US proposes changes to H1B visas; to be given to most skilled, highest paid foreign workers

US proposes changes to H1B visas; to be given to most skilled, highest paid foreign workers

Washington: The Trump Administration on Friday proposed major changes to the H-1B application process, including a new rule requiring companies to electronically register their petitions in advance, aimed at awarding this popular American work visa to the most skilled and highest paid foreign workers.

The H1B visa, popular among Indian IT companies and professionals, is a non-immigrant visa that allows US companies to employ foreign workers in speciality occupations that require theoretical or technical expertise. The technology companies depend on it to hire tens of thousands of employees each year from countries like India and China. Under the new proposed merit-based rule, a notice for which was issued on Friday, companies employing foreign workers on the H-1B visa – under the Congressional mandated annual caps – would first have to electronically register with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) during a designated registration period.

The H1-B visa has numerical limit cap of 65,000 visas each fiscal year as mandated by the Congress. The first 20,000 petitions filed on behalf of beneficiaries with a US master’s degree or higher are exempt from the cap. Under the new rule, the USCIS would also reverse the order by which it selects H-1B petitions under the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption. This is likely to increase the number of foreign workers with a master’s or higher degree from a US institution of higher education to be selected for an H-1B cap number. As such the proposed rule will introduce a more meritorious selection of beneficiaries, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said in a statement.

The DHS said public comments on the proposed rule may be submitted starting December 3, when the proposed rule publishes in the Federal Register, and must be received on or before January 2. “Currently, in years when the H-1B cap and the advanced degree exemption are both reached within the first five days that H-1B cap petitions may be filed, the advanced degree exemption is selected prior to the H-1B cap. “The proposed rule would reverse the selection order and count all registrations or petitions towards the number projected as needed to reach the H-1B cap first,” the DHS said.

Once a sufficient number of registrations or petitions have been selected for the H-1B cap, the USCIS would then select registrations or petitions towards the advanced degree exemption. “This proposed change would increase the chances that beneficiaries with a master’s or higher degree from a US institution of higher education would be selected under the H-1B cap and that H-1B visas would be awarded to the most-skilled and highest-paid beneficiaries,” it said. The proposed process would result in an estimated increase of up to 16 per cent (or 5,340 workers) in the number of selected H-1B beneficiaries with a master’s degree or higher from a US institution of higher education, the DHS said.

The USCIS said it expects that shifting to electronic registration would reduce overall costs for petitioners and create a more efficient and cost-effective H-1B cap petition process for the agency. The proposed rule would help alleviate massive administrative burdens on the USCIS since the agency would no longer need to physically receive and handle hundreds of thousands of H-1B petitions and supporting documentation before conducting the cap selection process, it said.

“This would help reduce wait times for cap selection notifications. The proposed rule also limits the filing of H-1B cap-subject petitions to the beneficiary named on the original selected registration, which would protect the integrity of this registration system,” it added. President Donald Trump, who insists on the ‘Buy American and Hire American’ strategy, last year instructed the DHS to propose new rules and issue new guidance to supersede or revise previous rules to protect the interests of US workers. He had directed DHS and other agencies to “suggest reforms to help ensure that H-1B visas are awarded to the most-skilled or highest-paid petition beneficiaries.”

5 dead, 32 injured after coach hits taxi at Hong Kong’s airport

5 dead, 32 injured after coach hits taxi at Hong Kong’s airport

Hong Kong: Five people were killed and 32 injured when a coach carrying Cathay Pacific staff to Hong Kong’s airport collided with a taxi on Friday, police said, with passengers thrown from the coach’s windows on impact. The back half of the taxi was completely crushed and both sides of the bus were damaged with traces of blood on the outside following the crash on the island of Tsing Yi.

“We believe the taxi was broken down and stopped on the left lane of the road. Around 40 seconds later, a coach hit it from behind,” police superintendent Yip Siu-ming said. The coach then lost control, Yip added, hitting the right hand side crash barrier and then the left one and throwing three passengers out of the coach. The 62-year-old driver was also hurled from the vehicle and injured.

The taxi driver and two men and two women coach passengers were killed, according to police. Debris including glass and personal belongings was strewn across the road, which remained closed early Friday. Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific confirmed “a shuttle bus carrying our employees was involved in a traffic accident this morning”.

“It is a tragic and very sad incident. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of those who have sadly passed away,” the airline said. Superintendent Yip said police would look into whether the coach driver — who had been working for 10 hours at the time of the accident — had been tired or affected by alcohol, whether he’d been drinking.

“From what we can see, it’s obvious that the driver did not see the broken-down taxi on the road and hit it from behind,” Yip said, adding that his working hours were from 7:00 pm to 7:00 am. Tsing Yi is connected by a freeway to Hong Kong International Airport which is located on neighbouring Lantau island.

Television footage showed the injured being treated by the side of the road before they were taken to four hospitals. The South China Morning Post reported that several of the injured were in serious condition. One coach passenger said the bus had been travelling fast before it crashed into the taxi which had its hazard lights on, according to SCMP.

“It seemed to me that the coach did not slow down. I fell onto the floor (when it crashed),” the passenger said. A passenger told local television channel TVB the scene on the bus was “very chaotic, we were crushed together”. Another said “the bus hit once, then hit left and right, and hit the roadside to stop.” Television footage showed the crash barrier on either side of the road was damaged.

The accident happened at 5:00 am (2100 GMT Thursday) near the exit of a tunnel. Hong  Kong prides itself on having one of the world’s best public transport systems but deadly bus accidents are not unknown. A speeding double-decker overturned in northern Hong Kong in February, killing 19 people and leaving more than 60 injured. The bus driver was arrested for dangerous driving. And in 2003 a double-decker bus collided with a truck and plummeted off a bridge, killing 21 people and injuring 20.

US President Donald Trump arrives in Argentina for G20 Summit

US President Donald Trump arrives in Argentina for G20 Summit

Buenos Aires: US President Donald Trump has arrived in the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires to attend the two-day G20 Summit, his first visit to Latin America since he came to power almost two years ago.

Trump landed at 10.14 p.m. on Thursday at the Ministro Pistarini International Airport where he and First Lady Melania Trump were received by Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie, the President of the Chamber of Deputies Emilio Monzo and provisional president of the Senate Federico Pinedo, reports Efe news. The President was accompanied, in addition to the First Lady, by his daughter and advisor, Ivanka Trump, and his son-in-law and advisor, Jared Kushner, as well as by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the White House Chief of Staff John Kelly.

Donald Trump will remain in Buenos Aires until Saturday night, leaving after a working dinner with Chinese President Xi Jinping, in which both could reach an agreement to stop an ongoing trade war between the two nations. “We are very close to doing something with China, but I don’t know that I want to do it,” he said on Thursday before leaving the White House. “I really don’t know, but I will tell you that I think China wants to make a deal,” he said. “I’m open to making a deal, but frankly, I like the deal we have right now.”

Donald Trump will also meet Argentine President Mauricio Macri on Friday and is expected to participate in the signing of the new trade agreement between the US, Mexico, and Canada, known as T-MEC. Other leaders with whom he will speak in bilateral meetings include Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Donald Trump on Thursday cancelled a meeting he had scheduled to hold on Saturday with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, due to the seizure of Ukrainian ships by Moscow in the Black Sea. Although this is now his first visit to Latin America, the continent has been left on the back burner of Trump’s agenda and he is not expected to devote special attention to the region, especially after he cancelled a stop he had scheduled to make on Sunday in Colombia. This is the first time that the group of the 20 most developed and emerging economies in the world has brought together the leaders in South America, and Argentina wants to reach agreements on the future of work, infrastructure for development and a future for sustainable food.


G20 Summit: PM Modi meets UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, discusses India’s role in addressing climate change

G20 Summit: PM Modi meets UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, discusses India’s role in addressing climate change

Buenos Aires: Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on the sidelines of the G20 summit here on Thursday and the two discussed India’s role in addressing climate change globally.

PMO sources said the meeting signifies the importance that both leaders attach to the issue of climate change. This outreach comes just a week before the COP24 meet in Katowice, Poland. “UN Secretary General @antonioguterres met PM @narendramodi in #BuenosAires on the sidelines of the #G20Summit. Discussed India’s uniting role in addressing climate change globally, with specific reference to the forthcoming COP24 meeting in Katowice, Poland,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

The UN Secretary General has reached out to the PM for a second time in two months, the PMO sources said. “It reflects the respect in which the prime minister and his initiatives are held globally to take the lead on issues of global importance,” the sources said. Earlier, the prime minister met with Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the sidelines of the G20 summit. They discussed ways to further boost economic, cultural and energy ties.

The two sides also held discussions on enhancing investment in technology, renewable energy and food security. “Had a fruitful interaction with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud. We discussed multiple aspects of India-Saudi Arabia relations and ways to further boost economic, cultural and energy ties,” the prime minister wrote on Twitter.

“Deepening strategic ties. PM @narendramodi met with Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud on sidelines of #G20Argentina. Discussed enhancing Saudi investment in technology, infrastructure, petroleum, renewable energy, food security, fintech & defence sectors,” the MEA spokesperson tweeted.

On the sidelines of the two-day 13th G-20 summit, Modi, Trump and Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe will hold a trilateral meeting amidst China flexing its muscles in the strategic Indo-Pacific region. The trilateral, which would be an expansion of the bilateral meeting between Trump and Abe, is part of the series of meetings the US president would have on the sidelines of the G-20 summit on November 30 and December 1.

British parliament to vote on Brexit deal on December 11: PM Theresa May

British parliament to vote on Brexit deal on December 11: PM Theresa May

London: British Prime Minister Theresa May announced on Monday that Parliament will vote on the Brexit accord on December 11. After days of speculation about the date, the only thing that had been known about which was the fact that it would occur before the Christmas recess, the conservative premier confirmed on Monday that the vote will take place on the second Tuesday of December in the House of Commons, reports Efe news.

“I’m looking ahead to December 11, when this House will be faced with a decision as to whether or not it wishes to deliver on the vote of the British people with a deal that not only delivers on that vote but also protects their jobs,” said May of the upcoming vote, speaking in the House of Commons. May appeared at Westminster on Monday after, on Sunday, the 27 nations of the European Union gave the green light to her Brexit agreement, which must be ratified by the House of Commons and by the European Parliament.

“There is a choice which this House will have to make,” May told the assembled lawmakers. “We can back this deal, deliver on the vote of the referendum and move on to building a brighter future of opportunity and prosperity for all our people. Or this House can choose to reject this deal and go back to square one.” “No one knows what would happen if this deal doesn’t pass. It would open the door to more division and more uncertainty, with all the risks that will entail,” she said.

Before the vote there will be a debate on the deal lasting five days and beginning on Dec. 4. The pact agreed to between May and the European Council has been rejected by dozens of lawmakers from her party, the opposition Labour Party and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which the Tories depend on to maintain their governing coalition. Earlier on Monday, May gave lawmakers an ultimatum to back her Brexit deal with the EU when it is submitted to a parliamentary vote or risk bringing more division to society in the United Kingdom.

May returned to the lower chamber of lawmaking a day after EU member states gave unanimous backing to a deal on the UK’s withdrawal from the bloc but now must convince a majority of Members of Parliament to vote in its favor when it is put to a meaningful vote in the chamber. The British premier took the opportunity to highlight that her deal would end freedom of movement, one of her cornerstone policies in her Brexit agenda, but once again acknowledged discontent over the Northern Ireland backstop agreement with the EU, an insurance policy set in place that would tie the UK territory to the EU to maintain a soft Irish border in the event that no final deal is reached.

MPs have criticised the UK’s inability to withdraw from such a deal unilaterally should it come to pass, but May responded on Monday saying that without a backstop there would be no Brexit deal. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, urged May to seek a softer, Plan B Brexit deal and warned her current plan would struggle to pass the Commons vote, which would be a act of “national self-harm”, he said.

“This deal is not a plan for Britain’s future, so for the good of the nation the House has very little choice but to reject this choice,” Corbyn said. Another sticking point in the Brexit negotiations was the topic of Gibraltar, the tiny British overseas territory on the Iberian Peninsula. Spain’s government recently ramped up its protest that the territory’s future was being exclusively negotiated by the UK and the EU. May said that her withdrawal agreement would also apply to Gibraltar and that Spain had failed in its bid to edit the deal. The UK is on track to leave the EU on March 19, 2019, almost three years after voters narrowly opted to leave in a referendum.

NASA’s InSight spacecraft lands on Mars after six-month journey

NASA’s InSight spacecraft lands on Mars after six-month journey

Cape Canaveral: A NASA spacecraft designed to burrow beneath the surface of Mars landed on the red planet on Monday after a six-month, 300 million-mile (482 million-kilometer) journey and a perilous, six-minute descent through the rose-hued atmosphere.

Flight controllers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, leaped out of their seats and erupted in screams, applause and laughter as the news came in. “Touchdown confirmed!” a flight controller announced. The three-legged InSight spacecraft reached the surface after being slowed by a parachute and braking engines, the space agency said. Updates were coming in via radio signals that take more than eight minutes to cross the nearly 100 million miles (160 million kilometers) between Mars and Earth.

It was NASA’s ninth attempt to land at Mars since the 1976 Viking probes. All but one of the previous U.S. touchdowns were successful. NASA last landed on Mars in 2012 with the Curiosity rover. Viewings were held coast to coast at museums, planetariums and libraries, as well as New York’s Times Square. The plan called for the spacecraft to go from 12,300 mph (19,800 kph) to zero in six minutes flat as it pierced the Martian atmosphere and settled on the surface.

“Landing on Mars is one of the hardest single jobs that people have to do in planetary exploration,” said InSight’s lead scientist, Bruce Banerdt. “It’s such a difficult thing, it’s such a dangerous thing that there’s always a fairly uncomfortably large chance that something could go wrong.” Mars has been the graveyard for a multitude of space missions. Up to now, the success rate at the red planet has been only 40 percent, counting every attempted flyby, orbital flight and landing by the U.S., Russia and other countries since 1960. The U.S., however, has pulled off seven successful Mars landings in the past four decades, not counting InSight, with only one failed touchdown. No other country has managed to set and operate a spacecraft on the dusty red surface.

InSight was shooting for Elysium Planitia, a plain near the Martian equator that the InSight team hopes is as flat as a parking lot in Kansas with few, if any, rocks. This is no rock-collecting expedition. Instead, the stationary 800-pound (360-kilogram) lander will use its 6-foot (1.8-meter) robotic arm to place a mechanical mole and seismometer on the ground. The self-hammering mole will burrow 16 feet (5 meters) down to measure the planet’s internal heat, while the seismometer listens for possible quakes.

Nothing like this has been attempted before at our next-door neighbor, nearly 100 million miles (160 million kilometers) away. No lander has dug deeper than several inches, and no seismometer has ever worked on Mars. By examining the interior of Mars, scientists hope to understand how our solar system’s rocky planets formed 4.5 billion years ago and why they turned out so different – Mars cold and dry, Venus and Mercury burning hot, and Earth hospitable to life. InSight has no life-detecting capability, however. That will be left to future rovers. NASA’s Mars 2020 mission, for instance, will collect rocks that will eventually be brought back to Earth and analyzed for evidence of ancient life.

716 injured in 6.4-magnitude earthquake in western Iran

716 injured in 6.4-magnitude earthquake in western Iran

Tehran: Iranian authorities said Monday that the number of injured in the magnitude 6.3 earthquake in western Iran the previous night has risen to 716. No fatalities were reported from the temblor. According to Iran’s state television, most of the injured were immediately released from hospitals and suffered only slight injuries in the quake on Sunday night. The TV said 37 remained hospitalized.

It said more than 160 aftershocks occurred in the region, including two quakes stronger than magnitude 5. Dozens of rescue teams and several rescue dogs were deployed to the region. The TV showed footage of hospitalised people. Hossein Rahnimi, the head of a local hospital, said many of the injured also suffered panic attacks.

The earthquake struck western Iran near its border with Iraq, damaging buildings and sending fearful residents running into the streets. It hit near the town of Sarpol-e Zahab in Iran’s Kermanshah province, which was the epicenter of an earthquake last year that killed more than 600 people and where some still remain homeless.

That earthquake had a magnitude of 7.3 and also injured more than 9,000 people. Sunday’s temblor also downed power lines and caused brief power outages into the night as temperatures hovered around 8 degrees Celsius.

The quake struck just after 8 p.m. in Iran, meaning most were still awake at the time and able to quickly flee. The region, nestled in the Zagros Mountains, largely rebuilt in recent decades after Iran and Iraq’s ruinous 1980s war, saw many buildings collapse or sustain major damage in the 2017 quake.

Iran is located on major seismic faults and experiences an earthquake per day on average. In 2003, a magnitude 6.6 earthquake flattened the historic city of Bam in southern Iran, killing 26,000 people.

South Korea: Church Pastor gets 15 years jail term for raping 8 women in God’s name

South Korea: Church Pastor gets 15 years jail term for raping 8 women in God’s name

Seoul: The Mega Church Pastor, Jaerock Lee, who raped as many as eight female followers in God’s name, was sentenced 15 years in prison on Thursday. According to The Washington Post, the pastor told the victims that he was “carrying out an order from God.” In its verdict, the court stated that victims were psychologically positioned to obey Lee.

“The victims, who attended the church since childhood, believed that obeying Lee as a godlike figure is the path to heaven. Apparently, the victims were psychologically positioned to be powerless to disobey Lee, and Lee took advantage of their status to commit the crime,” the verdict asserted.

Lee is the head of the Manmin Central Church, which claims to have 133,000 followers, and 10,000 branches and associate churches worldwide, reported The Washington Post. The Pastor was removed from the Christian Council of Korea in 1999 for his “heretical” beliefs and was also branded a “cult leader” by the Korean Ministry Association after he claimed that he was without sin and exempt from dying.

The court also stated that Lee denied the “objective facts” during the investigation and did not regret his actions. The 75-year-old Pastor was about 50 years older than his victims, the court revealed said. “The victims believed him to be a divine being who wields divine power. They would have accepted Lee’s behavior as a divine act, rather than a sexual one, and gave up questioning him, thinking that it would constitute a sin,” the Court stated.

For almost 20 years, Lee has been accused of abusing his powers to lure female followers to have sex with him, said The Washington Post. As many as 300 of his supporters stormed a Korean television station after it broadcast a documentary critical of Lee and his claims that he could cure illness in 1999. The cult followers also obtained a court order preventing Munhwa Broadcasting from screening a story about Lee’s sex life.

United States: Teenager who won award for essay on gun violence killed by stray bullet

United States: Teenager who won award for essay on gun violence killed by stray bullet

Milwaukee: 13-year old Sandra Parks who won an award for her essay on gun violence in her neighbourhood of Milwaukee was killed by a stray bullet here on Monday. The teenager was killed after a bullet was fired outside and was aimed at no one in particular pierced through her bedroom window and hit her in the chest, reported CNN citing police officials.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said, “Sandra Parks … went into her bedroom. She never came out alive. Tragically, her death was caused by someone who just decided they were going to shoot bullets into her house, and she’s dead. A 13-year-old, on Thanksgiving week, on a school night, in her bedroom, and she died.”

“Little children are victims of senseless gun violence. I sit back and I have to escape from what I see and hear every day. When I do; I come to the same conclusion … we are in a state of chaos,” she wrote in the award-winning essay “Our Truth”. Two men were charged in the case. Sandra’s mother Bernice Parks stated that her daughter was against violence. “My baby was not violent. My baby did not like violence,” she said.

Indian-origin man from Australia jailed for molesting Singaporean flight attendant

Indian-origin man from Australia jailed for molesting Singaporean flight attendant

Singapore: A 34-year-old Indian-origin man based in Australian has been jailed for three weeks here for molesting a Singaporean cabin crew member on board a Singapore-bound flight, a media report said Friday. Paranjape Niranjan Jayant, who works for a logistics firm, pleaded guilty to two charges of molestation of the 25-year-old Singaporean flight attendant in August and had one charge taken into consideration for sentencing.

During the eight-hour flight from Sydney to Singapore, Jayant approached the flight attendant a few times to ask for her phone number, but she ignored him. The business class passenger on board a Scoot flight also caressed the attendant’s left hip, ‘The Straits Times’ reported. “Subsequently, during the flight, the accused went up to approach the victim at the front galley a few times to request the victim’s phone number. The victim ignored these requests,” said Deputy Public Prosecutor James Chew.

The attendant moved away from him and he told her she was beautiful before returning to his seat. About an hour before landing, Jayant approached the woman and molested her again, the report said. The woman immediately alerted her supervisor. She later lodged a report at the Changi Airport Terminal 2 police post.

Jayant, who was unrepresented, told District Judge Lim Tse Haw that he was intoxicated when he committed the offence and added, “I can’t handle my drink”. He also said he was remorseful and pleaded for leniency. For each count of molestation, he could have been jailed for up to two years and fined or caned.