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Undergrads at George Mason University in US Build Prosthetic Arm for 10-year-old Violinist Isabella Nicola

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Isabella Nicola Cabrera, 10, plays her violin with her new prosthetic at the engineering department of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, April 20, 2017. VOA
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The pressure was on for Abdul Gouda and his classmates at George Mason University: not only did their graduation depend on the success of their project, but so did the hopes of impossibly cute 10-year-old girl.

Fifth-grader Isabella Nicola wanted to play the violin, but she was born with no left hand and a severely abbreviated forearm. Her music teacher at Island Creek Elementary in Fairfax County had built her a prosthetic allowing her to move the bow with her left arm and finger the strings with her right — the opposite of how violin is usually taught. But the prosthetic was heavy and he thought there might be a better option. He reached out to Mason, his alma mater.

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As it happened, Gouda and his four teammates in the bioengineering department were in the market for a project — students are required to take on a capstone project their senior year, and their initial idea had fallen through.

Still, Gouda admitted some hesitation at the outset.

“It’s sort of a lot of pressure,” he said. “You’ve got this young girl whose counting on you and you’re expected to deliver.”

The team — Gouda, Mona Elkholy, Ella Novoselsky, Racha Salha and Yasser Alhindi — developed multiple prototypes throughout the year. There was a fair amount of literature on similar projects that helped them get a good start, but Isabella’s case is unique to her, and the project included plenty of trial and error.

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Isabella communicated easily with the group and provided feedback, especially about the weight. The first came in at 13 ounces; the final version shaved an ounce or two off of that after feedback from Isabella.

The team enlisted a music professor at Mason, Elizabeth Adams, who provided feedback on what Isabella would need to play the violin with some finesse.

A new prosthetic hand awaits Isabella Nicola Cabrera, 10, at the engineering department of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, April 20, 2017.

A new prosthetic hand awaits Isabella Nicola Cabrera, 10, at the engineering department of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, April 20, 2017.

On Thursday, Isabella received her final prosthetic, built from a 3-D printer, and hot pink (at her request) with “Isabella’s attachment” emblazoned on the forearm.

She played some scales as she adjusted the fit, and even a few bars of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

“Oh my gosh, that’s so much better,” Isabella said as she tried out the new prosthetic.

And the team had a surprise for her, a plug-in attachment designed to let her grip a handlebar and ride a bicycle.

“I feel very blessed that I have this amazing group of people,” Isabella said.

Isabella had her heart set on playing music when the school began offering strings lessons in fourth grade.

“I’ve never told her no. I told her we would try. There was no guarantee the school would be able to do an adaptation,” said her mother, Andrea Cabrera. “Through these little miracles, it kept going forward.”

Isabella never had any doubt it would come together.

“I felt right away that I’d be able to play,” she said. “I’ve always had perseverance.” (VOA)

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China, US Set To Take Action Against Each Other

US business executives are now bracing for further retaliation from China due to Meng's arrest

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President Donald Trump with China's President Xi Jinping during their bilateral meeting, Dec. 1, 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. VOA

China and the US are set to take action against each other as tensions escalate over trade, cyber hacking and espionage as senior American law enforcement officials identified Beijing as the most serious threat to Washington’s national security, officials said.

China’s methods of non-traditional espionage, including their use of ordinary Chinese expatriates instead of spies at universities and businesses, and intellectual property theft, were explained by the officials from the FBI and Departments of Justice and Homeland Security who briefed US lawmakers on Wednesday, CNN reported.

“As the US proceeds a whole of society response to this threat, we must address the vulnerabilities within our system while preserving our values and the open, free and fair principles that have made us thrive,” E.W. Priestap, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Assistant Director of Counter-intelligence told the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“What hangs in the balance is not just the future of the US, but the future of the world.”

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) top national security official told lawmakers on Wednesday the administration was reacting to China’s “steadily increasing” economic espionage activity, which costs the US an estimated $225 billion a year.

From 2011 to 2018, more than 90 per cent of the DOJ’s cases alleging economic espionage by a state have involved China, and more than two-thirds of trade secret thefts have a nexus to China, Assistant Attorney General John Demers said.

Donald Trump, democrats, government,, pakistan
U.S. President Donald Trump. VOA

“From underwater drones and autonomous vehicles to critical chemical compounds and inbred corn seeds, China has targeted advanced technology across sectors that align with China’s publicly announced strategic goals,” Demers said. “The play book is simple: rob, replicate and replace.”

Priestap and his colleagues testified hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed in an interview with Fox News that the US believes Beijing was behind the massive cyber-attack on the Marriott hotel chain, CNN reported.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that the assault was part of a broader Chinese operation that also targeted health insurers and the security clearance files of millions of Americans.

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Those disclosures came a day after President Donald Trump said that he would be willing to use Huawei’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Meng Wanzhou who was arrested in Canada for violating US sanctions on Iran as a bargaining chip in his trade war with Beijing, which for now is in a 90-day pause.

A Canadian judge on Tuesday night granted Meng a $7.5 million bail, while she awaits extradition to the US.

US business executives are now bracing for further retaliation from China due to Meng’s arrest. (IANS)