Category: International

US starts process to ban work permits for H-1B spouses

In a move that may affect thousands of H-1B visa holders and their families in the US, the Donald Trump administration has started the process to ban work permits for spouses of H-1B visa holders

On May 22, the US government issued a notice for the proposed rule-making that will kick in public consultations to ban the H-4 EAD (Employment Authorisation Document), a work visa programme launched by the previous Obama administration to leverage skilled spouses of H-1B visa holders and address skill shortage in the technology domain, the Economic Times said in a report.

While explaining its reasons for the proposal, the Department of Homeland Security wrote that American citizens would benefit “by having a better chance at obtaining jobs that some of the population of the H-4 workers currently hold”, the ET report mentioned.

Since 2015, nearly 1.2 lakh H4 EAD visas have been issued. Indians, largely female engineers, have been the biggest beneficiaries of this visa programme by taking over 90% of these 1.2 lakh visas.

The Trump administration had first indicated the scrapping of the programme in February last year. Even if this proposal goes through, it would take a while for it to actually take effect, said, policy watchers.

The ET report citing Rajiv S Khanna, managing attorney at immigration law firm Immigration.com, said it could take as much as a year for the visa programme to get scrapped.

“The process is currently at the second last stage. Once it is approved here, it will be posted in the federal register and people will have 30 or 60 days to post comments, following which the regulation will be made final,” said Khanna.

The administration is obligated to comment before publishing and implementing the final rule, a process that could take several months, he added.

Since Donald Trump became President in 2017, the US has tightened immigration rules across the board. The biggest that has affected India is the tightening of the H-1B visa programme for IT services companies in favour of US technology companies.

The US has brought in rules that give preference to candidates with US Master’s degrees for H-1B visas, helping US companies, while increasing the rejections for existing visa holders who seek extension for another three years. Nearly 70% of the H-1B visas are granted to Indian nationals.

Experts say a fallout of the scrapping of the H4 EAD visa would be a shortage of talent for US tech firms as these families are likely to return to India, she said.

While most tech firms have increased their local hiring in the US, it has been difficult to find people, given the low unemployment rates coupled with a shortage in the number of people with the kind of skills required. If an employee’s spouse can no longer pursue a career in the US, it would lead to more people turning down US postings, said analysts.

Youth from Hyderabad dies in road mishap in US

A youth from Hyderabad died three days ago in a road accident in North Carolina, USA.

The deceased, identified as G. Sahith Reddy, 27, was on his way to the gym in the morning on May 11 when a speeding car hit him, leading to his death. He was found lying dead on the road with severe bleeding injuries.

Sahith Reddy, hailing from Nallakunta, Hyderabad, had moved to the United States in 2016 after receiving his Master’s degree in science in India. He was working odd jobs in New Jersey while awaiting better opportunities. “Sahith spoke to his mother a day before the accident took place. However, when we found his phone unreachable on the next day, we got in touch with a friend of his, who then got in touch with the police,” said Sahith’s father Madhusudhan Reddy, a former BHEL employee.

Reports claim that Sahith wasn’t carrying any identity documents at the time of the accident, thereby making it difficult for the police authorities to identify him, trace his address, or reach out to his emergency contacts. It was only when his friends contacted the police that the news broke. Until much later, his family back in city had no clue about the accident.

“We have contacted the TS NRI Cell and the ministry of external affairs to seek their help in bringing back our son’s body. The Telugu association in North Carolina are doing their bit, too,” Sahith’s father added.

“We have contacted the TS NRI cell and the ministry of external affairs and sought their help to bring back his body . The Telugu Association in North Carolina is making arrangements,” Mr Madhusudhan Reddy said.

Anti-Muslim riots kill one in Sri Lanka, nationwide curfew imposed after attack on mosque

A Muslim man was killed in Sri Lanka on Monday, police said after imposing a nationwide curfew to contain a violent new backlash against Easter suicide bombings.

The 45-year-old man died shortly after admission to a hospital in Puttalam district during anti-Muslim rioting which began Sunday in the area, a police official told AFP.

“Mobs had attacked him with sharp weapons at his carpentry workshop,” the official said. “This is the first death from the riots.” His death was reported after authorities ordered the entire country placed under a night curfew and police were ordered to use maximum force to deal with troublemakers.

Police will take stern action against rioters and constables have been issued with orders to use maximum force, Police Chief Chandana Wickramaratne warned in a televised address after rampaging mobs set fire to Muslim-owned shops and vehicles.

Homes and mosques were also vandalised by large groups of people armed with sticks and blunt weapons, police said.

The unrest was concentrated in three districts north of the capital, but a night curfew was imposed across the country to prevent the spread of violence, police said.

The latest rioting came three weeks after a string of suicide bomb attacks against three Christian churches and three luxury hotels, leaving 258 people dead and nearly 500 wounded.

 

Meghan Markle’s post-pregnancy fashion widely appreciated

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex presented their new bundle of joy to the reporters on Wednesday afternoon. They arrived with the baby at St. George’s Hall in Windsor.

Post the appearance, the Duchess was hailed to be an ‘absolute icon’ for proudly showing her post-pregnancy belly. She wore a belted white blazer dress with tortoise shell buttons. She tied the belt neatly above her post-partum belly, and it accentuated the waist. The dress was by a young British designer, Grace Wales Bonner.

Meghan has been accorded trend-setter status for her fashion choices. Her stylish pregnancy wardrobe was much appreciated as she stuck to her favourite styles instead of opting for regular maternity wear like loose dresses.

Her Wednesday’s appearance was especially applauded as not only did she attempt to hide her post-pregnancy tummy, but she seemed to deliberately highlight it with her belted dress.

Celebrity stylist Lucas Armitage said “It would be a ‘comfort’ to other new mothers as the royal was ‘showing off’ her post natal bump.” “’We usually see new mums in shift shape dress but here Meghan is confidently showing off her post natal bump in a belted blazer dress, further adding attention to the area with double breasted gold buttons,” he added.

Several A-list celebrities attempt to push down the mum tum with tight shape wear for public appearances. Meghan’s sister-in-law Kate Middleton was also widely praised for not hiding the belly when she appeared on the steps of the Lindo Wing, just hours after giving birth to each of her three children. Kate and Meghan have both normalised post-baby bumps with their outfits.

Meghan is also being hailed by other women for ‘daring’ to wear white just a couple of days after giving birth. But it seems to be a trend that the Duchess is following; wearing white outfits for special occasions. She also donned a similar white tailored coat when appearing in front of the media following their engagement announcement in November 2017.

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Indian, three Indian-origin people killed in US

An Indian visitor and three others of Indian origin were reported killed in the US’ Cincinatti city, but it was not a hate crime, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Tuesday.

In a tweet, the Minister said she was informed by the Indian Ambassador about the killings that took place on Sunday evening.

“The matter is under investigation by the police, but it is not a hate crime. Our Consul General in New York is coordinating with the authorities concerned and will keep me informed on this. @IndiainNewYork,” she said in another tweet.

Microsoft tops $1 trillion

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Microsoft Corp on April 24 briefly topped $1 trillion in value for the first time after executives predicted continued growth for its cloud computing business.

The Redmond, Washington-based company beat Wall Street estimates for quarterly profit and revenue, powered by an unexpected boost in Windows revenue and brisk growth in its cloud business which has reached tens of billions of dollars in sales.

 

Microsoft shares rose 4.4% to $130.54 in late trading after the forecast issued on a conference call with investors, pushing the company ahead of Apple Inc’s $980 billion market capitalization. The companies and Amazon.com Inc have taken turns in recent months to rank as the world’s most valuable US-listed company.

Microsoft’s stock has gained about 23% gain so far this year, after hitting a record high of $125.85 during regular trading hours.

Under Chief Executive Satya Nadella, the company has spent the past five years shifting from reliance on its once-dominant Windows operating system to selling cloud-based services.

Azure, Microsoft’s flagship cloud product, competes with market leader Amazon Web Services (AWS) to provide computing power to businesses.

Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood told investors that Microsoft expects to see growth in the fiscal fourth quarter in the business divisions in charge of Azure and Office 365, an online version of its longtime productivity software.

For the third quarter ended March 31, Azure’s growth slowed slightly to 73%, down from 76% in the second quarter. Mike Spencer, Microsoft’s head of investor relations, said the decline was roughly in line with the company’s estimate.

Christopher Eberle, a senior equity analyst with Nomura, said that with Azure, “one should assume a slower rate of growth as we move forward, simply due to the law of large numbers.” Still, Azure will bring in $13.5 billion in sales in fiscal 2019 with an overall growth rate of 75%, he estimated. “I can’t name another company of that scale growing at these rates.”

Microsoft tops tech rivals such as Amazon in market capitalization on some days despite having less revenue, partly because most of its sales go to businesses, which tend to be steadier customers than consumers. A growing proportion of Microsoft’s software sales are billed as recurring subscription purchases, which are more reliable than one-time purchases.

Microsoft’s earnings per share of $1.14 beat expectations of $1, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Windows licensing revenue from computer makers grew 9% year over year, beating expectations after a 5% decline in the previous quarter. Spencer said a shortage of Intel Corp processor chips for PCs that many analysts expected to last into this summer had been resolved earlier than expected, allowing PC makers to ship more machines.

Microsoft’s “commercial cloud” revenue – which includes business use of Azure, Office 365 and LinkedIn – was $9.6 billion this quarter, up 41% from the previous year but down slightly from the 48% growth rate the previous quarter.

Microsoft’s so-called “intelligent cloud” unit, which contains its Azure services, posted revenue of $9.65 billion, above Wall Street estimates of $9.28 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Microsoft’s Hood said that unit could reach $11.05 billion in revenue in the fiscal fourth quarter.

The “productivity and business process” unit that includes both Office as well as social network LinkedIn had $10.2 billion revenue versus expectations of $10.05 billion. Hood forecast up to $10.75 billion in revenue for the unit for the fourth quarter.

Microsoft’s latest results contained two weak spots.

Its gaming revenue was up only 5% versus 8% the quarter before, which Spencer attributed to less revenue from third-party game developers and the fact that many gamers are delaying purchases of Microsoft’s Xbox console because a new model is expected soon.

Sales of the company’s Surface hardware grew 21% versus 39% the quarter before, also because customers waited for updated hardware they expected to be released soon.

Total revenue rose 14% to $30.57 billion, beating analysts’ average estimate of $29.84 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Net income rose to $8.81 billion, or $1.15 per share, from $7.42 billion, or 96 cents per share, a year earlier.

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Blast heard in town east of Sri Lankan capital, no casualties

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A blast was heard on Thursday from vacant land behind the magistrates court in the town of Pugoda, 40 km (25 miles) east of the capital Colombo, police and local residents said.

There were no casualties, the police said.

Police said they were investigating the explosion, which came at a time of high tension in Sri Lanka following the Easter Sunday suicide bomber attacks on the island state that killed 359 people and wounded about 500.

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‘Avengers: Endgame’ full movie leaked online

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Avengers: Endgame’ is one of the most anticipated movies of the year. The film is slated to release this week and there are reports doing the rounds on the Internet that the film has become the latest victim of piracy.

As per reports, the cam-print of the much-awaited film is leaked by a piracy website TamilRockers two days before its release.

“Avengers: Endgame” is the 22nd film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the latest after “Captain Marvel”, which released last month.

The film is based on how the surviving superheroes will take down the mad Titan Thanos. The film features stars Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Paul Rudd and Brie Larson, among others.

Recently, the makers arranged a World premiere Avengers: Endgame in Los Angeles and the pictures of the stars went viral on the Internet in no time.

Meanwhile, Marvel fans are finding themselves in a virtual queue to grab tickets for the highly anticipated superhero film “Avengers: Endgame”.

The rush for tickets for the film, which will show supervillain Thanos engaging in an epic battle with superheroes like Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, was anticipated. ‘Avengers: Endgame’ is not just a movie, it’s an epic culmination of a decade-long journey which the fans have taken with us across 22 films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“The phenomenal interest shown by audiences across the country, is testament of how this is one of the most anticipated movies for the fans and we can’t wait for them to watch it,” said Bikram Duggal, Head – Studio Entertainment, Disney India.

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Satelitte images show activity at North Korea’s nuclear site: US report

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Satellite images from last week show movement at North Korea’s main nuclear site that could be associated with the reprocessing of radioactive material into bomb fuel, a US think tank said on Tuesday.

Any new reprocessing activity would underscore the failure of a second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi in late February to make progress toward North Korea’s denuclearisation.

Washington’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies said in a report that satellite imagery of North Korea’s Yongbyon nuclear site from April 12 showed five specialised railcars near its Uranium Enrichment Facility and Radiochemistry Laboratory.

It said their movement could indicate the transfer of radioactive material.

“In the past, these specialised railcars appear to have been associated with the movement of radioactive material or reprocessing campaigns.” the report said. “The current activity, along with their configurations, does not rule out their possible involvement in such activity, either before or after a reprocessing campaign.”

But a source familiar with US government assessments said that while US experts thought the movements could possibly be related to reprocessing, they were doubtful it was significant nuclear activity.

Jenny Town, a North Korea expert at the Stimson Centre think tank, said that if reprocessing was taking place, it would be a significant given US-North Korean talks in the past year and the failure to reach an agreement on the future of Yongbyon in Hanoi.

“Because there wasn’t an agreement with North Korea on Yongbyon, it would be interesting timing if they were to have started something so quickly after Hanoi,” she said.

Trump has met Kim twice in the past year to try to persuade him to abandon a nuclear weapons programme that threatens the United States, but progress so far has been scant.

The Hanoi talks collapsed after Trump proposed a “big deal” in which sanctions on North Korea would be lifted if it handed over all its nuclear weapons and fissile material to the United States. He rejected partial denuclearisation steps offered by Kim, which included an offer to dismantle Yongbyon.

Although Kim has maintained a freeze in missile and nuclear tests since 2017, US officials say North Korea has continued to produce fissile material that can be processed for use in bombs.

Last month, a senior North Korean official warned that Kim might rethink the test freeze unless Washington made concessions.

Last week, Kim said the Hanoi breakdown raised the risks of reviving tensions, adding that he was only interested in meeting Trump again if the United States came with the right attitude.

Kim said he would wait “till the end of this year” for the United States to decide to be more flexible. On Monday, Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo brushed aside this demand with Pompeo saying Kim should keep his promise to give up his nuclear weapons before then.

Town said any new reprocessing work at Yongbyon would emphasise the importance of the facility in North Korea’s nuclear programme.

“It would underscore that it is an active facility that does increase North Korea’s fissile material stocks to increase its arsenal.”

A study by Stanford University’s Centre for International Security and Cooperation released ahead of the Hanoi summit said North Korea had continued to produce bomb fuel in 2018 and may have produced enough in the past year to add as many as seven nuclear weapons to its arsenal.

Experts have estimated the size of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal at anywhere between 20 and 60 warheads.

 

Amid reports of Jet Airways temporary shut down, Goyal out from bidding

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According to sources, Jet Airways founder Naresh Goyal has decided not to bid for acquiring stake in the cash-strapped airline.

Jet Airways is grappling with acute financial crunch and is operating less than 10 planes besides temporarily suspending international operations.

Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu had called for a review of issues related to struggling airlines, including rising fares and flight cancellations.

Prabhu has also asked Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola to take necessary steps to protect the rights and safety of passengers.

On Monday, lenders did not take a final decision on providing emergency funds to the cash-strapped carrier.

On April 12, sources said that Goyal had also put in bid for the carrier. SBI Capital Markets has the mandate for Jet Airways’ sale on behalf of the SBI-led consortium of the domestic lenders to the debt-ridden private carrier.

Shares of Jet Airways plunged nearly 19 per cent on Tuesday amid reports that the company is likely to temporarily shut down its operations.

The scrip which had opened the day on a weak note further plummeted 18.56 per cent to Rs 213.20 on BSE during the afternoon trade. At NSE, shares cracked 18.53 per cent to Rs 213.20.

The BSE has sought clarification from Jet Airways (India) Ltd with reference to news that it is likely to temporarily shut down its operations.

Last month, Goyal and his wife Anita Goyal stepped down from the board of the airline, which has more than Rs 8,000 crore debt.

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