Wry Exchange

Thanks, Aspect & Bob Casey
05-28-09, 9:34 pm
Filed under: Exchange Program, hosting, Inbounds Inbounds | Tags: , ,

  Dear Aspect Foundation and Senator Bob Casey,  

Thanks for making all of our jobs a little tougher today.

Do we think it’s a coincidence that Bob is from Scranton?

Dear Secretary Clinton,
I am writing you today out of concern for foreign exchange students who were placed in unsanitary homes in Pennsylvania and what it means for the welfare of our nation’s youth exchange programs.  It has recently come to my attention that nine foreign exchange students between the ages of 15 and 18 are now in the care of the Department of Human Services in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania because they were placed with unsuitable host families.  According to Lackawanna County officials, some children were in need of medical attention due to malnutrition and dehydration while others were living in unsanitary conditions and in a home recently condemned. 
The stories from these children are disturbing.  One story was of a 15 year-old girl from Nigeria who was living in a house surrounded by dog feces.   According to news reports, this exchange student was living with the Area Coordinator of the sponsoring organization, the same person responsible for ensuring that other host families were living up to their obligations. The investigative reporter visited the house and confirmed the exchange student’s allegations and found dirt and feces throughout the house.  The situation this student found herself in is simply unacceptable.
It is my understanding that both the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), under the Department of Homeland Security, share responsibility for overseeing and implementing youth exchange programs.  Through an independent third party – the Council on Standards for International Education Travel – the State Department provides accreditation and audits for private and non-profit international educational travel and youth exchange programs (also referred to as sponsors) on an annual basis.  The USCIS Student and Exchange Visitor Program is responsible for tracking and monitoring foreign exchange students, schools and programs as long as they reside in America.  When allegations of abuse arise, according to the secondary school student guidelines issued by the State Department, it is the sponsor’s responsibility to report and notify the incidents directly to the Department of State.
I am concerned that the current oversight system is reactive not proactive and permits the ongoing abuse of foreign students without any effective intervention until the situation is dire.  The situation these students found themselves in only came to attention once teachers voiced their concerns.  Therefore, I request answers to the following questions:
•           The Council on Standards for International Education Travel (CSIET) is the independent nonprofit organization that reviews sponsors on an annual basis and provides a public list of those who have received accreditation.  How does the Department of State determine whether the audits performed by CSIET meet agency regulations?  How often, if at all, does the Department of State perform checks on the various sponsors approved by CSIET?
•           Sponsors are required to “exercise due diligence” to ensure that the host families are screened properly and are found satisfactory. The Department of State has previously stated that “a mere superficial compliance with this regulatory requirement will not be tolerated.”  If it is determined that an approved sponsor has failed to demonstrate due diligence in their host family selection process, what are the consequences for that sponsor?
•           How much contact, if any, does the State Department have with sponsors?  With CSIET?
•           Are sponsors required to make home visits with students and their host families?  If so, how many times must a sponsor visit the home during a student’s stay? 
•           If a sponsor loses its accreditation, is the sponsor allowed to reapply for accreditation the following year, if at all?  If so, what steps must a sponsor take to have its accreditation restored?
•           How many Department of State employees work on youth exchange programs?
I am supportive of the cultural and educational exchange programs the Department of State promotes and funds.  Such exchange opportunities assist in dispelling negative images of the United States and helps convey our nation’s best attributes.  It is for these reasons that I am deeply concerned about allegations of abuse and mistreatment of foreign exchange students.  Stories like those emanating from Lackawanna County tarnish our reputation and undermine the mission of youth exchange programs.  I look forward to hearing your responses and working with you on guaranteeing the safety and welfare of foreign exchange students in the United States.

                                                                        Robert P. Casey, Jr.


Economist Cover Spoof
10-06-08, 8:59 pm
Filed under: Home | Tags:


Also, a great profile of John McCain from Rolling Stone. The myth of John McCain hinges on two transformations — from pampered flyboy to selfless patriot, and from Keating crony to incorruptible reformer — that simply never happened.   I have read Rolling Stone for a while.  We used to subscribe to it, when they regularly had wonderful political articles by William Greider and P J O’Rourke.

Brain to Mouth Filter
07-11-08, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Home | Tags: ,

 I think some of these people need a nice long vacation away from reporters and cameras.  The worst part is they are all old pros, they know better than to make stupid, arrogant remarks.

Jesse Jackson– Jackson made the comments to a guest before an interview on Sunday’s “Fox & Friends,” whispering that Obama was “talking down to black people” and that Jackson wanted to “cut his nuts off.”

Bush at the G8 Summit-The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: “Goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter.”  He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.

Phil Gramm: You’ve heard of mental depression; this is a mental recession,” “We may have a recession; we haven’t had one yet.”  “We have sort of become a nation of whiners,” he said. “You just hear this constant whining, complaining about a loss of competitiveness, America in decline” despite a major export boom that is the primary reason that growth continues in the economy, he said.

Reason 286 Bolivia is Crazy
04-10-08, 10:12 am
Filed under: Culture, Home | Tags: , ,

From The Washington Times:
Bolivia raises hackles with ID
April 10, 2008
By Martin Arostegui – SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia — The appearance of a Star of David on new national identity cards has alarmed opponents of President Evo Morales, who recall how the symbol was used to brand Jews in Nazi Germany.
Tiny six-pointed stars within a tight circle are printed on the back side of some, but not all, recently issued picture IDs in the Santa Cruz region. The mark was present on three cards seen by The Washington Times.
“It raises suspicions that the government is identifying individuals or segments of the population along racial, religious or ideological lines” said Carlos Klinsky, a member of Bolivia’s parliament from Santa Cruz, where the new ID cards have recently appeared.
What puzzles Mr. Klinsky and others is that the marked ID cards do not appear to target people who are Jewish or have Jewish ancestry.
Mr. Klinsky, a member of the political opposition to Mr. Morales’ leftist government, suspects — but is unable to prove — that the motive is political.
Mr. Klinsky has sent letters to national authorities, requesting explanations for the symbol, which began appearing last year on identity cards issued in the Santa Cruz area as part of a newly computerized national identification system. He has yet to receive a reply. Continue reading

Who Tries to Steal a Moai?
03-29-08, 12:31 am
Filed under: Culture, Home | Tags: ,

 Can you imagine damaging a world treasure?  I loved seeing Stonehenge, but I didn’t chip off a piece to take back home. What went through this idiot’s tiny mind?  “Wow.  Let’s see, I’ll impress my friends by taking a bit off a pyramid, the Colosseum, Taj Mahal, and one of China’s clay soldiers.   Future generations don’t matter, since I’ll be dead.  It’s all about meeeeeeeeeeeee.”
BBC Article-The authorities on Easter Island have detained a Finnish tourist on suspicion of trying to steal an earlobe of one of the world-famous moai stone statues.
Police on the Pacific island, which is an overseas territory of Chile, said a woman had seen him rip off the earlobe, which then fell and broke into pieces.
Marko Kulju could face seven years in prison and a fine if convicted under laws protecting national monuments.
The statues of Polynesian ancestors are believed to be up to 1,000 years old.
There are nearly 900 moai on Easter Island, in various stages of construction, some of them more than 10m (33ft) tall and weighing more than 80 tons.
The island’s Rapa Nui National Park, in which the moai are situated, became a Unesco World Heritage Site in 1995. Mr Kulju was visiting Anakena beach on Sunday when he was allegedly seen using his hands to tear off the earlobe of a 4m (13ft) high moai, Easter Island Police Chief Cristian Gonzalez told the Associated Press.
The earlobe then fell to the ground and broke into 20-30cm pieces, at least one of which Mr Kulju allegedly attempted to steal, Mr Gonzalez added.
“Fortunately, this type of thing does not happen every day but it does happen and it is almost impossible to control because on Easter Island there are sites of great archaeological value everywhere and the park guards cannot prevent all such incidents,” government official Liliana Castro said.  Authorities on the island are inspecting the statue to see if it can be repaired.
From BBC

Outside the US and 9-11-01
03-03-08, 4:13 pm
Filed under: Culture, Exchange Students, Home | Tags: , ,

Recent Oscar winning French actress Marion Cotillard talked about the World Trade Center collapses in an interview last year.   Her comments made me want to write about 9/11.  I never felt right before.

 “I think we’re lied to about a number of things,” she said, singling out September 11.
Referring to the two passenger jets flown into the World Trade Centre, Miss Cotillard said: “We see other towers of the same kind being hit by planes, are they burned? There was a tower, I believe it was in Spain, which burned for 24 hours.
It never collapsed. None of these towers collapsed. And there [New York], in a few minutes, the whole thing collapsed.”
Miss Cotillard suggested that the towers, planned in the early 1960s, were an outdated “money sucker” which would have cost so much to modernise that it was easier to destroy them.

On September 11, 2001, Husband and I received several phone calls and numerous emails from former exchange students.  The kids wanted to make sure we were OK, and that everyone we (and they) knew was safe.   The students all expressed concern, empathy, and horror.   What really surprised us is that students from South America and Europe both theorized that Japan was behind the attacks. (This was on the 11th before anyone knew who did what.)  They said that WWII wasn’t that long ago, and we bombed Japan.  As Americans, we were dumbfounded.  Such a thought would never occur to us. 

I was proud of our program that Fall.  None of our inbound or outbound students returned home early because of the tragedy.  People around the world trusted our program to ensure their childrens’ safety, both here and abroad.  It gave us hope for the future.

Water & Electricity Shortages in Chile
02-21-08, 3:10 pm
Filed under: Home | Tags: ,

From AP via Yahoo: Chile Declares State of Emergency As Drought Threatens Farms, Electricity Supply

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP) — One of Chile’s worst droughts in 50 years has parched farms and drained local water supplies, prompting the government to declare a state of emergency in 30 municipalities on Wednesday.More than a quarter of the country’s 345 municipalities have faced urgent water shortages in recent weeks, pushing the government to spend more than $13 million to tap underground water deposits and send cistern trucks to water livestock and crops.”If we have to declare every municipality in the country in emergency, we will,” presidential spokesman Francisco Vidal said. “The only thing we can’t do is make rain.”

The eight-month-long drought will “inevitably trigger price hikes on some produce,” warned Luis Schmidt, president of Chile’s largest farmers’ association, the National Agriculture Society.

Chile’s government has called the drought its worst in a half century.

Water shortages are also threatening electricity supply, as Chile relies on hydroelectric power for 60 percent of its energy, the government said.

To prevent power rationing, officials cut voltage across the country by 10 percent, distributed more efficient light bulbs and extended daylight savings time by two weeks through last Saturday in March.   (from Wry: Chile’s voltage is usually 220, ours in the US is 120.)

The drought is in part caused by La Nina, a weather pattern marked by a drop in Pacific Ocean temperatures that slows evaporation and rain in some regions, while causing heavy showers and flooding in others, said Claudia Villarreal, a meteorologist for Chile’s Weather Service.