No, Donald Trump Didn’t Sign A Visa Free Travel Order To Arab Countries

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A “news” article by a website called “USA radio” is currently making the rounds that Donald Trump signed an executive order that allows visa-free travel to Arab countries, including Lebanon, excluding the 6 Arab countries of the 7 he had tried to ban two weeks ago. It was written at the same time Trump signed his travel ban order, but only started making the Arab rounds recently.

The article is being shared left and right. To summarize, the news is fake. False. Not correct. You still need visas to go to the U.S. and no American president, for the foreseeable future, regardless of who they are, will sign an order that allows visa free travel to Arab countries. I mean, where do we think we are, la la land?

For starters, the website in question has shared two similar articles worded in almost exactly the same way about Caribbean countries as well as Ghana. Both articles have since been removed. Another article remains about the U.S. establishing visa free travel with “Asia” and that is also fake news.

Usa-radio.com is a website full of fake news, of which this is a bunch:

I know the idea of being added to the list of countries who don’t have to knock embassy doors for visas is tantalizing, but this is still not happening anytime soon, and the Lebanese passport, as well as most Arab countries’ passports, are still among the worst-ranked passports of the world.

Moreover, Donald Trump whose policies are progressively aiming at isolating his country from the rest of the world will surely not sign an order to allow visa free travel from countries whose predominant religion he wants to ban. Let’s have some common sense, people. Also, just check out the actual, official, governmental Visa Waiver Program website (click).

 

If it’s too good to be true, it most likely isn’t, especially when the president whose order you want to be true is building a multi-billion wall to keep his Southern neighbors out. If you want to go to the United States, your only way is to pay that visa fee and go to your local embassy and be interviewed.

As a rule of thumb, when you see an article at which your first thought is “is this true?” from websites you’ve previously not heard of, make sure you use the powers of google to search for reliable sources that you are familiar with that corroborate the information put forth in that article.

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The U.S. Visa Cancellation of Lebanese Citizens

It’s a joyful moment for many when they get that American embassy employee to smile at them and tell them their visa request has been finally approved. I wouldn’t know since I’ve never had that happen to me.

For many, it is believed the struggle to get into the United States is almost done – what can go wrong now that you’ve got the paper work? Nothing, right?

Wrong.

For 3000 Lebanese, visiting the United States has become an impossibility for reasons no one knows. The people whose visas got cancelled belong to different Lebanese sects and religions: Christian, Muslim, Sunni, Shiites. They belong to different societal strata: businessmen and regular joes.

The U.S. Embassy in Lebanon has denied such numbers  (link), asserting that it is within the authority of the American State Department to cancel visas if information came to light after their issuance that would make the person in question inadmissible in the United States. But isn’t it also the right of Lebanese citizens, whoever they are, to know what those information are?

The most prominent example of canceled visas is the Hallab family in Tripoli, which has affected all four owners of  Hallab. For those who don’t know, the Hallab family owns and runs Asr el Helo (The Palace of Sweets). Some were forbidden from going for their medical checkups while others were told, upon leaving the United States on their way to Lebanon, that this would be their last visit. Even calls for Lebanese officials who, until very recently, used to be fully acting prime ministers to help with this issue proved to be completely useless.

Furthermore, it has been brought to my attention that Hallab, the sweets shop, is currently cautious about exporting its goods to the United States. The family is currently in a legal debacle in order to try and see how the visa cancellations affect the export.

But is there even any logical why the Hallab family’s visas are canceled? I can think of none. They do not harbor nor support terrorism and Islamist movements. They do not fund radicals who might find their way to American soil.  And yet here we are.

Another businessman whose visa got cancelled is Khaled Rifai who owns the Tripoli branches of GS, Springfield, Polaris and Bossini  as well as an insurance company. Khaled Rifai and the three Hallab brothers, who are a mere fraction out of many that includes Lebanese students, were not given any reason as to why their visas got cancelled. Better yet, their cancellation got almost no media coverage in Lebanon to begin with. I guess the media blackout over Tripoli extends to such incidents as well.

Who do we blame for this? I guess we can blame the politicians who have willingly turned the country into a playing field for everyone who wishes to start a game of tug of war. We can blame our useless passport, the most expensive and least efficient in the whole world. We can blame the current situation. We can blame whoever we want, point our fist at Awkar and pretend being outraged will get us somewhere.

But the truth is there’s absolutely nothing we can do but remain under the mercy of such embassies, vying for the next visa to take the bunch who doesn’t live in their version of Lebanese lala land out of here. I guess it comes with the territory of being where we are, what we are and who we are.

There’s nothing we can do but take it.

The Visa Situation for the Lebanese Passport

It’s bad people. Really bad. Remember when I was complaining about Lebanon being one of 39 countries that has to wait 10 days on average for the Schengen visa? If you don’t, then here it is.

It turns out the situation is much worse than having to wait 10 days for a Schengen visa. We, as Lebanese, can access 33 countries without needing visas. 33 sounds appealing? Well, the #1 countries in the world, Denmark, Sweden and Finland, can access 173 countries.

In a 2011 study, conducted by Henley & Partners, Lebanon ranked 97 out of 110 countries and behind countries such as Iran, Egypt.

In fact, in a 2010 study conducted by the same company (check it out here), we are also behind North Korea. And it doesn’t stop there. We are also on brochures that tell travelers about Lebanon being one of the countries with the most visa restrictions.

 

I have to ask though: why is the situation this bad? Other neighboring countries, who share our geographical location and the whole baggage of the Middle East, have a better situation that we do.

It could be that our Ministry of Foreign affairs is doing a horrible job, which I think is true. I mean, have you heard that “minister” asking the president to halt in filing a protest against Syrian violation of our land pending investigations? When you have people like that in charge of these types of relations, where do you expect to get?

Or could it be that all those other countries simply refuse to permit headache-free entry for Lebanese travelers?

I would tend to think it’s the former – that governments throughout the years have been and are doing such a bad job with foreign relations that with each passing day our passport loses whatever negligible value it had. And it’s actually very sad.

What’s the best passport to seek out in case you want to go anywhere you want and still retain your Lebanese citizenship? It seems like Sweden is a good fit. Denmark doesn’t allow dual citizenships.

A word for our minister of foreign affairs though, the citizens of the country that he has no problem getting up in a fit for whenever they violate our country can access 142 countries. Just saying.

 

 

When Companies Swap Logos

After all the seriousness of my previous few posts, which I’m sure bored a lot of you, it’s time to post something fun. And I recently ran across this and found it to be quite interesting.

Have you ever thought about how it would be if Pepsi and Coca-Cola swapped logos? Or if any of the world’s rival companies did so?

Well, no need to imagine that anymore. Here are pictures that will show you.

Pepsi and Coca-Cola:

McDonald’s and Burger king:

Ferrari and Ford:

Fedex and UPS:

Google and Yahoo:

Audi and BMW:

Visa and Mastercard:

Skype and Google Talk:

iPhone and Android:

Nike and Puma:

Twitter and Facebook: