Category Archives: News

Surprising Facts About Refugees to the US

Immigrants on deck of steamer “Germanic.” Unknown photographer, 1887.

Immigration and how the US handles refugees seeking to live in the country of the free has been a hot subject in the news lately. Here are a few facts about refugees many people might not be aware of:

  • Refugees must repay the cost of the airfare to the United States. Although the government does pay for the flights of refugees to the US, that money is an interest-free loan which must be repaid as soon as the refugee begins to earn an income. That money is then funneled back into a fund that pays for additional refugees to be brought over.
  • Studies show that although there are costs involved in resettling refugees, the positive contribution they make to the economy balances out the expense. Money is spent mostly to provide social services like language and vocational training, healthcare and cash allowances. One study showed that in Cleveland, where 4,518 refugees were resettled between 2000 and 2012, 38 new businesses were started, yielding an additional 175 jobs and $12 million in spending in Cleveland in 2012.
  • Refugees must prove their status. International law states that a refugee is someone with a “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.” Being poor is not enough.
  • The process of resettlement is a long and arduous one. According to the World Bank Group, the average length of time a refugee waits in “limbo” until he is resettled is 10.3 years. The median is four years until a permanent home is found. Once the process of resettlement in the US begins, the minimum amount of time it takes is 18 months. Immigration lawyers say that it is not unusual for the process to take from four to eight years.

Intellectual Property Theft Costing US $600 Billion Each Year

NKIE & McDnoald’s [sic] sandals in China. Photo by Stephen Woolverton.
According to private watchdog group, the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, annual losses of intellectual property range from around $225 billion to as much as $600 billion. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Theft of Trade Secrets: between $180 billion and $540 billion.
  • Counterfeit Goods: between $29 billion and $41 billion.
  • Pirated Software: $18 billion.

China, including Hong Kong, is the biggest culprit, says the commission, accounting for about 87 percent of the counterfeit goods which are confiscated at the border. The report issued by the commission states that Chinese authorities actually encourage the theft of intellectual property.

The commission is headed by former governor of Utah and Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, who was also a US ambassador to China; and a former director of US national intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair.

“The vast, illicit transfer of American innovation is one of the most significant economic issues impacting U.S. competitiveness that the nation has not fully addressed,” Huntsman said. “It looks to be, must be, a top priority of the new administration.”

Russia Breaks INF Treaty

Medium-range ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead RSD-10 “Pioneer”. NATO reporting name was SS-20 Saber. Kapustin Yar museum in Znamensk, Russia. Photo by Leonidl.

The United States is faced with a serious challenge to an important treaty which could have dire consequences if not handled well.

The New York Times reported this week that Russia has deployed nuclear-capable cruise missiles which could be a critical threat to the countries of western Europe.

Officials believe that the missiles were 9M729s, which are ground-based missiles similar to Russia’s Kalibr missiles. The Kalibr were used to hit targets in Syria from a range of 1,000 miles away in the Caspian Sea.

Experts say these missiles are in violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty, INF, because they can reach targets from 620 to 3,420 miles away, from ground-based launchers. If this is true, then Russia has the capability of hitting a slew of European capital cities from home.

“We knew it was coming for a long time,” said one expert of the missiles. The Russians “started testing in 2008. In 2011, the Obama administration decided it was a compliance problem.”

The INF treaty is one of the few success stories from the arms-control talks between the two powerful nuclear-enabled countries. During the 1980s Russia had already begun to develop nuclear missiles with intermediate range which had the power to strike western European cities.

President Obama decided in 2014 that Russia had indeed violated INF. During an INF special verification meeting the US presented Russia with the evidence that they were in violation of the treaty. The Russians answered with “capricious arguments,” saying that the US had also violated the treaty.

“None of the Russian accusations amount to the US, in secret, deploying a large number of missiles that violate the treaty,” the expert said. “The US does not have ground-launched intermediate-range forces anywhere.”

Microsoft Seeking Exemptions for Employees with Valid Visas From the Seven Banned Countries

Microsoft asking Trump to grant exemptions to their foreign employees.

President and Chief Legal Officer of Microsoft, Brad Smith, wrote an open letter to President Donald Trump asking for a formal exemption process for employees effected by Trump’s executive order travel ban. Microsoft would like to see exemptions upheld for all “responsible known travelers with pressing needs.” The idea would be proposed and sponsored by a US company or university. The proposal would allow anyone from the seven countries in question who have valid visas to travel safely outside the US without fear of having their return re-entry denied, on the understanding that they will travel for amounts of time less than two weeks, either for business or family reasons.

Smith stated that Microsoft does not consider this request a “fix” for the executive order, which it considers “misguided and a fundamental step backwards.” Rather, it is just an immediate solution to help foreign employees, who have been left stranded outside the US where they live and work; and those who are afraid to leave because they are worried they won’t be allowed to return.

Microsoft explained that they have 76 employees with 41 dependents, who are affected directly by the ban. Some of them have been unable to return to their children or visit sick relatives abroad.

Since the executive order has come under a maelstrom of criticism the Trump administration has eased up slightly on the terms of the order, allowing legal permanent residents an exemption from the ban. However, people on temporary visas are not exempt. Microsoft says its proposal does not change the terms of the order, it only asks that each case be judged on its own merits, granting exemptions under certain conditions.

“Immigration authorities already have a wide range of personal information about individuals in the visa categories that we have proposed,” writes Smith. “Many of these individuals also fill critical roles in the organizations that employ them, whether they are doctors, scientists, engineers, medical technicians, software developers, or any number of other highly skilled professionals. They are deeply valued contributors to the innovation, research and business acumen of our nation, and they serve critical roles in the successful operations of US companies.”

Will Putin Retaliate or Not?

Russian President Vladimir Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to once again do the unexpected when he announced that he was not going to retaliate in response to President Obama’s move to expel 35 Russian diplomats from the United States. It seemed he only had to wait a mere three weeks or so for the bruhaha to die down when Donald Trump is sworn in as the next US president.

Now, however, there are reports that Russia is taking some steps to punish the US for its actions. Last week CNN reported that Russian authorities ordered the closing of the Anglo-American School in Moscow, siting an unnamed source who said he knew personally about the development. The school is for the children of Western embassy personnel from Britain, Canada and the USA.

The Russian foreign ministry denied the allegation.

CNN also reported that Russia ordered the closing of a vacation home used by US embassy personnel, about 16 kilometers west of Moscow.

In contradiction to earlier reports that there would be no reprisal against US diplomats in Russia, Russian spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova said that a Russian response to Obama’s actions would be similar which would “immediately backfire at US diplomats in Russia.”

“The outgoing US administration has not given up on its hope of dealing one last blow to relations with Russia, which it has already destroyed,” her statement said.

The Kremlin had previously stated that the US would “receive an answer” if it did anything to punish Russia. Obama sought to impose sanctions on Russia for its role in tampering with the recent US elections via hacking of email accounts associated with people in the Democratic Party. Several US intelligence agencies have stated the Russian actions were deliberately designed to interfere with the US elections, specifically, to help Donald Trump with the election.