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IACHR Expresses Deep Concern over the Deaths of Two Migrant Children in the Custody of Immigration Authorities in the United States

ZETA.- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expressed its deep concern over the death of two Guatemalan migrant children who were in the custody of the Border Patrol in the United States. The IACHR urges the United States government to investigate the circumstances that led to these deaths and to take all measures necessary to guarantee that all migrants under its jurisdiction enjoy the rights to life, integrity, and health, particularly when these migrants are children or other vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

As is widely known, seven-year-old Guatemalan girl Jakelin Caal Maquin died on December 8. The girl and her father had been detained by US Border Patrol authorities as they were crossing the desert in New Mexico. The girl was initially received for processing at the Antelope Wells border patrol post. According to her father and the Guatemalan consular official who is following the case, the girl showed no symptoms of illness during her journey to the United States or at the time of her arrest. According to official reports, on the way from the Antelope Wells post to the Lordsburg post, her father told officers that she was feeling ill and was vomiting. After being taken by air ambulance to Providence Children’s Hospital in El Paso, she went into cardiac arrest at around 11 AM on December 7 and was resuscitated by the medical team. According to official sources, the girl was suffering from brain swelling and kidney failure when she died at 12:35 AM on December 8.

The IACHR has also received information on the death of eight-year-old Guatemalan boy Felipe Gómez Alonzo on December 24, the second case in which a migrant child has died in the custody of US Border Patrol authorities in less than three weeks. According to publicly available information, the boy was arrested on December 18 and was taken to the El Paso post on December 22. On Monday, December 24, the boy allegedly began to show symptoms of illness. He was taken to the Gerald Champion Hospital, where he was diagnosed with common flu. He remained in observation for less than two hours and was then discharged with a prescription for medication. That same afternoon, he was readmitted to the hospital and died just before midnight.

The IACHR wishes to stress that, in accordance with international human rights standards, the United States of America has an obligation to prevent human rights violations. The Commission also deems it necessary to point out that US authorities must consider the individual circumstances of migrants and asylum-seekers at and near its international borders, paying particular attention to vulnerable individuals, such as children and teenagers, pregnant women, the elderly, and people with disabilities, among others, who should be provided with special protection and personalized assistance that takes their rights and needs into account.

The IACHR is of the opinion that in border areas, it is the duty of state authorities to provide immediate assistance to migrants and asylum-seekers, and that this assistance must specifically include medical assistance, adequate food and water, clothing, blankets, personal hygiene supplies, and opportunity to rest. As part of operations to intercept migrants and control migration at international borders, it is the duty of state authorities to prioritize medical and health screenings for migrants and asylum-seekers. This implies that competent medical personnel must be present in places where migrants and asylum-seekers are intercepted or detained in order to examine them and refer them for further medical attention, including mental health referrals, when appropiate.

The IACHR acknowledges the following measures, which were announced by the US Border Patrol on December 26, in the aftermath of the two deaths described above: medical examinations for all children and teenagers who are currently being held by immigration authorities, provision of accommodation outside detention centers, and a general review of the protocols for caring for children and teenagers at the border. In relation to the latter, the IACHR urges the United States to consider the findings of two of its reports, "Human Mobility: Inter-American Standards" (2016) and "Refugees and migrants in the United States: families and unaccompanied children" (2015), the Advisory Opinion No. 21/14 of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on the rights and guarantees of children in the context of migration and/or in need of international protection, as well as in the "OHCHR’s Recommended Principles and Guidelines on Human Rights at International Borders" (2014).

The IACHR wishes to remind states that they cannot deprive children who are with their parents or those who are unaccompanied or have been separated from their parents of their freedom as a way of preventing them from migrating. Likewise, they cannot base such arrests on a failure to comply with the requirements to enter and remain in the country, on the fact that the child is alone or has been separated from their family, or to guarantee that the family is reunited. States can and must seek less harmful alternatives while also prioritizing the comprehensive protection of the rights of the child.

Commissioner Esmeralda Arosemena de Troitiño, rapporteur on the rights of the child, said: “The tragic deaths of Jakelin and Felipe are an urgent call to action to end the detention of children and adolescents for migratory reasons. The immigration detention of children is never in children’s best interests and runs counter to international legal standards. These two cases clearly demonstrate why we need to put an end to the immigration detention of children.” Commissioner Luis Ernesto Vargas Silva, rapporteur on the rights of migrants, stated: “The deaths of these two children once again highlight the risks that the use of immigration detention poses to children’s well-being. We need to be aware that many of the children who reach the US border are fleeing from violence, inequality, and discrimination in their countries and have also faced multiple other forms of violence and trauma during their journeys. This implies that states must necessarily adopt special measures to protect them and provide them with personalized assistance, which in practice translates into measures such as guaranteeing immediate medical assistance for children who are arrested at the border.”

Commissioner Margarette May Macaulay, rapporteur for the United States and president of the IACHR, added: “the state must carry out an impartial, independent investigation to clarify the circumstances in which these two young children died and to determine responsibility for their deaths. The state must also provide the parents and relatives of the two deceased children with the reparation that legal authorities deem appropriate. This case is about the life of two small children who were in the custody of US authorities. They cannot simply be written off as just another two deaths—the state must take the necessary steps to reform its protocols, practices, and any other measures needed to prevent these events from happening again.”

The IACHR urges the US government to conduct an independent investigation into the deaths of Jakelin Caal Maquin and Felipe Gómez Alonzo and to seek alternatives so as to end the detention of children and adolescents on the basis of their immigration status.

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Scientists puzzle over the mystery of a beluga pod spotted near Ireland

ARCTICTODAY.- While preparing a new report on protected marine species in Irish waters, researchers spotted animals not usually seen off the coast of Ireland: three beluga whales.

The mammals’ typical range is in the Arctic Ocean, but they sometimes head south to sub-Arctic waters to avoid freeze-up. The Atlantic waters of Ireland, however, are further south than usual for the whales.

This is only the third sighting of beluga whales in Irish waters, and the first time a pod has ever been spotted there.

Typically, sightings of belugas that far south mean the animals have taken a wrong turn somewhere, researcher Mark Jessopp explained. But there have been other recent records of beluga whales sighted in more southern waters — including a beluga in the Thames in London.

The ObSERVE Aerial research project, conducted by University College Cork and other international partners, was a government-funded survey of protected marine species conducted over two summer and winter seasons.

Trained observers flew about 600 feet above the sea to document populations of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seabirds, sharks and sea turtles.

The airplane they used was fitted with special “bubble windows” that allowed the observers to, as Jessopp put it, “stick their head out of the plane and see the sea surface beneath.”

The observers spent many hours staring at the sea to record the occurrence of any animals as the plane passed overhead, Jessopp explained.

One day in the winter of 2015-16, the researchers were in the midst of a normal survey, marking the appearance and numbers of seabirds and dolphins, when they spotted three very different mammals on the surface of the ocean.

They were about 16 feet long in length, “distinctly” white, with no dorsal fin and a bulbous shaped head. Belugas. “There is simply nothing else they could have been!” Jessopp said.

“We were exceptionally lucky to have seen this pod,” he said. Observers are only able to see about a third of a mile from the bubble windows, so the plane had to fly right over them in order to spot the whales.

“There was actually a ‘what on earth?’ moment as the observers tried to reconcile what they were seeing with the fact that belugas would not ordinarily be seen in these waters,” he said.

“While I doubt that the migration pattern of beluga has changed, the spate of recent sightings in these more southerly latitudes may be indicative of changes in the ice conditions in the Arctic,” Jessopp said.

But, he said, sightings of belugas are still rare in Irish waters. “It’s nice to know that nature can still surprise us!”
A single beluga whale swims in the River Thames near Gravesend, east of London, Britain, September 26, 2018. (Peter Nicholls / Reuters)

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Pelosi Returns as House Speaker to Face Trump Challenge

CAPITOL HILL , (Katherine Gypson-VOANEWS).- Nancy Pelosi swore the oath securing her status as the most powerful woman in U.S. political history Thursday, beginning a new era of divided government in the United States and setting up a formidable political rivalry with President Donald Trump.

Pelosi's historic second turn leading a Democratic majority as the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives marks only the second time in the last half century a speaker has returned to serve in that position.

Pelosi's continued ability to navigate the challenges of being a woman in politics — and still the only female House speaker — will inform her approach as she turns to the immediate crisis of ending a partial government shutdown.

House Democrats passed a package of six spending bills that would end the partial government shutdown by fully funding most of the impacted government agencies through Sept. 30. A separate bill funding the Department of Homeland Security — the agency that would oversee money for a U.S.-Mexico border wall — would be funded through Feb. 8.

But the U.S. Senate is unlikely to pass the House proposal, placing Pelosi in a difficult position early in her speakership. She has been adamant she will not provide Trump's requested $5.6 billion in funding for a wall the president insists is necessary to secure the southern border and prevent the flow of undocumented immigrants into the United States.

"The President is using the government shutdown to try to force an expensive and ineffective wall upon the American people," she said in a statement earlier this week. But the president said Democrats are playing politics with the battle over border security.

Trump tweeted Thursday about Democrats and the shutdown:

Tuit de Donald Trump


The government shutdown debate marks the first time Trump has faced an opposition party in power, following two years of complete Republican control of government.

Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics, said the televised Oval Office meeting between Trump, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer last month debating border security funding provided a preview of how the new House speaker will interact with the president.

Trump said Pelosi was not in a position to negotiate on border security because of her need to secure the upcoming vote for House speaker. She replied, "Mr. President, please don't characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats, who just won a big victory."

Walsh said Pelosi's approach "openly challenged" the president but did so in such a way that was "strong, clear and civil."

Pelosi secured the votes needed to win the speakership shortly afterward, but she continues to face a challenge from some members of her party who want to see Democrats take a more progressive approach.

Impeachment question

The new House speaker has also been careful to tamp down discussions of impeaching Trump while supporting House committee investigations that plan to oversee the president's business activities and contacts with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign.

But in an interview with NBC Thursday, Pelosi said, "We shouldn't be impeaching for a political reason, and we shouldn't avoid impeachment for a political reason."

Pelosi faces a delicate balancing act in the coming months, a challenge Walsh says she is well-prepared to face because of her previous turn as House speaker.

"She comes to the table with tremendous experience," Walsh said. "I think in many ways, she has been acknowledged as one of the greats, one of the most successful speakers we have seen."

Past successes

Walsh cites Pelosi's work uniting her caucus in 2010 to pass the Affordable Care Act, one of President Barack Obama's signature legislative achievements. Pelosi has also faced numerous political challenges from the Republican Party, which often singles her out as the extreme liberal face of the Democratic Party.

Pelosi is familiar with the challenges of political life. Her father was a Democratic congressman and a mayor of Baltimore, but Pelosi didn't go into politics until later in life, after having children.

"I am particularly proud to be the woman speaker of the House of this Congress, which marks 100 years of women having the right to vote," Pelosi said in remarks upon assuming the position of speaker of the House.

Pelosi will lead a Congress with a record number of female representatives, while facing a president who has been criticized for his treatment of women. The accusations of sexual assault levied against Trump, his administration's policies on reproductive rights and his appointment of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who was also accused of sexual assault, has sparked protests across the country.

Pelosi's appointment as speaker places her in the high-profile position of being the most powerful woman in the country to oppose him.

The new House speaker has never shied away from highlighting women's issues. She marked her first time in the speaker's chair in 2007, surrounded by her grandchildren and the children of members of Congress.

"She does talk about gender. She doesn't say it's been very hard for me because I'm a woman, but she talks about the difference women make when they're in office, why it's important to have them there. And she has a tremendous gender consciousness around policy issues," Walsh said.

But this time, her assumption of the speaker's chair will be different. As part of the deal to secure the votes for her nomination as speaker, the 78-year-old Pelosi agreed to a term limits deal that would cap her time in the nation's third-ranking political position at four years.

"Nancy Pelosi is one tough cookie wrapped in a package that looks like a nice lady," Walsh said. "Very poised, very gracious, with a spine of steel. And if you underestimate her — you do so at your own peril."

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CubeSats joining Hera mission to asteroid system

ZETA.- When ESA’s planned Hera mission journeys to its target binary asteroid system, it will not be alone. The spacecraft will carry two tiny CubeSats for deployment around – and eventual landing on – the Didymos asteroids. Each companion spacecraft will be small enough to fit inside a briefcase, as compared to the desk-sized Hera.

CubeSats are nanosatellites based on standardised 10 cm-sized units. Hera has room to deliver two ‘six-unit’ CubeSat missions to the Didymos asteroid system – a 780 m-diameter mountain-sized main body is orbited by a 160 m moon, informally called ‘Didymoon’, about the same size as the Great Pyramid of Giza.

The Hera mission received proposals for CubeSats from across Europe, and an evaluation board has now made the final selection.

“We’re very happy to have these high-quality CubeSat missions join us to perform additional bonus science alongside their Hera mothership,” explains Hera manager Ian Carnelli.

“Carrying added instruments and venturing much closer to our target bodies, they will give different perspectives and complementary investigations on this exotic binary asteroid. They will also give us valuable experience of close proximity operations relayed by the Hera mothercraft in extreme low-gravity conditions. This will be very valuable to many future missions.”

Paolo Martino, Hera spacecraft lead engineer adds: “The idea of building CubeSats for deep space is relatively new, but was recently validated by NASA’s InSight landing on Mars last November, when a pair of accompanying CubeSats succeeded in relaying the lander’s radio signals back to Earth – as well as returning imagery of the Red Planet.”

The first CubeSat companion is called the Asteroid Prospection Explorer (or ‘APEX’), and was developed by a Swedish/Finnish/Czech/German consortium. It will perform detailed spectral measurements of both asteroids’ surfaces – measuring the sunlight reflected by Didymos and breaking down its various colours to discover how these asteroids have interacted with the space environment, pinpointing any differences in composition between the two. In addition, APEX will make magnetic readings that will give insight into their interior structure of these bodies.

Guided by a navigation camera and a ‘laser radar’ (lidar) instrument, APEX will also make a landing on one of the asteroids, gathering valuable data in the process using inertial sensors, and going on to perform close-up observations of the asteroid’s surface material.

The other CubeSat is called Juventas, developed by Danish company GomSpace and GMV in Romania, and will measure the gravity field as well as the internal structure of the smaller of the two Didymos asteroids.

In close orbit around Didymoon, Juventas will line up with Hera to perform satellite-to-satellite radio-science experiments and carry out a low-frequency radar survey of the asteroid interior, similar to performing a detailed ‘X-ray scan’ of Didymoon to unveil its interior. The adventure will end with a landing, using the dynamics of any likely bouncing to capture details of the asteroid’s surface material – followed by several days of surface operations.

Hera is set to be humankind’s first mission to a binary asteroid system. As well as testing technologies in deep space and gathering crucial science data, Hera is designed to be Europe’s contribution to an international planetary defence effort: it would survey the crater and measure orbital deviation of Didymoon caused  by the earlier collision of a NASA probe, called DART. This unique experiment will validate the asteroid deflection technique referred to as kinetic impactor, enabling humankind to protect our planet from asteroid impacts.

Next, the two CubeSats will have their designs refined and interfaces with their mothership finalised, in line with continuing design work on the Hera mission itself, which will be presented to ESA’s Space19+  meeting towards the end of this year, where Europe’s space ministers will take a final decision on flying the mission.

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Rough Guides Announces Top Places to Visit in 2019

ZETA.- "From newly minted national parks to one-off experiences, emerging destinations and old favourites with a new spin, these are the places we're excited to explore in 2019."

The list comprises 8 top towns and cities, 6 top regions, and 5 top countries. Below is a selection of the Rough Guides picks:

Top towns/cities

1. Durban, South Africa

Durban’s subtropical climate has long made it a favoured beach resort for the residents of Johannesburg, Natal and the rest of South Africa. British Airways now fly direct from London, and with the 40th international film festival happening in 2019, this is a great year to go.

2. Dungeness, UK

While Britain ties itself in knots on the issue of our continued relationship with the EU, it might be time to remind ourselves of some of the good things about this green and pleasant land. There’s lots to do here at any time - hop on the pint-sized Romney, Hythe & Dymchurch Railway<>, visit the garden of filmmaker and artist Derek Jarman, and stop for some excellent seafood at famous Pilot Inn – but 2019 is a special year to visit as it’s the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Europe. Dungeness was a key site in Operation Pluto, delivering 700,000,000 litres of fuel to mainland Europe<> via pipeline in one of the greatest feats of engineering of the Second World War.

3. Tromsø, Norway

Iceland is busier than ever, so if you want to see the Northern Lights, you are better off heading to Tromsø, where they can be seen just as clearly. Tromsø is also one of Norway’s top culture hubs and is home to the the striking Arctic Cathedral, the Nordnorsk Kunstmuseum and Polaria, a museum dedicated to all things arctic.

Top regions

1. Yúnnán, China

If you want to explore China beyond the well-trodden route from Beijing to Shanghai, Yúnnán is a great place to start. The region is famous for its tea and flowers, as well as the Unesco-listed wooden city of Lijiang, and is now more accessible than ever - new motorways and budget airlines make it easy to criss-cross the province, while walkers and cyclists – and river cruisers – can enjoy the sights at a slower pace.

2. Iberá Wetlands, Argentina

This conservation area comprising tropical swamps, marshes, and lagoons is home to a plethora of animal species, ranging from capybaras and caimans to armadillos and over 380 different species of birds. With poaching having almost decimated the area of its natural wildlife at one point, efforts by the Conservation Land Trust have paid off, with the area having newly reached National Park status from December 2018. And why not time your visit to with the total solar eclipse? It will be visible in certain parts of the country including Buenos Aires (but not the Iberá Wetlands themselves) on 2 July, 2019.

3. Reeks District, Ireland

Kerry<> has been on the tourism map for so long, it’s easy to be jaded about the region’s beauty. The spectacular MacGillycuddy’s Reeks refresh the brand by taking you inside that postcard scenery. Drive, walk, hike, climb, bike, kayak or sail around the mountains and lakes of this rugged landscape encircled by the Ring of Kerry.

Top countries

1. Rwanda

Rwanda is emerging as an exciting destination for 2019, not least for visitors looking to see gorillas in the wild. And catching a glimpse of these kings of the jungle is now even easier, with new luxury lodges are having recently opened up in the area. But don’t overlook the capital, Kigali, which is emerging as an exciting, modern city containing trendy coffee shops and contemporary art galleries, but retains its traditional heritage, with traditional crafts, lively markets, and an exciting music scene.

2. Kyrgyzstan

Joanna Lumley’s 2018 ITV series has put the Silk Road back on the map and of all the countries featured, Kyrgyzstan remains one of the most undiscovered. Bordered by Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and China, it is at the very centre of Central Asia.

3. Panama

Built on a strategic squeeze point between North and South America, Panama is a meeting point for people from all over the world. The US only handed back the Canal Zone in 1999, making this Central American country arguably one of the world’s newest. And there’s plenty to see here - the Casco Viejo or Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage site. The old churches and palaces form a sharp contrast to the skyscraper skyline of modern Panama City, and picturesque ruins have been revived with Unesco’s help, and turned into coffee bars, galleries, boutiques and nightclubs.

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