When should past presidents speak up?

Yahoo News

Matt Bai’s Political World

We’ve heard from the first ladies. Where are their husbands?

Matt Bai             June 21, 2018 

Former Presidents, from left, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. (Photo illustration: Yahoo News; photos: AP [5], U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Rio Grande Valley Sector via AP)

There are weeks that can define a presidency for all time, moments that seem to reveal the essential character of an administration as the world remembers it.

You think of George W. Bush flying over a drowning New Orleans in 2005, seemingly oblivious to the chaos and incompetence below. Or those weird summer days in 1979 when Jimmy Carter, returning from a self-imposed spiritual retreat, offered the country a sermon on moral drift and then demanded the resignations of his entire Cabinet. (Although maybe Carter’s defining episode actually occurred that spring, while he was vacationing in Georgia, when his fishing boat was chased by a vicious “swamp rabbit.”)

And so might we look back on this week, decades from now, as the one that cemented the enduring impression of the Trump administration, which, for all its entertaining gyrations, always seems to end up at a place of meanness and misdirection.

The images of wailing toddlers in cages, the sound of their anguished crying for Mommy, the initially defiant pose of a president who is never happier than when he’s arousing the basest of emotions — all of these seemed to crystallize some revolting need in this White House to isolate and punish otherness.

So tasteless was this week’s episode of Trump Unbound that, in addition to the outcries even from cowering Republicans in Congress, every former first lady felt moved to publicly oppose the policy of snatching immigrant children from their parents and throwing them into detention centers.

In a Washington Post op-ed, the normally reticent Laura Bush compared Trump’s short-lived policy to the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. (It was an imperfect comparison on the facts, given that the vast majority of detainees in 1942 were American citizens, but it rang true in terms of imagery and prejudice.)

All of this, I thought, reaffirmed the basic goodness and resilience of our political culture, but raised a few questions about who wasn’t yet speaking out more forcefully about the ugly arc of our politics.

Namely: Why have the husbands of all these political wives been so tepid? And if this isn’t a time for the other five living presidents to put basic American values above the tradition of not criticizing their successors, then what would such a moment look like?

To be fair, Bill Clinton did tweet a few lines criticizing the border policy on Father’s Day. Barack Obama posted some box-checking stuff on Facebook. OK.

But I’m not talking about opposing any single administration policy, or about issuing a few sentences of mild dissent before tee time.

I’m talking about the oath each of these guys took, hand on the Bible, to protect and defend the Constitution. Presumably that wasn’t only about enforcing the letter of the law. Presidents aren’t federal judges.

No, what each of them pledged was to vehemently defend the basic ideals of American pluralism and tolerance, here and abroad. And I don’t think that pledge expired on the day the moving van showed up at the White House.

Maybe we didn’t know exactly what we were getting when Donald Trump took the same oath on Jan. 20, 2017. It was fair to wonder, after a career in self-promotion and a campaign centered on cheap hats, whether Trump had any real ideology at all, and how he might evolve once the considerable burdens of the office were his.

And we probably assumed that Trump would make some dumb and erratic policy choices along the way. That’s fine. All presidents do.

But we know now who Trump really is, at his political core. He’s an ethnic and economic nationalist. He fervently believes that countries — ours and others — do better when they rally around a mythical common heritage and repel outsiders. He believes that leaders who rule under the banner of national superiority are men to be admired and trusted.

How else to read the recent tweet in which Trump taunted Europeans, and especially Germans, for “allowing millions of people in who have so strongly and violently changed their culture”? Or the one a few days ago in which he talked about immigrants who would “infest” our country, like vermin? It’s like Trump made a bet with someone that he could recycle Nazi propaganda and no one would care.

How else to explain his evident idolatry for strongmen like Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong Un, his public longing for showy military parades, his war on global trade agreements and multilateral alliances?

Trump isn’t just an isolationist; he idealizes national purity and imperial order. His politics isn’t “America First”; it’s “Americans First,” and he gets to decide who qualifies.

None of this is against the law. It’s not impeachable. It’s just inherently un-American, and it blows up an age-old consensus about what our president is supposed to represent in the world.

The last three presidents certainly suffered their share of failures in trying to lead an integrated world and repel the forces of radical nationalism. Clinton championed a kind of unrestrained globalism that hollowed out communities. George W. Bush initiated a calamitous war. Barack Obama couldn’t get his own party behind a landmark trade pact.

But all of them, like every president for a century before them, saw the American presidency as an essential platform for integrating societies and transcending ethnic divides. They disagreed sharply about how best to embody those values, but they did not consider the proposition that America could embody anything else.

All of which leads me back to my initial point. When do these ex-presidents, who generally bond over funerals or humanitarian crises, call one another and say, “You know what? If nothing else, we need to go out there together and tell the world that the America we represented still exists.” That would count for a lot.

Because there are moments in our national life when you know you’ll look back and wish you’d said more. The Japanese-American internment after Pearl Harbor was one. Or the turning away of Jewish refugees from Europe as the Holocaust was beginning. Or the systematic smearing of alleged Communists and sympathizers during the McCarthy years.

Maybe, for our most admired living politicians, seeing the president of the United States wave the flag of nationalism and ethnic separatism like some backwoods Balkan militia leader doesn’t sink to that level of betraying the office.

But then that really does prompt the question that each should be asking himself.

What would?

Trump-GOP tax plan gets an F for Failing America’s working families!

Americans for Tax Fairness

June 20, 2018

WATCH: Today marks the 6 month anniversary of the Trump-GOP tax plan! On this day, we’re grading its performance. After exhaustive analysis of the data, we’re giving the Trump-GOP tax plan an F for Failing America’s working families!

WATCH: Today marks the 6 month anniversary of the Trump-GOP tax plan! On this day, we're grading its performance. After exhaustive analysis of the data, we're giving the Trump-GOP tax plan an F for Failing America's working families!

Posted by Americans for Tax Fairness on Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Rachel Maddow just broke down on live TV over reports of Trump taking BABIES away from their asylum-seeking mothers.

Occupy Democrats

June 19, 2018

WOW. Must-watch. Rachel Maddow just broke down on live TV over reports of Trump taking BABIES away from their asylum-seeking mothers.

Follow Occupy Democrats for more.

Rachel Maddow just broke down on live TV over reports of Trump taking BABIES away from their asylum-seeking mothers

WOW. Must-watch. Rachel Maddow just broke down on live TV over reports of Trump taking BABIES away from their asylum-seeking mothers.Follow Occupy Democrats for more.

Posted by Occupy Democrats on Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Inside the Disastrous White House Briefing on Trump’s Child-Separation Policy

New York Magazine

Daily Intellegencer

Inside the Disastrous White House Briefing on Trump’s Child-Separation Policy

By Olivia Nuzzi    June 19, 2018

Kirstjen Nielsen takes questions from reporters during Monday’s briefing. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Over the loudspeaker, a voice said the White House briefing would be moved to 4 p.m. The press, already assembled ahead of the scheduled time of 3:30 p.m., which itself was a rescheduling of the initial 1:15 p.m. appointment, laughed and groaned.

It’s nothing new for a White House to experience such disorganization; the veteran reporters tell the newer ones about how bad it was under Clinton, how in hindsight, the George H.W. Bush and Reagan administrations seem admirably prompt. But during Donald Trump’s presidency, the briefings have had two recurring themes: first, they never go well, and second, when administration officials struggle more than usual to get their story straight, the event hangs in a state of doubt.

On Monday, new reporting continued to reveal the realities of the Trump administration policy of forcibly separating children from their adult guardians who cross the border without U.S. citizenship. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly are both on record endorsing the practice as a means of deterring undocumented immigrants from entering the country.

Yet the president and members of his staff have repeatedly and falsely blamed Congress — in particular congressional Democrats — for the nearly 2,000 children who have reportedly been taken into federal custody in just the last six weeks. Condemnation is growing and bipartisan, led at the beginning of this week by former First Ladies Laura Bush and Michelle Obama. Some even interpreted the statement from the current First Lady, Melania Trump, as a break with her husband (others disagreed). “Mrs. Trump hates to see children separated from their families and hopes both sides of the aisle can finally come together to achieve successful immigration reform,” her spokesperson said.

The gap has continued to grow between the critics of the policy and the administration officials who say it doesn’t belong to this administration, or isn’t even a “policy” at all (whatever that means).

In what may have been an omen for the utterly stupid catastrophe that was to follow, around 1:15 p.m. a man jumped the White House gate, prompting a lockdown. Sometime later, after the briefing was pushed back, ProPublica published audio of young children separated from their parents screaming and crying inside of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility. In the recording, an agent can be heard joking at their expense. “We have an orchestra here,” he says.

Reporters in the briefing room, a small space that sits on top of what was once the White House pool, listened to the recording while they waited.

Four p.m. came and went. CNN reported that Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders didn’t want to do the briefing alone, and was waiting for Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen to arrive and enter the room with her. (The Washington Post later reported that the story was the result of a leak by one of Sanders’s enemies in her ranks, designed to come out when she was too busy to respond, forcing her to address it at the podium.)

The briefing was rescheduled for 5:00 p.m. Just before 5:15 p.m., Sanders and Nielsen, along with several aides, opened the sliding door stage right from the podium.

Nielsen appeared agitated as she faced questions. At one point, asked how the treatment of the children separated from their parents wasn’t child abuse, she impatiently responded, “Can you be more specific?”

“We have high standards,” Nielsen said. “We give them meals. We give them education. We give them medical care. There’s videos, TVs.”

Nielsen’s claim can be judged against the photos and reporting of the conditions the children are subjected to; as The Atlantic reported, CBP’s own images show them “using Mylar blankets and being housed in cages.”

The stories, Nielsen said, “reflect the focus of those who post such pictures and narratives.”

Nielsen insisted that the Trump administration doesn’t have a policy of removing children from their parents who enter the country illegally, but offered various scenarios in which a child would be removed from their parents who enter the country illegally. She compared this to any person who commits a crime being separated from their family when they go to jail. She said critics who accuse the administration of using these children as a political tool are “cowardly.”

“The children are not being used as a pawn, we are trying to protect the children,” she said.

Both Nielsen and, when she was done, Sanders, expressed unfamiliarity with the images and stories that have put this issue on every news channel that airs on the dozens of TVs throughout the White House, and on the covers of the newspapers in their mail. (Sanders, true to form, said she hadn’t talked to Trump about arguably his most high-profile critic of the day, Laura Bush.) When officials are taking questions, the easiest thing for them to do when asked about a story or a statistic that they can’t spin in their favor or gracefully wiggle away from is to say they haven’t read it, seen it, or heard it. They’ll get back to you, they say. They rarely do.

As Nielsen spoke, another reporter’s phone began to ring with a mildly ridiculous melodic clang. After a while, when none of the reporters who’d been called on elected to play the audio published by ProPublica and ask for a response, I decided to play it. It was a small disturbance, prompting confused looks around the briefing room and expressions of annoyance and emerging panic from two White House aides, but it didn’t outright disrupt. Nielsen seemed to hear it — it’s a small room, it’d be hard not to — but she didn’t veer from her script.

“Are you intending for this to play out as it is playing out?  Are you intending for parents to be separated from their children? Are you intending to send a message?” a reporter asked.

“I find that offensive. No. Because why would I ever create a policy that purposely does that?” she said.

“Perhaps as a deterrent,” the reporter said, noting, along with another reporter, that both Sessions and Kelly have offered that explanation.

Nielsen replied, “That’s not the question that you asked me.”

Watch Laura Ingraham’s Soul Leave Her Body As She Describes Border Facilities as ‘Summer Camps’


Watch Laura Ingraham’s Soul Leave Her Body As She Describes Border Facilities as ‘Summer Camps’

Wow, this is even worse than expected!

By Jack Holmes      June 19, 2018

Donald Trump seized control of the Republican Party by channeling the resentful id of talk radio and Fox News. This was most apparent on immigration, where Trump depicted undocumented Mexican migrants as rapists and criminals to kick off his campaign. From there, he has only ventured deeper into the abyss. Fox News has followed him all the way, and it seemed sadly inevitable that they would back him this week amid a national firestorm over the emerging human rights crisis on our southern border.

But as the Fox power players returned to their broadcast chairs for Monday night primetime, what we got was even uglier than expected. Leading the way was Laura Ingraham, who responded to reports on the severe trauma children were experiencing as they were torn from their parents’ arms by suggesting they were getting a free ride to Camp Winnepesaukee.

It’s rare that you get to watch someone’s soul leave their body on national TV, dribbling out the side of their mouth as they explain how cozy kids have it as they’re kept in cages ahead of being dragged away from the one sense of security they still have left, their parents, after an often traumatic thousand-mile journey to escape horrific circumstances back home.

The immediate question was whether Ingraham would be sending her kids to one of these “summer camps” this July. Perhaps she’s eying the new tent city outside El Paso, Texas, where it will be an average of 96 degrees each day that month. Or maybe we just learned something about the Fox host’s childhood that might have led her to become such an unreconstructed ghoul as an adult. Surely something must lead you to, as a college student, try to out your LGBT peers by secretly recording them at a support group meeting, as Ingraham did.

Just to test her theory, here’s audio, obtained by ProPublica, of children who were just separated from their parents and put in summer camp.

Does that sound like the summer camp you went to? Or does it sound like the kind of thing that will make it into documentaries about this period, a chilling final testament to the human cost of this administration’s performative cruelty? Of course, the surest sign that it’s not all sunshine and roses is that Trump, the consummate coward, refuses to take responsibility for the separations in public, blaming Democrats and lying incessantly about “enforcing the law.” This is not the law, it is the policy of the Trump administration.

It’s not enough to suggest the kids have it good, though. You also have to demonize them as potential violent criminals—and use one of the president’s favorite buzzwords as you do it:

Some of these kids are toddlers. That can be easy to forget, since authorities only seem interested in allowing media and elected officials access to the facility in Brownsville, Texas, where boys aged eleven to seventeen are kept. But that is just one facility—where they probably think has the least sympathetic detainees—in which unaccompanied children, an increasing number of whom were forcibly separated from their parents, are held. Ingraham would like the separated kids to all be sixteen-year-old boys who she can paint as potential violent gangsters. What about the five-year-old girls, who are kept in facilities authorities won’t tell us about and won’t let us see?

Characterizing all undocumented immigrants as violent criminals is at the core of Trumpist immigration rhetoric, which takes it as the Word of the Lord that immigrants bring violent crime. (In reality, undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit violent crime than native-born citizens.) That is why, when discussing immigration, the president only talks about MS-13 or the relatively rare cases where citizens are killed by undocumented immigrants. The attempt is to paint all undocumented immigrants as violent criminals.

That is why it never mattered whether Trump called all undocumented immigrants “animals,” or just MS-13. His rhetoric on immigration is constantly dehumanizing: he calls the alternative to his family separation and detention program “catch and release,” like we’re hunting or fishing. (It is also not an accurate characterization of how the previous program worked.) He has never made a distinction between violent criminals and peaceful people who come here seeking a better life but don’t have proper documentation. And it’s not just his rhetoric—it’s his policy, too: 40 percent of those his administration deports are noncriminals.

It’s unlikely there’s much of a distinction in the minds of his followers, which might explain why 55 percent of Republicans support family separation. It’s easy to separate animals from their parents—we do it every day.

One example of this non-distinction is Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade, who mirrored Ingraham’s insane MS-13 scaremongering—again, about a group of children, some of whom are toddlers. It appears the Fox & Friends host is getting high on his own supply of uncut white resentment, which led to an incredibly ugly rant from the Couch of Great American Discourse Tuesday morning:

These kids get fanned out to working-class neighborhoods, into our society, and then they have to be paid for by English as a second language, and then they gotta be schooled, and then a lot of them, sadly, in my neighborhood, turn into MS-13.

This is nuts. First off, it’s a bit of vintage nativism, suggesting immigrants are a drain on society when the undocumented contribute more in taxes than they receive in benefits. Also, Kilmeade is a millionaire TV host and it seems incredibly unlikely there are MS-13 members in his neighborhood. But the key point is his assertion that immigrants are the cause of, or will only exacerbate, social problems. Kilmeade, who is a steadfast supporter of anyone with an “(R)” next to their name, included this in his rant:

We are $20 trillion in debt, we have classrooms that are overrun, we have teachers buying their own supplies…

The Party of Fiscal Responsibility just ballooned the national debt with a tax cut that will add $1.9 trillion and a spending bill that will add $1.3 trillion. Meanwhile, last year, House Republicans sought to cut the education budget by $2.4 billion, or 3.5 percent. That pales in comparison to the Trump administration’s proposed cut of $9.2 billion. But this, Kilmeade says, is about underfunded schools. Who is the real threat to high-functioning American public schools: immigrant kids, or politicians who spend nearly all their time catering to the donor class?

But the symbiosis between this administration and its primary pravda network would not be complete without an appearance from Attorney General Jeff Sessions—who orchestrated and has repeatedly defended the family separation policy, sometimes citing the Bible in an ultra-authoritarian Evangelical interpretation—on Ingraham’s show. The dehumanizing rhetoric and cruel treatment of these people, along with the new addition of actual concentration camps, has led some to make Nazi comparisons. Sessions dismissed this as silly—the Nazis wanted to kill people, not deport them!

Axios: INGRAHAM: “[Lawmakers are comparing this policy to] Nazi Germany, concentration camps, what’s going on here?”
SESSIONS: “It’s a real exaggeration. In Nazi Germany, they were keeping the Jews from leaving the country but this is a serious matter.”

Of course, in the beginning, the Nazis primarily sought to expel the Jews from Europe. But history doesn’t matter, you see—that’s why they’re cutting the education funding! Just from a PR standpoint, though, the first distinction you should probably draw between yourself and Nazis is that you do not, presumably, have a genocidal hatred for a societal subgroup that you constantly dehumanize and blame for society’s problems. The logistical differences should come after.

Trump And His Allies Are Either Woefully Misinformed About Family Separations Or Lying Through Their Teeth

Border Crossing With Music

June 18, 2018

Amid the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border, these musicians provide cross-border solidarity.

Border Crossing with Music

Amid the Trump administration's crackdown on immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border, these musicians provide cross-border solidarity.

Posted by Direct From on Monday, June 18, 2018

Judge slams Kobach for flouting court rules

Politico – Under the Radar

Josh Gerstein on the Courts, Transparency, & More

Judge slams Kobach for flouting court rules

By Josh Gerstein      June 18, 2018

As a federal judge on Monday permanently blocked a Kansas law requiring voters to prove their citizenship before registering to vote, she also delivered a rebuke to the law’s main proponent: Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach found himself in hot water on several prior occasions during the proof-of-citizenship case. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. District Court Judge Julie Robinson’s ruling against the law was widely expected, but she coupled it with pointed complaints that Kobach had failed to comply with court rules requiring disclosure of evidence to the law’s opponents in advance of the trial.

“The disclosure violations set forth above document a pattern and practice by Defendant of flaunting disclosure and discovery rules that are designed to prevent prejudice and surprise at trial,” Robinson wrote. “The Court ruled on each disclosure issue as it arose, but given the repeated instances involved, and the fact that Defendant resisted the Court’s rulings by continuing to try to introduce such evidence after exclusion, the Court finds that further sanctions are appropriate.”

“It is not clear to the Court whether Defendant repeatedly failed to meet his disclosure obligations intentionally or due to his unfamiliarity with the federal rules,” the judge added. “Therefore, the Court finds that an additional sanction is appropriate in the form of Continuing Legal Education. Defendant chose to represent his own office in this matter, and as such, had a duty to familiarize himself with the governing rules of procedure, and to ensure as the lead attorney on this case that his discovery obligations were satisfied despite his many duties as a busy public servant.”

Robinson, an appointee of President George W. Bush, ordered Kobach to do an additional six hours of continuing legal education in the 2018-19 year, above and beyond the ordinary state requirements.

Kobach is currently locked in a tight race challenging incumbent Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, who is running for reelection.

Spokespeople for Kobach did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new ruling.

The American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the suit against Kobach, said the ruling demonstrated that the Kansas official’s actions were unconstitutional.

“This decision is a stinging rebuke of Kris Kobach, and the centerpiece of his voter suppression efforts: a show-me-your-papers law that has disenfranchised tens of thousands of Kansans,” said Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project. “That law was based on a xenophobic lie that noncitizens are engaged in rampant election fraud. The court found that there is ‘no credible evidence‘ for that falsehood, and correctly ruled that Kobach’s documentary proof-of-citizenship requirement violates federal law and the U.S. Constitution.”

Kobach found himself in hot water on several prior occasions during the proof-of-citizenship case. Last June, a federal magistrate fined Kobach $1,000 for presenting misleading arguments in the suit. And in April, Robinson held him in contempt for failing to send standard registration postcards to voters covered by a court order she issued.

Robinson’s new ruling on the law itself found that Kansas had failed to demonstrate that voting by noncitizens was a significant problem and failed to show that the law was necessary to remedy whatever issues existed with such voting.

“The Court finds that the burden imposed on Kansans by this law outweighs the state’s interest in preventing noncitizen voter fraud, keeping accurate voter rolls, and maintaining confidence in elections,” she wrote.

Josh Gerstein is a senior White House reporter for POLITICO.

Trade war jeopardizes China’s huge investment in creation of new ‘cancer alley’ in Appalachia


Trade war jeopardizes China’s huge investment in creation of new ‘cancer alley’ in Appalachia

Industrial build-out in West Virginia would have massive environmental impacts.

Mark Hand      June 18, 2018

Environmental activists fear massive investments in petrochemical and energy facilities could turn part of Appalachia into a new “cancer alley” like the one in Louisiana along the Mississippi river. Credit: Julie Dermansky/Corbis via Getty Images

Doubts are growing about a Chinese company’s planned investment in a suite of natural gas-related projects in West Virginia due to the Trump administration’s intensification of a trade war between the United States and China.

From the day the agreement was announced last fall, skepticism has surrounded the issue of whether state-owned China Energy Investment Corp. would follow through on its planned $83 billion investment in energy infrastructure in West Virginia. The cost and scope of the project — known as the Appalachian Storage Hub — would be unprecedented.

The massive project would include natural gas liquids storage, a major intersection of pipelines, and a petrochemical refinery row. Environmental groups have expressed concern that the construction of natural gas liquids and petrochemical processing plants could contaminate air and water resources.

The escalating trade war between the United States and China is causing further uncertainty about the agreement. Global stock prices fell Monday as investors reacted to the decision last week by the United States to target an additional $50 billion in China-made goods for new tariffs.

Brian Anderson, director of the Energy Institute at West Virginia University, has previously touted the positive impact of the China Energy investment. Anderson said two months ago that the agreement with the Chinese company could be coming along at the perfect time. But on Monday, Anderson adjusted his expectations, telling an energy industry conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that the trade war “has put this project in jeopardy.”

Another potentially ominous sign for the project is the decision by the chief executive of China Energy to cancel plans to speak at this week’s conference — the Northeast U.S. Petrochemical Construction Conference — as the war of words between the two countries on trade issues heated up. The CEO, who reports to the president of China, reportedly cited the trade war as the reason for canceling his trip to the conference.

If trade relations between the United States and China improve and China Energy ultimately carries out its end of the deal, environmental groups are concerned that the state of West Virginia will not be able to properly oversee the potential damage caused by the construction and operation of the energy and petrochemical facilities.

West Virginia has a long history of favoring coal industry profits over the environment and public health. The state is showing the same deference to the natural gas industry, which has grown into a powerful business force in the state over the past 10 years.

The scale of industrialization that would come from the $83 billion investment would be a “big burden” on the state Department of Environmental Protection that does not have adequate resources to enforce regulations on existing coal and natural gas industry operations, according to Angie Rosser, executive director of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition.

Natural gas investments are happening at such a rapid pace in the state that “mistakes are being made and damage is being done” by state environmental officials in a similar fashion to how they failed to adequately monitor the coal industry, Rosser told ThinkProgress.

Appalachia’s struggling coal communities find hope in transition to clean energy

The Appalachian Storage Hub took a major step forward last November as part of a U.S. trade mission to China attended by President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. During Trump’s visit to China, China Energy announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding to invest $83.7 billion in the planned storage hub over 20 years. For comparison, West Virginia’s gross domestic product in 2016 was $72.9 billion.

If it is developed, the hub would bring a massive buildup of the petrochemical industry along the Ohio River from southwestern Pennsylvania to Huntington, West Virginia. It would stretch into surrounding counties with a spur from down the Kanawha River from Point Pleasant, West Virginia, to Charleston, West Virginia.

Environmental groups fear the region could become another “cancer alley,” similar to the buildup of petrochemical facilities in Louisiana along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

“Petrochemicals, pipelines, and plastics are not a plus for the Ohio Valley. We are threatening the future of generations to come if we buy into this promise of short-term economic gains instead of realizing the disastrous long-term effects that will occur,” the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, a nonprofit group based in Huntington, said in an alert issued last Thursday.

West Virginia is undergoing political upheaval that also could impact the agreement. Last week, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) forced Commerce Secretary Woody Thrasher to resign over his handling of a flood relief program. Thrasher was the top state official who traveled to China last November as part of the trade delegation.

A once thriving coal town has turned toxic, and citizens are desperate for help

Furthermore, a potential conflict of interest has emerged as part of the $83 billion investment. At least one member of West Virginia’s negotiating team was also negotiating on behalf of his private company when he traveled to China last fall to negotiate the deal, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported last Friday. The corporate executive, Steven Hedrick, is CEO of Appalachia Development Group LLC and CEO of the Mid-Atlantic Technology, Research and Innovation Center.

Appalachia Development Group has been seeking a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the Appalachian Storage Hub project. The state Commerce Department paid for Hedrick’s travel for the China negotiations. The state found out that Hedrick asked China Energy officials to specifically target some of their investment in his company’s natural gas storage hub.

Rosser, head of the West Virginia Rivers Coalition, said she believes the state will have “big-time regrets” if it does not implement necessary safeguards that will protect the environment and public health from the massive industrial build-out.

‘America is better than this’: What a doctor saw in a Texas shelter for migrant children

The Independent

‘America is better than this’: What a doctor saw in a Texas shelter for migrant children

Kristine Phillips, The Independent     June 17, 2018

A prominent doctor has spoken out against the Trump administration‘s policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the US border. saying it could have a ‘devastating’ long-term effect on their emotional well-being.

Dr Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, visited a shelter for children under the age of 12 that runs along the Texas border with Mexico.

The shelter in question held 60 beds and had a little playground for children. Rooms are equipped with toys, books and crayons.

To Dr Kraft, it looked like a friendly environment for children – a place where they could be happy.

But the child who caught the pediatrician’s attention during a recent visit was anything but happy. This little girl – no older than two – was screaming and pounding her fists on a mat. Yet staff members could not comfort the infant because of the rules prohibiting physical contact.

“The really devastating thing was that we all knew what was going on with this child. We all knew what the problem was,” Dr Kraft said. “She didn’t have her mother, and none of us can fix that.”

Nearly 2,000 immigrant children were separated from their parents during six weeks in April and May, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

The little girl is among the multitude of immigrant children who have been separated from their family as part of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, meaning any adult who crosses the border illegally will face criminal prosecution. That also means parents were taken to federal jails while their children were sent to shelters.

It is believed 11,432 migrant children are in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services – an increase of nearly 3,000 from beginning of May. These numbers include children who arrived at the border without a relative and children separated from their parents.

The policy so far has pushed shelters to their capacity. Trump administration officials are making preparations to hold immigrant children on military bases. On Thursday, the Trump administration said it will house children in tents in the desert outside El Paso.

“The really basic, foundational needs of having trust in adults as a young child was not being met. That contradicts everything we know that the kids need to build their health,” said Dr Kraft after her visit to the Texas shelter.

 Such a situation could have long-term, devastating effects on young children, who are likely to develop what is called toxic stress in their brain once separated from caregivers or parents they trusted. It disrupts a child’s brain development and increases the levels of fight-or-flight hormones in their bodies, added Kraft. This kind of emotional trauma could eventually lead to health problems, such as heart disease and substance abuse disorders.

Kraft and her organization are not alone in this opinion.

Nearly 4,600 mental health professionals and 90 organizations have signed a petition urging Trump and attorney general Jeff Sessions to stop the policy of parental separation.

It says: “To pretend that separated children do not grow up with the shrapnel of this traumatic experience embedded in their minds is to disregard everything we know about child development, the brain, and trauma.”

“While not all of the children we are ripping from their parents will suffer the full consequences of toxic stress, many may,” said child psychologist Megan Gunnar of the University of Minnesota.

Although the policy is being implemented by his own administration, Mr Trump has avoided publicly owning it and. Instead, he blamed Democrats for “forcing the breakup of families at the border with their horrible and cruel legislative agenda.”

Health and Human Services blames Congress, saying its inability to pass legislation on border security “created perverse and dangerous incentives for illegal border crossings and child smuggling.”

For Dr Kraft, the partisan finger-pointing means politicians run the risk of obscuring the impact the parental separation policy will have on children.

“As partisan and as divisive as the whole topic of immigration is, we need to start with what’s right,” she said. “Can we start with just keeping parents and children together while we figure out some of the other details?”

“The kids need to come first,” she added. “America is better than this.”

Washington Post News Service