In the fall of 2002, Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen on his way home from Tunisia, was pulled out of line by US officials while changing planes at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. He was locked up for twelve days, much of that time incommunicado, and harshly interrogated. When he was finally allowed to make a phone call, after a week in captivity, he called his mother in Canada, who found him a lawyer.
The lawyer saw Arar on Saturday. The very next night-a Sunday evening-immigration officials held an extraordinary six-hour hearing starting at 9 PM, orchestrated from Washington, D.C. When Arar asked to have his lawyer present, they told him that she had chosen not to participate in the hearing. In fact, the only “notice” they had provided was to leave a message on the lawyer’s office voice mail that Sunday night. She got the message Monday morning, and immediately called the immigration service. They told her, falsely, that Arar was being transferred to New Jersey, and she could contact him the next day. In fact, that night federal agents took him on a federally chartered jet to Jordan, and from there to Syria.
In Syria, Arar was handed over to intelligence officials who imprisoned him in a cell the size of a grave, three feet by six feet by seven feet. Syrian security agents tortured him, including beating him with an electric cable, while asking the same questions that FBI interrogators had been asking at JFK-was he a terrorist, was he linked to al-Qaeda, did he know various other persons thought to be associated with al-Qaeda? (The Syrian security forces are widely known for their use of torture, as the US State Department reports every year in its annual Human Rights Country Reports.) After a year, the Syrians released Arar, concluding that he had done nothing wrong.
The American public has a lot on its plate at the moment – the middle-class is in danger of becoming a shadow of what it once was, unemployment is still high and few of the changes being made at the federal level are going to correct the structural problems that might lead to another meltdown. Torture and the negative effects it can have on our national security seem to barely register on the cultural radar. I am of the school of what are you going to do when they come for you school of anti-torture. If asked many Americans are pro torture. When a minimal amount of reading would show torture is counter productive. It increases terrorism and thus fuels the the need for ever more tax dollars to torture. Under Bush it had become, and its legacy still is a circle of self fulfilling nightmares.
The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has broken the distance limit for galaxies and uncovered a primordial population of compact and ultra-blue galaxies that have never been seen before. The data from the Hubble’s new infrared camera, the Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3), on the Ultra Deep Field (taken in August 2009) have been analysed by five international teams of astronomers. Some of these early results are being presented by various team members on 6 January 2010, at the 215th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington DC, USA.
The deeper Hubble looks into space, the farther back in time it looks, because light takes billions of years to cross the observable Universe. This makes Hubble a powerful “time machine” that allows astronomers to see galaxies as they were 13 billion years ago, just 600 million to 800 million years after the Big Bang.
What a strange phenomenon to contemplate – the light we’re seeing now, via Hubble – is from events that have already occurred, billions of years ago. A point in time still exists as light.