While I can’t claim that I see every story, I do read a lot of news, and I’m struck by how often really important stories get less reporting and fewer readers than more sensational stuff. Three of this week’s biggest underreported stories: the Obama administration staged raids to capture and deport mothers and children back to the deadly violent Central American countries they fled ; Flint, Michigan’s cheaper water poisoned thousands of children; an on-going methane leak in California may have a bigger impact than the BP oil spill.
Deportation priorities: Women and children first
I wrote about the Obama administration’s raids and deportations targeting Central American families and children here. Back in October, The Guardian reported:
“The US government is deporting undocumented immigrants back to Central America to face the imminent threat of violence, with several individuals being murdered just days or months after their return, a Guardian investigation has found.”
This week’s raids inspired a religious response offering sanctuary:
“Religious groups and activists vowed Wednesday to offer refuge to illegal immigrants who are the targets of ongoing federal raids meant to combat a new wave of border-crossing from Central America.
“The announcement recalled the sanctuary movement of the 1980s that provided safe haven to several thousand people fleeing civil wars in El Salvador and Guatemala, with churches in Los Angeles, Chicago and other cities sometimes filled with people seeking asylum in the United States.”
Courts have halted a few of the deportations for families represented by attorneys.
Poisoning Flint’s children: Don’t drink the water
Back in 2014, Flint, Michigan switched its water source from Detroit’s municipal water system to the Flint River. Now the proportion of children and infants with dangerously high lead levels in their blood has doubled, the city has declared a state of emergency, and fingers of blame are pointing in all directions. Lead is not the only contaminant and children are not the only ones affected:
“Calling officials’ conduct “so egregious and so outrageous that it shocks the conscience,” the complaint cites the specific experiences of a few plaintiffs and their families, all of whom allege they have been challenged by similar health ailments since high levels of lead and copper entered their bloodstreams.
“These conditions include skin lesions, hair loss, chemical-induced hypertension, vision loss and depression.”
Cost was the reason for the switch, but Flint’s children will be paying for a lifetime.
In Flint today, as in the nation historically, lead exposure is a racial issue:
“Lead often hits black communities hardest. Flint, for one, is nearly 57 percent black, much higher than the state average of 14 percent, according to US Census Bureau data.
“Previous research has found big racial disparities in lead exposure. A 2013 study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that although blood lead levels among US children have dramatically dropped since the late 1990s, high blood lead levels among black children (1 to 5 years old) between 2007 and 2010 were still more than twice as high as their white counterparts.”
California’s giant, ongoing methane leak: Don’t breathe the air
California’s three-months-and-counting natural gas leak “may single-handledly double the methane emissions associated with natural gas use in California this year,” according to the Environmental Defense Fund, which attributes this and the many other unnoticed and underreported natural gas leaks to “a combination of oil and gas companies failing to monitor and maintain aging infrastructure and a lack of oversight of the oil and gas industry.” The Aliso Canyon leak finally started hitting the headlines, with release of an infrared video (above) in December.
In addition to the serious and ongoing environmental effects, the methane discharges “can ause a variety of chronic ailments, including bloody noses, headaches, vomiting and rashes,” according to a Newsweek article that also reports:
“To live in a methane effluvium has been, for many in Porter Ranch, an experience ranging from unpleasant to excruciating. Thousands of families have left, spending their winter holidays in hotel rooms or rentals (SoCalGas is paying). They do not know when they will come back, since SoCalGas does not know when the leak will be plugged. It might be late February, but it could be late March.”
For more analysis and information, see Ron Meador’s excellent summary of news about what he characterizes as “a fossil-fuel foulup that practically begs comparison to British Petroleum’s exploding Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico,” Newsweek’s lengthy article, and the Environmental Defense Fund site.