Adonis Diaries

Archive for December 11th, 2015

Visa waiver reform bill? What that means? What’s going on in this US House?

As Republicans squabbled over Donald Trump’s controversial proposal to bar all Muslims from traveling to the United States, the House on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a bill imposing new restrictions on a visa waiver program that currently welcomes roughly 20 million people into the country each year.

Habib Battah commented and shared this link

Zero reporting in this Washington Post article on how ‪#‎HR158‬ will restrict travel for Iraqi, Sudanese, Iranian and Syrian Americans and basically creates second-class citizenship.

Same can be said of shallow even positive coverage of this bill at The Guardian, Associated Press and The New York Times where practically no voices opposing #HR158 are even mentioned! ‪#‎journalism‬…/house-visa-waiver-program-bill…

The bill may ultimately being included in the year-end omnibus spending package.

House passes visa waiver reform bill with strong bipartisan support

The bill, which was approved on a 407 to 19 vote, would increase information sharing between the United States and the 38 countries whose passport-holders are allowed to visit the country without getting a visa, while also attempting to weed out travelers who have visited certain countries where they may have been radicalized.

The strong vote in the House could put momentum behind efforts to include changes to the program in the omnibus spending package – a must-pass bill that lawmakers are trying to finalize before government funding expires on Friday.

But there are key differences between the House bill and a measure from Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), which has not yet been scheduled for a vote.

The House-passed measure received the backing of the U.S. Travel Association, despite initial concerns that Congress would go too far in tightening the waiver program’s security requirements following the Paris terror attacks.

The visa waiver program was launched in the 1980s as a way of boosting business travel and tourism to the United States and hundreds of millions of people have taken advantage of the initiative.

Democrats and Republicans have sparred over stepped-up security proposals made in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino, Calif. terror attacks.

Most Democrats have decried Republican attempts to suspend the admission of Syrian and Iraqi refugees until background check procedures improve, while most Republicans have dismissed Democrat-led attempts to prevent known or suspected terrorists from obtaining a firearm or explosive device.

House Democrats staged a protest Tuesday over a recent rejection of their measure to ban those on the no-fly list from buying guns, forcing a series of floor votes to call attention to the issue and delaying the vote on the waiver program.

But Democratic leaders urged their members to back the bill, calling the reforms “responsible” and “sensible.”

While an earlier vote to suspend Syrian and Iraqi refugee admissions “showed the country and this body at its worst,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, “Today’s bill makes sensible improvements to the security of the visa waiver program.”

The House and Senate bills would require countries participating in the waiver program to issue passports with embedded chips containing biometric data, report information about stolen passports to Interpol and share information about known or suspected terrorists with the United States.

The House measure also seeks to prevent Syrian and Iraqi nationals, as well as any passport holder of a waiver country who has traveled to Syria, Iraq, Iran or Sudan since March 1, 2011 – the start of the Syrian civil war – from taking advantage of the program. These individuals would instead be required to submit to the traditional visa approval process, which requires an in-person interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

The Senate bill would prevent individuals who traveled to Iraq or Syria from using the program for five years. Both bills give the Department of Homeland Security secretary the authority to take countries out of the waiver system.

The biggest reason for imposing such restrictions, lawmakers argue, is that 30 of the 38 countries in the program are in Europe, meaning most could likely come to the United States without a visa. Lawmakers are worried about those 5,000 to 30,000 potentially radicalized individuals who have visited Syria or Iraq and hold European passports.

“That’s what this bill is designed to stop,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said in a statement. “We need to strengthen the security of the Visa Waiver Program to keep terrorists from reaching our shores.”

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) pointed out that the bill also includes an emphasis on deception detection technologies enabling officials  to determine when a person is potentially being disingenuous in filling out an online application.

“The human interview isn’t a failsafe either,” McSally noted, adding that administration officials had told her they can sometimes get more information from the forms visitors have to fill out then from in-person interviews.

But not all lawmakers agree the proposed reforms would solve concerns with the waiver program.

This bill will do some good, but it’s mostly evadable,” said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).

Sherman argued that since most Islamic State fighters slip into Syria from Turkey, they would not have stamps on their passports and could easily lie about where they had been.

The Homeland Security Department recently beefed up its online visa waiver application and the White House announced further efforts to strengthen the program.

The House proposal was drafted by a task force of Republican committee chairmen, who have been working on a roster of proposals to respond to the Paris terror attacks by stepping up security measures at home and abroad

Bitcoin founder Craig Wright: Home raided for possible Tax Evasion?

Police have raided the home of an Australian tech entrepreneur identified by two US publications as one of the early developers of the digital currency bitcoin.

On Wednesday afternoon, police gained entry to a home belonging to Craig Wright, who had hours earlier been identified in investigations by Gizmodo and Wired, based on leaked transcripts of legal interviews and files.

Both publications have indicated that they believe Wright to have been involved in the creation of the cryptocurrency.

Who is Craig Wright and how likely is it that he’s behind bitcoin?

Separate investigations by US tech publications suggest an Australian could be at the heart of the cryptocurrency and may even be ‘Satoshi Nakamoto’. How certain are the claims – and why was he raided by police on Tuesday?

Craig Steven Wright
Australian Craig Wright, who has been linked to the creation of Bitcoin. Photograph:
Adonis Bouhatab shared a link.|By Elle Hunt

Other people who say they knew Wright have expressed strong doubts about his alleged role, with some saying privately they believe the publications have been the victims of an elaborate hoax.

More than 10 police personnel arrived at the house in the Sydney suburb of Gordon at about 1.30pm. Two police staff wearing white gloves could be seen from the street searching the cupboards and surfaces of the garage. At least three more were seen from the front door. (White glove in order Not to erase prints on keyboard?)

The Australian Federal police said in a statement that the raids were not related to the bitcoin claims.

“The AFP can confirm it has conducted search warrants to assist the Australian Taxation Office at a residence in Gordon and a business premises in Ryde, Sydney. This matter is unrelated to recent media reporting regarding the digital currency bitcoin.”

One officer told Reuters they were “clearing the house” (Any one wearing police outfit can clear a house).

Reuters reporter Jane Wardell said Wright’s offices were also being raided.

The house was the only one on the street with a rubbish bin still outside, six days after the weekly Thursday collection, and the letterbox was full, indicating that the house may have been empty recently.

Garry Hayres, the owner of the property, now based in Maroochydore, Queensland, told Guardian Australia that Wright and his wife Ramona Watts had leased the property in November 2012.

He only met Watts, “a lovely lady”, but said the couple were “typical tenants. They didn’t look after the place fantastically, but it wasn’t their home. They didn’t seem bad.”

He said they switched to from a full lease to month-by-month about six months ago, before informing him in the first week of December of their intention to leave.

Wright told him they were moving to London; he would go first, then Watts would follow.

The couple extended the lease by an extra week, taking them to the first week of January.

A neighbour said a huge container arrived about a month ago, followed by a small remover’s truck in the first week of December

He said Watts was a “pleasant lady” but described Wright as a “cold fish Craig”.

“Everybody talks on this street, but not with him. I don’t waste my time. He showed no interest, totally kept to himself.”

He said the couple had at least one child, a boy of about 16, as well as possibly a younger girl.

The identity of the founder of the software – known pseudonymously as Satoshi Nakamoto – has never been revealed, despite numerous attempts by news organisations to uncover it.

Wright is involved in a number of tech enterprises in Australia, company records show

The documents published by Gizmodo appear to show records of an interview with the Australian Tax Office surrounding his tax affairs in which his bitcoin holdings are discussed at length.

During the interview, the person the transcript names as Wright says: “I did my best to try and hide the fact that I’ve been running bitcoin since 2009 but I think it’s getting – most – most – by the end of this half the world is going to bloody know.”

Guardian Australia has been unable to independently verify the authenticity of the transcripts published by Gizmodo, or whether the transcript is an accurate reflection of the audio if the interview took place. It is also not clear whether the phrase “running” refers merely to the process of mining bitcoin using a computer.

A spokeswoman for the Australian Tax Office was unable to confirm whether the meetings with the ATO and Wright had taken place due to “obligations around confidentiality under the law”.

There is also no record publicly available of proceedings Wright was apparently involved in at Australia’s Administrative Appeals Tribunal surrounding his tax affairs, mentioned in the leaked documents.

The purported admission in the transcript does not state that Wright is a founder of the currency, but other emails that Gizmodo claim are from Wright suggest further involvement he may have had in the development of bitcoin.

An email to a Clayton Utz lawyer identified as Wright’s lawyer in the ATO transcripts was sent from an address linked to Nakamoto and is signed “Craig (possibly).”

The email discussed whether contact should be made with Australia’s then assistant treasurer Arthur Sinodinos in January 2014 over the regulatory issues in Australia surrounding bitcoin.

The treatment of bitcoin for tax purposes in Australia has been the subject of considerable debate. The ATO ruled in December 2014 that cryptocurrency should be considered an asset for capital gains tax purposes. (Unless the bitcoin devalued?)

The emails published by Gizmodo cannot been verified. Comment has been sought from Sinodinos on whether he was contacted by Wright – or his lawyer – in relation to bitcoin and its regulatory and taxation status in Australia.

A third email published by Gizmodo from 2008 attributes to Wright a comment where he said: “I have been working on a new form of electronic money. Bit cash, bit coin …”

Wright has also claimed to be a consultant for the Australian federal police. Guardian Australia understands the AFP have not been able to find any records of this association.

When Guardian Australia contacted the media number listed for one of Wright’s companies and asked whether Wright was the founder of bitcoin the person who answered the phone hung up

Nathaniel Popper, a reporter on Wall Street for the New York Times, tweeted he was emailed by someone attempting to unmask Wright, but he “didn’t find it convincing at the time”.

In subsequent tweets, having read both the Wired and Gizmodo investigations, Popper acknowledged there was some evidence to tie Wright to Satoshi. “The details of the Wright-Satoshi link are very convincing but where I get stuck is the personality.” (What that mean? Psych-analysing the character of this person?)

NoteAny computer skilled-person with a Decrypting program can use bitcoin transactions. The reason Bit-Coin is so highly volatile is because it is conceived and used as a currency.

Use Bitcoin as a digital means for bartering goods and services on a global scale and nobody lose on fluctuation of the bitcoin value. Once the negotiation of the price of the goods is done, the proper amount of bitcoin is transmitted and then exchanged for real currencies in the same day.

In the face of monopolistic tendencies by multinationals (especially monopolizing the financial transactions), bitcoin bartering system will play the role of global Black market trading exchange.

What Does Jailing a Palestinian Politician Say About Israeli Democracy?

Khalida Jarrar,  a member of parliament, was sentenced to 15 months in prison this week for membership in an illegal organization and incitement, but was her trial in a military court just? (These news remind me of peaceful youth demonstrators being held in military courts in Lebanon)

Khalida Jarrar is a political prisoner.

The Ofer Military Court, which on Monday sentenced the Palestinian parliamentarian to 15 months in prison for membership in an illegal organization and incitement, is a political court that punished her for her political activity, and for that alone.

Thus Israel, which pretends to be a democracy, has political prisoners, political arrests and political prison sentences, at least in the occupied territories.

(In the occupied territory or taken from the occupied territory? And the Palestinians of 1948, no one of them was held because of his political allegiance?)

Andrew Bossone shared a link.

Jarrar’s trial once again proved the intolerable contradiction between the rule of law and the principles of justice, on one hand, and the military justice system on the other. The latter has no relationship to the former. (In what way? Simply because the officers are no civilian judges?)

Jarrar was arrested at her home in Al-Bireh in April.

The defense establishment claimed at the time that the reason for the arrest was her violation of a military order that allowed her to live only in the Jericho area, far from her home.

No other crime was mentioned. Later, she was indicted on 12 different counts, some of them ridiculous and even outrageous, like attending a book fair and paying condolence visits. In the end, she was convicted on two counts in a plea bargain.

One military court judge ordered her freed long ago; another ordered her kept in prison until the end of her trial; and the military prosecutor threatened her – and essentially the court as well – by saying that if she were released, she’d be thrown in jail without trial,

In other words placed in administrative detention. (The way 60% of Palestinian youths and adolescents are jailed, on No charges, and for many months)

This is not how the legal system of a properly run state conducts itself.

Even the fact that Jarrar is a legislator, a member of parliament, an elected representative of her people – a post that ought to grant her immunity from political charges – didn’t give her a moment’s protection. Israel treated her brutally, just as it treats every Palestinian it deems suspect.

First it tried to keep her away from her hometown with a draconian military order.

Then it tried to put her in administration detention, which is no less arbitrary.

Finally, and only after public and international pressure for her release had intensified, members of the military justice system were forced to fabricate an indictment against her – most of which, as noted, collapsed.

 Essentially, this was a Band-Aid, based at least in part on dubious evidence, including vague hearsay evidence and testimony obtained under pressure.

The fact that Jarrar was thrown into prison because of her political activity on behalf of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is first and foremost an indictment of the State of Israel, which puts politicians on trial because of their legitimate opposition to the occupation and even sentences them to jail.

Jarrar and her attorneys decided to accept the plea bargain in order to shorten her trial, and thereby the length of her detention until the end of proceedings.

But the black flag that flies over the shameful imprisonment of a Palestinian member of parliament will continue to fly over the State of Israel, tarnishing her jailers and, above all, those who are responsible for them




December 2015

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