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State Department tells embassies to ramp up visa screening

WASHINGTON (AP) — The State Department has ordered American embassies and consulates around the world to draw up criteria for “population sets” needing extra scrutiny before receiving visas to travel to the United States, according to a recent diplomatic cable.

The message also instructed U.S. posts overseas to review the social media accounts of visa applicants who are suspected of terrorist ties or of having been in Islamic State group-controlled areas.

The guidance was sent in a March 17 cable to all U.S. diplomatic missions to help American officials satisfy President Donald Trump’s memorandum for enhanced vetting of visa applicants. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the cable. The State Department wouldn’t comment beyond saying it was working to meet the Trump memorandum’s requirements and that “visitor screening and vetting procedures are designed to effectively identify individuals who could pose a threat to the United States.”

The cable, which was first reported by Reuters, does not define “population sets.” But it quickly drew criticism from rights groups and others who’ve accused Trump of discriminating against Muslims through his now-suspended ban on travelers from six predominantly Muslim countries.

The cable calls for consular chiefs at each post to immediately convene working groups to “develop a list of criteria identifying sets of post applicant populations warranting increased scrutiny” and “attempt to identify individual applicants that fall within the population set during the course of a consular visa interview.” Even if the applicant otherwise qualifies for a visa, those identified as meeting the criteria would require additional scrutiny and possible denial.

Amnesty International on Thursday called for the department to publicize the guidance.

“These measures could provide license for discrimination based on national origin and religion,” the human rights group said in a letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “They could provide a pretext for barring individuals based on their nonviolent beliefs and expression. Social media checks, as well as demands for social media passwords at U.S. borders, have significant implications for privacy and freedom of expression.”

The instructions tells posts to refer any visa applicant who “may have ties to ISIS or to other terrorist organizations or has ever been present in an ISIS-controlled territory” to a Fraud Prevent Unit for a mandatory social media review. The results of that review are to be flagged and entered into the applicant’s file.

Additionally, the cable says consular officers must take into account if an Iraqi visa applicant “was ever present in a territory at the time it was controlled by ISIS.” If the applicant was, such information must be flagged for additional review.

The Trump administration originally included Iraq among the countries affected by its proposed travel ban. After a court blocked the effort, a second executive order removed Iraq from the travel ban. That order also has been suspended by a court.

The cable anticipates the new requirements may cause backlogs in visa processing.

Former Boston drummer Sib Hashian dies at age 67 on cruise

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — John “Sib” Hashian, former drummer for the arena rock band Boston, died on board a cruise ship Wednesday. He was 67.

His son, Adam Hashian, said Thursday a cause of death had not yet been determined.

Hashian was listed as one of the featured performers on the Legends of Rock Cruise, which departed from Miami on Saturday and was scheduled to visit Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.

Hashian played on Boston’s first two hit records, their self-titled debut album in 1976, featuring the hit song “More Than a Feeling,” and the 1978 followup, “Don’t Look Back.” The original band, made up of Tom Scholz, Brad Delp, Barry Goudreau, Fran Sheehan and Hashian, had one of the most successful debut records in history, selling over 17 million copies, with the singles “Long Time” and “Peace of Mind.”

His wife, Suzanne Hashian, said in a statement that arrangements would be made at a later date.

Police: 3 dead, officer wounded in Louisiana shooting

CROWLEY, La. (AP) — Authorities say three people and a police dog are dead and a police officer is wounded after a shooting in south Louisiana.

State Police Trooper Brooks David says a Crowley Police Department officer was shot late Wednesday night while responding to reports of shots fired at a residence.

Crowley Police Chief Jimmy Broussard says police shot and killed a man at the home after he shot the dog and wounded the officer.

The chief says the suspect also shot and killed a woman at the home before police responded. Broussard says investigators believe the man also killed another woman at a home in a different Crowley neighborhood.

The chief says the wounded officer was released from a hospital Thursday after being treated for a gunshot wound to his left thigh.

Virgin America will be the latest airline brand to disappear

DALLAS (AP) — After months of teasing, Alaska Airlines has bad news for loyal customers of Virgin America — their airline’s name is being dumped.

Alaska says it will retire the Virgin brand, probably in 2019.

Virgin America joins Northwest, US Airways, Continental and many others on the scrap heap of airline brands.

With its hip vibe including mood lighting, orders of food and drinks from seat-back screens, and a staff of young, attractive flight attendants, Virgin America stood out from traditional competitors.

After Alaska bought Virgin America last year for $2.6 billion, its CEO held out hope of keeping the name alive. But running an airline within an airline adds complexity and costs, so many in the business aren’t surprised by Alaska’s decision.

British actress Emma Thompson turns down Trump offer

HELSINKI (AP) — British actress Emma Thompson says she once turned down an offer by Donald Trump to stay at the Trump Towers, years before he became the U.S. president.

Speaking on a Scandinavian TV show, Thompson said that while filming the 1998 film “Primary Colors,” the phone in her trailer rang and the voice on the other end said, “Hi, it’s Donald Trump here.”

Thompson said it was “like a moose has just entered my trailer,” as that phone had never rung before.

She said Trump called to offer her “some accommodation in one of my Trump Towers. They’re really comfortable.” She said he added: “I think we would get on very well. Maybe we could have dinner sometime.”

Thompson said she did not accept the offer.

Poland’s top politician: We want Britain close to EU

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s most powerful politician says he will tell British Prime Minister Theresa May that Warsaw would like Britain to keep close ties with the European Union after it leaves the bloc.

Poland’s ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski spoke Thursday on his way to meet May in London. The meeting was planned for Wednesday, but was put off following a deadly attack near the British Parliament in London.

Kaczynski said his message for May was that Poland “deeply regrets Britain’s decision (to leave the EU) but we want it very much to keep very close ties with the EU, with Europe.”

May is to trigger the exit procedure next Wednesday.

Kaczynski was also expected to discuss future rights of hundreds of thousands of Poles living in Britain.

#CantBeatCassiday – 3/23/2017

Each weekday morning Cassiday puts $83.74 of her own money on the line during Can’t Beat Cassiday.  We will play again Friday morning at 7:45! Here are the questions and answers for today! Let us know how you did!

                                                                           CAN’T BEAT CASSIDAY (35-4)

KRISTI YAMAGUCHI TWEETED ‘BREAK A LEG’ TO NANCY KERRIGAN FOR HER DANCING WITH THE STARS DEBUT. WHAT OLYMPIC SPORT DID BOTH KRISTI AND NANCY COMPETE IN?

FIGURE SKATING

BEN STILLER IS AMONG THE CELEBRITIES RAISING MONEY FOR SOMALIA. WHO IS BENS FATHER?

JERRY STILLER

RAPPER P.DIDDY IS TAKING APPLICATIONS FOR HIS CHARTER SCHOOL. WHAT IS P.DIDDYS CLOTHING LINE CALLED?

SEAN JEAN

LORDE, BLINK 182 AND CHANCE THE RAPPER ARE PLAYING THE LOLLAPALOOZA MUSIC FESTIVAL. WHAT CITY IS HOME TO LOLLAPALOOZA?

CHICAGO

A TRAILER WAS RELEASED FOR THE ‘LOVE ACTUALLY’ MINI-SEQUEL. IN THE MOVIE, WHO PLAYED THE CHARACTER DAVID?

HUGH GRANT