Fourth Of July Fun Facts

July 4th, 2014

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The Fourth of July: The day Americans celebrate their country’s independence.

It’s a day you probably know well, and one that you anticipate with pleasure; but there are probably a lot of fun facts about the nation’s birthday that you aren’t familiar with.

Click to see slide show of 10 interesting facts about July 4

Towering Pyramids: Bonfires on July 3rd

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Before fireworks were mainstream, huge bonfires were built to celebrate Independence day.

The bonfires reached monumental proportions, but none matched the 100-foot pyramid built for the Gallows Hill bonfire in Salem, MA.

Read the article on The Atlantic

As American as Apple Pie

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One American tradition; two very different ways of preparing it – one of them doesn’t even have apples in the ingredients!

Get the recipes:

Mock Apple Pie

Traditional Apple Pie

Favorite 4th of July BBQ recipes

Here are some unique recipes to make your BBQ even more special with your family and friends this July 4th.

Fun 4th of July BBQ recipes

Happy Fourth from ACEI!

This independence day brings forth a new hope to make our tomorrows most beautiful and cherished. Wishing everyone a very happy 4th of July from all us here at ACEI!

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Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc.
www.acei1.com

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RIP: Maya Angelou

June 26th, 2014

Last month we lost the great Maya Angelou. Our guest blogger, Tom Schnabel, had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Angelou in 1995 when he hosted the radio show Cafe LA at KCRW, the public station housed at Santa Monica College. We’d like to share Tom’s recent blog about having Dr. Angelou as a guest on his show.

Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou: 1928 – 2014

I interviewed Maya Angelou on January 7, 1995. She visited Cafe LA as a guest DJ. She was wearing Malian mud cloth slacks. It was an El Niño year and it was pouring buckets outside. I welcomed her to sunny Southern California. The guest mike wasn’t working, there was no engineer on duty to fix it, but I had prepared and was ready. She did correct me, however, when I pronounced her name “Angelou” with the long “u”; she preferred “Angeloh”.

Since she wore so many hats, I asked her how best to describe her. She said it would be as a writer. Given the technical problems with her microphone, we turned to her first choice as guest DJ, “Stormy Weather” by Sarah Vaughan. Maya was a friend and fan. We talked about her trip to Europe as a cast member of Porgy and Bess, her journalistic work in Cairo (she learned Arabic too). It was during the Nasser era of the 1950s, and she sang a song by the great Oum Kalsoum in praise of the Egyptian president. She sang it with perfect diction, right there in the studio!

We talked about her friendship with James Baldwin, the effects of being an African American living abroad and what she learned. Maya then read a poem she wrote for James Baldwin.

Calypso

She had a commanding voice as she read it. She then picked duet song of Hank Williams, Jr. and Ray Charles. Her love of music was obvious. She even recorded an album of calypso classics back in the 1950s. She then featured the great Russian pianist Sviatoslav Richter in a Chopin scherzo. It reminded her of children playing, having fun on a Sunday afternoon. Maya then featured a buoyant, joyous Steve Wonder track.

We lost both the Ellington jazz crooner Herb Jeffries and now Maya Angelou. I have my aircheck cassettes out on my desk and will now proceed to transfer them onto CD for future posts. As I listen again to this aircheck from almost 20 years ago, I am happy we hit it off. My having been a comparative literature major in college and a music fanatic sometimes pays off.

toms

Tom Schnabel, M.A.

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythm Planet
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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15 Facts on South Korean Student Flows

June 19th, 2014

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When I first traveled to South Korea in 2001 and visited with officials at the Ministry of Education and at a number of the universities, there were 45,685 South Korean students studying in the U.S. The numbers grew to 75,065 in 2008/09 but began to show a dip to 72,153 in 2009/10.

In this blog, we’ll provide an overview of the flow of students from South Korea and factors that may have an impact on the rise or decline of the numbers of students seeking higher education in the U.S.

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1. Korea is the third largest source of international students to the U.S. after China and India.

2. More than 70,000 South Koreans studied on U.S. campuses in 2012–2013.

3. Korean parents place their children in U.S.-based private and public schools to have a better chance of being admitted to a U.S. college. (For example, at the University of Illinois, more than 69% of the Korean students admitted came directly from U.S. based high schools. Source: NAFSA International Education Magazine, April 2014)

4. According to the National Association of Independent Schools, Koreans are being quickly replaced by Chinese secondary students as the largest group of international students at independent schools. According to a report from the Association of Boarding Schools, Korean enrollments in member schools plunged 31 percent between 2010–2011 and 2012–2013 (from 3,800 to 2,600).

5. U.S. institutions continue to remain the favorite destination for study by South Korean students but the numbers are dropping as students are also looking at Canada as an alternative.

6. In 2012, 30.7 percent of Koreans studied in the United States, compared with 26.3 percent in China, 8.6 percent in Canada, 8.4 percent in Japan, and 7.2 percent in Australia, according to the Fulbright Commission in Seoul. Australia is aggressively marketing in South Korea to attract students to its institutions.

7. The rising cost of higher education in the U.S. and even Canada, Australia, Japan, is forcing South Korean students to look elsewhere, like Philippines and Malta, where education is affordable and English is the language of instruction. However, the number of students heading to these countries is very low. (According to Ministry of Education data from Fulbright Commission the share of South Koreans studying in the Philippines in 2010 and 2011 went from 1.1 to 1.2 percent, or to 3,238 students.)

8. The three factors that impact decisions made by South Koreans on studying abroad include: cost, value, and prestige. Most consider the cost of living in the UK as too high and consider U.S. universities as more prestigious than others

9. Prospective job applicants find that upon return to South Korea, employers prefer selecting a graduate from a U.S. institution.

10. In light of the weak job market for college graduates, a more popular option for Koreans is vocational schools that will be going through curriculum changes to include more hands-on training.

11. China is proving to be the Korean students’ second favored study abroad destination after the U.S. (According to the Wall Street Journal statistics: the number of Korean students flocking across the Yellow Sea to China grew more than three-fold between 2001 and 2012, from 16,000 to almost 63,000.)

12. More and more Korean companies are looking to hire college graduates who speak both fluent English and Chinese, since China is a key trading partner of South Korea.

13. On the other hand, many South Korean college graduates returning home are finding that the employers prefer hiring local college graduates as they see them to be less expensive and less inclined to change jobs.

14. Despite a weak economy and skyrocketing household debt, in 2012, Korean families spent $20 billion on private education (half of government education spending), or 2 percent of Korea’s GDP which makes education the nation’s largest spending area before defense expenditures.

15. The flow of Korean students to U.S. and abroad is contingent on whether Korean universities commit to reforms that will help their ranking on the list of top schools in the world. If they do not improve their ranking on the global level, South Korean students will continue to seek higher education opportunities in the U.S. and abroad.

Alan

Alan A. Saidi
Senior Vice President & COO, ACEI, Inc.
www.acei1.com

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IRAN: Happiness, Stealthy Freedom, and Faces of Iran on FB

June 12th, 2014

Happiness is…

If you’ve been following the news from Iran recently, you must have heard the one about the group of six young women and men who posted a clip of themselves happily dancing to Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Happy!” As quickly as their video had gone viral, Iran’s morality police had them tracked down, arrested and forced them to repent on state-run television for their unorthodox behavior. I’d happened upon their dance video via a recently discovered Facebook page called “Humans of Tehran” inspired by the original “Humans of New York,” which actually began with Brandon Stanton’s voyage to Iran and a series of photos he took of the people he had met and the sites he had visited in the country. Check this link for the priceless photos he captured.

Pharrell’s song “Happy” has been adopted by people around the world. If you check on Youtube you’ll find tributes to “Happy” from Senegal, Dubai, India, France, Jamaica, Tunisia, Japan, Morocco, Russia, Belgium, Philippines, and many more. I was, however, surprised to see a video paying tribute to Pharrell’s hit song from Iran, given the strict restrictions the government has placed on western music. We have all heard of underground bands (see film “No Ones Heard of Persian Cats”) from visitor to Iran witnessing concerts and performances by musicians behind the closed doors of houses and apartments, in basements and rooftops, hilltops, abandoned barns, and even inside their cars. Iranians are blasting pop music on their sound systems and dancing to their hearts desire. However, to tape a video and post it on a public venue like Youtube for all to see, took some unbelievable courage and perhaps naïveté. The dancers in the video must have thought they were immune to scrutiny or arrest since they were dancing to a sweet and infectious song with global appeal. There is even a video of people dancing to “Happy” in Yemen (a very strict Islamic country). The “Happy” video that got the young people in trouble shows the young women without the hijab and dancing with young men on the rooftop and inside the confines of a small living room. The arrest of these young people has drawn the ire of social media in and outside the U.S. and even Pharrell Williams himself has spoken up and condemned their arrest. In an interview, Williams is quoted as saying: “It is beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness.” Yet even though the authorities clamped down on the young people whose video had been found offensive, another one from Iran has been posted on YouTube as well as one performed by puppets dancing to the Happy on the rooftop as a tribute to the dancers who were arrested.

Iranian_Tango

And then I stumbled upon a video of a couple dancing the tango, an intimate and sensual dance, not in the privacy of their home but right outside a mosque. Looks like no matter how much the morality police try to suppress people, happiness through music and dance has a way of rising to the top and not just roof tops.

Faces of People of Iran

Another site I learned about is the Facebook page is the “Humans of Tehran,” on the Humans of New York page; an enormously successful site with followers all over the world. The images captured on the Humans of Tehran page speak volumes of a country that so few of us living here in the U.S. know much of except what is reported on mainstream news media. What we don’t see are the faces of the children, the teens, college students, couples in love, fathers playing in the snow with their children, the elderly resting on a park bench, street vendors and artisans, images of cities, living rooms, beauty salons, restaurants and cafes, monuments, cityscapes and landscapes, nature and the urban life. Humans of Tehran puts the human face on the enemy and we see that the people are just like us, going to work, to school, cooking, cleaning, driving, skateboarding, hiking, lounging, just existing.

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Credit: Humans of Tehran FB (Hilltop view of Tehran)

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Credit: Humans of Tehran FB (Beauty Salon, where women can be free of the hijab, at least temporarily.)

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Credit: Brandon Stanton (Humans of Tehran)

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Credit: Brandon Stanton (Humans of Tehran)

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Credit: Humans of Tehran FB (Hiking in the hills outside of Tehran is a very popular outdoor activity amongst Iranians of all ages.)

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Credit: Brandon Stanton (Humans of Iran – Firefighters at Firehouse 64, Tehran)

For a look at current state of fashion in Iran, click here: http://ajammc.com/2014/03/11/a-fashionable-revolution/

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Credit: Humans of Tehran FB (School children)

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Credit: Brandon Stanton (Humans of Iran – Tehran Street Scene)

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Credit: Humans of Tehran (The Metro in Tehran; the plans for the metro were drawn during the former Shah’s regime and implemented thereafter.)

Stealthy Freedom: Women Reclaiming Their Freedom

Recently, a brave new page popped up on my Facebook feed called “My Stealthy Freedom.” created by Masih Alinejad, an Iranian female journalist living in London. On this site Iranian women of all ages from different corners of Iran have their photos taken in public places without their hijab. By ridding themselves of their scarves, at least temporarily, they are expressing their right to be free to choose, free to wear or not to wear the hijab. This is a very bold move on the part of these women. In one photo (seen below), a young woman has tossed her scarf into the air as she stands in the middle of a neighborhood street with her arms stretched up to the sky and her long brown hair exposed for the world to see. A smile rests on her face as she looks up into the heavens.

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Credit: Stealthy Freedom FB

In a video, another young woman is behind the wheel of her car driving through the city streets with her light brown hair exposed. No hijab, nothing. Women are having their photos taken without the hijab and posting it on this site. Each has something to say. Some express their opinion through poetry, veiled in metaphors and some say it as it is. “I want the freedom to choose. It is my human right.”

Unfortunately, Masih Alinejad, the creator of the Facebook page “My Stealthy Freedom” has been the target of ugly smear campaigns by Iran’s state-run media in order to discredit her. I won’t dignify what was said about Alinejad in this post, but I will share with you her response: “I’ve thought long and hard about how to respond. As a matter of principle, I’m going to sue for damages and file a formal complaint against the state television.” Definitely nothing stealthy about her; her statement is both bold and clear.

To the outside, Iran may appear one dimensional, but that is far from the truth. With its rich history dating back to nearly 3000 years, Iran is a land of dichotomy. A blog worth reading, though a couple of years old, explains this dichotomy in detail.

In spite of the dress code and civil rights restrictions concerning women, more women are engaging in public life through participating in elections, political campaigns and demonstrations. More women graduating from universities in Iran than men; in fact, women comprise 65% of all university students and represent an increasingly high percentage of the workforce in Iran. Women are competing for the same jobs as men, so much so that under Iran’s former President Ahmadinejad’s tenure, a law was to be passed to prohibit women from entering into specific degree programs at universities so as to not take seats away from the men. It is an interesting twist to affirmative action; Iranian style.

Jasmin S. Kuehnert
President & CEO ACEI
www.acei1.com

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Student Loans: Up in Smoke!

June 5th, 2014

Smoke

Imagine you had a fairy godmother or godfather for that matter who with the wave of a wand erases all your debt to creditors, in this case, your student loan debt? Well, students at the Universidad Del Mar, a private for-profit tuition based institution, in Chile had their wish come true last month. Their entire debt history was expunged, wiped off the ledgers, erased, zapped, deleted, you name it, by a fairy godfather of sorts; an artist by the name of Papas Fritas, or Fried Potatoes.

Papasfritas
The man himself, Francisco Tapias, aka Papas Fritas

The visual artist managed to sweet talk his way into the vaults of the University under the guise of an art project, gathered all the documents concerning student loans worth about $500,000,000.00 and set fire to them, leaving absolutely not a scrap of paper to trace back to a single student!

This is what $500,000.000.00 worth of student loans looks like when burnt into ashes:

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He then compiled the ashes into a Volkswagen van creating a mobile art project and is traveling around the country to the people’s delight. (I start smiling every time I think of what this genius of an artist has accomplished. Bravo!) Whether we call what Papas Fritas did as art or a prank, is debatable. I prefer calling it an artistic prank. Kembrew McLeod, the author of a new book Pranksters: Making Mischief in the Modern World,” explains this the best. “If reduced to a mathematical formula, the art of pranking can be expressed as Performance Art + Satire x Media = Prank,” he writes. “Put simply, pranks are playful critiques performed within the public sphere and amplified by media.” (Though I’m digressing a bit here, check out the review on McLeod’s book in Slate’s online blog: http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2014/05/kembrew_mcleod_s_pranksters_reviewed.html)

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A few words about the Universidad Del Mar; a notorious money-laundering establishment that was stripped of its accreditation and shut down by the Chilean government last year leaving thousands of students in a lurch but still responsible to pay back their loans. The University was founded in 1989 and was later discovered that it bought its accreditation through bribes and siphoned monies from tuitions into private real estate dealings. Though it had hired professors with post-graduate degrees, its focus was not on strengthening its academic programs as evidenced by its abysmal ranking as 51st out of 53 universities in the country.

Back in 2011 Chilean students began protesting against for-profit universities and demanded the government to strengthen the state universities instead. These students brought to light moneymaking schemes by the for-profit institutions and succeeded in arrests of leaders of the universities and the closures of several of these institutions. In 2013, the students at the Universidad Del Mar caught on to the shenanigans at their institution and took over the university and occupied its main buildings. They too succeeded in having the university closed and its leaders arrested.

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Students protesting the Universidad Del Mar

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Days after the Universidad Del Mar was forced shut

The final blow to the now defunct Universidad Del Mar is most definitely Papas Fritas who took matters into his hands by lighting a match to the bogus loans that were left for the students to pay regardless of the demise of the university. According to lawyers in Chile “only by formally testifying in court and acknowledging the debt would students now be forced to pay.” Can’t see that one happening!

To learn more about Papas Fritas and his art installation check out this link:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/23/chile-student-loan-debts-fried-potatoes?CMP=fb_gu

To read more on the 2013 Chilean student protests against Universidad Del Mar check out this link: http://digitaljournal.com/article/349396


The Frustrated Evaluator
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Chinese student challenge: How to support them in succeeding in the U.S. educational system

May 29th, 2014

CGACC

On May 20, 2014, Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert, President & CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI) and Sid Krommenhoek, Founder of Zinch, presented a webinar hosted by CGACC on China and the challenges Chinese students pose for U.S. colleges and universities.

According to the 2013 Educational Exchange Data from the Institute for International Education (IIE) Open Doors, in the 2012/13 academic year, 235,597 students from China were studying in the United States; a 21% increases from the previous year. China remains the leading place of origin for students coming to the U.S.

The reasons for this boost in numbers can be linked to China’s growing middle-class affluence, especially when concentrated on a single child and the country’s higher education system not being able to meet the demands of its people. We can also attribute this upsurge to budget cuts at U.S. universities giving rise to the need for institutions to increase reviewed by recruiting abroad and the easing of the stringent student-vise policies that were implement immediately after 9/11.

It is difficult to predict if the huge percentage increases we’ve witnessed in Chinese undergraduate enrollment will continue but at least in the short-term China continues to represent the largest market of undergraduate international students heading to the U.S. One of the single biggest problems concerning Chinese students is the prevalence of document fraud in the application and evaluation process and the uncertainty of the quality of their prior education.

In the webinar, Sid Krommenhoek spoke extensively about China’s state-run education system being overrun by bribery and cronyism. It’s not unusual for parents to bribe school officials to get their children into elite schools, retain agents who will falsify recommendation letters, financial statements, academic transcripts and other documents needed to satisfy admission requirements to a U.S. college or university. Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert offered helpful tips for admissions counselors and credential evaluators to consider when dealing with transcripts and degrees from China.

The audio and presentation slides of this webinar which Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert of ACEI and Sid Krommenhoek attended are available for free at this link:

http://goo.gl/W1yCWr

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Russian Rock: Then and Now

May 23rd, 2014

I was Music Director of KCRW and host of Morning Becomes Eclectic during the 1980s and we did regular programs featuring the latest in Soviet-era Russian pop and rock music. Back then, the Cold War was alive and well, with Reagan and Brezhnev regularly rattling their swords. Jazz guitarist Pat Metheny once told me that as a kid in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, he played near missile silos with ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) aimed at the city then called Leningrad (now re-Christened St. Petersburg). During the mid 1980s, Pat spent a month in St. Petersburg, playing free shows for all people, not just politburo big-wigs or people with connections. He thought about his new friends and admirers–and about those ICBM’s. Such was the Cold War. It all ended in 1991, just when I was leaving KCRW to take a job at a record company.

Red_Wave_album_cover
1986 LP featuring: Aquarium, Kino, Alisa, Strange Games. Material had to be smuggled out of the USSR and released in the US.

A journalist from Riga, Latvia, named Sergei Zamascikov was a regular guest host, bringing with him the latest LPs from The Soviet Union. He worked for the Voice of America in LA, and was the go-to man for news or commentary on Russia. He got our first call when the Soviet Union was falling apart, with Gorbachev in his dacha and Boris Yeltsin on the tank. Sergei also arranged for flamboyand Russian writer Yevgeny Yevtushenko to read his famous poem Babi Yar at KCRW back then. The Soviet writer showed up, looking dashing in a shiny silver suit.

Together we played music by two of the biggest groups: DDT and Aquarium. Rock music, like jazz, is always viewed with suspicion by dictatorships: both are creative vehicles of free expression. DDT once even played live on Morning Becomes Eclectic. And the famous Russian group Aquarium, like DDT, would get banned and only be available on pirate cassettes, underground recordings that were much sought after by young people there. In 1986, the LP Red Wave was released in the US because a producer smuggled recorded material from the USSR of underground bands Aquarium, Kino, Alisa, and Strange Games.

There was a recent article in the New York Times is about Boris Grebenshikov, who is back in the news. Boris Grebenshikov founded the group Aquarium in Leningrad in 1972. The Kremlin’s radio station is now using one of Aquarium’s underground 1980s ballads: “Love in The Time of War” to promote its official policy toward Ukraine and Crimea. Grebenshikov is not happy seeing his song used as government propaganda. When he wrote it, it pointedly criticized Soviet ideology and tactics during the cold war. Now the Russian establishment is embracing Aquarium’s songs, something neither he nor the band ever wanted. It was a passionate anti-war song!

Here is the band Aquarium performing on the David Letterman show back in the 80s:

Here is more Aquarium footage of them performing in the USSR before an adoring crowd:

Tom Schnabel, M.A.

toms

Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythm Planet
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons
www.tomschnabel.com

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