A story in the New York Times maps residential zoning policies across 10 US cities, examining how zoning policies can perpetuate racial inequities. “A reckoning with single-family zoning is necessary, [policymakers] say, amid mounting crises over housing affordability, racial inequality and climate change… Today the effect of single-family zoning is far-reaching: It is illegal on 75 percent of the residential land in many American cities to build anything other than a detached single-family home.”
Bloomberg covers a new study that attempts to quantify the effect of housing policies in Chicago that shows how, “generation after generation, the U.S. system of real-estate finance has enriched whites at the expense of blacks.” While white families accessed federally subsidized mortgages that helped them build wealth, black communities were shut out and forced to turn to predatory lenders to obtain shelter. The study estimates that “black families were overcharged somewhere between $3.2 billion and $4 billion (in 2019 dollars). The real estate agents and investors who profited were almost exclusively white, so this represents a direct transfer of wealth from one race to another. Worse, the contracts’ exorbitant terms, along with the lack of equity to borrow against, left black families without the means to invest in their properties, contributing to the physical decline of their neighborhoods.”
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held a hearing on reparations this week, featuring testimony from academics, advocates, and journalists. Economist Julianne Malveaux “pointed to the severe impacts slavery had on the ability to build black wealth, noting that the failure of Reconstruction, the intentional destruction of economic hubs like Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, and the exclusion of black people from federal programs like the GI Bill, are closely tied to present-day issues like the use of cash bail that have entrenched economic disparities further. ”When Zip code determines what kind of school that you go to, when Zip code determines what kind of food you eat — these are the vestiges of enslavement that a lot of people don’t want to deal with,” she said. She added that the current wealth gap between black and white households is almost as wide as it was in 1910… Ta-Nehisi Coates called reparations a “question of citizenship… In HR-40, this body has a chance to both make good on its 2009 apology for enslavement, and reject fair-weather patriotism — to say that this nation is both its credits and debits,” he said. “That if Thomas Jefferson matters, so does Sally Hemings.”
In 2017 and 2018, the US experienced 15% more unhealthy air days than in the years 2013 to 2016. The Associated Press reports that, “while it remains unclear whether this is the beginning of a trend, health experts say it’s troubling to see air quality progress stagnate… Air quality is affected by a complex mix of factors, both natural and man-made. Federal regulations that limit the emissions of certain chemicals and soot from factories, cars and trucks have helped dramatically improve air quality over recent decades… Scientists say that it is too early to see the effects of changes in environmental policy of the Trump administration, which took office in January 2017. But they say looser restrictions and lax enforcement would almost certainly reverse the gains that have been made in recent decades, potentially turning what has so far been a modest, two-year backslide into a dangerous trend.” This week, the administration replaced an Obama-era rule to reduce pollution from coal-fired power plants with a new rule that would allow such plants to stay open longer, limiting progress on cutting carbon emissions.
The New Yorker reports on the progress of Kelsey Cascadia Rose Juliana v. the United States, “better known as the climate kids’ lawsuit,” through the federal appeals system, as plaintiffs seek to establish a constitutional right to a stable climate. “All the plaintiffs were in the courtroom for the hearing. They have each submitted sworn testimony to the court, explaining the personal injuries that climate change has caused in their lives. The youngest, Levi Draheim, who is now eleven, lives in the barrier-island community of Satellite Beach, Florida, which his family has been forced to evacuate several times, due to hurricanes and floods. Jayden Foytlin, who is fifteen and lives near the Louisiana coast, suffered emotional trauma when her home was severely flooded in 2016 and 2017. In her testimony, she describes how her family, having nowhere else to go, slept in the living room in a “house that was full of sewage and flood water damage.” Journey Zephier, nineteen, of Hawaii, has watched treasured coral reefs near his home die, due to ocean acidification and warming temperatures, and last year saw his home flood when an unprecedented fifty inches of rain fell in less than twenty-four hours, which also caused landslides and power outages in his community. Jamie Butler, eighteen, had to leave her home and her relatives in the Navajo Nation, because of severe drought and water scarcity. Kelsey Juliana, the lead plaintiff (and the oldest, at twenty-three), grew up in Eugene, Oregon, where she is now an environmental-studies major at the University of Oregon. She, along with eight of the other plaintiffs, described adverse health impacts from the wildfires that rage in and around their home towns practically every year. Some also wrote about the damage that extreme weather events and climate threats have caused to their cultural heritage; others described psychological troubles—nightmares, anxiety, depression.”
The Justice Department argued in federal court this week that the Flores ruling, which set standards for care of migrant children in federal custody, does not require the government to supply basic hygiene products like soap and toothbrushes to ensure "safe and sanitary" conditions, and that leaving children “to sleep on cold concrete floors in crowded cells with low temperatures similarly fulfilled” requirements.
New CDC data shows that suicide rates have climbed among all racial groups in the US over the past 20 years, with American Indians and Alaska Natives experiencing the sharpest rise. Suicide rates among US teens and young adults are also the highest on record, according to new research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
California Governor Gavin Newsom apologized for violence and repression carried out by the state of California against Native Americans. “It’s called genocide,” [Newsom] said. “That’s what it was, a genocide. No other way to describe it. And that’s the way it needs to be described in the history books.” … Tribal leaders welcomed Mr. Newsom’s gesture, even as they said they hoped it led to more concrete actions, like improved education. “It’s important because it’s a first step in a process that has been a long time coming,” said Abby Abinanti, chief judge of the Yurok Tribal Court. “We need to take a serious look as a state, as a country, about how we address these issues.”
A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finds that Medicaid work requirements in Arkansas increased the uninsured rate but did not boost employment, as proponents of the measure claimed. "It should certainly be a warning sign that there's potential for large coverage losses, potential for significant confusion," said Benjamin Sommers, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health and the study's lead author.
A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that obesity has declined from 15.9% in 2010 to 13.9% in 2016 among children ages two to four enrolled in the Women, Infants, and Children program.
Last week, the House took up H.R. 2740, the FY 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Legislative Branch, Defense, State, Foreign Operations, and Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act. The bill includes $99.4 billion in funding for the Department of Health and Human Services ($8.9 billion above 2019 levels, $21.3 billion above the administration’s budget request). This includes $41.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health, $8.3 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ($938 million above 2019 levels and $1.7 billion above the administration’s budget request, including funding for the first time in 20 years to research preventing firearm injuries and deaths; $100 million to modernize public health data surveillance; $56 million for public health workforce initiatives; $10 million to establish a suicide prevention program; and $15 million to research the health impacts of climate change; among other programs), and $5.9 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.