April 21, 2017 in 2,325 words

Torn apart: the American families hit by Trump’s immigration crackdown

The president promised to target ‘bad hombres’ such as drug traffickers and killers for deportation but many affected have no or minimal criminal records

Francisco Rodríguez, 25, is seen in the gym at the elementary school where he works in Portland. Oregon.

‘Bad hombes.’ Those are the people Donald Trump says he is targeting for deportation under his immigration policy – the people he calls “illegal aliens”, the gangbangers, violent criminals and drug dealers who threaten public safety and undermine national security.

But a very different pattern is emerging on the ground. In communities from Maryland to California and Oregon, immigration lawyers are reporting that individuals are being picked up with minimal or no criminal records who pose no risk at all to anyone.

More than 90% of removal proceedings initiated in the first two months of the Trump administration have been against people who have committed no crime at all other than to be living in the country without permission. Early figures on deportation arrests show that the number of people with no criminal record who have been picked up has doubled, dragging people who were previously considered harmless into the deportation net.

William Stock, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, said that Trump had clearly widened the focus, emboldening federal agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) in turn to expand their activities. “The Trump administration has expanded deportation priorities to anyone with a removal order, even where there are good reasons not to execute it.”

Bruce Coane, an immigration attorney operating out of Florida and Texas, pointed to a gulf between Trump’s rhetoric and practice. “The president says one thing and his homeland security officials in the field do something different. He says he is focused on serious criminals but Ice is deporting anyone who is undocumented.”

Fear, anxiety and sleepless nights. The cold war terrors have returned

Perestroika and detente were supposed to remove the shadow of nuclear war from generation X. Now it’s back with a vengeance.

Can anyone believe that protecting human life on Earth is the priority for someone who threatens nuclear North Korea with something unanswerable and then pops off to Mar-a-Lago for some golf?

The new nightly ritual is this: we’ve made a pact not to check social media in bed. I get my dollops of US news on the couch beforehand, shared from American friends on Facebook and usually captioned in tones of worldly disgust, tired sadness or sickened shock at how the US president is wielding his weapons of war.

Political commentators on Twitter are at least maintaining a thunderousness to their reporting, but it’s the acts of the president that echo in my head. The “mother of all bombs” pounded into Afghanistan, really? A casual obliteration of a Syrian airfield, you’re sure? Threats to North Korea? North Korea? And Thursday, Trump’s out provoking Iran.

So each night, the attempt is to fold the world into the rubber flap of my iPhone case and somehow fall sleep. Anxiety, however, doesn’t pack away so well. Since the election of Donald Trump, my brain runs electric with potential catastrophe even as it should just fade to black.

Is There a Russian Mole Inside the NSA? The CIA? Both?

The latest leak by the Shadow Brokers hackers exposed classified information that could only have come from within the NSA, setting the stage for a Cold War ritual—the mole hunt.

A message from Vladimir Putin can take many forms.

It can be as heavy-handed as a pair of Russian bombers buzzing the Alaska coast, or as lethal as the public assassination of a defector on the streets of Kiev. Now Putin may be sending a message to the American government through a more subtle channel: an escalating series of U.S. intelligence leaks that last week exposed a National Security Agency operation in the Middle East and the identity of an agency official who participated.

The leaks by self-described hackers calling themselves “the Shadow Brokers” began in the final months of the Obama administration and increased in frequency and impact after the U.S. bombing of a Syrian airfield this month—a move that angered Russia. The group has not been tied to the Kremlin with anything close to the forensic certitude of last year’s election-related hacks, but security experts say the Shadow Brokers’ attacks fit the pattern established by Russia’s GRU during its election hacking. In that operation, according to U.S. intelligence findings, Russia created fictitious Internet personas to launder some of their stolen emails, including the fake whistleblowing site called DCLeaks and a notional Romanian hacker named “Guccifer 2.0.”

An Alt-Right Filmmaker’s Descent into Madness, Paranoia, and Murder-Suicide

The documentary ‘A Gray State’ examines the story of David Crowley, an Iraq veteran and alt-right filmmaker whose paranoia consumed him.

Donald Trump’s embrace of Alex Jones and his InfoWars outlet has gone a long way toward legitimizing the alt-right fringe, a space rife with conspiracy theories about the corruptness of the national media and the dictatorial schemes of the federal government. The fact that Jones is now declaring (in a custody battle with his ex-wife) that his on-screen persona is “performance art” changes little about the despicable, corrosive nature of his work, which has included claiming the 9/11 attacks were an inside job and the Sandy Hook massacre was a “false flag” incident with child “actors” (not to mention all that “Pizzagate” nonsense). Together, Jones and Trump (and Trump’s right-hand buddy, former Breitbart bigwig Steve Bannon) have helped stoke the flames of anti-establishment “fake news” extremism—and as Erik Nelson’s A Gray State makes clear, that sort of fanaticism can lead to tragic consequences for all involved.

Executive produced by Werner Herzog (whose Grizzly Man, Encounters at the End of the World, and Cave of Forgotten Dreams were exec-produced by Nelson), A Gray State focuses on David Crowley, a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who, in 2010, was inspired to become a moviemaker. His project was Gray State, the story of a near-future dystopia in which the U.S. government has followed through on its (currently in-progress) plans to transform America into a nation of oppressive martial law. Police militias execute dissidents in the street. Kids are branded like cattle. All civil liberties are crushed under the boot of the tyrannical corporate war machine. “Gray State is less a movie than it is a warning,” David is heard saying in a promotional video. Moreover, he cautions, “the thing that you have to begin to understand about conspiracy theory is that, at some point, it’s no longer theory.”

Everywhere Indian engineers are unwanted

Shut the door. Throw away the key.

Donald Trump’s message to bring jobs back to America has been loud and clear, but by no means is it new. With the rise of nationalist sentiment around the world, countries from the west to the east have been making moves to weed out the foreign worker population for years now.

Here’s a look at some of the windows of opportunity that are being shuttered.

The “America first” fever

On April 18, Trump signed an executive order to overhaul America’s H-1B program, which allows foreign employees to work in the US for up to six years.

Trump’s “Buy American, Hire American” directive will force Indian IT firms—the top sponsors of visas from India—to rethink their recruitment models. Industry bigwigs like Infosys, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), and Wipro, have been prepping for these restrictive measures for nearly a decade now with the knowledge that ramping up local hiring amidst America’s chronic skills shortage could prove to be a challenge.

Scientists are getting close to reversing age-related memory loss with young blood

Young Blood

Blood from umbilical cords may be medicine’s fountain of youth—at least for mice.

The blood from the cord that connects fetuses to their mothers during pregnancy contains compounds that scientists believe reverses some of the effects of aging, like memory loss. In a paper published (paywall) in Nature Communication on April 19, researchers from Stanford University announced they’ve identified which specific chemicals have these memory-sharpening effects. They believe that one day, these proteins may be able to help people with neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s.

In this study, the research team looked at the effects of the liquid part of human blood, called plasma, on mouse brains. The team gave shots of blood plasma from three different sources—people aged 61-82, 19-24, and newborn infants’ umbilical cords (with consent from their parents)—to older mice every four days for two weeks.

Swinging in soon to destroy us: Robot apes

Ape Bots

You hear something rustling in the trees above you. You keep running, unsure of how to escape, just trying to outrun whatever is coming for you. You look over your shoulder and you catch a glimpse of it swinging from branch to branch. You shouldn’t have looked back, it’s now all over. The beast swings down, descending on you, and humanity’s hopes fade as the life drains from your eyes.
When the robot uprising begins, we’ll now have to worry about ape-like bots that can swing through trees with the ease of a gibbon raining down upon us. Much like the robot cheetahs, bats, hornets, ostriches, and myriad other robot animals scientists are already working on, we may one day be doomed by our desire to mimic what occurs naturally in the world.

Neuralink and the Brain’s Magical Future

Last month, I got a phone call.

Okay maybe that’s not exactly how it happened, and maybe those weren’t his exact words. But after learning about the new company Elon Musk was starting, I’ve come to realize that that’s exactly what he’s trying to do.

When I wrote about Tesla and SpaceX, I learned that you can only fully wrap your head around certain companies by zooming both way, way in and way, way out. In, on the technical challenges facing the engineers, out on the existential challenges facing our species. In on a snapshot of the world right now, out on the big story of how we got to this moment and what our far future could look like.

Not only is Elon’s new venture—Neuralink—the same type of deal, but six weeks after first learning about the company, I’m convinced that it somehow manages to eclipse Tesla and SpaceX in both the boldness of its engineering undertaking and the grandeur of its mission. The other two companies aim to redefine what future humans will do—Neuralink wants to redefine what future humans will be.

The mind-bending bigness of Neuralink’s mission, combined with the labyrinth of impossible complexity that is the human brain, made this the hardest set of concepts yet to fully wrap my head around—but it also made it the most exhilarating when, with enough time spent zoomed on both ends, it all finally clicked. I feel like I took a time machine to the future, and I’m here to tell you that it’s even weirder than we expect.

But before I can bring you in the time machine to show you what I found, we need to get in our zoom machine—because as I learned the hard way, Elon’s wizard hat plans cannot be properly understood until your head’s in the right place.

So wipe your brain clean of what it thinks it knows about itself and its future, put on soft clothes, and let’s jump into the vortex.

What lurks beneath

The grand drama of Freud’s ideas has obscured the reality: every school of psychology needs a theory of the unconscious

Towards the end of 1892, ‘Miss Lucy R’, a pale and delicate English governess living in Vienna, made her way to the surgery of a young neurologist on Berggasse 19 for the treatment of a ‘suppurative rhinitis’. Miss Lucy was tired, in low spirits and complained of ‘a muzzy head’. And though she had lost her sense of smell, she was endlessly tormented by the smell of burnt pudding.

Sigmund Freud was 36 years old when he began attending to Miss Lucy. Trained at the Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris by the great neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot, Freud had already published monographs on hypnosis, epilepsy, and cocaine, which he continued to self-administer for ‘vitality and capacity for work’. Now he was applying his able and imaginative mind to the mystery of hysteria – whose bewildering array of symptoms were still considered hereditary ‘stigmata’. Upon examining the 30-year-old governess, he found her physically healthy, save for her nose’s insensitivity to touch. What struck him most about this case was the recurrent smell of burnt pudding.

Freud rejected the possibility of an organic explanation, even though acrid or burning smells are commonly associated with migraines, epilepsy and sinus infections. Instead, he deduced that Miss Lucy’s hallucination was a ‘memory-symbol’, a psychic trace standing in for a forgotten or repressed trauma, possibly related to sexual seduction or abuse. ‘What I suspect,’ he told her bluntly, ‘is that you are in love with your master, the director, perhaps without being aware of it yourself, and that secretly you are nursing the hope that you really will take the place of the mother.’

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

Behold Donald Trump’s vanity.

Together, Stephen and Stoney Von Dankington discover the true meaning of 4/20.

In the perfect world, unicorns would exist and Starbucks’ unicorn frappuccinos would cease to.

THANKS to CBS and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert for making this program available on YouTube.

In honor of 4/20, Trevor breaks down how Attorney General Jeff Sessions is ramping up enforcement of marijuana laws and makes the case that President Trump is always high.

Max is using his anger management to deal with red m&m.

Because nobody ever robbed a 7-Eleven on pot. Presented by ATTN: and HBO.

THANKS to ATTNHBO and Real Time with Bill Maher for making this program available on YouTube.

Tired of being tired? Here are some helpful tips!

Ed. More tomorrow. Probably