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Asian Lite Daily Digital USA – December 3, 2020 – Is He Going to Fix the Mess?

Is He Going to Fix the Mess?; US Court Scraps Trump’s H1-B Restrictions; NATO names China as a threat in coming decade – all in Asian Lite Daily Digital USA – please click here to read.

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US Court scraps Trump’s H1-B restrictions

The US Chamber of Commerce and several universities were among the parties that sued the Trump administration over the rules issued during the middle of the presidential election campaign…reports Asian Lite News

A US federal judge has struck down two rules introduced by President Donald Trump’s administration requiring higher wages for those getting H1-B employment visas, adding restrictions and tightening some required qualifications.

Judge Jeffrey White of the Northern California federal court in Oakland ruled on Tuesday that the Covid-19 pandemic cannot be used by the Trump administration as an excuse to bypass the procedures laid down by the Administrative Procedure Act and enact the regulations.

“The court cannot countenance, reluctantly or otherwise, defendants’ reliance on the Covid-19 pandemic to invoke the good-cause exception,” to the rule-making procedure, he wrote.

“Without any consultation with interested parties about the impact on American employers, DHS (Department of Homeland Security) and DOL (Department of Labour) made changes to policies on which Plaintiffs and their members have relied for years and which are creating uncertainty in their planning and budgeting,” Judge White added.

The US Chamber of Commerce and several universities were among the parties that sued the Trump administration over the rules issued during the middle of the presidential election campaign.

They argued that the rules would drastically impact the employment prospects of new hires and could also endanger the jobs of existing employees.

One of the rules by the DOL raising the wages to qualify for the visa took effect in October, while the other by the DHS regarding qualification and placing restrictions on outsourcing companies placing their employees at other companies was to have come into effect on December 7.

The administration had said that the new regulations were urgently needed because of the unemployment caused by the pandemic among US employees and rushed through the new rules.

The Chamber of Commerce said that many companies were now “breathing a huge sigh of relief” because the rules struck down could have disrupted their operations.

NASSCOM, the Indian tech industry organisation, welcomed the court decision saying that it “clearly recognises the importance of the high skill visa programs to the US”.

“NASSCOM believes this will help US businesses access talent critical to the economic recovery phase in the post-Covid world,” it added.

It questioned the administration’s claim that the unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic required those rules.

“Even during the height of the unemployment spike this year created by the Covid-19 pandemic, unemployment in the IT sector remained extremely low going from 3 per cent in January 2020 to 3.5 per cent in September 2020.”

Regarding the impact of the steep increases in wage required by the DOL rule, The Wall Street Journal reported that according to DOL data an entry-level electrical engineer in San Jose, California, for example, would have to be paid at least $127,042 per year instead of the current $88,712.

While the higher wage requirement has been struck down, there are other changes by the Trump administration that could have a similar impact on the wages of H1-B workers unless the administration of President-elect Joe Biden, who takes office in January blocks, it.

The Trump administration is replacing the system of awarding H1-B visas through a lottery system with a system in which the visas would be given according to the salaries offered on a descending order starting with a preference for those getting the highest wages.

However, Biden’s manifesto said that he “will work with Congress to first reform temporary visas to establish a wage-based allocation process and establish enforcement mechanisms to ensure they are aligned with the labour market and not used to undermine wages”.

Every year the US gives 65,000 H1-B visas open to all and 20,000 to those with advanced US degrees.

Indians are the biggest beneficiaries of the H1-B visas getting about 75 per cent of them, according to the US government.

In October, White had stayed the Trump administration’s ban on new H1-B and H2-B work visas being issued till the end of the year.

Also read:Cyprus court finds British woman guilty of false rape claim

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US limits service animals on flights

In a revision to its Air Carrier Access Act, the Department said on Wednesday that it”defines a service animal as a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability”..reports Asian Lite News

Under a new regulation issued by the US Department of Transportation, airlines will no longer consider emotional support animals as service animals, limiting dogs as the only type that can fly with travellers for free.

In a revision to its Air Carrier Access Act, the Department said on Wednesday that it”defines a service animal as a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability”, reports Xinhua news agency.

According to the Department, the revision is partly due to “disruptions caused by requests to transport unusual species of animals onboard aircraft” and increasing incidents of travellers “fraudulently representing their pets as service animals” to avoid charges for transporting pets.

Most service animals are dogs, while passengers are growingly taking various animals onboard for “emotional support”, including cats, pigs, miniature horses, hamsters, and even peacocks.

With the new rule, airlines are allowed to recognize emotional support animals as pets, rather than service animals.

Also read:India, US join hands for IP cooperation

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California sees record spike in daily Covid cases

California, home to around 40 million residents, became the second US state to reach the grim milestone of 1 million confirmed cases last month…reports Asian Lite News

California reported a record single-day increase of more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases, significantly surpassing the previous high of 18,350 set last week, health authorities said.

The California Department of Public Health confirmed 20,759 new cases on Wednesday, which increased the state’s overall infection tally to 1,245,948, reports Xinhua news agency.

But officials said that “numbers do not represent true day-over-day change as these results include cases from prior to yesterday.”

Also on Wednesday, an additional 113 fatalities were reported, increasing the state’s death toll to 19,324.

California, home to around 40 million residents, became the second US state to reach the grim milestone of 1 million confirmed cases last month.

The state’s seven-day positivity rate is 7.3 per cent and the 14-day positivity rate is 6.9 per cent, compared with 6.5 per cent and 5.9 per cent respectively a week ago.

A total of 9,365 people in the state are currently hospitalized due to the virus. More than 2,100 of them are now in intensive care unit.

Officials said that “the state is experiencing the fastest increase in cases we have seen yet — faster than what we experienced at the outset of the pandemic and this summer”.

They noted that if the virus continues to spread at this rate, it could quickly overwhelm the state’s health care system and lead to “catastrophic outcomes”.

Also read:Create Some Californian Memories

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EU reveals plan to enhance US ties

The plan, named “A new EU-US agenda for global change”, was unveiled on Wednesday by the bloc’s executive arm, the European Commission, along with Josep Borrell, the high representative for foreign affairs and security policy…reports Asian Lite News

The European Union (EU) has unveiled a comprehensive plan to improve its ties with the US, which the bloc believes has been severely damaged under the current administration of President Donald Trump.

The plan, named “A new EU-US agenda for global change”, was unveiled on Wednesday by the bloc’s executive arm, the European Commission, along with Josep Borrell, the high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, reports Xinhua news agency.

“With a change of administration in the US, a more assertive Europe and the need to design a post-corona world, we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to design a new transatlantic agenda for global cooperation,” the plan said.

The proposal includes cross-the-board plans covering a joint battle against the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change combat, solutions to trade disputes, an agreement on digital taxation and closer geopolitical partnership, among others.

It also includes an idea to establish a new EU-US Trade and Technology Council, which the bloc said would help facilitate trade.

“At the core of this agenda is a united, capable and self-reliant European Union, which is good for Europe, good for the transatlantic partnership and for the multilateral system,” Borrell told a press conference on Wednesday.

Answering a question about the purpose of the proposal, Borrell said EU-US cooperation would not mean an exclusion of China in the field.

“The purpose is not to push China out of international trade. We need China to be part of international trade,” he said.

The proposal will be further discussed by foreign ministers of the EU member states next week, before being submitted to the European Council for endorsement.

It should be launched officially at an EU-US summit in the first half of 2021, a meeting proposed by European Council President Charles Michel during a phone call with US President-elect Joe Biden last month.

Also read:EU sets up forum to revamp Schengen system

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Biden warns against holiday travel

The remarks were made several days after Thanksgiving, during which millions of Americans travelled, and some three weeks before Christmas..reports Asian Lite News

US President-elect Joe Biden has urged all Americans not to travel during the upcoming holiday season due to the unabated coronavirus resurgence in the country, which is currently the worst-hit in the world.

“You cannot be traveling during these holidays, as much as you want to,” Biden said from Wilmington, Delaware, on Wednesday during a virtual roundtable with a group of workers and small-business owners impacted by the pandemic.

The remarks were made several days after Thanksgiving, during which millions of Americans travelled, and some three weeks before Christmas, reports Xinhua news agency.

“Christmas is going to be a lot harder,” said Biden, adding that the country is “likely to lose another 250,000 people” in coming months “because people aren’t paying attention”.

Biden highlighted his own small gathering during Thanksgiving, which broke a decades-old tradition of large family gatherings and asked Americans to heed the advice of public health experts and pass on large get-togethers later this month.

“Christmas is going to be a lot harder,” the former Vice President added.

Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, also issued a stark warning on Wednesday.

“The reality is December and January and February are going to be rough times. I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation,” Redfield told an event hosted by the US Chamber of Commerce.

Biden and Redfield’s warnings come as the US is currently the worst-hit country by the coronavirus pandemic with the highest number of cases and fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In its latest update on Thursday, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the country’s overall caseload and death toll stood at 13,916,543 and 273,316, respectively.

Also read:US CDC cuts quarantine period

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-Top News Education USA

US varsities demand $120bn Covid-19 aid

“Over 63 per cent of college students have experienced financial losses directly or within their families due to the pandemic,” the letter said…reports Asian Lite News

A coalition of US colleges and universities has urged Congress and President Donald Trump’s administration to finalise negotiations on a Covid-19 relief with at least $120 billion for higher education.

As “the scope of the financial duress of students and institutions has only grown” due to the pandemic, schools face an increase in student financial need and Covid-specific costs, as well as a decline in enrollments and auxiliary revenues, Xinhua news agency quoted a letter signed by the American Council on Education and 100 other groups on Wednesday.

U. colleges and universities face “a crisis of almost unimaginable” scale, however, many states have cut their higher education budgets, according to the letter.

“Over 63 per cent of college students have experienced financial losses directly or within their families due to the pandemic,” the letter said, citing a study conducted by the American College Health Association and the Healthy Minds Network.

An estimate in April predicted a decline of 25 per cent of institutional revenues in auxiliary revenues, which covers revenue from room and board charges, conference and facility fees, event tickets, parking fees and bookstores, it added.

Enrolments have also decreased amid the pandemic, with a 13 per cent drop in freshmen across all US institutions, the letter said.

The development comes as the US is currently the worst-hit country by the coronavirus pandemic with the highest number of cases and fatalties, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In its latest update on Thursday, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the country’s overall caseload and death toll stood at 13,916,543 and 273,316, respectively.

Also read:US CDC cuts quarantine period

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-Top News COVID-19 USA

US CDC cuts quarantine period

The revision marked a significant change from the CDC’s guidelines since the start of the pandemic, which recommended a 14-day quarantine after last exposure…reports Asian Lite News

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revised its guidelines regarding the Covid-19 quarantine period, from 14 days to seven to 10 days, depending on one’s test results and symptoms.

If individuals do not develop symptoms, they only need quarantine for 10 days without testing; if they test negative, that period can be reduced to seven days, Xinhua news agency quoted the guidelines updated on the CDC website on Wednesday as saying.

The revision marked a significant change from the CDC’s guidelines since the start of the pandemic, which recommended a 14-day quarantine after last exposure.

“Reducing the length of quarantine may make it easier for people to quarantine by reducing economic hardship if they cannot work during this time,” said the CDC.

“In addition, a shorter quarantine period can lessen stress on the public health system, especially when new infections are rapidly rising,” it noted.

The CDC requested people who have been in close contact with someone who has been infected to quarantine, excluding people who have had Covid-19 within the past three months.

The agency defines “close contact” as having been within six feet of someone who has Covid-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more; having provided care at home to someone who is sick with the virus; having had direct physical contact with the person; having shared eating or drinking utensils; being affected when someone who is infected-19 sneezed, coughed, or got respiratory droplets around.

The CDC requires people in quarantine to stay home, separate themselves from others, monitor their health, and follow directions from their state or local health department.

The new guidelines came as Covid-19 hospitalisations in the US reached an all-time high of over 100,000 on Wednesday.

Currently there are 100,226 COVID-19 hospitalized patients in the country, according to the latest data of the Covid Tracking Project.

The guidelines come as the US is currently the worst-hit country by the coronavirus pandemic with the highest number of cases and fatalties, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In its latest update on Thursday, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the country’s overall caseload and death toll stood at 13,916,543 and 273,316, respectively.

Also read:CDC recommends against cruise ship travel

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-Top News Politics USA

Democrats urge immediate negotiations on Covid relief bill

Senior Democrats, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, have signaled willingness to embrace a trimmed-down Covid-19 relief bill, urging Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to join negotiations.

“In the spirit of compromise we believe the bipartisan framework introduced by Senators yesterday should be used as the basis for immediate bipartisan, bicameral negotiations,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement on Wednesday, referring to a $908 billion bipartisan bill.

“Of course, we and others will offer improvements, but the need to act is immediate and we believe that with good-faith negotiations we could come to an agreement,” the statement added.

The Democrats-controlled House of Representatives passed a $2.2 trillion bill in October, but Senate Republicans have recently been pushing for a $500 billion package, reports Xinhua news agency.

On Tuesday, McConnell had rejected the $908 billion bipartisan plan after its release and signaled that he wanted to tie coronavirus aid to a government funding bill that needs to be approved by December 11.

“Families all across the country are experiencing the unthinkable, unbearable losses of their loved ones and many are falling into financial ruin because of the economic fallout of the pandemic,” Pelosi and Schumer further said in the joint statement.

“Economists are warning the US economy will fall into double-dip recession without additional federal relief from Congress,.

“It’s time for Leader McConnell to sit down with Democrats to finally begin a true, bipartisan effort to meet the needs of the country,” they added.

Later in the day, McConnell in a tweet argued that Republicans have spent months proposing more Covid-19 relief.

“I hope Democrats will finally let us get a bipartisan outcome soon,” said the Senate Republican leader.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, among others, has repeatedly called for more fiscal stimulus to boost the virus-ravaged economy over the next few months.

“The risk of overdoing it is less than the risk of under doing it,” Powell said at a hearing before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

Also read:Biden, Guterres call for closer ties

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-Top News COVID-19 USA

US Gears Up To Vaccinate 100Mn People

The chief advisor of the US Covid-19 vaccine development programme is confident that at least 100 million people would have got coronavirus shots by the end of February 2021 and this operation would have covered the entire “at risk” population comprising the elderly, frontline workers and those with comorbidities.

Operation Warp Speed chief adviser Moncef Slaoui said he hopes to have emergency use authorization for at least one vaccine by December 10 or 11.

Slaoui (far right) at a GSK event in December 2016 (Wikipedia)

Slaoui pointed to “exceptionally good data” from both the vaccines which have applied for emergency use authorization – Pfizer and Moderna.

He is hoping for a “breakthrough” from a Johnson and Johnson vaccine that has now recruited more than 28,000 subjects.

“Now the breakthrough that we hope with this vaccine is that it’s a one shot vaccine, with very fast efficacy achieved and 100 per cent compliance, so to speak, since everybody will get one shot and get the full vaccination schedule.”

Warp Speed CEO General Gustave Perna, confirmed his team is ready to ship vaccines “within 24 hours” of approval from the US Food and Drug Administration.

The distribution will be executed by private companies including McKesson Corp., a health care company that has wide experience in the distribution of flu vaccines.

Slaoui reminded Americans that it “will be very important” for everyone who gets the Moderna or the Pfizer vaccine to come back three or four weeks later, to get their second vaccine dose to complete the immunization schedule.

Across the Atlantic, Britain became the first country in the world to authorize a Covid-19 vaccine on Wednesday and is on track to launch its biggest ever vaccination drive within days.

The coronavirus has killed more than 1.4 million people around the world since it first emerged in China, a year ago.

In America, the virus has sickened more than 13.8 million people and killed more than 272,000 by December 2.

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