SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Wednesday published new rule for passengers arriving in the U.S. – the standard Form I-94, which serves as the arrival and departure record and is stapled to passengers’ passports, will soon be automated and in electronic form only.
From April 26, 2013, Form I-94, which essentially provides “non-immigrants” with evidence that they have been lawfully admitted to the U.S., will no longer be in paper form and hence obviates the need to complete this paperwork prior to landing at a U.S. airport or seaport, according to a CBP notification.
The CBP however clarified that individuals who go through “secondary inspection,” which is a closer examination of personal effects and travel circumstances, “will be provided a paper copy of Form I-94 by a CBP officer.” This would apply to such as asylees, refugees, and parolees, as typical examples. This change, which is an “interim final rule,” in the arrivals procedures, is aimed at streamlining the admissions process for non-immigrants arriving in the U.S.
Until now, typically, arriving non-immigrants, known in U.S. immigration parlance as “aliens,” present the completed I-94 form to the CBP Officer at primary inspection. The officer stamps the Form I-94 and the passenger’s passport, detaches the bottom portion of the form, which is the departure portion, and returns it to them along with the passport. The admission stamp contains the port of arrival and date of arrival, is annotated with the class of admission and admitted-to date.
The top, arrival portion of the form would usually be sent to a data entry facility, where the information on the form is entered into CBP’s computer systems and the lower, departure portion of the Form I-94 retained by the passenger may be shown to government or other stakeholders when required.
However with the implementation of what is called the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) CBP now collects information on “aliens travelling by air or sea to the U.S. electronically from carriers in advance of arrival.” Since nearly all the information collected on the Form I-94 is collected electronically via APIS, CBP also now uses the electronic system to document an alien's arrival and departure in advance.
The few fields on the Form I-94 that are not collected via APIS are either already collected by the Department of State and transmitted to CBP or will be collected by the CBP Officer from the individual at the time of inspection, the CBP clarified.
While the change may not make any difference to the actual numbers of arriving non-immigrants into the U.S. the streamlining of the process is likely to make the entire experience simpler less time-consuming. The change comes even as the federal government continues to debate comprehensive immigration reform, likely to be pushed for passage into law during this second Obama administration.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –A car bomb blast killed five Americans, including three U.S. soldiers and a young diplomat, on Saturday, while an American civilian died in a separate attack in the east.
The diplomat and other Americans were in a convoy of vehicles in Zabul province when the blast occurred, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement.
The soldiers and the diplomat died in the blast along with a civilian employee of the Defense Department and Afghan civilians, Kerry said. His statement gave no overall death toll.
The Washington Post identified the diplomat as Anne Smedinghoff, 25, citing her parents. Smedinghoff was Kerry's embassy guide and aide when he visited Afghanistan last month, the paper said.
Local and international officials in the region said earlier that six people died in the blast: three U.S. soldiers, two U.S. civilians and an Afghan doctor.
Provincial governor Mohammad Ashraf Nasery was in the convoy, but was unharmed, local and NATO officials said.
"Our American officials and their Afghan colleagues were on their way to donate books to students in a school in Qalat, the province's capital, when they were struck by this despicable attack," Kerry said in his statement.
He said he had met the diplomat during a trip to Kabul, and spoke to her parents after her death. Four other U.S. diplomats were wounded, one critically, Kerry said in his statement.
The convoy was near a hospital and a NATO base at the time of the explosion. Five Afghans, including a student and two reporters, were wounded, a local official said.
The attack came as the top U.S. general, Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in the country for a short visit to assess how much training Afghan troops need before U.S. troops pull out as planned by the end of 2014.
In an attack in Afghanistan's east, an American civilian working with the U.S. government was killed during an insurgent attack, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said in a statement.
Zabul shares borders with Pakistan to the southeast and Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban, to the south.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Zabul attack in a text message from spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi. He said a car bomb killed seven foreigners and wounded five others, although he later revised the toll to 13 foreigners killed and nine wounded.
The Taliban routinely exaggerates casualty figures.
The killings followed a bloody Taliban assault in the country's west on Wednesday that killed 44 people in a courtroom in Farah province. The United Nations says civilians are being increasingly targeted.
In a statement posted online earlier on Saturday, Ahmadi said the Taliban would continue to target Afghan judges and prosecutors.
"The Islamic Emirate, from today onwards, will keep a close watch over courthouses, all its personnel and all those who try to harm Mujahideen and will deal with them the same as the judges and prosecutors of Farah.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Italy's president on Friday pardoned a U.S. Air Force officer convicted of kidnapping an Egyptian Muslim cleric who was taken away for interrogation on a CIA "rendition" flight.
Such covert flights were among the tactics used to wage the "War on Terror" under the administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush, after the 9/11 attacks. They have been condemned by human rights groups as a violation of international agreements.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano said he had pardoned Colonel Joseph L. Romano, who was the only person not a member of the CIA among 23 Americans sentenced for the kidnapping of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr in Milan in 2003.
Romano's lawyer had requested the pardon. The clemency was granted because the United States and Italy are close allies that "share the common goals of promoting democracy and security" around the world, a statement from the president said.
The Egyptian cleric, also known as Abu Omar, was secretly flown to Egypt for interrogation, where he says he was tortured for seven months. He was a resident in Italy at the time of the abduction.
Italy was the first country to convict American nationals for their involvement in a rendition.
Romano and 21 others received seven-year jail terms for kidnapping, while the former CIA Milan station chief Robert Seldon Lady was sentenced to nine years in jail.
All were tried in absentia and the Italian government has so far shown little indication it will ask for them to be extradited to serve the terms. No reason was given for why Romano was awarded clemency while the 22 CIA members were not.
U.S. President Barack Obama has tried to distance himself from heavy-handed intelligence tactics employed by the Bush administration, and ordered the CIA to close its long-term prisons in 2009.www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Washington is this week deploying a dozen F/A-18 fighters to the Philippines, the first time it has sent so many of the aircraft there, to take part in annual military drills with a close security ally amid rising tension in the Asia-Pacific region.
The presence of the warplanes is not connected to tensions on the Korean peninsula, a Philippine army spokesman said.
"These exercises were planned more than a year ago, well ahead of what is now happening in the region," Major Emmanuel Garcia said.
The United States plans to send a missile defense system to protect Pacific island Guam, where it has a large military base, after North Korea threatened to launch nuclear attacks on the North American mainland over disagreements on its atomic program.
The bilateral military activities will begin on Friday with 8,000 American and Filipino troops staging mock battles and simulating disaster responses, army spokesman Garcia said.
The war games are being held to test the two allies' defense plans based on the Mutual Defense Treaty, an important link in Washington's chain of security alliances in the Asia-Pacific region. The U.S. has similar military arrangements with South Korea, Japan, Singapore and Australia.
"There will be table top exercises on how the militaries of the two countries would respond to a destructive typhoon as well as in the event of a major ship collision on the high seas," Garcia said, adding the combat aspect would showcase the capability of the U.S. Navy's multi-role fighters.
The Philippines lost its fighter capability around a decade ago after retiring its fleet of Vietnam War-era F-5A/Bs.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – A former U.S. soldier has been arrested and charged with illegally using a weapon on behalf of an al Qaeda-affiliated group in Syria.
Eric Harroun, 30, of Phoenix was arrested Tuesday night by the FBI at a hotel near Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia. A Justice Department official tells CNN that FBI agents questioned Harroun at the hotel, then took him into custody.
Harroun appeared Thursday in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, and was charged in connection with his alleged use of a rocket-propelled grenade in Syria.
The law used to charge him states, "Any national of the United States who, without lawful authority, uses or threatens, attempts, or conspires to use a weapon of mass destruction outside of the U.S. shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, or if death results, may be punished by death."
Harroun served with the U.S. Army from 2000 to 2003. He is not charged with targeting U.S. troops in Iraq.
The organization he allegedly fought with, al-Nusra Front, is one of several aliases used by the al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist organization. The organization claims responsibility for nearly 600 terrorist attacks in Syria, the Justice Department said.
An FBI affidavit says Harroun crossed into Syria in January 2013 and fought against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces. He posted photos and videos of himself on the Internet handling RPGs and other weapons, it said.
The Pentagon declined to comment on Harroun's arrest. However, "It's always a concern when terrorist networks in that part of the world and elsewhere seek to recruit Americans, whether they're in the military or not," spokesman George Little told CNN's Erin Burnett.
"I don't think this is a widespread phenomenon, and most of our people in this country -- and certainly most men and women in the military -- would not consider joining a terrorist network," Little added.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – North Korea, usually blamed for hacking others, has accused the United States of staging cyber attacks against its Internet servers after reports of disruptions to its main news services, the latest twist from an increasingly bellicose North.
Russia’s Itar-Tass news agency said a “powerful hacker attack” from abroad had brought down Internet servers inside the North, disabling access to some websites.
The accusation comes at a time of increased tension between reclusive North Korea and South Korea, along with the South’s ally the United States.
The North has threatened a nuclear war with the United States in response to new United Nations sanctions over its latest nuclear test and to strike back at the South and the United States during military drills they are staging.
South Korea’s MBC television said the North’s state media services were among those affected by the cyber attack.
These included the websites of the KCNA news agency and the official Rodong Sinmun newspaper, which were said to be experiencing disruptions even though they were operating normally on Thursday and Friday.
“It is nobody’s secret that the U.S. and the South Korean puppet regime are massively bolstering up cyber forces in a bid to intensify the subversive activities and sabotages against the DPRK,” KCNA said on Friday.
“Intensive and persistent virus attacks are being made every day on Internet servers operated by the DPRK,” it said.
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK, is the North’s official name.
KCNA and Rodong Sinmun have carried the North’s increasingly strident rhetoric of late, accusing the United States and South Korea of staging preparations for war and vowing to scrap the armistice that stopped fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War.
The North has also threatened to use nuclear weapons against what it called hostile forces.
North Korea in turn has been blamed for spreading malicious software that crashed the websites of government agencies and businesses, and for a cyber attack on a South Korean state-run bank server in 2011 that took more than a week to restore.
North Korea denies charges of cyber attacks and accuses the South of a conspiracy to fuel confrontation, although defectors from the North have warned that Pyongyang was recruiting thousands of computer engineers to its cyber warfare unit.
Military experts said cyber warfare was a major threat from North Korea, along with its conventional forces and its weapons of mass destruction program, that posed a security risk to utilities and communications networks in the South.
North Korea also has been accused of jamming global positioning system signals affecting hundreds of flights at South Korea’s main airport.
Earlier this week, U.S. spy agencies said for the first time that cyber attacks and cyber espionage had supplanted terrorism as the top security threat facing the United States.
The United States and China also are embroiled in a row over cyber warfare, with U.S. President Barack Obama calling his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping to discuss the issue this week.-www.shafaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –The United States and its allies are applying a new form of pressure on North Korea, already facing a tightening ring of United Nations sanctions over its nuclear and missile tests: tougher U.N. censure of Pyongyang's human rights record.
In a move human rights advocates say is long overdue, the European Union and Japan are circulating a resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva calling for a formal commission of inquiry into North Korea's record.
The U.S.-backed move could, in theory, lay the foundation for referring North Korea to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity for its system of gulag penal camps and other serious abuses.
More significantly, former U.S. officials and rights experts say, the action in Geneva is helping to break down a de facto separation of human rights and nuclear diplomacy in Western dealings with North Korea.
"Exposing the North's brutality toward its own citizens has not been a priority component of U.S. policy," Robert Joseph, the top State Department disarmament diplomat in the George W. Bush administration, told a U.S. Senate hearing on Thursday.
"In fact, concerns about how such exposure might affect the prospects for engagement with the regime have worked to place human rights atrocities in a separate box which is mostly neglected if seen as complicating higher order diplomacy," he said, in a view widely shared by the human rights community.
An informal draft of the EU-Japan text was circulated and discussed in Geneva on Friday. It calls for the U.N. Human Rights Council to set up a two-member commission of inquiry for a year to investigate systematic, widespread and grave rights violations in North Korea, diplomats in Geneva said.
NO RUSSIAN, CHINESE INTERFERENCE
Some Asian countries on the council are expected to call for a vote on the resolution in the final week of the four-week annual session, which ends March 22, the diplomats said.
North Korea has been the target of critical U.N. resolutions on its human rights record in Geneva or New York in each of the past 10 years and its prison camps have been the subject of tough reports from the independent U.N. special investigator on North Korea, an Indonesian lawyer named Marzuki Darusman.
But North Korea has vehemently denied all allegations and stonewalled U.N. investigators. And the U.S. policy focus for the past two decades has been not on human rights, but on Pyongyang's expanding nuclear weapons and missile programs that are the subject of multiple rounds of U.N. sanctions.
Frustration with nuclear diplomacy and increasingly belligerent North Korean words and actions have helped overcome concern that pressure on human rights would make the country more suspicious of the outside world.
"North Korea is a country where diplomacy hasn't worked on the nuclear issue and it has utterly and completely failed on human rights, for decades and decades," said John Sifton, Asia advocacy director for the U.S. group Human Rights Watch.
STRENGTHENING INTERNATIONAL RESOLVE
Human Rights Watch and other international groups, as well as rights advocates in Japan andSouth Korea, in 2011 formed the International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea to push for the inquiry and overcome U.N. inertia, Chinese obstruction and the reluctance of Tokyo and Seoul, he said.
"There's supposed to be a roadmap for when a country goes off the rails on human rights and it wasn't happening," Sifton said. "When a country obstructs, obfuscates and thumbs their nose, you're supposed to escalate."
Whether that escalation will have an impact remains unclear, because Pyongyang has never cooperated with previous rights inquiries nor has it even allowed U.N. rights specialists to visit the reclusive country of 23 million people.
Debates continue over whether a rights push will exacerbate the nuclear crisis and whether public shaming or quiet diplomacy is the best way to address what U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay has called "one of the worst - but least understood and reported - human rights situations in the world.
"It's a difficult debate to resolve, but not calling North Korea on the carpet for its abysmal human rights record is not the way to go," said Bruce Klingner, a retired CIA North Korea analyst, now at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank.
A senior U.S. State Department official said the U.N. rights drive helps dispel North Korea's narrative that the small country is merely "standing up against the United States."
"The fact that you've got the Human Rights Council, a body of the United Nations, calling attention to its problems counters the North Korean argument," said the official.
One other potent feature of a resolution setting up a commission of inquiry is that it can only be disbanded after a country significantly addresses the problems, said Sifton.
"China and other countries can't trade this away and end the commission of inquiry because North Korea is cooperating on the nuclear issue," he said.www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –The Afghan Taliban and the United States have been holding talks in the Gulf Arab state of Qatar, Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Sunday.
The Taliban suspended the talks one year ago, blaming "shaky, erratic and vague" U.S. statements.
The U.S. government has said it remained committed to political reconciliation involving talks with the Taliban but progress would require agreement between the Afghan government and the insurgents.
"Senior leaders of the Taliban and the Americans are engaged in talks in the Gulf state on a daily basis," Karzai told a gathering to mark International Women's Day.
But the Taliban spokesman in Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahid, denied that negotiations with the United States had resumed and said no progress had been made since they were suspended.
"The Taliban strongly rejects Karzai's comments," he said.
U.S. officials could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Kabul government has been pushing hard to get the Taliban to the negotiating table before most U.S.-led NATO combat troops withdraw by the end of 2014.
Afghan officials have not held direct talks with the militants, who were toppled in 2001 and have proven resilient after more than a decade of war with Western forces.
U.S. diplomats have been seeking to broaden exploratory talks with the Taliban that began clandestinely in Germany in late 2010 after the Taliban offered to open a representative office in Qatar.
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is in Afghanistan to visit U.S. troops.
Hagel, who arrived on Friday for his first trip abroad as defense secretary, is also due to hold talks with Karzai, whose recent orders to curtail U.S. military activity highlights an often tense relationship with the 66,000 American forces here.
Hagel's visit also coincides with the passing of a deadline imposed by Karzai for U.S. special forces to leave the province of Wardak, after Karzai accused them of overseeing torture and killings in the area.
U.S. forces have denied involvement in any abuses and it was not clear if they were leaving Wardak by the deadline.
Regional power Pakistan indicated a few months ago that it would support the peace process by releasing Afghan Taliban detainees who may help promote the peace process.
But there have been no tangible signs the move advanced reconciliation.www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) –Deadly drug-resistant bacterial infections are on the rise in U.S. hospitals, and federal health officials are asking health care facilities around the country to take urgent action.
These so-called "superbugs" called carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) are dangerous, according to the CDC. They kill one in two patients who develop bloodstream infections from them. Even the most powerful last-resort antibiotics can't treat them.
"CRE are nightmare bacteria. Our strongest antibiotics don't work and patients are left with potentially untreatable infections," Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a statement. "Doctors, nurses, hospital leaders, and public health, must work together now to implement CDC's "detect and protect" strategy and stop these infections from spreading."
The CDC's new Vital Signs report, published March 5 on CDC.gov, details a decade-long rise in rates in inpatient medical care facilities like hospitals, nursing homes and long-term acute care centers that treat patients recovering from serious injuries and illnesses.
CRE infections are caused by a family of germs called Enterobacteriaceae that consist of 70 bacteria, including Klebsiella pneumonia (the bacteria that causes pneumonia and other infections) and E. coli that normally live in your digestive system. Some of the germs have become resistant to the strongest type of antibiotics called carbapenems. Almost all CRE infections happen to patients receiving serious medical care, the CDC said.
CRE were relatively uncommon in the U.S. in 2000, according to the report, which tracked infection rates at more than 3,900 U.S. hospitals from 2001 to 2012. The percentage of reported cases rose from 1 percent of patients in 2001 to 4.2 percent of patients ten years later, with the largest spike in Klebsiella infections.
Forty-two states reported having had at least one patient test positive for one type of CRE with most infections reported in the Northeast. About 18 percent of long-term acute care hospitals and about 4 percent of short-stay hospitals in the U.S. reported at least one CRE infection during the first half of 2012 alone.
While overall rates remain low, the CDC warns that CRE can spread their antibiotic resistance to other germs as well, and routine bladder or wound infections at hospitals could be deadly.
That's why the agency is calling on hospitals to follow an aggressive "Detect and Protect" action plan. Recommendations include enforcing infection control precautions, grouping patients with CRE together and dedicating staff, rooms and equipment to CRE to prevent transmission. Patients should tell doctors if they've been hospitalized in another facility, take their antibiotics exactly as prescribed and insist health care personnel wash their hands before touching them.
CRE can be carried by patients from one health care facility to another so the CDC encourages hospitals to work together regionally to implement CRE prevention programs.
Israel decreased CRE infection rates in all 27 of its hospitals by more than 70 percent in one year with a prevention program, the CDC reported as an example.
"We have seen in outbreak after outbreak that when facilities and regions follow CDC's prevention guidelines, CRE can be controlled and even stopped," said Dr. Michael Bell, acting director of CDC's Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion. "As trusted health care providers, it is our responsibility to prevent further spread of these deadly bacteria.-www.shfaqna.com/English
SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – New federal figures show the amount of heat-trapping carbon dioxide in the air jumped dramatically in 2012, making it very unlikely that global warming can be limited to another 2 degrees. Many governments set a 2-degree increase as the upper limit.
Scientists say the rise in CO2 reflects the global economy revving up and burning more fossil fuels, especially in China.
U.S. government scientists report that carbon dioxide levels jumped by 2.67 parts per million for a total of just under 395 parts per million compared to 2011.
That's the second highest rise in carbon emissions since records started being kept in 1959. Only 1998 had a bigger increase.
Scientists say hopes of limiting warming to 2 degrees are fading away to almost nothing.-www.shfaqna.com/English