Mono Lake, Eastern California, Photo by Craig Rock

B o r d e r l a n d s    D i g e s t
Exploring the border between chaos and cooperation:
Reading and Writing about Justice Issues
an independent monthly journal with a focus on
 the environment, immigration and criminal justice

May - June 2020 

Web Analytics

Guest Article

Clean Air and Covid-19

by Dr. Joanne Leovy 

Covid-19 presents many questions. Among the most vexing, why are some people asymptomatic or mildly ill while others develop severe disease? In the absence of a cure, can we predict who might require hospitalization, need ventilation or die? Can anything help to reduce the risk of severe illness in the absence of a highly effective treatment or vaccine? 

Epidemiologic analyses clearly show that Covid-19 more severely impacts older people, men, and those with obesity, heart disease and immune-compromising conditions. A combination of health and social factors likely increase the risk in communities of color. Another fascinating and potentially modifiable factor is exposure to air pollution. 

Air pollution causes myriad health problems. The strongest evidence implicates two pollutants emitted primarily from vehicle tailpipes and fossil fuel combustion, ground level ozone and fine particulates. These pollutants cause acute and chronic respiratory, cardiovascular, perinatal and neurologic problems. Ground level ozone and fine particulate pollution cause reversible lung function impairment, airway inflammation and leaky blood vessels. Long term ozone exposure is linked to an increased risk for ARDS, the form of lung failure common in Covid-19 patients. Because ozone forms in sunny and hot conditions, it is a major pollutant in Las Vegas and Reno in the summer. Particulates raise lung levels of IL-6 and other cytokines believed to be major drivers of the hyper-inflammatory response seen in seriously ill Covid-19 patients. A 12 year study of 60 million U.S. Medicare recipients demonstrated substantially increased mortality in people who lived in areas of either high ozone or high particulate pollution. A 2019 study estimated that Nevada has 97 excess deaths and nearly $900 million in health costs due to air pollution. 

What is the link to Covid-19 disease? At least two studies now show a tantalizing correlation between high levels of fine particulates and high levels of Covid-19. A preliminary Italian survey revealed that the highest concentration of fine particulates are in the same region of Northern Italy that had catastrophic numbers Covid-19 infections, raising an interesting hypothesis. An April 2020 study from Harvard shows a clear trend between cases per million residents and fine particulate pollution. Pollution-related pre-existing health conditions and acute inflammation could play a role in a higher Covid-19 burden. Other data suggests increased virus transmission areas with particulate pollution as some viruses can bind to fine particulates in the air and travel distances. 

Reducing pollution quickly improves health. Both short and long term studies show mortality reduction with modest measures to clean the air. Technologies available now including higher fuel efficiency and electric vehicles, non-fossil electricity and energy efficiency have the potential to save many lives. A 2019 study estimated that just electrifying factories and industrial facilities that burn coal or oil, and replacing residential wood stoves with electric heat would cut particulate pollution enough to cut the pollution-related death rate in half, and would save much more money in health costs than the cost of transition. A small bright light in the pandemic has been the clearer skies across many cities as people ceased much of their travel. A recent study in China estimated that 77,000 fewer people died during the mandatory shutdown due to reduced air pollution. Perhaps our Nevada experience of unusually clean skies in March and April will lend support to efforts to work for cleaner air. Clean air saves lives.

(Dr. Leovy is a family practice doctor in Las Vegas, Nevada) References for this article can be found in a Word document at the bottom of this page.

Recent News - Links

Supreme Court won’t force Texas to allow absentee ballots for all voters, Washington Post, June 26, 2020, click here

White House intensifies effort to install Pentagon personnel seen as loyal to Trump, Washington Post, June 25, 2020, click here

Ruling applies to asylum seekers turned down at initial screenings

Supreme Court agrees with Trump administration on limits on asylum seekers, Washington Post, June 25, 2020, click here

U.S. attorney who was investigating people close to Trump now says he will step down, ending standoff with attorney general, Washington Post, June 2020, click here 

In Minnesota, the legacy of a lynching continues to haunt — and echo across decades
 Los Angeles Times, June 19, 2020, click here

Kamala Harris wants America to turn protest into policy. Is she the one to make it happen?, Washington Post, June 19, click here

Supreme Court rules for ‘Dreamers,’ rejects Trump’s repeal of immigration program, Los Angeles Times, June 18, click here

56 former prosecutors write to appeals court in support of bail for lawyers accused of throwing molotov cocktail at police vehicle,  Washington Post, June 16, click here

A War Against Climate Science, Waged by Washington’s Rank and File, New York Times, June 15, click here
"Efforts to block research on climate change don’t just come from the Trump political appointees on top. Lower managers in government are taking their cues, and running with them."

Supreme Court lets stand California’s ‘sanctuary’ law on undocumented immigrants, Washington Post, June 15, click here

Supreme Court says gay, transgender workers are protected by federal law forbidding discrimination on the basis of sex, Washington Post, June 15, click here

Supreme Court refuses to reconsider immunity that shields police accused of brutality, Washington Post, June 15, click here

Is There a Religious Left?, The New Yorker, June 11, 2020, click here
Why progressive activism rooted in faith is so often misconstrued.

Free Food, Free Speech and Free of Police: Inside Seattle’s ‘Autonomous Zone’
President Trump challenged Seattle’s mayor to “take back your city” after police vacated a precinct and protesters laid claim to the neighborhood around it.
New York Times, June 11, 2020, click here

Why Minneapolis Was the Breaking Point, Atlantic Magazine, (Wesley Lowery), June 10, click here

What’s a journalist supposed to be now — an activist? A stenographer? You’re asking the wrong question.
Washington Post, June 7, click here

ProPublica: Ex-White House Official Cashed In On Faulty Masks For Tribes, Fronteras Desk, KJZZ Radio, June 4, click here

The Story Behind Bill Barr’s Unmarked Federal Agents

"The motley assortment of police currently occupying Washington, D.C., is a window into the vast, complicated, obscure world of federal law enforcement." Politico, June 5, click here

Tear Gas Is Way More Dangerous Than Police Let On — Especially During the Coronavirus Pandemic

"In the middle of a respiratory pandemic, law enforcement agencies have used tear gas in especially dangerous ways. The chemical agent also seeps into homes, contaminates food, furniture, skin and surfaces, and can cause long-term lung damage." ProPublica, June 4, click here to read more.

Barr seeks to subdue D.C. protests by ‘flooding the zone’ with federal firepower, Washington Post, June 3, click here "Experts see parallels to authoritarian regimes."

EPA limits states and tribes’ ability to protest pipelines and other energy projects, Washington Post, June 1, click here

"The move changes the way the Clean Water Act has been applied for half a century. The Environmental Protection Agency finalized a rule Monday curtailing the rights of states, tribes and the public to object to federal permits for energy projects and other activities that could pollute waterways across the country."

Op-Ed: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Don’t understand the protests? What you’re seeing is people pushed to the edge
"Racism in America is like dust in the air. It seems invisible — even if you’re choking on it — until you let the sun in. Then you see it’s everywhere. As long as we keep shining that light, we have a chance of cleaning it wherever it lands. But we have to stay vigilant, because it’s always still in the air........What you should see when you see black protesters in the age of Trump and coronavirus is people pushed to the edge, not because they want bars and nail salons open, but because they want to live. To breathe...."

Los Angeles Times, May 30, click here to read the complete article by Kareem's Op-Ed's piece.

A birdwatcher, a dog and Amy Cooper. Another viral racial incident in America, Los Angeles Times, May 26, click here

This newspaper has never forgotten the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre — and its fight continues, LA Times, May 22, click here

Coronavirus is stalling air quality, pollution rules, even in eco-minded California, Los Angeles Times, May 13, click here

Clean water is key for Navajo Nation, other tribes, to avoid next pandemic Tucson Sentinel, May 12, 2020, click here

A Former Farmworker on American Hypocrisy
In the pandemic, “illegal” workers are now deemed “essential” by the federal government. Opinion, New York Times, May 6, 2020, click here to listen or read

Advocates with mask donation turned away from San Diego immigration detention center, Los Angeles Times, April 25, click here

Without a single COVID-19 death, Vietnam starts easing its coronavirus lockdown, Los Angeles Times, April 23, click here

Earth Justice Report April 23

The Clean Water Case of the Century

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled to keep the Clean Water Act intact, dealing a major loss to the Trump administration and its pro-polluter agenda. The fate of the nation’s clean water had hung in the balance in County of Maui v. Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund.

Fifty Thousand Americans Dead from the Coronavirus, and a President Who Refuses to Mourn Them, New Yorker Magazine, April 23, click here

Chaos and competition for vital coronavirus test could slow reopening of the economy, Los Angeles Times, April 21, click here

Wildlife Collapse From Climate Change Is Predicted to Hit Suddenly and Sooner, New York Times, April 15 2020, click here

Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia faces blowback as he curtails scope of worker relief in unemployment crisis Washington Post, April 10, click here

Labor Department comes under fire over handling of worker protection, unemployment program

Hospitals say feds are seizing masks and other coronavirus supplies without a word  Los Angeles Times, April 7, click here

What Will It Take?
by Craig Rock, Editor

(Update: June 4) The failure of the U.S. criminal justice system in protecting the human rights of all our people, the greed and ineptness displayed in the management of our health system in dealing with Covid-19, and the intentional dismantling of federal agencies responsible for clean air and safe water are three major issues that have  descended upon us at the same time. The killing of George Floyd and the rushed re-openings of "business as usual" in many states are tips of the iceberg that have a long history involving corruption, greed, and racism. 

Installation by West African artist Kwame Akoto-Bamfo. 
National Memorial for Peace and Freedom, Montgomery Alabama

For example, the murders of Black people stopped or jailed by police have been in the news forever. Before that, lynchings of Black men have been documented for more than a hundred years, with law enforcement often looking the other way or even instigating the hangings. These murders occurred (occur) in towns and cities, North and South, because people in white communities often looked the other way, unwilling to challenge the racist faction that rule their community.  It didn't affect their personal lives and it was more comfortable to keep your mouths shut.  Articles and links in this publication explore only some of these issues.  

(Related Readings: "Duluth's 1920 Lynchings, Zenith City Press originally published in the Ripsaw News in 2000, click here)

More information to come in future issues. Check out articles on Covid-19 and Clean Air on this page, an older review of two "fictional" books exploring our current conflict of human rights and dictatorial rule in the U.S. (page 2), and a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists on threats to reporters around the world (page 3).
Covid-19, Corruption and Greed

In many ways, these are unusual and crazy times. On one hand, we have scientists, medical professionals, volunteers, and others working together to stop this slaughter of thousands of people around world from the coronavirus, Covid-19. These are people from every sector of society who are  risking their lives on a daily basis.

On the other hand, we have people fighting for the right to go back to work, the cost of human lives is secondary. They must make a living now. They also have the right to their usual form of recreation. which may include crowding the beaches and the malls, maskless. It appears to be the only way they know of being free, of being "American." 

Then we have politicians on every side of the pandemic issues. It seems there is an interest or identity group that think their group is the center of this virus. In the battle for funding, prestige and power, their interests come first, others come next if there are any leftovers. Meanwhile, the virus is working hard, knocking down all borders to take our last breath away.

There are certainly the con-artists as well, waiting for their chance to profit. There is cause for alarm if we explore the many people and corporations that have perfected that art and who are ready to exploit the pandemic for all the gold it is worth. With the lives and a world economy that have been decimated by Covid-19, we simply do not have room, in the recovery, for the flimflam man who takes where he can, whether its fraud in consumer purchases and services, banking, real estate and insurance schemes, or manipulation of the market for medical services and supplies.

On the plus side of this corruption, we have a counter force that can create a new economy. An economy based on honest government and business interests. Imagine a society where businesses work along with government and community groups to root out corrupt politicians, judges, and corporations who already are hard at work pilfering away the trillions of dollars supposedly dedicated to getting us back on our feet. 

What have we learned? How can we reorganize to insure a sane and safe response to the current health and environmental disasters and the new ones that we are sure to face in the future? 

One thing I realize is that we should never have a government in charge of our health and welfare like the one we have now. The outrageous and, some would say, criminal performance of the Republican-controlled Senate in checking the abuse of power of the U.S. Executive Branch is leaning our government towards the right-wing dictatorships that we supported over the last 65 years.  If the Republican party can't clean up its ranks, clean up its corruption, change its callous disregard for human life, it shouldn't exist as a party that competes to govern our country. In some respects, these concerns go  for the Democratic Party as well. 

Historian Robert Kagan states,“The founders (of the U.S.) hoped that Congress would be jealous of its prerogatives and the independent judiciary would be jealous of its role, and that each actor would have a certain devotion to the republican spirit—little ‘R’—and defend it against potential threats from a President more concerned for his own interests than the rights of the general population.......The amazing thing is that, throughout our history, that really has sort of been the case.” No longer, he added. At the direction of President Trump, the core institutions that once insured the daily functions of the state and the peaceful transition of leadership have been seriously eroded. (quote from Robin Wright's article in the June 4 issue of The New Yorker, Is America Becoming a Banana Republic?)

Can we reform soon enough to make a difference? Or is nature waiting for our demise? Will this Sara Teasdale poem have special meaning when years from now, the poem is found by a chimp swinging from a tree, trying to figure out what it all means and how it all happened.

There Will Come Soft Rains 
Sara Teasdale - 1884-1933

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white,

Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.

Related Articles

Is America Becoming a Banana Republic, The New Yorker, June 4, click here

A Closer Look at Federal COVID Contractors Reveals Inexperience, Fraud Accusations and a Weapons Dealer Operating Out of Someone’s House, ProPublica, May 27, click here

The Coronavirus is rewriting our imaginations,
What felt impossible has become thinkable. the spring of 2020
 is suggestive of much, and how quickly we can change as a civilization
New Yorker, May 1, click here

Journal Contents 
Editor Craig Rock, duniterock@gmail.com, send in your stories, poems and photos by the 24th of the month. Click on most images to enlarge.
(Pages are accessible from links at the top and bottom of each page.)

Page 1 - Recent news links; updated stories.

Page 2 -  Art and its connections to justice issues through non-fiction, fiction, poetry, photography, history, exhibits and other formats.

Page 3 - Older News Links and press releases 

 Page 4 Eco Links (Environment - Links and Reports) - Links to Interesting Websites.

Press Release from Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) 

Thousands join CPJ’s call for governments to 
release jailed journalists amid COVID-19

New York, May 5, 2020--In recognition of World Press Freedom Day, marked each year on May 3, the Committee to Protect Journalists today said 11,337 supporters from at least 105 countries, alongside 192 partner organizations, joined its global #FreeThePress campaign calling for the release of all jailed journalists. CPJ advanced the campaign in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which poses a grave threat to the health of imprisoned populations.

“Jailing journalists is the hallmark of an authoritarian regime, but keeping them in jail in the midst of a pandemic is sheer cruelty,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Journalists shouldn’t be locked up -- they should be out reporting the news, informing the public and holding authorities to account. The free circulation of information and ideas is essential to fighting COVID-19, and journalists can’t do their job from behind bars.”

The campaign included an open letter to leaders of governments jailing journalists. Citizens around the world signed CPJ’s petition. Formerly imprisoned journalists shared video messages of solidarity.

At least four journalists, in Ethiopia and Iran, have been released because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

CPJ also called on the U.N. and the European External Action Service to press for the release of jailed journalists. The campaign culminated with a letter to U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres calling for urgent action on behalf of all those still behind bars.

CPJ’s coronavirus response page includes news coverage of journalists being arrested, assaulted, or censored for their work on the virus, as well as Q&A interviews with reporters on the front line. CPJ Emergencies regularly updates its physical, digital, and psychosocial safety advice, which is available in almost 40 languages, and journalists and newsrooms can submit questions to CPJ’s safety experts.

More News Links From stories in April

Advocates with mask donation turned away from San Diego immigration detention center, Los Angeles Times, April 25, click here

Without a single COVID-19 death, Vietnam starts easing its coronavirus lockdown, Los Angeles Times, April 23, click here

Earth Justice Report April 23

The Clean Water Case of the Century

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled to keep the Clean Water Act intact, dealing a major loss to the Trump administration and its pro-polluter agenda. The fate of the nation’s clean water had hung in the balance in County of Maui v. Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund.

Fifty Thousand Americans Dead from the Coronavirus, and a President Who Refuses to Mourn Them, New Yorker Magazine, April 23, click here

Chaos and competition for vital coronavirus test could slow reopening of the economy, Los Angeles Times, April 21, click here

Wildlife Collapse From Climate Change Is Predicted to Hit Suddenly and Sooner, New York Times, April 15 2020, click here

Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia faces blowback as he curtails scope of worker relief in unemployment crisis Washington Post, April 10, click here

Labor Department comes under fire over handling of worker protection, unemployment program

Hospitals say feds are seizing masks and other coronavirus supplies without a word  Los Angeles Times, April 7, click here

Just When They’re Needed Most, 
Clinics for the Poor Face Drastic Cutbacks
New York Times, April 4, click here
Clinics that treat the poor and uninsured are facing hard times just when they are most needed. The coronavirus pandemic has depleted their revenues.

Key medical supplies were shipped from U.S. manufacturers to foreign buyers, The Intercept, April 1, Click here

What the Coronavirus means for climate change
New York Times, March 27, click here
"Lockdowns and distancing won’t save the world from warming.
 But amid this crisis, we have a chance to build a better future."

Coronavirus Capitalism — and How to Beat It
8 Minute Video with Naomi Klein
from Common Dreams.org

YouTube Video

Craig Rock,
Jun 5, 2020, 3:31 PM