Spyscape

by Joseph McKeown


Spyscape is an immersive and educational museum in Manhattan that lets you learn about the world of spycraft and espionage (in real life and the fictional world of James Bond) as well as test out your own potential to be a spy. Visitors can learn about the work of the cryptologists (including the famed Alan Turing) who helped end WWII by hacking the Enigma machine, the powerful cyber weapon that destroyed Iran’s nuclear program, the dangerous FBI spy who sold secrets to the Russians for twenty-two years, as well as the clever gadgets, props, cars (yes, there is an Aston Martin), and creative processes behind the 007 films. Importantly, visitors can also develop their own spy profile. We tested our lying and detection skills (perfect), code-making and code-breaking encryption skills (not so great), surveillance skills (excellent), and agility and speed in the laser tunnel Special Ops Challenge (not too bad). According to the results our next job is Surveillance Officer. Watch out, James Bond.


The Washington Post: “Trump’s order will deny visas to immigrants who lack health-care coverage”

by Joseph McKeown


Last Friday, the White House issued a proclamation stating that effective November 3, 2019, the government will deny visas for immigrants who “will financially burden” the U.S. health-care system and will now require that foreign nationals demonstrate that they have health insurance or sufficient funds to cover health-care costs on their own before entering the United States. President Trump said he is issuing the proclamation to “protect the availability of health care benefits for Americans,” and that immigrants “who enter this country should not further saddle our health care system, and subsequently American taxpayers, with higher costs.”  

To obtain a visa, foreign nationals must prove they will be covered by “approved health insurance,” including a family or employment-based policy, within thirty days of entering the US, unless they have sufficient funds to cover their “reasonably foreseeable medical costs.” Doug Rand, a former Obama-era White House official tasked with immigration policy, said Trump’s proclamation will likely affect immediate relatives of US citizens waiting for permission to enter the US, including parents, spouses, and siblings (with children being exempt). Analysts predict that the proclamation could reduce legal immigration by up to sixty-five percent. The proclamation, Rand noted, does not appear to affect foreign nationals arriving on temporary work visas, refugees, or those seeking asylum at the Mexican border. Rand said that as “a matter of policymaking, this is an incredibly flimsy document” and called the new rule “a gigantic, sweeping change to the legal immigration system.”


The Horses

by Joseph McKeown


Inspired by the horses who pull tourists in carriages through Central Park as well as the monument of William Tecumseh Sherman on horseback nearby, artist Jean-Marie Appriou created his large equine creations to “stand like surreal sentinels at the entrance to Central Park.” The sculptures are made of clay and foam models cast in aluminum, and tool marks and fingerprints on the wavy sculptures imbue them with “mythological” and “hallucinatory qualities” as well as a “dreamlike energy.” Appriou, born in France, designed the horses so that visitors can interact on and under them. The horses are on display at the Doris C. Freedman Plaza near 59th Street and 5th Avenue in Central Park through August 30, 2020. No, we didn’t climb on them. But we really wanted to.


Diversity Lottery for Fiscal Year 2021 (DV-2021)

by Joseph McKeown


It’s that time of year again! The Diversity Visa Lottery for fiscal year 2021 (DV-2021) is here. The online registration period for the DV-2021 Program begins on Wednesday, October 2, 2019 at 12:00 noon (EDT), and concludes on Tuesday, November 5, 2019 at 12:00 noon (EST). It is recommended that foreign nationals not wait until the end of the period to apply as heavy demand could cause delays on the website. Additionally, they should not submit multiple applications since doing so will result in disqualification.

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The Washington Post: “A renowned scientist wants to thank the stranger who helped him stay in America”  

by Joseph McKeown


Mahmoud Ghannoum, a prominent scientist and the director of the Center for Medical Mycology at Case Western Reserve University and the leading microbiome gut researcher in the world, wants to thank a generous travel agent who was instrumental in helping him immigrate to America almost thirty years ago. It was 1990, and Ghannoum’s country, Kuwait, had just been invaded by Saddam Hussein. With his family staying in a dorm room in England, and his town in Kuwait destroyed and financial assets frozen, Ghannoum traveled to Washington, D.C. for a conference where he had planned to speak. He believed his best chance for establishing a new life was in America, and he hoped to find a job through the conference. But the scientists there told him it was the wrong conference for job hunting, and if he could wait in D.C. for one week, he’d likely get a job at another conference.

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Arcadia Earth

by Joseph McKeown


Arcadia Earth is a new immersive experimental artspace in Greenwich Village that uses augmented reality to take visitors on a journey through planet earth to educate them about climate change and environmental issues. Opening in time for Climate Week NYC (which is from September 23rd through September 29th), the exhibit encourages visitors to make small lifestyle changes that can have a huge impact. Using your own iPhone (or a provided iPad), visitors take a multi-sensorial journey through underwater worlds, fantasy lands, and art installations. A highlight for us was “The Rainbow Cave” by artist Basia Goszczynska. Made out of 44,000 salvaged plastic bags (the number used in New York State every sixty seconds), the “cave” celebrates the recent NY State ban on plastic bags, and is a powerful reminder to bring your own tote bag!


Forbes: “USCIS Documents Reveal The Sources Of Trump H-1B Visa Restrictions”

by Joseph McKeown


Newly released documents from US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) explain how government policies have increased H-1B denials and Requests for Evidence (RFEs). These government documents, previously hidden from the public and only released after a FOIA lawsuit by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), demonstrate that USCIS adjudicators have been “directed to restrict approvals of H-1B petitions without the legal or regulatory authority to justify those decisions,” according to Stuart Anderson, executive director of the National Foundation for American Policy, a non-partisan public policy research organization. These restrictions have led to a decrease in highly skilled foreign nationals in the US.

Jonathan Wasden, a partner with Wasden Banias LLC, who has filed lawsuits regarding H-1B adjudications, told Anderson that in the government documents “noncontroversial matters” are supported by statute and regulation but their most “controversial policies” including “overreaching into Department of Labor regulations, requiring guaranteed work assignments and the employer-employee rule” do not have such citations. “It appears that the agency made dramatic changes to H-1B policy without grounding those changes in any law,” he said. “Attorneys have known this is happening in practice, but to see they don’t even attempt to create a facade of statutory support is shocking.” AILA President Marketa Lindt noted: “The documents released by USCIS reveal the way the agency has shifted its focus in these adjudications, creating more obstacles for U.S. businesses to hire and retain the talent they need.”