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Denied Visa Twice, 6 Afghan Girls Win Silver in Robotics Competition in Washington

The Afghan Girls Robotics Team has won a silver medal for Courageous Achievement

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President Trump
The six girls from Afghanistan that took part in the Robotics Challenge. Twitter
  • 6 Afghan girls won the silver medal at First Global Challenge in Washington for courageous achievement 
  • These girls were refused a visa to the United States twice but received one in the third attempt after President Trump intervened 
  • The awards were given to teams who displayed a can-do attitude

Washington, July 20, 2017: Six girls from Afghanistan were awarded the silver medal at Washington’s First Global Challenge for courageous achievement. The team had been denied a visa to the US twice, but this time President Trump’s intervention at the last minute made sure the girls could demonstrate their intelligence.

The Afghan girl’s team took part in the Robotics Competition. They exhibited their robots that could differentiate and sort out orange and blue balls.

Afghan girl's team take part in the Robotics Competition. Click To Tweet

The team also got the opportunity to meet First Daughter Ivanka Trump. The girl’s robotic team won the medal for courageous achievement, which recognized teams who made it through even in difficult circumstances.

The gold and bronze medal were awarded to teams from South Sudan and Oman respectively.

ALSO READ: US President Donald Trump nominates Indian American Krishna R. Urs to be ambassador to Peru

Denied the visa not once but twice, the girls were indeed disappointed. Fatemah Qaderyan, who spoke to Fox News, expressed her disappointments and also her team’s determination to make it through the obstacles.

The girls hail from Herat, a small town in Afghanistan. They convinced their parents, a big challenge given their cultural background and regional traditions. Afghanistan is a war torn country by the influence of Taliban and other insurgents.

Afghanistan is not among the six countries on which Trump’s travel ban was imposed. However, the girls have no answer as to why their visa was denied. But it was the President who intervened and got the visas approved not only for these Afghan girls but also for the teams who are otherwise among those in the travel ban.

– Prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394

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Indian Wheat Arrives Afghanistan via Chabahar Port, making History

India sends its first shipment to Afghanistan via Chabahar port, thus opening new trade route for Middle East also, bypassing the problems created by Pakistan

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Indian what reaches Afghanistan via Chabahar Port
FILE - Farmer sifts wheat crop at a farm on the outskirts of western Indian city of Ahmedabad. VOA

Afghanistan has received an inaugural consignment of wheat from India through an Iranian port, opening a new trade and transit route for the landlocked nation that bypasses neighboring Pakistan.

The strategic sea route, officials say, will help improve trade and transit connectivity between Kabul and New Delhi.

It will also potentially give India access to Central Asian markets through Afghanistan, because rival Pakistan does not allow Indian goods to be transported through its territory .

The shipment of almost 15,000 tons of wheat dispatched from India’s western port of Kandla on October 29 reached the Iranian port of Chabahar on November 1. It was then loaded on trucks and brought by road to the Afghan province of Nimroz, which borders Iran.

Speaking at a special ceremony to receive the historic consignment Saturday in the border town of Zaranj, India’s ambassador to Kabul, Manpreet Vohra, said the shipment has demonstrated the viability of the new route. He added that India, Afghanistan and Iran agreed to operationalize the Chabahar port only a year-and-a-half ago.

“The ease and the speed with which this project is already working is evident from the fact that as we are receiving the first trucks of wheat here in Zaranj, the second ship from Kandla has already docked in Chabahar,” Vohra announced.

He said there will be seven shipments between now and February and a total of 110,000 tons of wheat will come to Afghanistan through Chabahar. Vohra added the shipments are part of a promised 1.1 million tons of wheat as India’s “gift” to Afghanistan out of which 700,000 has already been sent to the country.

India is investing $500 million in Chabahar port to build new terminals, cargo berths and connecting roads, as well as rail lines.

The Indian shipment arrived in Afghanistan days after U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on a visit to New Delhi, allayed concerns the Trump administration’s tough stand on Iran could pose a fresh stumbling block to India’s plans to develop the strategic Iranian port as a regional transit hub.

The Indian ambassador also took a swipe at Pakistan, though he did not name the rival country.

“The logic of finding easy connectivity, assured connectivity for Afghanistan is also because you have not had the benefit despite being a landlocked country of having easy access to international markets. We all know that a particular neighbor of yours to the east has often placed restrictions on your transit rights,” Vohra noted.

The shortest and most cost effective land routes between India and Afghanistan lie through Pakistan.

But due to long-running bilateral territorial disputes between India and Pakistan, Afghanistan and India are not allowed to do two-way trade through Pakistani territory. Kabul, however, is allowed to send only a limited amount of perishable goods through Pakistani territory to India.

“We are confident that with the cooperation, particularly of the government of Iran, this route now from Chabahar to Afghanistan will not see any arbitrary closure of gates, any unilateral decisions to stop your imports and exports, and this will provide you guaranteed access to the sea,” vowed Vohra.

Pakistan also allows Afghanistan to use its southern port of Karachi for transit and trade activities. However, Afghan officials and traders are increasingly complaining that authorities in Pakistan routinely indulge in unannounced trade restrictions and frequent closure of border crossings, which has undermined trade activities.

“With the opening of Chabahar Port, Afghanistan will no longer be dependent on Karachi Port,” provincial governor Mohammad Samiullah said while addressing the gathering. The economic activity, he said, will create job opportunities and bring billions of dollars in revenue to Afghanistan, Iran and India.

Afghanistan’s relations with Pakistan have also plunged to new lows in recent years over mutual allegations of sponsoring terrorism against each other’s soils.

In its bid to enhance economic connectivity with Afghanistan, India also opened an air freight corridor in June this year to provide greater access for Afghan goods to the Indian market.

Pakistani officials, however, have dismissed suggestions the direct trade connectivity between India and Afghanistan is a matter of concern for Islamabad.

“It is our consistent position that Afghanistan as a landlocked country has a right of transit access through any neighboring country according to its needs,” said Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal.

Pakistan and Afghanistan share a nearly 2,600 kilometer largely porous border. However, Islamabad has lately begun construction of a fence and tightened monitoring of movements at regular border crossings between the two countries, saying terrorist attacks in Pakistan are being plotted on the Afghan side of the border. VOA

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Priyanka honoured to be in ‘The World’s Most Powerful Women’ list

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Priyanka Chopra
Priyanka honoured to be in 'The World's Most Powerful Women' list

New York, November 3, 2017: Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra, who has been named among the world’s most powerful women in Forbes magazine’s 2017 list, says she feels honoured.

Priyanka is at number 97 in the list, which also features personalities like Ivanka Trump, Indra Nooyi, Oprah Winfrey, Queen Elizabeth II, Beyonce Knowles, J.K. Rowling and Taylor Swift.

 The “Mary Kom” actress on Wednesday night shared a clipping of the list on her Instagram profile.

“Honoured to stand alongside these amazing trailblazers, who show us everyday that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to and that it’s ok to stay true to who you are. Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we be them. May we raise them. Power women, Worlds 100 most powerful women. Forbes,” Priyanka captioned the image.

This is not the first time Priyanka has featured in a Forbes magazine list. In September, the “Quantico” star featured among the highest paid TV actresses.

The actress’ friends and colleagues from the Hindi film industry like Rajkummar Rao, Dia Mirza and Tara Sharma Saluja congratulated her on her achievement.(IANS)

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Greater Scrutiny Set for Nonimmigrant Work Visa Renewals

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H1B Visa, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration
A security guard looks out of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices in New York. VOA

United States, October 27: The United States has announced changes to its nonimmigrant work visa policies that are expected to make renewals more difficult.

In the past, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services would generally approve the renewals unless the visa holder had committed a crime. Now, renewals will face the same scrutiny as the original applications.

“USCIS officers are at the front lines of the administration’s efforts to enhance the integrity of the immigration system,” USCIS Director L. Francis Cissna said, according to the announcement posted on USCIS’ website this week. “This updated guidance provides clear direction to help advance policies that protect the interests of U.S. workers.”

The new regulations could affect more than 100,000 people holding at least eight different types of work visas who fill out the I-129 form for renewals.

Sam Adair, a partner at the Graham Adair business immigration law firm in California and Texas, said that for the most part, he expected visa holders would most likely face lengthier adjudication periods in their renewal processes, as opposed to increased numbers of denials.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a big shift for us,” Adair told VOA. “But I think what we’ll see is just an increase in the number of requests for evidence, an increase in the delays on the adjudication of these petitions, and really it’s going to just result in more costs for the employers who are filing these petitions.”

‘High-skilled’ workers

Of all visa holders affected by this policy, those in the United States on an H-1B, a visa for “high-skilled” workers, are the biggest group. Of 109,537 people who had to submit I-129 forms in fiscal 2017, 95,485 were H-1B holders, according to data sent to VOA by USCIS.

H-1B visas have been threatened in the past, most recently by a bill proposed this year that would have raised the minimum salary requirement for workers brought in on the visa. While advocates of the program argued that it would keep workers from being exploited, many H-1B holders feared that businesses would be less willing to hire them or keep them on board.

But some Americans support the new regulations, saying that nonimmigrant work visas hurt American workers.

“It’s prudent to make sure that the people that receive those visas are in complete compliance with all of the requirements,” Joe Guzzardi, national media director of Californians for Population Stabilization, told VOA.

“It just isn’t possible to think that there aren’t American workers that couldn’t fill these jobs,” he said, noting that while the regulations might hurt businesses, they would help Americans looking for work.(VOA)