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A Long Way From Home

After living for 10 years with his family in upstate New York, Kevin learned he was being deported. An undocumented migrant, he was taken to a detention center in New York City, from which he worked to gather evidence and legal assistance for his case. Then he was transferred to New Mexico. Kevin told Human Rights Watch of the difficulties this caused him. Records and evidence were not transferred; he had no local connections through which to find reliable legal counsel.

Kevin’s story is not unique. In 2008 U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials arrested and detained more than 375,000 undocumented immigrants, held in more than 300 detention facilities nationwide.


Unlike U.S. citizens, I.C.E. detainees do not have the right to face trial in the jurisdiction in which they were first detained. While I.C.E. must transfer some detainees to avoid overcrowding and unsafe conditions, the increasing frequency with which these transfers occur is cause for concern. Between 1999 and 2008, 1.4 million detainee transfers were processed, 53 percent of them between 2006 and 2008. The transfers separate detainees from familiar legal, financial and familial resources and too often result in confusion, isolation and even wrongful deportation.

Like Kevin, many detainees are moved to remote locations with little warning and without time to notify family members or legal counsel. Regulations regarding these transfers must be tightened and enforced. The I.C.E must uphold the laws of the United States, but not at the cost of human rights.

Hell on Wheels

A Brooklyn neighborhood recently witnessed the installation of a dedicated bicycle lane to protect two-wheeled commuters and recreational cyclists. Conflict ensued when the local Hasidic community complained that in addition to disobeying traffic laws, the immodestly clad cyclists were offending their religious sensibilities. City officials responded by sandblasting away the bike lane markings, only to find them repainted overnight by a guerilla public-works operation. The search for the culprits led transportation officials to YouTube, where a group of hipster Brooklyn cyclists had posted a video showing how they had used stencils, white paint and roller brushes to undo the work of municipal line-erasing crews. The trail led to two offenders, who eventually surrendered and were charged with vandalism of public property and criminal mischief.

A good dose of Solomonic wisdom is sorely needed to sort out the sound arguments offered by each side in this dispute. For the Hasidim, the religious prohibition against staring lustfully at members of the opposite sex is a solemn one. The cyclists make the strong case that this 14-block stretch of road is a unique direct corridor into Manhattan and would continue to carry bikers even without a protected bike lane.

One hopes a compromise can be worked out that advances bicycle safety and still maintains respect for the Hasidim. If successful accommodation of religion in this case can leave behind vandalism and the threat of litigation, maybe Brooklyn can serve as a beacon for peaceful coexistence in places where disputes involve matters more threatening than traffic lanes and Lycra.

Reaping, Sowing, Googling

Google, the behemoth search-engine company, has been quietly buying up and scanning millions of out-of-print books and “orphan books,” that is, books whose copyrights or owners cannot be found. Google Books hopes to bring greater access to millions (perhaps billions) of readers and usher into the public domain the works of forgotten authors. A great deal for everyone? Not all agree. In 2005, the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers sued Google, citing copyright law. In 2008, the company agreed to share 67 percent of the revenues generated by the project with both authors and publishers.

Now Denny Chin, a federal judge in New York, has given a green light to the agreement, though complaints are still pouring in from nonprofit groups like Consumer Watchdog and Internet Archive and (big surprise) competitors like The most salient complaint is whether the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers have the right to speak for orphan books and out-of-print works. A more ominous concern is the prospect of so much intellectual material in the hands of a single corporation, no matter how efficient or benign. Should Google have the right to disseminate and control the work of thousands of authors? (Wouldn’t the Library of Congress be a more natural online repository for American books?) Should Google make a profit from work they neither wrote, nor edited, nor published? (Much more equitable is a venture like Project Gutenberg, a volunteer-based organization that provides “downloadable” books with expired copyrights at little or no charge to the user.) We should keep an eye on Google, which seems to be reaping where it did not sow.

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michael baland
9 years ago
"A more ominous concern is the prospect of so much intellectual material in the hands of a single corporation, no matter how efficient or benign." All this time I thought it was the Jesuits who were trying to rule the world, and it turns out to be Google!
Fred Horgan
9 years ago

First - I'm sitting here smiling out loud having read Michael's comment. 

I believe the googleization (it is a word by now, is it not?) of out of print/orphaned books is a good thing. 

There are still copyright protections in place and if an author or her heirs experience, or even believe they are experiencing, an infringement of their rights, there are avenues for redress, perhaps even better now that the Guild and the AAP are involved as arbiters.  As far as the Library of Congress goes ... it would take eons and bundles of cash ... now all they need do is reference Google.

Meanwhile, a work that becomes popular (even again) because of its search-ability on Google may in fact reap benefits for the author.

We should open the books and, even more importantly, open our borders.


9 years ago

As an IT professional for almost 5 decades, I must dispute "reaping where it did not sow" in re Google. Capturing information is quite expensive.  One of the reasons electronic payment processing (my area of interest for the last 1.5 decades) has progressed as it has is the increasing efficiences brought about by capturing a transaction at point of initiation "with all its clothes on", i.e. with all available details, and using that information all along the process.

By synergy, using that as the hermeneutic, the issue of information/documentation and those at risk of deportation, is that there is little or no "automation"/information capture/storage in the ICE process - it is still working in the past, (pardon the pun) the ice ages as it were.

Back to the first item, the problem with both the Google project and Project Gutenburg is a lack of synergy.  In Google's case, it is due to the paradigm they use for information organization.  In the latter's case, from what little I have seen, it is due to the form they store information in.  In either case, the lack of a method of annotation and collaboration (such as provided in a primative way by wikis like WikiPedia).  As much as I use your site, it also lacks that method, which limits its usefulness.

9 years ago
Re Hell On Wheels: Men, since Adam, have pointed the finger at women when it comes to their own lack of moral fiber. Women rightfully object against their characterization as scheming temptresses of men and where they are not oppressed and threatened they actively respond.
Yet, it is true that the response is too often in the form of an overreaction that disregards the sacredness of their human person. Given the breakdown of the respect for life that pervades our society and the use of sex in advertizing to satisfy our unquenchable greed it is no wonder that the sense of the sacredness of the human person is blunted. If and when society ever acknowledges the sacred dignity of each person and demands that that dignity be honored and protected it will have to be the women who lead us there.
Jesus deplored lusting as much as do the Hasidim - but he didn't blame the women.
Philip Williams
8 years 10 months ago

This is a test

this is bold

this is italic

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this is safari


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