Nigeria News | Laila’s Blog
US will no longer issue Visas to foreigners for birth purpose
The United States Government under Donald Trump administration on on Thursday says it will no longer issue visas to foreigners who want to give birth in the country.
The new United State Visa rules restricts “birth tourism,” in which women travel to the U.S. to give birth so their children can have a coveted U.S. passport. Henceforth, applicants will be denied tourist visas if they are determined by consular officers to be coming to the U.S. primarily to give birth, according to the rules in the Federal Register.
Foreigners who want to gets visas to give birth in the United States will now have to prove that they are traveling to the U.S. because they have a medical need and not just because they want to give birth there and must prove they have the money to pay for it — including transportation and living expenses.
According to a statement released by the office of the press secretary, the rule will be effective from Friday, January 24.
The statement reads;
Beginning January 24, 2020, the State Department will no longer issue temporary visitor (B-1/B-2) visas to aliens seeking to enter the United States for “birth tourism” – the practice of traveling to the United States to secure automatic and permanent American citizenship for their children by giving birth on American soil. This rule change is necessary to enhance public safety, national security, and the integrity of our immigration system. The birth tourism industry threatens to overburden valuable hospital resources and is rife with criminal activity, as reflected in Federal prosecutions. Closing this glaring immigration loophole will combat these endemic abuses and ultimately protect the United States from the national security risks created by this practice. It will also defend American taxpayers from having their hard-earned dollars siphoned away to finance the direct and downstream costs associated with birth tourism. The integrity of American citizenship must be protected.
This is coming amidst speculation that the US government is planning to place Nigeria and some other countries on ‘travel ban list‘.
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US will no longer issue Visas to foreigners for birth purpose
It has been a long time coming, it has even been alluded to in some Sci-Fi series such as Incorporated, where in the near future a corporation runs a country and is also a state in its own right. With Facebook earlier in 2019 officially unveiling plans to launch Libra, its own (along with other corporate partners) digital currency, in 2020, it is almost safe to say that Mark Zuckerberg’s (despite being a public company, Facebook’s share structure and voting rights afford Zuckerberg a lot of control and power) social network is almost a country in its own right.
With approximately 2 billion monthly active users as reported at the end of 2018, even if you had to account for duplicate and fake accounts, it would still measure up as one of the largest populations any country has on the planet.
If you add WhatsApp, considering that the messaging app’s users will also be able to transact using Libra (once, or rather if, it eventually launches), with its reported 1,5 billion active users (although some are already Facebook users), you are looking at a size of a country like one we have never witnessed before.
Welcome to the .
Strong political opposition
It didn’t take long after the official announcement of Libra earlier in the year that three countries, France, England, and Germany, started displaying signs that they were feeling threatened by Facebook & Co.’s newly proposed digital currency. Specifically, France’s Finance Minister stated unequivocally that Libra cannot be a replacement for sovereign currencies.
So far, it has not been an easy ride for Libra since that official announcement earlier in 2019. What looked like a good list of partners has been reduced with several of its (Libra Association) member companies deciding to pull their membership and support for Facebook’s proposed digital currency. It all started with PayPal withdrawing from the Libra Association, this was then followed by Visa, Mastercard, eBay, Stripe and Mercado Pago who all announced that they will no longer be participating nor supporting Libra.
The withdrawals, which ended up leaving Libra without any major global payments companies as members, were politically motivated as the United States Senate sent a letter to the various Libra Association member organizations CEOs urging them “to proceed with caution until Facebook is able to provide real answers to you.”
Despite this strong political opposition to Libra by various countries and regulators, which has also seen Facebook being hauled before the USA’s policy makers to answer questions about the planned digital currency, I still think there is a high probability that not only will Libra launch in 2020, but it has better than average chances of gaining traction.
This is despite those involved in the Libra project at Facebook stating that there is no clear product roadmap nor a s et launch date.
However, important to note that Patrick Ellis, one of the board members of the Libra Association, confirmed to Reuters that Libra would launch during 2020, but couldn’t provide any indication of when or even the initial markets it would be launched in.
Before I elaborate on why I think it will succeed, what will it mean for your money to be controlled and managed by Facebook?
Your money in Facebook’s control
To further understand why some countries, including the USA, have been vocally opposing Libra in public, the letter that The United States House of Representatives Committee on Financial Services wrote to Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg (COO at Facebook), and David Marcus (CEO of Facebook subsidiary, Calibra), gives us a few hints in my opinion.
Firstly, as compared to say, Bitcoin, it is easier and possible to write to Facebook’s Zuckerberg and Sandberg regarding Libra compared to trying to write to Satoshi Nakamoto. In this case, there are real people and organizations that can be held accountable. Secondly, and as they allude to in the letter, the policy makers feel that Libra is a threat to the US Dollar and the country’s monetary policy, despite it being merely a stablecoin and not a cryptocurrency in the strictest of terms.
There’s also the matter that should Libra ever get into trouble (eg. not be able to guarantee customers withdrawals etc.), the US government in one way or another would need to step in to protect Americans as we’ve seen it do before with some of the country’s large banks (side note: this is exactly what Bitcoin avoids, but alas. A discussion for another day).
However, more importantly for us in Africa is, does Libra offer any of us any value?
Does it help us with anything we are struggling with currently?
Does it make life easier?
To use and transact in Libra, users will have to download and run the official wallet, Calibra (a subsidiary company of Facebook). From what I’ve seen and what has so far led me to say in its current form Libra will struggle to gain traction (unless they address the following two issues) is that to use Calibra one will require a bank account and a government issued ID.
It’s no secret that Africa has a high number of unbanked people mainly as a result of low income and unemployment. As such, it is mind boggling that a product punting financial inclusion would require users to first have a bank account before using it. However, it’s possible that this will change by the time Facebook launches the digital currency and wallet in 2020. If it doesn’t, it could prove to be a stumbling block for gaining traction especially across Africa.
The second issue, which also leads me to explaining why I think Libra will succeed, is around the requirement of government issued ID.
On the surface, in most countries in Africa at least, the requirement for a government issued ID could prove a real stumbling block to adoption. In many African countries, eg. Nigeria, there is no real organized government ID system. Immediately this makes it rather interesting how Facebook is going to verify identity in such cases.
However, Facebook and its Libra partners seem to already have thought of this and have a possible solution in mind. A solution which, once it can be implemented, will make a strong argument that Facebook is now essentially a country.
Facebook’s possible Trojan Horse
Earlier in 2019 when the noise around Libra was at its peak and being frustrated that no African policymakers we commenting on it or providing any clarification on how they view Facebook’s proposed digital currency that is mainly targeted a developing countries, I set out to read the Libra white paper for the third time. Somehow, I found something in the Libra white paper I had missed or wasn’t paying enough attention to previously.
Hidden (in plain sight) deep in the guts of a white paper light on details and heavy on marketing talk about financial inclusion and the world’s 2 billion without adequate financial services are two sentences that seem to be placed nonchalantly atop page 9 of the Libra white paper, yet they could have far reaching impact.
“An additional goal of the [Libra] association is to develop and promote an open identity standard. We believe that decentralized and portable digital identity is a prerequisite to financial inclusion and competition.”
This, the development of an open standard for digital IDs, as mentioned, could mean that Facebook already has a solution for part of this problem. The other part of this solution is that Facebook previously acquired a company that verifies government issued IDs in 2018. These two solutions combined could help onboard and verify people onto Libra and from there start issuing them with verified Facebook IDs.
Considering that Facebook, along with its subsidiary platforms like WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger, is home to over 2 billion people, could this be the new global ID standard that will surpass and be more trusted than government issued IDs?
Although I could not find any further details on the proposed Libra digital ID and Facebook have also refused to comment when I asked, in my opinion it has a far bigger impact than the proposed currency as, if adopted and rolled out successfully it solves one of the web’s biggest issues, trust. I can already envision how it fits in with some of its other acquisitions, for example, Facebook acquired a face recognition tool that it incorporated into its main Facebook platform that would identify faces in the photos you post automatically and suggest you tag them. This, could possibly be used outside of government issued IDs given the trove of (tagged) photos Facebook already has of billions of people around the world, to verify identity.
This to me is Facebook’s Trojan Horse with Libra a necessary part but of lesser significance than the ability for Facebook to be able to run a platform that can verify and vouch for the identity of billions of people independent from any government.
Managing the flow of money gives you some power. Handling trust and identities gives you control, and essentially, makes you a nation state.
A virtual nation state
As far as why I now think this completes the idea of Facebook becoming a country, it’s simply because of the leverage it will hold over some countries especially across the continent who not only do not have near as accurate data about their citizens like Facebook has, but are struggling to maintain the value and usefulness of their own sovereign currencies (e.g. Zimbabwe).
At the heart of it (Libra) people just want a quicker and cheaper way to transact and send money, and already in Africa, many are used to using mobile money for their daily living.
Apart from having such a huge virtual population, a currency, and possibly its own verifiable IDs for its citizens, Facebook also does not fall under any single country’s jurisdiction. For example, its US-based users are governed by a corporation registered in the USA, its users in the rest of the world are governed by a corporation registered in Ireland, while in China it works under different laws. This not only applies to laws but where it pays taxes too. So, as such, you cannot exactly call it a US company as it is not bound any single country’s laws and to make matters worse (or good if you’re Facebook) it is a virtual entity.
It really, in my view, has officially become the People’s Republic of Facebook (and like its namesake, it’s not a democracy 😊)
Washington (CNN)President Donald Trump abused his official powers “to solicit interference” from Ukraine in the upcoming 2020 election, and the White House took steps to cover it up, according to a stunning whistleblower complaint released Thursday.
The complaint has been at the center of a controversy that has spurred Democrats to launch a formal impeachment inquiry. The White House on Wednesday also released a rough transcript of the call that shows Trump repeatedly pressed Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.
Caving to Democratic demands, the Trump administration let Congress release a declassified version of the complaint, one day after releasing a rough transcript of the Trump-Zelensky call. The developments triggered a flood of Democratic lawmakers to publicly support impeachment.
Trump has maintained that he didn’t do anything wrong, while simultaneously promoting unfounded conspiracy theories about the Bidens, Ukraine, and Russian meddling in 2016.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing by either Joe or Hunter Biden.
White House lawyers asked to remove transcript
The complaint notes White House lawyers were “already in discussion” about “how to treat the call because of the likelihood, in the officials’ retelling, that they had witnessed the president abuse his office for personal gain.”
White House lawyers also directed officials to remove the transcript of the call from a computer system that stores them for Cabinet-level officials and instead put the transcript in a system for especially sensitive information, the whistleblower alleges.
This move concerned some officials, who shared their worries internally that this was an “abuse of the system.”
The whistleblower said they heard from other White House officials that this was “not the first time” that the Trump administration used this storage system to hold politically sensitive documents. The codeword-level system is meant to hold files of national security importance.
There weren’t additional details in the complaint, and some of the details came from secondhand sources. Republicans on Capitol Hill have used that point to question the veracity of the complaint, though the intelligence community inspector general already deemed it credible.
Rudy Giuliani’s role worried State Dept officials
US officials were concerned, the whistleblower said, with Trump’s private lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his contacts with Ukrainian officials. The whistleblower alleges the US officials believed Giuliani was a conduit for messages between the President and officials in Kyiv and that he was at the helm of a problematic “circumvention of national security decisionmaking processes.”
For most of the past two years, Giuliani has played a peculiar role as Trump’s personal attorney, a pro-Trump surrogate on television, and as an informal diplomat of sorts. This year, he has used his position to promote conspiracy theories about Ukraine, Biden, and the 2016 election.
The whistleblower said they heard that two State Department officials intervened with Giuliani in an effort to “contain the damage” he was doing to national security. The complaint also said US diplomats worked with the new Ukrainian leaders to help them navigate the strange situation, where they juggled outreach from Giuliani with US diplomacy coming through official channels.
State Department officials met with Ukrainian political figures and provided advice “about how to ‘navigate’ the demands that the President had made of” Zelensky, the whistleblower wrote.
Little is known about the identity of the whistleblower, which is even still hidden from some of the most senior US intelligence officials. The Justice Department has said there are some indications that the whistleblower opposes Trump’s reelection, but the complaint was indeed credible. They used lawful channels to file the complaint and get the message to Congress.
Trump potentially exposed to blackmail
In a letter accompanying the whistleblower’s complaint, Intelligence Community Inspector General Michael Atkinson wrote that the alleged conduct by Trump “would also potentially expose” the President “to serious national security and counterintelligence risks with respect to foreign intelligence services aware of such alleged conduct.”
The implication is that US adversaries are always spying on the US and trying to intercept sensitive phone calls by US officials. If a hostile government possesses a recording or is aware of the details of Trump’s phone call, they could use it to blackmail Trump. The gravest risk is from Russia, which is essentially at war with Ukraine and has strong intelligence capabilities.
Atkinson also wrote in his letter that that the whistleblower’s complaint amounts to a “serious or flagrant problem [or] abuse” under US laws regarding the inspector general’s office.
The comments were made in an August 26 letter sent to acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire. Atkinson explains the reasoning behind his determination that the information amounted to an “urgent concern,” which triggered its eventual transmission to Congress.
Whistleblower confused by Trump’s CrowdStrike interest
The whistleblower expresses confusion about Trump’s references to CrowdStrike during his calls with Zelensky. The Democratic National Committee hired CrowdStrike in 2016 to investigate hacks to its computers, which were later blamed on the Russian government.
In the call, Trump mentioned the US cybersecurity firm and said, “the server, they say Ukraine has it.” Trump also encouraged Zelensky to “find out what happened” with the server.
“I do not know why the President associates these servers with Ukraine,” the whistleblower wrote in a footnote. The whistleblower added that Trump had previously connected the DNC server to Ukraine in television interviews.
Trump’s interest in CrowdStrike and the DNC server, more than three years after the hacks, is part of a larger effort to undermine the notion that Russia meddled in the 2016 election to help him win. He has repeatedly rejected the assessment from CrowdStrike, which was later confirmed by US intelligence agencies, that Russia was behind the DNC hacks and leaks.
The complaint demonstrates in stark terms how people who work inside the US government, with access to highly sensitive materials, have struggled to figure out what was going on in an unconventional White House administration with a president who goes around official channels.
The complaint contains a blend of information that was observed firsthand, details that were provided secondhand from other officials, and information that comes from public sources, like Giuliani’s appearances on television and news articles about his activities surrounding Ukraine.