There has to be a chicken crossing the road joke somewhere in here, but I’m not finding it. Nevertheless, here’s several minutes of wildlife having a much easier journey through Utah because of a brand new wildlife crossing.

“It’s working!” Check out the critters big and small who are using Utah’s first wildlife overpass to cross Interstate 80. The @UtahDWR shared this video on Thursday. pic.twitter.com/H7d896eiYs

— KUTV2news (@KUTV2News) November 21, 2020

According to National Geographic, one stretch of Utah highway saw “98 deer, three moose, two elk, multiple raccoons, and a cougar … a total of 106 animals” killed by cars in a two year period. Further, there are 21 threatened and endangered species in the U.S. whose continued existence is threatened specifically by cars including “Key deer in Florida, bighorn sheep in California, and red-bellied turtles in Alabama.” Wildlife crashes kill people, too, of course. “Over the most recently reported 15-year period, wildlife-vehicle collisions have increased by 50 percent, with an estimated one to two million large animals killed by motorists every year,” says Rob Ament, the road ecology program manager at the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at Montana State University.

So here’s an elegant solution that also provides a fun opportunity for science and entertainment with cameras set up. “You can get reductions of 85 to 95 percent with crossings and fencing that guide animals under or over highways,” Ament says. While we’re making our wish lists for Biden administration infrastructure projects, here’s a good one.

An infrastructure project everyone can love 1

Whether you celebrate a religious holiday or not, the winter season often involves some form of gift-giving. Perhaps that’s within your immediate or extended family, coworkers, or friends. Whether you have your own children or not, people often give gifts to kids. After all, who loves the holiday spirit and surprise of tearing through wrapping paper more than young ones who still believe in Santa? As sweet as that is, if there’s any time to reframe the Santa-gift-drop-off facade, it’s amid a pandemic with massive job loss. Why? Because while “Santa” leaves plenty of presents for some kids—who are often told it’s a reward for good behavior—countless low-income families can’t afford the same magic for their own little ones.

One possible solution? Make sure Santa leaves the least expensive gifts. Or encourage your kids to regift what Santa drops off to those in need. Let’s dig into why below.

Life is already changing for many, many kids as the nation faces the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic. Perhaps they’re doing virtual learning or homeschooling for the first time. One, or both, parents or guardians may have experienced changes in employment. Families might be facing eviction or housing loss. Food insecurity is a growing issue. It’s totally normal to want to lean into some holiday cheer and celebrations as a reprieve from a lot of collective grief, trepidation, and anxiety. But the last thing low-income families need is a sense of guilt or self-blame if the kids don’t receive as many gifts as their wealthier peers.

If you’re an adult who leaves gifts for kids, consider making sure the child knows the more expensive or desired gift came from you. There’s no reason Santa can’t leave the holiday socks or body wash in the stocking, after all. You could also let Santa leave only one present, as opposed to many. Another option is to sit down with kids and let them choose which presents (assuming they aren’t already torn into) they want to give to their local homeless shelter or community space. Kids have a lot of capacity for maturity and compassion, and if they’re lucky enough to live in homes not directly affected by the pandemic, this sort of experience can be a great learning experience for them. 

If you don’t have kids in your life, or you do but you have the financial means to help more, consider shopping for the holiday wishlist of a family. Depending on where you live, the options for this differ, but many community aid spaces can connect you with a family to shop for. You might, for example, be told the children’s genders and ages, how many people live in the home, or their favorite color or hobby. Sometimes the wishlists come with specific requests, like a toy or a gift card for a certain store. While presents aren’t the end of all the holidays, kids and teenagers can be especially vulnerable to the social ramifications of not “keeping up” with what their peers might receive. Gifts can also be educational, like books or school supplies, or necessities, like new shoes or winter attire. 

Lastly, donating holiday meals is also a great move. Thanksgiving meals are popular, but you can donate meals around the Christmas season too. Or, of course, you can pay it forward by donating food or funds to your local shelter or aid group during any season. Just make sure you’re not donating supplies that are already expired or damaged. 

Related to food, if you want your kids to participate in a charity that’s a little more relatable to their experience, you might consider donating to cancel school lunch debt. Because yes, we live in a nation where kids and adolescents acquire debt in order to eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. These are also opportunities to teach your kids about allyship, and that doing good for others can be done privately and discretely; you don’t need to blast every good deed on social media. The good is in the doing, not the fanfare. 

This holiday season, give Santa some time off 3

We know that at least since 2017, Trump has been consumed with one question: Can he grant himself a pardon? “One former White House official said Trump asked about self-pardons as well as pardons for his family. Trump even asked if he could issue pardons preemptively for things people could be charged with in the future, the former official said,” CNN reported earlier this month. The former official told CNN: “Once he learned about it, he was obsessed with the power of pardons. […] I always thought he also liked it because it was a way to do a favor.” One important note here: He could only pardon himself or others for federal crimes, and he has no coverage for the state crimes of the Trump Organization, which is being investigated by both the New York attorney general and the Manhattan district attorney.

But there’s another question, and that’s whether the Constitution actually does allow a presidential self-pardon. This is a fun read in The Atlantic from constitutional law professor Eric L. Muller a the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, pondering whether Trump can pardon himself for all his past and potentially future crimes. What makes it fun is that Muller argues he has no power to do that because of one simple word: “Article II of the Constitution says that the president ‘shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.’ Did you catch that? The president has the power not to pardon people, but ‘to grant … Pardons [emphasis added]. So the question is not whether Trump can pardon himself. It’s whether he can grant himself a pardon.”

Muller goes on to argue that the word “grant” and all its uses throughout the Constitution are quite clear: It’s transitive “from one entity to another.” Okay, but that’s just his interpretation. What about—as is all the rage amongst the Federalist Society gang who would certainly be down with Trump doing whatever the hell he wanted—the “original public meaning” of the word grant and how the founders would have interpreted it? Muller looks to the most popular law dictionary in use at the time, which simply defines grant as a noun: a “conveyance in writing of incorporeal things.” And what is a “conveyance?” It is “a deed which passes or conveys land from one man to another.”

What it all boils down to after a really fun lexicographic romp is that just like you can’t surrender to yourself, Trump can’t give himself a grant of pardon; it has to be conferred by another. “Can Donald Trump grant himself a pardon? The evidence, at least according to the text of the Constitution and its original meaning, says no,” Muller concludes.

Which puts Trump in an interesting position. At this point he is committed to not conceding. His whole post-presidency period is being set up to allow him to continue to bilk the rubes who adore him out of their hard-earned dollars on the premise that he is still the rightful president and that the office was stolen from him. So in order to achieve that, he has to stay in office until Jan. 20. But he can’t be immune from future prosecution unless he gets the pardon. To do that, he’d have to resign and have Mike Pence do the deed. But he’d then be ceding the office, ceding his claim. What a dilemma!

There’s the possibility that he could say he was temporarily incapacitated at some point, put Pence in as acting president for long enough to wave the magic wand, and then be president again. But that would also mean he would have to admit to having done federal criming, something he has vociferously denied having done while publicly musing on Twitter about how he could totally pardon himself if he wants to.
 

As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself, but why would I do that when I have done nothing wrong? In the meantime, the never ending Witch Hunt, led by 13 very Angry and Conflicted Democrats (& others) continues into the mid-terms!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 4, 2018

If nothing else, it’s an intriguing question to ponder in the off hours. Largely because it gives one the opportunity to imagine Donald Trump behind bars.

Can Trump pardon himself? Arguably no, but that doesn't mean he won't try it 4

Let’s just start by acknowledging that whatever the incoming Biden administration does on climate change, it likely won’t be enough for environmental activists and it likely shouldn’t be. Nonetheless, we are starting to get some encouraging news about Joe Biden’s approach to tackling climate change issues. 

Most importantly, rather than relegating climate action to a single agency, Biden plans to take a whole-of-government approach to combatting the biggest existential threat of our time. According to The Washington Post, he plans to “embed action” across the federal government in departments ranging from Agriculture to Treasury to State instead of simply tasking the Environmental Protection Agency with creating every climate initiative. Most of it will be done by executive action rather than requiring the passage of legislation.

“From the very beginning of the campaign, when President-elect Biden rolled out his climate plan, he made it clear he sees this as an all-of-government agenda, domestic, economic, foreign policy,” Stef Feldman, campaign policy director for Biden, told the Post.

In a sign of how Biden has already elevated the issue, he discussed the topic with every European head of state with whom he spoke on Tuesday, including the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Ireland. Biden has started frequently referring to the climate “crisis,” suggesting a heightened level of urgency.

Team Biden is already planning to “restrict oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters; ratchet up federal mileage standards for cars and SUVs; block pipelines that transport fossil fuels across the country; provide federal incentives to develop renewable power; and mobilize other nations to make deeper cuts in their own carbon emissions.”

Biden will benefit greatly from an extensive new 300-page report conceived by former Obama administration officials that details both the possibilities and pitfalls that exist given some of the Obama-era stumbles on the issue. 

The recommendations include creating a White House National Climate Council that is “co-equal” to the Domestic Policy Council and National Economic Council; establish a “carbon bank” under the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation that could pay farmers and forest owners to store carbon in their soils and lands; push to electrify cars and trucks through the Transportation Department; and develop a climate policy at the Treasury Department that promotes carbon reductions through tax, budget and regulatory policies.

We must be ready to push for action on this and so many other priorities from Day One. But the prospect of tasking every U.S. government agency internally with looking for ways to be part of a climate change solution could truly be a game-changer. 

Biden plans to make climate change an 'all-of-government' agenda 5

Government assistance is something that millions of Americans rely on. This is not simply an issue of people who have gainful employment versus those who do not. This is an issue of income inequality, stagnating wages, and employers who rely on welfare to heighten their profit margins. Tens of millions of military families rely on SNAP assistance to make ends meet. Politicians like Sen. Bernie Sanders have called for the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the relationship between federal assistance programs and employers.

On Nov. 18, GAO released their findings on the millions of Americans who work for such low wages that they must rely on federal assistance programs to scrape by. Contradicting the conservative racist and classist fairytale, 70% of Americans receiving federal assistance in some form or another work full time. Of those Americans who are fully employed, most of them work in the private sector—the sector Republicans like to call the “job creators.” More than half of recipients of Medicaid and SNAP work 50 to 52 weeks a year. For a reference point: There are only 52 weeks in a year. And as The Washington Post points out, Walmart and McDonald’s are at the top of list of employers with business models that rely on the American taxpayer to pay for their workers’ health, food, and housing.

In the nine states that responded about SNAP benefits — Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee and Washington — Walmart was found to have employed about 14,500 workers receiving the benefit, followed by McDonald’s with 8,780, according to Sanders’s team. In six states that reported Medicaid enrollees, Walmart again topped the list, with 10,350 employees, followed by McDonald’s with 4,600.

A reminder here is that these are the Americans who work all of the jobs Americans rely on, so that we can use drive-thrus and eat things, walk into stores and buy things, and rush oneself or one’s kids into public bathrooms that have been cleaned. Not coincidentally, these are all of the companies run by some of the wealthiest people in our country and the world. Besides Walmart and McDonalds, “Dollar Tree, Dollar General, Amazon, Burger King and FedEx” also relied on underpaying large swaths of their workforce.

Up until last year, McDonald’s actively lobbied against raising the minimum wage across the country. Of course, they aren’t raising their wages any time soon. Of course, they’ve graciously offered to follow the law. When asked about the report and McDonald’s prominence on the list, a spokesperson told WaPo: “The average starting wage at U.S. corporate-owned restaurants is over $10 per hour and exceeds the federal minimum wage. McDonald’s believes elected leaders have a responsibility to set, debate and change mandated minimum wages and does not lobby against or participate in any activities opposing raising the minimum wage.”

Walmart’s spokesperson took a different angle, saying much the same thing—that some of their employees “comes to us on public assistance,” and Walmart, like a great plantation owner, gives them a job. It’s almost like the company that during a pandemic has generated a reported $5.14 billion in net income this last quarter is the Mahatma Gandhi of employers. The positions that companies like Walmart and McDonald’s take are the same ones that have been taken by the gun industry and fossil fuel industry: They work to cast doubt on the chance that any legislation could possibly ameliorate anything because there is no panacea for this problem. They’re right, of course; there isn’t a single answer. But the “we have done nothing and nothing has worked” answer is clearly making things worse. Not better or even the same—worse.

Besides cutting back on social safety net programs, the only “plan” the Republican Party has been able to come up with in recent years is to pile on humiliation for those in need of a little help while taking away Americans’ personal freedom to choose. The Trump administration was not a creative administration. They were simply a coarse version of existing Republican policies bottled into a more incompetent and transparently corrupt group of gangsters. Besides attempting to cut back on food assistance programs during the pandemic they exacerbated, the best idea they came up with to ameliorate Americans’ growing economic insecurity and anxiety was to offer up a Orwellian version of rationing.

Walmart, McDonald's, Amazon, Dollar Tree, FedEx, rely on  having workers on SNAP and Medicaid 6

This Black Friday will probably be a little different—I hope?—from the usual stampede of whipped up consumerism, but it will still kick off the official holiday shopping season. Let’s say you want to opt part of the way out of hypercommercialized Christmas but still want to give some gifts, and you’re looking for gifts to feel good about in some way or other. Some years you might lean on experience gifts, but the coronavirus pandemic makes that one hard. If your crafting skills are up to the level of making homemade gifts, more power to you, but … many of us are not there. So here are some places to look for gifts to feel good about beyond the pleasure of giving.

If you’re looking to support workers, here’s a good year-round tool: Find products that are union-made in the U.S. And for the holidays, union-made holiday gift baskets.

The Alliance for American Manufacturing is once again out with its Made in America Holiday Gift Guide, with something made in every state. You can get home decor signs made in Delaware; Baby Yoda-themed insulated tumblers made in Florida; recycled wool mittens, scarves, and hats made in Maine; espadrilles made in Puerto Rico by a company that “partners with a nonprofit vocational training and manufacturing organization for women;” and much, much more.

DoneGood is once again doing Shop for Good Sunday and has a variety of holiday gift guides, including one for gifts under $50. Solar-powered lights can come in very handy for your outdoor socializing during the dark months, or you could upgrade someone’s endless hand-washing with some lovely soaps. DoneGood exists to be a one-stop shop for values-driven shopping, and you can always filter their sellers for qualities like eco-friendliness, worker empowerment, or being woman/POC owned.

Check out this thread of gift ideas from Black-owned businesses. Check out the gorgeous hand-blown stemware toward the beginning of the thread. Did I mention it’s gorgeous?

The sad truth, as always, is your individual consumer choices aren’t drivers of major, deep economic, environmental, or any other kind of change. Maybe all you’re doing is making yourself feel a little better. Maybe you’re doing something more—supporting union jobs or a better way of doing business, in however small a way. Maybe it’s worth it to you either way.

Beyond the big box: Feel-better alternatives for creative holiday gift shopping 7

For almost two decades, Leticia Mercado has been a textile worker, zooming along on a sewing machine, her hands a blur. In fact, when she spoke to Prism over Zoom on Tuesday, she was sitting at a sewing station in her garage, which has been converted into a workspace. This is the site of her new business, Hecho en Carolina, one of the only mask-sewing businesses in the country run entirely by essential workers for essential workers—serving educators, restaurant workers, construction workers, and others working through the pandemic. The masks can be purchased individually online, or wholesale.

Like countless immigrant workers nationwide, Mercado and her husband have been subjected to unsafe working conditions during the COVID-19 crisis. At the North Carolina textile plant where they worked, there was no social distancing or protocols for disinfecting. Even more alarming, workers were not required to wear masks. Mercado and her husband ultimately decided they would not risk their health or the health of their family to continue working at the plant. As a member of the Latino advocacy organization Siembra NC, Mercado brainstormed with the organization’s many volunteers—including Nikki Marín Baena—to figure out how she and her husband could safely continue making ends meet doing textile work. This is how Hecho en Carolina was born, with Marín Baena serving as a production and sales manager. The small, immigrant-owned business has already produced thousands of masks for other essential workers across the state, including the Guilford County Association of Educators.

Mercado is “humble,” said Siembra NC organizer Laura Garduño Garcia, and unlikely to discuss her many contributions to the local community. Mercado first became a member of Siembra in February 2019 when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) carried out a series of raids across the state as a way of retaliating against newly elected Black sheriffs who decided they would no longer collaborate with the federal immigration agency. Mercado’s family was personally affected by the raids and one of their loved ones was deported. Ever since, the textile worker has been in the fight for immigrant rights. More recently, she and her husband have focused on mutual aid to support members of their community who are undocumented and uninsured during the pandemic, providing them with groceries, masks, and other essentials. 

Before she launched into sewing more masks, Mercado talked to Prism about the conditions she and her husband faced at a North Carolina textile plant, the success of her small business, and the importance of wearing masks. Here she is, in her own words:  

At the plant where I worked, I knew several people who got sick. I worked with my husband at the plant and one of the things that we didn’t like about the working conditions was that we were told that precautions were up to individual people. In other words, each person had to be responsible for the cleanliness of their area or for the precautions that they would take. There was never a code or a system or a practice that the company had. They never took anyone’s temperatures. None of the protocols changed after COVID-19. There was not one difference in the plant’s practices pre-coronavirus and after coronavirus.

It was very frustrating to me that there was no difference in the sanitizing practices at the plant. They were taking such a risk and for us, it was an unnecessary risk to take. We became tired of always feeling like we were putting ourselves at risk. We were constantly worried; my husband became sick with worry and anxiety from having to think about getting sick, about risking his health and the health of the family.

We decided we would feel most comfortable doing work from home—for the health of our children and my grandchildren. We decided as a family that we couldn’t take that risk [of going to the factory] because my husband has certain conditions that put him at greater risk of complications from COVID-19. At the plant, they never enforced that people had to wear face masks; hardly any employees wore face masks. In fact, it was more of a stigma; it was a hostile work environment. When we wore a face mask, we were often made fun of and ridiculed.

My comadre is the one who motivated me to go into mask-making. She really encouraged me and I don’t think I would have done this without her. My husband and I have always had our own [sewing] machines in our home because in the past, we did upholstery and reupholstery work. In that way, this has been a really natural business. So far, the business is going well and it is because this has been an effort of many people. [Marín Baena] is the person who has helped us make so many sales. She has been key in getting the number of sales to go up. I just did not know [the pandemic] would last this long. I thought we would all go into “quarantine” and then after that there would be a vaccine and we wouldn’t need to worry about masks anymore. Here we are, almost a year later, and we have more orders than we ever thought.

I want people to know that our company is a group of immigrants eager to work and get ahead. Everything we do is done with love and made in North Carolina. I also want people to know that it’s very important for [essential] workers and regular, everyday people to wear masks. I will share a story about my own family as an example: My brother had COVID-19 and he didn’t know it. My sister visited with him and they talked for a long time and then she got COVID-19. Had my sister worn a face mask, she could have been protected. It’s not just that we want people to buy our face masks and support our family; we want them to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Tina Vasquez is a senior reporter for Prism. She covers gender justice, workers’ rights, and immigration. Follow her on Twitter @TheTinaVasquez.

Prism is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet that centers the people, places and issues currently underreported by our national media. Through our original reporting, analysis, and commentary, we challenge dominant, toxic narratives perpetuated by the mainstream press and work to build a full and accurate record of what’s happening in our democracy. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Meet the woman behind North Carolina’s immigrant-owned mask-sewing business 8

Young voters, particularly young voters of color, helped push Biden-Harris to victory 9

Youth voters aged 18-29 participated in the 2020 election in far greater numbers than in 2016, according to a new turnout analysis released by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE). A majority of young people, somewhere between 52-55%, turned out to vote earlier this month as compared to the 45-48% who voted in 2016.

The analysis also concluded that youth voters, particularly those of color, helped push the Biden-Harris ticket to victory in critical swing states that helped secure a Democratic victory.

A press release from CIRCLE at Tufts University’s Tisch College of Civic Life reads:

Young people, especially youth of color, were critical to the Biden-Harris victory in key battleground states like Georgia and Arizona, where Black and Latino youth may have single-handedly made Biden competitive.

For example, in Georgia, which Biden narrowly flipped, an estimated 188,000 more young voters backed Biden than chose President Donald Trump. Notably, that vote margin overwhelmingly came from youth of color: 90% of Black youth supported Biden in Georgia while 62% of young white voters supported Trump.

The findings were based on CIRCLE’s review of census population data and the National Election Pool exit poll. But the high level of youth involvement this cycle wasn’t confined to voting. Preelection surveys conducted by CIRCLE found young people were also particularly engaged in preelection activism:

  • 83% of youth believe young people have the power to change the country;
  • 79% realized because of COVID-19 that decisions made by elected leaders impact people’s everyday lives;
  • 50% tried to convince others to vote;
  • 25% helped register voters; and
  • 27% marched or protested.

And while not all young people voted for President-elect Joe Biden, the only group of young voters who favored Donald Trump were those without a college education: 57% for Trump to 41% for Biden. “By contrast, a majority of both Black youth (88%) and Latino youth (73%) without college experience voted for Biden. White youth with a college degree also preferred Biden, 63% to 34%, while Black (87%) and Latino (77%) college graduates also supported Biden by even higher margins,” writes CIRCLE.

Young voters, particularly young voters of color, helped push Biden-Harris to victory 10

Young voters, particularly young voters of color, helped push Biden-Harris to victory 11

Claudio Quinonez, a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipient and organizer with immigrant youth-led group United We Dream, said it’s a world of difference between how he felt the day after the 2016 election and the day after the 2020 election. 

In 2016, “I felt alone,” he told Rolling Stone. “I felt that I was going to lose DACA because that was one of Trump’s campaign promises. And we have to fight for our humanity and push back as much as we could.” He and many undocumented people did fight back, in the courts and urging eligible voters to get to the polls in 2020—and won.

Quinonez and other DACA recipients are sharing their stories in a new series from Rolling Stone, which will “reflect on the past four years and look to the future. This is the first installment, with five organizers who are all DACA recipients calling in with their stories.”

Jorge Gutierrez, executive director of Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement told the magazine that he was making coffee when he was deluged with alerts the weekend after Election Day telling him Trump had been defeated and Joe Biden was elected the 46th president of the United States. “There was sort of that sense of relief for a moment, and I think it’s OK to celebrate,” he said.

He also said it was celebrated knowing that there’s still much work and advocacy to do ahead, telling Rolling Stone that President-elect Biden must stay the course and use his full executive authority to protect as many families as possible. “We understand that the work is far from over—and that now it’s time to hold Biden and Harris accountable,” he continued. 

President-elect Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff Ronald Klain has confirmed that protecting young immigrants will be a Day One priority, while other reports have said he’ll begin to reverse other harmful anti-immigrant and anti-asylum policies, as well as look into putting in place a 100-day hold on deportations as the administration reexamines Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) priorities.

But it could be a lengthier process for some actions, and there’s no doubt that he’ll get complaints from Republicans who have suddenly found their spine after four years of silence under president you-know-who. But again, Biden must stay the course. While the Trump administration used the full force of the government to hurt families, we must use the full force of the government to help them. Check out the full roundtable from Rolling Stone here.

'Sense of relief for a moment': DACA recipients react to Trump's defeat and the work still ahead 12