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Meet the Dominican nuns who created their own climate solutions fund

It’s been five years since Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si,” the celebrated 225-page encyclical in which the pope called for environmental justice and fundamental social change in the face of global warming. To mark the occasion earlier this month, the Vatican urged Catholics around the world to take practical steps to fulfill this mission — including by divesting from fossil fuel-based industries. And in the U.S., 16 congregations of Dominican nuns (named for their patron saint, Saint Dominic) debuted a collaboration with Morgan Stanley to create a $130 million “climate solutions fund.”

In a press release, the bank called the fund a “first of its kind collaboration … to find investment solutions which focus on climate change and aiding marginalized communities that are disproportionately impacted by global warming.” Examples of the fund’s “holistic” approach to climate solutions could include “early stage investments in energy efficiency software” as well as “more mature opportunities like fruit producers with water-saving hydroponic irrigation systems.”

Sister Patricia Daly, a Dominican nun from a congregation in Caldwell, New Jersey, helped create the fund. The nuns began organizing the fund in 2018 after they pooled $46 million. Daly said the sisters have long wanted to invest in companies and technology that are actively working toward the United Nations sustainable development goals, which include ending poverty, improving access to clean energy, curbing climate change, and more. When they couldn’t find a fund with that focus — most sustainable investment funds do not holistically address all of those goals, according to Daly — the congregations enlisted Morgan Stanley to create a new fund themselves and set a standard for future investing.

“This fund is engaged in impact investing rather than screening,” said Angelo Collins, a member of the leadership council for the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters in Wisconsin. “The fund advisors and managers are looking to support and provide investments in corporations that are doing positive good.”

Collins said that many Dominican congregations in the U.S. consider social justice a central tenet of practicing their faith, and that the fund will bring social justice to the forefront of the church’s investing efforts.

Daly said she hopes that their efforts attract investors of all kinds, rather than just faith-based organizations.

“We wanted this not just for ourselves but for other investors — not just faith communities,” she told Grist. “There are also healthcare systems and other private investors who have joined in this initiative.”

In its press release, Morgan Stanley emphasized that the fund will invest in ventures that are proactively pursuing sustainable and equitable climate goals.

“Every dollar invested in our climate program will seek to have a concrete climate impact measurement ranging from tonnes of CO2 emission offset and litres of water saved, to reduction in air pollution levels, in addition to generating compelling private markets returns,” said Vikram Raju, the investment group’s head of impact investing.

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Meet the Dominican nuns who created their own climate solutions fund

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America’s heartland is expected to flood again — but this time amid coronavirus

In mid-March, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its spring flooding outlook. According to its forecast, about a third of the U.S., 128 million people in 23 states, will be affected by flooding in the next few months, with the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest most at risk.

That prediction comes on the heels of a devastating year of flooding in America’s heartland. Between February 2019 and January of this year, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin experienced their wettest 12-month period on record, and Montana, Nebraska, Wyoming and the Dakotas experienced their second-wettest. Flooding is caused by a combination of factors, but climate change, which spurs warmer air and therefore more moisture, is one of them.

Meanwhile, most of the nation is under lockdown. COVID-19 testing capacity is still limited enough that state and federal officials don’t have a full understanding of how many Americans have been infected so far, but the number of confirmed cases is growing exponentially. Experts say the novel coronavirus could kill between 100,000 and 2.2 million Americans in the coming months, depending on which preventive actions are taken.

The nation has never had to deal with an epidemic and climate change at the same time. The way the federal government has handled both of those threats so far shows that it’s ill equipped to respond to scenarios that deviate from business as usual. Researchers have already determined that climate change acts as a threat multiplier: something that exacerbates existing risks. As we head into the spring and summer months and weather becomes more volatile, coronavirus could become a threat multiplier, too.

“A lot of folks that are focusing on the disaster space are starting to think about what we’re going to do with compounding events,” says Lauren Clay, assistant professor of public health at D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York. “We haven’t experienced a global pandemic in the U.S. on this scale in our lifetimes.”

The Federal Management Emergency Administration (FEMA), the agency that serves Americans affected by extreme weather, has been activated at the highest level to contain the coronavirus and placed in charge of the federal response to the epidemic. But FEMA is still reeling from three consecutive years of particularly catastrophic natural disasters, and it has its own coronavirus outbreak to contend with — seven employees recently tested positive for the virus.

“They were stressed even before the pandemic,” James Kendra, co-director of the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware, told Grist. FEMA was still working to resolve a number of disaster declarations from previous years — formal requests from cities, counties, or states for aid — before it was asked to join the effort to combat the coronavirus. To boot, the agency is chronically understaffed, even before President Trump reallocated some of its funding to immigration detention centers last summer.

When it comes to responding to the coronavirus, FEMA is in uncharted territory. If the agency had a plan for this scenario, Kendra isn’t aware of it. FEMA is using traditional tactics to confront this new challenge, announcing plans to distribute large quantities of medical equipment and supplies. But the agency has been light on specifics about what it has actually accomplished so far.

Once flooding and other natural disasters hit, Kendra says coronavirus is likely to hinder FEMA’s work because the social distancing required to keep FEMA staff and the people they interact with safe will affect the agency’s ability to do in-person field work. The agency has already suspended interpersonal fieldwork in Tennessee, where tornadoes killed 25 people in early March, because of the virus. FEMA agents will have to practice social distancing, disinfect facilities, and be far more mindful of disease transmission than normal, which in turn will be a “slowing factor on operations generally,” Kendra says.

At the same time, “the need for FEMA to be on the ground will probably be the same as usual,” Kendra says. The agency will have to adjust to figure out how to serve affected people without exposing them or its workers to coronavirus.

FEMA’s limited capacity to respond to natural disasters isn’t the only reason for Americans to fear flooding during the pandemic. A lot of the crops that go into our food, including as feed for livestock, come from the Midwest. For example, Iowa and Illinois alone supply one-third of the U.S.’s entire corn crop. Grocery stores have already seeing food shortages because of coronavirus. Will flooded farms make food more scarce?

At the moment, “We don’t actually have a disruption in the food supply chain,” Clay said. “There’s nothing stopping farmers from planting food, growing food, and putting food into the supply system.”

The bare shelves you might be seeing are a result of an abrupt spike in demand — people buying up a month’s worth of food instead of a week’s, and eating more meals at home instead of in restaurants. While kinks in the supply system are being worked out, there may be temporary shortages, but Clay says supplies will bounce back over time. The ripples will probably continue for as long as the pandemic does.

As spring unfolds, some specialty crops — aka fruits and vegetables — could be affected by social distancing policies implemented by fieldworkers and other issues brought on by the coronavirus. Strawberries grown in California will be picked more slowly by workers who are forced to spread out instead of crowding together. Apple orchards, which require large crews of workers to plant and prune trees, could see a shortage of labor due to limited availability of work visas (the federal offices that award visas have been closed for weeks). But overall, food will remain plentiful as long as the system adapts.

The addition of spring flooding and summer storms to the mix will require some adaptation, Clay said, but natural disasters have regional, rather than national, effects. “We might have some disruptions to some farms or some supply chains in different areas,” she said. But grocers will still be able to find suppliers in unaffected parts of the country. “The likelihood of us having flooding cause widespread disruptions would be minimal because we grow and produce foods in lots of different ways across the country.”

In the past few years, it has sometimes felt like Americans couldn’t catch a break from natural disasters. Floods in the Midwest in spring and summer were followed by West Coast wildfires and the Atlantic hurricane season in the late summer and fall. (The 2020 hurricane season, by the way, is expected to be “above normal.”) Now, the staggered nature of those events and their regionality is part of what’s preventing entire supply systems from collapsing during the coronavirus pandemic. In coming years, climate change could make those events far less staggered, extending the range of devastating floods across most of the country, spurring year-round fire seasons, and exacerbating the frequency of major hurricanes. If coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that we need to start dividing some of our threat multipliers or risk confronting a challenge we can’t adapt our way out of.

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America’s heartland is expected to flood again — but this time amid coronavirus

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Report: Utilities are less likely to replace lead pipes in low-income communities of color

Aging water infrastructure needs constant attention and investment to ensure safety for everyone — especially if the U.S. wants to avoid another Flint water crisis. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, water utility companies should invest more than $300 billion over the next two decades to renew and improve their networks of service lines and underground pipes, many of which contain lead. In part this is because the health effects of lead exposure are so severe: Even low levels can cause irreversible neurological damage.

Eliminating lead pipes across the country is the ultimate goal, but the standard practice of many utilities makes this exceptionally difficult. Utilities generally consider pipes on private property as belonging to customers — so they often won’t use government or utility money to replace them. Instead, they’ll opt to replace only the portion of the system on public property, unless homeowners volunteer to pay for service line replacements on their lots. If property owners fail to opt in, the lead service line is only partially replaced — and this ultimately provides limited or no long-term decrease in exposure risks. In fact, it can actually increase the possibility of lead seeping into drinking water in the short term.

As a result of this approach, low-income communities of color can see much spottier replacement rates in their neighborhoods — in large part because property owners in these areas are unwilling or simply unable to front the significant costs required to achieve a full replacement of service lines.

“If a program primarily benefits those with money, you’re going to have an environmental justice problem,” said Tom Neltner, chemicals policy director with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). “We need to make sure all residents, without regard to how much money they make or the color of their skin, benefit from these rules designed to protect people and protect public health.”

A new report from the EDF and American University’s Center for Environmental Policy bears this out. Researchers analyzed more than 3,400 lead service line replacements in Washington, D.C., that occurred between 2009 and 2018. During this 10-year period, the local water utility only covered the cost of replacing lead service lines on public property, requiring customers to pay for the remainder of the service occurring on private property.

After cross-examining the city’s neighborhood demographics and the participation rate of those who chose to front service costs, researchers discovered vast disparities between predominantly low-income African American households and wealthier white households. The city’s Ward 3, for instance, where the median household income is $107,499 and a large majority of residents don’t identify as black or African American, had the highest rate of customer-initiated lead service line replacements. Meanwhile, Wards 7 and 8, both predominantly low-income black neighborhoods, had the lowest rates of service replacements.

Clayton Aldern / Grist

“Washington D.C. was very aggressive in a good way in making it easy for residents to participate,” said Neltner. “But the numbers showed us results of the unintended consequence — where people with money participated in the program and those without, didn’t.”

The analysis also highlights that the Trump administration’s recent proposed revisions to the Lead and Copper Rule would amplify the financial burden on low-income communities of color by continuing the existing replacement paradigm, where utilities are only responsible for paying for lead pipe replacements on public property.

“We work closely with utilities across the country, and what they need is to find a way to move out of this paradigm that residents are fully responsible for paying to replace on private property,” Neltner said. “I want them to look and say: ‘We need to do this not only for public health benefit, but also because of environmental justice concerns.’”

As of today, Madison, Wisconsin, and Lansing, Michigan, are the only major cities ahead of the curve, having successfully removed all of their aging lead service lines. It wasn’t easy for Madison, but after court hearings and public battles, officials eventually launched an ambitious program in 2000 to replace every single lead service pipe across the city. Lansing, Michigan, followed suit and removed its last lead water service line in 2016. After what happened in Flint, Michigan, many other cities are also beginning to move more quickly towards the same goal of eliminating lead-based pipes.

Last year, Washington, D.C., passed a new law that bans partial lead service line replacements during infrastructure projects and emergency repairs — meaning property owners no longer have to shoulder the costs in these cases. The policy also amends the previous regulations by providing financial support to homeowners who didn’t get a chance to replace their pipes under the old policy.

“It’s going to take a while, but we need every opportunity we can get to fully replace these lines,” said Neltner. “Once you realize that lead pipes are a significant source of health risk to children and adults, you then realize you need to get them out of the ground.”

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Report: Utilities are less likely to replace lead pipes in low-income communities of color

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A Sand County Almanac: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River – Aldo Leopold


A Sand County Almanac: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River

Aldo Leopold

Genre: Nature

Price: $8.99

Publish Date: December 31, 1968

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Seller: The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford trading as Oxford University Press

First published in 1949 and praised in The New York Times Book Review as "a trenchant book, full of vigor and bite," A Sand County Almanac combines some of the finest nature writing since Thoreau with an outspoken and highly ethical regard for America's relationship to the land. Written with an unparalleled understanding of the ways of nature, the book includes a section on the monthly changes of the Wisconsin countryside; another part that gathers informal pieces written by Leopold over a forty-year period as he traveled through the woodlands of Wisconsin, Iowa, Arizona, Sonora, Oregon, Manitoba, and elsewhere; and a final section in which Leopold addresses the philosophical issues involved in wildlife conservation. As the forerunner of such important books as Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, and Robert Finch's The Primal Place, this classic work remains as relevant today as it was forty years ago.

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A Sand County Almanac: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River – Aldo Leopold

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Wisconsin’s catastrophic flooding is a glimpse of the Midwest’s drenched future

An entire summer’s worth of rain has fallen across a broad swath of the Midwest in recent days. The resulting record floods have wrecked homes and altered the paths of rivers, in one case destroying a waterfall in Minnesota. The worst-affected region, southwest Wisconsin, has received more than 20 inches of rain in 15 days– more than it usually gets in six months.

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin declared a statewide emergency last week, mobilizing the Wisconsin National Guard to assist flood victims if necessary. The Kickapoo River in southwest Wisconsin rose to record levels — as high as six feet above the previous high water mark — producing damage that local emergency management officials described as “breathtaking.”

In the tiny Wisconsin town of Gays Mills, this is the third catastrophic flood in 10 years. After floods a decade ago, about a quarter of the residents left, and the town was partially rebuilt on higher ground. But this time around is even worse — with almost every home in the town damaged.

Is there a connection to climate change? Well, a warmer atmosphere can hold more water vapor, and the region’s main moisture source — the Gulf of Mexico — has reached record-warm levels in recent years, helping to spur an increase in precipitation intensity. Since the 1950s, the amount of rain falling in the heaviest storms has increased by 37 percent in the Midwest.

But there’s more to it than that. Decades of development have also paved over land that used to soak up rainwater. Earlier this year, Wisconsin took controversial steps to loosen restrictions on lakeside development.

Madison, home to the state’s flagship university, has seen the brunt of the flooding so far. The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s center that specializes in studying lakes is itself flooded. “This is what climate change looks like,” Adam Hinterthuer, the center’s spokesperson, wrote in a blog post. On Twitter, the center posted maps of recent floods alongside projections for the worst expected floods later this century. They matched remarkably well.

For Eric Booth, a climate scientist at the university, the whole thing is almost too much to comprehend. His research project on small stream water temperatures was washed away by the flooding. “The scale of what is happening is absolutely unbelievable to witness,” Booth wrote in an email. Booth’s own calculations showed that rainfall over the past 30 days is an approximately 1-in-1,000 year occurrence, assuming a stable climate. (That, obviously, isn’t a good assumption anymore.)

Flooding in the Madison area has boosted lake levels to all-time highs, reigniting a more than 150-year dispute between boaters (who like lake levels high to avoid damage to their boats), conservationists (who want to avoid damage to sensitive shoreline ecosystems and wetlands), and property owners downstream (whose land gets flooded when water is released too quickly). That conflict has creeped into Madison’s mayoral election, where candidates have called for a new lake management plan in the face of more frequent extreme storms.

By late this century, on a business-as-usual path, those storms could nearly double in frequency, according to University of Wisconsin research. As an editorial earlier this summer in the Des Moines Register said, “Climate change never feels more real than when you’re dragging wet carpet from a flooded basement.”

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Wisconsin’s catastrophic flooding is a glimpse of the Midwest’s drenched future

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Minnesota just approved a new tar-sands pipeline. Activists say they will fight it.

On Thursday, the Minnesota Public Utility Commission gave the green light to Enbridge Energy’s Line 3 — a new Canadian tar-sands pipeline that would replace a deteriorating pipeline that’s currently running at half capacity. It’s the most recent development in an ongoing dispute over the Canadian energy company’s plan.

The decision isn’t totally final, according to the state’s governor. But it allows Enbridge to now apply for 29 other permits it needs to build the pipeline, which would run from Superior, Wisconsin, to Alberta, Canada.

Despite Minnesota’s decision, pipeline resisters say they’ll keep fighting.

In the early ’90s, a pipeline spilled 1.7 million gallons of oil in northern Minnesota. Activists worry that a major spill could happen again, potentially affecting river health and indigenous practices. Although the proposed route doesn’t go through reservations, it would cut through places where indigenous groups harvest wild rice and hunt.

Environmental and indigenous rights activist Winona LaDuke has been fighting the Line 3 project for five years. She tells Grist she’s disappointed in the public utility commission’s decision. But she’s still optimistic that the new line won’t happen: LaDuke called the project “Enbridge’s most expensive pipeline that will never be built.”

Margaret Breen of Youth Climate Intervenors — a group of young activists who have been working to oppose the pipeline — says that her organization remains motivated to stop the project, too.

There’s also the possibility of legal action. Cathy Collentine of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign says that the Sierra Club is exploring options to halt the pipeline’s progress, such as petitioning for a reconsideration of the decision.

LaDuke says her group, Honor the Earth, has a legal team that plans to take action. The group is inviting water protectors to come to Minnesota.

LaDuke expects more resisters to join in the wake of the most recent decision. “We think water protector tourism should be at an all time high,” she says, and warns that a Standing Rock-like protest may be on the way.

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Minnesota just approved a new tar-sands pipeline. Activists say they will fight it.

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David Clarke, America’s Most Terrifying Sheriff, Says He’s Joining the Trump Administration

Mother Jones

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David Clarke, the controversial sheriff of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, will “accept an appointment as an assistant secretary in the Department of Homeland Security,” he reportedly told a local radio host Wednesday. Clarke said he will take a position at the Office of Partnership and Engagement. In that role, he would help coordinate DHS outreach to local law enforcement agencies, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

So far, DHS isn’t confirming Clarke’s appointment. “Such senior positions are announced by the Department when made official by the Secretary,” a department spokeswoman said in an email to Mother Jones. “No such announcement with regard to the Office of Public Engagement has been made.”

Clarke, who rose to national prominence last year as a vocal Trump supporter and a frequent guest on Fox News, has made headlines in recent months due to lawsuits filed against him alleging mistreatment of inmates in the jail he oversees. Last year, four people died in that jail. As we reported in March:

Clarke has faced two federal lawsuits since December, in the wake of four deaths that occurred last year in the Milwaukee County Jail. In mid-March, the family of a man who died of dehydration in April 2016 sued Clarke and the county, alleging that jail staff subjected the man to “torture” by denying him water as he pleaded for it over 10 days. County prosecutors are considering bringing felony charges against jail staff for neglect. Another lawsuit, filed last December, seeks damages for the death of a newborn in the jail last July, after jail staff ignored the infant’s mother as she went into labor and for more than six hours thereafter, according to the suit.

A grand jury recently recommended charges against several jail employees in the case of the man who died of thirst. A separate lawsuit alleges mistreatment of pregnant inmates at the jail:

In that suit, a woman alleges that, during a seven-month stint at the jail in 2013, she was forcibly shackled with a “belly-chain” that tied her wrists and legs to her stomach during her hospitalization for pre-natal care, while she was in labor, and while she received treatment for post-partum depression after she gave birth. The restraints made giving birth more painful for the woman, left marks on her body, and made it more difficult for doctors—who insisted she be freed—to give her an epidural, the lawsuit says. The jail has a policy that inmates be shackled while receiving medical care that makes no exceptions for pregnancy, according to the lawsuit, which also states that more than 40 women were subjected to the same treatment.

Clarke has apparently been angling for a job with the Trump administration for months. Last year, he spent so many days away from his office while stumping for Trump that local officials have called for his resignation:

Clarke visited 20 states in 2016, according to financial disclosure documents he filed with the county, often to give paid speeches in which he praised Donald Trump. He spent about 60 days out of state last year, the documents show. (Before he campaigned for Trump, Clarke took a trip to Moscow in December 2015 with a delegation from the NRA, during which they met with Russian officials.)

In January, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an editorial calling for the sheriff to step down, citing the jail deaths, his habit of attacking his political opponents on social media—which he does on his department’s official Facebook page—and the fact that Clarke seemed more focused on “pining for a job in the Trump administration” than on his responsibilities as county sheriff. County auditors have launched an investigation into whether Clarke abused his power following an airplane flight in January when he had six deputies and two K-9 units confront a passenger at the gate with whom Clarke had an unfriendly exchange on the plane.

Clarke has also faced pushback from local activists and officials critical of his plan to enroll his sheriff’s department in a controversial immigration enforcement partnership with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of the Department of Homeland Security. In his role at DHS, Clarke would presumably be recruiting other agencies to participate in the program.

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David Clarke, America’s Most Terrifying Sheriff, Says He’s Joining the Trump Administration

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Friday Cat Blogging – 24 February 2017

Mother Jones

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The weather has been lovely this week, and Hilbert is spending lots of quality time up on the patio cover. He’s gotten pretty adept at scooting up and down the access tree, but he still whines a lot when he wants to come down, hoping that someone will come out and lift him off. I used to fall for this until the third or fourth time that he came over to me and then scampered off as soon as I put up my hands. Ha ha ha. Fooled the human again.

Hilbert is also anxious for everyone to know that he has a college named after him too. Also a local art museum. Plus a summer camp, a village in Wisconsin and its accompanying high school, a lake, and a theater. So there.

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Friday Cat Blogging – 24 February 2017

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The Capital’s Hottest Restaurants Will Shut Down To Protest Trump

Mother Jones

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Urban dwellers in Washington, DC, will have a tough time dining out tomorrow: A growing number of the city’s restaurants and bars will be closed in solidarity with a strike dubbed “A Day Without Immigrants.” Fliers circulating on social media are urging all immigrants to skip work and school and to refrain from shopping on Thursday in defiance of President Donald Trump’s harsh immigration pledges.

Immigrants made up roughly 17 percent of the District’s workforce in 2013. “Without us and our contribution this country is paralyzed!!!!” reads a flier for the strike in a photo posted by chef Jorge Hernandez on Twitter.

Several high-profile restaurants such as Busboys and Poets and Bad Saint will be closed during DC’s planned strike, while others will be operating with limited service; Eater is updating a list of participating eateries as it hears about them. José Andrés—a popular immigrant chef from Spain who has been feuding with Trump ever since he backed out of opening up a restaurant in Trump’s luxury hotel in downtown Washington, DC—announced that he’d be shuttering all of his restaurants in the nation’s capitol and the surrounding areas for the day.

The strike mirrors Milwaukee‘s Day Without Latinos, Immigrants, and Refugees protest on February 13, when thousands of immigrants in the Wisconsin city refused to work and instead took to the streets to protest Trump and Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. (Clarke Jr. recently made comments about helping federal agents crackdown on immigrants.) “No matter what status you have, we’re here to work hard,” Mayra Estrada, a 33-year-old protester, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “And we’re not taking anybody’s job, we’re doing our job.”

A Day Without Immigrants is centered in DC, but the Washington Post is reporting that immigrants across the country are planning to take part as well. The strikes, which are intended to show how economically paralyzed communities would be without immigrants, come on the heels of several high-profile raids last week. Nearly 700 undocumented immigrants, including a “DREAMer” granted temporary legal status under DACA, were arrested in sweeps that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials called “routine.” On Twitter, Trump referred to the sweeps as a “crackdown.”

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The Capital’s Hottest Restaurants Will Shut Down To Protest Trump

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How Are Democrats Supposed to Appeal to the White Working Class?

Mother Jones

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Over at Vox, Sean Illing interviews Justin Gest, a professor of public policy at George Mason University. Gest says that the white working class doesn’t fit neatly into either party: Republicans don’t like their protectionism and Democrats don’t like their nativism. This feeds their sense of marginalization:

White working-class people were left, not necessarily dismissed, but they’ve received a lot of lip service from both political parties over the years who were never truly prepared to go all in on the things they most cared about. But perhaps even more importantly, neither party did much to symbolically represent white working-class people in terms of the candidates they selected and the language they used.

….Politics is all about perceptions, and perceptions are so much more important than reality in terms of predicting voting behavior….If we’re trying to understand the political behavior of white working-class people, their sense of marginality and beleaguerment is real, and in their minds it’s meaningful — and that’s what matters in terms of our efforts to make sense of it.

In other words, you can tell them all day long that other people have it even worse, but that doesn’t make things any better. In the entire history of the world, it’s unlikely that this approach has ever made anyone feel any better.

But this raises a question that’s poked at me for years. Let’s just agree that the way we talk is important. Liberals certainly agree that it’s important when it comes to marginalized groups like women, blacks, Muslims, and so forth. They want dignity and respect, and you can’t use language that demeans them if you’re trying to win their votes.

Fine. But at some point you also need some substance. Eric Holder fought back against the gutting of the Voting Rights Act. Democrats passed—and Obama signed—the Lilly Ledbetter Act. Hillary Clinton supported an increase in the number of Syrian refugees we accepted even though it was politically dangerous.

So if liberals want to appeal to the white working class, they need some substantive policies to go along with a change in attitude. But what would those be? This is where I keep coming up short.

Stop negotiating trade deals? OK, but we all know that this won’t really accomplish much—and has plenty of downsides.
Bring back the manufacturing jobs? There’s almost unanimous agreement that there’s no way to do this.
Increase unemployment benefits and other forms of social welfare? That’s not what they want. They want good jobs.
Childcare and maternity leave benefits? See above. Besides, Democrats already support this. Republicans are the roadblock.
Offer retraining and relocation benefits? I recommend you keep your distance when you suggest this. Most struggling working class folks (a) don’t want this and (b) have heard it a million times and don’t believe it.
Move lots of government agencies out of Washington DC and into the heartland? Maybe, but the overall impact would be small and would mostly provide middle-class service jobs anyway.
Bring unions back? That would be great, but Republicans will never let it happen.
Get tough on immigration? Rhetorically this worked pretty well for Trump, but the truth is that the white working class in the upper Midwest hasn’t actually lost many jobs to Mexican immigrants—maybe none at all. In the end, I doubt that Trump will reduce illegal immigration much, and even if he does it won’t have more than a minuscule impact on the white working class in Wisconsin.
Tax cuts? There aren’t a lot of taxes to cut for families at working-class income levels. Besides, from a purely political standpoint, Democrats will never out-tax-cut Republicans.

Maybe there’s some genuinely great idea that I haven’t heard of. If so, I’m all ears. Beyond that, the only real possibilities seem to be some mix of moving rightward on social issues and paying less attention to the concerns of people of color. Those are nonstarters, I hope.

So what’s the answer? These guys want us to bring back the 50s, and that’s not possible. Are we supposed to adopt a campaign of pure gasbaggery, like Trump, with no actual substance to go along with it? Or are there truly some simple, concrete, and highly effective policies we could adopt to help out the white working class?

Link to article:

How Are Democrats Supposed to Appeal to the White Working Class?

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