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U.S. senators push Biden to lift border closure with Canada – CBC.ca

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Four U.S. senators on Friday asked President Joe Biden to lift restrictions that have barred travel by Canadians across the northern U.S. border since March 2020.

Democratic Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Jon Tester of Montana and independent Angus King of Maine asked Biden to allow Canadians vaccinated against COVID-19 to travel to the United States before October.

The border state senators said in a letter the restrictions have led to “economic and emotional strain in our communities.”

The senators added: “A plan with some indication of when your administration would feel comfortable lifting border restrictions based on public health data would provide clarity to businesses and families along the northern border.”

They also noted that Canadians can fly to the United States. “We struggle to understand the public health rationale for the disparate treatment in modes of travel,” the senators wrote.

The White House did not immediately comment on Friday, but White House coronavirus response co-ordinator Jeff Zients said on Wednesday that given the delta variant of the coronavirus, “we will maintain the existing travel restrictions at this point.”

U.S. officials and travel industry executives say the White House is set to renew the restrictions before the latest extension expires on Sept. 21.

In August, the United States again extended restrictions closing its land borders with Canada and Mexico to nonessential travel such as tourism despite Ottawa’s decision to open its border to vaccinated Americans. Canada on Aug. 9 began allowing fully vaccinated U.S. visitors for non-essential travel.

The United States has continued to extend the extraordinary restrictions on Canada and Mexico on a monthly basis since March 2020, when they were imposed to address the spread of COVID-19. The U.S. land border restrictions do not bar U.S. citizens from returning home.

The United States separately bars most non-U.S. citizens who within the last 14 days have been in the United Kingdom, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil.

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Africa calls for climate finance tracker after donors fall short

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African countries want a new system to track funding from wealthy nations that are failing to meet a $100-billion annual target to help the developing world tackle climate change, Africa’s lead climate negotiator said.

The demand highlights tensions ahead of the COP26 climate summit between the world’s 20 largest economies, which are behind 80% of greenhouse gas emissions, and developing countries that are bearing the brunt of the effects of global warming.

“If we prove that someone is responsible for something, it is his responsibility to pay for that,” said Tanguy Gahouma, chair of the African Group of Negotiators at COP26, the United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, which starts on Oct. 31.

In 2009, developed countries agreed to raise $100 billion per year by 2020 to help the developing world deal with the fallout from a warming planet.

The latest available estimates from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) show this funding hit $79.6 billion in 2019, just 2% more than in 2018.

The OECD data shows Asian countries on average received 43% of the climate finance in 2016-19, while Africa received 26%. Gahouma said a more detailed shared system was needed that would keep tabs on each country’s contribution and where it went on the ground.

“They say they achieved maybe 70% of the target, but we cannot see that,” Gahouma said.

“We need to have a clear roadmap how they will put on the table the $100 billion per year, how we can track (it),” he said in an interview on Thursday. “We don’t have time to lose and Africa is one of the most vulnerable regions of the world.”

Temperatures in Africa are rising at a faster rate than the global average, according to the latest U.N. climate report. It forecasts further warming will lead to more extreme heatwaves, severe coastal flooding and intense rainfall on the continent.

Even as wealthy nations miss the $100 billion target, African countries plan to push for this funding to be scaled up more than tenfold by 2030.

“The $100 billion was a political commitment. It was not based on the real needs of developing countries to tackle climate change,” Gahouma said.

World leaders and their representatives have just a few days at the summit in Glasgow to try to broker deals to cut emissions faster and finance measures to adapt to climate pressures.

African countries face an extra challenge at the talks because administrative hurdles to entering Britain and to travelling during the coronavirus pandemic mean smaller than usual delegations can attend, Gahouma said.

“Limited delegations, with a very huge amount of work and limited time. This will be very challenging,” Gahouma said.

 

(Reporting by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Aaron Ross and Janet Lawrence)

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Facebook to pay up to $14.25 million to settle U.S. employment discrimination claims

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Facebook Inc has agreed to pay up to $14.25 million to settle civil claims by the U.S. government that the social media company discriminated against American workers and violated federal recruitment rules, U.S. officials said on Tuesday.

The two related settlements were announced by the Justice Department and Labor Department and confirmed by Facebook. The Justice Department last December filed a lawsuit accusing Facebook of giving hiring preferences to temporary workers including those who hold H-1B visas that let companies temporarily employ foreign workers in certain specialty occupations. Such visas are widely used by tech companies.

Kristen Clarke, assistant U.S. attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, called the agreement with Facebook historic.

“It represents by far the largest civil penalty the Civil Rights Division has ever recovered in the 35-year history of the Immigration and Nationality Act’s anti-discrimination provision,” Clarke said in a call with reporters, referring to a key U.S. immigration law that bars discrimination against workers because of their citizenship or immigration status.

The case centered on Facebook’s use of the so-called permanent labor certification, called the PERM program.

The U.S. government said that Facebook refused to recruit or hire American workers for jobs that had been reserved for temporary visa holders under the PERM program. It also accused Facebook of “potential regulatory recruitment violations.”

Facebook will pay a civil penalty under the settlement of $4.75 million, plus up to $9.5 million to eligible victims of what the government called discriminatory hiring practices.

“While we strongly believe we met the federal government’s standards in our permanent labor certification (PERM) practices, we’ve reached agreements to end the ongoing litigation and move forward with our PERM program,” a Facebook spokesperson said, adding that the company intends to “continue our focus on hiring the best builders from both the U.S. and around the world.”

The settlements come at a time when Facebook is facing increasing U.S. government scrutiny over other business practices.

Facebook this month faced anger from U.S. lawmakers after former company employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen accused it of pushing for higher profits while being cavalier about user safety. Haugen has turned over thousands of documents to congressional investigators amid concerns that Facebook has harmed children’s mental health and has stoked societal divisions.

The company has denied any wrongdoing.

In Tuesday’s settlements, the Justice Department said that Facebook used recruitment practices designed to deter U.S. workers such as requiring applications to be submitted only by mail, refusing to consider American workers who applied for positions and hiring only temporary visa holders.

The Labor Department this year conducted audits of Facebook’s pending PERM applications and uncovered other concerns about the company’s recruitment efforts.

 Facebook is not above the law,” U.S. Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda told reporters, adding that the Labor Department is “committed to ensuring that the PERM process is not misused by employers – regardless of their size and reach.”

 

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham)

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FBI raids Washington home linked to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska

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FBI agents on Tuesday raided a Washington mansion linked to  Russian Oleg Deripaska, a metals billionaire with ties to the Kremlin and to Paul Manafort, former U.S. President Donald Trump’s one-time 2016 campaign chairman.

An FBI agent stood outside the house in one of Washington’s wealthiest neighborhoods, with yellow “CRIME SCENE DO NOT ENTER” tape across the front of the mansion, while members of the FBI’s Evidence Response Team carried boxes out of the property.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation confirmed the agency was conducting a court-authorized law enforcement activity at the home, which the Washington Post has previously reported was linked to the Russian oligarch.

The specific reason for sealing off and searching the mansion was not immediately clear, and the FBI spokesperson did not provide details. A representative for Deripaska said the homes belong to relatives of the oligarch.

Deripaska, 53, has been under U.S. sanctions since 2018. Washington imposed sanctions on him and other influential Russians because of their ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin after alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Reuters could not immediately determine Deripaska’s whereabouts.

Deripaska once employed Paul Manafort, who served for a period as the chairman of Trump’s 2016 campaign and who was convicted in 2018 on tax evasion and bank fraud charges.

He owns part of Rusal via his stake in the giant aluminum producer’s parent company En+ Group. Washington previously dropped sanctions against both companies but kept them on Deripaska.

Rusal’s Moscow-listed shares extended losses after the report, falling 6%.

The representative for Deripaska, who declined to give their name because of company policy, confirmed the raid on the home in Washington as well as one in New York City, and said both belong to Deripaska’s family rather than the executive himself.

“The FBI is indeed currently conducting searches of houses belonging to Oleg Deripaska’s relatives. The searches are being carried out on the basis of two court warrants related to the U.S. sanctions. The houses in question are located in New York and Washington, DC and are not owned by Oleg Deripaska himself,” said the representative did not provide any further details.

Deripaska previously sued to have the U.S. sanctions lifted but his case was dismissed in June.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey, Sarah N. Lynch, Mark Hosenball, Kevin Fogarty Jonathan Landay; additional reporting by Anastasia Lyrchikova and Polina Devitt in Moscow; Writing by Arshad Mohammed and Susan Heavey; Editing by Jonathan Oatis, Mark Porter and Howard Goller)

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