Gary Hooser, former Majority Leader of the Hawai’i Senate and founder of the Hawaiʻi Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA). Hooser, who lives on Kauaʻi, led the “Protect our Keiki” coalition of diverse residents from across the islands through the complex political process that resulted in this much needed compromise law to regulate how highly toxic chemicals like chlorpyrifos are unleashed on the community.

“This is Hawai’i fighting back against the disrespect for science and public health—and winning! In the era of Trump, states must lead,” added Hooser.

The struggle for reform of industrial agricultural pesticide use in Hawaiʻi goes back even further though. After school children down wind of open-air agrochemical testing fields became ill, community members across the state began questioning the veracity of public health and safety assurances the companies and the government had given them. When the companies refused to disclose the type, amount and frequency of the pesticides they were spraying to the affected communities, members of the public mobilized and held mass demonstrations across the state. County officials in Kauaʻi, Maui and Hawaiʻi counties passed ordinances restricting the use of pesticides, as well as the development of GMOs. The companies fought back, successfully suing to block these attempts at regulation at the county level. So activists redoubled their efforts to bring about statewide action.

A coalition of families, teachers, scientists, health professionals and advocates from the Hawai’i Alliance for Progressive Action (H.A.P.A.), Hawai’i Center for Food Safety, Hawai‘i SEED, Pesticide Action Network and others worked for years to push forward the legislation in spite of millions of dollars spent by the agrochemical industry to thwart the process. This coalition put in years of organizing work and, as a result, was able to mobilize affected community members and constituents of key legislators like House Majority Floor Leader, Representative Dee Morikawa (Niʻihau, Lehua, Kōloa, Waimea) and Senator Roz Baker (South & West Maui). These constituents sacrificed time and money to fly in to Oʻahu repeatedly to testify in front of their legislators, which kept the pressure on these lawmakers and effectively maneuvered them into a position in which they could not afford to stonewall proposed regulations as they had done in previous years. The fact that 2018 is an election year, and a number of strong, anti-pesticide challengers are running against these incumbents and making pesticide misuse a key campaign issue, made legislative survival a primary motivator for legislators to agree to pass the measure.

In a prepared statement, Morikawa said the bill is a common-sense solution for protecting our children and families from possible negative effects from chemical pesticides and the need for agricultural businesses to use some pesticides on their farms:

“Lawmakers made history by passing the first measure in the nation to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos and to restrict the use of certain pesticides within 100 feet of schools,” said Morikawa. “In Hawai‘i, children and families come first and this law says that we truly mean it.”

Morikawa had not previously been receptive to the idea of regulating the agrochemical industry’s use of RUPs, but after lending her support to SB3095 this year, the industry is running a challenger against her in the Democratic primary as retribution. As the representative for areas of Kauaʻi directly impacted by pesticide exposure in schools, her decision to support the bill this session carried a lot of weight with her colleagues and secured its passage through conference committee.

Agriculture Committee Chair, Representative Richard Creagan (Naʻālehu, Ocean View, Capt. Cook, Kealakekua, Kailua-Kona) has been a staunch supporter of pesticide regulation. In the same prepared statement, he reiterated that the pesticide chlorpyrifos has already been banned by many other nations, and was poised to be prohibited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency until the Trump administration backed away from the regulation.

“Becoming the first state to ban chlorpyrifos to protect public health sends a message to our residents that we will protect them and to other states that they need to step up and protect their residents,” Creagan said. “We cannot stand by and do nothing when the lives of our children are at risk.”

Representative Chris Lee (Kailua, Waimānalo) said it is critical for residents to know where and when pesticides are being used.

“Without basic information about where and when dangerous pesticides are being sprayed into the air there is no way to confirm which chemicals are causing the illnesses and developmental problems in our communities,” said Lee “For more than a decade pesticide companies have fought against being required to disclose where and when their chemicals are being sprayed, but this bill ensures reporting of restricted pesticide use so any impacts can be determined.”