The government has been partially shut down for 14 days as a result of a dispute over the Trump administration’s demands for $5 billion in funding for a wall along the US-Mexico border. TalkingPointsMemo looks at the public health consequences of the partial government shutdown. The Environmental Protection Agency has exhausted its funding, limiting the agency’s capacity to uphold clean water standards and regulate pesticides. Indian Health Service clinics that provide direct healthcare services to tribal communities remain open, but employees are going without pay, and tribal health programs and preventive health clinics have been suspended. The New York Times reports that “all across Indian Country, the federal shutdown slices deep. Generations ago, tribes negotiated treaties with the United States government guaranteeing funds for services like health care and education in exchange for huge swaths of territory. “The federal government owes us this: We prepaid with millions of acres of land,” said Mr. Payment, who also criticized the shutdown on Monday from the stage at his tribe’s New Year’s powwow. “We don’t have the right to take back that land, so we expect the federal government to fulfill its treaty and trust responsibility.” … The shutdown has further eroded many Native Americans’ confidence in the federal government, which they said has never lived up to lofty promises made in long-ago treaties. “I believe very strongly that it adversely affects a population that is already adversely affected by the United States government,” said Harry Barnes, a former chairman of Montana’s 17,000-member Blackfeet Nation.”
The New York Times reports on the rise of fetal personhood laws across the US and how these laws erode the full legal personhood of pregnant women, observing that these laws “illuminate a deep shift in American society, away from a centuries-long tradition in Western law and toward the embrace of a relatively new concept: that a fetus in the womb has the same rights as a fully formed person. This idea has now worked its way into federal and state regulations and the thinking of police officers and prosecutors. As it has done so, it’s begun not only to extend rights to clusters of cells that have not yet developed into viable human beings, but also to erode the existing rights of a particular class of people — women. Women who are pregnant have found themselves stripped of the right to consent to surgery, the right to receive treatment for a medical condition and even something as basic as the freedom to hold a baby in the moments after birth. How the idea of fetal rights gained currency is a story of social reaction — to the Roe decision and, more broadly, to a perceived new permissiveness in the 1970s — combined with a determined, sophisticated campaign by the anti-abortion movement to affirm the notion of fetal personhood in law and to degrade Roe’s protections… In the hands of zealous prosecutors, cautious doctors and litigious attorneys, these laws are creating a system of social control that polices pregnancy…”
A second child died in federal immigration custody on Christmas Day, after the eight-year-old boy and his father were detained by US Customs and Border Control, transferred between various checkpoints and facilities not designed to safely house children, and held in detention for twice the amount of time the recommended for children. Felipe Alonzo Gomez was the second migrant child to die in December, after the death of Jakelin Caal Maquin, age 7. “Medical professionals and advocates said on Tuesday that a second death of a child at the border highlighted the risks of keeping vulnerable children in what they called overcrowded, often cold facilities known as “hieleras,” Spanish for ice boxes. Children are not supposed to remain in the facilities for more than 72 hours. “These facilities are no place for a child, even a well child,” said Marsha Griffin, a pediatrician on the Texas-Mexico border and the co-chairwoman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’s special interest group on immigrant health.”
KQED tracks outgoing California Governor Jerry Brown’s “two legacies” on the state’s housing crisis, defined on one side by Brown’s move to dissolve redevelopment districts that funneled $1 billion per year into affordable housing and his skepticism about changes to local zoning policies and on the other hand by his recent support of new funding for affordable housing and a streamlined approval process. "A lot of people wanted to see [redevelopment districts] go, and it did free up almost $2 billion a year for schools," said Brown in an interview with KQED. "And if people want to bring it back they're going to take billions from the schools, and I would assume those people who care about the California public schools will fight that very hard." Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee chair David Chiu (D-San Francisco) is leading the effort to bring back redevelopment in 2019. He called Brown's decision to end redevelopment "understandable," but hoped a replacement for the lost housing funds would have emerged after the state Supreme Court put the final nail in the coffin of redevelopment in 2011. "I think there is a pretty strong consensus that there was a baby that was thrown out with that bathwater," Chiu said. "There was a lot that needed to be rehauled, but certainly some regrets today about what we eliminated, particularly given the housing crisis we're in." … By the beginning of Brown's second term, the state's housing crisis was impossible to ignore. Median home values were the highest in the nation, and most California renters were spending more than a third of their income on shelter. When factoring housing costs, California's poverty rate jumped to tops in the country… [A]dvocates for affordable housing thought there was much more Brown could have done to inject dollars for low-income housing into the budget, especially as redevelopment and past bond dollars dried up… However, a substantial budget investment didn't happen in the first years of Brown's second term, and the governor vetoed a 2015 bill that would have expanded the state's tax credit for affordable housing. "Gov. Brown was really our primary barrier," said Tyrone Buckley, policy director for Housing California. "Because he didn’t like the fiscal impact on the budget."
A proposed plan would weaken the Environmental Protection Agency's ability to restrict hazardous pollutants emitted by coal-fired power plants by changing the way the EPA assesses the benefits of restricting pollutants to give less consideration to public health. “Environmental activists said they intend to challenge the new finding in court. If it survives those challenges, observers say it would set a precedent that could make it tougher for the government to justify any number of future regulations. “There is a likelihood that this rule-making will be the administration’s flagship effort to permanently change the way the federal government considers health benefits,” said Janet McCabe, who ran the E.P.A.’s air office under Mr. Obama.”
As of January 1, New York City pharmacies will be banned from selling tobacco products, part of a legislative package approved by NYC Major Bill de Blasio in 2017. “Tobacco use remains one of the leading causes of preventable death in New York City, and reducing its availability is key to protecting the health of New Yorkers,” said Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Dr. Herminia Palacio. “People trust pharmacies to help them stay well — they should be helping smokers quit, not the opposite. I’m excited to see the impact that this regulation will have on the health of New Yorkers.” “Tobacco kills thousands of New Yorkers every year,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot. “The tobacco-free pharmacy law is a public health victory. It builds on New York City’s commitment to reduce the number of smokers in our city so New Yorkers can live longer, healthier lives.” “Pharmacies should be places that promote health in our community, not places that sell cigarettes and other dangerous tobacco products,” said Deputy Commissioner Dr. Sonia Angell. “By removing tobacco products from pharmacy shelves, this law will contribute to making our neighborhoods healthier places to live, work and play.”
Researchers in the United Kingdom are reviving the 19th-century concept – first introduced by Friedrich Engels – of “social murder,” deaths that the state could have prevented by adopting an economic structure that supports rather than exploits workers and other members of society who are currently exposed to disproportionate risks. “In his paper Dr Grover claimed this "social murder" has been enabled by a process called "violent proletarianization.” This concept describes working class people being put under pressure to "commodify labour power for the enrichment of a small elite.” Citing a rise in benefit sanctions and increased poverty, Dr Grover wrote: "Social security ‘austerity’ can be understood as structural violence. "It is informed by, and helps reproduce, unequal distributions of power and financial resources, and its detrimental consequences are both known and avoidable… Un- and under-employed people are enduring the violence of deepening inequalities and social injustices as a consequence of capital’s need for commodified labour power. Violent proletarianisation is the process that enforces this imperative. The outcome is social murder."
Ms. Magazine reports on the Department of Justice’s Sexual Harassment in Housing Initiative, which “addresses sexual harassment by landlords, property managers, maintenance workers, loan officers or other people who have control over housing… In the first year of the initiative, the Justice Department opened 34 sexual harassment investigations and filed six lawsuits. In April, it created a joint Task Force to Combat Sexual Harassment in Housing with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. And just this past summer, the Justice Department launched a public information campaign to raise awareness about sexual harassment in housing—including the release of a public service announcement in which three women bringing lawsuits through the Department describe their experiences of landlord sexual harassment. “If you don’t sleep with me,” one woman recalls being told by her property manager, “the sheriffs will be putting you out on Monday…. Recent research by University of Missouri School of Law Professor Rigel Oliveri found that 10 percent of the 100 randomly selected, low-income women she interviewed had experienced sexual harassment by their landlords. “While the sample was limited, I think the results of this study should be a wake-up call to policymakers,” Oliveri told Ms. “Low-income women are easy prey for landlords who seek to exploit them for sex.” Noting that landlords are lightly regulated in most states, Oliveri has called for greater landlord oversight and more affordable housing options for low-income women. While women with housing vouchers were just as likely to be harassed, according to her own findings, as those without them, whether or not a woman had a voucher did seem to change her outcomes. “The women who had resources to help them pay rent were able to turn down their landlords’ requests without it affecting their housing situation,” she explained. “The women who did not have such resources faced a much harder choice—because, for them, saying ‘no’ meant having to move.