Monthly Archives: March 2018

The wall does not exist yet, but Trump has already erected new barriers for foreign workers

By Tracy Jan

U.S. President Donald Trump participates in a tour of U.S.-Mexico border wall prototypes near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego, California last week. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Trump has managed to erect an “invisible wall” that makes it increasingly difficult for companies to hire skilled foreign workers, according to a new report from experts in immigration law, despite the president’s call for a merit-based immigration system that prioritizes the admittance of people who are skilled and who want to work.

But the hurdles in employment-based immigration put in place during Trump’s first year in office have already discouraged foreign workers from seeking jobs in the U.S. and American companies from recruiting overseas.

The number of petitions for “high-skilled” H-1B visas received by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has fallen for the first time in five years, from 236,000 for the 2017 fiscal year to 199,000 for 2018, the report said.

[How Trump is building a border wall that no one can see]

The report by the American Immigration Lawyers Association said businesses have been “hit with unprecedented scrutiny of nonimmigrant petitions for skilled workers, managers, executives and others.”

It identified a slew of new barriers for foreign workers and the companies that employ them, including a dramatic increase in requests for additional evidence and interview requirements in processing H-1B visa petitions, the dismantling of Obama-era rules to encourage immigrant entrepreneurship, and proposals to eliminate work authorization for spouses of high-skilled workers.

Immigration lawyers said the new policies related to employer-sponsored visas are creating hardship for businesses, which, given the low unemployment rates, are spending substantial time and money recruiting and hiring foreign workers with the right skills.

“The heightened standards and new interpretations that are now being used by USCIS …read more


A new era: What the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike means for you

By Heather Long

A customer uses an ATM inside a JPMorgan Chase bank branch in New York on Jan. 9. (Daniel Tepper/Bloomberg).

The U.S. Federal Reserve is almost certain to hike interest rates Wednesday to the highest level in a decade: 1.5 to 1.75 percent. For retirees like Martin Nicholes III of Asheville, N.C., the bigger rates can’t come fast enough.

“The low interest rates are killing my retirement,” Nicholes said.

He exited stocks after the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, moving most of his money into cash and bonds. He needed to feel safe with his finances, especially after losing his engineering job during the Great Recession and being forced into early retirement. But for the last decade, he’s earned almost no interest on the money in his savings account. Even CDs — the “certificates of deposit” that tie up money for a few months in exchange for a bit more interest — are currently paying stunted amounts. The best 1-year CD rate is just higher than 2 percent, according to, but the average is just 0.5 percent. That’s well below the 5 percent rates Nicholes was used to from the pre-crisis era.

“The low interest rates have been really hard for my generation, the baby boomers,” said Nicholes, who is 70. “We’re just drawing down [our savings] faster than we thought.”

Higher rates are welcome news for savers, but they can be problematic for people and companies that have a lot of debt — or want to take on more debt. As the Fed hikes rates on financial institutions, banks turn around and lift interest rates on credit cards, auto loans, small business loans and home mortgages. Credit card debt is at an all-time high, according to the consumer credit reporting company Experian, and there is a record number of Americans with …read more


Why Americans still avoid MSG, even though its ‘health effects’ have been debunked

By Caitlin Dewey

Monosodium glutamate, better known as MSG. (iStock)

On April 4, 1968, a biomedical researcher wrote a letter that would forever change how America eats. In it, Robert Ho Man Kwok described a strange illness he contracted at Chinese restaurants — specifically those that cooked with the flavoring MSG.

MSG was popular in the United States at the time. But when Kwok’s letter hit the New England Journal of Medicine, the ingredient’s fortunes reversed: Consumers spurned it. Food-makers axed it. Scientists threw themselves into critical MSG research.

Fifty years later, 4 in 10 U.S. consumers still say they actively avoid MSG, according to the International Food Information Council, an industry-funded nonprofit that advocates for science in nutrition. That’s despite repeat studies that have shown MSG does not produce numbness, weakness or heart palpitations, the symptoms Kwok experienced.

In hindsight, analysts say, the mania has proven both a rare glimpse into consumer biases — and a prediction of the “clean eating” age. Many food companies now find themselves exorcising unpopular artificial or chemical ingredients, just as they did with MSG in the late 1960s and ’70s.

“That was one of the first ingredients people started getting really concerned about,” said Stephanie Mattucci, a global food science analyst at market research firm Mintel. “We’ve only seen a continuation of those fears and concerns.”

Unfortunately, when it comes to MSG, there’s a great deal of evidence that consumer fears have been misplaced.

A chemical variant of glutamate — a substance that occurs naturally in high-umami foods, such as Parmesan cheese, walnuts, soy sauce and tomatoes — monosodium glutamate has been widely eaten since the early 20th century, when a Japanese scientist first distilled it from seaweed.

On its own, MSG doesn’t taste like …read more