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Five Foreign Language Films Up for Oscar

Farhadi, whose film A Separation won the best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2012

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FILE - Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, Oct. 10. 2016. Farhadi has chosen not to attend the Oscars ceremony.

United States, 28Feb 2017: Of the five films nominated for the Academy Awards’s Best Foreign Language Film, none has won either a BAFTA in Britain or a Golden Globe in the United States. So the Oscar field is wide open.

South Pacific Romeo and Juliet

The Australian entry, Tanna, tells a Romeo-and-Juliet style story set on a South Pacific Island. The film’s Australian director, Bentley Dean, said he had wanted to go back to Tanna to make a movie ever since he went there more than 10 years ago to make a documentary.

“I had a brief window of opportunity between projects and I convinced my wife to come with me, with my two small children and try and make a film by collaborating with the local community,” Dean said. “We connected with the tribes over there and went and visited and said, ‘What do you think? Do you want to make a film together?’ and they said yes.” he added.

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Danish Retelling of WWII Story

Land of Mine recounts the true story of teenaged German prisoners of war who were made to clear mines from the coasts of Denmark after World War II. Martin Zandvliet, who directed the film, said it caused a lot of soul searching in Denmark.

“It brought out a lot of debate,” Zandvliet said. “The historians came out of their holes so to speak, and it brought out a big debate in the media whether it was right to treat the Germans like this or whether it was facts or whether it was fiction or whether I had fictionalized it too much or whether all these things – that is interesting for a movie.”

Swedish Novel Becomes a Film

Sweden’s A Man Called Ove tells the story of a disagreeable old man who keeps trying to hang himself so that he can be reunited with his late wife. But when a young Iranian woman moves into his neighborhood, his perspective changes.

The film is based on the novel by Fredrik Backman. Actor Rolf Lassgard, who plays Ove, says the novel helped him make choices for the film.

“A book is much larger than a film, you have one hour and 45 minutes but I have shot films from several books and I am not afraid of the book,” he said. “Of course you could feel the pressure but pressure is something good to have on you. I used the book as a tool as an actor because you can find a lot of good stuff that you can use in a shoot,” he said.

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Cannes Winner from Germany

Germany’s Toni Erdmann is a father-daughter comedy that also pokes fun at sexism, greed, and family relationships. The film won the FIPRESCI prize given by critics at the Cannes Film Festival. Director Maren Ade says she has been almost overwhelmed by the film’s success.

“It was a lot of work, the success, but it’s nice and I enjoy that the film is released in so many countries,” Ade said. “It’s really something that you dream of when you do a film. It’s what you do the film for that it has its own second life with the audience. It’s a crazy time and the year’s almost gone now. I don’t know.”

Trump Travel Ban Hits Iranian Oscar Nominee

Iran’s entry is The Salesman from director Asghar Farhadi. It tells the story of an Iranian theater couple whose lives are turned upside down when the wife is attacked in their apartment.

Farhadi, whose film A Separation won the best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2012, will not be attending the Oscars because of the Trump administration’s ban on travel from Iran and six other Muslim majority countries. Though the ban has been temporarily overturned in U.S. courts, the president has announced plans to issue a new order soon.(VOA)

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Greater Scrutiny Set for Nonimmigrant Work Visa Renewals

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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)

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North Korea may soon be able to hit US with Nuclear Missiles ; Could a war break out soon?

Pyongyang's deputy envoy to the United Nations, Kim In Ryong, warned Monday that war could break out at any moment.

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CIA Director Mike Pompeo speaks during the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) National Security Summit in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)(VOA)

Washington, October 20, 2017 : North Korea is likely just months away from being capable of striking the United States with a nuclear missile, according to two top U.S. officials.

CIA Director Mike Pompeo told a forum in Washington on Thursday he is “deeply worried” about the advancing threat from North Korea and the possibility it could spark a nuclear arms race across East Asia.

“We ought to behave as if we are on the cusp of them achieving that objective,” Pompeo said when asked about Pyongyang’s pursuit of missile technology that could launch a warhead to targets in the U.S.

“They are so far along in that it’s now a matter of thinking about how do you stop the final step?” he added.

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National security adviser H.R. McMaster speaks during the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) National Security Summit in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)(VOA)

McMaster: We’re running out of time

U.S. National Security Adviser, Gen. H.R. McMaster said later on Thursday that Washington was racing to resolve the situation, short of using military force.

“We’re not out of time but we’re running out of time,” McMaster said, speaking at the same event. “Accept and deter is unacceptable.”

The comments by Pompeo and McMaster come as tensions between the U.S. and North Korea have been steadily rising following Pyongyang’s latest nuclear test last month, it’s sixth overall, and repeated tests of what intelligence officials have assessed to be both intermediate and long range ballistic missiles.

But despite warning that North Korea is just months away from being able to target the U.S., the CIA’s Pompeo cautioned there are still questions about just how “robust” the North Korea nuclear threat has become, and whether Pyongyang will be able to deliver multiple nuclear warheads to nuclear targets.

“There’s always a risk. Intelligence is imperfect,” Pompeo said, adding there is evidence Pyongyang may be getting help from Iran, citing “deep conventional weapons ties as between the two countries.”

He also warned that each North Korean test makes an arms race ever more likely.

“You watch as North Korea grows ever closer to having its capability perfected, you can imagine others in the region also thinking that they well may need that capability,” he said.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while answering questions at a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in Sochi, Russia (VOA)

Putin suggests force won’t work against North Korea

On Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin warned against the use of force to eliminate the North Korean nuclear threat, suggesting it would not work.

“Talks about a preventative, disarming strike — and we hear both hints and open threats — this is very dangerous,” Putin said during a speaking engagement in Sochi.

“Who knows what and where is hidden in North Korea? And whether all of it can be destroyed with one strike, I doubt it,” he said. “I’m almost sure it is impossible.”

North Korean officials have also repeatedly warned the U.S. against any provocations.

Pyongyang’s deputy envoy to the United Nations, Kim In Ryong, warned Monday that war could break out at any moment.

Other North Korean officials have accused the U.S. of making preparations for war, citing the presence of the USS Ronald Reagan, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, conducting exercises to the east of the Korean Peninsula.

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United States Bombers Fly Near To North Korea’s Coast

The US flew bombers near North Korea's coast on Saturday, an action the Defense Department said was meant to send a clear message to Pyongyang about the country's military options.

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Source: Wikimedia Common

Washington, September 24, 2017: The US flew bombers near North Korea’s coast on Saturday, an action the Defense Department said was meant to send a clear message to Pyongyang about the country’s military options.

“This mission is a demonstration of US resolve and a clear message that (President Donald Trump) has many military options to defeat any threat,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement, Efe news reported.

“North Korea’s weapons program is a grave threat to the Asia-Pacific region and the entire international community. We are prepared to use the full range of military capabilities to defend the US homeland and our allies,” the statement added.

White said US Air Force B-1B bombers from the US island territory of Guam and US Air Force F-15C Eagle fighter escorts from Okinawa, Japan “flew in international airspace over waters east of North Korea.”

“This is the farthest north of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) any US fighter or bomber aircraft have flown off North Korea’s coast in the 21st century, underscoring the seriousness with which we take (North Korea’s) reckless behavior,” White said.

The Pentagon’s announcement came before North Korea addressed the United Nations’ General Assembly on Saturday and after the US imposed new sanctions on Pyongyang this week.

Those new sanctions bar ships and aircraft from visiting the US within 180 days of having gone to North Korea.

The ban also applies to vessels that have done a ship-to-ship transfer with a vessel that has visited North Korea within 180 days.

Trump ordered the sanctions via a decree whose aim is to “maximize pressure on North Korea to demonstrate to its leadership that the best and only path is to return to denuclearization.”

A new nuclear test by Pyongyang earlier this month and Trump’s belligerent rhetoric have caused tensions on the Korean peninsula to soar over the last year.

Seismic activity Saturday in North Korea, meanwhile, sparked fears that Pyongyang may have conducted yet another nuclear test, but experts said the small earthquake was probably due to natural causes.

North Korea has refused to back down in the face of international pressure and on Saturday said it was nearing completion of its nuclear goals but that its program was intended merely as a deterrent.

“We do not have any intention at all to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against the countries that do not join in the US military actions against (the Asian nation),” North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho told the UN General Assembly on Saturday.

Ri on Friday said North Korea may test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean, making those remarks after Trump inflamed tensions in his debut speech before the UN.

Trump ominously warned Pyongyang on Tuesday that the US would obliterate the Asian country if necessary.

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea,” Trump said in his UN speech. (IANS)

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