Trump administration took steps to prevent abuse, fraud in visa programmes, officials tell Congressmen

By: PTI | Washington | Updated: July 31, 2020 1:50:44 pm

H-1B Visa, US visa, US immigration, US coronavirus pandemic,Trump administration visa programme, US visa rule, world news The H-1B visa has an annual numerical limit cap of 65,000 visas each fiscal year as mandated by the Congress.

The Trump administration has taken a series of steps to prevent the abuse and fraud in the employment-based visa programmes, including changing the cap selection process for the H-1B, the most sought-after work permit among Indian IT professionals, a top US immigration official has told lawmakers.

The H1B visa 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.

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has implemented rules, policy memoranda, and operational changes that protect the economic interests of US workers and businesses and prevent abuse and fraud in employment-based visa programmes, Joseph Edlow, Deputy Director of Policy, USCIS told lawmakers during a Congressional hearing on Thursday.

Prominent among these include ensuring the fees that certain H-1B petitioners must now pay ultimately to help train US workers, clarifying calculation guidelines for the one-year foreign employment requirement for L-1 petitions in order to “ensure consistent adjudication.”

Among other steps are changing the H-1B cap selection process in order to increase the chances of selection for beneficiaries who have earned a master’s degree or higher from a US institution and expanding collaboration with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to better detect and eliminate fraud by employers.

The H-1B visa has an annual 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.

The Trump administration has also created a USCIS H-1B and H-2B fraud reporting online tip form along with creating an H-1B Employer Data Hub to provide information to the public on employers petitioning for H-1B workers, Edlow said.

The H-2B visa is for short-term seasonal workers while L-1 is for internal company transfers.

The USCIS has issued the first report of its kind estimating the number of H-1B non-immigrants authorised to work in the United States and has instituted electronic filing for multiple forms and, for the first time ever, using an electronic registration process for the purpose of H-1B cap selection, he told members of the House Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing Citizenship and Immigration.

Sharvari Dalal-Dheini, Director of Government Relations, American Immigration Lawyers of America, told Congressmen that the USCIS data reveal the percentage of completed cases with request for evidences (RFEs) increased from 22.3 in FY2015 to 40.2 in FY2019.

“The RFE rate reached 60 per cent during the first quarter of FY2019, and was 47.2 per cent during the first quarter of FY2020. Frequently, RFEs and NOIDs are issued seeking evidence that has already been provided or that is unnecessary to establish eligibility or contrary to the plain language of the law,” she said.

Even when the RFEs and NOIDs ultimately result in approvals, the unnecessary delay caused by their issuance effectively means that USCIS reviews each application or petition twice – once upon initial review and again in response to what is often a needless RFE or NOID – thus leading to twice the amount of resources actually needed to complete the adjudication, she said.

According to Dalal-Dheini when these RFEs and NOIDs result in improper denials, US employers and individuals are forced to turn to the federal courts to seek relief. Frequently, when a legal challenge is brought, the agency is forced to reopen and approve the case because the decision is contrary to law.

Most recently, litigation resulted in USCIS being forced to overturn H-1B policy memoranda that were deemed to contravene the Immigration and Nationality Act. Issuing improper denials, resulting in the time and money spent fending unlawful decisions unnecessarily, drain agency resources that could be better used in eliminating case backlogs.

📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

For all the latest World News, download Indian Express App.

tinyurlis.gdclck.ruulvis.netshrtco.de

Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wins death penalty appeal

BOSTON, July 31 (Reuters) – A federal appeals court on Friday overturned Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s death penalty sentence for helping carry out the 2013 attack, which killed three people and wounded more than 260 others.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld much of Tsarnaev’s conviction but ordered a lower-court judge to hold a new trial strictly over what sentence Tsarnaev should receive for the death penalty-eligible crimes he was convicted of.

A spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said his office is reviewing the decision and will have more to say “in the coming days and weeks.” A lawyer for Tsarnaev did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

U.S. Circuit Judge O. Rogeriee Thompson, writing for the court, said that the trial judge “fell short” in conducting the jury selection process and ensuring it could winnow out partial jurors exposed to pretrial publicity surrounding the high-profile case.

Tsarnaev and his older brother Tamerlan sparked five days of panic in Boston on April 15, 2013, when they detonated two homemade pressure cooker bombs at the marathon’s finish line and then went into hiding.

WDAY logo

listen live

watch live

Three nights later, as they attempted to flee the city, they sparked a new round of terror in Boston when they hijacked a car and then shot dead Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier. Tsarnaev’s brother died later that night after a gunfight with police, which ended when Dzhokhar ran him over with a stolen car.

Police then locked down Boston and most surrounding communities for almost 24 hours, with heavily armed officers conducting house-to-house searches through the suburb of Watertown, where the surviving brother was found hiding in a dry-docked boat in a backyard.

A federal jury in 2015 found Tsarnaev guilty of all 30 counts he faced and later determined he deserved execution for a bomb he planted that killed 8-year-old Martin Richard and 23-year-old Chinese exchange student Lingzi Lu.

Tsarnaev’s lawyers argued the case should not have been tried in Boston, where potential jurors were exposed to heart-wrenching, wall-to-wall media coverage about the attacks and the victims, many of whom lost limbs. (Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Scott Malone, Leslie Adler and Jonathan Oatis)

tinyurlis.gdu.nuclck.ruulvis.netshrtco.de

Coronavirus global updates, 31 July: UK PM halts lockdown easing in England as cases rise

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: July 31, 2020 10:36:28 pm

Pharma giants GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur have announced they will supply 100 million doses of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine to the United States as governments buy up supplies in hopes something will work.

Globally, more than 17.29 million have tested positive for coronavirus and 671,480​ have died, according to a Reuters tally. New restrictions have been imposed in several parts of the world as cases continue to surge, and as clusters emerge after restrictions were eased. Over 10.13 million people have recovered after testing positive till now.

In its latest advisory, the World health Organisation urged each country to conduct a risk-benefit analysis of its own and decide on its priorities, before resuming international travel. The WHO suggested countries to gradually ease travel restrictions where priority should be given to essential travel and humanitarian actions among others. 

Here are some global developments 

UK PM halts lockdown easing in England as COVID-19 cases rise

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday applied brakes on further easing of lockdown measures, due from this weekend, in England, fearing a spike in the COVID-19 cases.

Addressing a briefing at Downing Street in London, Johnson said, “we must squeeze the brake pedal” to keep the virus under control and also announced that face coverings will become mandatory across many more indoor settings, such as cinemas, besides just public transport and shops and supermarkets.

“The prevalence of the virus in the community, in England, is likely to be rising for the first time since May,” said Johnson, referring to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data.

Dr Anthony Fauci: Thousands signing up for virus vaccine trials

Dr Anthony Fauci says 250,000 people have registered on a National Institutes of Heath website to take part in experimental vaccine trials.

The study of the first vaccine involving 30,000 people began this week. The US government plans to launch studies of additional vaccines every month through the fall.

Trials are pivotal for establishing the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines. Not all patients who volunteer for clinical trials are eligible to participate.

Fauci is testifying before House lawmakers on the federal response to the pandemic, alongside the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the government’s testing czar.

With hospitalisations and deaths on the rise, Fauci says Americans most again embrace public health basics such as social distancing and mask wearing

US sinks another USD 2.1 billion into a potential vaccine

Pharma giants GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur have announced they will supply 100 million doses of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine to the United States as governments buy up supplies in hopes something will work. The United States will pay up to USD 2.1 billion for development including clinical trials, manufacturing, scale-up and delivery of its vaccine,” the companies said in a statement. Sanofi will get the bulk of the funds.

The US government has a further option for the supply of an additional 500 million doses longer term as part of its Operation Warp Speed programme. “The portfolio of vaccines being assembled for Operation Warp Speed increases the odds that we will have at least one safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year,” US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.

“Today’s investment supports the Sanofi and GSK adjuvanted product all the way through clinical trials and manufacturing, with the potential to bring hundreds of millions of safe and effective doses to the American people.”

Eurozone economy suffers record drop during lockdown months

The economy of the 19-country eurozone shrank by a devastating 12.1 per cent during the second quarter from the quarter before as coronavirus lockdowns froze business and consumer activity. It was the largest drop on record.

Spain, which suffered a severe virus outbreak that devastated its tourism industry, was the hardest hit with a 18.5% drop. Italy and Portugal also suffered steep declines, but no country escaped the impact of the pandemic.

For the currency union as a whole it was the biggest decline since the records started in 1995. For the broader 27-country European Union, not all of whose members use the euro, output sagged 11.9%.

The decline in Europe compares with a 9.5% quarter on quarter drop in the United States. European governments are countering the recession with massive stimulus measures. EU leaders have agreed on a 750 billion-euro recovery fund backed by common borrowing to support the economy from 2021. National governments have stepped in with loans to keep businesses afloat and wage support programs that pay workers’ salaries while they are furloughed.

Brazil First Lady tests positive for coronavirus

The First Lady of Brazil, Michelle Bolsonaro, tested positive for COVID-19, according to an official statement released Thursday, July 30. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Brazil’s first lady Michelle Bolsonaro tested positive for the coronavirus along with the country’s Science & Technology minister who becomes the 5th member of President Jair Bolsonaro’s cabinet to have gotten infected with the disease, officials said Thursday. The statement said Michelle appeared to be in good health, but would follow established protocols.

President Bolsonaro told reporters on July 7 he had been diagnosed with the coronavirus and was then confined to the presidential palace in capital Brasilia for more than two weeks. He announced he tested negative on Saturday.

Philippines extends coronavirus restrictions in capital

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte extended novel coronavirus restrictions in the capital, Manila, until mid-August after the country this month recorded South Asia’s biggest daily jump in coronavirus deaths and biggest single-day increase of confirmed infections.

Coronavirus Philippines religious events, Philippines Coronavirus scare, Coronavirus China religious group, indian express news Catholic priest Fr. Joseph Arellano, right, looks at a man who forgot to take off his protective mask and tried to insert the host in his mouth during communion at a mass at the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz in Manila’s Chinatown, Philippines.(AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Since June, the capital region, provinces south of it, and cities in the central Philippines have been under quarantine restrictions strictly limiting movements of the vulnerable population.

Duterte, in a televised address, said the Philippines “would be given precedence by China in vaccine distribution. I promise you, by December, by the grace of God, we will be back to normal.”

Vietnam reports 45 more cases linked to Da Nang hospital cluster; reports its first death

Vietnam reported its daily high of coronavirus cases all originating from the Da Nang hospital which reported the first case in the country after more than 3 months of no new cases. The country on Friday reported its first fatality after a 70-year-old man who appears to have contracted the disease in Danang, died on Friday, the official Vietnam News Agency (VNA) said, Reuters reported.

vietnam news, vietnam coronavirus cases, coronavirus outbreak in vietnam, wold news, indian express The health ministry has sent a special task force of health experts and more than 1,000 health workers to Da Nang. (AP)

Da Nang was put under a lockdown on Tuesday along with ramping up testing in the city. A makeshift hospital in a sports auditorium has been set up to increase help. Da Nang is a popular tourist destination where thousands of tourists are vacationing.

The health ministry has sent a special task force of health experts and more than 1,000 health workers to Da Nang.

Nepal to reopen Mount Everest from September

In an effort to boost Nepal’s tourism-dependent economy, the government has decided to open its Himalayan mountains including Mount Everest to climbers for its autumn climbing season that runs from September to November, government officials said Thursday.

Chinese team summits Everest amid bid to remeasure peak Mount Everest’s autumn’s climbing season is from September to December. (PTI/File)

However, the country has shut internal flights until mid-August and travel restrictions within Nepal remain, meaning climbers will still be kept away in the short-term, expedition organisers said.

China reports 127 new covid-19 cases

World Bank to investigate if China loan funded Muslim detention camps 112 were reported from Xinjiang and 11 were reported from Liaoning Province(Gilles Sabrié/The New York Times)

Reporting over 100 cases daily for the third consecutive day, China recorded 127 new infections in the last 24 hours as cases continue to surge in the Xinjiang province. Of the locally transmitted cases, 112 were reported from Xinjiang and 11 were reported from Liaoning Province. Five cases originated from outside the country and 11 cases were asymptomatic, China’s Health Commission said on Friday.

Cuban study shows “itolizumab” lowers risk of death in elderly patients

Itolizumab, an antibody drug already being used against the coronavirus in Cuba decreased the risk of intensive care admission and death among 19 nursing home residents with moderate coronavirus symptoms according to a study conducted.

Researchers, including those from Cuba’s Center of Molecular Immunology, which developed itolizumab, said timely use of the drug in combination with standard therapy helped reduce inflammation and prevented the disease from becoming worse.

When researchers compared their outcomes to similar elderly COVID-19 patients who received standard treatment without itolizumab, they estimated that treating three such patients with the drug could prevent one ICU admission and one death.

📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

For all the latest World News, download Indian Express App.

© IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd

tinyurlis.gdclck.ruulvis.netshrtco.de

After passing on Brock Boeser at the NHL Draft, the Minnesota Wild will face the former UND star in the playoffs

They walked onto the stage at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., on a sunny June day in 2015 to make the No. 20 overall pick in the NHL Draft.

The Wild, who had long searched for a goal-scoring right winger, had a perfect fit on the board. They were going to have the opportunity to draft Brock Boeser, the local product out of Burnsville, who led the United States Hockey League in goals the previous season.

Wild general manger Chuck Fletcher stepped up to the mic. He didn’t make any small talk or have any announcements. He got right to the point.

He leaned in and said: “Minnesota selects, from Farjestad, Joel Eriksson Ek.”

WDAY logo

listen live

watch live

The Wild passed on Boeser in favor of the centerman from Sweden. Boeser went three picks later to the Vancouver Canucks.

The Wild have since been dogged by questions about the pick.

Boeser went on to play two years at UND, leading the Fighting Hawks to an NCAA national championship as a freshman (he had four points in the title game), while finishing third nationally in points with 60. The following year, he turned pro after UND bowed out of the NCAA tournament and made his NHL debut the next day. The opponent? The Minnesota Wild. Boeser scored a goal in that first game.

While Eriksson Ek has turned into a solid defensive center for the Wild, the production comparison with Boeser isn’t close.

Eriksson Ek has played in 210 NHL games, scoring 24 goals and tallying 66 points.

Boeser has played in 197 NHL games, scoring 75 goals and tallying 161 points.

The spotlight on this pick and all the comparisons are bound to rise again this weekend. When Boeser plays his first Stanley Cup Playoff game on Sunday, it will be against the team he made his NHL debut against, the hometown team that passed on him in the draft, the Wild.

Vancouver and Minnesota open up their best-of-five series at 9:30 p.m. Sunday in Edmonton.

“I would probably say I know a little more about them. . . I know Minnesota better than most teams,” Boeser said.

Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser (6) celebrates March 28, 2019, after scoring a goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period at Rogers Arena. Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Vancouver Canucks forward Brock Boeser (6) celebrates March 28, 2019, after scoring a goal against the Los Angeles Kings during the second period at Rogers Arena. Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

‘The best I’ve felt in a long time’

Boeser, who had 16 goals and 45 points in 57 regular-season games, says he will be ready for the series.

He spent the coronavirus pandemic stoppage at home in the Twin Cities working out and preparing for the playoffs. He played well during Vancouver’s sole exhibition game ahead of the playoffs, despite not scoring a goal.

“I feel really good,” Boeser said during a recently press conference. “I told you guys when we talked in the summer that I was coming back on a mission. I really put in the work when I was at home. I was working hard. I’m noticing a difference right now. I feel better. I feel confident right now. Hopefully, I can continue that and bring it against the Wild. The shot’s feeling good.

“I got in a couple weeks where I train in the summers before I came back. It was a little different just being at home. A lot of Peloton. I rode a lot of Peloton. A lot of roller blade rides. . . other workouts at home. I don’t know if it was the Peloton or what it was, but I feel quicker out there. I feel stronger. It’s the best I’ve felt in a long time and I hope I can keep it going.”

There may be one change in Boeser for this series. He recently started using a new curve on his stick. It’s the first time he’s changed the curve on his stick since peewee hockey.

“Auston Matthews curve,” Boeser said. “I’ve liked it so far. We’ll see if it leads somewhere.”

UND-filled series

Boeser isn’t the only former UND player in this series.

His college teammate, Troy Stecher, is a regular on defense for the Canucks. Stecher has five goals and 17 points in 69 games for Vancouver this season.

On the other side, Minnesota’s leading goal scorer this season was longtime star Zach Parise, who had 25 goals and 46 points in 69 games.

Luke Johnson, who won state championships at both Grand Forks Red River and Grand Forks Central before helping UND to the 2016 NCAA title, also is on Minnesota’s playoff roster. Johnson played three games for the Wild this season.

Boeser, Stecher and Johnson all were on UND’s 2016 title team.

But none will have the spotlight in this series like Boeser.

“I know their defense is one of their strengths,” Boeser said of the Wild. “You look at their top four ‘D,’ and they’re all really good defensive players. We know we’re going to have to break them down in that aspect. I think Minnesota had a slow start to the season but was kind of gaining traction before the break. So, I know they’re going to have confidence.

“We need to have the same confidence and I think we need to be prepared for each game and know what they’re going to bring each game. With saying that, I think we need to make sure we play our game and kind of dictate the pace of play against them.”

Minnesota Wild vs. Vancouver Canucks

Best-of-5 series, in Edmonton

Game 1: 9:30 p.m. Sunday (NBC Sports)

Game 2: 9:45 p.m. Tuesday (USA)

Game 3: Aug. 6, TBD

Game 4: Aug. 7 (if necessary)

Game 5: Aug. 9 (if necessary)

tinyurlis.gdu.nuclck.ruulvis.netshrtco.de

Seasonal flu reports hit record lows amid global social distancing

By: Reuters | Beijing | Published: July 31, 2020 2:02:59 pm

influenza The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates there are some 3-5 million severe illnesses and up to 500,000 deaths annually linked to seasonal influenza globally. (Source: getty images)

Global social distancing rules targeting coronavirus have pushed influenza infection rates to a record low, early figures show, signalling that the measures are having an unprecedented impact on other communicable diseases.

In China, where the earliest wide-scale lockdown measures began, new reports of diseases including mumps, measles and some sexually transmitted diseases have declined significantly, though influenza cases have seen the sharpest drop off.

Infections reported monthly by the county’s health ministry have dropped by over 90% since the beginning of the lockdown, from an average of around 290,000 cases a month to 23,000.

Canada’s flu surveillance system also reported “exceptionally low levels” of influenza in a recent report, as did other countries that report weekly flu surveillance statistics including the UK and Australia.

In its most recent weekly report, South Korea’s infectious disease portal reported an 83% decrease in cases from the same period a year earlier.

“We’ve seen the lowest ever rates of other viral infection admissions for this time of year,” said Ben Marais, an expert in infectious disease at the University of Sydney and clinician at the children’s unit at Westmead Hospital. “We normally have wards full of children with wheezy chests at this time of year, in winter…but this year the wards are essentially empty,” he said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates there are some 3-5 million severe illnesses and up to 500,000 deaths annually linked to seasonal influenza globally.

Passed us by

While experts say the drop in influenza infections has reduced the strain on healthcare systems and lowered the number of influenza fatalities, there’s also concern that the unprecedented drop in cases could have a negative impact on immunity levels in following seasons.

“It may be that if we don’t have infections this season there will be more vulnerable people next season, that is definitely something that we will have to carefully monitor,” said Marais. “This season passed us by, it seems.”

Lower numbers of some infectious diseases could also be linked to reduced reporting rates.

The WHO said in a recent report that influenza surveillance figures should be “interpreted with caution,” due to the limited capacity for reporting in some countries during the pandemic.

The impact of the lockdown on other diseases with a longer onset period, including HIV and Tuberculosis, may not be clear for years to come.

In China, new cases of mumps dropped by around 70% and measles by over 90% since the lockdown.

There was an average of around 7,500 gonorrhoea cases reported per month since the lockdown, down from 12,100 a month in 2019.

Hepatitis, which last year infected some 1.2 million Chinese people according to the reporting system, was down by over 20% in the same period.

📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

For all the latest World News, download Indian Express App.

© IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd

tinyurlis.gdu.nuclck.ruulvis.netshrtco.de

North Dakota announces new daily high in COVID-19 cases

BISMARCK — The North Dakota Department of Health on Friday, July 31, announced a record high number of new COVID-19 cases in the state with 168 positive tests.

This is the highest one-day increase to date since North Dakota saw its first case in March.

There are now 1,077 North Dakotans known to be infected with the illness, and 103 residents have died.

Burleigh County continues to report the highest number of active cases of any county with health officials on Friday confirming another 38 new cases. It also has more than double the number of active cases than any county with 280 cases.

On Thursday evening, Bismarck Public Schools voted unanimously to begin the 2020-21 school year with full-time in-person instruction.

WDAY logo

listen live

watch live

Of the new cases reported Friday:

  • Forty-six are from the Burleigh-Morton County region, which encompasses neighboring cities Bismarck and Mandan.

  • Twenty-five of the new cases came from Cass County, which includes Fargo and West Fargo.

  • Sixteen new cases are from Stark County, which includes Dickinson.
  • Twelve are from Benson County, which encompasses the majority of the Spirit Lake Reservation.

All counties in North Dakota have reported cases of COVID-19, but some currently have zero active cases.

There are now 47 residents currently hospitalized with COVID-19, up four from numbers reported Thursday.

About 3.2% of the 5,292 test results announced Friday came back positive. Johns Hopkins University, which calculates the rate of positives using only those tested for the first time, found an average of 7.3% of North Dakotans tested over a week-long period came back positive.

A total of 6,469 North Dakota residents have tested positive, but 5,289 have recovered.

The state has announced the results of 310,232 tests, and many residents have been tested more than once.

As a public service, we’ve opened this article to everyone regardless of subscription status. If this coverage is important to you, please consider supporting local journalism by clicking on the subscribe button in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage.

Readers can reach reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at mgriffith@forumcomm.com

tinyurlis.gdu.nuclck.ruulvis.netshrtco.de

How Trump is opening the way for the Taliban to take Afghanistan back

With a thriving opium-based agriculture still in place, talk of victory is hollow and won’t wash during an election campaign. This is why February’s agreement with the Taliban is so important, the need now being to present it as an acceptable deal. The reality is rather different and as things stand it looks like Trump the great deal-maker is again proving to be anything but.

Under the 29 February agreement, which was a US-Taliban deal that didn’t involve the elected Afghan government, all foreign troops will be out by next May, enabling a negotiated peace between the Taliban and the government. Formal ceasefires won’t intrude but the Taliban did agree with Washington not to allow “any of its members, other individuals, or other individuals, including al-Qaeda, to use soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies” (Gabriel Dominguez, ‘Heading for the Exit’, Janes Defence Weekly, 29 July 2020).

Troops out

Since then, the Pentagon has moved quickly. Timetables have been agreed with the Taliban and 3,400 of the 12,000 US troops have already left. Other NATO states are also involved, so the total presence of 16,000 foreign troops is already down to 12,000. There may be thousands of private military contractors still around, mainly guarding Western interests in Kabul and other cities, but that is not part of polite conversation and won’t figure in any White House announcements.

The precise rate of withdrawal from now on is not certain but the likelihood is that Trump will want to say in October that nearly half the troops are already back home, with more on the way. Given COVID-19 and all Trump’s other problems this will hardly be as significant as he hoped back in February, but it will still be a useful tool in the closing weeks of campaigning.

All, though, is not what it seems. First, the talks with Kabul that were due to start on 10 March have still not got under way. That said, after months of pre-negotiation stalemate this week were there small signs of progress as the Kabul government agreed a prisoner release and the Taliban responded with a three-day ceasefire over the Eid holiday.

Taliban in

Second, even if talks do start, the Taliban have meanwhile been engaged in a carefully calibrated campaign to undermine the Afghan government while not doing anything that might provoke the White House into reversing the withdrawal. According to last month’s Pentagon report ‘Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan’, they have been avoiding direct attacks on US and other coalition forces and also high-profile attacks in city centres such as Kabul.

To the international media this gives an impression of progress, but at the same time the Taliban have been stepping up their attacks on Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF), focusing mainly on static checkpoints that may be easy targets. With this continuing if largely hidden violence there have also been many civilian casualties, with at least 600 killed or wounded in the first six months of this year.

The Taliban strategy is therefore clear – target ANDSF personnel without antagonising the Pentagon and therefore negotiate from a position of strength with Kabul when the US and others have departed. They can then claim success so that within three or four years the Taliban will have a major share in Afghanistan’s governance, perhaps even taking back control within a decade. Trump may try to claim success but it would be anything but for Afghanistan.

tinyurlis.gdclck.ruulvis.netshrtco.de

S Korean tries washing money over virus fears, suffers loss

By: AP | Published: July 31, 2020 9:54:21 pm

coronavirus scare, coronavirus on surfaces, covid 19 updates, cleaning bank notes for coronavirus Some of the money was seriously damaged, and the person reached out to the Bank of Korea to find whether it could be exchanged for new bills.

Money laundering is not a good idea, as a South Korean found out when he or she put banknotes in a washing machine to remove possible traces of the coronavirus. Officials say the loss was considerable.

The person living in Ansan city, near Seoul, placed an unspecified amount of 50,000-won (USD 42) bills in a washing machine earlier this year.

Some of the money was seriously damaged, and the person reached out to the Bank of Korea to find whether it could be exchanged for new bills.

Under bank rules on the exchange of damaged, mutilated and contaminated banknotes, the person was provided with the new currency totaling about 23 million won (USD 19,320), the Bank of Korea said in a statement.

Bank official Seo Jee Woun said the number of 50,000-won bills the bank exchanged at half value was 507. She said the bank doesn’t count the number of bills that it cannot exchange because damage is too big. She said bank officials didn’t know exactly how much money the person tried to wash.

She said the loss would still be “considerable.” How much the central bank should exchange in a situation like this depends on how seriously banknotes are damaged. The bank can provide the new currency at face value if damage is minimal, but at half value or not at all if damage is significant.

The amount in question was condolence money given by relatives, friends and others during a family funeral, according to the bank. The person has been only identified by family name Eom. Bank officials gave no further personal information citing privacy law.

How about microwaving money?

According to the bank, another person, surnamed Kim, put bills in a microwave over similar coronavirus concerns earlier this year. The bank exchanged Kim’s damaged money with the new currency worth 5.2 million won (USD 4,370). Seo said Kim’s losses were not big.

South Korea’s central bank has advised the public to avoid putting banknotes in a microwave saying its disinfection effect is unclear. Anti-virus guidelines in South Korea don’t include sterilizing money in a washing machine either.

📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

For all the latest World News, download Indian Express App.

tinyurlis.gdclck.ruulvis.netshrtco.de

Port: Who is worse, anti-LGBT Republicans or those who tolerate them?

That’s what a Republican state lawmaker told me recently.

They were referring, of course, to the controversy over bigoted, anti-LGBT language in the NDGOP’s state platform.

The language has been there, in one form or another, since 2016. The party’s executive committee has disavowed the language after it made headlines this month. However, a faction of the party is still standing behind it, and Republican officials generally have gone silent as to how the language came to be in the first place.

They’ve been stiff-arming inquiries from the news media, and even elected Republicans can’t seem to get their questions answered.

WDAY logo

listen live

watch live

“I saw the news last night and they would absolutely not talk to KFYR-TV,” this lawmaker told me. “[They have] absolutely gone silent, people there know what has happened and they’re not talking.”

Another Republican lawmaker echoed this frustration to me this week. “I would love to see that happen,” they told me when I asked why rank-and-file party members, from local activists up to elected officials, aren’t doing more to speak out against this sort of ignorance in their political organization.

But the first lawmaker I spoke said the challenge in doing so is political.

“First most don’t want to get involved because quite frankly out west it doesn’t get much traction with the general public,” they said. “It’s a much bigger deal out in the valley. Second, people are definitely circling the wagons around the party because they don’t want to hurt candidates in the fall.”

That explanation for silence makes sense, at least superficially, but let’s think about this for a moment.

Republicans have dominated North Dakota politics for decades. Since statehood, really, with just a few interludes of Democratic leadership. How much are they risking by taking a strong stand against those who hold increasingly marginal views on LGBT issues?

Sure, some Republican voters might get offended, but what are they going to do? Express their disdain for Republicans being tolerant of the LGBT community by … voting for Democrats?

C’mon.

There are a lot of Republicans — people who hold elected office, people who donate a lot of money and time to the party, people who vote for the Republican ticket year after year — who are incensed about this resolution, specifically, and their party’s obstinance in the face of evolving public sentiment on social issues generally.

They express these sentiments privately. They send words of support to me when I speak out on these issues as a conservative commentator. But they’re unwilling to take action themselves because they’re worried about upsetting the apple cart.

But can they claim the moral high ground if they tolerate bigotry in the party they support?

Again, this anti-LGBT language has been in the party’s resolutions since 2016. They knew it was there and they didn’t do anything about it.

Does that make them any better than the people who wrote and passed the resolutions?

When news of the resolutions first broke, many prominent Republicans — people like Gov. Doug Burgum, Congressman Kelly Armstrong, Insurance Commissioner Jon Godfread — spoke out forcefully against them.

That’s a good start, but since then, the NDGOP has hunkered down, waiting for the storm to end. That speaks to a willingness to let the status quo persist.

It’s time for Republicans to evolve, and the only people who spur that process are Republicans.

To comment on this article, visit www.sayanythingblog.com

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at rport@forumcomm.com.

tinyurlis.gdu.nuclck.ruulvis.netshrtco.de

Eurozone economy suffers record drop during lockdown months

By: AP | Paris | Published: July 31, 2020 5:43:51 pm

Spain, Spain coronavirus, Spain emergency, spain coronavirus deaths, spain coronavirus cases, coronavirus pandemic, coronavirus china The decline in Europe compares with a 9.5% quarter on quarter drop in the United States. (AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos)

The economy of the 19-country eurozone shrank by a devastating 12.1 per cent during the second quarter from the quarter before as coronavirus lockdowns froze business and consumer activity. It was the largest drop on record.

Spain, which suffered a severe virus outbreak that devastated its tourism industry, was the hardest hit with a 18.5% drop. Italy and Portugal also suffered steep declines, but no country escaped the impact of the pandemic.

For the currency union as a whole it was the biggest decline since the records started in 1995. For the broader 27-country European Union, not all of whose members use the euro, output sagged 11.9%.

The decline in Europe compares with a 9.5% quarter on quarter drop in the United States.

European governments are countering the recession with massive stimulus measures. EU leaders have agreed on a 750 billion-euro recovery fund backed by common borrowing to support the economy from 2021. National governments have stepped in with loans to keep businesses afloat and wage support programs that pay workers’ salaries while they are furloughed.

The European Central Bank is pumping 1.35 trillion euros in newly printed money into the economy, a step which helps keep borrowing costs low.

Those support measures have helped keep unemployment from spiking. The rate rose to 7.8% in June from 7.7% in May. But many job losses will wind up being permanent despite the stimulus.

Major companies such as Lufthansa, Daimler and Airbus have said they will cut thousands of jobs.

Economists say the worst of the downturn is past, concentrated in the months of April and May. Many restrictive measures have been eased, and business confidence in Germany, the biggest eurozone economy, has ticked up for three straight months.

But the outlook is for a long and uncertain climb back to pre-virus levels that could take until 2022 or longer. Company forecasts for the rest of the year assumed that there is not a renewed outbreak of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Cases have been rising again in several countries as people go on vacations and Britain slapped a 14-day quarantine on travellers returning from Spain.

The Spanish contraction was by far the sharpest slump since the country’s national statistics agency began collecting data. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was meeting later Friday with the leaders of Spain’s regions to discuss how to rebuild the economy and where to deploy billions of euros in European Union aid for recovery.

Germany, the largest of the countries that use the euro, went through a 10.1% decline, the biggest since records started in 1970. In France, the startling plunge of 13.8% in April-June demonstrated the cost of its two-month lockdown. It was the third consecutive quarter of contraction in France’s worsening recession.

The pain has been so damaging to jobs and industries that the government is talking down the possibility of another nationwide lockdown as infections tick upward again.

France’s economy was already shrinking in the last quarter of 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“All the growth in GDP seen in the 2010-2019 decade has been wiped out in five months”, said Marc Ostwald, chief economist at ADM Investor Services International. In Italy’s case, economists said it wiped out about 30 years of growth.

📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines

For all the latest World News, download Indian Express App.

© IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd

tinyurlis.gdclck.ruulvis.netshrtco.de