October 15, 2018 in 2,051 words

3,121 desperate journeys
Exposing a week of chaos under Trump’s zero tolerance

They came to the US seeking a better life. They ended up behind bars. Thousands of documents analyzed by the Guardian provide the most comprehensive picture yet of what happened to immigrants prosecuted under the Trump administration’s zero tolerance policy.

On 6 April 2018, the US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, issued a memo to federal prosecutors along the US-Mexico border directing them “to adopt immediately a zero-tolerance policy” for violations of a federal law barring “improper entry” into the country. “You are on the front lines of this battle,” Sessions wrote, as if rallying his troops against an invading army.

Over the next six weeks, the collateral damage of the Trump administration’s policy was revealed: some 2,654 children were taken from their parents or guardians in order to fulfill the mandate that they be prosecuted for a criminal misdemeanor. As of 27 September, 219 children whose parents had already been deported remained in government custody.

Zero tolerance pushed serious fraud, drugs and weapons trafficking offences out of the courtroom to make way for the flood of people whose only crime was crossing the border. Between March and June, federal prosecutions referred by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the five districts along the south-west border rose by 74%, from 6,368 to 11,086.

Today the Guardian publishes analysis of documents from more than 3,500 criminal cases filed by border district federal prosecutors during a single week of the zero tolerance policy: 13-19 May.

The three-month investigation, the most comprehensive analysis to date of the experiences of thousands of migrants entering the US during that period, shows how:

  • Zero tolerance churned thousands of migrants through an assembly-line justice system with copy-and-paste criminal complaints converted to hastily accepted guilty pleas.
  • Just 12.8% of the criminal cases filed by federal prosecutors were the kind of serious crimes – corruption, fraud and trafficking – that citizens expect federal prosecutors to pursue.
  • Sentence lengths for migrants charged with the same crimes varied dramatically depending on the state where they were arrested.

The court documents shine a spotlight on the migrants’ perilous journeys and the extreme lengths immigration enforcement goes to intercept them. They also reveal the lack of documentation created when children were torn away from families at the point of arrest – a shocking omission.

A new dashboard tracks real-time extremist hate online


Track how racist rallies like Charlottesville get started.

In May 2016, two groups of protesters gathered outside a mosque in Houston. One, bearing guns and Confederate flags, was railing against the “Islamization of Texas.” The other was protesting the protest.

Both sides had one thing in common: They had unwittingly gone there at the behest of Russian trolls on Facebook.

A tool launched today aims to give new insight into how this kind of manipulation—whether stemming from US or foreign actors—spreads online, by monitoring over 1,000 of the most active extremist accounts on Twitter. The Exploring Hate Online dashboard tracks the most popular topics, hashtags, articles, and links being shared and discussed by far-right accounts. It was developed by the New America think tank and the Anti-Defamation League, and shared exclusively with Quartz.

“These are influencers. These are people who are reaching millions of people on Twitter and other networks, and we need to understand what they’re talking about in real-time so we can start to have an impact and blunt their tactics and nefarious operations,” says Dipayan Ghosh, a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School and former tech policy advisor in the Obama administration, who helped develop the dashboard.

The tool is not aimed at enforcement, but at helping communities—ranging from academics to government to major tech companies—get a better understanding of extremism networks.

A Mexican Man’s Fatal Journey to Reclaim His American Life

Everything that was dear to Adrián Luna was in a small town in Idaho, and when he was deported, he died trying to find it again.

Belinda Luna, the librarian in this outpost in Idaho farm country, still shakes when she remembers a visit one day a little more than a year ago to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Idaho Falls. An immigration official informed her husband, right in front of her and their children, that he was being deported to Mexico.

“He told my husband to hug his family one last time,” said Ms. Luna, 41, wiping away tears as she stared at a video of the episode her daughter recorded on a cellphone. “Can you imagine the sadness for a father to be humiliated like that? That was the day my life began to fall apart.”

Her husband, Adrián Luna, 45, was a construction worker who had followed his star at age 18 to eastern Idaho, a bastion of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the famous Idaho potato. He worked hard, paid taxes, raised a family. Ensnared in the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown and deported after that day in 2017 to Mexico, Mr. Luna lost no time in planning his return to the place where everything he understood as home resided: Wife, children, residence, job, friends, church. Obligations that did not go away with an order from an immigration court.

His wife got the news from her brother-in-law one day in July: Her husband’s body had been found deep in the California desert. He had made a desperate bid to come home to her, but had not survived the perilous trek. A team of volunteers, along with a reporter and a photographer from The New York Times, had found him.

5 Ancient Discoveries That Prove We’ve Evolved Into Wimps

The most vicious MMA fighter alive today might be pretty damn tough … but evidence shows that, compared to our ancestors, he’s about as intimidating as a Montessori kid wearing an anime backpack. Don’t believe us? Then how about …

5. A 1,300-Year-Old Skeleton With A Bitchin’ Knife Hand

Today in great ways to open your horror movie screenplay, archaeologists in the mid-1980s were digging up an ancient necropolis in Verona, Italy when they stumbled upon a skeleton with an amputated hand, buried with an iron knife. Recently, they decided to take a closer look at ol’ stumpy and found evidence that the knife was his hand. We’re talking an ancient Merle from The Walking Dead here, made even more impressive by the fact that this guy lived around the 7th century, when mankind had barely figured out toilet paper.

Eight inches lower and the mystery would have taken an entirely different direction.

The man had calluses consistent with the uses of a prosthesis on his stump, and his teeth were worn down in a way that suggests he used them to tighten the straps on his hand-blade. He was part of a Germanic tribe known as the Longobards, who were known for their scrappiness, and was somewhere in the area of 50 or 60 when he died (so, like, 240 years old by today’s standards). How exactly he perished remains a mystery, but our top guesses are 1) badass fight to the death and 2) nose-picking incident.

By the way, the original excavation also found a horse without a head, which they hopefully also replaced with a giant knife.

The physics of why we don’t have solar-powered cars


A nice idea, eclipsed by reality.

The nuclear furnace at the center of solar system powers almost everything on earth. Photosynthesis, wind, and even fossil fuels (once decomposed living matter) all derive in some way from the star we call the Sun.

So why isn’t it enough to power our cars?

It’s all about energy density: how much energy falls on a surface relative to how much is consumed. We can have solar powered e-bikes that cover thousands of miles, sailboat drones that cross oceans, even ultra-light aircraft that circumnavigate the globe. What do they have in common? They’re all very light, slow, and consume a trickle of electrons. Solar panels generate just enough electricity to keep them moving.

For anything weighing thousands of pounds, like a car, the energy equation is daunting. A few intrepid carmakers are slapping solar panels on their vehicles anyway. Few have gotten very far. The German startup Sono Motors is adding 330 integrated solar cells on the roof, sides, and rear to give its vehicle a 30-km boost out of a 250-km (155-mile) battery range. Meanwhile, Dutch startup behind LightyearOne claims its electric car will “charge itself.” Although it has yet to unveil a vehicle, potential customers can put down deposits for a €119.000 ($157,000) car promising to travel 10,000 to 20,000 km per year (6,200 to 12,400 miles) on its solar panels alone.

New Zealand bird of the year: ‘drunk, gluttonous’ kererū pigeon wins

Often heard before it is seen, the kererū has been known to fall out of the odd tree after too much fermented fruit.

A native green and bronze wood pigeon with a taste for fermented fruit has been named the 2018 bird of the year in New Zealand.

The kererū is endemic to the country and can be found in both the North and South islands, living in cities as well as rural areas. Although quiet and reclusive by nature, kererū have earned a reputation as the drunkest bird in New Zealand, and been known to fall from trees after consuming rotting fruit left lying on the ground. During the summer when fruit is in abundance drunk kererū are sometimes taken to wildlife centres to sober up.

Described by conservation group Forest and Bird as “clumsy, drunk, gluttonous and glamorous,” the Kererū population is not endangered, but is vulnerable to attacks by predators such as feral cats and stoats, and also competes with possums for food.

Kererū play a vital role in dispersing the seeds of native New Zealand species such as karaka, miro, tawa and taraire across large areas, because they are one of the few birds large enough to swallow the fruit whole.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

Following the alarming disappearance of a Saudi journalist and political dissident, John Oliver examines America’s uncomfortably comfortable relationship with Saudi Arabia.

THANKS to HBO and Last Week Tonight for making this program available on YouTube.

After Brett Kavanaugh’s controversial confirmation to the Supreme Court, Fox News gins up fear among their viewers by casting peaceful protests as violent, angry mobs.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.

These Canada Geese know full well they’re causing a huge traffic jam by slowly crossing the highway one at a time. Ugh! Geese are jerks.

THANKS to The Comedy Network and The Beaverton for making this program available on YouTube.

金魚鉢に入るまる。もはや芸術。Maru gets into the goldfish bowl. It is already art!


Psychologists who studied shame around the world say it’s an essential part of being human


No man is an island.

There’s a school of thought that says shame is a social construct: We only learn to feel inadequate and exposed because our particular culture sends us messages about what falls outside the realm of acceptability.

But an international group of psychologists and anthropologists are putting forward an entirely different theory: Perhaps shame is universal—an evolved mechanism that helps us avoid behavior that would make our social group stop valuing us. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, these researchers suggest that shame may be “a basic part of human biology.”

“Human foragers are obligately group-living, and their high dependence on mutual aid is believed to have characterized our species’ social evolution,” the researchers write. “It was therefore a central adaptive problem for our ancestors to avoid damaging the willingness of other group members to render them assistance. Cognitively, this requires a predictive map of the degree to which others would devalue the individual based on each of various possible acts.” In other words, our sense of shame arises from our ability to accurately predict which traits or actions will make other people think less of us—a skill that’s been important for human survival.

To investigate this theory, the researchers, led by Daniel Sznycer, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Montreal, looked at 15 extremely different societies around the world, each of which was picked because it has—by today’s standards—little contact with other social groups.

Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?