Monday, May 15, 2017

North Korea launches intermediate range missile

North Korea fired a test of a medium range missile with a very high parabolic path, to 1200 miles altitude (highest enough for EMP) and 400 miles distance, toward eastern Russia and possibly Alaska.

CNN has the details today here

Charlie Rose tonight on PBS was rather cavalier on speculating that North Korea might already have the capability to hit the US, at least western Alaska or Guam.

North Korea might have been behind the ransomware attack, which so far had little effect on the US. The Guardian has a story to that effect.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

"Paul" explains the Arabic language and its many dialects

Paul, of Language Focus, has an interesting video “The Arabic Language and its Amazing History and Features”.

There are versions of the language for speech, writing and religious study.  It seems very logical, even if very alien to western people.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Militia activity leads to malnutrition in Congo due to plant that is poisonous without lengthy cooking

ABC News recently covered the famine in Somalia, South Sudan, northern Nigeria and Yemen, but the Pulitzer Report has an important story regarding famine in the Congo, associated with paralysis.

People in the area eat a staple root, cassava; but safe preparation requires hours of soaking in water to leech out certain cyanide compounds.  People living in insecure areas overrun by militias often do not have time to prepare the roots properly, and consume them when they still contain a cyanide, and become poisoned.

The Pulitzer story is here.

Wikipedia attribution link for Munusco image, CCSA 2.5,

Monday, May 1, 2017

Religious right in US seems to be building alliances with Putin supporters, partly over anti-gay attitudes

Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger have a front page story in the Washington Post linking some Christian conservatives in the U.S. to some elements in Putin’s Russia.  In print, it is “’Values’ tilt GOP right to Russia”, and online “Guns and Religion: How American conservatives grew closer to Putin’s Russia”.  The principals deny any connection to the hacks related to the election or to Donald Trump’s activities.

But the connection reminds me of some evangelical elements intervening in Africa, helping spawn anti-gay attitudes particularly in Uganda.

In Russia, Putin is concerned about the low birth rates and the idea that gay men in particular, if allowed to be public, can undermine family size and population for others.  Authoritarianism often reinforces an idea that “outlier” people need to be compelled to conform to fitting in to the social structures set up by others (conventional families), which becomes a self-reinforcing ideology that takes on personal importance for some people.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

In northern Nigeria, people return to villages to find their kids gone

The Washington Post has a frightening story on p. A13 of the Washington Post by Kevn Sieff, about people returning home to Damasak in northeast Nigeria, to find most of their children gone after Boko Haram left, apparently kidnapped into the sex trade.

Many refugees spill into Niger and then migrate north to Italy to flee to Europe  But very recently Italy has been working with Libya to stop the migration across the Mediterranean (to Lapedusa, as in the recent film “Fire at Sea”).

Wikipedia pd. Image of Michelle Obama sign related to the attacks.

Monday, April 24, 2017

North Korea takes hostages

So, the era of “strategic patience” is over.  And here’s the setup with the DPRK.

The robot kingdom with a god-king (who looks fat and foppish, “dressed to kill”) seems to be closer to having long range ICBM’s than we had thought.  The forecasts of their ranges keep creeping up, all the way to Washington now.  The time table seems compressing, conceivably before 2020.
Furthermore, North Korea wants to have several of these so it could keep fighting in case of a pre-emptive strike.  And it may be better able to bury the testing and locations than had been thought.

 (Although the recent blast in Afghanistan might well have been intended to send a message.)

The other component is a challenge to Trump’s “America First”.  For the time being, North Korea has taken the entire country of South Korea hostage, so to speak, as well as Japan.  So it can continue to build up its ICBMs and nukes, maybe even a hydrogen bomb.

Conservative Post commentator Charles Krauthammer says we have cards to play, mainly China, “not your friend, a currency manipulator”, here   Krauthammer also gives a link to Post coverage of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 (when I was a “patient” at NIH).

Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said that this country could be at grave risk before the end of Trump’s term, to CNN, Sunday morning, here.

Update: April 27

Trey Yingst reports on Trump's briefing of the Senate at the Executive Office building Wednesday.

OANN reports that Trump warned that war on the Korean peninsula can happen.  Trump made an odd comment about young heads of state. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

NSA could stop North Korean missiles by hacking; Parade suggests DPRK could have longer range missiles than previously thought

There's another story suggesting that the US could hack into North Korea's missile systems and invoke malware if any missiles actually approached the IS.  Missiles toward Japan or South Korea (more likely) would allow much less time for detection.  The story appeared on Business Insider.

The speaker here still thinks that North Korea's cyber capabilities are limited and that China helped out a lot with the Sony Pictures hack.

Update: April 15

North Korea displayed ICBM canisters in a military parade today, suggesting it could have (or soon have) missiles capable of reaching some parts of the U,S., or that it might have submarine launch capabilities, CNN story. Yet today we did not see a nuclear weapons test.

A North Korean intermediate range missile test from NE North Korea failed and exploded seconds after launch, BBC story,   American NSA hackers could have been involved.  North Korea's plan seems to be to survive a pre-emptive strike, if it can build several nuclear ICBM's capable of reaching the US

Here is ABC's account on "what to know now". 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Trump administration may pre-emptively attack North Korea now if there is a hint of another nuclear test; underground bunker buster in Afghanistan

NBC News has released an “exclusive” news story to the effect that the Trump Administration is preparing to launch a pre-emptive conventional strike against North Korea if intelligence shows that another major DPRK nuclear test is imminent.

But China, South Korea, and Japan would all be consulted.

A grave risk could be a blitzkrieg attack by the DPRK on the South, as Seoul is not far away.

There is a perhaps a slight risk that a DPRK missile could reach Japan, and that it could be armed with chemical weapons. We are not as sure as we would like to be that DPRK cannot put some sort of crude nuclear device or dirty bomb on a missile that could reach that far, and this would seem to be a marginal risk.  We cannot be absolutely sure that a missile could not reach as far as Alaska or Hawaii.  George Tenet had issued such warnings during the Bush administration.  Obviously DPRK could try some kind of cyber attack on American companies (like Sony), but that would have taken preparation.

About two weeks after Trump’s inauguration, I had tweeted “@realDonaldRrump” that North Korea was the single most dangerous enemy we have. I wonder if it was noticed.

Trump’s attitudes have changed in the past couple of weeks. There is speculation that the 11 ton GBU-43/B-MOAB bunker buster, the largest conventional weapon the US has, was dropped on an ISIS underground hideout in Afghanistan, near the border of Pakistan, to send a message to North Korea, not to count on hiding its nuclear tests underground.

Economic conditions in Afghanistan have deteriorated from the inability of westerners to come and work without being kidnapped.

Suddenly Trump admits relations with Russia are lousy. And Sean Spicer has to apologize for calling Assad the worst monster of all time, worse than Hitler. Stalin, Pol Pot, and Idi Amin (and Saddam Hussein, who also used chemical weapons on his own people in 1988).

Is it good to have an oil company executive as Secretary of State -- to "negotiate" Apprentice-style with China and Middle Eastern countries?

Is Trump starting to let Jared Kushner become shadow president instead of Steve Bannon?

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Seoul Plaza, CCSA 4.0. 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Time Magazine reports ISIS trying to gather material for a dirty bomb from loose radioactive waste sites, mostly in the former USSR

Time Magazine for April 17 has a frightening cover story by “Simon Shuster”, “The Uranium Underworld: ISIS Wants a Dirty Bomb – and It Knows Where to Get One.”  The online article (paywall) is only a little less explicit, “Inside the Uranium Underworld: Dark Secrets, Dirty Bombs”, frpm Tblisii, Georgia (former USSR republic).

Former Senator Sam Nunn and the Nuclear Threat Initiative have long pressed for recovery of nuclear waste from the former USSR, much of it in the outlying republics. There was a film about this in 2005, “The Last Best Chance”.

The article points out that a contaminated truck bomb or pressure cooker device could produce victims who cannot be safely treated by emergency personnel.

Of course, a dirty bomb would make some areas unusable and destroy real estate wealth, so an urban target especially could be enticing to a politically motivated (especially left-wing) terrorist attacking the “rentier class”.  This idea has been known, if almost never discussed openly, since the 1970s.  Wealth that had been inherited probably would never be recovered, again a goal that used to be articulated by the extreme Left back in the early 1970s.

In late 2002, I received an unsolicited email with a pdf showing the location of nuclear waste sites in Russia.  I did sent it to the FBI.  

Time also has a story today reporting that the Stockholm truck attacker had been denied asylum, and also a story where Hillary Clinton says we should start accepting some Syrian refugees again.

Wikipedia image attribution: 
By Bill Ebbesen - Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY 3.0, Link

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

There are no words

There are no words.

ABC timeline and story on chemical weapons in NW Syria, against civilians, even hospitals.  Not since Bosnia.  Or Pol Pot.  Or the Holocaust.

War crimes.  Obama did very little.  But, Trump gets support from Putin, and so does Assad.

And the DPRK did a medium range missile test today.

Wiki: p.d. ethnic map of Syria. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

Belarus mentions the idea of "social parasite" in its official decrees, referring to past Communism and the extreme left

Note a Washington Post editorial Monday morning, “At the Barricades in Belarus”. The protests concern president Lukashenko’s 2015 decree that “freelancers” and housewives who work less than 183 days a year be fined as “social parasites”.

The idea of undeservedness is a variation of unearned privilege, something that the radical Left wants to do away with.  I remember that from the People’s Party of New Jersey back in 1972.  But we’re not reminded much about this as official policy often.  But in the US, some red states want able bodied Medicaid recipients to work, like migrant farm workers paid by piece work, if necessary.

Note is made on the terror attack on a Metro in St. Petersburg, Russia this morning, developing story.

Public domain picture of Victory Square in Minsk.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Single or childless adults may be more likely to be denied non-immigrant visas (even before Trump)

Dara Lind explains “The art of the denial” of visas, which was pretty pervasive even before Trump took office, in this article.

One remark is that young single people applying for non-immigrant visas (no green card) are more likely to be denied because they have less incentive to return to their home countries.  

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Nunes has a deep throat contact, just 70 days into Trump's administration, and Vladimir Putin's Mafia hits (Watergate II approaching?)

I’ve giving the most detailed Facebook post I’ve seen yet about the whole Devin Nunes Caper, link. Nunes certainly meets Wikipedia's notability standards (maybe notoriety).  I’ll call it “To Russia Without Love”.  Anthony Bourdain should review this.  I don’t think Josh Garcia will make a Vogager stop in St. Petersburg, but I could be wrong.  Notwithstanding, “Devin” or “Deven” (Irish spelling) has been the first name of some very good people  (whom Trump would hire).

Vladimir Kara-Murza says he feels much better now, so maybe he is OK, but here is the story on Putin’s hits.

Then there is “Source D”, a kind of Deep Throat, as the Washington Post writes, here.
And the Senate opens hearings on the meddling starting tomorrow.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Sessions announces cutoff of funds for sanctuary cities; some states support travel bans; why some refugees are better employees than US candidates

Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a new policy today at the White House briefing, to deny federal funds from cities, counties or states that maintain sanctuary for undocumented immigrants arrested (or at least previously convicted) for other crimes.

Milo Yiannopoulos reports the policy here on his own news blog.

The Washington Times had run the story 18 minutes after the announcement here.

Sessions mentioned a shooting on the harbor in San Francisco and a rape recently in Maryland.  He praised governor Hogan for not supporting a proposal to make Maryland a sanctuary state.
Social services organizations in major cities (including Washington) could lose funding, as for HIV services.

A Facebook friend posted a disturbing item about slave trafficking in the US, here.

CNN reports that refugees often can fill jobs that US employers have trouble staffing because US-born people are more likely to fail drug tests.

Also, 13 states have filed amicus briefs supporting Trump's second travel ban. To Trump's credit, his orders have noted that foreign radical Islam does specifically target non-Muslims civilians over sexual orientation and gender issues.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

What we know about London lone wolf attack today

I walked across the Westminster Bridge in London in November 1982 and was greeted by someone as I approached Parliament for “International Hello Day”.  I was most recently in London in May 2001. It's about time. 

I walked in almost the exact spot the lone wolf terrorist drove his car into the crowd today.
Vox has a summary on what we know so far, here.

There are five fatalities, including the attacker, cnn story

Wikipedia attribution link under CCSA 3.0 of Westminster Bridge at night. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Electronics ban on flights from some Muslim countries seems illogical; a cell phone could detonate a device in checked baggage anyway (CNN)

The recent ban on electronics inside cabins on airplanes was not prompted by and specific new threat, NBC News reports tonight, story here.

Rather it was a general assessment of increased attempts by Al Qaeda to place smaller bombs inside electronics.

But on AC360 tonight, a spokesperson pointed out that a laptop in the cargohold could be detonated remotely by a cell phone.  So that supposes the idea that the ban could follow to all electronics devices on planes, period, at least from some countries

The UK also established a similar ban for six countries today, which reduces the possibility that someone coming from Dubai, for example, could change planes in London.

In the most extreme cases, air travelers could not take their electronics with them, and would either do without, or find equipment to rent, which would not be as secure.  Of course, they could save more data in the cloud.

This sounds like a problem that could grow.

Later today:

MSN just released a story, explaining the evidence from the raid in Yemen, and saying that the laptop battery space bombs require a manual trigger, so checked baggage is not an issue.  This contradicts the speculation earlier on CNN tonight.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Congress starts connecting the dots about Trump and Russia (and no wiretap by Obama)

Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) has “connected the dots” today, maybe linking the Trump campaign to promising Russia to go soft on Ukraine and get harder on NATO not “paying its dues”, as Russia sought to discredit Hillary Clinton (whom it feared for her anti-Russian aggressiveness) before the election.  Here’s a video from “The Raw Story”, link.

All of this while Comey answered questions all day on “unmasking” operatives, and on whether Obama could have ordered illegal surveillance on Trump tower (he can’t).
And on the same day, we learn (CNN Situation Room) that North Korea could be three years away from an ICBM that could reach the U.S.  And Trump just says that the DPRK is “behaving very badly.”

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Some countries won't take back criminal deportees from U.S.

A lesser known aspect of the immigration and “travel ban” debate is that a few countries (actually 23 of them) won’t take back deportees, especially those with criminal records.  And the Supreme Court has recently ruled that the U.S. cannot hold criminal aliens indefinitely after serving their sentences, posing a danger to the individual people in their communities.

Four of the countries on the latest (stayed) travel ban:  Iran, Somalia, Libya and Sudan are on this list. Other countries include Cuba, Vietnam and China.

That certainly gives Trump some justification for not wanting to issue them visas (but not denying entry if they already have visas, previous post).

The Washington Times has a story on this Feb. 17 here.

The problem was mentioned Sunday morning, March 19, on ABC’s “Full Measure” with Sharyl Attkisson, in conversation with Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX), link.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Cato institute scholar notes subtleties in Maryland judge's order on Trump's Travel Ban 2.0

Dave Bier at the Cato institute had written a detailed argument on the constitutionality or statutory legality of various Trump travel bans back in February, link here  (this had followed an early article in the New York Times Jan 27 here.

Bier found a copy of the Maryland judge’s stay yesterday in the Los Angeles Times, here

Bier finds some relation in the Judge’s reasoning to his earlier articles, which seem to focus on the idea that Congress did not intend to allow visas to people who then cannot be allowed to enter the country (once at a border or airport) anyway.  Apply logical or mathematical contraposition (like in high school plane geometry):  if someone from one of the six banned countries has a visa, then he or she must be allowed into the country, according to the intent of previous federal immigration laws passed by Congress.

There is a lot of material to digest here.  But what matters more is what will be effective. 
Radicalization of family members of people already here legally (second generation) while in the U,S., even online, seems to be a much bigger issue than who can enter the country.  And that idea has implications. 

Furthermore, legitimate refugees and asylum seekers cannot be readily helped in the US in large numbers (Trump has cut the number to 50000) without thinking through the legal responsibilities of those in the US who would assist them (which gets into the whole private sponsorship issue, which is sorely lacking in the US compared to Canada). 

Note a posting Wednesday on my main "BillBoushka" blog on social media and asylum seekers (my question to the Asylumist got answered).  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Trump's Travel Ban 2.0 stayed by Hawaii judge, but is likely to pass muster in higher courts

Here’s the Court Order from Hawaii at least temporarily stopping Trump’s Travel Ban 2.0   The ruling seems to take Trump’s campaign statements as evidence of a religious bias.

However, five GOP judges in the Ninth Circuit have already indicated that the second travel ban may be within the law, CNN story here.  That's after Trump attacked the Ninth Circuit in a speech tonight. Trump called judges "Wise Guys", the name of a well-known youth Christian play.

Persons who have never been in the country might not have constitutional rights before entry.

Also the ban appears to be closely related to the inability of affected countries to cooperate with DHS, which might be viewed as falling within the president’s discretion, even if many observers disagree.

However today the Cato Institute released a paper backing up claims of generally much lower rate of criminality of immigrants, even from unstable and Muslim countries, paper by Michaelangelo Landgrave and Alex Nowrasteh.


A Maryland judge joined in with another restraining order,

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Kidnapping of local aid workers in South Sudan raises issue of risk for missions

Denis Dumo of Reuters reports that rebels in South Sudan have kidnapped local people working for a U.S. charity and demand aid deliveries as ransom, link here.

The kidnappings do not appear to involve people from the US working for the charity.

But such incidents can chill the willingness of people to go to very undeveloped or unstable countries for humanitarian purposes.

Some churches send people (even young adults of college age) on missions in such countries.

A local Arlington Presbyterian church has connections to a ministry in South Sudan.

Wikipedia attribution link for USAID P.d. aerial picture of Juba.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Concern over North Korean ICBM and satellite attacks (including EMP) escalates

On Sunday March 12, 2017, the Washington Post ran a front page article by Joby Warrick, “Anxiety grows over North Korea’s arsenal”.   The article includes maps that show untested ICBM’s that now are projected to be able to reach the US East Coast by Great Circle route.

In all areas (detonation, miniaturization, and missile reach) North Korea may be further along than had been thought.  Furthermore, a week ago, James Woolsey warned Erin Burnett on CNN that North Korea might soon be able to launch a high altitude EMP weapon from an orbiting satellite.  Maybe we need to have NORAD take down any satellite that DPRK launches or has in orbit, and ask questions later.  Oh, but a Facebook friend and doomsday prepper says, it really is a weather satellite.

Of course, North Korea could detonate an EMP nuclear blast at high altitude from an ICBM but it would not be over the US until late in its journey.

It’s always struck me as odd how Kim Jung Un expects to be worshipped as a god when he looks so effeminate.

Here is a list of North Korea’s missile tests.

Until recently, projections "only" showed North Korea reaching the Pacific Northwest, but later that extended to northern Michigan along Great Circle.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of North Korean missile.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Asylum seekers go from US to Canada where approval is much more likely in many cases

Tighter rules in the U.S. on what constitutes “credible fear”, as well as stricter enforcement of filing procedures. Leads to a much lower acceptance of asylum requests in the U.S. compared to Canada, according to the Winnipeg Free Press, link.

The article appeared today, in view of increased migrants crossing the U.S. from Minnesota or North Dakota in winter into Manitoba.

About 18% of cases from African countries are accepted in the U.S., usually after long waits.  Up to 65% might be accepted in Canada.  Some applications in the U.S. fail after three or four years.

Wikipedia attribution link for Winnipeg Skyline.
 (by Krazytea) under CCSA 4.0.  I visited Winnipeg in September 1997 (was warm).

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Many illegals crossing from Mexico said to be forced to carry drugs; the "truth" keeps getting messier

I don’t know how reliable a “foreign” influenced free paper should be, but the Epoch Times reports that actual arrests of immigrants with criminal backgrounds went down considerably under Obama.  The complicated story is here.

On “The Messy Truth” on CNN tonight. Van Jones “admitted” that many people who sneak across the southern border illegally are “forced” to smuggle marijuana or harder drugs.
True, people could come over that way, disappear, and live here and work (in low paying job that others don’t want) for years and do no harm.  Other organizations like Cato and FEE present results showing immigrants as a whole have much lower crime rates that native born people.

Complicating the picture is the occurrence of cartel-related (and therefore gang-related) crimes in many cities, including especially the Virginia suburbs of Washington DC.  Still, most of these occur within closed circles of people (much like Mafia crime), unlike asymmetric acts by lone wolves who might be inspired by ISIS.

Trump is right in saying that we cannot disregard our borders forever, or tolerate blatant disregard of the law.  Obviously, common sense says that deportations must focus on those with criminal records, but it’s inevitable that they would increase with a lower bar.

But the facts on what really serves national security very much depend where you enter this board game and how far away your own event horizon is.

Public domain picture of men scaling fence in AZ. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Trump's Travel Ban 2.0 eliminates Iraq from list, allows for future Syrian refugees, allows people with proper paperwork back in

President Trump has just now promulgated “Travel Ban 2.0”, eliminating Iraq from the list of banned countries, as with this text copy. 
The statements by the Secretaries of State and Homeland Security indicated that the rationale behind the new order was the inability or disinclination of unstable or hostile government to assist in vetting potential entrants into the US.

Although refugee processing remains on hold during the 120 days, refugees from Syria will no longer automatically be banned when that period is up.

People with appropriate travel documents (from having been in the United States legally already) will be allowed back in.

Here is a CNBC summary of what has changed. 

Jeff Sessions did say that the FBI is investigating about 300 refugees (not sure what countries or when they entered) for terror associations.

Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called this "#MuslimBan2". 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Arlington VA church holds supper for Iraqi refugee family settled in December 2016

Today, Trinity Presbyterian Church in Arlington VA held a potluck supper in the evening in honor of an Iraqi refugee family that had arrived in early December 2016.

There was a man, wife, and four children.  The man had been a military officer in Iraq.  Grace was said in English and Arabic.  They have been settled into a commercially rented townhouse or apartment in northern Virginia.

There were dishes of Iraqi cooking

I had a chance to speak to the man.  The family had lived in Baghdad.  He suggested that the sectarian violence in Baghdad (which has never been under ISIS control) was perpetrated by a very small percentage of people   He mentioned that all three major Abrahamic religions had started in the same source and were more alike in their values than different, when practice by persons and families in the modern world.

I also mentioned that when I worked for the Minnesota Orchestra in 2002-2003 while I lived in Minneapolis, I worked with a woman with relatives in Mosul.  I believe they were Christian.  But if they were still living there in 2014 or later, they would have been invaded in ISIS.  So I am one degree of separation from all this personally.

I would also add that throughout my IT career, I worked with people from Pakistan (reporting to one) and the subject of religion never came up.  In Minneapolis, a critical software bridge at the company I worked for had been designed by a company owned by a man from Pakistan.  Even after 9/11, the subject of religion never came up.
Wikipedia has a breakdown of religion in Iraq   Arabic is the main language.

Friday, March 3, 2017

DHS confounds Trump's plans for revised travel ban with report indicating radicalization happens in the US with people here a long time, on the Internet

The Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC reports a DHS document that contradicts Donald Trump’s idea even for a scaled-down travel ban (without Iraq), saving that country of origin generally has little connection to terrorism.

Most terror attacks or attempts came from people who had been in the United States a long time, or form their adult kids.  The document is here  and the report on Maddow’s show is here.

The report would suggest that a sensible terror policy would focus on interfering with radicalization, possibly putting more responsibility on social media companies.  But much of the radicalization followup occurs on the Dark Web, run by overseas interests and not reachable to search engines and normal social media companies.

The DHS report(s) are based on unclassified documents.

In the meantime, it seems like Jeff Sessions must have watched “From Russia With Love” at least once.

CNN has an important report here, of a DHS study showing more than half of terror attempts coming from people born in US, maybe 2/3 for ISIS.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

DREAMer in Mississippi with slightly overstayed DACA status arrested after speaking out against her family's detention; church-run community assistance in Alexandria VA stalked by ICE

Jamiel Lynch of CNN reports the arrest of “DREAMer” Daniela Vargas after she spoke out about her family’s story at a news conference in Jackson, MS, story.

Here DACA status had lapsed in November 2016 but she had been in the process of reinstating it and given a “hall pass” (she did have trouble affording the reapplication fee).  She spoke out after agents arrested other family members on other charges.  Apparently she was pulled over and is in deportation.  The family had been in the chicken processing business.

Samantha Smith has a detailed story in the Washington Post.

WJLA reported late Thursday on an ICE raid Feb. 8 in Alexandria VA on Route 1 outside the Rising Hope Mission Church  (United Methodist) where 7-8 Hispanic men were questioned and a couple were taken away, Another story here. ICE is said to have staked out a homeless shelter.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Video shows assassination of North Korean half brother in Malaysian airport with nerve agent

Fox News has a video showing the assassination of Kim Jong Nam, who is Kim Jong Un’s half brother, in the Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia airport here.   A woman walked behind him, placed something over his head that was apparently doused with a nerve agent, according to police.

 That such a hit would happen in a modern airport with modern security is shocking.  While living in Minneapolis, I actually knew a few people who had done business travel in Malaysia.  But it is also known that Al Qaeda had done a planning session in Malaysia in early 2001.

Nerve agents are considered WMD’s by the UN.  The material could be similar to Sarin, which was used in a subway attack in Japan in 1995.

But later reports indicated that the material may be VX, an oily substance 100 times as powerful as Sarin.  It is odorless and can be mixed from ingredients at the site of an attack.  It is hard to imagine how putting one drop of a substance on the external uncompromised skin can be deadly. It causes acetylcholine to not work. so involuntary muscle contractions are disrupted. It's almost like a tumbling effect, or a prion, or converting matter to grey goo from a strangelet.

Bivouac training in US Army Basic in 1968 included use of protective masks against tear gas, chlorine, and possibly nerve gas.  Most of us don't recall the use of chemical weapons, like phosgene, during WWI.

If such an attack could occur in a modern Asian city, it could occur in the West or even in the US -- using one of the world's deadliest toxins (besides polonium).  This idea is not lost on Vladimir Putin.

 This must be disturbing to the TSA.

Also, today, the New York Times has a particularly detailed and chilling analysis of North Korea's missile and nuclear weapons program here.

Wikipedia attribution link of Petronas Mall by Torrissen under CCSA 3.0.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Religious groups setting up churches and private homes to shelter undocumented immigrants; more on DHS and asylum seekers

Mallory Simon and others have a report and video on CNN about religious groups setting up sanctuary refuges for undocumented immigrants in Los Angeles.
The sanctuaries include church properties and some homes purchased and fixed up by volunteers for housing undocumented immigrants.   Some reports call it an “underground railroad”.

The Fourth Amendment would prevent authorities from entering homes without a warrant.  Current guidelines keep agents from entering churches, but there is fear this will change under Trump.

In the past, actual prosecutions for faith-based efforts to shelter undocumented immigrants seem to be rare or non-existent.

Jason Dzubow has some more comments on how the most recent DHS memo could affect asylum seekers today, here

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Trump DHS cracks down on undocumented immigrants, but leaves Dreamers alone for now

The Department of Homeland Security has promulgated new rules allowing much more likely deportation, by ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) of any undocumented immigrant, except for those covered by DACA, which Trump is leaving in place, for now.  NBC News has a typical story here.

In addition to people convicted of significant crimes or on watch lists (as under Obama), people only with arrests might be deported.  Some observers say that when homes where all family members are undocumented are raided, all will be deported.  Under Obama, people who had entered the country within the previous two weeks and were within 100 miles of a border were deported;  now the period is two years and the territory, the entire U.S.

CNN reports an incident where a sexual assault victim was “reported” by her attacker.

There was also talk about asylum seekers.  But this action so far seems to focus on people who ask for asylum right after entry at a border, which usually results in detention immediately. It is likely that it cracks down on bringing people across the border deliberately to then seek asylum (but this may have been illegal before).   It does not sound likely that this affects people who later decided they could not return and who have been here a while, but it is still a very delicate matter.

Trump has not yet issued a revision of his January 27 Executive Order.

Update: Later Tuesday

Newsweek has a long article on how asylum seekers entering at the borders are likely to be handled now.  A general tightening of what constitutes a credible threat of persecution is likely, but hard to assess with countries say, like El Salvador, with all the gang violence.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Washington DC church makes visit to Baptist church in Cuba

Some members of the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC made a 6-day visit to Cuba, returning February 9.  The pastor and minister of music made the trip.  Housing was reportedly in dormitories.  There are some Facebook photos at this link.

Baptist News had written about openness to Cuba back in 2015.  The Pastor says that people there are poor but well-educated, as a result of communism.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Can the Trump administration narrow the use of "particular social group" for asylum seekers?

To try to gauge what “could” happen with asylum seeking in the Trump administration and GOP-controlled Congress, it’s helpful to drag out United States Code 1158, Asylum. as well as the USCIS site.

It’s also helpful to look at well-regarded legal sites, like Nolo, here

 Particularly fundamental to the asylum process is the PSG, or Particular Social Group, as explained here in Wikipedia.

The Asylumist has a perspective written right after Trump’s election. and here .
Here is a summary of some appeals court litigation on the PSG concept from Immigration Justice.

The takeaway from these sites is that immigration judges and administrators have a lot of sway in what they view as a credible PSG.  Decisions are supposed to be "case by case".

The statute appears to give a lot of discretion to the Attorney General (Jeff Sessions) and Secretary of Homeland Security.   One can imagine valid reasons to narrow the granting of asylum by PSG (or political speech).  One concern could be the sheer volume of claims at the southern border regarding conditions in Central America.  But a reading of the laws suggest that the AG is not supposed to inject his personal opinions (as about gay rights) into a determination like this; doing so could invite litigation.

Hosts of asylum seekers need to be aware of USC 1324, here.

See coordinated post on GLBT blog Feb. 13.

Update:  Thursday, February 16, 2017

"The Asylumist" writes on Facebook here.  Dzubow answers my question this way: "As long as they are on hold from the courts, the EO's do not affect asylum seekers in the U.S..... However, if the EO's are implemented, it could prevent the asylum seekers from getting a decision. They cannot be deported without due process of law, but they can be put on hold pending "extreme vetting", whatever that is.  I wrote a bit about PSG here  (Nov. 9)

Note well the paragraph "People with asylum cases pending."

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Asylum seekers reminded to carry all USCIS identification and work permits during raids

The Washington Post reports that immigrants are on “high alert” given this weekends ICE raids, story by Jannell Ross, Aaron C. Davis, and Joel Ascehbach.    CNN has a similar story by Ray Sanchez.

DC Center Global advises asylum seekers to carry USCIS identification cards, and work authorization (if they have it).  People caught working illegally can be deported.  People without USCIS identification can be held for up to twelve hours.  In some cases, people could still apply for asylum (link: post today, 2/11).

At least at this point, there is no obvious evidence that Trump intends to interfere with people having legitimate asylum requests according to existing legal standards

Thursday, February 9, 2017

9th Circuit keeps stay on Trump travel ban, 3-0

The 9th Circuit has ruled 3-0 that the Washington state judge’s stay on the Trump travel ban “stays”.

CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin discusses the options here. I wasn't aware that Minnesota was also a plaintiff.

Here’s a SCRIBD full opinion on The Washington Post.

Some of the alternatives for Trump include an en banc appeal to the full circuit, a Supreme Court appeal, or a rewrite of the EO with a narrower focus.  If so, please don’t let Steve Bannon rewrite it!

It does seem credible for Trump to argue that people not already here and without previous visas or green cards have no standing before the courts for any claim of constitutional rights (you have to “exist” to have rights.)

But it sounds probable to me that the courts would insist that legal residents and people with green cards or valid visas be allowed to return, short of some compelling new evidence why they should not.

The president is right inasmuch as the country cannot afford to have millions who disregard the law altogether.  16 million people live in a household with an undocumented person.  Totally undocumented immigration does affect life in border areas -- I have some personal contact for what goes on in Texas and in Arizona particularly.  There is a real problem.  We need to figure out how to make immigration lawful and safer.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Trump claims to have learned a lot about terror threats in first two weeks

President Donald Trump addresses some sheriffs today (story ) and said that in two weeks he had learned of terror threats that Americans don’t understand.

It’s possible that this could something to do with a report on CNN tonight about a fake Venezuelan passport scam in Iraq.  Maybe it has to do with WMD’s – but that’s not the sort of thing relevant to refugee bans  (sleeper cells associated with overstayed visa might be another matter).

The Ninth Circuit has yet to rule on his travel ban.  Most likely the president will have to honor green cards for legal residents to return, but most of the rest of the order might stand.

Dan Merica has a video and some analysis of Trump's comments here for CNN.
Trump's remarks about the "so-called judge" and his pinning blame for any future domestic foreign-inspired terror attacks on the judiciary is "disheartening and demoralizing", as Gorsuch said.

While Trump is wrong about the aggregate crime rate and murder rate in the U.S., it is true that the asymmetric aspect of terror increases the risk of violence against some people not previously as vulnerable.  Jeff Sessions mentioned this as he was installed as attorney general today.

Update: February 12

North Korea made a missile test this weekend while Trump was with the prime minister of Japan in Florida.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Trump travel ban temporarily halted nationwide; a legal blog discusses USCIS and asylum seekers now; GOP Catholic hosts Muslim refugees in Virginia

First, a federal judge (James Robart) in Seattle has temporarily stayed Donald Trump’s Executive Order travel ban, as in this Washington Post story.  Earlier a Boston judge had declined to stay the order, and there are at least four states in play (Reuters).

At this point, it is a little uncertain what this means.  Conceivably, affected people could have to reapply for visas.  But the state of Washington could apply to get the visas reinstated.

It would appear that the administration will appeal.  There has been some concern that Trump could create a constitutional crisis by following the Boston judge instead.

Earlier this evening, I had found a blog posting by DC immigration attorney Justin Dzubow.  Note the paragraph, “People from countries of particular concern waiting for an immigration benefit.”  The posting suggests that USCIS is probably not granting asylum right now, but will allow asylum applications to remain in place so most likely the asylees remain here legally.

There could be complications if sanctuary cities lose funding for service organizations (like HIV clinics) if asylum seekers might use.  It’s possible that later immigrants (including asylum seekers who have been allowed to resume benefits) could be subject to deportation if their use of public funds exceeds some threshold, and it’s not clear if the president alone could order this.  That could beg the question of setting up private sponsorship systems (including for asylum seekers) like what Canada has.

(On Feb. 2 Dzubow added a comment that several more countries could be added to the list of countries of particular concern:  Egypt, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mali, Philippines, Venezuela, Colombia. Philippines is of concern because the print-on-demand industry uses services in Philippines.   The countries are chosen largely on the basis of the stability of their governments and of our relations with them, not on the basis of past terror attacks in the US; but some of the countries have been connected to attacks in Europe.)

While the idea appeals to our idea of charity and morality, some will argue that they could inadvertently add to security risk, abetting the possible formation of sleeper cells.

Some observers note that absolute travel bans by country may violate the Geneva Convention, which I remember from my Army Basic at Fort Jackson in 1968.  Trump has never been in the military (although he went to military high school).

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Amazon headquarters in Seattle (SounderBruce, CCSA 2.0).

Update: Feb. 4

Trump is appealing to the Ninth circuit.

Rick Sincere passed a long a story Ashley McKinnes in "America: The Jesuit Review":  "Meet my Dad: the Republican who's hosting Muslim refugees" in his northern Virginia home (from Afghanistan). As I have explored elsewhere, there is legal uncertainty and risk in doing this right now.  Is this a matter of "faith"?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Trump's outburst at Australian PM settles down as Trump agrees to Obama's deal over refugees in Manus

There was a lot of flak about the reported anger that President Trump expressed over the phone when talking to Australia Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, concerning a deal that the Obama administration had negotiated regarding taking some of the asylum seekers from wretched camps on Nauru and Manus Islands north of Australia.  The Guardian has a major story here.

I tweeted my own apology to a friend in Australia, who answered that no apologies were in order and that “our guy is a terrible leader.”

Now Sean Spicer says that Trump will honor the agreement but would apply “extreme vetting” to every possible refugee.

But by definition, in the US, asylum seekers have not gone through “extreme vetting” before coming here.

Wikipedia attribution link for map of Manus Island. P.d., by Sadelmalik

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Trump could wind up billing relatives (sponsors) of immigrants who use government services: could this matter to asylum seekers?

Vox (Dara Lind) has an article today discussing an anticipated Trump Executive Order in which “legal immigrants” might be subject to deportation if they use publicly (or at least federally) funded services.  This matter appears to refer to the I864 process by which people can enter the country legally with family “sponsorship” of sorts (which is not the same thing as Canadian-style refugee sponsorship).

US citizen family relatives could be forced to pay for benefits they have used, even after deportation.
I wonder if this could apply to asylum seekers.  Right now, there is no legal recognition of “sponsorship” for a host (as is possible in Canada).  But if a hosted asylum seeker used publicly funded health care services (like HIV medication, for example) and the host had the assets to pay, could the host be assessed for the benefits, down the road?  Or would this, ironically, argue that the US needs a legal sponsorship process for asylum seekers.

Dave Bier of the Cato Institute has some impressive analysis in the New York Times, Jan. 27, “Trump’s Immigration Ban Is Illegal”  He mentions that the term “immigrant” only properly refers to a legal permanent resident.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The role of Bannon in the immigration order; green card order affects many more tech workers than you would expect; Vox storystream

Vox has a story-stream and video on Trump’s immigration order by Andrew Prokop.

There is a lot of focus on Steve Bannon, who may have written the order, as if he were writing a movie script using FinalDraft.  But this is real life.

Besides the refugee ban for 120 days and the extra ban on any entry from the seven countries, one of the most devastating aspects of the ban is the fact that, as of this writing, it looks as though most green card holders cannot return, from any of the seven countries.   Trump had apparently waffled on this point before finally “denying” everything.

This has led to some tech companies, especially Google, telling their employees from those countries not to travel outside the US if they are here now.

I was surprised at how many employees Google has from these countries.

Here's an article on "Medium" asking if Trump is testing the limits of constitutional checks and balances to see what he can get away with and consolidate power.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Trump's refugee ban strands people with green cards overseas

There is a lot of flurry today about the detention of people trying to return from blacklisted countries (especially Iraq) on green cards.  There is already some litigation, with a complaint published by the Washington Post.

There are protests at Dulles Airport and at JFK (the latter carried live by filmmaker Nev Schulman from “Catflish”.

Google has advised some of its employees not to leave the US, as the ban seems to apply to 500000 green card holders (story).

Vox as a detailed analysis of Trump’s executive order late Friday here.
Look up Kirk Johnson and The List Project.  He was just interviewed on CNN.

Update 2:

The ACLU has won an injunction in NY. and VA has won an injunction at Dulles.  Legal challenges are moving quickly.

California is threatening to withhold federal taxes over the sanctuary city issue.

Airbnb is connecting refugees to hosts overseas (and probably Canada) who will shelter refugees free.  Canada says it can accept stranded refugees because it has a private sponsorship program.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Trump set to suspend refugee immigration from Syria, Iraq, and 5 other Islamist countries; might be temporary; effect on LGBTQ asylum seekers from countries is unclear.

Donald Trump has announced intentions to start building portions of “The Wall” against Mexico soon, and expect reimbursement from Mexico later for some of the cost.

But more controversial is the plan, to be announced Thursday, to stop immigration from up to seven countries, including Syria, Iran, and Iraq, for at least one to four months, as explained, for example, in a Wall Street Journal story here.

It is unclear whether visas already approved would be canceled.

It is also unclear is asylum applications from those already here from those countries can be approved, be delayed, or whether asylum seekers would be sent back.  This might affect some LGBTQ asylum seekers.

President Trump also wants to stop all funding to sanctuary cities, although it’s unclear how to draw the lines.  Wouldn’t police get regular funding?  Advocacy organizations that get funding indirectly could get cut off.

Update: Later Wednesday

Trump has postponed an executive order on the terror-country-list refugee ban apparently until the first of next week.  He appears to be rethinking it.  CNN AC360 aired a report at 8:50 PM tonight about the resettlement in Rutland, VT.  The reporter did NOT believe refugees already settled will be in jeopardy.  Here's another story on Rutland and the refugees.

Apparently all entry will be denied in seven countries (including Syria) and suspend all refugee settlement for four months.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Rutland by Shawn Pemrick under CC 3.0.