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Showing posts from August 27, 2020

Need a visa to visit the U.S.? Expect much longer wait times, officials warn

- The U.S. agency in charge of processing immigration applications said on Tuesday that it had avoided a planned furlough of 70% of its staff but warned that it still faced financial hardship that could result in some applicants experiencing longer wait times. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services , the agency in charge of processing work permits, so-called green cards and other visas, said that it had avoided furloughs planned for Aug. 30. But aggressive spending cuts the agency planned to put in place would impact all operations, including naturalizations, it said in a statement. USCIS is dependent on fees from new immigration applications. The agency reported a 50% drop in fees in June due to less immigration during the novel coronavirus pandemic. But immigration experts and former officials say even before the onset of the pandemic, the agency had seen revenues fall sharply as a result of slowdowns in processing and other limits placed on immigration applications. Republican

Drugmakers deliver counteroffer to Trump pricing plan: Politico

- Drugmakers made a counteroffer to the White House to stall President Donald Trump’s plan to link Medicare’s spending on some expensive drugs to the much lower prices that they command abroad, Politico reported on Tuesday, citing an internal memo to industry lobbyists. The memo was approved by pharmaceutical industry trade group PhRMA on Sunday and was shared shortly after that, the report said, adding that it was not clear if the president had been briefed on the matter. The White House and PhRMA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Environmentalists to visit U.S. petrochemical sites hit by Hurricane Laura

HOUSTON - Environmental groups on Thursday were preparing to send teams to petrochemical and oil production sites checking for oil, gas and chemical releases after Hurricane Laura moved out of the area. Laura hit the U.S. Gulf Coast on Thursday with winds of 150 miles per hour (240 kmh), halting operations at petrochemical plants in Texas and Louisiana, and sending 600,000 fleeing inland. State environmental agencies also began gearing up to start damage assessments, but the exact amount of pollution released may not be fully known. Texas shut down 42 air monitors to prevent damage to the devices. Some had returned to service on Thursday morning, officials said. Plant shutdowns released 4.35 million pounds of pollutants including hydrogen sulfide, benzene and nitrogen oxides, according to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. It will deploy emergency response teams Friday, a spokesman said. Louisiana’s environmental agency will start assessments “as soon as the weather

Prayers and faxed letters: Texas woman buries husband who died of COVID-19

HOUSTON - As hundreds of thousands of people in Texas fled their homes ahead of Hurricane Laura on Wednesday, Michelle Gutierrez was in Houston burying her husband David, who died of COVID-19 on Aug. 14. The couple would have celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary on Sept. 4, a few days after David’s 54th birthday. Michelle and David met at a mechanic’s shop in Houston in 2009, when he had stepped in as a translator to help her with a mechanic who only spoke Spanish. He then offered to fix her computer, and the rest is history. They built a life together in Houston, where they raised five children and he worked as a software engineer. In early July, David was hospitalized after his symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, worsened. His wife and two daughters had tested positive but showed no symptoms. David would fight the virus for over a month at Houston’s St. Luke’s in The Woodlands hospital, where he eventually died of heart failure. None “It’s been a ro

Kremlin critic Navalny's condition still serious: spokeswoman

MOSCOW - Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, who is in a coma in a Berlin hospital after what his allies describe as a poisoning, continues to be in a serious condition, his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said on Thursday. Navalny, 44, was airlifted to Germany on Saturday after collapsing during a flight from the Siberian city of Tomsk to Moscow. German doctors say there are indicators his illness is down to poisoning, a diagnosis Russian medics have contradicted.

EXCLUSIVE: Mystery surrounds Pete Evans' marriage to wife Nicola Robinson after they quietly unfollowed each other on Instagram - but he insists everything is fine

Pete Evans is busy trying to save the world with his bizarre 'food is medicine' philosophy, but perhaps he should be focusing on problems closer to home. Rumours are swirling that all may not be well in Evans' marriage to former glamour model and self-described 'nutrition mermaid' Nicola Robinson. The pair quietly unfollowed each other on Instagram in late March, but the sacked My Kitchen Rules judge was quick to deny rumours of a split at the time.  What's going on? Rumours are swirling that all may not be well in Pete Evans' marriage to former glamour model and self-described 'nutrition mermaid' Nicola Robinson When contacted for commented on March 31, Evans insisted there was no truth whatsoever to speculation they had parted ways. 'No, not at all,' he said. 'We just had a wonderful week together at the farm with the kids. She is having a break from Instagram at this time.' While Evans insisted then that Robinson was just taking a

Who else but Navalny? Kremlin critic's illness a blow for campaign to break Putin's grip

MOSCOW - Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny’s sudden illness has upended his strategy to challenge Vladimir Putin’s grip on power at upcoming regional elections. But it also exposes a longer-term issue - the leadership vacuum within Russia’s opposition. Navalny, 44, now lying in a Berlin hospital after a suspected poisoning, had been urging supporters to vote tactically for candidates running against the ruling United Russia party in mid-September. Russians will elect 18 governors, as well as local parliaments and city councillors in country-wide voting which is effectively a dry run for parliamentary elections in September 2021. Though Putin - in his fourth term of office - looks unassailable as Russian leader, the elections take place amid frustration over years of falling wages and a coronavirus lockdown that pushed his approval rating to two-decade lows. Before Navalny fell ill on Aug. 20 on a flight from Siberia to Moscow, he had cast his campaign as a long-term strategy to short-circ

Trump says NBA has become like a political organization

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday said the NBA has become “like a political organization”, though he said he did not know much about the players’ boycott to protest racial injustice following the police shooting of a Black man in Wisconsin. “They’ve become like a political organization and that’s not a good thing. I don’t think that’s a good thing for sports or for the country,” Trump said during a briefing at the Federal Emergency Management Agency on Hurricane Laura.

Revealed: How often you should REALLY be replacing everything in your bathroom - and the seven items you should NEVER store in there

You should be replacing your towels every one to three years and swapping out your shower curtain every three to six months, a team of bathroom experts have revealed. Australian lifestyle company Bed Threads shared how often common items in the bathroom, including toothbrushes, bath mats and loofahs, should be replaced in order to maintain hygiene and prevent health issues. It's recommended to replace bath mats every two years and your toothbrush every three to six months to reduce the likelihood of a build-up of bacteria and unwanted particles. You should be replacing your towels every one to three years and swapping out your shower curtain every three to six months, a team of bathroom experts have revealed Towels: Every 1 to 3 years According to the Bed Thread experts, towels that are made from good quality material and are cared for well should last between one to three years. One way to determine whether a towel should be replaced is whether there's a lack of absorbency and

Trump says he will visit storm-hit Gulf Coast this weekend

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday he will visit the Gulf Coast states of Louisiana and Texas this weekend after Hurricane Laura did extensive damage to the region. At a briefing at Federal Emergency Management Agency headquarters on the storm damage, Trump told reporters he would probably visit Texas and Louisiana on Saturday or Sunday and the trip could also include an additional stop.

Tim Tam Tummies: Australians snack on endless chocolate biscuits while working from home during coronavirus pandemic as sales surge by FOUR MILLION

Australians are devouring more Tim Tams than ever while working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic, Arnott's has revealed. The iconic chocolate biscuits sold an extra four million packets in the period from March and June, when Australians were ordered to work from home.   Workers also purchased an extra two million cans of soup, 2.7 million stock packets as well as one million extra V8 juice bottles in the same time frame.  Stay-at-home staffer took it upon themselves to recreate a 'work kitchen' at home and stocked up on items they initially would have readily available to them in the office. An extra four million packets of Tim Tams have been sold during lockdown (pictured, Aussies working from home with a pack of biscuits) In the last financial year, Arnott's sold 270 million Tim Tams (stock image) which only increased in popularity during the pandemic Due to the increase in purchases, Arnott's revealed production costs soared a further six per cent in th

Michigan official slams racial 'stereotypes' in mail-voting robocalls

WASHINGTON - A top official in the Michigan, a battleground U.S. election state, on Thursday condemned a computerized phone call campaign for using “racially charged stereotypes” to discourage voting by mail. Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat and the state’s top election official, posted on Twitter a recording of the robocall, in which a person made false claims that people who vote by mail could be subject to more scrutiny by police and by credit card companies seeking payment. “My office has received a recording of a robocall targeting Detroit voters using racially-charged stereotypes and false information to deter voting by mail,” Benson said in a tweet. “It is an unconscionable, indefensible, blatant attempt to lie to citizens about their right to vote.” As many as half of U.S. voters are expected to cast their ballots by mail due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which has killed around 180,000 Americans. U.S. President Donald Trump has said repeatedly wi

Katy Perry expertly dodged interview questions about potentially naming daughter Daisy... months before giving birth to first child with fiance Orlando Bloom

Katy Perry not only revealed Wednesday that she gave birth to her first child, a daughter, but that she and fiance Orlando Bloom, 43, chose to name the newborn Daisy Dove.  But throughout the span of her pregnancy, the singer, 35, expertly dodged interview questions that gauged the possibility of her assigning the name 'Daisy' to her then-unborn daughter.  During an appearance on Entertainment Tonight Canada in early August, the hosts asked Perry directly if she would consider naming her daughter after her hit single Daisies. No comment: Prior to her daughter's birth, Katy Perry expertly dodged interview questions that gaged the possibility of her using the name 'Daisy' They also asked if the name 'Harley' was in the mix, due to Katy naming one of the songs on her forthcoming album Smile, Harleys In Hawaii.   'Well, these are really great contributions. I've never thought of Harley ever. Harley is a great name. Harley Bloom? Hold on, excuse me, I'

Laura largely misses U.S. cotton, sugar fields; rains to skip dry Midwest grain belt

- The U.S. agricultural sector was spared a direct hit from Hurricane Laura on Thursday as the storm veered west of grain export terminals in New Orleans and missed many fields of unharvested cotton and sugar, according to meteorologists and industry sources. The storm’s rains, however, are also projected to miss many of the driest areas of the U.S. Midwest corn and soybean belt that need them, including key producers Iowa and Nebraska, they said. Laura made landfall early on Thursday as a Category 4 storm packing winds of 150 mph (240 kph) in the small town of Cameron, Louisiana, the National Hurricane Center said. It rapidly weakened to a Category 1 storm and then a tropical storm by afternoon. Government and agriculture officials are assessing any damage. The Louisiana Farm Bureau said some sugarcane was blown over but production would be only minimally impacted as cane tops were not broken. Most rice fields had also been harvested ahead of the storm, Communications Director Avery

Fire erupts at hurricane-hit Louisiana chemical plant

- Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards on Thursday asked residents in three southwestern communities to stay indoors with windows and doors shut as a plume rose from a chemical fire at a Biolab plant in an area hit by Hurricane Laura. KIK Custom Products Inc confirmed the fire at its Biolab Lake Charles facility and said it was working with first responders and other agencies to contain and mitigate its impact as quickly as possible. The facility had been shut down and all employees evacuated after Hurricane Laura was upgraded to Category 4, a representative said. KIK Custom Products acquired Biolab in 2013. The business manufactures chlorine-based products for home cleaning and swimming pools, according to its website. Pictures posted on social media showed billowing smoke spread over an area of industrial plants. Police said the blaze was contained at the Biolab site. Edwards in a press conference said a chlorine gas chemical fire was burning at the facility. He added that he had

'We must be Australians first': Scott Morrison slams 'provincial' state premiers for crippling regional communities by refusing to open their borders to areas with no coronavirus

Scott Morrison has slammed 'provincial' state premiers who have refused to open their borders to areas with few or no cases of coronavirus. In a speech at the annual bush summit in Cooma, New south Wales, the prime minister said border restrictions were hurting regional areas. He said he has heard examples of farmers being unable to move around their properties because they cross state borders and teachers being unable to get to work in neighbouring states. Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has shut her state's border with the whole of New South Wales Australian state border restrictions Victoria:  Completely open, but other states are banning residents from going there NSW: Border with Victoria is closed but others are open without restriction Queensland: Open to everywhere but Victoria, NSW, and the ACT Northern Territory:  Open to everywhere but Victoria and Sydney, which must do hotel quarantine South Australia: Closed to Victoria, NSW arrivals must self-is

Prosecutor says federal takeover of UAW still an option as ex-union boss charged with embezzlement

DETROIT - Talks to reform the United Auto Workers are going well but a federal takeover remains an option, the U.S. prosecutor leading a corruption probe of the union said on Thursday as another former UAW president was charged with embezzlement. Federal and union officials are “actively talking” and “making great progress,” Matthew Schneider, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, told Reuters in an interview. “All options are still on the table and they will be until we can resolve this,” he said. Schneider said he would like to see the union reform talks wrap up as soon as possible but the investigation of corruption within the union continues, with 15 people being charged so far. A high-profile target of the probe, former UAW President Dennis Williams, 67, was charged by Schneider’s office on Thursday with conspiring with other union officials to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars in UAW funds. The charging of Williams in a document called a criminal inform

'You look amazing!' Rebel Wilson's celebrity friends go WILD over her 18kg weight loss - as she flaunts her figure in a skintight blue dress

Rebel Wilson sent fans wild on Thursday when she showed off her incredible figure in a tight blue dress on Instagram. And now some of Hollywood's biggest stars have joined in, praising the 40-year-old comedian for her sensational new look. 'If I could like this picture numerous time I would... MY GOD WOMAN!' Australian actress Ruby Rose commented. 'You look amazing!' Rebel Wilson's famous friends have gone wild over her latest look, after she showed off her figure in a tight blue dress on Thursday  'Sweet baby Jesus! You look amazing,' added Rebel's personal trainer Jono Castano. 'Werk. You delicious babe!' Oscar winner Octavia Spencer said, while actor Hugh Sheridan commented: 'You look so HOT!' Rebel's Pitch Perfect co-star Shelley Regner also commented with several heart-eye emoji's and wrote: 'Magnificent!' Olympian Rennae Stubbs wrote: 'Look at this supermodel.'  High praise: 'If I could like this pict