Friday, June 23, 2017

EU rules Russian anti-gay propaganda law in violation of treaty

The European Court has ruled that the 203 law in Russia banning the discussion of LGBTQ issues in public in a way visible to minors violates articles of the European Convention on Human Rights, which apparently Russia had signed.  The law was said to be discriminatory and a bar to free speech.
Michael Lavers has a story in the Washington Blade.

The law seems to have been inspired by a concern over the low Russian birth rate.

The law seem also to have indirectly inspired vigilante violence against LGBT people and led to closing or bars.  Some people have sought asylum in the US and Canada.

The EU ruling could make it safer for LGBT people from western countries, who are visible as such online, to travel in Russia.

Wikipedia attribution link for Moscow House of Music, CCSA 3.0, by pxNick. . 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Cato study compares European and US immigrant terror risks, and in the US it is very low

Alex Nowrasteh has authored a study comparing the relative risk of deaths from immigrant terror attacks in European countries to that in the United States, where it is much lower, link here.

But the article admittedly implies that the greater volume of emergency immigration into Europe (asylum seeking rather than refugee) has resulted in larger civilian fatalities in Europe.
Many perpetrators have been in these countries a long time and have varied and complicated criminal histories beyond mere immigration.  And in the U.S., many perpetrators obviously had disturbing behavior and difficulties assimilating for a long time, often as adult children of people who had come here.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

North Korea makes its treatment of civilian POW's as ugly as possible

Peter S. Kim in the Asian Review writes about how na├»ve behavior with North Korea (especially by the South) could mean that nuclear weapons or EMP devices wind up in the hands of terrorists as well as the “terror state” itself, link.

Kim Jong Un looks fat and foppish, even girlish.  And his people worship him as a god?  Clay feet?

Otto Warmbier’s family will not allow future updates on their son’s condition, apparently awake but not aware. That makes this easier to bear for members of the public.   The DPRK has deliberately provided a situation as ugly as it can make it.  But the responsibility for this will remain with government, state, and the Trump administration (though the legacy goes back to Obama) and won’t become a subject of personalized fund-raising campaigns.

North Korea is a real enemy.  And eventually enemies can become personal responsibilities.

Wikipedia attribution link for DPEK-China picture by Roman Harak, CCSA 2.0

Update: June 20

The young man passed away Monday June 19 at about 2:30 PM.

There was a viewpoint expressed (by La Sha, on Huffington) that westerners should not feel privileged and express any contempt when they are there.

Some sort of tourism travel ban to North Korea (a reverse of Trump's ban now) sounds likely (as with  Trump on Cuba), Washington Post story.

Update: June 21

On Don Lemon's show, there were warnings that North Korean could be capable of launching an EMP blast over South Korea now.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Indonesia shows a shocking and sudden hostility to LGBT people

There has been a shocking and sudden deterioration of the lot of LGBTQ people in Indonesia since the beginning of 2016, as explained in this CNN article.

Sodomy has been a crime previously only in Aceh (site of the tsunami in 2004), but it may become so nationwide.

Politicians have suddenly discovered that gays make a convenient scapegoat. The especially prey on parental fears of not having descendants, and this is about procreation, even beyond Islam
This could lead to more asylum cases.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Cato briefs and publications seem to influence circuit courts in holding off Trump travel bans; more on detention

The Cato Institute notes that the Fourth and Ninth circuits do seem to have read that think tank’s work in reaching opinions forestalling various versions of Donald Trump’s travel bans.

Dave Bier has a piece on May 27 here .  Cato’s amicus brief for the Ninth Circuit was here.

The uncertainty and delays regarding these EO’s seem to be putting off a permanent policy where the US can admit legitimate refugees safely, maybe with private help, the way Canada does.

The Afghanistan case I discussed in the post Sunday would sound to me like a case Canada might address, through LGBT private sponsorship, not legally possible in the US now.  That would be a lot better than blind GoFundMe campaigns.

Yesterday I drove past a prison and detention complex to the east of US-1 in Jessup, MD (15 miles south of downtown Baltimore) where I am told some ICE detainees (including asylum seekers) remain in detention.  It looks like the facility is in two adjacent campuses;  I’m not sure how the detention is set up.  I am told it is a much less comfortable place than Farmville or Reading PA.  There is another facility in York, PA, also.

Generally, facilities holding ICE detainees seem to be set up physically so that it is very difficult for member of the public to photograph them well, even externally.  Farmville's is hidden from the road by a hill and slope.  The government doesn't want the public to pay attention to their existence.

Update: Later today:

The New York Times has a detailed article on the arrest of asylum seekers by ICE in some certain circumstances, by Nicholas Kulish, p. A10, link. One of these cases involves a Russian HIV+ man, and apparently Customs applies when returning from territories like the Virgin Islands. You would wonder if in the cases covered here (as with the Venezuelan), the people were carrying their papers showing legal asylum seeker status allowing them to be here,  I don't know if it matters if they were passive or defensive applicants.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Venezuela leading now with asylum seekers in US; more material on LTBTQ asylees at DC Pride 2017

CNN is reporting that the country supplying the most asylum seekers is now Venezuela, link here.

It's ironic because Venezuela is said to have offered asylum to Edward Snowden.

It also gave the USCIS link, well to repeat.

The Pride 2017 Manual has a story and gofundme campaign for a gay man in Afghanistan.  The link is here.

 Flip to page 94 in the Pdf document. The article is by Nemat Sadal.  Generally with gofundme’s to undemocratic countries I would want to know what really happens to the money.  There needs to be some lawful plan to help the person leave the country.  Canada is much better at this than the U.S. since it has private sponsorship of refugees.

The Manual also has a guide for LGBT asylum seekers on p. 76.  By Matthew Corso and Eric Scharf of DV Center Global.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Washington Post Outlook offers booklet on Israeli West Bank settlements

The Washington Post has a long Outlook Section Sunday June 4, “The 50-Years War”, by Dan Ephron, tracing the growth of Israeli settlements on the West Bank since 1967, here.

Israel college students often don’t know the geography of the Green Line, and the legalities of the Occupied Zone under Oslo II don’t seem to have been always observed.  And the growth of settlements grows more rapidly than Israel itself.

Vox had explained the legalities some time back, covered.

Wikipedia attribution link for Elon Moreh by Shuki. CCSA 2.5.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Social media companies come under new fire as conduits of terrorist propaganda after UK attacks

The two recent attacks in England, including a second vehicle attack on London Bridge last night, will bring attention back onto social media companies as sharing moral responsibility for allowing terror recruiting on their networks.

Twitter and Facebook have removed content and closed accounts, and are trying to develop automated detection tools comparable to what happens with child pornography.  Apparently many of the tools will depend on digital watermarks of known images (which Google can scan for with Picasa and gMail).  And we know that there are various lawsuits against social media companies from families of victims of terror attacks, including Paris, Santa Barbara and Orlando/Pulse.   Both companies are also fighting the weaponization of fake news.  European governments have been much more vocal about this than the US, and I would have expected Trump to say a lot more about this than he has so far.  I guess I’m giving him ideas.

A slightly older article on IJR explains how ISIS recruits.  After initial contact on Twitter, the process moves to the Dark Web.

While the problem is much more serious in Europe, social media companies will come under unified pressure.  Again, user generated content could not exist if social media companies had to screen every input before publication.

But Theresa May, British Prime Minister, said that terrorists must be denied their "safe spaces" online.
A group at the University of Maryland has developed a video game to help people learn to recognize radicalization.

Another video about why ISIS social media recruiting works with some youthful populations is here, link..

It's really hard to say where May's "Enough Is Enough" will wind up.

Perps of  crimes like these look for a religious ideology to justify their own nihilistic or "mean streak" compulsions.

May says she will not let the UK Human Rights Act deter her in fighting terrorism or detaining suspicious people, putting them on curfews ad denying them use of the Internet, link

Monday, May 29, 2017

Zakaria on GPS slams Trump's perspective on where the real terror threats are

On Sunday, Fareed Zakaria criticized President Donald Trump’s behavior in Saudi Arabia, Israel and Europe, particularly for cozying up to Saudi Arabia when the kingdom has, out of self-preservation for the royal family, spread the most extreme form of Wahhabism throughout the Sunni Muslim World. Trump scathed the leadership of the Muslim world for policies that leave their peoples in “squalor”. But his characterization of a terror-supporting state seemed to be directed at Iran, not Saudi Arabia.

True, Iran could strike at Israel and could support WMD’s that could be delivered covertly to the U.S.  But North Korea is a much more immediate and dangerous threat.  And ISIS was born in extreme Sunni Islam and could get its hands on some kinds of WMD’s (like radioactive devices) at some point.

Zakaria also offers this perspective in his “What in the world?” segment on the lack of freedom of thought on college campuses, and the demand for conformity from both the Left and Right.

ISIS is making inroads into Southeast Asia, especially the Philippines, invited extra-judicial martial law from Rodrigo Duterte, already using vigilantism against drug users.  Here is the CNN story,  TWT has been warning readers about this.  Some of the print-on-demand book industry depends on plants in the Philippines, which may be in affected areas.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Trump ponders staying in Paris climate change agreement, with a dangerous caveat

John Sutter has an op-ed about the wording of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, and whether Trump will allow the U.S. to stay in.

The Paris agreement apparently does not require a country’s contribution to reduction in climate change become more ambitious with time.  That wording may persuade Trump to allow the U.S. to stay in.

The article an video are really quite graphic in the dire consequences ahead. A most inconvenient truth indeed.

Update: Sunday May 28

A conservative source indicates that Trump has told insiders he still intends to pull out, but then it gets complicated.

Update: Monday, May 29

Ted Cruz argues that Trump should withdraw from the climate pact. Cruz notes job loss in the US, but claims it doesn't require other countries to do their part and that it will not reduce warming significant.y.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

British intelligence clamps down on sharing intelligence with US after apparent leak to New York Times, which went viral on blogosphere

Manchester police and British authorities have warned the US that they will not continue sharing intelligence on counter-terrorism. President Donald Trump was scolded in Brussels today about the leak.

Specifically, the problem concerns a New York Times article that I added a link to on the previous blog post last night before I went to bed.  Apparently the photos and other details were classified. I guess you could say bloggers are part of the problem, as we have every incentive to share "intelligence" that we find.  This time it wasn't Wikileaks, it was a major newspaper.  The article apparently released the name of the prime suspect before British authorities were ready to announce it, and also showed sensitive photos of the devices.

OAN correspondent Trey Yingst tweeted the issue early today at first without a supporting link, and I retweeted, adding a comment about Trump's apparent sharing of Israeli intelligence with Russia.  Very shortly thereafter I saw that this was a "new" problem and that the NYTimes was involved, and that the president had not directly caused the problem, although he is responsible for it.  Trump has ordered the DOJ to investigate the leak.  It seems very unlikely to me that the NYTimes (or any blogger who relinked) has any exposure to real legal liability.

The latest Washington Post story on Trump's "orders" is here.  This can be a serious problem, because US authorities need overseas intelligence about possible novel threats, especially WMD.

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of incident site by Dixon, under CCSA 2.0.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Manchester attack; Trump calls terrorists "losers"

There is no reason to belabor the details of terror attack in Manchester England Monday night at the concert of Ariana Grande, but Peter Bergen has a disturbing analysis on CNN of how the explosive was probably constructed, using hydrogen peroxide, a common bleach.

Trump made a point of calling terrorists “losers” (or "evil losers in life") in more than one speech abroad, not just “monsters”.  Other commentators have said that Trump simply could have said that murdering civilians is prohibited by the Koran (but there are those who question this).

The Daily Telegraph opines on Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia here.
I passed a protest poster in Baltimore recently, claiming ordinary people shouldn’t be bothered with concerns about Syria and Korea.  I couldn’t disagree more.
Update: May 24:

Detailed New York Times analysis of the evidence in Manchester by C. J. Chivers.

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.

Update: May 23

Media have posted more stories about North Korea's malware engines (training young adults in China).  There was another missile test, aimed toward Japan, about 300 miles, and indications that North Korea is getting "better" at this. And there seems to be a breaking interchange with the South right now,

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.