Category Archive: Economy

CDC begins airport health screenings due to 2019 nCoV virus

CDC begins enhanced health screenings at LAX, SFO & JFK to detect ill travelers on flts direct from / through Wuhan, China due to new coronavirus. See email.

 

Supplemental Info:

 

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.


WUHAN CHINA NOVEL CORONAVIRUS


On 31 December 2019, WHO was informed of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. Since that date, at least 41 new cases have been identified, as well as one death. Chinese investigators conducted gene sequencing of the virus and have ruled out SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, influenza, avian influenza, adenovirus and other common respiratory pathogens (i.e. a possible new type of coronavirus).


Although the virus was initially thought to be transmitted by animals, the WHO says there is now evidence of human-to-human transmission.


On 13 Jan, the Thai Health Ministry in Bangkok reported that a 61-year-old Chinese woman who had traveled from Wuhan has been been quarantined with the mystery strain, the first time it has been detected outside China.

 

On 14 Jan, the World Health Organization began warning hospitals worldwide of the possible spread the novel SARS-like China coronavirus.

 

On 16 Jan, Japan’s health ministry reported their first confirmed case of the coronavirus in a man who had visited Wuhan.


CHINESE NEW YEAR

 

A major concern for public health officials worldwide is the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations, during which the largest annual human migration takes place as Chinese people head home to celebrate the Lunar New Year Spring Festival with their families.


The first day of Chinese New Year starts with the new moon, which for 2020 falls on 25 January.


While the legal holiday lasts 7 days (from the Lunar New Year’s Eve to the sixth day of the first lunar month), many companies and public institutions enjoy a longer holiday up to 10 days or more. It is also a public holiday in countries such as Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, North Korea, Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam.
During last year’s celebrations, it is estimated that 2.2 BILLION trips were made by automobile, 400 MILLION by rail, and 73 MILLION by air to and from points around the globe.

 

According to the Chinese travel services company Ctrip, the top five overseas destinations for Chinese New Year tourists are Thailand, Japan, the United States, Singapore and Australia.

_____

Public Health Screening to Begin at 3 U.S. Airports
for 2019 Novel Coronavirus (“2019-nCoV”)


Press Release

January 17, 2020


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will implement enhanced health screenings to detect ill travelers traveling to the United States on direct or connecting flights from Wuhan, China. This activity is in response to an outbreak in China caused by a novel (new) coronavirus (2019 nCoV), with exported cases to Thailand and Japan.


Starting January 17, 2020, travelers from Wuhan to the United States will undergo entry screening for symptoms associated with 2019-nCoV at three U.S. airports that receive most of the travelers from Wuhan, China: San Francisco (SFO), New York (JFK), and Los Angeles (LAX) airports.


“To further protect the health of the American public during the emergence of this novel coronavirus, CDC is beginning entry screening at three ports of entry. Investigations into this novel coronavirus are ongoing and we are monitoring and responding to this evolving situation,” said Martin Cetron, M.D., Director of CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine.


Based on current information, the risk from 2019-nCoV to the American public is currently deemed to be low. Nevertheless, CDC is taking proactive preparedness precautions.


Entry screening is part of a layered approach used with other public health measures already in place to detect arriving travelers who are sick (such as detection and reporting of ill travelers by airlines during travel and referral of ill travelers arriving at a US port of entry by CBP) to slow and reduce the spread of any disease into the United States.


CDC is deploying about 100 additional staff to the three airports (SFO, JFK, and LAX) to supplement existing staff at CDC quarantine stations located at those airports.


CDC is actively monitoring this situation for pertinent information about the source of outbreak, and risk for further spread through person-to-person or animal-to-person transmission. CDC may adjust screening procedures and other response activities as this outbreak investigation continues and more is learned about the newly emerging virus. Entry screening alone is not a guarantee against the possible importation of this new virus but is an important public health tool during periods of uncertainty and part of a multilayered government response strategy. As new information emerges, CDC will reassess entry screening measures and could scale activities up or down accordingly.


On Jan. 11, 2020, CDC updated a
Level 1 Travel Health Notice (“practice usual precautions”) for travelers to Wuhan City and an updated Health Alert to health care professionals and public health partners with new and updated guidance is forthcoming.


China health officials report that most of the patients infected with 2019-nCoV have had exposure to a large market where live animals were present, suggesting this is a novel virus that has jumped the species barrier to infect people. Chinese authorities additionally report that several hundred health care workers caring for outbreak patients are being monitored and no spread of this virus from patients to health care workers has been seen. They report no sustained spread of this virus in the community, however there are indications that some limited person-to-person spread may have occurred. CDC is responding to this outbreak out of an abundance of caution, ready to detect people infected with 2019-CoV.


For the latest information on the outbreak, visit CDC’s
Novel Coronavirus 2019 website.

 

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2020/p0117-coronavirus-screening.html

 

Start now to make sure you are staying prepared.

 

via: Alerts USA


Save pagePDF pageEmail pagePrint page

Virginia governor declares state of emergency – is National Guard deployment next

Is this the excuse to use National Guard some feared.

 

Per the Emergency Services and Disaster Law:

Mutual assistance in this compact may include the use of the states’ National Guard forces, either in accordance with the National Guard Mutual Assistance Compact or by mutual agreement between states.

Governor says intelligence groups report chatter echo’s Charlottesville rally, governor says.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued a state of emergency on Wednesday that bars any weapons from the Richmond’s Capitol Square from Friday to Tuesday, after he received credible intelligence that hate groups and armed militias are planning violence at next Monday’s Lobby Day against gun control legislation.

Northam, who discussed the threats at a news conference, said the state’s law enforcement analysis found that the chatter on the internet and other venues mirrored similar messages seen around the time of the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally, which left three dead and more than 30 injured.

The governor declined to give exact details about the threats and the persons making them, but said that these groups, who were coming from outside of the state, talked about storming the Virginia Capitol.

“They are not coming to peacefully protest, they are coming to intimidate and to cause harm,” he said of the outside groups.

The announced weapons ban will include sticks, bats, chains, projectiles, and firearms, similar to the prohibitions issued on airlines and in courthouses, Northam said. State, Capitol and Richmond police officers will coordinate the safety in the square and set up checkpoints to make sure everyone adheres to the weapons ban.

“It makes no sense to ban every other weapon but allow firearms when intelligence shows a threat of an armed militia groups storming our capital,” Northam said.

Gun rights advocates from around the country plan on attending the state’s Lobby Day on Monday to speak out against new gun control legislation that is moving forward under the newly Democratic-controlled Virginia House of Delegates and state Senate. Some of the bills include universal background checks on guns, an assault rifles ban and a “red flag” law that would give judges the authority to order an individual to temporarily turn in their weapon if they are deemed a threat.

Seventeen states including New York and Florida, as well as Washington, D.C., have previously passed red flag laws.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League, VCDL, a group that describes itself as a “non-profit, non-partisan, grassroots organization dedicated to advancing the fundamental human right of all Virginians to keep and bear arms,” plans on holding a rally. Northam said he respects the rights of Virginians to protest and speak their mind about the gun control bills, but emphasized that he will not condone any threat of violence.

He called on the VCDL and other gun rights groups to stick to peaceful protests.

“I call on them to disavow anyone who wishes to use Monday’s rally to advance a violent agenda,” Northam said. “Hate, intimidation and violence have no place here.”

Representatives for the VCDL didn’t immediately return messages for comment.

Start now to make sure you are staying prepared.

via:  abcnews


Save pagePDF pageEmail pagePrint page

WHO warns hospitals re novel SARS-like China coronavirus

WHO warning hospitals worldwide of poss spreading of novel SARS-like China coronavirus. Chinese New Year approaching. Links to clinical guidance via email.

Supplemental Info:

Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.

WUHAN CHINA NOVEL CORONAVIRUS

On 31 December 2019, WHO was informed of a cluster of cases of pneumonia of unknown cause detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China. Since that date, at least 41 new cases have been identified, as well as one death. Chinese investigators conducted gene sequencing of the virus and have ruled out SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, influenza, avian influenza, adenovirus and other common respiratory pathogens (i.e. a possible new type of coronavirus).
Although the virus was initially thought to be transmitted by animals, the WHO says there is now evidence of human-to-human transmission.
On 13 Jan, the Thai Health Ministry in Bangkok reported that a 61-year-old Chinese woman who had traveled from Wuhan has been been quarantined with the mystery strain, the first time it has been detected outside China.

CHINESE NEW YEAR

A major concern for public health officials worldwide is the upcoming Chinese New Year celebrations, during which the largest annual human migration takes place as Chinese people head home to celebrate the Lunar New Year Spring Festival with their families.

The first day of Chinese New Year starts with the new moon, which for 2020 falls on 25 January.
While the legal holiday lasts 7 days (from the Lunar New Year’s Eve to the sixth day of the first lunar month), many companies and public institutions enjoy a longer holiday up to 10 days or more. It is also a public holiday in countries such as Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, North Korea, Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam.

During last year’s celebrations, it is estimated that 2.2 BILLION trips were made by automobile, 400 MILLION by rail, and 73 MILLION by air to and from points around the globe.

WHO GUIDANCE FOR HOSPITALS

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, acting head of WHO’s emerging diseases unit, told a Geneva news briefing earlier today that the agency had given guidance to hospitals worldwide about infection control in case of spread, including by a “super-spreading” event in a health care setting. “This is something on our radar, it is possible, we need to prepare ourselves,” she said.

[ As this virus is so new, some of the guidance below appears to be re-purposed from past related outbreaks. ]

Case Definitions

https://www.who.int/publications-detail/surveillance-case-definitions-for-human-infection-with-novel-coronavirus-(ncov)

Laboratory Guidance (PDF)

https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/330374/WHO-2019-nCoV-laboratory-2020.1-eng.pdf

Clinical Management for Suspected Novel Coronavirus

https://www.who.int/docs/default-source/coronaviruse/clinical-management-of-novel-cov.pdf

Infection Prevention and Control (PDF)

https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/330375/WHO-2019-nCoV-IPC-v2020.1-eng.pdf

Risk Communications

https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/330377/WHO-2019-nCoV-RCCE-v2020.1-eng.pdf

Readiness Checklist

https://www.who.int/publications-detail/national-capacities-review-tool-for-a-novel-coronavirus-(ncov)

Disease Commodity Package

https://www.who.int/publications-detail/disease-commodity-package-for-novel-coronavirus

Start now to make sure you are staying prepared.

via: Alerts USA


Save pagePDF pageEmail pagePrint page

Do you have a backup generator or Social Security? Think about both.

The news headlines read, “Deadly 6.4 Magnitude Earthquake Plunges Puerto Rico into Darkness”; and “Powerful Puerto Rico Earthquake Knocks Out Entire Island’s Power.”

It was enough to prompt a friends mother to call, four times, to make sure he was OK.

There’s been a string of fairly strong earthquakes lately in Puerto Rico… which is incredibly unusual for this part of the world. It’s been more than a century since the island was rocked by anything of this magnitude.

But as he explained to his parents that the press had blown things out of proportion as usual. They were running video footage that made it seem as if the island had been blasted back into the Stone Age.

It’s true that there were some displaced families and property damage near the epicenter.

But most of the island was not substantially affected. None of the major news organizations bothered to show footage of busy shopping malls, crowded restaurants, and packed movie theaters teeming with consumers.

It’s also true that the electrical grid went down: the island was without power for some time. In his community, the power came back on after 2 days. Some people had it on after a day, some after 3 or 4 days.

But here’s what people don’t realize– the electricity problems in Puerto Rico have a lot less to do with the seismic activity, and a lot more to do with the island’s decade-long economic depression.

Puerto Rico’s economy has been in the dumps since at least 2006. The government is bankrupt and defaulted on many of its debts as far back as 2015. And Puerto Rico’s Electric Power Authority (PREPA) is bankrupt as well, having defaulted on billions of dollars worth of bond obligations.

All of this financial insolvency means that neither the government nor PREPA has the resources to invest in the electrical grid.

And most of PREPA’s electrical production assets are in desperate need of replacement.

The largest power plant in Puerto Rico is the 820 MW Costa Sur facility, and according to PREPA, it was built in the 1950s!

This makes Costa Sur more than twice as old as the average power plant in the US.

They simply don’t have the money to modernize or upgrade their facilities. And people who live here understand this reality: the electrical grid in Puerto Rico is incredibly weak.

I’m serious. Power outages are commonplace here. The power at my house goes out at least 2-3 times a month, usually for a couple of hours.

That’s because every time a mouse farts on this island, something goes haywire at the electrical plants and the power goes out.

But again, Puerto Ricans know this. They have little confidence in their government, and even less confidence in the electrical grid.

So everyone who has the means in Puerto Rico owns a generator. It’s their Plan B. The power goes out, the generator comes on, and everything is OK.

My friends house is equipped with a huge generator… plus a backup cistern in case the water company goes down too.

This isn’t some wild conspiracy theory. In Puerto Rico, there’s nearly a 100% certainty that the system is going to fail… so having a backup generator is a perfectly sensible precaution to take.

And people who take this precaution are well-protected in the event that disaster strikes.

This way of thinking can obviously be applied to a lot of things… like retirement planning.

It’s no secret that government pension funds around the world are woefully underfunded.

University studies, non-profit research groups, mainstream financial press, and even government agencies themselves have reached the same conclusion: national, state, and local pension funds are trillions of dollars in the hole.

They simply do not have enough cash, nor will they have enough cash in the future, to pay the retirement benefits they owe.

Social Security in the United States is a great example.

Social Security’s Board of Trustees, which includes the United States Secretary of the Treasury, states quite plainly in their annual reports that Social Security’s primary trust funds will run out of money in 15 years.

Specifically, on page 5 of the 2019 Social Security Trustees Report, they state:

“Trust Fund asset reserves become depleted and unable to pay scheduled benefits in full on a timely basis in 2035.”

This isn’t some crazy conspiracy theory either. This is the US Treasury Secretary stating that in just 15 years, Social Security’s trust funds will be out of money and unable to pay the benefits that they’ve been promising people for decades.

This is just like Puerto Rico’s electrical issue: you know there’s nearly a 100% certainty that the program is going to run out of money.

I mean, seriously, the people in charge of program are telling you that it’s going to run out of money. It couldn’t be any more clear than that.

So it seems fairly sensible to have a backup generator for your retirement.

Everyone has a different situation– but there are plenty of options.

In the US, for example, tax deferred structures like a SEP IRA or Solo 401(k) can help you put away $50,000+ each year for your retirement in a really tax efficient way.

It’s even possible to use these structures combined with a side business like selling products on Amazon, renting out Airbnb units, etc. This means that you can channel income from your side business into your retirement account, helping you accumulate the savings you need to be comfortable in the future.

And, hey, even if Social Security is magically bailed out by benevolent space aliens, or some other crazy scenario, it’s not like you’ll be worse off having more retirement savings.

This is definitely worth considering and speaking to your tax adviser about.

Start now to make sure you are staying prepared.


via:  SovereignMan.com


Save pagePDF pageEmail pagePrint page

Fort Bragg’s 82nd Airborne deploys to the Middle East

FORT BRAGG, N.C.  For many of the soldiers, it would be their first mission. They packed up ammunition and rifles, placed last-minute calls to loved ones, then turned in their cell phones. Some gave blood.

The 600 mostly young soldiers at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, were headed for the Middle East, part of a group of some 3,500 U.S. paratroopers ordered to the region. Kuwait is the first stop for many. Their final destinations are classified.

“We’re going to war, bro,” one cheered, holding two thumbs up and sporting a grin under close-shorn red hair. He stood among dozens of soldiers loading trucks outside a cinder block building housing several auditoriums with long benches and tables.

Days after U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the drone killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, raising fears of fresh conflict in the Middle East, the men and women of the U.S. Army’s storied 82nd Airborne Division are moving out in the largest “fast deployment” since the 2010 Haiti earthquake.

U.S. Army Major General James Mingus waded through the sea of camouflage-uniformed men and women as they prepared to leave the base near Fayetteville on Sunday. He shook hands with the troops, wishing them luck.

  • FILE PHOTO: U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, walk toward an awaiting aircraft prior to departing for the Middle East from Fort Bragga man in a military uniform: U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division board an aircraft bound for the U.S. Central Command area of operations from Fort Bragga group of people on a beach: FILE PHOTO: U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, walk toward an awaiting aircraft prior to departing for the Middle East from Fort Bragga group of people in military uniforms: FILE PHOTO: U.S. Army paratroopers assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, prepare for departure for the Middle East from Fort Bragg


One soldier from Ashboro, Virginia, said he wasn’t surprised when the order came.“I was just watching the news, seeing how things were going over there,” said the 27-year-old, one of several soldiers Reuters was allowed to interview on condition they not be named. “Then I got a text message from my sergeant saying ‘don’t go anywhere.’ And that was it.”

Risks seemed to be pushed to the back of the minds of the younger soldiers, though many packed the base chapel after a breakfast of eggs, waffles, oatmeal, sausages and 1,000 doughnuts.

One private took a strap tethered to a transport truck and tried to hitch it to the belt of an unwitting friend, a last prank before shipping out.

‘THIS IS THE MISSION’

The older soldiers, in their 30s and 40s, were visibly more somber, having the experience of seeing comrades come home from past deployments learning to walk on one leg or in flag-draped coffins.

“This is the mission, man,” said Brian Knight, retired Army veteran who has been on five combat deployments to the Middle East. He is the current director of a chapter of the United Service Organizations military support charity.

“They’re answering America’s 911 call,” Knight said. “They’re stoked to go. The president called for the 82nd.”

There was lots of wrestling holds as the troops tossed their 75-pound (34 kg) backpacks onto transport trucks. The packs hold everything from armor-plated vests, extra socks and underwear, to 210 rounds of ammunition for their M-4 carbine rifles.

A sergeant pushed through the crowd shouting for anyone with type-O blood, which can be transfused into any patient.

“The medics need you now. Move,” he said, before a handful of troops walked off to give a little less than a pint each.

UNCERTAINTY PREVAILS

While members of the unit – considered the most mobile in the U.S. Army – are used to quick deployments, this was different, Lieutenant Colonel Mike Burns, an Army spokesman.

“The guys are excited to go but none of us know how long they’ll be gone,” Burns said. “That’s the toughest part.”

Soldiers were ordered not to bring cell phones, portable video games or any other devices that could be used to communicate with friends and family back home, out of concern that details of their movements could leak out.

“We’re an infantry brigade,” Burns said. “Our primary mission is ground fighting. This is as real as it gets.”

A sergeant started rattling off last names, checking them off from a list after “heres” and “yups” and “yos.”

For every fighter, there were seven support crew members shipping out – cooks, aviators, mechanics, medics, chaplains, and transportation and supply managers. All but the chaplains would carry guns to fight.

A senior master sergeant, 34, said: “The Army is an all-volunteer force. We want to do this. You pay your taxes and we get to do this.”

The reality of the deployment wouldn’t sink in until the troops “walk out that door,” he said, pointing to the exit to the tarmac where C-4 and C-7 transport planes and two contract commercial jets waited.

His call came when he was on leave in his hometown of Daytona Beach, Florida, taking his two young daughters to visit relatives and maybe go to Walt Disney World.

“We just got there and I got the call to turn right around and head back to base,” he said. “My wife knows the drill. I had to go. We drove right back.”

On a single order, hundreds of soldiers jumped to their feet. They lined up single file and marched out carrying their guns and kits and helmets, past a volunteer honor guard holding aloft flags that flapped east in the January wind.


Start now to make sure you are staying prepared.


via:  msn


Save pagePDF pageEmail pagePrint page

Acting Secretary Wolf Issues Homeland Security National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin

Acting Secretary Wolf Issues Homeland Security NTAS Bulletin

WASHINGTON – Today, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf issued a new National Terrorism Advisory System (NTAS) Bulletin pertaining to the changing threat landscape following the successful U.S.-led airstrike in Iraq that eliminated Qaseem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.

“At this time there is no specific, credible threat against the homeland. The Department issued this bulletin to inform, share protective measures, and reassure the American public, state and local governments, and private sector partners that the Department of Homeland Security is actively monitoring and preparing for any specific, credible threat, should one arise” said Acting Secretary Wolf. “The Department is operating with an enhanced posture and various operational components are taking protective measures where prudent and necessary. We have been in constant communication with Congress and interagency partners. The American people should feel assured the entire Department is working for them to keep them safe.”

You can read the new NTAS Bulletin here.


Start now to make sure you are staying prepared.


Save pagePDF pageEmail pagePrint page

Statement on the successful U.S.-led airstrike in Iraq that eliminated Qasem Soleimani

Private Sector Update


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY

Office of Public Affairs


Statement from Acting Secretary Wolf

WASHINGTON- Today, Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Chad F. Wolf issued the following statement on the successful U.S.-led airstrike in Iraq that eliminated Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.

“I commend the President’s decisive action to protect American lives both abroad and at home. The Department of Homeland Security stands ready to confront and combat any and all threats facing our homeland. While there are currently no specific, credible threats against our homeland, DHS continues to monitor the situation and work with our Federal, State and local partners to ensure the safety of every American.

“As a result of yesterday’s military action, I convened senior DHS leadership last night and earlier this morning to assess potential new threats and component actions to respond to the constantly evolving threat landscape. The entire Department remains vigilant and stands ready, as always, to defend the Homeland.”

Start now to make sure you are staying prepared.


Save pagePDF pageEmail pagePrint page

Multiple stabbing victims at Murray Hill shopping center and nearby Wells Fargo Bank. – 12/18/19

Multiple people were stabbed at the Murray Hill shopping center and nearby Wells Fargo Bank in Beaverton, police tweeted.

The stabbing suspect has been detained and is no longer a threat to the public, according to Beaverton police. The stabbing victims have been sent to the hospital, but the status of their injuries is unclear at this time.

Officers are on the scene at Southwest Murray Boulevard and Teal Avenue. The Washington County Major Crimes Team is also responding.

Start now to make sure you are staying prepared.


Save pagePDF pageEmail pagePrint page

How Robert De Niro ended up with three passports—should think about another also?

Most people might be surprised to learn that Robert De Niro has more passports than he has Academy Awards.

Come to think of it… most people probably have more passports (one), than they have Academy Awards (zero).

But De Niro has two Oscars: the first for playing Vito Corleone in The Godfather Part II, and the second for his starring role in Raging Bull.

Yet he has three passports (that we know about).

De Niro was born in New York City, making him automatically a US citizen at birth because of the nationality laws in the United States.

Almost anyone born on US soil becomes a US citizen at birth; the only exception is children born to foreign diplomats who are in the United States on official business.

This law isn’t unique to the United States; nearly every country in the Americas, from Canada to Argentina, plus a few ‘random’ countries like Tanzania, grants citizenship to anyone born there.

So right from day one, De Niro was a US citizen.

But it turns out that De Niro has Italian ancestry as well. And Italy is one of a multitude of countries that grants citizenship to people who can prove their ancestry. (Others include Ireland, Poland, Germany, and a number of other countries in Europe.)

So De Niro was able to obtain an Italian passport back in 2006.

This is really valuable; a European second citizenship gives you the right to live, work, and do business in all 28 European Union countries– like France, Spain, Germany and Sweden. It’s a great Plan B.

Even if you don’t have European ancestors, Spain takes it a step further and allows citizens of former Spanish colonies (most of Latin America) to obtain Spanish citizenship after living in Spain for just two years as a legal resident.

De Niro’s third passport is from the Caribbean island nation of Antigua. Even more specifically, De Niro holds a Diplomatic Passport from Antigua with the title of ‘Special Envoy’.

And because of his diplomatic credentials, De Niro is entitled to a great deal of special privileges and amenities that even movie stars don’t normally receive.

Based on the 1969 United Nations Convention of Special Missions, special envoys like Robert De Niro are eligible to receive tons of travel benefits.

Diplomats always skip the line at airports. And under Article 26 of the convention agreement, it’s illegal for foreign customs officials to search a special envoy’s bags.

Then there’s diplomatic immunity; a special envoy “immunity from the criminal jurisdiction” of the foreign country where he is carrying out his duties. And his residence/office are protected as if they were the soil of a sovereign nation.

And if all that weren’t enough, the 1969 United Nations Convention on Special Missions even includes a host of tax benefits; special envoys are eligible for exemption of income tax, social security tax, and customs duties.

It’s a pretty great deal if you can get it. And apparently if you’re Robert De Niro, you can.

But Antigua is one of a handful of countries with an “economic citizenship” program, which awards citizenship to foreigners who invest a certain sum of money in the country.

For anywhere between $100,000 up to $1 million or more in some countries, you can obtain citizenship. But in most cases you’ll never see that money again, so it’s more of a ‘donation’ than a true ‘investment’.

For people who aren’t eligible for citizenship by ancestry, though, these economic citizenship programs are a fast and easy way to obtain another passport.

There are nearly 200 different countries in the world, so that’s a lot of options for a second passports and citizenship.

And obviously some are much more valuable than others.

My team created a global passport ranking, to systematically assess which passports are best.

We took into account criteria like how many countries a passport gives you visa free access to, and how much of the global GDP, population, and surface area it gives you access to.

15 of the top 20 ranked passports, for example, are from European nations. These all give you visa free entrance into at least 157 countries, which account for 77% of global GDP.

It makes sense why so many people want to obtain a second passport from a European country. Any second citizenship will give you another option for where to live and work– a major component of any solid Plan B.

And the nice thing about European countries is that it’s fairly straightforward to obtain citizenship through another means: legal residency.

Portugal, for example, has one of the lowest barriers to become a legal resident in the country. You have to demonstrate just €14,600 in savings or liquid investments. And after five years of residency you are eligible to apply for naturalization and obtain a passport from Portugal.

Belgium will grant residency if you start or move your business there. And like in Portugal you’ll become eligible to apply for a passport after five years.

Everyone’s situation is different. But there are many excellent options to obtain a European citizenship and a passport if you are lucky enough to have ancestors from Europe or are willing to invest time or money.

You can start with this free in-depth article my team just put together– The Three Ways To Obtain a European Citizenship & Excellent Second Passport.

Start now to make sure you are staying prepared.

via:  SovereignMan.com


Save pagePDF pageEmail pagePrint page

Inside the dystopian nightmare of an internet shutdown

Government internet shutdowns around the world are insidious, isolating and on the rise.

On Oct. 1, the Iraqi government pulled the plug on the country’s internet. With no warning, out it went like a light. Ever since, the internet, messaging services and social networks have flickered on and off like faulty bulbs.

This is far from the first internet shutdown Iraq has suffered. But according to Hayder Hamzoz, CEO and founder of the Iraqi Network for Social Media, not since 2003 and the regime of Saddam Hussein has internet censorship been so severe.

In this age of reliance on internet connectivity, the idea of suddenly flicking connectivity off like a switch sounds dystopian. But for many people around the world, it’s increasingly becoming a reality. They might not even realize it’s happening until too late.

First the signal disappears from your phone, so you restart it, take the SIM card out and put it back in again. No joy, so you try the Wi-Fi, but that doesn’t work either. Maybe it’s a power outage, you think, but your other appliances are working so that can’t be right. You read a news story in the paper about a political protest that’s taking place, and it suddenly becomes apparent that it’s not just you. The government, worried about the protest, has decided to turn off the internet.

This is exactly what happened to Berhan Taye the first time she experienced an internet shutdown, while visiting family in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 2016. Since then, she says, it has become “definitely something that I’ve experienced one too many times.”

Taye leads the nonprofit Access Now’s Keep It On campaign, advocating against internet shutdowns around the world. Around 200 partner organizations work with the campaign to prevent intentional shutdowns of the internet by governments around the globe, a form of repression that the United Nations unequivocally condemned in 2016 as a violation of human rights.

imagegettyimages-1179043013

Iraq has seen mass civilian protests over the past year, leading to internet shutdowns.

Picture Alliance/Getty

Authoritarian governments have long sought control over their subject populations, and internet shutdowns can be seen as a digital extension of traditional censorship and repression, notes Taye.

This is very much the case in Iraq, where anti-corruption protests that sparked the shutdown are also being combatted with curfews and violence from security forces. Over WhatsApp, Hamzoz described the violence he had witnessed in Iraq during blackouts — tear gas, hot-water cannons, live bullets and snipers.

“It sounds terrifying,” I said. “Very terrifying,” he agreed.

India: Disconnected

In 2018 there were 196 documented internet shutdowns across 25 countries, primarily in Asia and Africa, according to a report released by the Keep It On coalition. Since the Arab Spring of 2011, when censorship ran rife across North Africa and the Middle East, internet shutdowns have been widely associated with authoritarian regimes.

But the country leading the way isn’t authoritarian, or even semi-authoritarian. In fact, it’s the world’s largest democracy. Of those 196 shutdowns that happened last year, 134 took place in India. The primary target is the state of Jammu and Kashmir, a politically unstable region on the border with Pakistan.

In August, the Indian government approved changes revoking the autonomy of the Muslim-majority region, stripping it of its constitution and imposing “security measures” that prevent freedom of movement, public assembly and protest. The region will be split into two territories governed by individual leaders who will report to the Hindu-led government in New Delhi, it was announced Wednesday.

Kashmir has been without internet since the constitutional changes in August, with phone signals also dropping out intermittently.

“This blackout has pushed the entire [8 million] population of Kashmir into a black hole, where the world is unable to know what is happening inside a cage and vice-versa,” said Aakash Hassan, Kashmir correspondent at CNN-News18.

imagegettyimages-1178978738

The contested region of Kashmir has been on lockdown since early August. Internet has been shut down for much of that time.

Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Getty

The situation for journalists “couldn’t be worse,” Hassan told me. Everything from sourcing to fact-checking to filing stories often grinds to a halt. He knows of reporters trying to operate in these conditions who have been questioned, injured or detained by the authorities, while also being prevented from speaking out about what’s happening to them.

But Hassan also knows first hand of the toll internet shutdowns can take on people’s personal lives and relationships. During the recent shutdown his grandmother passed away. It took him 14 hours to learn of her ill health, by which point he had missed his chance to say goodbye.

“I was just one hour away from my home,” he said. “But due to the communication blackout, I couldn’t see her face for the last time.”

Most of India’s internet shutdowns are ordered at the regional government level, although it’s often hard to tell where the orders come from. Legally, it’s hard to fight shutdowns, although there are often attempts to do so. For a start, governments rarely acknowledge that internet shutdowns have taken place. When they do, they often give ambiguous reasons for their actions.

For the public good?

The Keep It On campaign tries to map the justifications governments give for shutting the internet down against the actual causes. The most frequently used reason is “public safety,” but in reality this is a broad church that can mean anything from public protest to communal violence to elections.

Jan Rydzak, a research scholar at the Stanford Global Digital Policy Incubator, has been monitoring shutdowns in Kashmir for some years. If public safety is the real priority, he says, shutting down the internet is unlikely to make much difference. In February 2019, Rydzak published a paper demonstrating that shutdowns didn’t discourage or prevent violent protests from taking place.

“Public safety is always a convenient excuse,” he said, “because in the vast majority of the cases it is written into the law of a given country that in situations of public emergency or public safety concerns, the government has special powers to, for example, cut off communication.”

Public safety is indeed the excuse that has been used in this most recent shutdown in Kashmir, which Rydzak describes as a “digital siege.” This excuse is plausible in line with the levels of violence the long-contested region has witnessed, but according to Rydzak, there are ulterior motives.

“They’re looking basically for something that would extend their control over the territory to the greatest extent possible,” he said. The Indian government doesn’t know what will work, he explained, which has led to it “crudely cutting off all contact with the outside world.”

imagegettyimages-1166905415

Attempting to use the internet in Kashmir has been fruitless for much of the last three months.

SOPA

There are many reasons why they shouldn’t, starting with Rydzak’s own research in India, which shows empirically that shutting off internet access does not reduce violent protests, and sometimes even perpetuates them.

As an ascendant power, Rydzak adds, the frequency with which India is shutting down the internet is setting a bad example for other countries. Seeing shutdowns as another tool in their arsenal for tackling outbreaks of violence or protests, more and more countries are experimenting with shutting off the internet just to see how it goes, he said.

This is echoed by Keep It On’s research, which shows an escalation in the number of new countries opting to use shutdowns for the first time, according to Taye. Often they do so around the time of elections — a trend that has increased over the past year, starting with Bangladesh at the end of 2018, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Benin.

“From 2018 I can list 10 countries that did not shut down the internet, but this year they are the frequent culprits of shutdowns,” she said. “Benin is a fairly democratic country. I never would have assumed they would have shut down the internet, but they did.”

Now aware that elections might result in shutdowns, the Keep It On campaign is keeping a particularly close eye on countries where elections are imminent to monitor for disruption.

From shutdowns to slowdowns

Measuring shutdowns is important to know where the rights are being violated, but keeping track isn’t always easy. Telecoms infrastructure is poor in many countries where shutdowns take place, so a steady internet connection isn’t something that can be relied on at the best of times.

“It’s very difficult for a lot of people to figure out if it’s an intentional shutdown, or if it’s just a fiber cut, or if your internet is just having a bad day,” said Taye.

This is further confused by the fact that many governments use less obvious, more insidious tactics in hyperlocal shutdowns or slowdowns. Often they’ll target specific social media services for throttling, or slowing down the bandwidth. WhatsApp, widely used in developing countries due to its low data costs, and Facebook are regular targets.

Either governments can make the services unavailable altogether, or can make them painfully slow to use. Some of these slowdowns are designed specifically to stop people being able to send pictures and videos, which would be more likely to inflame tensions or serve as evidence.

“We are deeply concerned by the trend in some regions and countries towards shutting down, throttling, or otherwise disrupting access to the open internet,” said a spokeswoman for Facebook. The company offers training to governments and law enforcement to help them address emerging situations by maintaining their own online presence and combating the spread of misinformation with appropriate counter speech.

Another justification used by governments to shut down internet access is to stop the spread of misinformation. Following the Easter bombings that took place in Sri Lanka earlier this year, for instance, some Western media were quick to praise the government’s decision to block access to social media to prevent the spread of false information.

image

The Easter bombings in Sri Lanka led to the government blocking social media for the purpose of curbing the spread of misinformation.

Lakruwan Wanniarachchi/Getty


But it did no such thing. Just as shutdowns in Kashmir didn’t stop political violence, misinformation ran rife and even ended up in the coverage of major international news outlets. A Brown University student was at one point falsely identified as the attacker.

Blocking social media doesn’t prevent the spread of false information, according to Keep It On. It simply delays it. Taye gives an example, again from Ethiopia, where in July this year the government shut down the internet for a week following a series of assassinations of important political figures.

“When they turned on the internet, all of the conspiracy theories, all of the craziness that was happening in the offline space did not stop,” she said. It was all still there, just pending, waiting for people to be reconnected so it could continue to spread.

In the meantime, the last information put out before a shutdown often becomes the dominant narrative — whether or not it’s accurate.

As for the social media blockage in Sri Lanka, it wasn’t only unsuccessful at preventing the spread of fake news, Yudhanjaya Wijeratne of the LIRNEasia think tank wrote in a Slate op-ed following the bombing. It also prevented people from getting in touch with one another to report their safety, and it hid the inability of the police to control violent protests — which were partially caused due to the spread of misinformation.

Living in the dark

As if the lack of evidence to support the effectiveness of blackouts wasn’t enough to dissuade countries from deploying them, the economic toll of shutting off the internet can also run to millions of dollars per day.

According to a study conducted by Deloitte for Facebook in 2016, shutdowns can cost high-connectivity countries up to 1.9% of their GDP per day. Shutdowns in India are estimated to have cost the country over $3 billion since 2012, according to a report published by the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations last year.

But they also have a trickle-down effect that takes a huge toll on the livelihoods of individuals who over the past 10 years have come to rely on the internet for their income. “Behind every figure like that are dozens of businesses that went out of business,” said Rydzak.

In Iraq, Hamzoz said, tech startups and local Uber rivals providing taxi-hailing services are losing out daily without steady access to the internet for themselves or their customers. Startups are going out of business. Women who rely on taxi-hailing apps for safety reasons must either stay home or risk their safety.

image

The Democratic Republic of the Congo’s government is one of many to employ internet shutdowns for the first time in the past 12 months.

Federico Scoppa/Stringer

Similarly in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, internet access has allowed the informal economy, which women and other marginalized groups rely on for an income, to thrive. When people live in remote places or don’t have access to physical premises, business is often conducted through WhatsApp or Facebook groups and relies on digital payments.

According to Ashnah Kalemera, programs officer at Collaboration on International ICT Policy in East and Southern Africa, this extends to all manner of casual work, including the buying and selling of food, laundry and hairdressing services.

“Many women are running businesses in this informal economy set up to ensure financial security,” she said. “Let’s not forget that African women are still largely excluded from the funds afforded to their male counterparts for formal tech startups.”

If the internet goes down, income streams are abruptly interrupted. For some women this means suddenly not being able to afford to feed their families, to send their children to school and to access other basic necessities.

Enterprising people have found ways to get around shutdowns — the use of VPNs to access social media is widespread. In a total blackout, however, these are also often rendered ineffective. In Iraq, Hamzoz told me, some people use international SIM cards, but they are expensive and the signal is often weak.

As we spoke over the course of October, when protests over corruption and poor living standards in Iraq raged on, Hamzoz reported the ongoing flickering status of his country’s internet and social media outages. On Oct. 16 he said mobile internet was partially restored. Then on Oct. 25, when mass protests broke out, it went down again. At the time of publishing, Iraq has largely been without internet for almost an entire month. Hamzoz said he expected blackouts and slowdowns to continue until the political issues in the country are addressed.

For Iraq, just like Kashmir, Jammu, Ethiopia and many other places around the world, that means internet shutdowns are likely to be a fact of life for the foreseeable future.


Start now to make sure you are staying prepared.

via:  cnet


Save pagePDF pageEmail pagePrint page