Lawmakers Seek Probe on US Hacking Services Sold Globally

U.S. lawmakers are pushing legislation that would force the State Department to report what it is doing to control the spread of U.S. hacking tools around the world.

A bill passed in a House of Representatives’ appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday said Congress is “concerned” about the State Department’s ability to supervise U.S. companies that sell offensive cybersecurity products and know-how to other countries.

The proposed legislation, released on Wednesday, would direct the State Department to report to Congress how it decides whether to approve the sale of cyber capabilities abroad and to disclose any action it has taken to punish companies for violating its policies in the past year.

National security experts have grown increasingly concerned about the proliferation of U.S. hacking tools and technology.

The legislation follows a Reuters report in January which showed a U.S. defense contractor provided staff to a United Arab Emirates hacking unit called Project Raven. The UAE program utilized former U.S. intelligence operatives to target militants, human rights activists and journalists.

State Department officials granted permission to the U.S. contractor, Maryland-based CyberPoint International, to assist an Emirate intelligence agency in surveillance operations, but it is unclear how much they knew about its activities in the UAE.

Under U.S. law, companies selling cyber offensive products or services to foreign governments must first obtain permission from the State Department.The new measure was added to a State Department spending bill by Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat from Maryland and member of the House Appropriations Committee.

Ruppersberger said in an emailed statement he had been “particularly troubled by recent media reports” about the State Department’s approval process for the sale of cyberweapons and services.

CyberPoint’s Chief Executive Officer Karl Gumtow did not respond to a request for comment. He previously told Reuters that to his knowledge, CyberPoint employees never conducted hacking operations and always complied with U.S. laws.

The State Department has declined to comment on CyberPoint, but said in an emailed statement on Wednesday that it is “firmly committed to the robust and smart regulation of defense articles and services export” and before granting export licenses it weighs “political, military, economic, human rights, and arms control considerations.”

Robert Chesney, a national security law professor at the University of Texas, said the Reuters report raised an alarm over how Washington supervises the export of U.S. cyber capabilities.

“The Project Raven (story) perfectly well documents that there is reason to be concerned and it is Congress’ job to get to the bottom of it,” he said.

The bill is expected to be voted on by the full appropriations committee in the coming weeks before going onto the full House.

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Voice of America

In Trump’s Immigration Plan, Skills Matter More than Family

U.S. President Donald Trump is scheduled to announce his long-awaited proposal on immigration Thursday, a plan that aims to move the immigration approval process away from family ties and humanitarian needs.

In a briefing to reporters, a senior administration official said the plan would bolster border security and create a merit-based system, insisting that it was a “competitiveness issue.”

Trump’s proposal would keep the number of green cards issued for permanent residency at about 1.1 million annually, but would change the focus of how they would be allocated, prioritizing highly skilled and educated individuals with employment or investment prospects rather than family ties to U.S. citizens or humanitarian needs.

Currently, 12% of immigrants are given permission to come to the U.S. based on their skills, and 66% gain entry because of their connection to family already in the country legally. Under the plan, 57% of immigrant visas will be given to individuals with skills or offers of employment and 33% to people with family ties. Visas given based on humanitarian needs will be reduced from 22% to 10%.

Immigration analysts question the economic justification for eliminating or drastically reducing family-sponsored immigration. 

David Bier of the libertarian CATO Institute said that nearly half of family-sponsored immigrants have college degrees, a much higher rate than U.S.-born adults. “The vast majority of U.S. legal immigrants are family-sponsored, yet the U.S. immigrant population works at higher rates than the U.S.-born population,” he said.

Bier said that adding more skilled immigration would benefit the United States, but “there is no justification for that coming at the expense of family reunification.”

The plan will eliminate the Diversity Immigrant Visa program, also known as the green card lottery, which makes 50,000 visas available annually to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.

The Build America Visa

The administration official described the heart of the proposal as the “Build America Visa,” with three main streams: “extraordinary talent; professional and specialized vocations; and exceptional students.”

English fluency will be included as a factor determining whether an individual will be granted permanent residency.

“Language ability is a strong indicator of long-term economic success, not only for the initiating immigrant but for their children,” said the administration official, stressing that the merit-based system would lead to more diversity instead of reducing it.

Immigration scholar Rick Su from the University of Buffalo disagreed. 

“Depending on how that is measured, this will likely lead to less diversity,” he said. “There are a number of very talented individuals working in the U.S. now, and doing quite well, that would likely have less English language proficiency than those from Anglophone countries.”

Bier pointed out that a points-based system would be dominated by the largest developing countries in the world, mostly Indians and Chinese.

“There’s nothing wrong with that,” he said. “I see no economic or moral reason to select immigrants on the basis of their place of birth.”

 

Dreamers ‘not contemplated’

The president is scheduled to give remarks on the plan Thursday afternoon at the Rose Garden. The plan, developed by a team led by Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, is unlikely to receive support from Democrats, because it does not address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for the so-called “Dreamers,” immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

​The White House said Dreamers “are not being contemplated at this time” and acknowledged that the plan was just the first step in an immigration overhaul, including in terms of rallying Republican support behind it.

The Trump administration attempted to end the Obama-era DACA program in 2017 and went through several legal challenges. The Supreme Court in January took no action on the Trump administration’s request to review DACA. This means the fate of the program, and its 70,000 recipients, will not likely be determined until the court begins its new term in October.

In a statement to The Washington Post, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine also expressed reservations, saying, “I am concerned about the fate of the DACA young people, and they cannot be excluded from any immigration package.”

Overhauling the nation’s immigration law has been an issue of contention between Republicans and Democrats for years. The battle has intensified since 2016 when Trump ran for office on a pledge to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico to keep migrants from entering the country illegally.

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Voice of America

shehu-7-sani

‘Your Afro Hair Could Benefit From Cannabis Plant’, Sowore Fires Back At Shehu Sani For Kicking Against The Idea


Less then forty-eight hours after Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State announced his visit to Thailand for the purpose of learning more about Cannabis extract development, lots of reactions have continued to trail the idea.

Akeredolu, who is in Thailand along with Col. Muhammad Mustapha Abdallah rtd, the Chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), are looking into the advantages of Cannabis in the making of food and drugs.

Cannabis extraction and export was first proposed by Omoyele Sowore, the 2019 presidential candidate of the African Action Congress (AAC) during the campaigns.

On Twitter, Senator Shehu Sani, the member representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly reacted by advising Akeredolu to look into other ideas by partnering other states in the areas agriculture to boost income in Ondo state. 

Senator Sani who tweeted with his official tweeter handle @ShehuSani asked Ondo State Governor Rotimi Akeredolu to jettison the idea of extracting the Cannabis plant. 

“My dear brother Akeredolu, Lagos partner Kebbi for Rice, Pls partner Niger for Beans, Kaduna for Ginger or partner Benue for Yam: Pls leave this Indian Hemp matter for now, Abeg” he tweeted. 

Tweeting immediately, Omoyele Sowore said he was “disappointed” in the Kaduna Senator for kicking against the brilliant idea which had already been put into test in country like Canada and recently in Uganda.

@YeleSowore noted that it was unfortunate Sani has refused to see the opportunity in which the Cannabis extraction help the country adding that it could also help grow his “Afro hair” if legally approved by the government.

“I hate to stand between two Nigerian politicians engaging asinine arguments but i am disappointed in you for this tweet. Have you ever thought of it that when this idea finally gains legal ground your Afro hair could benefit from a locally produced line of Cannabis hair products?

Sowore had on the 5th of September 2019 while proposing the idea said: “We have to start taking care of our weed, igbo, such that we can also contribute to the GDP of the world. Some of the best weed in the world are grown in Ekiti state. I am very serious and people are making billions out of that particular plant that is very potent in Nigeria. We should be focusing on it.” he said.

“Our NDLEA should get the memo in advance that Nigeria would be exporting weed to cure cancer in other parts of the world instead of chasing after people who are growing weed. Whereas, they are not chasing after our politicians who are smoking cocaine in their houses”.

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