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Indian visa-holders see hope in Trump review

When Gokul Gunasekaran was offered a full scholarship for a graduate programme in electrical
engineering at Stanford University, he saw it as the chance of a lifetime.

He had grown up in Chennai, India, and had a solid job offer with a large oil company after getting his
undergraduate degree. He came to America instead, got the Stanford degree and now works as an
engineer at a data science startup in Silicon Valley.

But for the past five years, he has been waiting for a green card that would give him full legal rights as a
permanent resident. In the meantime, he is in a holding pattern on an H-1B visa, which permits him to
live and work in the United States but does not allow him easily to switch jobs or start his own company.

"It was a no-brainer when I came to this country, but now I'm kind of regretting taking that
scholarship," said Gunasekaran, 29, who is also vice president with a non-profit group called
Immigration Voice that represents immigrants waiting for green cards.

Immigration Voice estimates there are some 1.5 million H-1B visa holders in the country waiting for
green cards, many of whom are from India and have been waiting for more than a decade.

Many of these immigrants welcomed President Donald Trump's executive order this week to the federal
departments overseeing the programme to review it, a move that may lead to H-1B visas being awarded
to the highest-paying, highest-skilled jobs rather than through a random lottery.

Their hope is that merit-based H-1Bs might then lead to merit-based green cards.

"I think less random is great," said Guru Hariharan, the CEO and founder of Boomerang Commerce, an e-
commerce startup. Hariharan, who was previously an executive at Amazon.com Inc and eBay Inc, spent
10 years waiting for his green card and started his own company as soon as he got it.

Green cards can be a path to naturalization and Hariharan expects to become a U.S. citizen soon.

H-1B visas are aimed at foreign nationals in occupations that generally require specialised knowledge,
such as science, engineering or computer programming. The U.S. government uses a lottery to award
65,000 such visas yearly and randomly distributes another 20,000 to graduate student workers.

'INDENTURED SERVANTS'

The H-1B and the green card system are technically separate, but many immigrants from India see them
as intimately connected.

The number of green cards that can go to people born in each country is capped at a few percent of the
total, without regard to how large or small the country's population is. There is a big backlog of Indian-
born people in the line, given the size of India's population - 1.3 billion - and the number of its natives in
the United States waiting for green cards.

That leaves many of those immigrants stuck on H-1B visas while they wait, which they say makes them
almost like "indentured servants," said Gaurav Mehta, an H-1B holder who works in the financial industry.

Mehta has a U.S.-born son, but he could be forced to take his family back to India at any time if he loses
his job and cannot find another quickly. "He's never been to my country," Mehta said of his son. "But
we'll have no choice if we have to go. Nobody likes to live in constant fear."

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Indian visa-holders see hope in Trump review


When Gokul Gunasekaran was offered a full scholarship for a graduate programme in electrical
engineering at Stanford University, he saw it as the chance of a lifetime.

He had grown up in Chennai, India, and had a solid job offer with a large oil company after getting his
undergraduate degree. He came to America instead, got the Stanford degree and now works as an
engineer at a data science startup in Silicon Valley.

But for the past five years, he has been waiting for a green card that would give him full legal rights as a
permanent resident. In the meantime, he is in a holding pattern on an H-1B visa, which permits him to
live and work in the United States but does not allow him easily to switch jobs or start his own company.

"It was a no-brainer when I came to this country, but now I'm kind of regretting taking that
scholarship," said Gunasekaran, 29, who is also vice president with a non-profit group called
Immigration Voice that represents immigrants waiting for green cards.

Immigration Voice estimates there are some 1.5 million H-1B visa holders in the country waiting for
green cards, many of whom are from India and have been waiting for more than a decade.

Many of these immigrants welcomed President Donald Trump's executive order this week to the federal
departments overseeing the programme to review it, a move that may lead to H-1B visas being awarded
to the highest-paying, highest-skilled jobs rather than through a random lottery.

Their hope is that merit-based H-1Bs might then lead to merit-based green cards.

"I think less random is great," said Guru Hariharan, the CEO and founder of Boomerang Commerce, an e-
commerce startup. Hariharan, who was previously an executive at Amazon.com Inc and eBay Inc, spent
10 years waiting for his green card and started his own company as soon as he got it.

Green cards can be a path to naturalization and Hariharan expects to become a U.S. citizen soon.

H-1B visas are aimed at foreign nationals in occupations that generally require specialised knowledge,
such as science, engineering or computer programming. The U.S. government uses a lottery to award
65,000 such visas yearly and randomly distributes another 20,000 to graduate student workers.

'INDENTURED SERVANTS'

The H-1B and the green card system are technically separate, but many immigrants from India see them
as intimately connected.

The number of green cards that can go to people born in each country is capped at a few percent of the
total, without regard to how large or small the country's population is. There is a big backlog of Indian-
born people in the line, given the size of India's population - 1.3 billion - and the number of its natives in
the United States waiting for green cards.

That leaves many of those immigrants stuck on H-1B visas while they wait, which they say makes them
almost like "indentured servants," said Gaurav Mehta, an H-1B holder who works in the financial industry.

Mehta has a U.S.-born son, but he could be forced to take his family back to India at any time if he loses
his job and cannot find another quickly. "He's never been to my country," Mehta said of his son. "But
we'll have no choice if we have to go. Nobody likes to live in constant fear."

...................................................................................................................................................................................................

Judgement Day: Supreme Court announces Panama leaks verdict

Islamabad: Pakistan's Supreme Court on Thursday ruled there was insufficient evidence to order Prime
Minister Nawaz Sharif's removal from office over corruption allegations levelled by the opposition and it
ordered further investigations.

A verdict to dismiss Sharif would have sparked turmoil at a time when Pakistan's civilian government
and powerful military have appeared to come to uneasy terms.

Pakistan's stock market jumped after the ruling. Sharif is seen as probusiness.

Two of five judges on the court bench recommended Sharif should step down but they were out voted.

The court ordered a joint investigation team to be formed to look into allegations around three of Sharif's
four children using offshore companies to buy properties in London.

Sharif and his children deny any wrongdoing.

The team has two months to complete its inquiry.

Analysts and opposition politicians said the ruling was a blow to Sharif's credibility and the inquiry's
findings could yet weaken the PM as he heads into a general election in 2018.


But for now, Sharif and his ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, are celebrating. "We are ready for all
kinds of investigation," Sharif's defence minister, Khawaja Asif, told reporters.

The Supreme Court agreed last year to investigate the Sharif family's offshore wealth after opposition
lead- er Imran Khan threatened street protests following the leaking of the "Panama Papers" in 2015.

Khan called on Sharif to step down until the investigation was completed. "The PM should immediately
resign at least for the 60 days until JIT completes its work," Khan told reporters, referring to the joint
investigation team. "How can he continue as prime minister when he is being investigated? What moral
grounds does he have to continue in office?"

What leaked papers point to

Documents leaked from the Panamabased Mossack Fonseca law firm appeared to show that Sharif's
daughter and two sons owned offshore holding companies registered in the British Virgin Islands and
used them to buy properties in London.

The opposition accuses Sharif of failing to explain the source of offshore money and of lying to
parliament. Sharif, one of Pakistan's richest and most influential men, told parliament last year that his
family wealth was acquired legally in the decades before he entered politics.

The president of Supreme Court Bar Association said the ruling showed that none of the judges had
accepted the truthfulness of Sharif's speech to parliament.

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Erdoğan clinches victory in Turkish constitutional referendum

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has achieved victory in a historic referendum on a
package of constitutional amendments that will grant him sweeping new powers.

Sadi Güven, the head of Turkey’s high electoral board (YSK), confirmed the passage of the referendum
on Sunday night, based on unofficial results.

The yes campaign won 1.25m more votes than the no campaign, with only about 600,000 votes still to
be counted, Güven told reporters in Ankara, meaning the expanded presidential powers had been
approved.

However, disparities persisted into Sunday evening, with the opposition saying not all ballots had been
counted and they would contest a third of the votes that had been cast.

Güven said the YSK had decided to consider unstamped ballots as valid unless they were proved to be
fraudulent, after a high number of complaints – including one from the ruling Justice and Development
party (AKP) – that its officials had failed to stamp some ballot papers.

The no campaign said the YSK’s last-minute decision raised questions about the validity of the vote. But
Güven said the decision was taken before results were entered into the system and that members of the
AKP and the main opposition were present at almost all polling stations and signed off on reports. He said
official results were expected in 11-12 days.

The result of the referendum sets the stage for a transformation of the upper echelons of the state and
changing the country from a parliamentary democracy to a presidential republic, arguably the most
important development in the country’s history since it was founded on the ashes of the Ottoman
Republic.

Erdoğan said he would immediately discuss reinstating the death penalty in talks with the prime minister
and the nationalist opposition leader, Devlet Bahçeli. The president said he would take the issue to
referendum if necessary.
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North Korea warns against U.S. 'hysteria' as it marks founder's birth

PYONGYANG/SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea displayed what appeared to be new long-range and
submarine-based missiles on the 105th birth anniversary of its founding father, Kim Il Sung, on
Saturday, as a nuclear-powered U.S. aircraft carrier group steamed towards the region.

Missiles appeared to be the main theme of the giant parade, with Kim's grandson, leader Kim Jong Un,
taking time to greet the commander of the Strategic Forces, the branch of the military that oversees the
missile arsenal.

A U.S. Navy attack on a Syrian airfield this month with Tomahawk missiles raised questions about U.S.
President Donald Trump's plans for reclusive North Korea, which has conducted several missile and
nuclear tests in defiance of U.N. sanctions, regularly threatening to destroy the United States.

Kim Jong Un, looking relaxed in a dark suit and laughing with aides, oversaw the festivities on the "Day
of the Sun" at Pyongyang's main Kim Il Sung Square.

Goose-stepping soldiers and marching bands filled the square, next to the Taedonggang River that flows
through Pyongyang, in the hazy spring sunshine, followed by tanks, multiple-launch rocket systems and
other weapons.

Single-engine propeller-powered planes flew in a 105 formation overhead.

Unlike at some previous parades attended by Kim, there did not appear to be a senior Chinese official in
attendance. China is North Korea's lone major ally but has spoken out against its missile and nuclear tests
and has supported U.N. sanctions. China on Friday again called for talks to defuse the crisis.

Weapons analysts said they believed some of the missiles on display were new types of intercontinental
ballistic missiles (ICBM).

The North has said it has developed and would launch a missile that can strike the mainland United States
but officials and experts believe it is some time away from mastering all the necessary technology.

"EARLY DAYS"

North Korea showed two new kinds of ICBM enclosed in canister launchers mounted on the back of
trucks, suggesting Pyongyang was working towards a "new concept" of ICBM, said Melissa Hanham, a
senior research associate at the U.S.-based Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey,
California.

"However, North Korea has a habit of showing off new concepts in parades before they ever test or
launch them," Hanham said.

"It is still early days for these missile designs."

The Pukkuksong submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) were also on parade. It was the first time
North Korea had shown the missiles, which have a range of more than 1,000 km (600 miles), at a
military parade.

Displaying more than one of the missiles indicates North Korea is progressing with its plan to base a
missile on a submarine, which are hard to detect, said Joshua Pollack, editor of the Washington-based
Nonproliferation Review.

"It suggests a commitment to this programme," said Pollack. "Multiple SLBMs seems like a declaration
of intent to advance the programme."

North Korea, still technically at war with the South after their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce but not a
treaty, has on occasion conducted missile or nuclear tests to coincide with big political events and often
threatens the United States, South Korea and Japan.

Choe Ryong Hae, a close aide to Kim Jong Un, addressed the packed square with a characteristically
bellicose warning to the United States.


Read more at http://www.thestar.com.my/news/world/2017/04/15/north-korea-warns-against-us-
hysteria-as-it-marks-founders-birth/#AtDS3sz3ek4oLEZs.99
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Trump slams Russia for backing 'evil' Assad

The Trump administration is driving home its case alleging possible Russian complicity in Syria’s poison
gas attack last week—and directly accusing Moscow of spreading disinformation to cover it up ahead of
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s meetings with the Russian foreign minister and other officials this
week.

“Russia’s allegations fit a pattern of deflecting blame from the regime and attempting to undermine the
credibility of its opponents,” one of three high-level White House officials said in a briefing to reporters
Tuesday. “Russia and Syria, in multiple instances in 2016, have blamed the opposition for chemical use
in attacks.”

The officials laid out in detail why they blame the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad for an alleged sarin
nerve agent attack that killed between 50 and 100 people on April 4 in the town of Khan Sheikhoun. The
officials shared newly declassified U.S. intelligence from satellites and intercepts that they say showed a
Syrian regime SU-22 fixed-wing aircraft dropped at least one sarin-laden weapon onto Khan Shaykun
"approximately 20 minutes before reports of the chemical attack began," according to an additional
statement following a briefing by the White House.

Turkish officials have said that autopsies of some victims have confirmed the nerve agent used was
sarin, a weapon of mass destruction that is not known to be in the hands of any organization in Syria
except the government, which had pledged in 2013 to destroy all of its stockpiles. The Russians had
offered themselves as guarantors of that pledge.

The officials spoke to reporters on condition they not be named in what appears to be a full-court press,
with the White House briefing followed later by diplomatic and military briefings, speaking to the
hardening attitude of the Trump White House toward Moscow.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said U.S intelligence still wasn’t certain the Russia knew ahead of
time that sarin was about to be used. But the officials said it was highly questionable that Russian military
advisors co-located with Syrian forces at the Shayrat Airfield, the point of origin for the deadly strike,
were unaware of the payload.

The Kremlin has sought to obfuscate the perpetrators of last week's gas attack, but Spicer roundly
dismissed the contention, which was floated even by some prominent Assad-friendly conspiracy
theorists in the United States, that anyone but the Syrian regime was behind it.

"I think that anybody who doubts that ... wouldn’t just be doubting the intelligence, but would be
doubting the entire international reporting crew that was there to document all of this," he told reporters.
"There have been doctors, intelligence communities, media ... It’s not a question of doubting [the U.S.
government position], it’s a question of doubting everyone but Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Russia."
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Syria war: US warns of 'more' after missile strikes

The US envoy to the UN has warned America may take further action after bombarding a Syrian air base
suspected of using chemical weapons.

Nikki Haley said her country would not stand by when chemical weapons were used, as it was in its
"vital interest" to stop their proliferation.

Syrian ally Russia accused the US of encouraging "terrorists" with its unilateral actions.

Moscow has promised to strengthen its ally Syria's anti-aircraft defences.

It is also closing down a hotline with the US designed to avoid collisions between their air forces over
Syria.

At least six people are reported to have been killed in the US missile strikes early on Friday. US officials
say the base was used to launch a chemical weapons attack that killed dozens of civilians on Tuesday.

According to Idlib's opposition-run health authority, 89 people, including 33 children and 18 women, died
in the suspected nerve agent attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Syria denies using nerve
gas.

Ms Haley told an emergency session of the UN Security Council that America had acted to ensure Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad would never use chemical weapons again.

"We are prepared to do more but we hope that will not be necessary," she said. "It is in our vital national
security interest to prevent the spread and use of chemical weapons."
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