Friday, May 27, 2016

US immigration courts have backlog of 456,644 cases. Earliest date available is Nov. 29, 2019-Houston Press

Earliest US immigration court date is Nov. 29, 2019, exceptions made for unaccompanied minors. Immigration courts have backlog of 456,644 cases as of March 2016. Houston court has backlog of over 35,000 cases as of Dec. 2015. New York and LA backlogs are higher than Houston's.
March 22, 2016, "Houston’s Immigration Court Backlog Isn’t Helped by a Judge That Barely Works,", Steve Jansen 

"During the summer of 2014, when a record number of Central American nationals sought entry into the United States, the nation’s underfunded, understaffed and under-everything immigration court system nearly collapsed.

As a result, President Barack Obama directed the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which handles immigration court and asylum proceedings, to prioritize the adjudication of cases for unaccompanied minors and families in detention. Most other immigration matters, such as minor criminal offenses and permanent resident cases, have been reset to November 29, 2019

“Three years out is too long,” says Samantha Del Bosque, staff attorney at the Houston-based Tahirih Justice Center, which provides pro bono services to immigrant women and children. 

Evidence can go stale and experts who are academics tend to move around. For us, it creates a lot of hardships. It’s quite a mess.”

“I’ve had a client whose asylum case has been reset seven times,” says Raed Gonzalez of the Houston immigration law firm Gonzalez Olivieri. According to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, the nationwide immigration case pileup stands at 456,644. And counting....  

According to December 31, 2015, figures provided to the Press by the immigration review office, Houston’s immigration judges are drowning under a glut of 35,340 pending cases. TRAC data shows that Houston’s bottleneck is the third-highest in the country, two spots behind New York City and Los Angeles.

“Houston is the largest city closest to the Mexico border,” says Alexandre Afanassiev of the local immigration firm Quan Law Group. There are only six judges, and that’s not enough.Houston, like many immigration courts across the country, has been hampered by attrition and retiring judges, and critics say that DOJ is dragging its feet with hiring replacements."...


California State Board of Education advocates changing name of India to South Asia in social studies textbooks-BBC

May 25, 2016, "Viewpoint: Why Hindu groups are against California textbook change," BBC, Rohit Chopra, Assoc. Prof. of media studies at Santa Clara Univ.

"Thousands of academics and Indians have signed a petition to stop the California State Board of Education from changing "India" to "South Asia" in its social studies textbooks....

The debate centres significantly on the renaming of India as South Asia and the role of caste in Indian society. 

The rationale for calling the region South Asia, advocated by a group of distinguished academics, is that it is a more accurate descriptive term for the region, one that does not equate India as it existed before 1947 with the modern Indian nation-state. 

Terms like "ancient India" and India, they argue, could be confusing in certain contexts for the students, in addition to obscuring the common historical past of modern India and Pakistan respectively....

The Hindu-American organisations accuse the academics of wanting to "erase" India itself by recommending the change of name. These groups also seek to remove references to caste prejudice in the textbooks. 

The academics, on the other hand, argue that South Asia is a more logically appropriate term than India for the textbooks. They also hold that deleting references to caste contradicts the educational goal that students should develop a rich and nuanced understanding of the region."...


Organized crime epidemic in Mexico succeeds because of corruption at all levels of government and economy. Illegal drug trade isn't cause of problems, nor will NAFTA style legalized marijuana trade help them-NY Times Letter to Editor

May 25, 2016, "Mexico and Marijuana," NY Times opinion pages

"To the Editor:

"Re “Legal Pot, Free Trade” (Op-Ed, May 21): Ioan Grillo’s proposal for a Nafta-style market in legal marijuana mistakes a symptom of the organized crime epidemic in Mexico-the illegal drug trade-for an underlying cause.  

Rather, the major driver appears to be the corruption infecting all levels of the Mexican state and economy.

Otherwise, it is hard to explain the Mexican government’s chronic inability to keep organized crime from dominating so many legal businesses, like casino gambling, cigarettes and even something as banal as mining.

As late as 2014, the top three revenue streams of one cartel, the notorious Knights Templar, were mining, logging and garden-variety extortion. And the trend continues, with a 2016 Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime report detailing how cartels are now a significant presence in gold mining in Mexico and across Latin America.

Legalizing an industry in Mexico therefore does not necessarily push the cartels out. Or in other words, how can one expect the Mexican state to keep legalized pot out of the hands of cartels if it cannot keep mining out of those very same hands?
Alexandria, Va."

"The writer is executive vice president of Smart Approaches to Marijuana a nonpartisan group, and a senior fellow at the University of Florida’s Drug Policy Institute."


Added: Marijuana and opium poppy crops increased in Mexico after NAFTA when subsistence farmers could no longer survive growing food crops: April 2008 article:

April 1, 2008, "Calderón, NAFTA, and Mexico’s Campesinos in 2008," Council on Hemispheric Affairs,
"The rise in poverty amongst peasant farmers also has led to an increase in a phenomenon known as illicit farming....Farmers who cannot survive by growing maize or corn, have turned to “illicit” farming. Farms that once grew crops shipped to other parts of Mexico as well as for subsistence living have been displaced, and now must turn to producing illegal agricultural goods, such as marijuana and opium, in order to survive....With Colombian cocaine trafficking; increase of illicit farming; and NAFTA’s free movement of goods, the Mexican government will see much more difficulty curbing drug cartel influence." (subhead, "The Rise of “Illicit” Farming")


"Mexico now tolerates...subsidized U.S. agriculture, and the steady abolishment of the ejido [communal lands farmed by indigenous peasants], are the increasing rates of poverty in rural parts of Mexico. Consequently, this has led to a rise in immigration to the United States....In terms of migration to the U.S, Mexico’s rural areas comprise a quarter of its population, but accounts for 44 percent of migration (usually illegal) into the United States." (subhead, "Campsinos after NAFTA")


Added: NAFTA rule required Mexico to eliminate longstanding aid to indigenous, subsistence farmers:

June 2006 article

June 2006, "Mexico Leftist Presidential Candidate Says He'll Protect Farmers from NAFTA," AP, via
"Tariffs on all agricultural products must be removed in 2008 under NAFTA. But Mexican farmers said hefty agricultural subsidies in the United States give that country's white corn and beans an unfair advantage over the Mexican market, which depends in large part on small-scale and mostly subsistence farmers.

Mexicans worry if these farmers can't sell the country's signature crops at a price that competes with trucked-in produce from the United States, they'll go out of business altogether. That could severely damage Mexico's agricultural economy, which farmers said has already suffered since the trade deal went into effect in 1994, forcing many to migrate to the United States.

Mexico's agriculture minister pleaded with Canada and the United States this month to reconsider removal of the corn and bean tariffs but U.S. undersecretary for agriculture J.B. Penn flatly rejected the appeal, saying: "We have no interest in renegotiating any parts of the agreement."

Despite the concern, the administration of outgoing Mexican president Vicente Fox has stood by NAFTA, saying Mexico honours its trade commitments."...


Added: Shipping Mexican citizens to the US for use as cheap labor was Mexican Pres. Vicente Fox's (2000-2006) priority: 

Feb. 8, 2005, "Vicente Fox, Labor Pimp," Human Events, Mac Johnson
"Vicente Fox has made increasing the flow of his people out of Mexico and into America his highest priority in his relationship with the US. His expressed desire is that the border should pretty much cease to exist — at least for Northbound traffic. He would prefer that America voluntarily acquiesce to his desire to depopulate his nation’s poorest neighborhoods, but he is also prepared to achieve this depopulation unilaterally."... 


Thursday, May 26, 2016

US political class is "intimate" partner with Mexican governments which have long allowed torture and executions, military has near total autonomy. Judicial system is non-functional so gov. sanctioned crimes have no consequences. Mexico gov. stopped releasing data on military 2 years ago-NY Times

May 26, 2016, "Body Count Points to a Mexican Military Out of Control," NY Times,

"According to the government’s own figures, Mexico's armed forces are exceptionally efficient killers-stacking up bodies at extraordinary rates. The Mexican authorities say the nation’s soldiers are simply better trained and more skilled than the cartels they battle.

But experts who study the issue say Mexico’s kill rate is practically unheard-of, arguing that the numbers reveal something more ominous.

They are summary executions,said Paul Chevigny, a retired New York University professor who pioneered the study of lethality among armed forces....

The Mexican Army kills eight enemies for every one it wounds.

For the nation’s elite marine forces, the discrepancy is even more pronounced: The data they provide says they kill roughly 30 combatants for each one they injure.

The statistics, which the government stopped reporting in early 2014, offer a rare, unguarded glimpse into the role the Mexican military has assumed in the war against organized crime. In the last decade, as the nation’s soldiers and marines have been forced onto the front lines, human rights abuses surged.

And yet the military remains largely untouched, protected by a government loath to crack down on the only force able to take on the fight. Little has been done to investigate the thousands of accusations of torture, forced disappearances and extrajudicial killings that have mounted since former President Felipe Calderón began his nation’s drug war a decade ago.

Of the 4,000 complaints of torture that the attorney general’s office has reviewed since 2006, only 15 have resulted in convictions.

Not only is torture generalized in Mexico, but it is also surrounded by impunity,” said Juan E. Méndez, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture. “If the government knows it is frequent and you still don’t get any prosecutions, and the ones you do prosecute usually wind up going nowhere, the blame lies with the state.

The Mexican armed forces did not respond to interview requests. But Gen. Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, the defense secretary, has publicly defended the military, saying it is the only institution confronting organized crime — and winning.

“We are in the streets because society is demanding us to be there,” General Cienfuegos told the Mexican newspaper Milenio this month.

About 3,000 people were killed by the military between 2007 and 2012, while 158 soldiers died. Some critics call the killings a form of pragmatism: In Mexico, where fewer than 2 percent of murder cases are successfully prosecuted, the armed forces kill their enemies because they cannot rely on the shaky legal system.

Waves of pressure have crashed over the government. In March, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned Mexico’s human rights record, including extrajudicial executions, building on an earlier United Nations report that described torture as widespread.

In recent weeks, a videotape of a soldier beating a woman while a police officer squeezed a plastic bag over her head went viral, forcing a rare public apology.

Even with the missing 43 college students, the role of the military, and the protection it enjoys, have become polarizing issues.

Several soldiers were present the night of the disappearances, according to international experts asked to help determine the students’ fate. But the military did not grant interviews to the experts, and the government did not require it.

The government says it takes human rights seriously, passing legislation to counter abuse, protect victims and allow soldiers to be tried in civilian courts. It says it has a new human rights program within the military and notes that under the current president, complaints against the military have dropped sharply....

But while complaints of torture against the armed forces have fallen since 2011 — coinciding with an overall reduction in the number of troops deployed across Mexico — the lethality of their encounters did not decline, according to the data released through early 2014.

The unique relationship between the military and the government dates back more than 70 years, to the period after the country emerged from civil war. To maintain stability, historians say, the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party reached a pact with the armed forces: In exchange for near total autonomy, the military would not interfere in politics.

Unlike many Latin American nations, Mexico has never suffered a coup. And though the government long starved its armed forces of funding, they were protected from scrutiny.

That protection became vital after 2006, when the military entered the streets to battle the cartels and violence soared. As complaints of abuses emerged in record numbers, the government did little to take the military to task.

Then the military stopped publishing its statistics on killings two years ago. Without such data, experts say, it is hard to know how violent the war against organized crime has become.

Some episodes surface in court, like a confrontation in Tlatlaya, just outside Mexico City, where the army killed 22 people in June 2014. The army boasted that during the confrontation, only one soldier was injured.

The case quickly became a scandal when Mexico’s human rights commission determined that as many as 15 of the people were executed, and that soldiers had altered the scene to make it appear as if there had been a battle.

Even so, the final three soldiers charged were acquitted last week, joining four others previously acquitted. The only soldier convicted in the case, for the crime of disobedience, has already served his sentence.

The impunity comes despite growing ties with the United States military through exercises, training and military hardware sales meant to improve the professionalism and, by extension, the human rights record of Mexico’s armed forces.

Two years ago (2014), the United States agreed to sell Black Hawk helicopters to Mexico in a pact that Army officials said could total more than $1 billion over 25 years and bring the Mexican Army closer to American military standards.

“We didn’t sell them just helicopters,” said Todd M. Rosenblum, the Pentagon’s former top official on Mexico policy.We sold them 15 years of working intimately together that we would not otherwise have.”

The closer ties have done little to assuage critics in Congress. “All the training in the world won’t work if you don’t have people at the top who believe in the importance of transparency and accountability,” said Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont. He wrote a law barring the United States from providing training or equipment to foreign troops who commit “gross human rights violations” like murder or torture.

Some abuse cases have made their way to international bodies, causing concern for the Mexican government.

Three people in Chihuahua State were whisked away on Dec. 29, 2009, and never heard from again. After seeking recourse from the state, federal and military authorities, the families took their case to the Inter-American Commission in 2011.

Five years later, the commission has delivered its confidential findings, according to two people familiar with the case. If the commission finds the military responsible for the disappearances, as expected, the ruling could become binding.

Another case has been brought to the International Criminal Court. A nonprofit group in Baja California collected more than 90 examples of what it calls torture by the Mexican military from 2006 to 2013. The international court has not responded to the petition.

The case includes Ramiro López, who was arrested with three others and tortured by the military in June 2009. The men were nearly suffocated with plastic bags and had their genitals shocked with electric current before being presented as confessed kidnappers. They were convicted.

But in 2015, after a rare examination by the United Nations, the men were found not guilty. The government acquitted them, but declined to pursue those responsible for the forced confessions.

“They should not try to justify their work by obtaining confessions under torture,” said Mayra López, the sister of Ramiro López. “But it does not appear as if this will change anytime soon.”"


Added: US political class adores thugs: On May 19, 2010, lavish state honors were inexplicably bestowed on Calderon by struggling US taxpayers


US nuclear command uses 1970s computing system and 8 inch floppy disks. Pentagon plans to replace system 'by the end of 2020.' US Treasury uses computer language code from 1950s-BBC

May 25, 2016, "US nuclear force 'still uses floppy disks'," BBC

"The US nuclear weapons force still uses a 1970s-era computer system and floppy disks, a government report has revealed. The Government Accountability Office said the Pentagon was one of several departments where "legacy systems" urgently needed to be replaced.

The report said taxpayers spent $61bn (£41bn) a year on maintaining aging technologies.

It said that was three times more than the investment on modern IT systems.

The report said that the Department of Defence systems that co-ordinated intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers and tanker support aircraft "runs on an IBM Series-1 Computer - a 1970s computing system - and uses eight-inch floppy disks".

"This system remains in use because, in short, it still works," Pentagon spokeswoman Lt Col Valerie Henderson told the AFP news agency.

"However, to address obsolescence concerns, the floppy drives are scheduled to be replaced with secure digital devices by the end of 2017." 

She added: "Modernisation across the entire Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications enterprise remains ongoing."

The report said that the Pentagon was planning to fully replace the system by the end of 2020.

According to the report, the US treasury also needed to upgrade its systems, which it said was using "assembly language code - a computer language initially used in the 1950s and typically tied to the hardware for which it was developed"."

Image above: "Eight-inch floppy disks date back to the early days of computer systems," BBC, Adam Clark


Added: NOAA systems, pages 55, 56 of GAO report: NOAA's national and global climate data are used to make multi-trillion dollar bets.

"NWSTG still lacks full backup capability for 26 percent of its functions." This won't change until at least 2017: "According to officials, a detailed project plan to rearchitecture NWSTG is now being carried out and

"The National Weather Service Telecommunication Gateway (NWSTG) system is operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a component of the Department of Commerce. It is the nation’s hub for the collection and distribution of weather data and products and provides national and global real-time exchange services using automated communications resources to collect and distribute a wide variety of environmental data such as observations, analysis, and forecast products. Thousands of customers worldwide use data distributed by the NWSTG. 

Concerns with the system had been increasing because the investment faced risks and challenges associated with an aging and unsupportable infrastructure, limited backup capability, and un-scalable architecture to support future data volume collection and dissemination.

In 2013, the agency upgraded its hardware and software to Power7 IBM servers and Unix operating systems (as depicted in the figure [below]); however, NWSTG still lacks full backup capability for 26 percent of its functions."

Above, NOAA IBM servers and UNIX operating systems, via GAO. p. 56 of report


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wall in Mexico City divides rich from poor. Slums littered with plastic, covered with corrugated scrap. 46% of Mexicans live in poverty, subject to flooding with raw sewage if they even have plumbing-July 2014 aerial photo


7/17/2014, "Photos From Above That Show The Insane Divide Between Rich And Poor,", Sydney Brownstone

"It took two helicopter trips to do it, but the results were unmistakable. Photographer Oscar Ruiz's aerial images revealed two Mexico Cities: One a bright postcard full of satellite dishes and manicured lawns, and the other a set of slums, littered with plastic and covered by corrugated scrap. Sometimes, only a high, thin wall separated the two. 
Nearly 46% of Mexico's population lives in poverty, and the country has one of the highest income inequality rates in the world. In Mexico City, the poorest of the megacity's 20 million people don't have plumbing, and their homes are subject to flooding with raw sewage. But you might not be able to tell, judging by the luxury condos just next door. Both conditions were unavoidable when Ruiz shot them from above in Mexico City's Santa Fé district for ad agency Publicis."...


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Monday, May 23, 2016

Trump-Hillary polling graph, July 2015-May 2016-Real Clear Politics

5/23/16, "General Election: Trump vs. Clinton," Real Clear Politics. July 2015-May 19, 2016

Above, July 2015-May 2016


RCP average of five polls in May 2016, Trump +.2

ABC News/Washington Post-Trump +2

NBC News/Wall St. Journal-Clinton +3

Rasmussen Reports-Trump +5

Fox News-Trump +3

CBS News/NY Times-Clinton +6


Jack Nicklaus says of Donald Trump, “He is awakening the country. We need a lot of that”-Washington Post

May 22, 2016, "Jack Nicklaus says Donald Trump is ‘turning America upside down’--in a good way," Washington Post, Cindy Boren

"Jack Nicklaus is the latest member of the sports world to endorse Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president of these here United States and someone for whom Nicklaus has designed golf courses. 

“I like what Donald has done. I like that he’s turning America upside down,” Nicklaus told Jim Axelrod in a “CBS Sunday Morning” interview. “He’s awakening the country. We need a lot of that.

Nicklaus said his business experiences with Trump, who attended the ceremony when Nicklaus was honored with a Congressional Gold Medal a year ago, had been positive and that he “didn’t want to get political about this.” Reluctantly, he said he knows how he is likely to vote in November even though he says Trump probably isn’t “as smooth or as politically correct as he should be.”

I like the guy. He’s a good man,” Nicklaus said. “And certainly — if he’s the one that’s on the ticket, I’ll be voting for him.”"