NORMS TIGHTENED FOR GETTING GREEN CARDS
13th Aug 2019
Trump administration rules that could deny Green Cards to immigrants who use Medicaid, food stamps, housing vouchers or other forms of public assistance are going into effect, potentially making it more difficult for some to become US citizens. Federal law already requires those seeking Green Cards and legal status to prove they will not be a burden to the US, or what's called a "public charge", but the new rules, made public on Monday, detail a broader range of programmes that could disqualify them. US Citizenship and Immigration Services officers will now weigh public assistance along with other factors such as education, household income and health to determine whether to grant legal status. Much of President Donald Trump's effort to crack down on illegal immigration has been in the spotlight, but the rule change is one of the most aggressive efforts to restrict legal immigration. It is part of a push to move the US to a system that focuses on immigrants' skills instead of emphasising the reunification of families, as it has done. The rules will take effect in mid-October. They don't apply to US citizens, even if the US citizen is related to an immigrant who is subject to them. The acting director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Ken Cuccinelli, said the rule change fits with the Republican President's message. "We want to see people coming to this country who are self-sufficient," Cuccinelli said. "That's a core principle of the American Dream. It's deeply embedded in our history, and particularly our history related to legal immigration." Immigrants make up a small percentage of those who get public benefits. In fact, many are ineligible for public benefits because of their immigration status. But advocates worry the rules will scare immigrants into not asking for help. FEARS OF A TIANANMEN SQUARE REPEAT SURFACE IN HONG KONG Hong Kong's Airport Authority cancelled all flights after Monday afternoon, as anti-government protesters peacefully demonstrated at the airport for a fourth day. Traffic on roads to the airport was very congested and car park spaces were full, the authority said. Operations however resumed at Hong Kong airport this morning (Tuesday), authorities said. As the clashes between pro-democracy demonstrators and police in the former British colony have grown increasingly violent, Beijing's condemnation has become more ominous, with warnings that those who play with fire will "perish by it". At the same time, the military garrison maintained by People's Liberation Army in Hong Kong released a video showing an anti-riot drill in which soldiers with assault rifles, armoured personnel carriers and water cannons disperse a crowd of protesters. The images and stepped-up rhetoric have fuelled concerns that Beijing could forcefully step in -- fears that some analysts suggest China is actively playing on. China's brutal 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Beijing's Tiananmen Square resulted in two years of economic near-stagnation as the country became an international pariah. Analysts warn that the fallout from any similar intervention in Hong Kong would be far more severe. 10 IS MILITANTS KILLED IN AIR STRIKE, GUNFIRE IN IRAQ A total of 10 Islamic State (IS) militants were killed in an air strike by US-led coalition aircraft and clashes with Iraqi security forces in western Iraq, the Iraqi military said. The Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) carried out a raid in coordination with the international coalition aircraft on Monday, which conducted an air strike on IS hideouts in the desert of Iraq's western province of Anbar, the CTS said in a statement, Xinhua reported. Afterwards, the airborne CTS troops conducted airdrop operation on the bombed site and clashed with the extremist militants, leaving eight of them killed, the statement said. Later, the troops searched the hideouts and found two would-be suicide bombers wearing explosive belts, killing one of them, while the other blew himself up without causing casualties among the troops, the statement added. The security situation in Iraq dramatically improved after Iraqi security forces fully defeated the extremist IS militants across the country late in 2017. IS remnants, however, have since melted in urban areas or resorted to deserts and rugged areas as safe havens, carrying out frequent guerilla attacks against security forces and civilians. IRAN BLASTS US OVER ARMS SALES Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused the United States on Monday of transforming the Gulf into a "tinderbox" with its arms sales to regional allies. "The United States sold $50 billion worth of weapons to the region last year. Some of the countries in the region with less than a third of our population spend $87 billion on military procurement," Zarif told Qatar's Al Jazeera broadcaster during a visit to the Gulf state. Washington is pursuing a "maximum pressure" campaign designed to force Iran to limit its nuclear and military activities. Tension between Tehran and Washington has seen a steep rise since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a nuclear accord between Iran and world powers in May 2018, reimposing biting sanctions. "If you are talking about threats coming from the region, the threats are coming from the US and its allies who are pouring weapons into the region, making it a tinderbox ready to blow up," the Foreign Ministersaid. Washington is seeking to assemble a coalition to secure maritime traffic in the Strait of Hormuz - key to the global oil trade - following a number of attacks on oil tankers blamed by Washington on Tehran. Meanwhile, Iran has strongly denied involvement. While in Qatar, Zarif met with Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani and discussed "issues of common interest", the state-run Qatar News Agency reported. Doha is a close ally of Washington and hosts the largest US military base in the region, while also maintaining cordial ties with Iran. EIGHTH ROUND OF TALKS WITH US ENDS, BOTH SIDES TO CONSULT ON NEXT STEPS: TALIBAN An eighth round of talks on a pact that would allow the United States to end its longest war and withdraw its troops from Afghanistan ended on Monday and both sides would consult their leaders on the next steps, the Taliban said. The talks, held in Qatar since late last year between the Taliban and US officials, have brought hopes for an agreement allowing US troops to leave in exchange for a Taliban promise that Afghanistan will not be used by militants as a base from which to plot attacks abroad. A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the latest talks, which a U.S. official said earlier involved technical details and the implementation mechanisms of a pact, ended early on Monday. "It was long and useful, both sides decided to consult with their leaders/seniors for the next steps," Mujahid said in a statement. U.S. officials were not immediately available for comment but the chief U.S. negotiator, veteran Afghan-American diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, said on Sunday hard work was being done "toward a lasting and honourable peace agreement and a sovereign Afghanistan which poses no threat to any other country". An agreement would allow U.S. President Donald Trump to achieve his aim of ending a war launched in the days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The war has become a stalemate, with neither side able to defeat the other and casualties rising among civilians as well as combatants. The pact is expected to include a Taliban commitment to hold power-sharing talks with the U.S.-backed government but it is not expected to include a Taliban ceasefire with the government, leading to fears the insurgents will fight on when U.S. forces leave. President of the U.S.-backed government, Ashraf Ghani, appeared to question the deal on Sunday, saying his nation would decide its future, not outsiders. TRUMP ADMINISTRATION WEAKENS U.S. WILDLIFE PROTECTIONS, STATES AND CONSERVATIONISTS TO SUE The Trump Administration took steps on Monday to significantly weaken the U.S. Endangered Species Act, prompting State attorneys general and conservation groups to threaten legal action to protect at-risk species. The 1970s-era Act is credited with bringing back from the brink of extinction species such as bald eagles, gray whales and grizzly bears, but the law has long been a source of frustration for drilling and mining companies, and other industries because new listings can put vast areas of land off-limits to development. The weakening of the Act's protections is one of many moves by U.S. President Donald Trump, a Republican, to roll back existing regulations to hasten oil, gas and coal production, as well as grazing, ranching and logging on federal land. "These changes crash a bulldozer through the Endangered Species Act's lifesaving protections for America's most vulnerable wildlife," Noah Greenwald, the Center for Biological Diversity's endangered species director, said in a statement. "For animals like wolverines and monarch butterflies, this could be the beginning of the end." The changes would end a practice that automatically conveys the same protections for threatened species as for endangered species, and would strike language that guides officials to ignore economic impacts of how animals should be safeguarded. The original Act protected species regardless of the economic considerations. "The revisions finalized with this rulemaking fit squarely within the President's mandate of easing the regulatory burden on the American public, without sacrificing our species' protection and recovery goals," U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement. MYANMAR LANDSLIDE TOLL HITS 59 Vast swathes of southeastern Myanmar lie under floodwaters that have already forced tens of thousands to flee their homes as the death toll from a massive landslide hit 59, firefighters said on Monday. Seasonal monsoon rains batter the country every year, but the recent deluge has submerged entire communities, with the drone footage showing only the tops of houses visible. There are currently more than 80,000 people sheltering at evacuation sites across the country, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. In the town of Ye in Mon state, people scrambled to stay afloat as they tried to swim to safety through swirling, muddy waters. Others fled to rooftops or to higher ground, calling out to rescue boats for help. The media saw saw workers desperately trying to repair roads damaged or washed away by the floods. Rescuers also found more victims three days after a deadly landslide flattened 27 homes in Mon's Ye Pyar Kone village. "Another dead body was found at 16:27 bringing the death toll to 59," the fire service posted Monday afternoon on Facebook, adding that search operations were still ongoing. Recovery teams have worked round-the-clock over the weekend, hindered by continuing downpours and deep mud as the stench of decaying bodies worsened. Vice-President Henry Van Thio visited Mon and pledged more boats for flood relief efforts, the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar reported. Bago, Tanintharyi, and Karen states and regions have also been badly hit, leaving emergency responders severely stretched.