- U.S. immigration bill increases visas for skilled workers, tightens rules
- China points finger at U.S. on regional tensions
- Bombs kill 3 people, wound more than 100 at Boston Marathon
Posted: 15 Apr 2013 09:12 PM PDT
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate immigration bill outlined Tuesday attempts to meet long-sought demands from America's technology sector for more high-skilled workers from abroad to fill the gap created by a shortage of American candidates.
Under the proposed bipartisan legislation outlined Tuesday, the official quota of "H1-B" visas for high-skilled, foreign workers would increase by 69 percent to 110,000.
But businesses would need to pay these employees high salaries and ensure qualified American applicants are not passed over.
The visa quota could go as high as 180,000 in future years from the current 65,000 limit, based on certain conditions, according to an outline of the bill.
In addition, the number of visas for foreigners who hold advanced degrees from U.S. universities would increase to 25,000 from the current 20,000.
Businesses, particularly tech companies, have lobbied for more H-1B visas for years. Companies apply for these visas annually, and demand routinely outstrips supply.
The H-1B is a nonimmigrant visa in the United States that allows U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. The duration of stay is three years, extendable to six years.
Earlier this month, the United States awarded 85,000 H-1B visas while receiving about 124,000 applications.
Critics of the H-1B visas say the program allows companies to pay foreign workers lower salaries than they pay to Americans with comparable skills.
To address this concern, the Senate's draft legislation calls for employers "to pay significantly higher wages for H-1B workers than under current law," the outline said.
Businesses would also need to advertise to American workers first any job openings that could be obtained by foreign applicants.
Companies that are found to be abusing the visa program would be hit with penalties.
More broadly, the Senate's proposal would phase in requirements that businesses of all sizes verify an employee's work status.
Separately, the proposed legislation would create a new visa for foreign entrepreneurs looking to emigrate to the United States to start their own companies.
Another part of the proposed legislation creates a new system for admitting temporary workers for unskilled jobs - janitors, hotel and restaurant workers and labourers - for companies that can show they need them.
Businesses will need to file an estimate of the number of these employees they want to hire, the dates of employment and a description of the type of work.
Businesses can be denied permission to hire these workers if they have previously violated certain U.S. labour rules.
Yet another section of the legislation would cover the flow of agricultural workers, creating a new "guest worker" visa program to ensure an adequate agriculture workforce.
A portable "W" category of visa would replaced the current H-2A visa program for agricultural employment.U.S. senators unveil bipartisan immigration bill
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 15 Apr 2013 07:48 PM PDT
BEIJING (Reuters) - China's defence ministry said on Tuesday that "some countries" are increasing tension in Asia and the Pacific, in thinly veiled criticism of U.S. efforts to ramp up its military presence and alliances in the region.
China is uneasy with what the United States has called the "rebalancing" of forces as the United States winds down the war in Afghanistan and pays renewed attention to the Asia-Pacific region.
China says the policy has emboldened Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam in longstanding territorial disputes.
China faces "multiple and complicated security threats" despite its growing influence, the Ministry of National Defense said in an annual white paper, adding that the U.S. strategy meant "profound changes" for the region.
"There are some countries which are strengthening their Asia Pacific military alliances, expanding their military presence in the region and frequently make the situation there tenser," the ministry said in the paper.
"On the issues concerning China's territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, some neighbouring countries are taking actions that complicate or exacerbate the situation, and Japan is making trouble over the Diaoyu Islands issue," it said.
The dispute with Japan over the uninhabited islands, which Japan calls Senkaku, has escalated in recent months to the point where China and Japan have scrambled fighter jets while patrol ships shadow each other.
The waters around the islands in the East China Sea are rich fishing grounds and have potentially huge oil and gas reserves.
Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines also have conflicting claims with China in parts of the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands. China lays claim to almost the whole of the sea, which is criss-crossed by crucial shipping lanes.
The U.S. shift comes as China boosts military spending and builds submarines, surface ships and anti-ship ballistic missiles as part of its naval modernisation, and has tested emerging technology aimed at destroying missiles in mid-air.
China has repeatedly said the world has nothing to fear from its military spending which is needed for legitimate defensive purposes, and that the sums spent pale in comparison with U.S. defence expenditure.
"Major powers are vigorously developing new and more sophisticated military technologies so as to ensure that they can maintain strategic superiority in international competition in such areas as outer space and cyber space," the ministry said.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Writing by Michael Martina; Editing by Robert Birsel)
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
Posted: 15 Apr 2013 07:35 PM PDT
BOSTON (Reuters) - Two bombs ripped through the crowd at the finish line of the Boston Marathon on Monday, killing three people, maiming others and injuring more than 100 in what a White House official said would be treated as an "act of terror."
It was the worst bombing on U.S. soil since security was tightened after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and President Barack Obama promised to hunt down whoever was responsible for the attack on a day when tens of thousands of spectators packed the streets to watch the world-famous race.
No one has been arrested and the White House official said it would have to be determined whether the attack came from a foreign or domestic source.
Investigators found what could be five additional, undetonated explosive devices around the Boston area, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing two unnamed people briefed on the investigation. The evidence had yet to be fully analyzed, the Journal said.
The blasts a few seconds apart knocked some runners off their feet and shattered what had been a resplendent spring day with the state of Massachusetts celebrating Patriots' Day, which commemorates the U.S. war of independence on the third Monday in April.
April 15 is also the deadline for U.S. taxpayers to file their annual income tax returns.
Many runners were heading for the finish when a fireball and smoke rose from behind cheering spectators and a row of flags representing the countries of participants, video from the scene showed.
The cheers turned to screams and panic.
"I saw people who looked like they had their legs blown off. There was a lot of blood over their legs. Then people were being pushed in wheelchairs," said Joe Anderson, 33, a fisherman from Pembroke, Massachusetts, who had just run the race holding a large U.S. flag.
Many of the victims were gravely injured, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said.
Some suffered shrapnel wounds and amputations and will require repeat operations in the coming days, said Peter Fagenholtz, a trauma surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Ambulances, fire trucks and dozens of police vehicles converged at the scene, and spectators could be seen crying and consoling each other.
The dead included an 8-year-old boy, the Boston Globe reported, citing two law enforcement sources briefed on the investigation.
A 2-year-old was being treated with a head injury at Boston Children's Hospital, the hospital said in a statement.
"It sounded like a sonic boom. I haven't stopped shaking yet," said Melissa Stanley, who watched her daughter cross the finish line four minutes before the explosions.
The blasts put police on alert in major cities across the United States, including in Washington, D.C. and New York City, sites of the September 11 attacks.
Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis called them "powerful devices."
Davis told a news conference at least three people died and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said more than 100 people were wounded.
FBI Boston Special Agent In Charge Richard DesLauriers declined at the same news conference to comment on media reports that police found unexploded devices.
In Washington, Obama told reporters, "Make no mistake, we will get to the bottom of this and we will find out who did this."
"Any responsible individuals, any responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice," he said.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation took the lead on the investigation with help from several other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.
The two explosions at 2:50 p.m. were about 50 to 100 yards (metres) apart as runners crossed the finish line with a timer showing 4 hours and 9 minutes, some 9 minutes faster than the average finish time, as reported by Runner's World magazine.
Spectators typically line the 26.2 mile (42.19 km) race course, with the heaviest crowds near the finish line.
Mike Mitchell of Vancouver, Canada, a runner who had finished the race, said he was looking back at the finish line and saw a "massive explosion."
Smoke rose 50 feet (15 metres) in the air, Mitchell said. People began running and screaming after hearing the noise, Mitchell said.
"Everybody freaked out," Mitchell said.
The annual Boston Marathon, held since 1897, attracts an estimated half-million spectators and some 20,000 participants every year.
Earlier on Monday, Ethiopia's Lelisa Desisa and Kenya's Rita Jeptoo won the men's and women's events respectively, continuing African runners' dominance in the sport.
The Boston Symphony Orchestra cancelled Monday night's concert and the National Hockey League's Boston Bruins cancelled their home game against the Ottawa Senators. The Boston Red Sox had completed their Major League Baseball game at Fenway Park before the explosions.
(Additional reporting by Scott Malone, Svea Herbst-Bayliss, Tim McLaughlin, Edith Honan, Frank McGurty and Mark Hosenball; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Grant McCool and Eric Walsh)Boston hospitals scramble to care for wounded after blasts
Triumph turns to terror as blasts hit Boston Marathon
Leaders react to Boston Marathon explosions
Factbox - Key facts about the Boston Marathon
Investigators scour video, photos for Boston Marathon bomb clues
Copyright © 2013 Reuters
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