Daily Archives: January 18, 2008

Visas Now Being Checked for Domestic Flights: TSA joins crackdown on illegals

by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — If you’re thinking of traveling within the US and do not have a valid US visa, think twice.

Last week, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) questioned a Filipino woman trying to board a domestic flight from New Jersey to Chicago.  After being held briefly, the woman carrying an unexpired RP passport was arrested by TSA for not having a valid US visa or green card.

“They gave her a ‘notice to appear’ deportation slip,” said Michael Gurfinkel, the woman’s attorney.

According to Gurfinkel, TSA is now checking a person’s legal status when boarding a domestic flight in the US.

“TSA has moved their role in the airport from checking luggage to now ID’s,” said Gurfinkel.  He added that the TSA assumed responsibility for checking ID’s last year.

This new layer of aviation security was implemented in June 2007. Six months into the program, TSA security officers were able to confiscate thousands of illegal or expired documents including passports, visas and driver’s licenses. Arrests and deportation procedures ensued as the TSA is mandated to refer suspects to law enforcement agencies.

Currently, the system is in place at more than 340 airports and will be further expanded into other airports in Spring 2008.

“Domestic flying is not something you encounter immigration with. But now they will be checking a person with a foreign passport for a valid visa and/or green card.”

“It’s no longer 100 percent for TNT’s to fly domestically just using their passport,” he added.

Real ID

Filipinos and FilAms may also need to carry a valid passport and visa when boarding a domestic flight and/or visiting a federal building starting 2010.

The Department of Homeland Security released its final regulations for the implementation of the Real ID Act last Friday January 9. Congress passed the Act with little debate under a military spending bill in May 2005.

Under the new Federal ID plan, the Real ID will replace a State driver’s license. Starting 2010, a person who does not have a Real ID may no longer use a driver’s license to be able to board an airplane, or enter a federal building. That person must use a valid passport and visa or green card as their primary identification.

The regulations also said, “By then, States must upgrade the security of their license systems, to include a check for lawful status of all applicants, to ensure that illegal aliens cannot obtain REAL ID licenses.”

Over the next year, people seeking to renew their driver’s license will have to visit their local Department of Motor Vehicles and bring with them a photo ID, birth certificate, documentation of legal status and social security number, and documentation showing name and principal residence address.

Also, the DMV will take a person’s picture before processing the application. Those whose paperwork is incorrect or who are suspected as illegals or undocumented aliens will have their picture stored in a national network-linked database.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the Real IDs would help combat identify fraud.

“The American public’s desire for greater identity protection is undeniable,” said Secretary Chertoff. “Americans understand today that the 9/11 hijackers obtained 30 driver’s licenses and ID’s, and used 364 aliases. For an extra $8 per license, Real ID will give law enforcement and security officials a powerful advantage against falsified documents, and it will bring some peace of mind to citizens wanting to protect their identity from theft by a criminal or illegal alien.”

However, dozens of States across the US and civil liberties union have condemned the Act. Utah lawmakers cite that the Real ID opposes the Jeffersonian principles of individual liberty and limited government.

The American Civil Liberties Union believes that the Real ID does more harm than good.

The ACLU is worried that the implementation of the Real ID Act could establish an enormous electronic infrastructure that government and law enforcement officials or hackers could use to track Americans’ activities and movements.

“This national mega-database would be a goldmine for identity thieves,” said Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “There’s no reason that a DMV worker in Guam should be able to see a grandmother in Schenectady’s Social Security number. Our private information would only be as safe as the DMV or state office with the weakest security system.”

“While the rhetoric focuses on undocumented immigrants it did much more than that,” added Tyler Moran of the National Immigration Law Center. “What people are realizing is this act is going to affect every single person.”

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Asian-Americans Yet to be Seen as Political Force

by Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

LAS VEGAS, NV. — US Congressional Democratic leaders held a rally for the Asian Pacific Islander American Community (APIA) of Las Vegas to participate in the upcoming Nevada Caucus scheduled on Jan. 19.

The rally took place at the Chinatown Plaza on the eve of the final presidential Democratic debate. More than 200 members of the APIA community filled the large hall as volunteers from the various Democratic presidential campaigns passed out flyers and stickers from their booths.

Nevada becomes the second State in the nation to hold a presidential caucus and the first in the West to host an early nominating process.

The Democrats found that the growing number of Asian Americans residing in Nevada and the US has become a critical untapped resource of voters that could be key to choosing the next President of the United States.

Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) said that Nevada was selected as an early caucus State because of its great diversity, which includes a thriving APIA community.

“The Democratic party seeks diversity,” said Reid. “The State of Nevada represents our country. [The previous presidential caucuses in] Iowa has a little diversity, New Hampshire has no diversity.”

In the last eight years, the APIA community has doubled in size in the Las Vegas metropolitan area from four percent to eight percent, according to the Nevada State Democratic Party. FilAms reflect the highest number of Asian Americans in the Las Vegas area.

Their study also found that members of the APIA community favor Democrats over Republicans, making the community an important asset in swing States come November.

“Everyone knows the key to winning the Presidency is by winning the West,” said Reid. “And the gateway to the West is Nevada. We have a large Hispanic population, African Americans and the fastest growing Asian American population. We want everyone to be involved in the caucus.”

Congressman Eni Faleomavaega (D-AS) said that it’s time for members of the APIA community to remove the myth and stereotype of being politically passive.

“With 150,000 Asian American Pacific Islanders living in Nevada, we are a force in the political process,” said Faleomavaega. “We’ve always been stereotyped that we don’t participate in politics, or that politics is a dirty word. Well, it’s not. If we don’t participate we’re going to be on the losing end. Someone once told me, ‘if you’re not on the table then you’re on the menu.’ I don’t think this is what Asian Americans want.”

Still invisible

Although the rally brought out a large number of APIA community members to the event, there was a chance they could have been left out.

Initial reports found that Democrats only invited members from Nevada’s large Hispanic and Africans American organizations to be part of the debate, leaving Asian Americans sitting on the couch and watching it on TV like everyone else.

However, Democrats hidded the large number of complaints raised by the Nevada APIA leaders.

“The Democrats did respond with this rally,” said Alice Siu, a community outreach press coordinator for the Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote (APIAVote) organization. The organization is non-partisan.

Siu said they have tried contacting the Republican Party but to no avail.

Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA) said in order to prevent this from happening, members of the APIA community need to continue to educate and teach their congressional leaders about issues affecting the community.

“The political leadership is suffering from amnesia (when it comes to Asian Americans),” said Honda. “At best it was just an oversight. The problem is that Asian Americans are not part of the rhetoric when it comes to the presidential campaigns. They want to make sure they have the African American vote, or the Hispanic vote. But we are growing. It is our responsibility to teach and educate them about us and our issues so we can be part of that rhetoric.”

The invisibility issue makes it that much more important for Asian Americans to go out there and vote, said Naomi Tacuyen, also of APIAVote.

“We need to increase our visibility – locally and nationally,” she said.

Tacuyen said the reason why Filipinos have not participated more in the US political process is because the community is still new.

“It’s a new immigrant community but it’s rapidly growing,” she said.

Filipinos for Hillary

Volunteers from the APIA vote, who did not want to be named because of the organization’s non-partisanship, said that early phone surveys around the Las Vegas area reveal that FilAms prefer Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) to Barack Obama (D-IL) to be the next President.

During the rally a large number of FilAms wore “Hillary for President” stickers to show their support for the Democratic presidential candidate.

Ray Lopez, a FilAm originally from Mindoro, stood behind the Clinton booth passing out flyers and stickers to passer-bys.

Lopez said he, along with a few other FilAms have been campaigning for Clinton every Saturday in front of the local Seafood City market.

“They are very supportive of Hillary,” said Lopez. “About 95 percent of the people I talk to during the outreach support her.”

Lopez urges FilAms in the Las Vegas area to go to the caucus sites and register for whomever they prefer is there presidential candidate.

FilAm Hedy Gonzalez said, “This [voting] is the only way to exercise our freedom. We are the minority. We need to try to get our voices heard.”

(www.asianjournal.com)

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State Budget Expected to Hurt Low-income Families

by Rene Villaroman/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — Faced with a $14 billion deficit this coming fiscal year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Jan. 10, Thursday, unveiled a budget that would impact poor and low-income California families, shut down 48 parks and popular State beaches, release nonviolent prison inmates before they finish serving their time, and increase car registration fees for a second straight year in a row.

“Budget cuts aren’t the only answers to a budget deficit. We need a budget that helps everybody in California, not just one segment of our society,” declared Nancy Berlin, a director of California Partnership at a press conference held on Thursday morning at the mid-Wilshire district of Los Angeles. “A budget that takes care of low-income people; that helps struggling families, and that does not leave children behind.”

The budget blueprint for fiscal year 2008 is projected to be the harshest since Schwarzenegger was first elected in 2003. It will include a number of spending reductions that would affect people across the State. School spending would be cut by about $3 billion. Welfare payments for tens of thousands of children where families are considered to be at high risk for homelessness would be eliminated.

The cost of living increase for the elderly, the blind, and the disabled receiving State assistance would be cancelled as would State-funded dental visits for the poor. The cuts are described as so deep that some officials in Sacramento are already dismissing the plan as ruse to stir up public demand for a tax hike to enable the governor to go back on his pledge not to raise taxes.

Safety net grants intended for children whose parents do not meet requirements of the state’s welfare program would be eliminated, as would grants for the children of some legal and illegal immigrants.

“It looks like the governor is not doing anything new,” said Berlin of California Partnership, a coalition of more than 150 organizations that is fighting poverty in the state. “He is just bringing out the same cuts, targeting the same low-income families that have taken the brunt of cuts for the last three years. There has to be a more responsible and fair way to balance the budget than to keep going after low-income children.”

“There are other revenues that can support our budget,” Berlin offered. “There are corporations in California that pay no income taxes. All of California’s corporations ought to be participating in our budget problems,” Berlin said.

No multi-billion dollar tax increases are in the State government’s plan, officials close to the governor said. The budget proposal offers Schwarzenegger vision of how to bring the budget into balance without new revenues.

State beaches and parks to close

As part of the budget cuts, Bolsa Chica, Will Rogers, San Clemente, Carlsbad and San Onofre State beaches would all be closed to visitors. Topanga and Mt. San Jacinto State parks would be shut down, and lifeguards and other seasonal staff would be laid off.

While it is estimated to save $13 million, lawmakers might consider user fee increases as an alternative to closing parks and beaches, opined state Sen. Don Perata (D-Oakland). “I know a lot of people think parks should be free, but we seem to be well beyond that point in California, and most of us would agree that classroom education is more important than state park admissions,” Perata added.

Educators fight back

Protest had begun even before the budget was released. School groups are already readying a campaign to fight the cuts, including voter-approved formula that guarantee schools about 40 percent of State revenue. The organizations are planning to air advertisements that would call on the public to resist the cuts. Bob Wells, executive director of the Association of California School Administrators, called the school funding cuts “outrageous.”

“Schools didn’t cause this budget problem,” Wells said. “The governor and lawmakers binged in other spending in good years and want to purge school spending in bad years. That is not fair.”

“The cuts would make it harder for me to finish school,” said Angelica Ceballos, a single mother with a disabled child. I would need another five years to finish school, and right now I can hardly pay for my bills,” Ceballos said. “A budget is supposed to reflect what is important to us. The real budget emergency is that families are becoming homeless and can’t put food on the table,” Ceballos added.

Justice short changed

The criminal justice proposal that is expected to generate opposition is the possible early release of as many as 22,000 nonviolent offenders. Under that plan, the state would also stop monitoring tens of thousands of parolees.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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US Downgrades RP Air Safety Rating

by  Maria Sunantha Quibilan/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES — The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has downgraded the Philippines rating in international aviation safety after finding that it failed to comply with the minimum standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The Philippines, which has dropped from a Category 1 to a Category 2 country, is among 21 countries listed by the FAA that failed to “provide safety oversight of its air carrier operators” in accordance with the ICAO standards.

Other countries with a Category 2 rating include Bangladesh, Belize, Bulgaria, Cote D’ Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), Gambia, Ghana, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Kiribati, Nauru, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Serbia and Montenegro (formerly Yugoslavia), Swaziland, Ukraine, Uruguay, and Zimbabwe.

Airworthiness

The International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program of the FAA which assigns these two-category ratings “focuses on a country’s ability, not the individual air carrier, to adhere to international standards and recommended practices for aircraft operations and maintenance established by the United Nation’s technical agency for aviation, the International Civil Aviation Organization.”

A Category 1 rating means that a country adheres to ICAO standards; Category 2 means failure to adhere.

The areas for technical assessment include a country’s airworthiness, maintenance, inspection, licensing and certification standards and practices, as well as the quality and level of training of civil aviation personnel in ensuring that all aircraft, airlines, pilots and other airmen operating in the country meet international standards.

During a safety inspection in July last year, the FAA found that the Philippines’ airworthiness was below ICAO standards and that civil aviation personnel lacked training. In addition, the country had no “no regulatory guidance” for airmen licensure examinations.

“The downgrading means the ATO (Air Transportation Office) has no sufficient qualified personnel and equipment. The FAA also cited that ATO regulations date back to [a law] passed in 1952, which is not updated,” said ATO officer-in-charge Danilo Dimagiba.

Also, according to former ATO director, Assistant Secretary Nilo Jatico, the downgrade came without surprise because of the nonexistence of a Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), a financially independent agency that employs knowledgeable technical experts on aviation matters, which would guarantee the country’s compliance with the ICAO.

Jatico said that Congress has consistently failed to pass the Civil Aviation Authority Act that would have allowed for the creation of such an agency.

RP airports still safe

Meanwhile, Alfonso Cusi, General Manager of the Manila International Airport Authority, pointed out that the FAA downgrade does not apply to airport safety and security and therefore does not render Philippine airports unsafe.

“It’s not the airport (NAIA) that was found lacking, their security or other factors. It’s the aviation system,” Cusi said.

Additionally, Rebecca Thompson, spokesperson of the US Embassy in Manila, said that the FAA report is directed at the local civil aviation authority, not at the local carriers or the travelers who take the local carriers.

The rating would also not affect air travel between the Philippines and the US in general. However, Philippine Airlines, the only Philippine-licensed carrier with flights in the US, might have to deal with limitations, which include disallowance of expansion of operation or changes in services to the US and heightened FAA surveillance.

“PAL will be affected … they can no longer have additional flights to the US and whenever their plane lands in LA for instance, there will be an FAA inspection of the aircraft,” said Dimagiba.

On the upside, Dimagiba said that the ATO is rectifying the issue. “We have five ICAO experts here to assist the local boys to comply with pending requirements of the FAA,” he said on Monday afternoon. “We can [have the downgrade lifted] within the year,” he added.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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Macworld Expo 2008 in SF

by Malou Liwanag-Aguilar/Asianjournal.com

SAN FRANCISCO — The Annual Macworld Expo and Conference kicked off at the Moscone Center in San Francisco Monday, Jan. 14.  The much-anticipated event of every tech geek and Mac addict is said to be the largest single gathering of the business, computer and technology industry, particularly Apple enthusiasts.  This year, the five-day event offered in-depth training and educational content, new solutions and coolest products in the Mac marketplace, with the latest innovations from more than 450 exhibitors.

But aside from all the training, gadgets, new features and applications on exhibit, the most awaited event in the expo was the keynote address of Apple’s CEO and creator Steve Jobs on Tuesday morning, Jan. 15.  Industry experts, the media and bloggers alike have been speculating since last week what Jobs has in store for Apple.

The keynote address started with a new Mac/PC commercial — something that has gotten quite a number of laughs from the audience.  Jobs’ entrance received a great applause from the audience, composed mainly of the media.

Jobs opened his presentation with a rundown of 2007, indicating an extraordinary growth for Apple’s products which were introduced in the previous Macworld Expo.  This included the Leopard OS X, which he reported to have 5 million copies delivered.  He also announced that Microsoft is shipping the Office Mac 2008, the last big application to go native on Intel.  Also announced was the Time Capsule, a wireless external hard drive designed as a backup solution with Apple’s Time Machine backup software in 500GB ($299) and 1TB ($499).

iPhone’s market capture

After announcing that it has sold 4 million iPhones, Apple is adding new features to its existing software package.  These include webclips, (a web page zoom and a pan feature to let you place them on your home screen), multiple recipient SMS and lyrics support for iTunes.   Although many say it is not big news, it still is a welcome upgrade to the existing software.  You can also get the same upgrade for the iPod Touch for an extra $20.

Movie and music rentals

The wide rumor about Apple’s possible launch of a movie rental service was confirmed to support its TV and movie sales service as part of iTunes, with the participation of big major studios like Touchstone, MGM, Miramax, Lions Gate, Fox, Walt Disney, Universal, Paramount, Warner Bros. and Sony.

“We’ve never offered a rental model in music because we don’t think people don’t want to rent music. But your favorite movie — most of us watch once, and renting is a great way to do it. It’s a great way to do it,” says Jobs.

Movie titles will be available 30 days after its DVD release and can be easily viewed on a Mac, PC, iPod or iPhone.  Rules are that you have 30 days to start watching and 24 hours after that to finish, as many times as one wants.

Take two on Apple TV

“We learned what people wanted was about movies.  Movies.  Movies.  We weren’t delivering that — we’re back with Apple TV Take 2 — It still syncs to your computer, but no computer is required,” explained Jobs.  With this, he continued to present the same rental features for the flagging Apple TV, without the need for a computer.   One will also be able to get photos from Flickr and .Mac, podcasts and YouTube videos; and will still sync via iTunes, but is not a requirement if you just want to watch web content.

It also does high-definition for $4.99 each. The Apple TV features will be a free software update to existing boxes (available in two weeks). New boxes’ prices drop to $229 from $299.

Something in the air

Running with the tagline “There’s something in the Air,” industry experts and bloggers had been speculating for weeks that the biggest announcement from Jobs is a new laptop. As widely expected, Apple launched the MacBook Air, claiming that it is the “thinnest notebook in the world.

At 0.76″ thick at its widest point, the three-pound Air has a wedge-like shape that tapers down to 0.16″ thick at the front base and can easily fit a Manila envelope.   It offers great features like rotating photos, all in the touchpad, a backlit keyboard and LED backlighting on its 13.3-inch screen.  The Air’s specifications are pretty decent — 1.6 or 1.8GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (cleverly shrunken by 60% by Intel), 2GB of RAM, and an 80GB hard drive (or 64GB SSD option). Although it has no optical drive, a new feature was built into the Air called Remote Disc which essentially enables users to “borrow” the optical drive of another machine on the wireless network and pass along the data.  Another option is to purchase an external USB-powered optical drive which will cost $99. The MacBook Air sells for $1,799 — which many say is inexpensive for an ultralight notebook with the mentioned specifications.

The Macworld Conference and Expo runs until Jan. 18 at the West and South Hall of the Moscone Center, San Francisco.

(www.asianjournal.com)

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