A robot and a $170 application will get you a cup of coffee.

Monday we brought you the sad tale of the robot-building high school girls of Herat, Afghanistan, who were one of two teams of robot-builders denied visas to come to the USA for the annual FIRST Global Challenge robot competition. The other team was from Gambia, and darned if their story isn’t a lot like what happened to the girls from Herat: Their robot can go to Washington later this month to engage in a furious tournament of sorting a bunch of balls, but the robot’s teen makers / programmers will have to stay in Gambia and watch the competition on Skype. Don’t you feel a lot safer, thanks to this extreme vetting?

Al Jazeera was told by Gambia’s Minister of Higher Education, Research, Science, and Technology, Moktar Darboe, that the kids were “very disappointed.”

“They put in so much effort into building this, and now, after all the sacrifice and energy they put in, they have been left disheartened,” Darboe, who is also the team’s mentor, said on Monday.

The robot, a ball sorting machine, will be shipped off in the next day or two, he added.

Gambia and Afghanistan aren’t on the list of countries subject to the Trump administration’s semi-reinstated travel ban, and teams from other Muslim majority countries that are on the list, like Sudan and Iran, were able to travel, so it’s not clear what role the current wave of immigration paranoia may have played, if any.

Here’s the part that’s kind of hard to believe: The application fee for a visa was $170 per team member, in a country where 50% of the population is below the poverty line and the average 2007 wage was $1 to $2 a day. Even assuming these kids’ families are more well-off (high schools charge fees to attend), that’s a hell of a lot of money for an application.

As with the Afghan girls, the Gambian kids weren’t told why their applications were denied, because the State Department doesn’t comment on “consular affairs.” They did, however, get a nice visit to their school from US Ambassador C. Patricia Alsup, who saw the robot project and seemed supportive:

“She gave us hope not to give up, and she said they would give us all their support to help us go further,” 17-year-old Khadijatou Gassam, a science student and spokesperson for the team, said.

Also like the girls in Herat, the Gambian team had some trouble with their own country’s customs officials, who held the package of robot parts sent to the team from the USA and asked the kids if they were “building RoboCop.” The team’s programmer, Fatoumata Ceesay, said the team went ahead and built its robot, even though they didn’t expect to be able to operate it themselves at the competition: “[We] started building it after the [visa] rejection. We built it despite knowing we weren’t going,” she said.

Like the Chicago Cubs before 2016, the year history completely broke down, the team is looking forward to next year, says Gassam, the team spokesperson:

“But we’re not giving up, despite the challenges we face, we still continue to work hard,” she said. “Next year it will be somewhere else, so I think next year we have hope to get there.”

Here’s hoping no future competitions end up being held in Irving, Texas, where in 2015 the high school went nuts over a Muslim kid’s rebuilt digital clock, which was obviously a bomb. The whole state might melt down at a bunch of foreign kids with robots.

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[Al Jazeera]

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  • Steve Cole

    When those robots join together to make one larger, sentient, angry robot the joke will be on America! Haha! Vengence! Transformers won’t save you now!

  • Joe Beese

    Yeah, this kind of visa bullshit has gone on for a long time, under administrations of both flavors.

    We’ll have to stick to blaming Trump for the 9,372 other things that are his fault.

    • cmd resistor

      The only thing I could find in the original story in that left-wing Forbes mag was that it was really hard to get visas out of Afghanistan. It sucks. I wish the absent teams would win. They would if it were a Disney movie.

  • armed_bears
  • Martini Ambassador 🍸

    Gambia and Afghanistan aren’t on the list of countries subject to the Trump administration’s semi-reinstated travel ban, and teams from other Muslim majority countries that are on the list, like Sudan and Iran, were able to travel, so it’s not clear
    what role the current wave of immigration paranoia may have played, if any.

    What part of invading foreign killer-robot hordes do you not understand?!!?

    Or, I dunno, a bunch of dicks at Immigration & Customs are feeling extra empowered to be dickish.

  • Oblios_Cap

    Ball sorting robots? What will they come up next?

    I guess the hardest part about building them would be to ensure they cup the balls properly and don’t crush them. I pity the poor test subject.

    • Gayer Than Thou

      I dunno. Mine came sorted. With all due respect to these teenagers, I think if one needs one’s balls sorted, one ought to see a doctor.

      • Steve Cole

        Your argument intrigues me. When I teach my class tonight, this will be a discussion topic.

      • Oblios_Cap

        I’m thinking you’re confusing “sorted” with “sordid”. They do almost sound alike.

  • Spotts1701, Resistance Pilot

    We aren’t allowed to bring over anyone who might make the current occupant of the White House feel dumb.

    • Oblios_Cap

      So, nobody is allowed in?

    • Old town Urbandale

      Unless they’re hawt.

    • Daniel Hooper

      What about all the people already here who make him feel dumb? Cause that’s gonna be pretty much everybody already here,

      • Komsumverweigerer Ron

        Except the people in his administration.

        • calliecallie

          And his base.

    • Gayer Than Thou

      Well that’s the end of immigration and tourism right there.

    • William
      • Spotts1701, Resistance Pilot

        That one in the top left corner looks a little shifty to me.

  • Joe Beese

    Technically, the team is from “The Gambia” – which is irritating.

    There are no competing Gambias. It’s not Original Ray’s Pizza.

    • UncleTravelingMatt

      It’s like THE Ohio State University. Obnoxious for the sake of obnoxiousness.

    • azeyote

      no – but when the Gambia crime family hears about this there’s going to be a dead fish delivered in a pizza box

      • Wild Cat


        • msanthropesmr

          No anchovies. I spell my name Danger.

        • Old town Urbandale

          “Oh my God! That bowling ball, it’s my wife!”

      • Jon Sussex

        Their cavallo pizza is terrible.

      • Latverian Diplomat

        Your ambassador to The Gambia sleeps with the background tasks.

    • Wild Cat

      Look, Dude, EVERYONE knows the Original Gambia’s was established on Bleeker and Lafayette. Why can’t you guys accept it?

    • PubOption

      They should stick to playing violas.

  • CindyinEncinitas

    They should have made a robot that grabs pussies.

    • Spotts1701, Resistance Pilot

      That’s the Reddit entry. They misread the instructions.

      • Latverian Diplomat

        “Instructions are for Betas.”

  • Villago Delenda Est

    From now on, these organizations should not propose to hold these events in this country. We have proven to be utterly unworthy of such things.

    • Wild Cat

      We should only teach journalism. /s/

  • GunToting[Redacted]

    “the State Department doesn’t comment on “consular affairs.”

    It’s hard to comment on any affairs when the department is vacant.

  • William
    • Joe Beese

      The Unknown Muslim

    • Bobathonic

      Mummenschanz libelz!

  • Latverian Diplomat

    Ball sorting robots agree: “Metaphorically speaking, RWNJs afraid of foreign teenage nerds have not detectable balls at all.”

  • Resistance Fighter Callyson
  • Canis Greyhame

    New Zeroeth-Law of Robotics: do not allow teabagger American humans to suffer self-induced panic attacks if your creators happen to be muslim teenagers.

  • Jenny

    Ugh! Once in a lifetime opportunity for these kids. I can’t even with this country. When can I get deported?

    • Crystalclear12

      Hey, me first!

  • MynameisBlarney
  • Joe Beese

    Good news, everyone!

    Russia is now in the process of testing a 40-ton nuclear-powered underwater unmanned vehicle (UUV) that could robotically deliver, across thousands of kilometers, a 100-megaton nuclear warhead against the coastal cities and ports of the United States. The technical details of this bizarre system were released by Putin himself in September 2015—apparently intentionally—and testing began in December 2016. Such actions by the Russian government clearly indicate a grave concern about the unpredictable character of ongoing US missile defense programs.

    • Villago Delenda Est

      I don’t know why Putin is bothering, except to give the Russians a boondoggle as big as US missile defense programs.

      • Joe Beese

        NATO has been progressively boxing in Russia for a long time. And the linked article goes into detail about how our submarine-based strike force has gotten vastly more deadly.

        I can understand him perceiving a need to adjust the balance of terror.

    • WotsAllThisThen

      But does it sort balls?

      • JustDon’tSaySortMyBalls

        Asking for a friend, right?

    • yyyaz

      Shithead Ronnie promised me a “Peace Dividend.” I demand my Peace Dividend.

  • Latverian Diplomat

    Headlines from the future: Trump Plan for National Lottery fails due to ball sorting mishap. Afghanistan and The Gambia deny any connection to the incident.

  • Latverian Diplomat

    “So, next year’s competition in Canada, then?”

    • Canis Greyhame

      Let the inevitable brain-drain begin.

      • armed_bears

        Yes… We’re showing who scares us and who we hold in low regard: Female engineers of color.

      • Roadstergal

        France is already poaching.

    • Me not sure

      It might be that we’ll be a smoldering ash heap by then.

    • Rick Hill

      How many more times will something like that occur as more restrictions on entry are made? Will it be proper to say tourism is in a death spiral, thanks to trump?

      • Latverian Diplomat

        We’ll know we’re in trouble when Disney announces TorontoDisney.

      • I won’t say it’s in a death spiral here, but I have noticed a serious decline in the number of Canadian license plates around here this summer. Usually an Ontario or Quebec plate isn’t worth commenting about, but this year it’s “Wow, a Canadian license plate!” I haven’t asked around the state campgrounds to see if they’re seeing fewer foreign campers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.

        • Rick Hill

          I meant eventually, not now.

  • Anna Elizabeth

    Rs and GOPers are cowards of such an unbelievable degree that it is quite sickening to me.

    • Latverian Diplomat

      They do try to make up for it by preying on the weak.

  • Me not sure

    Well at least there’s an ambassador on the job in Gambia to keep an eye on threats, unlike in South Korea where no one has been named.

  • Jenny

    And 170 dollars and a mountain of forms only to be rejected? Here’s something to cry about MGTOW!

  • Crystalclear12

    Did this make us great?
    Can we stop now?

  • Proud Liberal

    The United States’ standing in the world has gone down so much since January 20, 2017. We will never be the same again.

  • Angela Ruzzo

    Dear Doc: I hesitate to correct anyone’s use of language, but I feel duty bound to inform you that the correct name is “the Gambia” not “Gambia”, and I only know this because I had a friend from the Gambia 40 years ago, otherwise I wouldn’t know it either.

    • Me not sure

      Wow, that’s right! Named after The Gambia River.

      • mardam422

        Just like the Iraq and such.

    • Zippy W Pinhead

      The Bahamas libulz!!1!

      • Angry Red Bird DGAF

        The islands.

    • mardam422

      OH!! You had a friend!! Aren’t you special.

      • Angela Ruzzo

        You would rather Dok didn’t know the correct usage? Dok is a very intelligent, highly educated, extremely well informed, articulate and civilized human being, I’m sure he’d rather know how to write the name of a country properly. Are you having a bad day or something?

        • mardam422

          I’m sorry. What about you having a friend has anything to do with Dok learning the name of a country? Can’t read or something?

          • Angela Ruzzo

            Oh yes, I can read, I was just being polite and giving you the benefit of the doubt, which was clearly a mistake, as I see now that you were being intentionally rude, and that you intend to continue being so.

          • mardam422

            You DO know what kind of site you are at, right? Does the word “snark” mean anything to you?

          • Angela Ruzzo

            Yes, I know what snark means. But if you want to snark, it should be obvious, and not worded exactly like an insult. Because if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it is a duck, and your comments do not sound like snarking, they sound like rudeness. Try being more obvious next time.

          • mardam422

            I give up. You are too dense to argue with. (Now THAT was an insult)

    • TheMgt23

      Please don’t let a clown get you down. I find no offense in your post. Kudos for explaining how you came by this knowledge. Please don’t leave Wonkette, it’s a good site.

      • Angela Ruzzo

        Thanks. Yes, it’s a very good site, I would never consider leaving.

  • MynameisBlarney

    OT, but…

    Meanwhilst, in Joizy.

    • Colleendsoto

      Managing director of Google says we are paying $97 per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family^hu258d:
      On tuesday I got a great new Toyota Tundra from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it…Then visit following link for more info
      ➽➽;➽➽ http://GoogleFinancialJobsCash548MediaMaps/GetPay$97/Hour ★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★:::::~xs268o……..

  • bookish

    North Korea’s successful test earlier this week of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) has triggered all of the expected alarms.

    Even if Kim Jong Un cannot yet mount one with a nuke, his arsenal of chemical and biological weapons now has a longer reach—even, most experts agree, Hawaii or Alaska. But apart from the psychological impact on Americans, the development doesn’t fundamentally alter the military standoff that has been in place for decades.

    Kim and his father before him have long had the capability of inflicting mass casualties on South Korea and the nearly 30,000 American forces stationed there. In recent years, the range of Pyongyang’s missiles has included Guam and targets in Japan. If conflict broke out, these are weapons that could kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions, and could be delivered so rapidly there is little chance of preventing some from reaching their targets.

  • Scooby

    Ball sorter builders blacklisted by no balls bastards.

  • Relativicus

    So this is what’s great about America, eh? I feel so stupid not pursuing any career that might be marketable overseas. Marriage seems to be my only hope of escape, but then I’d be married, so, yeah.

  • WeaselPoo

    *Sigh* …it takes ball sorts

    • JustDon’tSayShank

      …or else it gets the hose again?

  • calliecallie

    Now there’s a burning question. Would you give up the Chicago Cubs World Series sportsball win if you could trade it for a Hillary Clinton presidency?

    • AnnieGetYerFun

      There’s not a thing about sportsball that I would keep if I could prevent a Trump presidency. But then, I don’t give a fuck about any sport.

    • Zippy W Pinhead

      as a lifelong Cubs fan- tough call…

      • timpundit

        As a life long Cubs fan…PROBABLY. I am better equipped for a loss than other fans of other teams,.

    • jesterpunk

      I would and pretty sure Hillary would too.

    • House0fTheBlueLights

      I actually had to stop for a second and think about it. Not proud.

    • JustDon’tSayShank

      Easy! Yes!
      (Giants fan)

    • LucindathePook

      As someone with Cub license plates and a Cub room in her house, who was dancing around at Waveland and Kenmore after the pennant win, YES. There’s always next year.

    • bobbert


    • chimpevil

      From a Colbert monologue last week, “The WS champ Cubs visited the White House today, signing autographs and chatting with Pres Trump, part of their deal with Lucifer.” As a fan of the Pirates, a team that has 3 winning seasons in the past 24 years including a stretch of 20 losing ones in a row, but who still has 5 more WS wins than the Cubs since 1908, I lol’d.

    • BreakingDeadMen

      As a Cleveland fan, yes.

  • motmelere
    • William_C_Diaz

      That looks just like my dog dog! I miss my goat rodent, he was awesome.

      Have a great day!

  • Nockular cavity

    The robots are ok, though.

    • UnsaltedSinner

      The US needs the robots. It’s not like the home-schooled children of Trump voters will be able to build any.

  • MynameisBlarney
    • JustDon’tSayShank

      grumpy kitty is grumpy.

    • Angry Red Bird DGAF

      You think thats what happened? I mean, when they say quotas I didn’t know it was an upgrade limit.


    You ungrateful liburls don’t understand..Drumps policies have just protected us from the ROBOT APOCALYPSE!!11 eleventy eleven!!

  • House0fTheBlueLights

    What will start to happen is that these competitions will be held in other countries, so everybody wins?

    • If we stay on the Trump pathway, it may be the American kids who are denied visas as potential terrorists.

  • mardam422

    Sue, they LOOK like ball sorting robots. But who’s to say these crazed jihadist teenage girls won’t immediately reprogram their robot to do something else? I’ve seen Transformers. I know what’s what.

    • whitroth

      Maybe they’ll hold it near DC, and suddenly their robot will connect with the Ghanian robot, and it will become HUUUUGGGGEEE, and drive right downtown, and pull Trumpolini out of the White House, and launch him into the Sun. Or maybe the Patomic, whichever’s easier….

      • William_C_Diaz


        Have a great day!

  • whitroth

    Building the robots requires picking your parts from pre-approved catalog lists. And the *robots* cost a hell of a lot more than the visa application….

    ObDisclosure: my ex’s son, while we were still together, was on the robot team at his high school, and they got to the FIRST semi-finals a couple of years ago.

    Hey, is it too late for them, now? Because if it is, and/or they try again next year, feel free to remind me Doc: I will write a check to pay for one visa application. In US dollars. For real.

    Truck you, Fump.

    • JustDon’tSayShank

      Good idea. I volunteer for one more visa app fee.

  • Iron Monkey

    What a horrible mess. The main export of The Gambia is its people–over 20% of GDP is from remittances. Another 20% comes from tourist receipts although that is way down because of the Ebola outbreaks in not quite neighboring West African countries. Tough place to be a budding scientist.

  • Mavenmaven

    When Trump hears “robots”, he thinks “danger, danger”, because his entire world view comes from old tv.

    • his entire world view comes from old tv.


    • Pilotshark

      well his mind seems to be lost in space.

      • Jamoche

        And meaning.

    • Doug Langley

      Hmm . . . he IS suspiciously similar to Dr Smith.


    *Teletype noise*
    *Slip of paper ejects*

    “Larger than Donald Trump’s”

  • Doug Langley
    • That’s pretty rich coming from Scott Adams.

      • Doug Langley

        I’ve given up trying to understand people.

        • Peripatetic Poltroon

          That’s why humans always pass the Turing test. We give up after a while.

  • Panika MCD

    you forgot about the mosque in Irving being monitored by a bunch of goons with rifles later on…it’s also too not far from Frisco, TX which has a big stadium and hosts many state, national and international tournaments–like a soccer game between the women’s teams from the US and Russia not so long ago…

  • anon_the_great

    Man, if one wanted to create life long haters of the USA one couldn’t do much better than the State Department. The real brilliance of their act is to refuse to say why it is not in the interest of our nation to grant these young women visas. Now everyone under the Sun can speculate as to the real reasons Murica is a-scart of girls.

  • Alex Grey

    If Republican’s were really interested in, “running the country like a business,” they would be trying to recruit this young talent to work for us, not denying them entry to the country.

    • Old Man Yells at Cloud

      You forgot the part about recruiting the talent and then paying them half what an American would demand so they can drive down the salaries of US Americans and such

  • BearLeft

    My balls feel so much safer from unAmerican sorting.

  • President in Exile Firefly

    Looks like we’re sorting robotics teams. By color.

    • dshwa

      And gender

  • kaydenpat

    This is sad and senseless. Dang it! Yet I’ve heard that Trump may petition for the Olympics. How many competitors would be banned if the US was picked to host?

    • BreakingDeadMen

      Well, a lot will depend on the city. If it goes to America, it’ll be a liberal city like Los Angeles or Chicago, so the local and state governments will handle a lot of it. And the IOC will grease the skids.

  • YayConspiracy

    I think Trump’s plan to make America great again is to ban everyone who is smarter than him from entering the country.

    (Look at that picture: See those smiles? These kids are uppity and up to no good.)

    • Colleendsoto

      Managing director of Google says we are paying $97 per hour! Work for few hours and have longer with friends & family^hu258d:
      On tuesday I got a great new Toyota Tundra from having earned $8752 this last four weeks.. Its the most-financialy rewarding I’ve had.. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it…Then visit following link for more info
      ➽➽;➽➽ http://GoogleFinancialJobsCash548MediaMaps/GetPay$97/Hour ★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★✫★★:::::~xs268o……

  • davej1s


  • MisterShoebox

    Aaaand fuck YOU, Texas.

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