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Changes in US Immigration…

US President Donald Trump’s new immigration plan, which has been called “dead-on-arrival” by Democrats, could be “disastrous” for those already in queue for a Green Card, including hundreds of thousands of Indians, as it intends to replace the existing system in favour of one that prioritises merit over family. The new system will also make it impossible to sponsor some categories of relatives.

There are 261,765 Indians waiting for family-sponsored Green cards and 306,601 (these are principal applicants; the number is more than half a million counting dependents) in the employment based queue, according to the US state department and the US citizenship and immigration services data.

In all, there are 3.6 million and 395,025 in the two categories respectively.

“We will replace the existing Green Card categories with a new visa, the Build America visa -- which is what we all want to hear,” the president said announcing his new “merit-based, high-security plan” Thursday. It seeks to overhaul legal immigration and bolster border security, including a wall.

The plan envisages a points-based immigration system that scores merit, age, professional skills, education and proficiency in English language over family ties.

Of the 1.1 million Green Cards issued every year, 66% go to relatives and 21% to asylum seekers and those picked in a visa lottery. Only 12% go to those seeking permanent residency through employment. President Trump intends to reverse that and take that 12% number to 57%, even higher.

If enacted into law, young, qualified, professional, English-speaking Indian applicants will stand a better chance of qualifying for Green Card, going forward, than those banking on familial ties to relatives such as children, spouses, siblings, parents, even grandparents.

But for those already in queue, experts said, it would be disastrous. Doug Rand, a former Obama White House official who worked on immigration and is co-founder of an immigration services company Boundless, said, “Although superficially beneficial for immigrants with more education and skills, this proposal could be disastrous for H-1B workers, most of whom are from India.”

First, he added, it would “pull the rug out from under the half-million or so skilled workers and their families” who are waiting for their Green Cards, because “they apparently they would all have to start over and reapply for the new ‘Build America visas’.” And, second, even if they managed, they will not be able to sponsor parents, adult children and siblings under the family-based category.

Stuart Andersen, an immigration expert who runs a non-partisan think-tank National Foundation for American Policy, said, “Indians with pending family-based Green Card applications would see those applications eliminated. Some Indians waiting for employment-based Green Cards might find a quicker path but since all employment-based Green Card applications would be eliminated anyone who doesn’t gain enough points under the system would eventually have to leave the United States.” And those who are American citizens will not be able to sponsor some relatives.

But the plan appears to have no future, not at least in its current avatar. Democrats, who control the House of Representatives that will have to pass the plan, have already come out against it. “This dead-on-arrival plan is not a remotely serious proposal,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a statement, and added, “To say that this plan’s application criteria are ‘merit-based’ is the height of condescension.” And, a big problem for them: the plan does not address the issue of “Dreamers”, undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, several thousand of them are from India.

President Trump acknowledged the plan’s uncertain future in his announcement remarks from the White House. “If for some reason -- possibly political -- we can’t get the Democrats to approve this merit-based, high-security plan, then we will get it approved immediately after the (2020) election, when we take back the House, keep the Senate, and, of course, hold the presidency,” he said.

Resolution under IBC:…

Banks will likely have window to scout for prospective buyers of stressed assets for their expeditious resolution even before the bankruptcy process is initiated. This facility is set to be in place as part of a host of amendments being planned for the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC), which is being reviewed by the government and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI).

The so-called ‘pre-packs’ or pre-packaged resolutions, which have examples in many regimes including US and UK, will essentially allow a stressed firm to prepare a financial reorganisation plan with approval of its at least two-thirds of creditors (and shareholders) before the filing of an insolvency plea by any party at the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).

The resolution plan so reached can then be placed before the NCLT for approval, so that it can be implemented. The pre-packaged resolution scheme is expected to aid the existing insolvency framework and cut costs and time of the resolution process. Explaining the idea of the proposed scheme, corporate affairs secretary Injeti Srinivas had pointed out that it won’t seek to dilute the existing IBC framework in any way and creditors could still tap the current IBC window if they were averse to any pre-IBC negotiations with debtors. The proposed scheme would only be an additional tool at disposal in case both creditors and debtors wished to avoid the usual litigations and rigour of the resolution process under the current IBC framework.

Under the pre-packs scheme, banks could try and find an appropriate value for the bankrupt company before an insolvency petition is moved, leading to better chances of completing the transfer of assets within the time-frames stipulated in the code. IBBI, sources said, have circulated a discussion paper among its members on the subject. The paper is yet to be made public. Several large-ticket cases, such as Essar Steel, Bhushan Power and Steel and Alok Industries, have been languishing in courts for over two years now. Bankers are increasingly losing faith in the CIRP process and are now resorting to other methods of resolution, such as sales to asset reconstruction companies.

The practice of opting for pre-packs is a standard approach in the UK, on whose insolvency legislation the Indian code is based. “It is quite clear that a majority of the cases getting admitted under the IBC are not resolved within the prescribed timelines. When that happens, the value of the asset begins to get eroded and the odds of liquidation begin to rise,” explained a resolution professional (RP) on condition of anonymity. To increase the odds of a successful resolution and minimise the possibility of a company going into liquidation, RPs had written to the IBBI asking for the use of pre-packs to be formalised as part of the IBC.

Apple iTunes Can Request…

The California Supreme Court ruled on February 4, 2013 that the provisions of the Song-Beverly Credit Card Act, which prohibits the collection of "personal identification information" as a condition of credit card payment, does not apply to online retailers selling products that are downloaded electronically.

The case is Apple, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County (Krescent). In it, Mr. Krescent purchased media downloads from Apple online, and he alleges that Apple required him to provide his address and telephone number as a condition of accepting his credit card as payment. He sued Apple on behalf of himself, and on behalf of a class of similarly situated individuals, for violations of the Act.

Apple disputed that the Act even applied to online transactions, and argued that finding otherwise would undermine their ability to prevent identity theft and fraud.

Justice Goodwin Liu, writing for the majority, analyzed the text of the Act, and specifically, two provisions of the Act:

  • California Civil Code section 1747.08(a)(1), which prohibits retailers from requesting, or requiring as a condition to accepting the credit card as payment the cardholder to write any personal identification information upon the credit card transaction form or otherwise, and
  • California Civil Code section 1747.08(a)(2), which prohibits retailers from requesting or requiring the cardholder to provide personal identification information, which the retailer writes, causes to be written, or otherwise records upon the credit card transaction form or otherwise.

Justice Liu first noted that the text of the statute made no reference to the Internet or online transactions, which was not surprising given that it was enacted in 1990. "In 1990, the idea of computerized transactions involving the sale and purchase of virtual products was beyond any legislator's imagination. Such technology was not even a twinkle in Steve Jobs's eye; at the time, Jobs had just begun to experiment with the concept of--interpersonal computing," wrote Liu.

However, he noted that laws adapt and can be applied to later developed technologies.

Looking at the statutory scheme as a whole, he noted that the Legislature was balancing two competing concerns. "While it is clear that the Legislature enacted the Credit Card Act to protect consumer privacy, it is also clear that the Legislature did not intend to achieve privacy protection without regard to exposing consumers and retailers to undue risk of fraud."

Moreover, the legislative history indicated that the provisions were only enacted after carefully considering and rejecting the possibility that the collection of personal identification information by brick-and-mortar retailers could serve a legitimate purpose such as fraud prevention. Brick-and-mortar retailers had other means to verify the identity of the purchaser using the credit card, such as, comparing the signature on the receipt to the back of the card, contacting the credit card center for approval, or requiring customers to show their driver's license, provided the information was not written down. Thus, with these tools available, collecting personal information was not necessary to prevent fraud. The goal of the legislation was to prohibit retailers from convincing customers that the collection of information was necessary to complete the transaction, when in fact it was not, and was instead being used for business purposes, such as marketing.

On the other hand, Justice Liu was not convinced that the Legislature would make the same policy decision if it were faced with the type of transaction in which the standard mechanisms for verifying a cardholder's identity were not available.

"Unlike a brick-and-mortar retailer, an online retailer cannot visually inspect the credit card, the signature on the back of the card, or the customer's photo identification." As such, Justice Liu could not see applying the prohibitions against collecting information to online retailers, when the safeguards against fraud are not available to them.

Loss of Consumer Protection?

Justice Kennard and Justice Baxter wrote separately in dissent raising concerns that the opinion removed significant protections for consumers, and "leaves online retailers free to collect and use the personal identification information of credit card users as they wish" (dis. opn. by Baxter, J., at p. 1).

Justice Liu was not convinced, and opined that existing state and federal laws provide consumers with a degree of protection against unwanted use or disclosure of personal identification information. For example, the California Online Privacy Protection Act of 2003 requires that online retailers who collect personally identifiable information about individual consumers must conspicuously post its privacy policy on its website.

If these measures seem inadequate, Liu wrote, then it is for the Legislature to craft additional protections. "It is not our role to opine on this important policy issue. We merely hold that section 1747.08 does not govern online purchases of electronically downloadable products because this type of transaction does not fit within the statutory scheme."

Further, he clarified that the Court was not holding that any specific type of information was necessary to combat fraud and identity theft, just that there must be "some mechanism" for online retailers to verify that a person using a credit card is authorized to do so.


Although the Court found that the prohibitions in the Act did not apply to online retailers, it did so only in the context of transactions involving downloadable products. The Court did not decide whether the Act applies to online transactions not involving downloadable products, or any other transactions that do not involve in-person, face-to-face interaction between the customer and retailer, such as mail or telephone orders.

Given the strenuous objections by Justices Kennard and Baxter, and Justice Liu's invitation for the Legislature to review the issue, a legislative response to this decision may soon be forthcoming.

Without encryption,…

 In every country of the world, the security of computers keeps the lights on, the shelves stocked, the dams closed, and transportation running. For more than half a decade, the vulnerability of our computers and computer networks has been ranked the number one risk in the US Intelligence Community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment – that’s higher than terrorism, higher than war. Your bank balance, the local hospital’s equipment, and the 2020 US presidential election, among many, many other things, all depend on computer safety.

And yet, in the midst of the greatest computer security crisis in history, the US government, along with the governments of the UK and Australia, is attempting to undermine the only method that currently exists for reliably protecting the world’s information: encryption. Should they succeed in their quest to undermine encryption, our public infrastructure and private lives will be rendered permanently unsafe.

In the simplest terms, encryption is a method of protecting information, the primary way to keep digital communications safe. Every email you write, every keyword you type into a search box – every embarrassing thing you do online – is transmitted across an increasingly hostile internet. Earlier this month the US, alongside the UK and Australia, called on Facebook to create a “backdoor”, or fatal flaw, into its encrypted messaging apps, which would allow anyone with the key to that backdoor unlimited access to private communications. So far, Facebook has resisted this fact.

If internet traffic is unencrypted, any government, company, or criminal that happens to notice it can – and, in fact, does – steal a copy of it, secretly recording your information for ever. If, however, you encrypt this traffic, your information cannot be read: only those who have a special decryption key can unlock it.

I know a little about this, because for a time I operated part of the US National Security Agency’s global system of mass surveillance. In June 2013 I worked with journalists to reveal that system to a scandalised world. Without encryption I could not have written the story of how it all happened – my book Permanent Record – and got the manuscript safely across borders that I myself can’t cross. More importantly, encryption helps everyone from reporters, dissidents, activists, NGO workers and whistleblowers, to doctors, lawyers and politicians, to do their work – not just in the world’s most dangerous and repressive countries, but in every single country.

When I came forward in 2013, the US government wasn’t just passively surveilling internet traffic as it crossed the network, but had also found ways to co-opt and, at times, infiltrate the internal networks of major American tech companies. At the time, only a small fraction of web traffic was encrypted: six years later, Facebook, Google and Apple have made encryption-by-default a central part of their products, with the result that today close to 80% of web traffic is encrypted. Even the former director of US national intelligence, James Clapper, credits the revelation of mass surveillance with significantly advancing the commercial adoption of encryption. The internet is more secure as a result. Too secure, in the opinion of some governments.

Donald Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, who authorised one of the earliest mass surveillance programmes without reviewing whether it was legal, is now signalling an intention to halt – or even roll back – the progress of the last six years. WhatsApp, the messaging service owned by Facebook, already uses end-to-end encryption (E2EE): in March the company announced its intention to incorporate E2EE into its other messaging apps – Facebook Messenger and Instagram – as well. Now Barr is launching a public campaign to prevent Facebook from climbing this next rung on the ladder of digital security. This began with an open letter co-signed by Barr, UK home secretary Priti Patel, Australia’s minister for home affairs and the US secretary of homeland security, demanding Facebook abandon its encryption proposals.

If Barr’s campaign is successful, the communications of billions will remain frozen in a state of permanent insecurity: users will be vulnerable by design. And those communications will be vulnerable not only to investigators in the US, UK and Australia, but also to the intelligence agencies of China, Russia and Saudi Arabia – not to mention hackers around the world.

End-to-end encrypted communication systems are designed so that messages can be read only by the sender and their intended recipients, even if the encrypted – meaning locked – messages themselves are stored by an untrusted third party, for example, a social media company such as Facebook.

The central improvement E2EE provides over older security systems is in ensuring the keys that unlock any given message are only ever stored on the specific devices at the end-points of a communication – for example the phones of the sender or receiver of the message – rather than the middlemen who own the various internet platforms enabling it. Since E2EE keys aren’t held by these intermediary service providers, they can no longer be stolen in the event of the massive corporate data breaches that are so common today, providing an essential security benefit. In short, E2EE enables companies such as Facebook, Google or Apple to protect their users from their scrutiny: by ensuring they no longer hold the keys to our most private conversations, these corporations become less of an all-seeing eye than a blindfolded courier.

It is striking that when a company as potentially dangerous as Facebook appears to be at least publicly willing to implement technology that makes users safer by limiting its own power, it is the US government that cries foul. This is because the government would suddenly become less able to treat Facebook as a convenient trove of private lives.

To justify its opposition to encryption, the US government has, as is traditional, invoked the spectre of the web’s darkest forces. Without total access to the complete history of every person’s activity on Facebook, the government claims it would be unable to investigate terrorists, drug dealers money launderers and the perpetrators of child abuse – bad actors who, in reality, prefer not to plan their crimes on public platforms, especially not on US-based ones that employ some of the most sophisticated automatic filters and reporting methods available.


The true explanation for why the US, UK and Australian governments want to do away with end-to-end encryption is less about public safety than it is about power: E2EE gives control to individuals and the devices they use to send, receive and encrypt communications, not to the companies and carriers that route them. This, then, would require government surveillance to become more targeted and methodical, rather than indiscriminate and universal.

What this shift jeopardises is strictly nations’ ability to spy on populations at mass scale, at least in a manner that requires little more than paperwork. By limiting the amount of personal records and intensely private communications held by companies, governments are returning to classic methods of investigation that are both effective and rights-respecting, in lieu of total surveillance. In this outcome we remain not only safe, but free.

• Edward Snowden is former CIA officer and whistleblower, and author of Permanent Record. He is president of the board of directors of the Freedom of the Press Foundation

From : The Gaurdian News 


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