Microsoft employees pissed over company's connection to ICE

Back in January, Microsoft announced that they were "proud" to support ICE. Honestly, what company wouldn't be? A U.S. federal contract, no matter how large your coffers and corporate reach might be, is a good get, due both to the amount of American lucre you'll pocket and the visuals that come from being trusted by one of the most powerful countries in the world to meet their cloud computing needs.

But hey: it isn't January anymore and Microsoft in June, 2018 is looking a little bit like IBM back in the 1930s.

Under the Trump Administration's direction, ICE and other Homeland Security entities have been busy breaking up families, emotionally scarring thousands of innocent kids, and driving their anguished caretakers into cages, or worse, to suicide. That Microsoft's Azure cloud computing services are helping such villainy along, in any capacity, might be good in the short-term, for the company's bottom line, but the optics are shit. More than this, the company's association with ICE is raising the hackles of some of their their most important assets: not their shareholders or board, but their employees.

According to Gizmodo, a number of Microsoft employees, who prefer to remain anonymous in the interest of protecting their careers, have stepped forward to report that the computer technology company's relationship with ICE has led to growing dissent among the company's workforce. When Giz questioned Microsoft's PR team on the matter, the response was a bit wishy-washy:

From Gizmodo:

Microsoft condemned family separation by ICE in a statement to Gizmodo but declined to specify if specific tools within Azure Government, like Face API—facial recognition software—were in use by the agency.

Read the rest

Trump Administration moving forward on tent cities for kids

Tent cities for migrant children separated from their parents at the border? Sure, why not.

According to USA Today, the Department of Health and Human Services will be paying a visit to Fort Bliss Army base, just outside of El Paso, Texas to see if it would be a suitable location to set up a tent city designed to house between 1,000 and 5,000 migrant kids. According to the report, HHS officials are also eyeing Air Force bases in San Angelo and Abilene for the task.

So, tent cities built by the homeless are deemed illegal and get torn down by the government, but when the government wants to build one, it’s totally cool. Got it.

From USA Today:

The Office of Refugee Resettlement at HHS is responsible for looking after more than 11,200 migrant children being held without a parent or guardian. Some 100 existing shelters, however, are now 95% full.

The number of migrant children held in U.S. government custody without their parents has increased more than 20% as a result of a new "zero-tolerance" policy by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. That policy directs the Border Patrol to refer all people caught crossing the border illegally for criminal prosecution, regardless of their situation.

Because of the Trump Administration’s no-exceptions policy on illegal immigration, enough children to entertain the notion of opening a tent city to contain them all have been ripped from their families over the past few months, while adults, whose only crime was to come to America looking for a better life, you know, like many of our ancestors did, are being locked away in federal prisons while awaiting deportation hearings. Read the rest

Trump Administration moving to store migrant kids on military bases

The Washington Post reports that the Trump Administration is laying the necessary groundwork to warehouse the children of migrants who enter the United States illegally on military bases in Texas and Arkansas. The bases will be used to contain anyone under the age of 18 who crosses the border illegally with their parents or on their own.

In a leaked email sent to Pentagon personnel, it was disclosed that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would be making visits to four military installations in the coming weeks to evaluate whether they contain infrastructure suitable for sheltering children.

From the Washington Post:

An official at HHS confirmed the military site visits. Speaking on condition of anonymity because the plans are not yet public, the official said HHS currently has the bed space to hold 10,571 children in its network of 100 foster-care facilities.

Those facilities are at 91 percent capacity, the HHS official said, and the Trump administration’s crackdown plans could push thousands more children into government care. The official said DHS has not provided projections for how many additional children to expect.

The move to assess the suitability of housing on military property comes in the wake of the Trump Administration's escalating war on migrants and asylum seekers hoping for the shelter, protection and opportunity that the United States once stood for. With escalating violence in Mexico, South and Central America, there could be no worse time to exclude vulnerable people from entering the country, illegally or otherwise. Read the rest

The fashion boutiques that line the "Champs-Élysées" of a massive Syrian refugee camp are a fascinating lens on the crisis

Sara Elizabeth Williams' long, beautifully written profile of the merchants who established illegal storefronts on the Champs-Élysées, a stretch of road in Jordan's Za’atari refugee camp -- home to 93,000 Syrian refugees -- is a lens on the crisis created by decades of western complicity in the brutal Assad regime, followed by a global proxy war fought on Syrian soil, with no compassion or regard by any of the belligerents for the civilian costs. Read the rest

Experimental documentary shows one African migrant's harrowing journey to Europe

Fabio Palmieri directed IRREGULARS, a film about Cyrille Kabore, who tried time and time again to enter Europe after leaving his native Ghana at age 20. Read the rest

DHS says it will force everyone who's ever immigrated to the USA to hand over social media

A new DHS policy that will go into effect on Oct 18 will force everyone who's ever been naturalized as a US citizen or who is currently residing in the USA on a Green Card (I currently reside in the USA on a Green Card) to hand over "social media handles and aliases, associated identifiable information and search results" for permanent scrutiny in our government files. Read the rest

The Humble Freedom Bundle: pay $30 or more, benefit charities fighting the #muslimban, get a preview of Wil Wheaton reading WALKAWAY

The Humble Freedom Bundle will take $30 or more and in return give you more than 50 games, ebooks audiobooks and comics, including two never-before-heard audiobook titles from me: a newly mastered edition of the audiobook of my book on copyright, the internet and artistic integrity, Information Doesn't Want to be Free, featuring both Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer reading their introductions; and, the first 18 minutes of the forthcoming audiobook of my novel Walkaway, read by Wil Wheaton (the full book also features many other fine readers, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Amber Benson and Amanda Palmer from the Dresden Dolls). Read the rest

What happened when Mike Zuckerman brought his San Francisco culture hacking ethos to the migrant camps in Greece

In 2013, Mike Zuckerman, a self-described culture hacker, attended the White House’s National Day of Civic Hacking. Inspired by what he’d learned there, Mike returned to San Francisco and founded [freespace], an organization that focuses on sustainability and urban tactical development. In the spring of 2016, Mike went to Greece where he spent four months rehabilitating an abandoned clothing factory in the industrial sector of Thessaloniki, turning it into a humane shelter that he and his colleagues named Elpida. Unlike the official migrant camps in Greece, where refugees have little say in the day-to-day operations of the camp, Elpida put its 140 residents in charge, and the results were remarkable. Not only is Elpida much less expensive to run on a per person basis than official camps in Greece, the residents don’t suffer from boredom, restlessness, and disengagement like they do at NGO-run camps.

As a pilot model, Elpida offers hope and improved living conditions for refugees in a place where no other NGO was able to provide in this kind of support.

Mike has been working with Institute for the Future (where I'm on staff) as an affiliate since 2014 and recently accepted an IFTF fellowship to help uncover and study new paradigms for restoring vulnerable places and space, such as post-disaster sites, informal refugee settlements, and decaying urban neighborhoods.

I spoke to Mike about his work at Elpida in August, 2016, just days after he returned from Greece.

Listen to the audio podcast interview with Mike Zuckerman here. Read the rest

Interactive map: 15 years of European migrant deaths

Austrian designer Moriz Büsing created this grim interactive map of migrant and refugee deaths on the way to Europe, or trying to stay in Europe; over 32,000 deaths in 15 years. Read the rest

Dismaland will be dismantled, used for refugee shelters in Calais

Banksy's brilliant piss-take on theme-parks has run its course and will now be dismantled, shipped to Calais and turned into temporary shelters for the refugees massed there. Read the rest

Privatized, for-profit immigration detention centers force detainees to work for $1-3/day

"We have a name for locking people up and forcing them to do real work without wages. It's called slavery." Read the rest