Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz interviewed by UN’s human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein


Geoffrey West: What is complexity in the cosmos?


Humanity consumes Earth’s resources in ever greater destructive volumes

The Guardian reports:

Humanity is devouring our planet’s resources in increasingly destructive volumes, according to a new study that reveals we have consumed a year’s worth of carbon, food, water, fibre, land and timber in a record 212 days.

As a result, the Earth Overshoot Day – which marks the point at which consumption exceeds the capacity of nature to regenerate – has moved forward two days to 1 August, the earliest date ever recorded.

To maintain our current appetite for resources, we would need the equivalent of 1.7 Earths, according to Global Footprint Network, an international research organisation that makes an annual assessment of how far humankind is falling into ecological debt. [Continue reading…]

After being held by the U.S. govt, children returned to their parents covered in dirt and lice

PBS reports:

Last week, Democratic attorneys general in 17 states and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration, arguing that its family separation policy violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fifth Amendment. Now, in a new filing, they’re asking the federal government to provide more immediate information and access to those detained under the policy on an “expedited schedule.”

The motion filed Monday came with more than 900 pages of declarations that included personal testimonies from parents, children and other family members who were directly impacted by the Trump policy. It also included declarations from the state attorneys general offices, elected representatives, advocates and child and immigration experts who have dealt with families separated at the border.

Trump signed an executive order on June 20, halting the separation practice and ordering families to be detained together instead. But in a statement, the attorneys general criticized the administration’s response. “Hundreds of separated parents are in federal custody and the Administration can move them to other facilities at any time without notice,” they said in the statement.

The PBS NewsHour reached out to the federal agencies involved in the separation of families at the border — the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services; U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement — for a response. All said they were unable to comment on ongoing litigation. The Department of Justice also declined to comment.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday the agency was prepared to reunite separated children with their parents, and would prioritize children under age 5 starting next week. But Azar, speaking to reporters, said families that have been reunited could still experience long stays in detention.

It’s unclear how the lawsuit filed by the attorneys general would impact the administration’s efforts to reunify separated families.

The NewsHour read through all 99 declarations and pulled 12 that offer a window into what’s has been happening under the family separation policy.

What parents say

“(My son) is not the same since we were reunited. I thought that, because he is so young he would not be traumatized by this experience, but he does not separate from me. He cries when he does not see me. That behavior is not normal. In El Salvador he would stay with his dad or my sister and not cry. Now he cries for fear of being alone.”

— Olivia Caceres was separated from her 1-year-old son in November at a legal point of entry. The boy’s father, who was seeking asylum, remains detained, Caceres said. It took three months for Caceres to get her son back from government custody. According to her testimony, she said that after reuniting with her toddler, “he continued to cry when we got home and would hold on to my leg and would not let me go. When I took off his clothes he was full of dirt and lice. It seemed like they had not bathed him the 85 days he was away from us.”

“They told me to sign a consent form to take my daughter, but that it did not matter whether or not I signed, because they were going to take her either way.”

— Angelica Rebeca Gonzalez-Garcia was apprehended and separated from her 7-year-old daughter in May. She hasn’t seen her since. She said officers at the border told her she would never see her daughter again, and that she had “‘endangered’ her by bringing her here,” she wrote. “I cannot express the pain and fear I felt at that point,” she wrote. Gonzalez-Garcia said she has spoken by phone to her daughter, who is currently in a shelter and said that she had been hit by a boy, was bruised and had gotten sick there.

“…One of the officers asked me, “In Guatemala do they celebrate Mother’s Day?” When I answered yes he said, “then Happy Mother’s Day” because the next Sunday was Mother’s Day. I lowered my head so that my daughter would not see the tears forming in my eyes. That particular act of cruelty astonished me then as it does now. I could not understand why they hated me so much, or wanted to hurt me so much,” she wrote as part of her statement. [Continue reading…]

Americans make up 4% of global population while owning 40% of the world’s firearms

AFP reports:

Americans make up only four percent of the global population but they own 40 percent of the world’s firearms, a new study said Monday.

There are more than one billion firearms in the world but 85 percent of those are in the hands of civilians, with the remainder held by law enforcement and the military, according to the Small Arms Survey.

The survey, produced by the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, says it bases its estimates based on multiple sources, including civilian firearms registration data from 133 countries and territories and survey results in 56 countries.

Of the 857 million guns owned by civilians, 393 million are in the United States – more than all of the firearms held by ordinary citizens in the other top 25 countries combined. [Continue reading…]

What’s happening in Trump’s America is as evil and criminal as what happened to me and my siblings in Nazi Europe

Yoka Verdoner writes:

The events occurring now on our border with Mexico, where children are being removed from the arms of their mothers and fathers and sent to foster families or “shelters”, make me weep and gnash my teeth with sadness and rage. I know what they are going through. When we were children, my two siblings and I were also taken from our parents. And the problems we’ve experienced since then portend the terrible things that many of these children are bound to suffer.

My family was Jewish, living in 1942 in the Netherlands when the country was occupied by the Nazis. We children were sent into hiding, with foster families who risked arrest and death by taking us in. They protected us, they loved us, and we were extremely lucky to have survived the war and been well cared for.

Yet the lasting damage inflicted by that separation reverberates to this day, decades hence.

Have you heard the screams and seen the panic of a three-year-old when it has lost sight of its mother in a supermarket? That scream subsides when mother reappears around the end of the aisle.

This is my brother writing in recent years. He tries to deal with his lasting pain through memoir. It’s been 76 years, yet he revisits the separation obsessively. He still writes about it in the present tense:

In the first home I scream for six weeks. Then I am moved to another family, and I stop screaming. I give up. Nothing around me is known to me. All those around me are strangers. I have no past. I have no future. I have no identity. I am nowhere. I am frozen in fear. It is the only emotion I possess now. As a three-year-old child, I believe that I must have made some terrible mistake to have caused my known world to disappear. I spend the rest of my life trying desperately not to make another mistake. [Continue reading…]

Thousands of children are imprisoned across Africa. They need justice

Graça Machel writes:

The legendary editor of the Guardian newspaper CP Scott famously declared in 1921 that “Comment is free, but facts are sacred”. Unfortunately, when it comes to hard evidence on how many children are locked up in prisons, detention centres, migrant and refugee camps, rehabilitation units or other institutions across the world, the facts are more scarce than sacred.

There is no single source of accurate data for these figures and estimates vary widely between 15,000 and 28,000 in Africa alone, but common sense dictates that the numbers are likely to be worse than even the highest approximations.

The UN Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty – due to be presented to the general assembly this September – aims to address this data gap.

Whatever the numbers, no child should be kept in prison. Detention should only ever be used as a last resort, and then only for the shortest possible time. [Continue reading…]

What matters

Owen Flanagan writes:

In “The Strange Order of Things” Antonio Damasio promises to explore “one interest and one idea … why and how we emote, feel, use feelings to construct our selves; how feelings assist or undermine our best intentions; why and how our brains interact with the body to support such functions.”

Damasio thinks that the cognitive revolution of the last 40 years, which has yielded cognitive science, cognitive neuroscience and artificial intelligence, has been, in fact, too cognitive, too rationalist, and not concerned enough with the role that affect plays in the natural history of mind and culture. Standard stories of the evolution of human culture are framed in terms of rational problem solving, creative intelligence, invention, foresight and linguistically mediated planning — the inventions of fire, shelters from the storms, agriculture, the domestication of animals, transportation systems, systems of political organization, weapons, books, libraries, medicine and computers.

Damasio rightly insists that a system with reason, intelligence and language does nothing unless it cares about something, unless things matter to it or, in the case of the emerging world of A.I., things matter to its makers. Feelings motivate reason and intelligence, then “stay on to check the results, and help negotiate the necessary adjustments.”

In an earlier book, “Looking for Spinoza,” Damasio developed the concept of conatus — drive, will, motive, urge — as the taken-for-granted force or catalyst that puts reason, creative intelligence and language to work. If there were no feelings, he adds now, there would be no art, no music, no philosophy, no science, no friendship, no love, no culture and complex life would not aim to sustain itself. “The complete absence of feeling would spell a suspension of being.” [Continue reading…]

David Miliband: World must step up support for Rohingya refugees

The Guardian reports:

David Miliband has called on the international community to step up its support of Rohingya refugees in southern Bangladesh before the monsoon.

During a visit to the refugee camps, the former UK foreign secretary said the issue must be discussed at the G7 meeting in Quebec, Canada this week, saying there was “real fear” among the refugees about the rainy season.

Miliband, the chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, said the positioning of the refugee camp would have serious implications during the monsoon.

“The first thing that strikes me is the sheer scale,” Miliband said. “Some 600,000 people in a camp, albeit one with subdivisions in it, is twice the size of the world’s largest refugee camp. The scale is huge. Secondly, I’ve never seen a refugee camp built on such uncertain territory.”

Humanitarian agencies are rushing to improve structures and roads in the hilly campsite. Massive deforestation occurred in the area as the refugees created shelters after fleeing from Myanmar during the crisis last summer, leading to a serious risk of floods and landslides in the camps. [Continue reading…]

Five myths about the refugee crisis

Daniel Trilling writes:

The refugee crisis that dominated the news in 2015 and 2016 consisted primarily of a sharp rise in the number of people coming to Europe to claim asylum. Arrivals have now dropped, and governments have cracked down on the movement of undocumented migrants within the EU; many thousands are stuck in reception centres or camps in southern Europe, while others try to make new lives in the places they have settled.

But to see the crisis as an event that began in 2015 and ended the following year is a mistake, because it obscures the fact that the underlying causes have not changed. To see it in those terms only gives the impression of a hitherto unsullied Europe, visited by hordes of foreigners it has little to do with. This is misleading. The disaster of recent years has as much to do with immigration policies drawn up in European capitals as it does with events outside the continent, and the crisis also consists of overreaction and panic, fuelled by a series of misconceptions about who the migrants are, why they come, and what it means for Europe.

The European Union has perhaps the world’s most complex system to deter unwanted migrants. Since the 1990s, as borders have come down within Europe, giving most EU citizens free movement and passport-free travel, its external frontier has become increasingly militarised. Amnesty International estimates that, between 2007-2013, before the crisis, the EU spent almost €2bn on fences, surveillance systems and patrols on land or at sea.

In theory, refugees – who have the right to cross borders in search of asylum under international law – should be exempt from these controls. But in reality, the EU has tried to prevent asylum seekers from reaching its territory wherever possible: by closing down legal routes, such as the ability to claim asylum at overseas embassies; by introducing penalties for transport companies that allow people to travel into the EU without the correct documents; and by signing treaties with its neighbours so they control migration on the EU’s behalf. And within the EU, an agreement called the Dublin regulation forces asylum seekers to apply in whatever country they reach first. [Continue reading…]