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US Universities register decline in Indian Applicants due to rising Hate Crimes, concerns over changes in visa policies by Trump Administration

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Indian Students (representational image) Wikimedia

Washington, March 27, 2017: The universities in the US have registered a decline in applications from Indian students following rising hate crimes and concerns over potential changes in visa policies by the Trump administration, according to a survey.

The survey was carried out by a coalition of six higher education associations in the US and involved over 250 US colleges and universities.

According to the initial findings of the survey, there was a 26 percent decline in undergraduate applications and 15 percent drop in graduate application from India for the new acedemic session beginning this autumn.

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A complete and final version of “Open Doors 2016” will be available by March 30.

Open Doors is a comprehensive information resource on international students and scholars studying or teaching at higher education institutions in the US, and US students studying abroad for academic credit at their home colleges or universities.

The survey also said India and China currently make up 47 per cent of US international student enrolment, with almost half a million Indian and Chinese students studying in the US.

From China, there was a 25 per cent drop in undergraduate applications and 32 per cent drop in graduate applications.

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There was also a great deal of concern from students and families all over the globe, with the highest number of concerns emanating from the Middle East (79 percent), Asia (36 percent) and Latin America (34 percent).

The most frequently noted concerns of international students and their families, as reported by institution-based professionals, included perceptions of a rise in student visa denials at US embassies and consulates in China, India and Nepal. The idea that the US was now less welcoming to individuals from other countries.

There were concerns that benefits and restrictions around visas could change, especially around the ability to travel, re-entry after travel, and employment opportunities, said the report.

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Many people feared that President Trump’s travel ban order might widen to include additional countries.

The survey was conducted by American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, the National Association for College Admission Counselling, International Association for College Admission Counselling, the Institute of International Education, Association of International Educators, and the College Board. (IANS)

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Indian Diaspora Optimistic about Ties with US under President Donald Trump

600 Indian-Americans said they believe that the millions-strong Indian diaspora in the US can make a big difference in the bilateral ties

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Indian diaspora in US. Wikimedia
Washington, June 27, 2017: The enthusiastic Indian diaspora gathered in Virginia to listen to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address voiced optimism about the future of Indo-US ties under the leadership of Modi and President Donald Trump, PTI has reported.
Reportedly, dressed in their traditional finery, the nearly 600 Indian-Americans said they believe that the millions-strong Indian diaspora in the US can make a big difference in the bilateral ties.
Though the event was attended by more than 600 community members, it was much less compared to Modi’s 2014 Madison Square Garden reception attended by over 18,000 people.
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The prime minister spoke for nearly 50 minutes at the event in Hindi and explained to the audience the welfare programmes his government has launched in past three years, PTI reported.
Sudhir Parikh, a medical doctor and long-time community leader, said India is moving forward under Modi’s leadership. Modi “correctly believes that the Indian diaspora can make a big difference between US and India relations.” On Modi’s first bilateral meeting with Trump, Parikh said he expects the two leaders to discuss bilateral defence deals, the H1B visa and other immigration issues and the Paris climate deal. “Modi is an excellent politician and is almost like a businessman. He knows how to handle other businessmen. Trump is a businessman. I am sure they will connect with each other,” he said.
According to PTI, Anil Sharma of the organisation ‘Overseas Volunteer for Better India’, said that there are high expectations from the Modi-Trump meeting, especially against the backdrop of the uncertainty arising out of the Trump administration’s H1B visa policies, and racist attacks against members of the Indian community. “We really hope that our concerns on these issues will be taken up at the highest level,” Sharma said.
Pragya Chisti from New Jersey said the meeting between Trump and Modi will be a “historic one.” According to the reports, she said that cultural exchanges between the two nations have played a role in strengthening bilateral ties.”There is a lot of positive energy and enthusiasm about India’s relations with the US. I expect only a positive outcome from the Trump-Modi meeting and for the future of the two countries,” she stated.
Attorney Ravi Batra said Modi promises Indian-Americans that India will be a global force for good because India’s 800 million youth’s dreams are “young dreams”.”The durable partnership between US and India is driven by people,” he said.

 

His supporter from Chicago, Nirav Patel said that Modi is an inspiration for young second-generation Indian-Americans.
PTI reported that Puneet Ahluwalia, who had been a member of then presidential candidate Trump’s Asian Advisory Committee, said that the meeting between Trump and Modi is the most anticipated meeting between two leaders for the Indo-Asia Pacific region in regards to stability, addressing terrorism & defence.

 

“Overcoming trade and investment barriers would calm the concerns of the US leadership, trade associations and businesses. Both leaders are visionaries. I am optimistic for a stronger Trump-Modi partnership,” he stated.

 

According to the reports of PTI, a group of pro-Khalistan Sikhs protested outside the venue of Modi’s addressing to the diaspora, holding placards “Don’t Invest in India” and “India Committed Genocide of Sikhs.”

 

The activists who had travelled from across the US and Canada shouted slogans in favour of Punjab independence referendum 2020 to create a Sikh country “Khalistan”.

 

PTI has reported that rights group ‘Sikhs For Justice’ (SFJ) has sent a communique to Trump on the alleged “worsening Sikh situation in India and urging him to raise the issues of separate religious identity to Sikhs in the Indian Constitution and Sikhs’ right to self determination as guaranteed in International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.” “Ever since Modi took office, religious tolerance deteriorated and religious freedom violations increased in India,” claimed Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal adviser to SFJ.

 

Before Modi’s address to the community, a short film was viewed highlighting his government’s notable achievements and policies over the past three years; including the demonetisation drive, Goods and Services Tax, and the Clean India campaign.

 

Reportedly, the audience cheered loudly and chanted ‘Modi, Modi’ as Modi appeared on stage. After the national anthems of India and the US were played, India’s Ambassador to the US, Navtej Sarna, spoke a few words. Arrangements were made to take group photographs with Modi.
– prepared by Antara Kumar of NewsGram with PTI inputs. Twitter: @ElaanaC

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Can Flourishing Islamic State (ISIS) be Stopped in Afghanistan?

The truth about IS and Afghanistan is definitely no picnic

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Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016.
Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province, Afghanistan, May 27, 2016. The rise of IS in Afghanistan has become such a priority that U.S. and Afghan forces sometimes support the Taliban while battling IS, VOA
  • Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
  • Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
  • In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS

June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.

Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.

Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.

Confusion leads to mistakes

All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.

Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.

“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”

Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.

Confusing scenarios

Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.

“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.

In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.

IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.

Families displaced

IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.

Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.

“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.

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Recruiting unemployed youths

IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.

Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.

IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.

Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.

Darzab district

Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.

IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.

Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.

“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.

Hit-and-hide strategy

IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.

Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.

“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)

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Satellite sends First Quantum Signal to Earth

This is a big step towards achieving a secure and developed way to encrypt communications because ever-improving computer algorithms can not crack them

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Micius satellite. wikimedia
  • An orbiting satellite has sent the first entangled pair of photons to Earth
  • It is a big step towards achieving a secure and developed way to encrypt communications
  • They can not be cracked by ever-improving computer algorithms

June 18, 2017: It was reported by scientists today that an orbiting satellite has sent the first entangled pair of photons to Earth. It is a big step towards sending quantum keys from satellites — an approach that has been heralded as a secure and developed way to encrypt communications because ever-improving computer algorithms can not crack them.

A laser on China’s Micius satellite, which was launched last year and is dedicated to researches related to quantum satellite communications, spit out pairs of entangled photons from its position, 500 km above Earth. Then two telescopes on Earth – about 1200 km apart — had 5 minutes each day to look for them as the satellite passed over both telescopes. It was found that paired photons survived the journey through Earth’s atmosphere. They detected 1 entangled pair per second out of the 6 million sent in that time.

So how exactly does all this work?

A quantum key needs to be generated first by two people who are looking to communicate. Then, one person receives one of the entangled photons in the pair, the other person receives the other. When the received photons have measured the photons, they obtain bits of information strung together to create a key that they both have. That key can be used to encrypt and decrypt a message. The users can also share a portion of the key publicly to check if it has been compromised. In case if someone tries to intercept the communication at any point, they would then notice a difference between their strings.

Also read: NASA’s Curiosity rover finds a Wide Variety of Minerals in Martian Rocks

There is a certain set of problems as well. Caltech’s John Preskill believes even though it is an important proof of concept, the feat doesn’t address one of the biggest problems with quantum communications. Currently, these messages can’t be sent long distances. Photons, using an optical fiber to carry a quantum signal, can only make it about 100 km before the dissipation of the light.

Quantum systems are similar to optical telecommunications here on earth and need repeaters that are able to amplify the message so it can be passed long distances. But amplifying a quantum message in the same way optical ones are done would effectively result in the destruction of the information. That is why satellite-based communication are being eyed by researchers. The reported 500 km from space is an improvement over optical. Quantum signals were measured in another study published today from a satellite 38,000 km away to a single point. But in deploying a global network which would likely be able to combine optical fiber and satellites, the repeater problem still stands.

Preskill has predicted that it is more likely we will first come up with another form of encryption for communication. “There will be other ways of doing classical public key cryptosystems that we won’t know how to break with quantum computers,” he added.

– prepared by Durba Mandal of NewsGram. Twitter: @dubumerang