Afghan team among medal winners at global robotics event

Team Afghanistan, from second from left, Kawsar Rashan, Lida Azizi, Somayeh Faruqi, and Rodaba Noori, next to a member of Team Australia, left, hug before their final round of competition at the FIRST Global Robotics Challenge, Tuesday, July 18, 2017, in Washington. The challenge is an international robotics event with teams from over 100 countries. (AP)
Updated 19 July 2017
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Afghan team among medal winners at global robotics event

WASHINGTON: An international robotics competition in Washington attracted teams of teenagers from more than 150 nations. The team that drew the most attention at the FIRST Global Challenge, which ended Tuesday, was a squad of girls from Afghanistan who were twice rejected for US visas before President Donald Trump intervened. But there were even more stories than there were teams. Here are a few:

RESULTS:
Teams left with gold, silver and bronze medals in a variety of categories.
The Europe team won a gold award for getting the most cumulative points over the course of the competition. Poland got silver and Armenia bronze. Finland won a gold award for winning the best win-loss record. Silver went to Singapore and bronze to India.
There were also awards for engineering design, innovation and international unity, among others. The Afghanistan team won a silver medal for “courageous achievement.” The award recognized teams that exhibited a “can-do” attitude even under difficult circumstances or when things didn’t go as planned. The gold medal in that category went to the South Sudan team and bronze to the Oman team, whose students are deaf.
The 2018 competition will be held in Mexico City.

GIRL POWER:
Sixty percent of the teams participating in the competition were founded, led or organized by women. Of the 830 teens participating, 209 were girls. And there were six all-girl teams, including not only the Afghan squad but also teams from the United States, Ghana, Jordan, the Palestinian territories and the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. Vanuatu’s nickname: the “SMART Sistas.”
Samira Bader, 16, on the Jordanian team, says “it’s very difficult for us because everyone thinks” building robots is “only for boys.” She said her team wants to prove that “girls can do it.”
The three-girl US team included sisters Colleen and Katie Johnson of Everett, Washington, and Sanjna Ravichandar of Plainsboro, New Jersey. Colleen Johnson, 16, said her team looks forward “to a day when an all-girls team is going to be no more special than an all-boys team or a co-ed team, just when that’s completely normal and accepted.”
The team competing from Brunei was also all female, though a male member previously worked on the project.

WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS:
The team from Iran got some help building their robot from American students. It turns out that the competition’s kit of robot parts including wheels, brackets, sprockets, gears, pulleys and belts was not approved for shipment to Iran due to sanctions involving technology exports to the country. So the competition recruited a robotics team at George C. Marshall high school in Falls Church, Virginia, to help. Iran’s team designed the robot, and about five Marshall students built it in the United States.
The team explained on its competition webpage that “our friends in Washington made our ideas as a robot.”
Because of the time difference between the countries, the three-member team and its mentor were sometimes up at midnight or 3 a.m. in Iran to talk to their collaborators.
Amin Dadkhah, 15, called working with the American students “a good and exciting experience for both of us.” Kirianna Baker, one of the US students who built the robot, agreed. “Having a team across the world with a fresh set of eyes is very valuable,” she said.

TEAM HOPE:
A group of three refugees from Syria competed as team “Refugee,” also known as team “Hope.” All three fled Syria to Lebanon three years ago because of violence in their country.
Mohamad Nabih Alkhateeb, Amar Kabour and Maher Alisawui named their robot “Robogee,” a combination of the words “robot” and “refugee.”
Alkhateeb, 17, and Kabour, 16, say they want to be robotics engineers, and Alisawui wants to be a computer engineer. Kabour said it’s important to the team to win, to “tell the world” refugees are “here and they can do it.”
Alkhateeb also said living as a refugee has been difficult, but he hopes to someday return home.
“I will go back after I have finished my education so I can rebuild Syria again,” he said.
Some 11 million people — half of the Syrian population — have been forced from their homes.


‘Send her back!’, US crowd roars as Trump steps up ‘racist’ attack on 4 congresswomen

Updated 33 min 9 sec ago
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‘Send her back!’, US crowd roars as Trump steps up ‘racist’ attack on 4 congresswomen

  • Trump's targets are Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan
  • He described the targets his hate campaign as "hate-filled extremists who are constantly trying to tear our country down"

GREENVILLE, North Carolina: Going after four Democratic congresswomen one by one, a combative President Donald Trump turned his campaign rally Wednesday into an extended dissection of the liberal views of the women of color, deriding them for what he painted as extreme positions and suggesting they just get out.
“Tonight I have a suggestion for the hate-filled extremists who are constantly trying to tear our country down,” Trump told the crowd in North Carolina, a swing state he won in 2016 and wants to claim again in 2020. “They never have anything good to say. That’s why I say, ‘Hey if you don’t like it, let ‘em leave, let ‘em leave.’“
Eager to rile up his base with the some of the same kind of rhetoric he targeted at minorities and women in 2016, Trump declared, “I think in some cases they hate our country.”
Trump’s jabs were aimed at the self-described “squad” of four freshmen Democrats who have garnered attention since their arrival in January for their outspoken liberal views and distaste for Trump: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All were born in the US except for Omar, who came to the US as a child after fleeing Somalia with her family.
Taking the legislators on one at a time, Trump ticked through a laundry list of what he deemed offensive comments by each woman, mangling and misconstruing many facts along the way.
Omar came under the harshest criticism as Trump played to voters’ grievances, drawing a chant from the crowd of “Send her back! Send her back!“
Trump set off a firestorm Sunday when he tweeted that the four should “go back” to their home countries — though three were born in the United States. Trump has accused them of “spewing some of the most vile, hateful and disgusting things ever said by a politician.”
Before he left Washington, Trump said he has no regrets about his ongoing spat with the four. Trump told reporters he thinks he’s “winning the political argument” and “winning it by a lot.”
“If people want to leave our country, they can. If they don’t want to love our country, if they don’t want to fight for our country, they can,” Trump said. “I’ll never change on that.”
Trump’s harsh denunciations were another sign of his willingness to exploit the nation’s racial divisions heading into the 2020 campaign.
His speech was filled with Trump’s trademark criticisms about the news media, which he says sides with liberals, and of special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s Russia probe. Mueller had been scheduled to testify Wednesday on Capitol Hill, but it was postponed. Trump brought him up anyway. “What happened to me with this witch hunt should never be allowed to happen to another president,” he said.
He also talked about illegal immigration, a main theme of his first presidential bid that is taking center stage in his re-election campaign. He brushed off the criticism he has gotten for saying that the congresswomen should go back home. “So controversial,” he said sarcastically.
The four freshmen have portrayed the president as a bully who wants to “vilify” not only immigrants, but all people of color. They say they are fighting for their priorities to lower health care costs and pass a Green New Deal addressing climate change, while his thundering attacks are a distraction and tear at the core of America values.
The Democratic-led US House voted Tuesday to condemn Trump for what it labeled “racist comments,” despite near-solid GOP opposition and the president’s own insistence that he doesn’t have a “racist bone” in his body.
Trump hasn’t shown signs of being rattled by the House rebuke, and called an impeachment resolution that failed in Congress earlier Wednesday “ridiculous.” The condemnation carries no legal repercussions and his latest harangues struck a chord with supporter in Greenville, whose chants of “Four more years!” and “Build that wall!” bounced off the rafters.
Vice President Mike Pence was first up after spending the day in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and visiting troops at Fort Bragg. “North Carolina and America needs four more years,” Pence said.
It was Trump’s sixth visit to the state as president and his first 2020 campaign event in North Carolina, where he defeated Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Before Trump arrived, Wayne Goodwin, chairman of the North Carolina Democratic Party, spoke at a rally in Greenville and called Trump “just another corrupt snake oil salesman.”
“From sparking a harmful trade war that puts our farmers in the crosshairs, to giving corporations a billion-dollar giveaway at the expense of our middle class, to repeatedly pushing to end protections for pre-existing conditions and raise health care costs, his broken promises have hurt hard-working families across North Carolina,” Goodwin said.