CHINESE ISLAND MOVES CONTINUE The Navy sent an aircraft carrier and a few other ships into the South China Sea this week, the latest “routine patrol” of vessels the United States has dispatched to scout China’s increasing militarization of the area. Beijing has used a group of man-made islands to try to claim territorial sea rights to the ocean area.
Officials haven’t said whether the ships in the region will do any freedom of navigation patrols — sweeps in which a vessel would go within 12 nautical miles of one of the artificial islands. (Twelve nautical miles is the extent of territorial water countries can claim, though China’s right to do so in the waters around islands they simply built in the middle of the sea is highly disputed.) In the past, China has warned such patrols were aggressive moves that could lead to conflict. Meanwhile, China’s spending on its military is growing — but not as fast as it used to.
WOBBLY CEASE-FIRE IN SYRIA How is the Syria cease-fire doing? Still teetering along, apparently — but delays in delivering humanitarian aid and mounting accusations of breaches that still haven’t been verified are testing the patience of the opposition groups on the ground. Those groups are seen as key to keeping the moratorium intact. The opposition promised to observe the cease-fire for two weeks (it has presently been going for almost one week).
But they are doing so in a cacophonous environment. The cease-fire only applies to very small areas of the country and not to airstrikes against terror groups, such as the Islamic State — meaning the airstrikes haven’t completely stopped. Meanwhile U.N. officials are accusing the Syrian government of obstructing the aid deliveries to alleviate the humanitarian suffering, even starvation, that drove many opposition groups to demand a cease-fire as a precursor for peace talks continuing in the first place. Those talks, which are expected to restart on March 9, may not if the operations that were supposed to occur under the cease-fire don’t materialize in the next few days.
KIDS IN IMMIGRATION COURT A senior official from the Department of Justice has argued that 3- and 4-year-olds can understand immigration law well enough to represent themselves in immigration court. If the idea sounds bizarre, a host of child development experts are with you. They say a child barely old enough to start reading can’t parse the complicated procedures of the administrative courts that determine who gets to stay in the country and who must go. The matter at hand is serious, as thousands of kids fleeing violence in Central America are put in this very situation.
The opinion came up in the course of a lawsuit the American Civil Liberties Union and immigrant groups have going against the Justice Department. The lawsuit wants to try to compel the government to give a lawyer to every child coming through immigration court, even if the government cannot afford to pay for one. While the accused have a right to counsel in the criminal courts, there is no such right for the immigrants facing proceedings in the administrative immigration court system. This can result in pitting a preschooler against a government lawyer.