America, Bad Journalism, immigration, media, Mediocrity, Nonsense, Serious Writing, US Presidential Elections

New H1B Bill: How the Indian Media Provided False Information

Note: This is the second post on this topic. In the first post, I explained what the current H1B law provides for and what exactly the bill proposes to change. Please read that to get a full understanding of the situation. 

The Protect and Grow American Jobs Act that was reintroduced last week by Rep Darrell Issa (R-CA) has received a large amount of attention from the Indian media due to its specific targeting of H1B visa changes. I have discussed in detail what the current law is and what the bill does previously. In this post, I will cover how the Indian media has incorrectly reported this bill.

To summarize the impacts of the bill, the following points should be sufficient:

  1. This bill applies only to H1B Dependent Employer (HDE) companies (those that have more than 15% of their workforce under H1B visas) and Willful Violator (WV) companies. It DOES NOT apply to ALL H1B visa seekers.
  2. The HDE and WV companies, unlike the rest of them, are required to recruit an American worker before applying a H1B visa for a foreign worker. They also cannot fire an American worker within 90 days before and 90 days after an H1B foreign worker is hired. They also cannot post the H1B worker at a different employer’s office. This is done to reduce visa abuse, to offer basic protection to American workers, and to ensure that only the best workers are hired under H1B.
  3. Under the current law, the additional requirements for HDE and WV companies, as shown in #2, can be easily bypassed in either of two ways. One is by hiring a foreign worker who has a Master’s degree in the area of the job. Second is by offering the foreign worker a minimum pay of $60,000 per annum. These two ‘exemptions’ allow the HDE and WV companies to bypass the additional requirements, thus making it very easy for them to abuse the visa system. (See the Disney H1B lawsuit for example).
  4. The new bill aims to change two things in the criteria that allows the HDE and WV companies to bypass the additional requirements (in #2). One, it aims to increase the minimum pay to $100,000 per annum. Second, it removes the Master’s degree exemption – meaning you cannot bypass the additional requirements just because the H1B worker the company plans to hire has a Master’s degree. This aims to close the loophole that allows visa abuses to take place.

So that was a summary of what is happening here. Now let us look at how the Indian media is reporting this news.

I will start with the most egregious falsification: The Hindu. The Hindu news article lists 6 separate items that it says the Bill aims to do. Only one of these is even partly correct. The rest are just outrageous falsifications. Let us look at them:

  • The Bill prohibits companies from hiring H1-B employees if they employ more than 50 people and more than 50 per cent of their employees are H1-B and L-1 visa holders. ABSOLUTELY INCORRECT. There is no such language in the bill at all. Even the HDE company definition is incorrect going by this rule.
  • The Bill encourages companies to recruit American workers. This provision would crack down on outsourcing companies that import large numbers of H-1B and L-1 workers for short training periods and then send these workers back to their home country to do the work of Americans, the Senators who introduced the Bill had said. This is a very generic statement offering no specific information on how the bill aims to do this. As a general intent of the bill, it is correct. But there is no language listing this explicitly. 
  • It explicitly prohibits replacement of American workers by H1-B or L-1 visa holders. ABSOLUTELY INCORRECT. The general intent to not replace American workers is indeed contained in the bill, as it is in the current law. But there is no ‘explicit’ language in the bill that talks about prohibiting replacement of American workers. 
  • The Bill seeks to give the Department of Labour enhanced authority to review, investigate and audit employer compliance as well as to penalise fraudulent or abusive conduct. ABSOLUTELY INCORRECT. Again, this is a very generic statement offering no information. More importantly, the bill text itself does not include any language in this regard. 
  • The Bill seeks to increase the minimum salary of H1-B visa holders to $1,00,000 per annum. INCORRECT AND MISLEADING. As discussed in the summary above, the minimum salary only applies to the H1B workers under the HDE companies seeking to bypass the additional requirements. This DOES NOT APPLY to all H1B visa holders, as this statement suggests.
  • Currently, firms need not go through extensive paperwork if the potential H1-B employee has an equivalent of a Master’s degree or higher and he or she is paid at least $60,000 annually. The Bill aims to do away with the Master’s degree exemption (as “they are easily obtained by foreign workers”). PARTLY CORRECT. This is the only bullet point that has even a shred of correct information in it. As seen from the summary, what The Hindu lists as ‘extensive paperwork’ are essentially additional requirements that (only) the HDE and WV companies have to adhere to in order to ensure there is no visa abuse. Additionally, this statement mentions the Master’s degree exemption, but does not state what the exemption is for!

There is absolutely no excuse or justification for publishing such large amounts of wrong information on a leading national daily website (and presumably their newspaper as well). I am currently preparing an email to the Editor of The Hindu pointing out this outrageous misinformation. I do not expect a response, however.

The next biggest blunder I saw was from Zee News. Their article listed 3 separate items as part of the bill and its impacts. Here they are:

  • To get H1B visa approved, you will have to fit in the salary bracket of $100,000 a year, up from $60,000 currently. ABSOLUTELY INCORRECT. This only applies for HDE companies looking to bypass additional requirements.
  • One will need to have a Master’s degree, as recognized by the US. ABSOLUTELY INCORRECT!! Removing the Master’s degree exemption language is foolishly misinterpreted as a Master’s degree ‘requirement’! 
  • It is estimated that any change on visa law will largely impact companies who have more than 50 employees based in the US. INCORRECT. The HDE companies are those that have 15% or more of their workforce under H1B visas. Companies even under 50 employees have the HDE categorization. 

It should be noted that the Master’s degree ‘requirement’ mentioned above is actually being listed in many newspapers and websites. This is completely incorrect. There is no such requirement at all! Do not confuse the removal of the Master’s degree exemption to the ‘requirement’ of a Master’s degree!

\[UPDATE March 29th 2017]\

One of the journalistic sources that I have been personally reading for the past 3 years and would strongly recommend is The Caravan Magazine. Its writing primarily includes long form journalism and has generally provided very high quality articles – albeit with a left-leaning perspective. However, I was particularly disappointed with the way the magazine had covered this H1B bill’s developments in this February’s edition. This error becomes even more egregious considering the writer is a Professor of Political Science at Indiana University and is an author of multiple books. It is difficult to comprehend how something as simple as this escapes folks who are expected to be well informed.  Here is what it states and how it is incorrect:

  • ….the bill proposes to raise the minimum salary of H1-B professionals from $60k to $100k, making it costlier for employers to hire foreign workers. INCORRECT AND MISLEADING. As discussed in the summary above, the minimum salary only applies to the H1B workers under the HDE companies seeking to bypass the additional requirements. This DOES NOT APPLY to all H1B visa holders, as this statement suggests.
  • It also promises to end a provision that allows as many as 20,000 foreign nationals in excess of the annual H1-B quota to avail of the visa if they hold a Master’s degree. This is the part which particularly disappointed me. The Master’s degree exemption that is discussed in the bill is essentially the loophole through which HDE companies can bypass a lot of additional requirements. It has absolutely NOTHING to do with the existing quota of 20,000 H1B visas being issued to people with Master’s degrees from US Universities. These are two separate and independent things. Even just the most cursory reading of the bill will make it clear.

I have written to The Caravan requesting them to issue a retraction on their upcoming issue. (There was none issued in the March edition). I am hopeful that they will.

\[UPDATE March 29th 2017]\

\UPDATE May 30th 2017\

The Caravan responded to my email and have issued a correction in their online and print article to reflect the correct information.

\[UPDATE May 30th 2017]]

Let’s move on to other big publications. Websites of Times of India, The Indian Express, Live Mint, and Economic Times all include more or less the same statement regarding this bill:

The bill among other things increase the minimum salary of H-1B visa to $100,000 per annum and eliminate the Masters Degree exemption.

And as we have seen, this is only partly correct and also does not include any information on what the actual exemption is. Additionally, the Economic Times ran a slightly different spin on this statement. This is what it said:

The new bill would require workers on the H-1B visa pay a minimum of $100,000, up from $60,000 currently. The bill also removes the Master’s degree exemption to the cap on the number of visas available.

The second line is what is total garbage. There is no impact to the ‘cap on number of visas available’ as this report states. The Master’s degree exemption is completely unrelated to the H1B visa cap of 85,000 per year. Completely false information!

I do not have access to all the local newspapers which may be carrying different incorrect versions of this information. But I do suspect most of these versions were covered by the big newspapers (not a compliment!). I do not know exactly what was discussed in all the ‘panel discussions’ on news channels, so I cannot comment on that. However, I do not expect it to be any different than what I have seen on the websites. I was also appalled at people in high positions in various big name companies provide quotes on this matter without knowing anything about it in the first place.

What did concern me though was that this false information was said to have caused a fall in the share price of these big IT companies. This should not happen. The media loves to profit from sensationalizing new developments. But in the process, it should also be made aware of its responsibilities to report correct news. This is not something that should even be pointed out. It should form the basic bedrock of their whole operation. But the fact that a regular guy like me can dig up the correct information within an hour – all on the internet – while paid journalists do not bother to do so, and in fact report falsified information, is a definite cause for concern.

The Oxford Dictionary listed ‘post-truth’ to be the word of the year 2016. Its definition is: Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. We always counted on the news media to show us what is actual truth and what is not – to separate the facts from the claims. But not any more. It now appears that as citizens of the world, we now need to verify what the media is reporting (or not reporting) prior to believing them. It is indeed a scary realization of today’s world – that the media is, in fact, part of the ‘post-truth world’.

I am sure that makes a sensational news story.

Arbit, Bangalore Concerts, Engineer, My sense of Humour

Strawberry Field 2008 Finals: A Review

This post would never have been written but Times of India, India’s most redundant newspaper has really compelled me to get my ass down to write a non-redundant post after a long time. Here is what happened:

I had been to the Finals of Strawberry Fields 2008 organized by National Law School yesterday evening along with my eager cousin who had never seen a live performance before. I had assured him that this was going to be worth it as Strawberry Fields was widely considered as the best Rock competition among semi-pro bands in India. Now let me put it this way.  The event took place. I came back. Today evening I get hold of TOI just to see the coverage of the show (oh and for all of you who didnt know, TOI was the main sponsor for SF 08). I go through the almost full page article. And I almost died of laughing my ass out! The nimrod, whoever it was, had probably written the most optimistic and politically correct review of any rock show that has ever taken place! Let me explain in detail now. But first let me give you my own brief review of the evening.

First finalist to take stage were BLOOD  AND IRON.  Their songs were mainly melodic metal with very evident influences of Bodom. The songs had a good rhythm and they were actually able to inject melody into all their originals. The lead guitarist was just awesome with the first lead he played but thereafter the leads became a little arbit.  They kept belting out heavy numbers with the Keyboard dude easily stealing the show. They ended with ANARCHY, which was really worth listening to. The band as a whole also had a prominent stage presence in spite of the heavy rain that lashed during their time. I may not be a sound technical guy in music but I kept feeling that they sound more and more like Bodom. A little more originial sound is definitely possible with these guys. Looking forward to more from this band.

Next up were ROSEMARY. Ok here is the thing again. I may not be a great technical music guy but I know enough music to figure out when a singer is singing on a different key with respect to the rest of the instruments. This was a glaring example and in addition to that, the vocalist as such didn’t have much of a smooth and controlled voice. Now let me get straight to the end and reveal that this band actually won SF 08. Even then, I still maintain that, apart from the bass and the bass-drum co-ordination, there wasn’t much in their originals. And their first song had very significant sounds of Audioslave like music with their next  songs sounding like Tool covers (or were they indeed Tool covers??). Somewhere further down, they switched to some kind of New age Pop/Rock and even went on to sound like John Mayer. Seriously, I am not joking! But I wil take nothing away from them in the way they covered Come Together by The Beatles. They played that one track awesome. But the rest of the time, it might have as well been some band playing backstage as these guys had absolutely no damn stage presence whatsoever. I mean I don’t remember anyone introducing the band. The guy  came on stage and just started playing! Not one word uttered to the audience apart from “This next song is called …..” And rightly so, the crowd very effectively conveyed their intentions and desires with some single fingered gestures and F-word filled phrases! But seriously speaking, the band had like zero performance value. I am not ignorant to say they are no good or anything like that. The parts when the vocalist wasn’t singing sounded very much like Tool and it sounded good. But they were all short lived. The bass was indeed good with the bassist winning the Best Bassist of the evening. But I would really like to see some more controlled and in-tune vocals man…. Anyway, congrats on winning the SF 08.

Next up were Metal Messiah who, I felt, had the best vocalist among all the bands. The important thing about his vocals was that he made it look very easy. It was as if he was born with such a voice. The band played some very hard thrash metal songs with 1 or 2 covers as well. Push It was particularly well performed and again, the singer made it look so damn easy to get that gruff voice in a controlled manner. The band had a decent stage presence as well and all in all, they were good.

After this, Chilli Potato took stage and I remember them from their visit to my college Fest- Incident ’07 where they played and won. I remember they played well then but yesterday was real bad. There was this blatant lack of co-ordination between the band members and that manifested in not being able to make out when a song started and when it ended. In spite of that, the lead for the first song that they played was awesome and I suspect he played it on the Blues scale. And dude, was that a Les Paul that you had?? And if yes, was it a Gibson???(Say yes, say yes!!) Perhaps all my fellow NITKians will recall this band as the one that performed a Rock version of Raj Kumar’s cult hit IF YOU COME TODAY during INCI ’07!! They did perform it again last night too but I guess not all the guys in the crowd had heard the original. Dude, I would watch you play IF YOU COME TODAY any number of times, but please ring in some co-ordination and also make more (and definitely louder) use of your guitar(if it is indeed a Les Paul!)

Last band to perform was GREYSHACK and by this time, I was unsuccessfully hunting the stalls for some food. Though I didn’t listen to them with full attention, the thing that was most clear was the original sound that this band had. They had these real good listenable originals and played a memorable cover of Day Tripper by The Beatles. They also played a nice medley which included Purple Haze, Hush and a couple other songs. Like I said, I wasn’t paying full attention but I would love to see this band again.

So that was the way the Finalists turned out. Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, I see a chic in a white T-Shirt jumping around on the stage. Apparently she was part of a band called THE EXTRAMENTALISTS or something like that. And I immediately took a strong disliking to their music. The female singer was really over enthusiastic and was also clearly singing on a different key than the rest of the group. Their originals were unfortunately pretty bland and there wasn’t anything else to look for in the music anyway. But after a couple of forgettable songs, the vocalist chic came up with this real good rendition of Beautiful Stranger by Madonna. That was followed by the only original song that actually sounded decent. The keyboards were good and the chic’s voice was properly in tune this time. But when the chorus began, it again went out of harmony. The parts of the song other than the chorus were actually good and melodious but the chorus really needs some working. In the end, the vocalist chic made some rhetorical comments like “We love you Bangalore….You rocked…etc etc” The crowd was like “Yeah Bye B****!” I am not exaggerating here but telling you exactly what I heard from many quarters.

And finally it was time for PENTAGRAM to take stage, and guess what??? There was some “technical glitch”!! And that delayed the show for quite long which didn’t really go down well with the audience. But then eventually Vishal came up on stage and said ” We dont give a f***!” and started the show without any electronic stuff. Now frankly speaking, I am not a big fan of their electronic sound and so when he said there wont be any electronic music, I was real happy. Now there is this thing about Professional acts that really draws me to them. Irrespective of who it is and whether I like their music or not, it is always a treat to watch these professional acts perform live on stage. And I was not at all disappointed when Pentagram screamed into their songs. The sound itself was so damn different and clear cut. The instruments sounded a lot more clear individually yet were in perfect co-ordination and the Bass! My god the Bass was perhaps the best part of the entire performance. You realize that the Bass is there because each and every note is serving a purpose mainly because it has a purpose of being there! But the best song performance of the evening has to be Pentagram’s cover of Freddie Mercury’s Living on My Own. That song was awesome! His vocals were clear cut and it could have as well been Freddie himself singing on stage. But unfortunately Pentagram could not play long as our famed Bengaluru Police force warned the organizers of the dreaded 10 PM deadline! So they played one last sont- VOICE- and ended the show. Pentagram’s performance was by far the best deal in the entire show. I could have as well had my dinner and left to NLS at 9:45 PM and I would still have been in time to see their performance.

Now about the TOI nonsense, you can catch the entire dumb shit TOI article on SF here, here and here . Or you can read the entire nonsense here by changing the date to 24 Nov Monday 2008. But first, I have to warn you against the sudden optimism it is likely to create. Beware of that!

First thing, the dude who wrote the article could not make up his mind if it was a 1500 strong crowd or a 2000 strong crowd. One place he says 1500 and then suddenly shoots it to 2000. Not that I expected him to count exactly how many were there, it’s just that I expected some consistency in reporting.

Next up, this writer guy says, “As the rain ceased, the mood reached feverpitch, with the crowd cheering wildly to the performance!” And he was referring to ROSEMARY’s performance! Dude, do your ears and eyes work or is it that your brain can’t distinguish between ‘cheering wildly’ and asking the band to “f*** off!”? Or perhaps you mistook the middle finger to mean the same thing as the Sign of the Horns- yeah that makes sense!

And about the Pentagram performance, perhaps you forgot the frustrating delay before their show started and if you were present at the back, perhaps you also forgot some very relevant remarks shouted by one impatient fan in Kannada including:

1. Nin Akkan! Haadu shuru mado nan Magane!

2. Eh BODA!

3. Naale haadthyeno nan magane??!!?


“Pentagram simply thrilled the gathered fans with an unforgettable performance.”- yeah like a performance that lasted for 4-5 songs! Hey didn’t that last band GREYSHACK perform more songs??? Or that chic’s band- I think they sang more than Pentagram!

“Kartikeya Dar, a St Joseph’s student, said the band had exceeded all his expectations and was ‘simply fabulous”—– 5 songs???Thats it?? That exceeded your expectations???!!??? Dude are you depressed in life or something??

“It rounded off it performance with Voice and left the audience asking for an encore.”—  First, get your grammar right and then again, you conveniently forgot to mention the ‘Timely’ intervention of our Bengaluru police to stop the show. Encore… Yeah right!

“Earlier, Shruti Haasan and her band The Extramentals regaled the audience with a enthralling performance”—Dude, do you even know how to write in English? Didn’t you learn in kindergarten that the article used before a word starting with a vowel should be ‘an’ and not ‘a’?? And now exactly when did the meaning of REGALED change from ‘to entertain lavishly or agreeably’ to ‘Getting the crowd to chant F*** off continuously’???!!??

The band proved to be a strong act, and was a hit with the youngsters.”—- And all this time I thought people shouting “Yeah Bye B****!” was a sign of disapproval….

And here is the biggest blunder! Unbelievable really, considering the fact that TOI were the main sponsor for SF ’08! Basically, the 2nd page of TOI 24 Nov Monday edition had this huge photo of 2 guys with guitars-one with lead and other with bass. Now I don’t know about you, but I would really make sure I get the caption right in such big photos. But apparently this dude didn’t bother! He put up a pic of Chilli Potato and in the caption, he has boldly written “Metal Messiah, one of the finalists, performs at The Times of India-Strawberry Fields 2008 on Sunday”!!!!!???!!!

Ah Man! That sucks! More than for all the readers who now believe Chilli Potato is Metal Messiah, my heart really goes out to all the members of both Chilli Potato and Metal Messiah! What a screw up!!But again, what did you expect? This is after all, Times of India dude!

And I am so happy that I don’t subscribe to TOI. After all, TOI has the most number of hate communities and forums for an Indian newspaper on the Internet. It’s all not  for no reason you know….