Americans Donating Frequent Flyer Miles To Reunite Immigrant Families


Ross D. Franklin/AP

❝ While hundreds of families separated at the US–Mexico border under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy remain apart, a Michigan woman has inspired people to help reunite loved ones by donating their frequent flyer miles.

Beth Wilensky, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School, tweeted on Tuesday that her donation had brought a 3-year-old boy detained in Michigan and his father back to their family.

“My husband travels a lot,” she wrote. “Downside: he’s gone a lot. Upside: frequent flyer miles. We just used some to fly a 3-year-old and his dad, who had been separated at the border, from Michigan (where the son had been taken) to their extended family.”

❝ …She had donated to Michigan Support Circle, a group working locally to reunify families, as well as provide them with essentials during what can be a drawn-out, bureaucratic process. Wilensky also directed people to Miles 4 Migrants, a group that reunites refugees around the world with family they’d been separated from because of conflict and persecution.

Already, Miles 4 Migrants has received 5.8 million donated airline miles.

Just another thing you can do to prove there still are Americans who are people of conscience.

Canada’s Harper forced to address death of refugees like Aylan Kurdi


Click to enlargeThe body of Aylan Kurdi on a Turkish beach

This is an image that must not be forgotten. Like the image of a young VietNamese girl fleeing the napalm that burned her body, like the image of an infant alone in the rubble of Nanjing, terrible moments in an uncaring world are critical to history.

I apologize if I have offended anyone.

Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, has been forced to defend his government’s record on refugees after it emerged that a Syrian boy whose body washed ashore in Turkey this week had family in Canada.

Shocking images of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s s body lying face down in the surf not far from Turkey’s fashionable resort town of Bodrum captured the world’s attention and appeared on the front pages of newspapers worldwide.

His older brother Galip, five, and mother also died while trying to reach Europe.

Reports that Canada had rejected an asylum application by members of the boy’s family quickly made the tragedy a major issue in the country’s federal election campaign and forced the Conservative leader to change his schedule to address the controversy.

In a tearful news conference in British Columbia on Thursday, Aylan’s aunt, Tima Kurdi, described their father Abdullah’s desperate struggle to keep his young sons from drowning after their boat capsized.

Seeing Aylan was no longer alive “he closed his eyes and let him go”, she said, sobbing. “They didn’t deserve to die. They wanted a better life.”

Contrary to earlier reports, Tima, who has been in Canada for 20 years, said she had not sponsored Abdullah and his family as refugee claimants but instead had tried to bring in another brother, Mohammed, and his children.

She said he is currently in Germany after his bid was rejected…

At a campaign stop, Harper…addressed the Kurdi family’s tragedy, calling it blah, blah, blah…

According to the department of citizenship and immigration, Canada has resettled a total 2,374 Syrian refugees, the majority of them through private sponsorship.

The Conservative Canadian government hasn’t done enough. Which is what most thoughtful human beings expected.

Our own government, between a White House consumed with election tactics and a Congress ruled by bigots and white nativists only concerned with turning the clock back to the 18th or 19th Century, will only offer solutions profitable to our own arms industry. Every question must be answered with a gun. Every problem can be solved with a bomb.

Canadian airport provides really low cost aid to returning travelers

A Nova Scotia airport is offering travelers parked in the long-term lot shovels to dig their cars out of the 35 inches of snow that fell on the area this week.

Halifax Stanfield International Airport spokeswoman Ashley Gallant said the airport is providing shovels for travelers returning from vacation to find their vehicles have been buried in snow.

Gallant said the snow has led to a lack of parking spaces, as many of the vacant spots have yet to be plowed.

Not how I would handle it; but, better than nothing. And it ain’t my airport, anyway.

Displaced people numbers worldwide are the highest since World War 2

More than 50 million people were forcibly uprooted worldwide at the end of last year, the highest level since after World War Two, as people fled crises from Syria to South Sudan, the U.N. refugee agency said on Friday.

Half are children, many of them caught up in conflicts or persecution that world powers have been unable to prevent or end, UNHCR said in its annual Global Trends report…

The overall figure of 51.2 million displaced people soared by six million from a year earlier. They included 16.7 million refugees and 33.3 million displaced within their homelands, and 1.2 million asylum seekers whose applications were pending.

Syrians fleeing the escalating conflict accounted for most of the world’s 2.5 million new refugees last year, UNHCR said.

In all, nearly 3 million Syrians have crossed into neighbouring Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, while another 6.5 million remain displaced within Syria’s borders…

Afghan, Syrian and Somali nationals accounted for 53 percent of the 11.7 million refugees under UNHCR’s responsibility. Five million Palestinians are looked after by a sister agency UNRWA.

Most refugees have found shelter in developing countries, contrary to the myth fuelled by some populist politicians in the West that their states were being flooded, Antonio Guterres said.

“Usually in the debate in the developed world, there is this idea that refugees are all fleeing north and that the objective is not exactly to find protection but to find a better life.

“The truth is that 86 percent of the world’s refugees live in the developing world,” he said…

The EU bloc has harmonised its asylum system, but the 27 member states still differ in how they process refugees and in their approval rates for asylum applications, he said.

A record 25,300 unaccompanied children lodged asylum applications in 77 countries last year, according to UNHCR.

Republicans and other blivets in the United States characterize pretty much all refugees as someone coming to the United States to steal a job. I’m not clear on how they re-distort that lie to cover the children fleeing Central American gangs and economic disaster.

In truth, virtually all the child refugees streaming into the US from Central America aren’t even trying to sneak across the border. They present themselves directly to the Border Patrol at the Mexican border and ask for asylum. If they have relatives in the United States, they hope to reach out to them. Otherwise, they’re here to ask for aid and mercy – like any others displaced by violence.

Not that our media barons care to make that point.

Typhoon Haiyan


Click to enlargeKaren L Nyberg/NASA/AP

Typhoon Haiyan is photographed by the astronaut Karen Nyberg aboard the international space station. Current guesses at the number of dead in and near Leyte are at 10,000.

Any help, any charity you donate to that is active in trying to help these folks can use whatever you can give. I’d suggest the Red Cross as a place to start. But, it’s up to you. Between CCTV and Al Jazeera, the scenes of disaster are truly national in scope. Wherever you live in the West, your networks will start to catch up with what has happened in the Philippines.

Remember Superstorm Sandy


A homeowner who is part of America, not the Confederacy — REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

An American flag is seen on the window of a door at the Breeezy Point community, which was damaged by hurricane Sandy in October 2012 in the borough of Queens in New York — photo taken October 28, 2013.

If you live in Oklahoma or Colorado and your Congresscritter voted against aid for the folks devastated by Sandy – but, they begged up for aid for you after a tornado or flood – please, give them what they deserve for being hypocrites and scumbags.

Vote ’em out of office and tell them to get an honest job!

Monster tornado devastates Moore, Oklahoma


A woman carries her child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School
Click to enlargeAP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

A huge tornado with winds of up to 200 miles per hour tore through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore on Monday, ripping up at least two schools and leaving a wake of tangled wreckage as a dangerous storm system threatened as many as 10 U.S. states.

Television video showed tracts of homes destroyed, cars tossed about and piled atop one another, and at least one building on fire. Rescue workers were pulling third-graders from a severely damaged elementary school in Moore, a KFOR television reporter said from the scene, and aerial video showed first responders sifting through the rubble left behind…

The National Weather Service assigned the twister a preliminary ranking of EF4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, meaning the second most powerful category of tornado with winds up to 200 mph.

The massive twister struck at the height of tornado season, and more were forecast. On Sunday, tornadoes killed two people and injured 39 in Oklahoma.

The number of deaths continues to climb. I had to stop watching the TV reporting. Firemen at the elementary school say their work is now “search and recovery” – no longer search and rescue.

Witnesses said Monday’s tornado appeared more fierce than the giant twister that was among the dozens that tore up the region on May 3, 1999, killing more than 40 people and destroying thousands of homes. That tornado ranked as an EF5, meaning it had winds over 200 mph…

The 1999 event ranks as the third-costliest tornado in U.S. history, having caused more than $1 billion in damage at the time, or more than $1.3 billion in today’s dollars. Only the devastating Joplin and Tuscaloosa tornadoes in 2011 were more costly…

Estimates at the scene from those who experienced that 1999 tornado say the affected area was 2 or 3 times larger today. Probably 30 square miles of nothing left in one piece.

I’d like to offer a special note aside from the immediacy of this disaster. Americans who retain a traditional open heart to people in trouble always offer a helping hand. The modern exception being the cruel, heartless fools, the rightwingers in the various Tea Party cells around the country – and in Congress. You know who I mean. The kind of lowlifes who fought against providing aid to victims of Hurricane Sandy unless it was “balanced” by cutting Social Security and Medicare.

That despicable attempt was thwarted in Congress – eventually – by joint resistance from Democrats and a few traditional Republicans who haven’t forgotten how to be Americans. I’d like to note that Tom Cole is the Congressional Republican who represents the people of Moore, Oklahoma – and he was one of the few who joined with Democrats to send federal aid to survivors of that terrible superstorm.

They ain’t all sonsabitches in Washington, DC.

Congress skips Sandy recovery – not important enough for Republicans to care about

king-hurricane-sandy

Just as the fiscal-cliff negotiations are drawing to a close, a fresh controversy is brewing in the House of Representatives after Republican leadership decided they will not vote during the 112th Congress on a bill to provide supplemental aid to victims of Superstorm Sandy.

Both Republicans and Democrats lashed out at Republican leadership for what one Republican called a “personal betrayal,” after it was decided that the bill would not be considered until the 113th Congress, which convenes at noon Thursday.

“For the Speaker to just walk out is inexcusable,” Rep. Peter King (R-NY-Long Island) told reporters. “It’s wrong, and I’m saying that as a member of the Republican Party.”

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said in a short statement: “The Speaker is committed to getting this bill passed this month.”

That assurance was not enough for the members of districts affected by Sandy.

After Hurricane Katrina, Congress had special funds on the way to aid victims of that disaster within 10 days. Though the White House had a bill passed by the Senate just as quickly, House Republicans have refused to allow a vote on aid for Hurricane Sandy victims and communities for over 9 weeks, now.

“I feel it is a personal betrayal,” Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY-Staten Island) said. “But I think more importantly, when you parse out all the politics, the people of this country that have been devastated are looking at this as a betrayal by the Congress and by the nation, and that is just untenable and unforgivable…”

The House had originally planned to consider a two-step bill that would start with $27 billion in supplemental aid, but also include an amendment worth an additional $33 billion. The bill had been split to allow conservative Republicans to vote for a base level of additional aid, but not the entire package, which many Republicans said did not entirely go to those affected by Sandy.

The Senate passed a bill on Dec. 28 by a vote of 61-33 that would provide $60.2 billion in additional aid to victims of Superstorm Sandy. During that vote 12 Republicans voted for the measure, but only after a replacement amendment that would have stripped $35 billion from the bill failed to pass.

An emotional King went so far Wednesday to urge residents of New York and New Jersey to halt donations to his own party in the House as a result of the chamber’s inaction.

“I’m saying right now, anyone from New York or New Jersey who contributes one penny to congressional Republicans is out of their minds,” he said on Fox News. “Because what they did last night was put a knife in the back of New Yorkers and New Jerseyans. It was an absolute disgrace.”

Folks have to realize the Party-formerly-known-as-Republican does not consider itself a party of all the people, not even a party of all the nation. Just as they embrace only policies and ideology befitting the bigots of the Confederate States of America, they come down on questions of aid to fellow Americans in times of need as unnecessary. Physically as well as philosophically, they are the new party of the Confederacy.

NRC report outlines how climate change may affect our military

Climate change is accelerating, and it will place unparalleled strains on American military and intelligence agencies in coming years by causing ever more disruptive events around the globe, the nation’s top scientific research group said in a report…

The group, the National Research Council, says in a study commissioned by the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies that clusters of apparently unrelated events exacerbated by a warming climate will create more frequent but unpredictable crises in water supplies, food markets, energy supply chains and public health systems.

Hurricane Sandy provided a foretaste of what can be expected more often in the near future, the report’s lead author, John D. Steinbruner, said in an interview.

“This is the sort of thing we were talking about,” said Mr. Steinbruner, a longtime authority on national security. “You can debate the specific contribution of global warming to that storm. But we’re saying climate extremes are going to be more frequent, and this was an example of what they could mean. We’re also saying it could get a whole lot worse than that…”

Climate-driven crises could lead to internal instability or international conflict and might force the United States to provide humanitarian assistance or, in some cases, military force to protect vital energy, economic or other interests, the study said…

In other words, states will fail, large populations subjected to famine, flood or disease will migrate across international borders, and national and international agencies will not have the resources to cope…

Mr. Steinbruner said that as the need for more and better analysis is growing, government resources devoted to them are shrinking. Republicans in Congress objected to the C.I.A.’s creation of a climate change center and tried to deny money for it. The American weather satellite program is losing capability because of years of underfinancing and mismanagement, imperiling the ability to predict and monitor major storms.

Know-nothings who pass off their ideology as a new conservatism really should get an honest job. Meanwhile, our military tries planning for a future already challenged by a degraded environment.

Questions of revising military responsibilities should be part of the larger strategy of drawing back wasted money from the military budget. Instead of funding assault vehicles, funds would be better spent on repurposing the thousands of vehicles already purchased to invade far-off lands. Instead of doubling, tripling the cost of constructing stealthy littoral patrol boats, we could increase utility and cut costs with designs capable of serving search-and-rescue operations – followed by useful time as construction headquarters for rebuilding coastal communities. Building good will for the United States instead of hatred and contempt ain’t exactly a daring experiment.

Not so incidentally, shutting down several hundred facilities designed to support expeditionary legions – means dollars saved and troops brought home. We need some nation rebuilding here in North America. 50% to 95% of the cost of maintaining troops abroad, combat zone or not, goes away when those troops return to American soil. Hardly anyone other than pimps and theme park bar-owners will be sad to see us go.

Those Congressional know-nothings? One thing they do care about more than their holy ideology is the holy dollar. That’s why they don’t care to learn about 4th generation warfare or redesigning our military to achieve rather than destroy. And they don’t care about science and satellites – when they have campaign funding guaranteed by oil companies cranking out profits from both the Persian Gulf and the Permian Basin.