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September 20, 2018

National Archives tells White House to save all of Donald Trump’s tweets

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Washington: The National Archives and Records Administration has told the White House to keep each of President Donald Trump’s tweets, even those he deletes or corrects, and the White House has agreed. The head of the archives, David S Ferriero, told two Democratic senators in a letter last week that the White House has assured him it’s saving all Trump’s Twitter blasts. The archives contacted the White House about the matter because the Presidential Records Act requires such correspondence to be preserved for history.

Donald Trump. AP

Ferriero did not say when the agency contacted White House officials to remind them about the records requirement, but officials briefed the White House counsel’s office about the law on 2 February, according to the archivist’s letter to Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Tom Carper of Delaware. The archivist’s letter, dated 30 March, doesn’t describe precisely how the White House is saving Trump’s tweets. The Obama administration used an automated system to isolate and preserve copies of President Barack Obama’s tweets.

McCaskill and Carper raised the issue of Trump’s tweets in early March following a spate of instances in which the president had deleted or altered earlier tweets. The two senators had previously raised concerns about Trump’s tweets in a letter to White House counsel Don McGahn. The two senators also pressed the archives for information about reports that some White House staffers had been ordered to avoid emails or use smartphone apps that do not preserve emails because of Trump administration concerns about leaks to the media.

Ferriero told them he was aware of those press reports but said that White House guidance “to all employees expressly forbids the use of such apps.” Ferriero also said he was not aware of government officials who have been instructed to avoid using email as a method of work-related communication. Trump’s almost-daily use of his official White House Twitter account and his separate private Twitter account has been heavily scrutinised by the media and by political friends and foes since his November election and even more so since his inauguration.

Three minutes before he took the oath of office in January, Trump tweeted from his private account that he was “honoured to serve you, the great American people, as your 45th President of the United States.” The misspelt word in the tweet was later altered to “honoured” and then the tweet was deleted entirely. Unlike the archives’ clear guidance on saving Trump’s tweets, the agency has not provided any guidance to government agencies about preserving communications to and from Trump’s smartphones and agencies have not requested guidance, Ferriero said.

Published Date: Apr 04, 2017 02:15 pm | Updated Date: Apr 04, 2017 02:15 pm

Death toll rises to 14 in St Petersburg metro blast: Health minister

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A subway train hit by a explosion stays at the Tekhnologichesky Institut subway station in St.Petersburg, Russia, Monday, April 3, 2017. (Photo | AP)

SAINT PETERSBURG: Fourteen people have died as a result of a blast that ripped through a train carriage on the Saint Petersburg metro, Russia’s health minister said on Tuesday.

“We can state today that 14 people have died,”  Veronika Skvortsova told journalists, adding that 49 people are still hospitalised after the explosion on Monday afternoon. Anti-terror authorities had earlier reported a death toll of 11.

Don't misuse H-1B visas to discriminate against American workers: USCIS

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Image used for representational purpose. (File photo | PTI)

WASHINGTON: The Trump administration has issued a stern warning to companies not to discriminate against American workers by “misusing” the H-1B work visas programme, the most sought after by Indian IT firms and professionals.     

“The Justice Department will not tolerate employers misusing the H-1B visa process to discriminate against US workers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler of the Civil Rights Division.

The warning came as the government began accepting employers’ H-1B visa petitions for the next fiscal year, beginning October 1, 2017. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) yesterday also announced multiple measures to “deter and detect” what it described as “fraud and abuse” of the H-1B work visas.     

The USCIS announcement indicated that the US government is going to be tough and stringent in approval of H-1B visas this year.   

The USCIS has a Congressional mandate to issue 65,000 H-1B visas in general category and another 20,000 for those applicants having higher education — masters and above — from US universities in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.     

Asserting that its multiple measures announced will further “deter and detect H-1B visa fraud and abuse”, the USCIS said the H-1B visa programme should help US companies recruit highly-skilled foreign nationals when there is a shortage of qualified workers in the country. “Yet, too many American workers who are as qualified, willing and deserving to work in these fields have been ignored or unfairly disadvantaged. Protecting American workers by combating fraud in our employment-based immigration programs is a priority for the USCIS,” a statement said.     

During his election campaign, President Donald Trump had promised to increase oversight of the H-1B and L-1 visa programmes. The anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) generally prohibits employers from discriminating against US workers because of their citizenship or national origin in hiring, firing and recruiting. “Employers violate the INA if they have a discriminatory hiring preference that favours H-1B visa holders over US workers,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

“US workers should not be placed in a disfavoured status, and the department is wholeheartedly committed to investigating and vigorously prosecuting these claims,” Wheeler warned.     

H-1B visa programme allows companies in the US to temporarily employ foreign workers in speciality occupations such as science and information technology. Indian IT giants like TCS, Infosys and Wipro are among the major beneficiaries of H-1B visas.     

The Department of Justice said applicants or employees who believe they were subjected to discrimination based on their citizenship, immigration status, or national origin in hiring, firing or recruitment or referral, should contact Civil Right Division’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER).

Meanwhile, the USCIS also announced the launch of an email helpline against abuse and fraud of H-1B visas. The USCIS will now onwards take a more targeted approach when making site visits across the country to H-1B petitioners and the work sites of H-1B employees.     

The USCIS will focus on cases where it cannot validate the employer’s basic business information through commercially available data, H-1B-dependent employers, those who have a high ratio of H-1B workers as compared to US workers, as defined by statute, and employers petitioning for H-1B workers who work off-site at another company or organisation’s location. Targeted site visits will allow USCIS to focus resources where fraud and abuse of the H-1B programme may be more likely to occur, and determine whether H-1B dependent employers are evading their obligation to make a good faith effort to recruit US workers, a release said.

Noting that it will continue random and unannounced visits nationwide, the USCIS said these site visits are not meant to target non-immigrant employees for any kind of criminal or administrative action but rather to identify employers who are abusing the system. “Employers who abuse the H-1B visa programme negatively affect US workers, decreasing wages and job opportunities as they import more foreign workers,” it said. 

ONGC submits revised plan for Farzad gas field in Iran

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By Promit Mukherjee | MUMBAI

MUMBAI The overseas arm of Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC.NS) has submitted a revised plan to develop the giant Farzad B gas block in Iran, including a commitment to spend more than $3 billion, a senior executive said on Tuesday.

ONGC Videsh (ONVI.BO) expects to produce between 1 billion and 1.6 billion cubic feet per day of gas in five years from the start of development of the block, N. K. Verma, the company’s managing director told Reuters in Mumbai on Tuesday.

India is the second-largest buyer of Iranian crude, and was among the few countries to continue trade with Iran while the country faced Western sanctions over its nuclear programme.

But since the lifting of some of the sanctions last year, Iran has sought other investors and there is some uncertainty whether the Farzad block contract will be awarded to an Indian company. The impasse has led Indian refiners to plan on cutting imports from Iran by a fifth in 2017-18.

Verma also commented that ONGC Videsh expects to raise production during the fiscal year ending in March 2018 to 14 million tonnes oil equivalent, up from 12 million tonnes in the fiscal year of 2017.

The company also plans to invest $45 million to produce from gas wells owned by Imperial Energy, which ONGC Videsh acquired in 2008.

“We are setting up gas processing facilities… we have dug four pilot wells and have got encouraging response,” Verma said.

(Writing by Zeba Siddiqui; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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Death toll in Syria gas attack rises to 35: Monitor

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BEIRUT: Warplanes carried out a suspected toxic gas attack that killed at least 35 people including several children in a rebel-held town in northwestern Syria on Tuesday, a monitoring group said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said those killed in the town of Khan Sheikhun, in Idlib province, had died from the effects of the gas, adding that dozens more suffered respiratory problems and other symptoms.  

The Britain-based monitoring group was unable to confirm the nature of the substance, and said it was unclear if the planes involved in the attack were Syrian or those of government ally Russia.

The reported gas attack comes at the start of a two-day conference on Syria’s future hosted in Brussels by the European Union and the United Nations.

The Observatory said medical sources in the town reported symptoms among the affected including fainting, vomiting and foaming at the mouth.

The victims were mostly civilians, it said, and included at least nine children.

Photographs circulated by activists showed members of the volunteer White Helmets rescue group using hoses to wash down the injured, as well as at least two men with white foam around their mouths.

Idlib province is largely controlled by an alliance of rebels including former Al-Qaeda affiliate Fateh al-Sham Front.

It is regularly targeted in strikes by the regime, as well as Russian warplanes, and has also been hit by the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, usually targeting jihadists.

Syria’s government officially joined the Chemical Weapons Convention and turned over its chemical arsenal in 2013, as part of a deal to avert US military action.

But there have been repeated allegations of chemical weapons use by the government since then, with a UN-led investigation pointing the finger at the regime for at least three chlorine attacks in 2014 and 2015.

The government denies the use of chemical weapons and has in turn accused rebels of using banned weapons.

Tuesday’s attack comes only days after forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad were accused of using chemical weapons in a counter-offensive in neighbouring Hama province.

The opposition accused the government forces of using “toxic substances” in its battle to repel the assault.

On Thursday, air strikes on several areas in the north of Hama province left around 50 people suffering respiratory problems, according to the Observatory, which could not confirm the cause of the symptoms.

The monitor relies on a network of sources inside Syria for its information, says it determines whose planes carry out raids according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions used.

More than 320,000 people have been killed in Syria since the conflict began in March 2011 with anti-government protests.

Tuesday’s gathering in Brussels has been billed as a follow-up to a donors’ conference last year in London, which raised about $11 billion (10 billion euros) for humanitarian aid programmes in the devastated country.

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