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US now seeking social media details from all visa applicants

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WASHINGTON, DC, United States (AP) — The State Department is now requiring nearly all applicants for US visas to submit their social media usernames, previous e-mail addresses, and phone numbers. It’s a vast expansion of the Trump Administration’s enhanced screening of potential immigrants and visitors.

In a move that’s just taken effect after approval of the revised application forms, the department says it has updated its immigrant and nonimmigrant visa forms to request the additional information, including “social media identifiers” from almost all US applicants.

The change, which was proposed in March 2018, is expected to affect about 15 million foreigners who apply for visas to enter the United States each year.

“National security is our top priority when adjudicating visa applications, and every prospective traveller and immigrant to the United States undergoes extensive security screening,” the department said. “We are constantly working to find mechanisms to improve our screening processes to protect US citizens, while supporting legitimate travel to the United States.”

Social media, e-mail and phone number histories had only been sought in the past from applicants who were identified for extra scrutiny, such as people who’d travelled to areas controlled by terrorist organisations. An estimated 65,000 applicants per year had fallen into that category.

The department says collecting the additional information from more applicants “will strengthen our process for vetting these applicants and confirming their identity”.

The new rules apply to virtually all applicants for immigrant and nonimmigrant visas. When it filed its initial notice to make the change, the department estimated it would affect 710,000 immigrant visa applicants and 14 million nonimmigrant visa applicants, including those who want to come to the US for business or education.

The new visa application forms list a number of social media platforms and require the applicant to provide any account names they may have had on them over the previous five years. They also give applicants the option to volunteer information about social media accounts on platforms not listed on the form.

In addition to their social media histories, visa applicants are now asked for five years of previously used telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, international travel and deportation status, as well as whether any family members have been involved in terrorist activities.

Only applicants for certain diplomatic and official visa types are exempted from the requirements.

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Ocho Rios Orchid Society gives back

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Ocho Rios Orchid Society gives back

Saturday, August 24, 2019

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The Ocho Rios Orchid Society is still basking in the success of its 27th Annual Orchid Show which it described as a delightful family event.

The show, held earlier this year, featured “breathtaking orchid displays complemented by dance items, fashion show and several booths showcasing a wide array of craft, clothing, jewellery and myriad plants”, the society said in a news release.

Known for making donations to various organisations from the proceeds of the show over the years, the society allocated funds from this year’s event to:

* Our Lady of Fatima Church Feeding Programme;

* Exchange All-Age School;

* Ocho Rios Baptist Church Feeding Programme;

* Mustard Seed Communities; and

* St Ann’s Bay Hospital.

President of the Orchid Society Andrea Davidson stated that she and her members were pleased to be able to make the contributions and “will continue to do so in the future”.

“Through these donations the members hope that they would have made a positive contribution not only to these organisations but to the people that each one serves,” the society said, and expressed thanks to the patrons who continue to support the show annually and whose patronage has helped to make the donations possible.

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NEPA briefs municipal corporations on proposed Cockpit Country Protected Area

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NEPA briefs municipal corporations on proposed Cockpit Country Protected Area

Saturday, August 24, 2019

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Fourteen representatives from municipal corporations in Trelawny, St Ann, St James, Manchester, Clarendon and St Elizabeth participated in a briefing on the proposed Cockpit Country Protected Area (CCPA) on Wednesday at the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) head office.

The meeting was convened to brief mayors, chief executive officers and other senior municipal representatives on the process adopted by the Government in declaring the proposed CCPA boundaries, explain the accompanying initiatives and actions for areas outside of the boundary, provide information and clarification on mandatory environmental impact assessment (and archaeological impact assessment) and the plans to develop and implement a management plan for the area.

Peter Knight, NEPA chief executive officer and government town planner who chaired the meeting, stated that “the Government, led by Prime Minister Holness, is to be credited with providing leadership and working diligently in partnership with the key environmental and planning agencies and departments and other stakeholders in collectively agreeing on a boundary referred to as the CCPA”.

The briefing included a presentation on the CCPA, highlighting its significance and raising awareness of the proposed CCPA as a no-mining zone as designated by the Cabinet.

Following the presentation, representatives from the municipal corporations sought clarification on issues regarding the CCPA, including the considerations in the definition of the proposed boundary and progress of the on-the-ground verification (“ground truthing”) process to outline the boundary.

“We are glad for this meeting so that we can relay these facts to our councillors. There is a lot of misinformation and the people have the right to be informed properly,” said Trelawny mayor, Councillor Colin Gager. “We do applaud the bold move by the prime minister to identify a boundary.”

Other mayors expressed similar sentiments, saying that the briefing was overdue and that they were now placed in a better position to assist with the dialogue on the CCPA.

Representatives from partner State entities, including the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Water Resources Authority, and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority were present at the briefing to respond to queries.

After extensive consultations and deliberations, the area designated as the proposed Cockpit Country Protected Area was announced in Parliament on November 21, 2017 by Prime Minister Holness.

The proposed CCPA spans six parishes — Trelawny, St Ann, St James, Manchester, Clarendon and St Elizabeth. The area comprises approximately 74,726 hectares and will be protected under law. This includes existing forest reserves, significant hydrological, ecological feature, and cultural and heritage sites. A management plan will be prepared in partnership with private landowners, local groups and other stakeholders.

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NEPA empowers Trelawny youth with summer programme

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NEPA empowers Trelawny youth with summer programme

Saturday, August 24, 2019

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The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) is reporting that this year’s Summer Library Programme, put on by the Sharon O’Connor Documentation Centre, has empowered youngsters aged 4-15 years to make environmentally conscious decisions.

Held under the theme ‘Protecting our Environment’, the programme engaged participants at the Trelawny Parish Library in Falmouth and the branch libraries at Duncans, Clark’s Town, and Wakefield.

According to NEPA Senior Librarian Kay-Ann Miller, “the topics for this year’s programme were selected based on the environmental issues facing communities in Trelawny, as gleaned from discussions with Suzette Morgan, senior librarian in the Trelawny Parish Library Network.

“It was important to cover topics relevant to their environment, including beaches and coastal erosion, practising the 4-Rs — reduce, reuse, recycle, refuse — the ban on single-use plastics, composting, and the effects of deforestation,” Miller added.

In addition to displays on environmental and planning issues presented by NEPA officials, the programme’s participants were exposed to information focusing on pollution, marine and terrestrial ecosystems, and biodiversity.

Another key component of the Summer Library Programme was a Poster and Collage competition for children aged 9-15 and 4-8 years. Winners were awarded book vouchers. In addition, the five libraries in the parish network were also presented with books on Jamaica’s flora and fauna, as well as art and craft supplies for the programme’s participants.

The National Baking Company sponsored snacks for participants for the duration of the programme.

Morgan expressed gratitude to the NEPA team for facilitating the programme, saying, “We appreciate NEPA’s efficiency, organisation and communication throughout the programme and we are grateful to the agency for investing in Trelawny’s youth. The sponsorship of the stationery and art supplies was a huge help as students are now able to have adequate supplies.”

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