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Trump administration drops visa ban for online only students

Foreigners make up over 75 per cent of graduate students in electrical, computer, petroleum and industrial engineering fields, according to Inside Higher Ed.

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Donald Trump

New York, July 15 : In a victory for universities and foreign students, President Donald Trump’s administration has dropped its order to deny visa status to those taking only online cases because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Federal Judge Allison Burroughs said on Tuesday that the government agreed to rescind the rule that would have required foreign students on F-1 or M-1 visas to leave the US or transfer to another university if they cannot take at least some in-person courses. Those staying on could have faced deportation.

The judge made the announcement about the government backtracking during an emergency hearing asked by the two institutions that was held by teleconference and lasted only a few minutes.

The case was brought in the federal court in Boston by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University on July 8 and it had snowballed with scores of colleges and tech companies backing them in court briefs and 18 state attorneys general filing another case against the order.

The Trump administration’s order issued last week reversed another issued in March that permitted students to take all their courses online because of the national COVID-19 emergency — which still continues.

Many universities, including Harvard, have announced plans to conduct only online classes in the Fall semester starting in August or September, while some like Columbia and Yale plan to offer a hybrid programme that combines online and in-person teaching if local authorities permit classroom attendance.

The administration’s order against online only teaching seemed to be a tactic to force educational institutions to comply with Trump’s agenda to open the nation fully before the November election.

When the case was filed, Harvard President Larry Summers said, “It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others.”

At least two other cases against the government’s order are pending before other federal courts: One is by Johns Hopkins University in Washington and the other is by the University of California in San Francisco.

Harvard and Yale said in court documents that although it may be argued that the students can continue their studies online from their home countries, “they may have their research and learning inhibited by time zone variations, unavailable, unreliable or state-managed Internet connections, and other barriers to online learning”.

They said that students can suffer irreparable harm from the order if they are forced out of the country.

Tech companies, including Google, Microsoft and Facebook said in their brief that “America’s future competitiveness depends on attracting and retaining talented international students”.

According to the International Institute of Education, there are over one million foreign students in the US and of them about 200,00 are from India.

several US institutions are dependent on tuition from foreign students, many of whom pay full fees.

But another factor of importance to both the universities and the economy is the pre-ponderance of graduate students in engineering and science.

Foreigners make up over 75 per cent of graduate students in electrical, computer, petroleum and industrial engineering fields, according to Inside Higher Ed.

They not only back up the faculty as teaching assistants and researchers, but go on to work for or found tech companies.

(Arul Louis can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @arulouis)

Middle East

Trump announces normalization of ties between Israel and UAE

“After 49 years, Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalise their diplomatic relations — This is a truly historic moment,” Trump said.

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Netanyahu Trump and Mohammed bin Zayed

President Trump announced a “historic” deal Thursday which will see Israel and the UAE open full diplomatic relations and Israel suspend its annexation plans in the West Bank.

Trump announced this through a joint statement from US, Israel and the UAE.

“President Donald Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE spoke today and agreed to full normalisation of relations between Israel and UAE,” the statement said.

The breakthrough happened over a phone call between the three leaders.

The Prime Minister’s Office of Israel released a brief statement that Prime Minister Netanyahu, from his office, spoke by telephone with the US President and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince.

“The historic diplomatic breakthrough will advance peace in the Middle East region and is a testament to the bold diplomacy and vision of the three leaders and the courage of UAE and Israel to chart a new path that will unlock the great potential in the region. All three countries face many common challenges and will mutually benefit from today’s historic achievement,” the statement posted on Trump’s Twitter account said.

As part of the agreement, Israel will suspend declaring sovereignty over areas outlined in President Trump’s vision of peace and focus its efforts now on expanding its ties with other countries in the Arab and Muslim world.

“After 49 years, Israel and the United Arab Emirates will fully normalise their diplomatic relations — This is a truly historic moment,” Trump said.

Netanyahu said that a US-brokered deal between Israel and the United Arab Emirates represented a “historic day” for his country. Reports say this is the first peace treaty between Israel and an Arab country in 25 years.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Twitter: “The UAE and Israel’s decision to normalise relations is hugely good news. It was my profound hope that annexation did not go ahead in the West Bank and today’s agreement to suspend those plans is a welcome step on the road to a more peaceful Middle East.”

As per the agreement, the United Arab Emirates and Israel will immediately expand and accelerate cooperation regarding the treatment of and the development of a vaccine for coronavirus. “Working together, these efforts will help save Muslim, Jewish, and Christian lives throughout the region,” the statement said.

Delegations from Israel and the United Arab Emirates will meet in the coming weeks to sign bilateral agreements on investment, tourism, direct flights, security, telecom, energy, healthcare, culture, the establishment of reciprocal embassies, and other areas of mutual benefit.

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Russian Deputy PM Yury Trutnev tests positive for COVID-19

Russia registered 5,102 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking its total to 902,701, the country’s COVID-19 response centre.

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Yury Trutnev

Moscow: Russian Deputy Prime Minister Yury Trutnev has tested positive for COVID-19.

Trutnev’s trip to the Far East as part of the visit of Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin has been postponed so far, Xinhua news agency.

“Before the trip, Yury Trutnev was tested for coronavirus. He showed a positive result,” he said.

Russia registered 5,102 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, taking its total to 902,701, the country’s COVID-19 response centre.

The death toll stood at 15,231.

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Afghanistan: 4 police officers killed in bomb attack in Western Farah Province

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FARAH, Afghanistan, Aug. 13 : At least four police officers were killed and 16 people wounded after a bomb explosion took place outside a provincial police station in Afghanistan’s western Farah province on Wednesday, a local official confirmed.

“Four killed and 16 wounded were admitted to a provincial main hospital following a bomb explosion in Farah city, capital of Farah province this evening,” Dr. Abdul Jabar Shahiq from provincial health directorate told Xinhua.

Those among the wounded were child and a police officer, he added.

Security forces have cordoned off the area for precautionary measures.

The blast sent a column of thick smoke into the sky and triggered panic, Muhibullah Muhib from provincial police told Xinhua, adding the explosion damaged several vehicles and buildings.

Unofficial sources said the blast was caused by a suicide bomber who detonated a tricycle, targeting a passing convey of provincial intelligence official roughly at 6:40 p.m. local time.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.

Since the signing of a Taliban and United States peace agreement in late February, Afghan leaders, including President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, have frequently demanded the Taliban to reduce violence.

The militants, however, have intensified attacks, killing and injuring scores of combatants and civilians.

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