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FILE- In this photo taken during a government-organized media tour, an official makes a point using a scale model of the Al-Wakra Stadium, to be used during the 2022 World Cup, in Doha, Qatar,

Qatar on Thursday denied it was violating a new labor law by blocking migrants from leaving the country, saying it was committed to enforcing reforms to improve the rights of millions of foreign workers.

A new law making it easier for migrants to change jobs and leave the oil-rich Gulf state — where many of them have been recruited to build soccer stadiums ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup — came into effect in December.

But rights groups say the new law is not being enforced and that scores of migrant workers from countries such as India, Bangladesh, and Nepal have been refused permission to leave the country since the law was passed.

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The Qatari government said in a statement that any suggestion it was not committed to enforcing the reforms or that it was denying the freedom of movement of foreign workers was “false.”

Around 90 percent of Qatar’s 2.5 million population are migrants. Many works in low-paid construction jobs to build stadiums and infrastructure for the World Cup competition.

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But Doha’s “kafala” sponsorship system — under which migrants cannot change jobs or leave the country without their employer’s permission — has come under scrutiny in recent years, with allegations that the system amounts to forced labor.

Law on permits

Qatar passed a law December 13 that scrapped the need for migrants to get exit permits from employers and imposed fines on employers who confiscated workers’ passports and withheld their salaries.

But trade unionists say migrants still require an exit permit from the government — and that more than 200 migrants have been blocked from leaving Qatar since the law was passed.

The Qatari government confirmed that 213 out of 184,551 requests for exit permits had been denied, but said this was because the individuals were facing criminal charges.

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“We have explicitly stated that expatriates would be prevented from leaving Qatar if there is strong evidence that the expatriate has committed fraud or is attempting to evade prosecution for a crime,” the government statement said.

The International Labor Organization has given Doha until November to implement the reforms or potentially face an investigation into the forced labor of migrants in the lead-up to hosting the World Cup. VOA



When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades.

The US researchers have discovered a class of immune cells that plays a role in miscarriage, which affects about a quarter of pregnancies.

Researchers at the University of California-San Francisco found that the recently discovered subset of cells known as extrathymic Aire-expressing cells in the immune system may prevent the mother's immune system from attacking the placenta and fetus.

The researchers showed that pregnant mice who did not have this subset of cells were twice as likely to miscarry, and in many of these pregnancies fetal growth was severely restricted.

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"When you're pregnant, the immune system is seeing the placenta for the first time in decades -- not since the mother made a placenta when she herself was a fetus," said Eva Gillis-Buck, from UCSF.

"Our research suggests that this subset of immune cells is carrying out a sort of 'secondary education' -- sometimes many years after the better-known population of the educator cells have carried out the primary education in the thymus -- teaching T cells not to attack the fetus, the placenta and other tissues involved in pregnancy," she added. The findings are published in the journal Science Immunology.

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It's not surprising that over half of those surveyed feel more comfortable using emojis than talking on the phone or in person.

The tiny emojis being shared on billions of devices worldwide can play a major role in digital communication, with most people saying that emoji compels them to feel more empathy towards others, according to an Adobe report.

Adobe's global emoji study found that emoji even helps people overcome language barriers and form connections that would otherwise be difficult to do.

"We were surprised and delighted by the discoveries made in the survey, most notably how enthusiastic respondents were for emoji as a means to express themselves," the company said in a statement.

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Emojis sometimes get criticized for being overly saccharine, but this sweetness is key when it comes to diffusing some of the heaviness of online communication.

"Many of the emoji are focused on positive emotions, so it's easy to insert them into our conversations and lighten the mood," the Adobe study said.

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Jeff Bezos at the ENCORE awards.

Following the grand Richard Branson show where he carried Andhra Pradesh-born Sirisha Bandla and fellow space travelers on his shoulders after successfully flying to the edge of space, it is time for Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos to applaud Sanjal Gavande, one of the key engineers who designed the New Shephard rocket set to take Bezos and the crew to space on July 20.

Billionaire Bezos is set to fly to the edge of space aboard what is touted as the world's first unpiloted suborbital flight. Born in Kalyan, Maharashtra, Gavande is a systems engineer at Blue Origin who always dreamt of designing aerospace rockets.

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After completing Bachelor's in mechanical engineering from the University of Mumbai, she flew to the US in 2011 to pursue a Master's in mechanical engineering from the Michigan Technological University. She also applied for an engineering job at the US space agency NASA but finally landed her dream job at Blue Origin

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