China thinks it can arbitrarily detain anyone. It is time for change | Michael Caster

True… and so does the USA, Great Britain, Germany, Russia, France, Italy, it is a long list. I think perhaps Costa Rica and Canada may be the only ones not on this list.

The lack of global outcry over the detention of two Canadians virtually guarantees the next such case

Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, has called China’s detention of Canadian citizens Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor a “worrying precedent” but for many China watchers it is all too familiar.

It reminds us of the detentions of other foreign citizens, such as Canadian Kevin Garratt, Briton Peter Humphrey, Sweden’s Gui Minhai, or Taiwanese Lee Ming-che, and that over the years China has institutionalised arbitrary and secret detention affecting innumerable Chinese citizens, and with little international consequence.

Related: China detains second Canadian citizen as Huawei row intensifies

Michael Caster is a human rights advocate and researcher, author of The People’s Republic of the Disappeared, and co-founder of the human rights organisation Safeguard Defenders.

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Latinos Ascend Into Congress

By Marielena Castellanos

Forty three Latino members of Congress were officially sworn in this week with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus holding its swearing in ceremony this weekend as the 116th congressional session begins.

In light of those numbers, a report from NBC News in November said that to match the actual share of the Latinx population, about 77 members would need to be elected. In the Senate, there would need to be about 18 Latino senators. According to the Congressional Research Service, in the last Congressional session there were 46 Hispanic or Latinx members serving in the nation’s capital.

Latinos are the nation’s second largest minority with 57.5 million Latinx, about 17.8 percent of the U.S. population.

The Pew Research Center recently said Latinos made up an estimated 11 percent of all voters nationwide on Election Day, nearly matching their share of the U.S. eligible voter population.

In San Diego, four of the five members of Congress are Democrats, including incumbent Congressman Juan Vargas and newly elected Congressman Mike Levin. Incumbent Congressman Duncan Hunter, the only Republican locally, was also reelected. Hunter was also recently indicted over misusing more than $250,000 in campaign funds and attempting to hide the spending in federal records.

Congressman Vargas is already on the go and recently, along with Congresswoman Norma Torres, called for an investigation into Customs and Border Patrol agents’ use of tear gas on migrants at the border this past November.

Also headed to Congress is Democrat Mike Levin, who won in a district long held by retiring Congressman Republican Darrell Issa, which covers parts of Orange County and San Diego. Levin was raised in Orange County, and his maternal grandparents migrated as children from Mexico to Los Angeles, according to the newspaper Hawaii News Now. Levin has a number of priorities including treating immigrants with dignity. He told the newspaper he thinks there are some on the Republican side of the aisle who want to see “common-sense” immigration reform.

Another new member in Congress is 47-year-old Democrat Gil Cisneros, a first time candidate and former U.S. naval officer, who won in the 39th District in Orange County in a seat also long held by Republicans. Cisneros, who once won a $266 million lottery jackpot, said he plans to fight for more affordable health care for all. He also supports DACA and comprehensive immigration reform.

Republican Anthony Gonzalez, who is of Cuban descent, is also headed to Congress, and he is the first Latino elected to Congress from Ohio.

Texas Democrat Congressman Joaquin Castro was recently elected to serve as the chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. In an interview on CBS’s The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Castro said his brother Julián Castro, the former U.S. housing secretary and San Antonio mayor, would most likely run for president. Early in December, Julián Castro announced that he was forming a presidential exploratory committee and would make an announcement in mid-January.

Nanette Diaz Barragán, who was elected to Congress in 2016 and will serve as a new member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus leadership in the position as second vice chair.

In Texas, two Latina Democrats were elected to serve on the House of Representatives for the first time, Veronica Escobar and Silvia Garcia, who both will represent the state in Congress.

Twenty-nine year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Puerto Rican New Yorker, is the youngest woman ever elected to serve on Capitol Hill. In a recent Congressional vote for funding for President Trump’s border wall, Ocasio-Cortez criticized the passage of the bill and via Twitter explained other ways the money could be used.

The newcomer’s Twitter post said, “And just like that, GOP discovers $5.7 billion for a wall,” Ocasio-Cortez posted.

“$5.7 billion. What if we instead added $5.7B in teacher pay? Or replacing water pipes? Or college tuition/prescription refill subsidies? Or green jobs? But notice how no one’s asking the GOP how they’re paying for it,” Ocasio-Cortez also wrote.

Israel’s Nation-State Law also discriminates against Mizrahi Jews

Mizrahi academics and activists demand Israel’s High Court strike down the Jewish Nation-State Law, saying it erases their cultural legacy and perpetuates injustices against both them and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

The Kadoori, Hamias, and Ashram families sit near an improvised Shabat dinner table set near their demolished houses in Givat Amal neighbourhood, Tel Aviv, Israel, September 19, 2014. Two days passed since the third eviction of families in the neighbourhood which left 20 residents homeless without proper compensation or alternative housing solution. By: Shiraz Grinbaum/

The Kadoori, Hamias, and Ashram families sit near an improvised Shabbat dinner table set near their demolished houses in Givat Amal neighborhood, Tel Aviv, Israel, September 19, 2014. (Shiraz Grinbaum/

Over 50 prominent Israeli Jews of Mizrahi origin filed a petition to the High Court of Justice on Tuesday demanding it strike down the Jewish Nation-State Law, saying it discriminates against both Palestinian citizens and Jewish Mizrahi citizens of Israel.


According to the petition, the law, which demotes Arabic from an official language to one with “special status,” is “anti-Jewish” for excluding the history and culture of Jews from Arab and Muslim countries, “while strengthening the impression that Jewish-Arab culture is inferior…and anchoring the identity of the State of Israel as anti-Arab.”

The petition also refers to a clause in the law that establishes Jewish settlement “as a national value.” According to the petitioners, every time Israel takes it upon itself to demographically “re-engineer” the land, it harms Mizrahim by pushing them into the country’s underserved geographical periphery. This process hinders their access to highly-valued land through admissions committees, which allow communities across the country to reject housing applicants based on their “social suitability.”

Among the signatories are renowned author Sami Michael, Professor Yehuda Shenhav, Professor Henriette Dahan-Kalev, Israeli Black Panther and social justice activist Reuven Abergil, among others. (Full disclosure: the writer is one of the signatories of the petition). According to the petitioners, Mizrahim were largely excluded from the law’s formulation, despite the fact that it would affect their community’s right to preserve its heritage, and that its blatant anti-Arab bias would adversely affect Jews from Arab countries.

Following Israel’s establishment, authorities did everything they could to suppress Arab identity and culture among immigrants from Arab and Muslim countries through a forced “melting pot” doctrine, leaving them both materially and culturally disenfranchised. More than six decades ago, Israeli diplomat and Arabic scholar Abba Eban said: “The goal must be to instill in them a Western spirit, and not let them drag us into an unnatural Orient. One of the biggest fears… is the danger that the large number of immigrants of Mizrahi origin will force Israel to compare how cultured we are to our neighbors.”

Mizrahim walk around the Mamila neighborhood in West Jerusalem, 1957. Mamila, like countless other neighborhoods and communities, was empied of its Palestinian residents in the 1948 war. (GPO)

Mizrahim walk around the Mamila neighborhood in West Jerusalem, 1957. (GPO)

For 70 years, this worldview formed the basis for how Israel viewed Mizrahim. The political establishment demanded Mizrahi Jews renounce their Arab identity, while driving a wedge between them and their cultural histories. And yet, despite the establishment’s attempts at cultural erasure, expert opinions and affidavits attached to the petition show that many Mizrahim — including younger generations — continue to view Arabic as both culturally and linguistically relevant to their personal lives.

The expert opinions also seek to lay out the complex histories of Jews from Arab countries, in order to explain why the law, akin to a constitutional amendment, would be both harmful to the cultural legacy of Mizrahim and would continue to negatively affect them. According to Professor Elitzur Bar-Asher, a linguist and expert on the Hebrew language, the goal of the law is not to “strengthen Hebrew [at the expense of Arabic], but to lower its Arabic counterpart.”



In his expert opinion, Professor Moshe Behar demonstrated how Arabic was an inseparable part the Jewish intellectual world in the Middle East during the Ottoman and British Mandate periods, respectively. According to Bahar, Jewish intellectuals considered knowledge of Arabic as a necessity for all Jews in the region.

Cultural researcher Shira Ohayon described the influence of the Arabic language and its connection to the revival of the Hebrew language, poetry and Jewish liturgy, while cultural scholar and film director Eyal Sagui Bizawe noted how Jews living in Arab countries took an active part in the creation of Arab culture, and how that very culture became part of their own heritage.

The petition is an important, and perhaps revolutionary milestone in the Mizrahi struggle in Israel. Among the signatories are women and men, religious, secular and traditional, those who define themselves as Zionists and others who do not. The petitioners seek to anchor Mizrahi identity in its deepest sense by demanding our cultural and historical rights, while using all legal, academic, and moral tools to reject any attempt to isolate Mizrahi Jews from our natural environment — all for the benefit of Israel’s “melting pot” ideology.

A version of this article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

The post Israel’s Nation-State Law also discriminates against Mizrahi Jews appeared first on +972 Magazine.

Partial Government Shutdown Delays Family Reunification Process

By Alexandra Mendoza

The partial government shutdown is causing delays in the family reunification case being heard in a San Diego federal court.

Judge Dana Sabraw, who is hearing the class-action suit brought on behalf of immigrant families separated at the border, has granted a request by the Trump Administration to pause deadlines related to the lawsuit originally filed in early 2018.

The suit, brought by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) attorneys, called for the reunification of minors separated from their parents as a result in great part of the “zero-tolerance” policy implemented against illegal immigrants.

As of the most recent report, submitted in mid-December, the government had 10 minors in custody who were about to be reunited with their parents. However, the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) had an additional 151 children under their care who would not be reunited with their parents for a variety of reasons.

In the case of 84 of these children, their parents had been deported from the U.S. and had notified the government that they were waiving their right to reunification so that their children could remain in the U.S. and be released to a relative or guardian. The parents of 11 other children did the same, although these parents still remain in the country, according to the report.

It was also determined by Homeland Security (DHS) officers that 28 of the children had not in fact been separated from their parents, and the parents of 28 more were found to be a danger to the children’s well-being, mostly as a result of having a criminal background.

The Trump Administration was supposed to update the court as to the progress in the reunification process mid-January, but due to the government shutdown the attorneys assigned to the case are prohibited from working.

As a result, the Judge granted a pause in the process, with the condition that the Department of Justice (DOJ) legal team notify the court as soon as Congress reinstates funding.

The U.S. has started 2019 with 25 percent of federal employees furloughed after President Trump made good on his threat to shutdown the government unless he got $5 billion dollars in funding to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, a request that Democrats denied.

The family reunification case, made up of three class-action lawsuits, reached an agreement last November, when the Trump Administration agreed to reconsider the asylum petitions of families that had been impacted by the separation policy.

Since then, Judge Sabraw has been closely monitoring progress, and the government was supposed to submit progress reports every two weeks. The latest report indicated that 298 persons, 109 of them minors, had received documents – in most cases with a response to their petition, although the details were not included in the report.

One of the conditions being asked for by the attorneys representing these families is to establish a plan that guarantees that no more parents will be separated from their children without a path to reunification.

Indian women just did a remarkable thing – they formed a wall of protest | Snigdha Poonam


They were asserting their right to enter the Sabarimala temple in Kerala – and have given hope for women’s rights

On 1 January, in one of the biggest movements for women’s rights in India, 5 million women lined up across the length of the southern state of Kerala to “uphold Renaissance values”. What they were demanding was an end to violent agitations against women trying to enter Kerala’s Sabarimala temple, a popular Hindu pilgrimage site. This followed a ruling by the Indian supreme court in September, which forced the temple’s doors open to women of all ages in a sensational blow to religious tradition.

“Where a man can enter, a woman can also go. What applies to a man, applies to a woman,” the bench said in its judgment. Since 1991, the temple has accepted only men and older women, in their millions every year, to preserve the mythological celibacy of the ruling deity, Ayyappa. In theory, the court order only reinforced Indian women’s constitutional right to enter places of worship as freely as men, but in practice it wreaked mayhem. Between 17 November and 24 December, more than a dozen women of menstrual age, including reporters, tried to enter the temple but were stopped, shoved and stoned by mobs of male devotees. None of the women could make it in, despite police protection and prohibitory orders. Both sides are far from giving in. Protests have since continued, though most women who were sent back by the mobs have vowed to return.

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Kevin Spacey and Louis CK have been out in the wilderness. Please, let’s keep them there

your 15 minutes are up!


In case anyone has forgotten what makes this twosome so gruesome, up they pop to remind us

Whatever happened to the wilderness? People used to stay there for ages. Did it turn out to be a really inhospitable place or something?

I think we all have to ask as the huge caravan of men returning from #MeToo exile threatens to overwhelm us. Over the past week, it has been difficult to turn on the internet without seeing reports detailing this alleged crimewave’s progress. “My life is over,” declaimed comedian Louis CK to … hang on, where are my reading glasses? … a sold-out audience in Long Island. He owns a multi-million dollar estate on nearby Shelter Island, so I guess it feels as wastelandy a spot as any to unleash a set shitting all over school shooting survivors and people asking to be referred to by pronouns of their choice. But we’ll come to the courage of this material shortly.

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