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US Visitors From Developing Nations To Pay Thousands In Visa Bonds

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The United States will temporarily require visitors from Iran, Myanmar and a number of African nations to pay up to US$15,000 in visa bonds in a new hardline immigration measure enacted late in Donald Trump’s presidency.

The rule takes effect December 24 for a duration of six months, although it remains to be seen if it will be maintained by President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office on January 20 and has promised to be more welcoming to the rest of the world.

The pilot program is designed to make up the costs to the US government of deporting foreigners who overstay their visas, according to a notice published Tuesday in the Federal Register by Carl Risch, the assistant secretary of state for consular affairs.

Visitors on “B” visas, which are issued for short-term business and tourism, will be asked to pay up to US$15,000, which will be forfeited to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency if they do not prove that they have left on time.

The rule will apply to citizens of 23 countries that, according to the declaration, have overstay rates of more than 10 percent.

Most of the countries are in Africa, including Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Other nations on the list include Iran, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Bhutan. Trump has already sharply curtailed travel from Iran — part of his “Muslim ban” promised during his 2016 campaign, which Biden plans to rescind.

The bonds will not affect students or travelers from fellow developed countries who are exempt from visas to enter the United States.

Contrary to the general practice for changes to immigration rules, the Trump administration launched the bonds abruptly without a period for public comment and review.

The State Department official defended the streamlined time-frame by saying that the issue was a matter of conducting foreign relations and hence not subject to the usual process.

“The Pilot Program is being studied as a potential diplomatic tool to encourage foreign governments to take all appropriate actions to ensure that their nationals timely depart the United States after making temporary visits,” Risch’s filing said.

The justification is at odds with the summary in the same filing which said the program was meant to reduce the burden to the US government and “does not aim to assess whether issuing visa bonds will be effective in reducing the number of aliens who overstay.”

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America

US Honours Victims of ‘September 11’ Terror Attacks

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Memorial events are being held this saturday across the United States in honour of victims of the September 11 terror attacks on its territory 20 years ago.

According to White House, President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden plan to visit all three sites where the attacks unfolded: The World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., and the field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed.

Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Shanksville with second gentleman Doug Emhoff before they join the Bidens at the Pentagon.

The 20th anniversary comes amid the backdrop of the United States’ chaotic withdrawal from its war in Afghanistan, which was started in response to the attacks.

Biden last week also directed the declassification of certain documents related to the attacks, which the families of some victims have sought in hopes of implicating the Saudi government.

Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attacks when 19 al-Qaida attackers hijacked four commercial airplanes in a plot orchestrated by Osama bin Laden.

Two planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, crashed into the north and south towers of the World Trade Center before American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.

The passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 fought back against the hijackers before the plane crashed into the filed, missing its intended target in Washington.

The anniversary marks a transitional moment as awareness of the attacks moves from memory to history, said Alice Greenwald, president and CEO of the National September 11 Memorial and Museum.

“The 20th anniversary, in my view, … is the first of the next generation of remembrances,” said Dan Murphy, who is on the team designing the planned visitor education center at the Pentagon’s 9/11 memorial site.

“There’s been 19 times we’ve read the names, we’ve talked about that moment, we’ve somberly looked back. That will never, ever go away. But … on the 20th anniversary, I think this is the first time we talk about 9/11 into the future.”

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America

Trump Acquitted For Second Time Following Historic Senate Impeachment trial

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The USA Senate acquitted former President Donald Trump in his second impeachment trial Saturday, voting that Trump was not guilty of inciting the deadly January 6 riot at the US Capitol — but the verdict amounted to a bipartisan rebuke of the former President with seven Republicans finding him guilty.The final vote was 57 guilty to 43 not guilty, short of the 67 guilty votes needed to convict.

Held exactly one month after the House impeached Trump, the number of Republican senators who voted against Trump ended up higher than even what Trump’s legal team had anticipated, marking a stark departure from the first impeachment trial last year when only one Republican senator, Mitt Romney of Utah, found Trump guilty.

This time, Republicans Sens. Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowksi of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Romney voted to convict Trump.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was Burr, the former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman who led the Senate’s Russia investigation, after he voted earlier in the week that the trial was unconstitutional.

Both Burr and Toomey are retiring from the Senate at the end of 2022.

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America

Obama Presidential Center Groundbreaking For August

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On Wednesday, the US federal review process concluded and effectively paving the way for Obama Presidential Center that had stalled for four years.

“Today, after a comprehensive federal regulatory review process, I’m proud to announce the Obama Presidential Center will break ground in 2021,” Former US President Barak Obama said on Wednesday.

“Michelle and I couldn’t be more excited to bring this new center of energy, connection, and growth to the South Side of Chicago. Along with the thousands of jobs it will create, our hope is that the Obama Presidential Center can serve as a catalyst for long-overdue investment in and around historic Jackson Park. That’s why we’re working with local partners to create a new destination to help inspire visitors from hope to action, breathe new life into the park, and deliver real benefits to the community we love,” Obama added.

He explained that getting to this point would not have been possible without the many Chicagoans who have been a part of this process. “So I want to thank each and every person out there who helped us reach this milestone—and for their continued partnership in the years to come.”

Federal agencies closed the final review into the project after determining the Obama center’s construction and nearby roadway fixes would not pose a “significant impact” on the environment, according to city and Obama Foundation officials.

With other federal reviews looking into factors such as the project’s effects on historic properties also recently ending, that means preliminary work can start in April and groundbreaking can likely begin as early as August. The Obama Foundation estimates construction will take about four years.

In 2016, Obama announced that Jackson Park, sandwiched between Lake Michigan and Woodlawn, would be the destination of his future presidential center, at the time scheduled to open in 2021.

His choice was heralded by supporters who hoped the project would help revitalize neighboring communities and become a source of pride for South Side locals and visitors alike.

The groundbreaking of the $500 million campus will include a museum, Obama Foundation offices, a public library branch, an athletic center and an outdoor recreation space.

Its opening initially had been set for this year, but four years of obstacles have stood in the project’s way, at times leaving supporters with dashed hopes as groundbreaking repeatedly was delayed.

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