Doctor who came to US as child jailed by immigration agents

Lukasz Niec. (Courtesy photo)
Updated 23 January 2018
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Doctor who came to US as child jailed by immigration agents

KALAMAZOO, Michigan: A Michigan doctor who came to the US from Poland as a young child was in jail Monday, nearly a week after immigration agents arrested him at his home.
It’s not clear why Lukasz Niec, 43, was taken into custody last Tuesday. Niec is a legal US resident who works at Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo. He has two misdemeanor convictions from high school and an impaired driving conviction from 2008 that was later dismissed.
The Associated Press sent an email Monday seeking comment from Immigration and Customs Enforcement. An automatic response said the agency’s public affairs employees aren’t working because of the government shutdown.
His wife, Rachelle Burkart-Niec, said he pleaded guilty in high school to malicious destruction of property and receiving stolen goods and was told the convictions wouldn’t be used in a deportation. Kalamazoo County court records show he pleaded guilty to an impaired driving offense in 2008. After completing probation, the conviction was set aside and case was dismissed as part of a plea agreement. A jury also acquitted him of a 2013 domestic violence charge, MLive reported.
“He’s taken care of the people of the US as a physician, he’s taken care of the people of this community,” she told MLive. “After all this time, when is somebody finally free?“
Niec came from Poland to the Detroit area when he was about 5 with his parents and sister. He has one daughter and his wife another from previous relationships, and they married in July 2016.
“He cannot go back to Poland, a country he doesn’t know, (where) he has no family,” his sister, Iwona Niec-Villaire, told WOOD-TV. “Both our parents passed away in the United States. He doesn’t know anyone; he wouldn’t know where to go.”
Bronson Healthcare, which owns the hospital where Niec works, released a statement, saying it “simply does not make sense” to lock up a “skilled and caring physician.” Niec has been on the Bronson staff since 2007.


The Philippine Rise: An untouched treasure

Map of the Luzon and Philippine Rise (Benham Rise) region. (Philippines' NAMRIA via Wikipedia)
Updated 10 min 56 sec ago
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The Philippine Rise: An untouched treasure

  • The Benham Bank exhibits a rich marine biodiversity. Its reefscapes contain corals, algae, sponges and Halimeda, which sustain a variety of fish. 
  • The UN approved the Philippines’ claim to the area in April 2012. On May 16, 2017, Duterte signed an order renaming it the Philippine Rise.

MANILA: A team of Filipino scientists last week sailed to the Philippine Rise, situated on the eastern side of the country, to explore unknown treasures in the resource-rich undersea region.

A ceremony was held on May 15 aboard the Philippine Navy’s amphibious landing dock vessel BRP Davao Del Sur. 

President Rodrigo Duterte led the send-off of the team, which will undertake the Coordinated National Marine Scientific Research Initiatives and Related Activities (CONMIRA).

Duterte was supposed to visit the Philippine Rise and ride a jet ski around the area, but instead he led a program aboard the BRP Davao Del Sur while it was docked in Casiguran Bay in Aurora province. 

The activity was to commemorate the awarding of the Benham Rise to the Philippines by a UN tribunal. 

The UN approved the Philippines’ claim to the area in April 2012. On May 16, 2017, Duterte signed an order renaming it the Philippine Rise.

He also signed a proclamation formally declaring parts of the undersea feature a marine resource reserve.

After Duterte left, a flotilla with the BRP Davao Del Sur sailed to the Philippine Rise. The flotilla included eight other ships.

A flag-raising ceremony was held on May 16 aboard the BRP Davao Del Sur, simultaneous with the laying of an underwater flag marker at the Benham Bank, the shallowest point in the Philippine Rise.

Gil Jacinto of the Marine Science Institute at the University of the Philippines told Arab News that the two-day event raises awareness among government agencies and the Filipino people “about this part of the country that we have sovereign rights over,” and “the needed work by the scientific community.” 

He lauded Duterte’s commitment to support marine science research, adding that the Benham Bank contains a “very good coral cover” and “almost wall-to-wall carpeted corals.”

Jacinto said: “Studies related to tuna fisheries, biology and migration patterns can also be pursued.” 

Oceanographers want to understand physical processes, such as major currents and the movement of water from the Pacific to the eastern side of Luzon island all the way to Mindanao island.

“Our understanding of physical processes and features of the Pacific side can perhaps be useful in some of the models that project the trajectory and intensity of typhoons,” said Jacinto. 

“That’s of interest and perhaps of benefit not just to the Philippines but also in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea region.”

Scientists will also be looking at prospects for energy sources in the area, and the possibility of obtaining compounds on marine organisms that may benefit the medical and pharmaceutical fields.

“One thing I’m very glad about for this event is this part of the country is now in the mindsets of our people,” said Jacinto. “There’s so much that can be done here.”

The scientists opted to sail to the Philippine Rise instead of the West Philippine Sea because they can work in the area “relatively unimpeded,” whereas in the West Philippine Sea there are security issues due to maritime border disputes, he added. 

The Philippine Rise is a 13-million-hectare underwater plateau located some 250 km east of northern Luzon. 

Its original name came from American geologist Andrew Benham, who surveyed the area in the 1930s. 

The Benham Bank exhibits a rich marine biodiversity. Its reefscapes contain corals, algae, sponges and Halimeda, which sustain a variety of fish. 

Results of exploratory fishing suggest that the Philippine Rise yields the highest catch rate of tuna species compared with other areas of the country.

The Philippine Rise may also contain seabed resources such as cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts, and hydrothermal polymetallic sulphides that contain minerals used in the aerospace industry.

Experts have revealed vast deposits of methane hydrate in the area, believed to be a larger hydrocarbon resource than the world’s oil, gas and coal resources combined.