Category: Opinion

Orbital Spin: Damage To The International Space Station Soyuz Reentry Craft Becomes Vehicle For Anti-American Propaganda

On August 30th, the International Space Station experienced an unexpected and much reported upon loss in pressure due to a puncture in the Soyuz reentry capsule attached to it.

The 2 millimeter hole was quickly found by cosmonauts and patched with multiple layers of a resin intended for this purpose.

Rumors in certain Russian news services erupted, claiming deliberate sabotage by American astronauts on board, usually citing unknown or anonymous sources.  Even major players in the Russian science community, such as the internationally recognized space news source Sputnik offered old Soviet style innuendo and misdirection intended to encourage distrust, even hostility, toward America.

Sputnik reported,  for example:

The situation around a hole in the fabric of a Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft, docked to the International Space Station (ISS), is more complicated than it was expected, Dmitry Rogozin, the chief of the Russian space agency Roscosmos stated.

Dmitry Rogozin, the chief of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, confirmed that a commission of Russia’s Energia Rocket and Space Corporation had failed to determine the origin of the hole yet.

“The results that we have received fail to provide an objective image [of the situation] to us. Further work will be continued by a commission created by the [Roscosmos] corporation itself. The situation is far more difficult than we have expected,” Rogozin told reported.

Rogozin refused to comment on media reports alleging that US astronauts could have been responsible for the emergence of the hole on Soyuz.

A source told Sputnik on Thursday that an internal investigation, held by Energia, which is the spacecraft manufacturer, showed that the hole had been deliberately made by a drill bit. The company, however, failed to identify the perpetrators.”

In fact, Rogozin commented on his Facebook page that, “The recent gossip and rumors circulating about the incident at the ISS hinder the work of Roscosmos experts and are designed to subvert the friendly relations among the crew members of the space station.”

“All statements citing unnamed sources are inadmissible until Roscosmos special commission concludes its work,” the CEO stressed.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov said earlier in the day that it was inadmissible to accuse either Russian or American ISS crewmembers of the incident since “it is a unified crew with no political disagreements whatsoever.”

TASS,  the Russian News Agency, published an article seeming  seeking to mitigate the rumors, but then reinforced them, noting

Russia’s Kommersant daily reported on Tuesday citing its unnamed sources that the Roscosmos probe was considering, among other likely causes of the damage to Soyuz, deliberate actions by US astronauts, who in this way wished to speed up their return home.

According to the newspaper, the astronauts might have drilled the hole because one of the crew members was unwell. Urgent evacuation of all crewmembers would allow for getting full treatment, while the compartment where the hole was found would have burned down in the atmosphere. Roscosmos said it would refrain from making comments on the issue until the special probe reported its findings.

The Russian cosmonauts who repaired the damage, stopped the leak and averted a potential disaster merit recognition, international recognition and respect. Russia’s advances and contribution to both the ISS and science in general are significant and largely on par to ours or anyone’s at this stage.  Many, no most, of those accomplishments are largely unknown outside the scientific community, a fact which is unfortunate, unnecessary, and should be corrected.  However, such accomplishments are diminished when, in instances like this one, where after members of the Russian media often loudly accuse their American counterparts of ill-conceived political spin, they themselves jump blindly off the creditability cliff.

Pot, kettle and all of that.

TASS, Sputnik and the Russian media corps should consider the reputations of their admirable and praise worthy scientific community, and the sabotage they often do to it with such “reporting”.

American hands aren’t completely clean on this issue. Our press can be easily agitated and unapologetic when it makes mistakes, but come on, we’ve yet to accuse, however indirectly, Russian cosmonauts of deliberately endangering the lives of their fellow scientists, as well, it should be noted, as their own.

-The Sentinel

 

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Prison Reform On Uncertain Ground In 2018

One has to wonder if Congressional dysfunction has reached a breaking point.

Imagine legislation that was drafted with the help of presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner and, unsurprisingly, supported by President Trump himself. Imagine that this same bill is supported by such stalwarts of “The Resistance” as the Urban League and the Equal Justice Initiative, and also backed by prominent conservative groups such as FreedomWorks and the Faith and Freedom Coalition. The Koch brothers and Grover Norquist are advocates, and so is liberal commentator Vann Jones. In fact, imagine a bill so bipartisan that it passed even this deeply divided House on a 360–59 vote.

That legislation would be the “FIRST STEP Act,” a prison-reform bill. And, this being Washington in 2018, it is almost certainly not going to become law. Indeed, it looks doubtful that the Senate will even vote on it.

The FIRST STEP Act is hardly radical. It doesn’t reduce inmate sentences or otherwise deal with the intensely punitive approach to justice that has given the United States the world’s largest per capita prison population. Nor does it remedy the ongoing racial issues that continue to infect our criminal-justice system.

Instead, it would make a number of extremely modest humanitarian reforms to the way we treat prisoners. For example, it would make female health products more available in federal prisons and all but end the practice of shackling female inmates during childbirth. It would try to keep inmate families together by expanding visits, phone privileges teleconferencing, and opportunities to transfer to prisons closer to home. It would increase mental-health and substance-abuse treatment for inmates.

It would also provide a modest $250 million over five years for new inmate-education and -rehabilitation programs, and establish incentives (including time credits) for prisoners to participate. Prisons would also be required to conduct “risk assessments” of soon-to-be-released inmates and to tailor programs to meet these inmates’ needs.

Over the long run, most experts believe the legislation would save money. For example, studies have shown that every dollar spent providing needed mental-health and substance-abuse treatment to inmates ultimately saves taxpayers $1.27 to $5.47 in reduced crime and incarceration costs. One should always be skeptical of claims that government spending will save money, but this initiative clearly passes the common-sense test. Similarly, keeping families together is likely to reduce future welfare costs as well as crime. And since nearly all prisoners will eventually be released, programs to reduce recidivism are also likely to prove cost-effective.

So why is such a modest and humane bill almost certain to die?

In part, the FIRST STEP Act is a victim of the infighting and turf protection that helps explain Congress’s 18 percent favorability rating. Senator Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), who as chairman of the Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over the bill, favors a much more expansive bill, the Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act, which he is co-sponsoring with Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat. Grassley and Durbin are insisting that the FIRST STEP Act be rolled into their bill. But their legislation, which is indeed worthwhile, is being blocked by Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell because the White House won’t sign off on some provisions. In the meantime, prison reform goes nowhere.

An even more significant roadblock is being provided by Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), who opposes nearly all efforts at criminal-justice reform. Senator Cotton, one of the few Americans who believe we have an underincarceration problem, in his words, has mounted an effective guerrilla campaign to undermine the bill’s support on the right. For example, Cotton is reportedly pushing law-enforcement groups to oppose the bill. His efforts have been drawing fruit. Recently the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association withdrew its endorsement of the bill after being pressured by Cotton’s office. Republicans, always fearful of being called “soft on crime,” will find it difficult to buck law enforcement.

Complaints about congressional gridlock are often exaggerated. The Founders intended legislating to be slow, deliberate, and challenging. But when even commonsense legislation with broad bipartisan support can’t so much as get a vote, one has to wonder if congressional dysfunction has reached a breaking point.

There is one possible way that this innovative bill could make it through Congress and onto the President’s desk. If determined members of the Senate refuse to vote in the upcoming confirmation of the candidate to fill the current Supreme Court vacancy there may be enough pressure to move the opposition out of the way.  Senators Cotton and McConnell both have vested interest in seeing a smooth confirmation hearing, and stand to lose critical local support in their home states and from the administration if their actions cause unnecessary delays or, worse, derail the confirmation entirely.

It’s a weak foundation  for prison reform advocates to stand on, but uncertain ground is better than having no place to stand at all.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions Turns Asylum On It’s Ear – Moving To Expel Rape & Violence Victims

“The asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune,” Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III wrote as he moved to further restrict U.S. acceptance of immigrants by ruling Monday that fear of domestic abuse or gang violence is not an acceptable basis for granting asylum. Ripping discretion, once again, from local authorities.

Sessions wrote a formal legal opinion, exercising his authority to overturn decisions by federal immigration judges, but not on a case-by-case basis as would normally be done, and finding that very real cases of repeated rape, sexual slavery and viable threats of murder – often against young people who have just watched their parents murdered before them – are not grounds for asylum, ever.

“The mere fact that a country may have problems effectively policing certain crimes — such as domestic violence or gang violence — or that certain populations are more likely to be victims of crime cannot itself establish an asylum claim.”

He acted in the case of a woman from El Salvador who entered the U.S. illegally in 2014 and sought asylum, claiming that her husband repeatedly abused her “emotionally, physically and sexually.”

Under U.S. and international law, a person may seek asylum based on past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution because of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. Four years ago, an immigration court recognized “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship” as such a social group.

In overturning that ruling, Sessions said it did not conform with the requirements of federal law that a social group must have well-defined characteristics that are socially distinct. The claims of the woman in this case, who said her social group was “El Salvadoran women unable to leave their domestic relationships where they have children,” did not fit the law’s requirements, he said.

“I do not minimize the vile abuse that the respondent reported she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband or the harrowing experiences of many other victims of domestic violence around the world,” Sessions said. “I understand that many victims of domestic violence may seek to flee from their home countries to extricate themselves from a dire situation or to give themselves the opportunity for a better life. But the asylum statute is not a general-hardship statute.”

Advocates for immigrants immediately condemned the ruling.

“We’re not talking about chronic illegal immigration, and this isn’t a defense against a hoard of unwashed heathens swarming our boarders,” opined Michael Spillan, a Sentinel Justice Contributor. “Asylum for women and children who have been and will be subjected to a life of actual physical and sexual slavery is a humanitarian act.”

“I find it dichotomous that we have in President Donald Trump a chief executive so in touch with the will of his base and yet an Attorney General as out of touch with reality itself as Jeff Sessions”

Beth Werlin of the American Immigration Council said it would “result in sending countless mothers and children back to their abusers and criminal gangs. Turning our backs on victims of violence and deporting them to grave danger should not be the legacy sought by any administration.”

Earlier Monday, in a speech to Justice Department immigration lawyers in Tysons Corner, Virginia, Sessions said the asylum system is being abused and “was never meant to alleviate all problems, even serious problems, that people face every day all over the world.”

He said that the number of asylum claims jumped to 94,000 in 2016, compared with 5,000 in 2009, and that only about one-fifth of claims in the past five years have been found to be justified.

The Sentinel has stood strongly against illegal immigration, and will ever continue to do so.  That being said, we are likewise opposed to “one-size-fits-all” cooker cutter type “zero tolerance” policies such as AG Sessions continually attempts to effect.

The Attorney General’s “Kill’em all, let God sort’em out” discretion stripping approach to government, justice, immigration and probably life itself is disturbing.

The People of the United States, through our elected representatives, have spent two and a half centuries building a corps of intelligent, educated and we’ll trained professionals who have been tasked with the job of making determinations, on a case-by-case basis, about who and how life changing decisions impacting the lives of  people within our nation should be made.

Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III has, since his first week in office, moved to strip Congressionally mandated discretionary authority away from those federal professionals, the ones living and working in our local communities, in order to vest it apparently in himself.

He has moved consistently, acting by fiat, to rip case-by-case discretion away from our neighbors, the local United States Attorneys, the local immigration judges, and other people we have direct access to, other people who we trust to understand the needs of our communities – ones they share with us – better than career bureaucrats in Washington.

The Sentinel is a conservative new source, and stands opposed, firmly opposed, to any act by AG Sessions, to dismantle the authority given to our friends and neighbors to determine what’s right and needed in our local communities and replace that authority with his own brand of un-American extremism.

And unlike Mr. Sessions, we do not believe that legitimate fear of rape and murder constitute “misfortune”.

AG Sessions Restricts Administrative Closure Of Immigration Proceedings

 On Thursday, May 17, 2018, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III issued a 26-page opinion and order in Matter of Castro-Tum, Respondent, 27 I&N Dec. 271 (A.G. May 17, 2018), restricting immigration judges from administratively closing cases before they issue decisions.  Sessions’ new order says “the current practice of administrative closure lacks a valid legal foundation”:

I hold that immigration judges and the Board do not have the general authority to suspend indefinitely immigration proceedings by administrative closure.  Accordingly, immigration judges and the Board may only administratively close a case where a previous regulation or a previous judicially approved settlement expressly authorizes such an action.

Where a case has been administratively closed without such authority, the immigration judge or the Board, as appropriate, shall recalendar the case on the motion of either party.

As reported by the New York Times here, the order “is unlikely to reopen all the cases” that are currently administratively closed, but it “injects fresh uncertainty in the lives of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.”

The Sentinel is strongly opposed to illegal immigration into our great nation.  That opposition does not, however, limit concern for unnecessary restrictions being placed on our Administrative Law Judges, who work daily in the trenches, carefully reviewing each case before making individualized decisions regarding the particular merits of each case.

AG Sessions’ action takes authority away from the experienced men and women in our ALJ corp and places it in an absolutionism of regulation without the standards of public notice, review and consideration and review that Federal Regulations are required by law to have.

Actions such as this, promulgation of regulation by fiat, lead to despotism, which the Sentinel, though a Republican owned publication, stands firmly against, administratively mandated “zero tolerance policies” which strip officials of their congressionally granted discretion offend the American citizen’s duly constituted and ratified liberty based governmental model and should not br allowed to stand.

Homeland Security Will Now Refer 100% Of Illegal Southwest Border Crossings For Prosecution

Yesterday, Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III delivered remarks in San Diego, California discussing immigration enforcement actions of the Trump Administration.

Here are some highlights from the Attorney General’s remarks:

Today we are here to send a message to the world: we are not going to let this country be overwhelmed.

****

That’s why the Department of Homeland Security is now referring 100 percent of illegal Southwest Border crossings to the Department of Justice for prosecution.  And the Department of Justice will take up those cases.

I have put in place a “zero tolerance” policy for illegal entry on our Southwest border.  If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you.  It’s that simple.

If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you.

If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law.

If you make false statements to an immigration officer or file a fraudulent asylum claim, that’s a felony.

If you help others to do so, that’s a felony, too.  You’re going to jail.

     ****

In order to carry out these important new enforcement policies, I have sent 35 prosecutors to the Southwest and moved 18 immigration judges to the border.  These are supervisory judges that don’t have existing caseloads and will be able to function full time on moving these cases.  That will be about a 50 percent increase in the number of immigration judges who will be handling the asylum claims.

Previously, the Attorney General sent a memorandum to all federal prosecutors on April 11, 2018, titled Renewed Commitment to Criminal Immigration Enforcement , detailing new charging-practice policies in immigration cases. A Statement from DHS Press Secretary on April Border Numbers, released May, 2018, echoes the Attorney General’s remarks, warning: “If you enter our country illegally, you have broken the law and will be referred for prosecution.  DHS has zero tolerance for those who break the law and will no longer exempt classes or groups of individuals from prosecution.  Whether you are a single adult or an adult member of a family unit, if you are apprehended you will be prosecuted and put in removal proceedings.” The U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s border migration numbers for April 2018 are here.

As The Sentinel Sees It:

The Sentinel is deeply concerned with the matter of illegal immigration and serious criminal acts involved with human smuggling across the borders of our great land.

We are likewise concerned about the overreaching nature Mr. Sessions past acts, both in the Senate and as our Attorney General and worry that this most current action will not reduce the number of people desperate to reach our country, but will instead increase their desperation, risking the lives of our troops and border agents.

Criminal prosecution zero tolerance policies take charging discretion away from the local United States Attorneys, who are put in place specifically for the purpose of determining, on a case-by-case basis, what the appropriate action is in any given situation.

These men and woman are selected carefully, not just for their extensive legal experience, but also for their awareness of the needs of their local communities.  The exercise of their discretion and common sense help keep our justice system, if not perfect, one of best in the world.

Zero tolerance policies and Washington based mandates don’t only call into question the level of trust Attorney General Sessions has in our nation’s U.S. Attorneys, it also questions his respect for our entire system of justice and the will of the American people.

This matter extends well beyond the important question of immigration into other essential areas.  Stripping the United States Attorneys of their charging discretion on this issue could well lead to a loss of it on others until, ultimately, only bureaucratic absolutes from the District remain.

The Sentinel stands firm on the importance of recognizing and addressing criminal conduct, but urges AG Sessions and President Trump to review this “zero tolerance” mandate and return charging authority to were it belongs, in the hands of the experienced men and women the President appointed and the Senate confirmed to make such decisions.

 

 

– The American Sentinel Newsletter