News briefs for June 23

Trump administration extends visa ban to non-immigrants

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration said Monday that it was extending a ban on green cards issued outside the United States until the end of the year and adding many temporary work visas to the freeze, including those used heavily by technology companies and multinational corporations.

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The administration cast the effort as a way to free up jobs in an economy reeling from the coronavirus. A senior official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity estimated the restrictions will free up to 525,000 jobs for Americans.

The ban, while temporary, would amount to major restructuring of legal immigration if made permanent, a goal that had eluded the administration before the pandemic. Long-term changes targeting asylum seekers and high-tech workers are also being sought.

Business groups pressed hard to limit the changes, but got little of what they wanted, marking a victory for immigration hardliners as Trump seeks to further solidify their support ahead of the November election.

The ban on new visas applies to H-1B visas, which are widely used by major American and Indian technology company workers and their families, H-2B visas for nonagricultural seasonal workers, J-1 visas for cultural exchanges and L-1 visas for managers and other key employees of multinational corporations.

US honeybees are doing better after bad year, survey shows

American honeybee colonies have bounced back after a bad year, the annual beekeeping survey finds.

Beekeepers only lost 22.2% of their colonies this past winter, from Oct. 1 to March 31, which is lower than the average of 28.6%, according to the Bee Informed Partnership’s annual survey of thousands of beekeepers. It was the second smallest winter loss in the 14 years of surveying done by several different U.S. universities.

Last winter’s loss was considerably less than the previous winter of 2018-2019 when a record 37.7% of colonies died off, the scientists found. After that bad winter, the losses continued through the summer of 2019, when beekeepers reported a 32% loss rate. That’s much higher than the average of 21.6% for summer losses. Those summer losses were driven more by hives of commercial beekeepers than backyard hobbyists, said bee partnership scientific coordinator Nathalie Steinhauer.

While the summer losses are bad, winter deaths are “really the test of colony health,” so the results overall are good news, Steinhauer said. “It turned out to be a very good year.”

Populations tend to be cyclical with good years following bad ones, she said. The scientists surveyed 3,377 commercial beekeepers and backyard enthusiasts in the United States.

Trump rally highlights vulnerabilities heading into election

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump’s return to the campaign trail was designed to show strength and enthusiasm heading into the critical final months before an election that will decide whether he remains in the White House.

Instead, his weekend rally in Oklahoma highlighted growing vulnerabilities and crystallized a divisive reelection message that largely ignores broad swaths of voters — independents, suburban women and people of color — who could play a crucial role in choosing Trump or Democratic challenger Joe Biden.

The lower-than-expected turnout at the comeback rally, in particular, left Trump fuming.

“There’s really only one strategy left for him, and that is to propel that rage and anger and try to split the society and see if he can have a tribal leadership win here,” former Trump adviser-turned-critic Anthony Scaramucci said on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

The Republican president did not offer even a token reference to national unity in remarks that spanned more than an hour and 40 minutes at his self-described campaign relaunch as the nation grappled with surging coronavirus infections, the worst unemployment since the Great Depression and sweeping civil unrest.

In Minneapolis, talk of changing PD means taking on union

MINNEAPOLIS — The fiery leader of Minneapolis’ police union has built a reputation of defying the city, long before he offered the union’s full support to the officers charged in George Floyd’s death.

When the mayor banned “warrior training” for officers last year, Lt. Bob Kroll said the union would offer the training instead. When the city restricted officers from wearing uniforms at political events, he had T-shirts made to support President Donald Trump. He commended off-duty officers who walked away from a security detail after players on the state’s professional women’s basketball team, the Minnesota Lynx, wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts. And after Floyd’s death, he didn’t hold back as he called unrest in the city a “terrorist movement.”

As Minneapolis tries to overhaul its police department in the wake of Floyd’s death, city leaders will collide with a pugnacious and powerful union that has long resisted such change. But that union and Kroll are coming under greater pressure than ever before, with some members daring to speak out in support of change and police leaders vowing to negotiate a contract tougher on bad cops.

Other unions have publicly called for Kroll’s removal, while public opinion polls show more Americans are shifting their views on police violence and believe offending officers are treated too leniently.

“People recognize that this just can’t just be half-baked measures and tinkering around the edges in policy reform. What we’re talking about right now is attacking a full-on culture shift of how police departments in Minneapolis and around the nation operate,” Mayor Jacob Frey said.

Watchdog eyes violent routing of protesters near White House

An Interior Department watchdog office will investigate law enforcement and security forces’ violent clearing of protesters from a square in front of the White House earlier this month.

The Interior Department’s U.S. Park Police and other forces released chemical agents and at times punched and clubbed a largely peaceful of crowd of demonstrators to drive the public from Lafayette Square on June 1, during nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd.

Three Democratic lawmakers — Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Reps. Raul Grijalva of Arizona and Debra Haaland of New Mexico — had asked Interior Department Inspector General Mark Lee Greenblatt to investigate the actions that night of the Park Police, who oversee some of the nation’s most iconic national monuments.

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Greenblatt agreed late last week, telling the lawmakers that Interior Secretary David Bernhardt had also asked for the review.

“Given the significance of the events, we have already begun collecting and reviewing information concerning the Park Police’s activities,” he told the Democrats.

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