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U.S. rejects 30 Syrian refugees amid tightened security

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syrian refugees

WASHINGTON : The United States has recently rejected 30 Syrians out of thousands seeking to enter the country, Obama administration officials told a congressional panel on Wednesday, as the United States tightens vetting of immigrants and other visitors following attacks in California and Paris.

In addition, hundreds of applications from Syrian refugees have been put on hold and many might ultimately be rejected, Leon Rodriguez, director of the Citizenship and Immigration Services unit of the Department of Homeland Security, told the committee.

A spokesman for Rodriguez later said that the 30 Syrian refugee applications had been rejected over the last 16 months.

At a time when millions of refugees are arriving in Europe and elsewhere from the Middle East and Africa, Democratic President Barack Obama’s pledge to take in 10,000 people fleeing war-torn Syria has come under fire, especially from Republicans. The United States so far has admitted 2,000 refugees.

Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee, said at a hearing that authorities have identified about 40 violent militants who had attempted to enter Europe posing as refugees.

Other committee Republicans at the hearing questioned why the Obama administration wanted to admit any Syrian refugees, given that the Syria-based Islamic State movement has pledged to attack the United States and other western countries.

“Our intelligence community has … told me that individuals with terrorism ties in Syria have already tried to gain access to our country through the refugee program,” McCaul said.

“What’s even more concerning is that top officials have testified before this committee that intelligence gaps prevent us from being able to confidently weed out terrorists,” he said.

Rodriguez and other Homeland Security and State Department officials told the committee that U.S. procedures for vetting Syrian refugees were among the most rigorous in the world.

U.S. agencies have tightened procedures for checking backgrounds of would-be U.S. immigrants and visitors after a recent arrival from the Middle East was one of two shooters who killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California.

Francis Taylor, the Homeland Security Department’s intelligence chief, said his department was routinely doing social media checks on would-be immigrants and visitors.

Election

United States Presidential Election on Nov 3 as planned: WH officials

Election Day takes place on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, as determined by federal law. Moving the date would require an act of Congress.

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Washington, Aug 3 : White House officials have confirmed that the upcoming US presidential election will be held as planned on November 3 after President Donald Trump raised the possibility of delaying it.

Speaking to CBS News on Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said the President was only raising concerns about mail-in ballots when he floated the idea of delaying election in a tweet last week.

“We’re going to hold an election on November 3 and the President is going to win,” Xinhua news agency quoted Meadows as saying to CBS News.

The Chief of Staff added that Trump “has not looked at delaying any election”.

Meadows’s remarks were echoed by presidential campaign adviser Jason Miller, who told Fox News on Sunday that “the election is going to be on November 3 and President Trump wants the election to be on November 3”.

In his tweet on July 29, Trump claimed — without providing any proof or evidence — that “universal mail-in voting” would make November’s vote “the most inaccurate & fraudulent election in history”.

“It will be a great embarrassment to the USA,” he said.

“Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???”

But later in the day, Trump said that he did not want to delay the election, saying: “I don’t want a delay. I want to have the election… But I don’t want to see a crooked election.

“But I also don’t want to have to wait for three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing and the election doesn’t mean anything. That’s what’s going to happen… that’s common sense. Mail-in ballots will lead to the greatest fraud.”

Trump’s delay tweet immediately ignited a political firestorm and drew bipartisan pushback from Capitol Hill, as legal analysts agreed that Trump has no authority to delay the election as the US Constitution gives Congress the power to set the date.

Election Day takes place on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, as determined by federal law. Moving the date would require an act of Congress.

Top Republicans — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — both dismissed the idea.

Trump ally Senator Lindsay Graham meanwhile said a delay was “not a good idea”.

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Health

Pakistan’s Punjab province lifts COVID-19 lockdown

Punjab has reported 24 new cases of the coronavirus and four more fatalities, according to the government’s COVID-19 portal.

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Pakistan Lockdown
Main Market Islamabad Lal Chowk (Picture @listenAashiq)

Lahore, Aug 3 : Pakistan’s Punjab province, the second worst-hit in the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, has lifted a lockdown amid a continued fall in the number of positive cases, it was reported on Monday.

The lockdown was imposed till August 5 across the province ahead of Eid-ul-Adha in a bid to contain the spread of coronavirus, reports The Express Tribune.

But it was lifted on Sunday, a day ahead of the given date.

In a notification, the provincial health department said all business except those which fall in “negative list” will be allowed to operate from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Monday to Friday

The new directives came into effect on Monday.

Punjab has reported 24 new cases of the coronavirus and four more fatalities, according to the government’s COVID-19 portal.

This has taken the total cases in the province to 93,197 while the death toll has risen to 2,148.

More than 82,000 people have recovered from the virus in the province so far.

Pakistan has so far recorded a total of 279,966 cases, with 5,982 deaths.

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World

Iranian prez voices hope for durable peace in Afghanistan

Rouhani also highlighted the boost of ties between Tehran and Kabul on different fronts and called for tapping into the existing economic, trade and transit potentials.

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

Theran, Aug 3 : The Iranian president expressed hope that dialogue among Afghan political groups will result in durable peace in Afghanistan, official IRNA news agency reported.

In a phone conversation with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday, Hassan Rouhani welcomed the cease-fire in the neighboring country and expressed hope that a temporary truce will lead to standing tranquility and drop of violence in Afghanistan, Xinhua news agency reported.

He announced Iran’s consistent support for the peace process led by the Afghan government.

Rouhani also highlighted the boost of ties between Tehran and Kabul on different fronts and called for tapping into the existing economic, trade and transit potentials.

For his part, Ghani expressed satisfaction with the interaction of the private sectors of the two countries and the economic ties between Iran and Afghanistan.

He also thanked Iran for backing peace efforts in Afghanistan.

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