On January 27, 2016, Pennsylvania state officials informed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that it would not renew and would revoke the operating license for the Berks County Residential Facility, the immigration detention center in Leesport, Pennsylvania, which jails mothers and children, often for extended periods of time. The current license will expire on February 21, 2016.

This development is a significant step in the right direction and an important victory for those who have been advocating aggressively for the end of family detention. But, unfortunately, it is far from clear how DHS will respond and whether the federal immigration agency will do the right thing and stop detaining families. ... [American Immigration Council - 1/2/16]




US:  Immigrant women say they’re being illegally strip searched by male officers [Fusion - 1/2/16]


Bengali asylum seeker enters 52nd day of hunger strike in Australian concentration camp


Refugee Action Coalition, Sydney [2/2/16]:

Refugee advocates are increasingly concerned for the welfare of a Bengali asylum seeker in Wickham Point, Darwin, who has been on hunger strike for 52 days.

The 37-year-old asylum seeker who arrived in Australia on 15 June, 2013 has not had his claim for asylum processed in over 31 months.

After being transferred from Christmas Island to Wickham Point in August 2013, the Bengali man was told he would be granted a bridging visa, but nothing has happened since then.

The Bengali man has also been assaulted on 5 January by Serco guards when they transferred him from Shark to Sun Compound in an attempt to isolate his hunger strike protest.

He was returned to Shark compound on 7 January.

An official complaint has been made regarding the assault.

The Bengali man’s hunger strike is a continuation of the hunger strike protests in Darwin of 18 Bangladeshis in December who had not been processed although some had been in detention for three years.

“There is no excuse for being detained for 31 months. The deliberate bureaucratic delays are a form of torture,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“This hunger strike exposes the government mindset that is behind the recent reports of record levels of long term detention in Australian detention centres.

“It is simply a lack of political will and the ruthless determination to make an example of asylum seekers who arrive by boat.”



@PROACTIVA_SERV [2/2/16]:   En directo #Lesvos Un bote con problemas. 50 #refugiados entre ellos, 20 niños en horario escolar. ¿Hasta cuándo?




The baby is the first dead body I see when I get to the beach. He looks like he is nine or ten months old. He is dressed warmly and was wearing a hat. An orange pacifier is attached to his clothes. Near him floats a child of eight or nine years. Next to them a woman. Their mother perhaps.

 I take a few photos. I walk along the beach. I see the body of another child on a rock. Later, I will have nightmares, I will spend hours not being able to speak. But at the moment, I don’t really feel anything, to be honest. The Turkish police are collecting the bodies. They drowned the night before in the waters off this coast. There are so many bodies. I can’t count them all.

For the moment, noone is taking care of the dead baby. I return to him and stay there, for about an hour, silent. I have a baby boy who is five months and a daughter who is eight years old.

I ask myself what I would do if this were my baby.

I ask myself what is happening to humanity. ... Ozan Kose [AFP - 1/2/16]




9 inspiring stories of solidarity with refugees and migrants [New Internationalist - January 2016]:


Lea Beven was spurred into action by the picture of a refugee in wellies.

‘He was stood in a puddle, in “The Jungle” in Calais, with a tent behind him,’ she recalled.

‘I had just bought a caravan and I was sat in it with my three-year-old son and I welled up. I thought, “Why am I sat here while they are in tents?”’

Since September, Beven and a network of supporters around Britain have raised over $33,000 and delivered 50 caravans to the informal refugee camp that clusters around the entrance to the Channel Tunnel linking France to Britain, which is now home to over 6,000 people.

The caravans shelter volunteers, medical units and refugee families.




An Israeli court will hold a hearing on Tuesday to determine whether the leader of a Jewish gang that burned a Palestinian teenager alive is sufficiently sane to be held responsible. ... [Naharnet - 2/2/16]




Israeli forces kill Palestinian youth near Tulkarem [Maan - 1/2/16]




Israeli forces demolished four corrugated iron Bedouin homes in the occupied West Bank district of Ramallah on Monday, leaving 22 people homeless, locals said.

The four homes were located in the Ein Ayub area between the villages of Ras Karkar and Deir Ammar, northwest of Ramallah city.

Locals said Israeli military vehicles stormed the area from a bypass road near the homes leading to illegal Israeli settlements.

In the next half-hour, Israeli bulldozers then tore down the makeshift homes of corrugated iron, wood. and canvas.

Locals added that Israeli forces did not give the families enough time to evacuate their belongings before they destroyed the dwellings.

It was not clear whether the demolition was carried out with or without prior notice. ... [Maan - 1/2/16]



Don't shoot the messenger, Israel – Ban [UN Media Release – 1/2/16]




Kunduz governor’s secretary gunned down by police [Pajhwok - 2/2/16]





12 civilians have sustained injuries in a magnetic bomb explosion in Mehtarlam, capital of eastern Laghman province.

Officials say the bomb was attached to a police vehicle which exploded close to Aziz Bank around 03:00 PM on Monday. ... [Khaama - 2/2/16]







Suicide bomber kills 20 police outside Kabul base [NDTV - 2/2/16]




@YemenPostNews [1/2/16]:   ... 31 civilians KILLED & 45 homes destroyed by Saudi airstrikes over 48 hours in #Yemen ...



Turkey: UN rights chief concerned by actions of security forces and clampdown on media [Media Release - 1/2/16]:


The United Nations human rights chief today called on the Turkish authorities to respect the fundamental rights of civilians in its security operations and to promptly investigate the alleged shooting of a group of unarmed people after “shocking” video footage of the event.

“The footage apparently shot by Refik Tekin in Cizre some ten days ago is extremely shocking,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said, voicing concern that the cameraman, who was himself wounded in the south-eastern town, is facing arrest once he leaves hospital. ...





President Barack Obama's administration will seek a significant increase in funding for the fight against Islamic State as part of its 2017 defense budget request, U.S. officials say, in another possible sign of U.S. efforts to intensify the campaign.

The fiscal year 2017 Pentagon budget will call for more than $7 billion for the fight against Islamic State, a roughly 35 percent increase compared with the previous year's request to Congress, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity. ... [Reuters - 1/2/16]





Prospection and the present moment:  Uncertainty in the world leads people to seek more immediate forms of gratification and fail to plan long-term [UQ News -28/1/16]





The Big Short reminds us all what hubris about over-valued housing looks like, Bernard Hickey [Interest.co.nz - 31/1/16]:


... The movie is actually set mostly through 2005 and 2006 when the US housing market and economy was rollicking along with the near universal belief that house prices would never fall and that all the debt owed on those houses would never go bad.

The Big Short is the story about those outsiders who recognised the Emperor had no clothes and who then worked out how to bet on the failure of the most combustible debt securities linked to all those mortgage bonds under the housing market. This band of misfits took a very capitalistic approach to calling out the wrongdoing: they looked for a way to make massive profits out of what they saw as the inevitable collapse.

It is mostly a story about how hubris, laziness and 'group think' can corrupt an economy and financial markets to the point where intelligent and normally sensible people end up rationalising and defending extraordinary things.

The most telling parts of the film are about the psychology of crowds and the human tendency to go with the crowd. The crowd in 2005 and 2006 were saying America's house prices were justified and sustainable. They argued the record high house price to income multiples made sense because of the permanent financial magic of very low interest rates. House prices had never fallen much and would never fall. These bonds were incredibly safe. This market was different. It was immune from the cycle or the 'downs' that often follow 'ups' in most markets. Mortgage brokers, real estate agents, bankers and even the US Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan dismissed the naysayers with a smugness and certainty that was frightening in retrospect. ...




Terror attacks continue across Iraq and Syria



US Department of Defense [1/2/16]:


U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.

Officials reported details of the latest strikes, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.

Strikes in Syria

Attack and fighter aircraft conducted five strikes in Syria:

-- Near Hawl, a strike destroyed two ISIL fighting positions and two ISIL tunnel systems.

-- Near Dayr Az Zawr, a strike destroyed three ISIL front-end loaders.

-- Near Manbij, three strikes struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL mortar system, two ISIL fighting positions, and two ISIL buildings.

Strikes in Iraq

Attack, fighter, and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 13 strikes in Iraq, coordinated with and in support of the Iraqi government:

-- Near Kirkuk, a strike destroyed an ISIL bunker.

-- Near Mosul, three strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL vehicles and an ISIL excavator.

-- Near Qayyarah, two strikes struck two separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.

-- Near Ramadi, six strikes struck three separate ISIL tactical units and destroyed five ISIL staging areas, two ISIL rocket rails, two ISIL fighting positions, an ISIL weapons cache, an ISIL vehicle bomb, and an ISIL vehicle bomb-making facility.

-- Near Sinjar, a strike struck an ISIL tactical unit and two ISIL fighting positions.





The Russian Defense Ministry has presented video evidence it says shows Turkish military shelling Syrian territory using heavy artillery positioned close to the border.

Syria’s General Staff has provided its Russian counterparts with video footage of deployment of self-propelled large caliber artillery vehicles at a Turkish frontier post, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said at media briefing on Monday.

Syrian opposition groups have also provided video evidence of the Turkish military shelling Syrian territory, he added.  ... [RT - 1/2/16]





‏@IraqiSMCEn - Iraqi Spring Media Center - 1/2/16]:  


Baghdad: News agencies/The United Nations Mission in Iraq (UNAMI): 2299 Iraqis were either killed or wounded in January........




Anbar: News agencies:The government army has shelled Heet area west of Anbar resulted in 5 deaths and 6 injuries of the civilians..............................




Baghdad: A roadside bomb exploded near shops in Ghazaliya area today evening killing a person and wounding 5...................




Diyala: News agencies:A roadside bomb has exploded northeast of Ba'quba resulted in 6 deaths and injuries of Peshmerga elements.....




Baghdad: A roadside bomb exploded in Sina'i neighbourhood in Jisr Diyala southeast of Baghdad today noon killing two persons and wounding 6 .........




Baghdad: A roadside bomb has exploded in Khansa' Village in Nahrawan southeast of Baghdad resulted in death and 8 injuries...................




Baghdad: A roadside bomb has exploded near Rasheed grocery in Doura south of Baghdad resulted in two deaths and 8 injuries...................




Baghdad: A roadside bomb has exploded in Husseiniya district north of Baghdad resulted in death and 5 injuries...................





Petition calling for Greek islanders to win Nobel Prize signed by more than 600,000 [Ekathimerini – 1/2/16]:

More than 600,000 people have put their names to an online petition calling for Greek islanders on the frontline of Europe's migrant crisis to be awarded the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize.

Also 230 academics from 111 universities around the world submitted their own petition before the Monday deadline Nobel nominations in a move which has won support from European MPs, artists, politicians and the Greek media. Nobelists Christopher Pissarides and Desmond Tutu are said to be among those who have backed the initiative.

A total of some 620,000 people signed the online petition, which was launched in November on the website of campaign group Avaaz by Alkmini Minadaki, an architect and activist from Crete.

"The native populations of the Greek Islands in the Aegean Sea have done and are doing anything possible to help the displaced Syrian refugees, despite being subjected to a severe economic crisis for many years," says the petition created by Minadakis.

"Their acts and sacrifices shall not go unnoticed, because they are significant contributors to world peace and stability," it says.

Nikos Voutsis, president of the Greek parliament, has also backed the islanders' nomination.

"The citizens of the Aegean islands, and especially Lesvos, constitute an example for European civilisation," he said.





‏@MSF_Sea [1/2/16]:    ... 800 #people at #Idomeni camp & ~1500 more at #Polykastro gas station wait to cross the border into #FYROM.  




Austria’s new defense minister has announced on television a series of measures in relation to the alpine country's management of a record number of asylum seekers.

Hans Peter Doskozil, the former states director of police, has just taken up his post as head of the Ministry of Defense and Sports (BMLVS).

He said on public television that the air force’s Hercules C-130 aircraft would be used to transport asylum seekers whose applications had failed. ... [Deutsche Welle - 1/2/16]




UN experts urge Cyprus to address migrant detention conditions, improve overall monitoring [Media Release - 1/2/16]:


Cyprus has seen many positive developments concerning the treatment of people in detention, but still faces several challenges, particularly regarding the independent monitoring of places of detention and the treatment of migrants, the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT) said today after visiting the country.

“We were very pleased to have visited Cyprus and take note of improvements. But the situation of those in immigration detention centres requires careful attention,” said Malcolm Evans, the SPT Chair and head of the four-member delegation to Cyprus, in a press release.

“It is so important to ensure that such detention is only resorted to when it is strictly necessary. The conditions of detention should reflect the fact that such places are not prisons and those detained are not prisoners,” he added.

The SPT, which monitors how States that have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) are meeting their treaty obligations, was in Cyprus from 25 to 29 January.

The delegation accompanied members of the independent Cypriot body that monitors places of detention to the Menoyia Detention Centre, where people are held pending the outcome of their asylum application.

The Centre has in the past seen riots, protests and hunger strikes.

“It is vital that all those whose legal situation is unclear, whether asylum seekers or those detained for infringement of immigration rules, are promptly and fully informed of what is happening to them. This is an essential safeguard for their wellbeing,” stressed Mr. Evans. ...




2 February 2016