Category: USA

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.

WhatsApp security breach may have targeted human rights groups

WhatsApp said on Tuesday that a security breach on its messaging app had signs of coming from a government using surveillance technology developed by a private company, and it may have targeted human rights groups.

WhatsApp, a unit of Facebook, said it had notified the US Department of Justice to help with an investigation, and it encouraged all WhatsApp users to update to the latest version of the app, where the breach had been fixed.

WhatsApp, one of the world’s most popular messaging tools, is used by 1.5 billion people monthly. It has touted its high level of security and privacy, with messages on its platform being encrypted end-to-end so that WhatsApp and third parties cannot read or listen to them.

The company said it was still investigating the breach but believed only a “select number of users were targeted through this vulnerability by an advanced cyber actor.”

WhatsApp said its advice to all users to update came “out of an abundance of caution” and a recommendation by Citizen Lab, a research group at the University of Toronto that it notified about the vulnerability before the announcement.

It did not disclose how many users were affected. A technical advisory published on Facebook’s security website said the vulnerability affected both Android and iPhones.

A WhatsApp spokesman said the attack was sophisticated and had all the hallmarks of a “private company working with governments on surveillance.”

The FBI and Justice Department declined to comment.

The Financial Times initially reported on the WhatsApp vulnerability that allowed attackers to inject spyware on phones via the app’s voice-calling function.

WhatsApp told human rights groups it believed the spyware was developed by Israeli cyber surveillance company NSO Group, best known for its mobile hacking tools, said Eva Galperin, the director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a San Francisco-based nonprofit.

“They said they believed it was NSO Group, but they also couched it in very careful terms with many caveats, because attribution is hard,” she said.

Like Citizen Lab, EFF was among the groups WhatsApp notified several days ago about the vulnerability.

A second person familiar with the matter also identified NSO Group as the suspected culprit.

NSO did not comment on the specific attacks. In a statement sent to Reuters, NSO said it would investigate any “credible allegations of misuse” of its technology.

The company said it never picks or identifies targets of its technology, “which is solely operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. NSO would not or could not use its technology in its own right to target any person or organization, including this individual.”

One target of the new WhatsApp exploit was a United Kingdom-based human rights lawyer who spoke on condition of anonymity. He said an attack against him took place on Sunday after WhatsApp issued its update and was not successful. The lawyer had contacted Citizen Lab after receiving previous suspicious WhatsApp calls.

The lawyer is helping a Saudi dissident and several Mexican journalists mount civil cases against NSO Group for its alleged role in selling hacking tools to the Saudi and Mexican governments, which they allege were used to hack into their phones.

There are currently four known legal cases against NSO Group, including three in Israel and one based in Cyprus. NSO is being sued for damages allegedly caused by the sale of its tools, which the company says it sells only to law enforcement and intelligence agencies pursuing legitimate targets, such as terrorists and criminals.

WhatsApp said it was “deeply concerned about the abuse” of such surveillance technologies and that it believed human rights activists may have been the targets.

“We’re working with human rights groups on learning as much as we can about who may have been impacted from their community. That’s really where our highest concern is,” the spokesman said.

Citizen Lab tweeted on Monday: “We believe an attacker tried (and was blocked by WhatsApp) to exploit it as recently as yesterday to target a human rights lawyer.”

Citizen Lab told Reuters that the person was the UK lawyer, who had approached Citizen Lab after receiving multiple WhatsApp calls from unknown numbers at strange hours, making him suspicious.

Ireland’s Data Protection Commission (DPC), WhatsApp’s lead regulator in the European Union, said WhatsApp had notified the agency late on Monday of a “serious security vulnerability” on its platform.

“The DPC understands that the vulnerability may have enabled a malicious actor to install unauthorized software and gain access to personal data on devices which have WhatsApp installed,” the regulator said in a statement.

Cyber security experts said the vast majority of WhatsApp users were unlikely to have been affected.

Received a ‘beautiful letter’ from Xi, says Trump amid trade tensions

US President Donald Trump on Thursday said that he received a “beautiful letter” from his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping, adding that he would speak to him amid trade tensions between the world’s two largest economies.

“We were getting very close to a deal and then they started renegotiating the deal. It was their idea to come back. He just wrote me a beautiful letter. I just received it. I’ll probably speak to him by phone,” Trump was quoted by USA Todayas saying while speaking to reporters at the White House.

Meanwhile, officials from China and the US are participating in the 11th round of high-level economic and trade consultations in a bid to chalk out a deal to stop the trade war between the two countries.

Despite the negotiations, Trump, at times, has threatened to increase tariffs on Chinese products. But, he has backed down his warning amid signs of progress towards finalising a new trade agreement.

However, Trump on Wednesday had alleged that China “broke the deal,” escalating the threat of slapping a new round of tariffs on Beijing.

“You see the tariffs we’re doing? Because they broke the deal! The (Chinese) Vice Premier (Liu He) is flying in tomorrow, good man, but they broke the deal. They can’t do that…If we don’t make the deal, nothing wrong with taking in over 100 billion a year. We never did that before,” Trump had said during a rally.

In response, China threatened to take “necessary countermeasures” if the US increases tariffs on Chinese goods worth USD 200 billion from 10 per cent to 25 per cent from May 10, according to an official statement.

“China deeply regrets this, and will be forced to take necessary countermeasures if the US side puts the tariff measures into effect,” Chinese state media quoted an official statement as saying. They further said that escalating trade frictions are against the interests of “the two peoples as well as people of the world.”

Both the US and China are trying to negotiate a way out of the trade dispute which is ongoing since last year.

Trump met Xi on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Argentina in December, where both the leaders agreed to hold talks and work towards a trade deal to end the tensions between the two nations.

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US may hike H-1B visa application fee soon

The Trump administration is proposing a hike in the H-1B visa application fee to increase funding for the expansion of an apprentice programme, which trains American youths in technology related activities, Labour Secretary Alexander Acosta told US lawmakers.

Testifying before a Congressional committee on annual budget of the Department of Labour for the fiscal year 2020 beginning October 1, 2019, Acosta, however, did not give details of the proposed increase in H-1B filing fee and as to which categories of applicants it would be enforced on.

But given past experience, the Indian IT companies, which account for a large number of H-1B applications, are likely to face the additional financial burden because of this proposed increase in H-1B filing fees.

The H-1B 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

Arguing that foreigners hurt American workers by competing for jobs and driving down wages, the Trump administration has tighten the noose around the H-1B visa programme. The Seattle Times on Monday reported that last year immigration officials denied nearly one out of every four requests for new visas for skilled foreign workers.

In FY 2020, the Department’s budget includes USD 160 million to continue our expansion of apprenticeship programmes, along with a proposal to increase H-1B fee revenues to fund additional apprenticeship activities, Acosta said in his testimony on May 2 before the Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Labour, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies.

Acosta told lawmakers that last year the Department of Labour had launched the first-ever sector-based apprenticeship grant funding opportunity to invest USD 150 million to expand apprenticeships in those in-demand industry sectors most often filled by individuals on H-1B visas, such as information technology, health care and advanced manufacturing.

This grant funding opportunity introduced an innovative approach: a 35 percent private-sector match requirement. This brings the total investment to USD 202.5 million, USD 57.7 million coming from the private sector, he said.

“As a result of this private sector match requirement, educators have a greater incentive to join with industry to ensure curricula address the needs of our ever-changing workplace, investing in the latest technologies and techniques, and providing more in-demand opportunities for Americans, Acosta said.

On July 18 last year, the Department of Labour had announced USD 150 million in H-1B funds to support sector-based approaches to expanding apprenticeships on a national scale in key industry sectors.

The focus is on industries reliant on H-1B visas. It aims at expanding apprenticeships and increase the level of apprenticeship activity among a range of new employers within these industries, particularly small- and medium-sized businesses.

Acosta also told lawmakers that the Labour Department has also made changes to the H-1B application forms to ensure greater transparency and better protect American workers from employers seeking to misuse the programme.

In fiscal 2018, the Department concluded 649 non-immigrant visa programme cases and found violations in 553 of those cases.

In a news story, Breitbart News said that every year, more than 100,000 foreign workers are brought to the US on the H-1B visa and are allowed to stay for up to six years. There are about 650,000 H-1B visa foreign workers in the US at any given moment, it added.

“Let’s put our citizens first and protect US workers and wages. Hard-working and highly-skilled American men and women share their stories about H-1B visa fraud and abuse, Congressman Paul Gosar said. (PTI)

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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.

Indian sentenced in US for call centre-linked fraud

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A federal judge in Florida has sentenced an Indian citizen to eight years and six months in prison for his involvement in an India-based call centre scam, according to the US Justice Department.

At his sentencing on Thursday, Judge Virginia Hernandez Covington also ordered Hemalkumar Shah, 27, to pay $80,000.

He had been convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft relating to his participation in the Indian call center scam after he admitted his guilt in January.

According to court documents, Shah participated in the scam to extort money from American residents by impersonating US tax officers between 2014 and 2016.

He and his accomplices in the US and call centres in India misled the victims into believing that they owed taxes and threatened them with arrest if they did not pay the fictitious taxes immediately, according to the court filings.

The fraudsters hired people described as “runners” to collect for them the money from the victims in the form of prepaid cards or through wire transfers, the documents said.

Four others who participated in the scheme have been found guilty after they admitted their crimes in court.

Last month, Nishitkumar Patel was sentenced to eight years and nine months, and Alejandro Juarez was sentenced to 15 months.

Two others are awaiting sentencing.

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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.

 

Must stop people from crossing border like going to ‘Disneyland’, says Trump

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US President Donald Trump said Tuesday he won’t resume separating children of undocumented migrants, but insisted the policy does prevent people from treating illegal border crossings like a trip to “Disneyland.”

“We’re not looking to do it,” he told reporters at the White House.

 

However, Trump said the practice, which ended in June 2018 under heavy political and legal pressure, had in fact been useful in stemming the flow of illegal immigrants across the US-Mexican border.

“I’ll tell you something: once you don’t have it, that’s why you have many more people coming,” Trump said of migrants and asylum seekers.

“They are coming like it’s a picnic, like ‘let’s go to Disneyland,'” Trump said. Just last week he referred to the asylum process as a “hoax.”

Trump’s battle to prevent illegal immigration and soaring numbers of asylum seekers has turned into the biggest political fight in the country ahead of next year’s presidential election.

The Republican is pushing hard for construction of hundreds of miles of new border wall and layers of razor wire. He says that the United States is “full” and cannot take any more migrants or even people fleeing violence in Central America.

On Sunday, Trump abruptly announced the departure of the official in charge of fighting illegal immigration — Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

According to US media reports, Trump’s reshuffle could herald even harsher measures on the southern border.

Confusion and rhetoric

But Trump’s latest comments reflect the confused nature of the White House’s messaging on the sensitive immigration issue.

Trump claimed that he never wanted children to be taken away from their parents when they crossed the border illegally or sought asylum. Instead he blamed this on his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.

“Just so you understand, President Obama separated the children. Those cages that were shown — I think they were very inappropriate — were by President Obama’s administration, not by Trump. President Obama had child separation,” Trump said.

“You know it. We all know it. I’m the one who stopped it,” he said.

Obama did crack down on illegal immigration, resulting in large numbers of deportations and children were detained along with their parents.

However, Trump hugely accelerated the tough measures with a so-called zero-tolerance policy.

This meant that anyone crossing illegally would face automatic prosecution, leading to jailing of adults and immediate separation of their children.

Before, families with children were largely allowed to stay together, whether on bail, in custody or being deported.

By the time Trump’s policy was halted, thousands of children had been removed and placed in temporary accommodation, leading to harrowing images and reports of administrative chaos in which parents were later unable to find their children.

Last week, Trump threatened to impose steep import tariffs on Mexican automobiles if Mexico does not do more to stop would-be migrants on their trek north to the US border.

However, the timing and practicalities of this were unclear.

Previously, Trump said he would shut down the entire border to stop immigrants entering, but he then backed off in the face of worries over the economic impact.

Another controversial policy of automatically returning asylum seekers to wait in Mexico was blocked Monday by a federal judge in California.

The White House issued a statement Tuesday condemning the ruling and saying it would appeal.

The court impedes the president’s ability to stop an influx “crashing our immigration system and overwhelming our country,” Trump’s press office said.

Donald Trump to propose his 2020 federal budget on Monday

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When President Donald Trump proposes his 2020 federal budget on Monday, official Washington will likely have a quick look, shrug and move on, marking another stage in the quiet decay of the U.S. government’s traditional policy-making processes.

There was a time when the release of the president’s budget was a red-letter day on the calendar of Washington wonkery, with policy experts and fiscal hawks delving into spreadsheets and expounding upon new spending plans and the national debt

But the hoopla of budget day is gone, a relic of a time when politics were less polarized, the federal deficit drove political decisions and the White House and Congress still took the budget process seriously.

“It has seemed to me that budget day ain’t what it used to be,” said Robert Bixby, who has pored over the budget for more than 25 years at the Concord Coalition, a fiscal responsibility advocacy group.

Last year’s budget weighed in at a whopping $4.4 trillion. It was not balanced and was panned for relying on rosy economic projections and for not doing enough to cut the federal deficit.

The 2020 Trump budget will land a month after a deadline established in law, a lag blamed on the recent five-week partial shutdown of the federal government over a funding dispute.

Congress, which controls federal spending, is likely to dismiss Trump’s proposal, if recent history is any guide.

The Democratic-ruled House of Representatives and Republican-majority Senate also are unlikely to agree on a joint budget resolution of their own. Instead, they probably will stumble forward until fiscal 2019 ends and a spending deadline arrives on Oct. 1, forcing them to produce a last-minute deal or face another government shutdown.

“The entire process has become one of missed deadlines, make-believe budgets filled with gimmicks and magic asterisks,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

MacGuineas remembers in years gone by “scurrying around” to read through the budget as fast as possible so that she could answer a flurry of calls from reporters. These days, the budget is a blip on the news cycle, a process that is neither serious nor effective.

“I think it feels like a bit of kabuki theater at this point, for everybody,” MacGuineas said.

The White House disagreed. The budget process helps the administration set priorities for agencies for the year ahead and lays down a marker on issues, a senior administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Of course, Congress has the power of the purse but the president’s budget plants a flag to define terms of the tax and spending debate in Washington,” the official said.

The traditional budget and appropriations process was limping along well before Trump took office.

One of former President Ronald Reagan’s budgets in the 1980s was brought out on a stretcher as a stunt to show the document was alive and well, ahead of it being declared dead-on-arrival in Congress, recalled Stephen Moore, a senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

“What we have right now is essentially government by automatic pilot and that’s not healthy,” Moore said, describing the cycle of last-minute massive omnibus spending bills agreed on only when deadlines loom.

The budget and spending process has been further hobbled by lawmakers’ unwillingness to compromise and tendency to put off hard decisions while hoping for a shift in the next election cycle, said Kenneth Baer, an associate director in the Office of Management and Budget under former President Barack Obama.

Trump’s budget office has accelerated the downward slide of the process by using more gimmicks to make up for shortfalls, Baer said. “All the normal ways of operating the government have just been thrown out of the window,” he said.

Trump’s acting budget director, Russell Vought, has said the budget aims to cut non-defense spending and cap spending under levels set in the 2011 Budget Control Act – a feat made possible only with an increase in an emergency account called the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund to cover Trump’s plan to increase defense spending.

The tactic makes a mockery of the budget process, said Bixby of the Concord Coalition.

“It’s nothing but an astronomical gimmick! It’s over the top! It’s so over the top, it’s clownish!” Bixby said.

With the national debt now topping $22 trillion and the deficit at $900 billion in 2019, it is unlikely that Washington will find its way to fiscal discipline without an overhaul of the process, Bixby said.

He said he is frustrated and worried that it could take a crisis to jolt change, like a recession or a failure to raise the government’s debt limit – something that needs to happen in coming months to avoid stumbling into a first-ever default.

“If they act as dysfunctionally this fall as they did last fall and throw the debt limit into the mix, it’s very, very toxic,” Bixby said.

Apple CEO Tim Cook changes his name to Tim Apple because Donald Trump can’t remember his actual name

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Apple CEO Tim Cook is probably one of the most recognized names in the world right now. If you think of Tim Cook, you’ll think of Apple, and for US President Donald Trump, that was a little too real. Earlier this week, Donald Trump referred to Tim Cook as Tim Apple, which quite obviously went viral on social media platforms. Tim Cook seems to have embraced the mistake as he changed his name to “Tim Apple” on Twitter soon after.

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