Tag Archives: politics

Tree Trees

May 5th, 2017

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When I was in college, just by chance I ended up at a party for the international students, (free beer) and there, to my surprise, I made some of my best friends to this day. You know when you instantly connect with someone? Romantic or not, it’s rare and there is something special about the sheer dumb luck it would take for a kid from the Netherlands and a kid born an hour and half outside of Los Angeles should meet and become (dare I say it?) best friends.

Not my first friend from out of the country, Ralf and I (pronounced Rolf in Dutch but forced to take Ralph as his American name by sheer repetition) have become close like only a few friends I’ve had in my 26 years. We talk about anything and everything but I would be lying if I said we didn’t discuss the norm for two people from different countries quite frequently, i.e. cultural differences between the US and The Netherlands, the EU, The World at large, long political talks about what’s wrong with America, what’s great about America, what’s wrong with Europe, what’s great about Europe, Life, Humanity. No doubt, it is a big part of our relationship and I enjoy it fully, as I suspect he does.

That being said, I think some of the greatest joys comes from the subtle teasing that comes from a close friendship. Little jabs about “fat Americans” a few remarks about outdated Christmas traditions (see Zwarte Piet) here and there help us recognize the differences between ourselves and our cultures in a way that transcends either, humor.

An example, my best friend Ralf speaks perfect English, it’s just, his accent has him say “tree” instead of three. It makes really no difference with context and so is generally a non-issue. So, one time, near Christmas, we’re at a bar just chatting when Ralf notices funny albeit bawdy ornaments on some trees.

“Look at that tree” he pointed.

With a sly grin I asked him, “How many trees are there?”

Ignoring the odd question, Ralf responded earnestly, “tree”

“Yes Ralf, I know they’re trees, but how many of them are there?”

“Tree”

“So just one?”

“No tree!”

I think my smile gave away the joke and Ralf, realizing my mischief, and being a genuinely great person, tilted his head back in guffaws, causing groups of patrons to stare.

Although small, I think this is one of the better moments of my life, not because of some great accomplishment but the realization that we are heading into a globalist world, and how great it is that our conversations, our relationships, our lives can be enriched and diversified by this. Increasingly in America you hear the term Globalism used as a slur. Those who use “globalist” as a derogatory term could not be more wrong.  The world has always been heading toward globalism and there are so many benefits worthy of discussion: Economic stability, increased understanding and decreased xenophobia, trade. You can expect all this from Globalism…. or maybe you’ll just share a laugh with a new best friend.

Alex Brenner

Alex is a graduate of UCLA’s creative writing program and helps ACEI’s international applicants in his role as Client Relations Officer.

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Importance of International Students and Immigration to US Higher Education

March 10th, 2017

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As someone who has been actively involved in international education, this article expresses why I’m so passionate about the importance of immigrants and international students. The contributions made by immigrants and international students in the sciences, humanities and arts, economics, medicine, their innovations and inventions are too numerous to list. Yet what the Trump administration has done in less than two months with the enactment of the travel ban, revoking visas of international students, detaining refugees, deporting undocumented immigrants has so negatively impacted our standing in the world and will so deeply hinder and stunt our growth that the effects are far reaching will be felt by all. Immigrants and international students who are considering to legally enter the U.S. are seriously reconsidering their options by turning to friendlier and more hospitable countries to migrate and/or pursue their higher education.

This article by Jonathan R. Cole that recently appeared in The Atlantic sums it up nicely; American universities need international students and immigrants:

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2017/03/american-universities-need-immigrants/518814/

We all need to stand up and support academic and scholarly exchange rather than erect walls and hide behind them in fear. Aren’t we Americans made of stronger stuff? Where’s our courage? Where’s our foresight?

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Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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The Women’s March: Perspectives from Los Angeles and beyond….

January 26th, 2017

march

This past Saturday, I was one of the millions of women and men on all seven continents who participated in the Women’s March. The march started as a movement on Facebook but quickly expanded to more than 600 “sister marches” in major U.S. cities outside of Washington D.C. and even outside the U.S. According to CNN, some 2.2 million people worldwide participated in marches from Australia to Hong Kong, New Zealand, UK, Italy, France, Germany, Serbia, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Kosovo, Georgia, The Netherlands, Macau, Mexico, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and as far south as Antarctica.

The final count for the crowd marching in my hometown Los Angeles was 750,000. It was heartening to see so many Angelinos, of all ages and ethnicities peacefully converging and marching through the streets of downtown Los Angeles. There were no police, at least in uniform, and no mayhem or looting, just happy peaceful people marching in solidarity for human rights, civil rights, women’s rights, and the health of our planet.

While we were marching in Los Angeles, hundreds of thousands of people were doing the same in the nation’s capital to show their solidarity and support for those who feel their rights may be threatened by the new administration, under Donald Trump who was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States on January 20, 2017. Tens of thousands of college students, faculty and administrators were also at the march in D.C. as they too feel their rights are under attack.

According to Madison Thomas, the march’s national coordinator for college engagement as reported by InsideHigher Education: “An estimated 50,000 students from college campuses across the country attended the Women’s March on Washington.” Many of these students had traveled from their college campuses far away to be at the march. InsideHigherEducation reports: “College women marched for reproductive rights and stronger legislation against sexual assault and sexual harassment. Some students said they were marching for the rights of undocumented immigrants, Muslims, members of the LGBT community, people of color and people with disabilities. And university professors marched for freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of inquiry and campus diversity.” Clearly, many see the current administration’s intended policies to be in direct conflict with the gains made during the previous administrations concerning women’s reproductive rights, women’s rights, human rights, and gender equality.

Participating at the march in DC, was Julie Schmid who is the executive director of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP); one of the groups that had partnered with the Women’s March. AAUP is deeply concerned about protecting freedom of expression and inquiry on college campuses and ensuring that qualify of education and accountability of educational institutions is not negatively impacted under the Trump administration. According to Ms. Schmid, AAUP had “members participating in over 600 sister marches across the country.”

Here in Los Angeles, I was overjoyed to see such a large contingency of young college- and even high school-aged women and men marching side by side chanting slogans and carrying signs supporting women’s rights. On the metro ride to the march, during the march and on our return home, I overheard informed and passionate conversations on the importance of having stronger legislation against sexual assault and sexual harassment on college campuses, as well as protecting the rights of undocumented immigrants, people of color, Muslims, people with disabilities, and members of the LGBT community.

The nationwide and global outpouring of support for the Women’s March and the record breaking numbers of participants highlight the significance of human rights and social justice issues. The question is if this global solidarity was a moment in time or start of a worldwide movement as more countries, especially in Europe lean toward extreme right leaning nationalistic political parties and candidates running for positions of leadership.

Links to sources:

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/01/23/tens-thousands-college-students-and-professors-march-washington

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/photo-essays/2017-01-21/the-women-s-march-in-pictures-from-washington-to-antarctica 

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-01-21/women-s-march-draws-thousands-to-washington-to-protest-trump

http://www.thedp.com/article/2017/01/womens-march-reflections

jasmin_2015
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

The Million Woman March: A Los Angeles Perspective

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I attended the Million Woman March in Los Angeles this past Saturday with several friends, and although I knew it would be crowded on the trains, the only logical transportation to the downtown location of the march, I never imagined exactly how crowded it would be. As of 2016 the “counted” population of the city exceeds 4 Million.

Our urban rail system is relatively new, and we spend a significant portion of time isolated in our cars on endless miles of streets and freeways, without much human contact. This is rapidly changing as the Metropolitan Transit Authority continues to make significant additions. Public transportation is the only way to understand the true nature of a city, sadly lost otherwise. Los Angeles is a polyglot, multicultural city with 224 languages spoken other than English, and it was a rare, unique moment in time when many of us converged, at the same place, at the same time, united in the same cause.

What an overwhelmingly beautiful thing to see and experience.

The first thing I noted was the way we all negotiated the new rules of personal space/distance. Perhaps it was because we were united in a singular cause, we seemed to be part of one organic form, functioning together, effortlessly, with unexpected grace and of all things, kindness. We were there for things much bigger, much more important, much more urgent than our personal issues of comfort.

No aggressive pushing, no shoving, all emotions channeled into a common cause. Not even a noticeable police presence, which is unheard of in protests in the city. Men, women, transgender, straight, gay, infants on their mother’s backs, grandmothers in wheelchairs, children holding signs on their father’s shoulders…all flowing together, extremely close together and everything just worked. 

I felt an overwhelming sense of empowerment, and a core feeling of joy. This is what the world should be like, this is what the world is moving towards, and my city is an outstanding example of how it can work in a “perfect world.”

Joining the masses moving effortlessly down the street, the views of the sheer numbers packed into streets and alleyways was staggering. Once we reached the stage set up in front of City Hall, and were lucky to position ourselves with a view down on the masses I had a realization that something else deeply significant had occurred, which warmed my heart and gave me hope for the next generation.

Driven by the critical nature of the serous issues we were and are protesting, we had, collectively as a society, altered the invisible overlay of puritanical ethics by casually using the word “pussy” so openly, so cavalierly…a slang word used in a defiling way, by Donald Trump, bounced around the world in a never-ending sound bite. These young parents, had to have explained it all to their children in some way that made sense. One father, surrounded by pink-hatted little girls, had his daughter on his shoulders.  Her neon-pink sign read “Don’t’ touch my …” with her own hand-drawn face of a kitty.

I tried to imagine the conversation he must have had with her, and I was filled again by the second wave of pride and hope for the future of our children. These young girls, and some boys, got it. They understood what we are all fighting for. This word, held up on hundreds of thousands of signs was a channel for the outrage and represented our refusal to accept the civic, personal, and human rights, the ecological and environmental abuses, the rising, and very frightening agenda to silence the voice of the people. 

The way I see it, is that these young parents have given us all hope, by shifting the paradigm. Their children have learned to fight, to stand up and continue to have their voices heard, and we need them.

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Jeannie Winston is a frequent guest blogger for ACEI’s Academic Exchange. Jeannie is an artist and writer living and working in Los Angeles, California. Jeannie completed her undergraduate studies in Illustration at The Arts Center of Pasadena, California.  Her vast and intricate knowledge of Los Angeles and its cultural history bring a new perspective to our understanding of the City of Angels. She draws her inspiration from the natural and inhabited world around her. She is especially inspired by her observations of cultural fusions and how people strive to invoke spirit in daily life.

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Three Timely Presidential Songs

November 14th, 2016

songs

With the election just over, I thought I’d call to mind some songs about U.S. presidents and elections — songs that either celebrate or poke a little fun at being POTUS. We can all use a little levity about now, right?

The first is “Tell Me Why You Like Roosevelt” by Otis Jackson. Jackson first recorded this tribute song in 1946, a year after Roosevelt’s death, and re-recorded it many times after. A book called Roosevelt’s Blues: African-American Blues and Gospel Songs on FDR by Guido van Rijn talks about this song as well as dozens of other blues and gospel songs that celebrated FDR, who was an important figure for the African American community. The video below is for part one of Jackson’s song, but there is a part two as well. I found it on a great album called Hot Gospel (Get Right with God) 1947-1953.

The second song is by the great bluesman Percy Mayfield with Johnny “Guitar” Watsonfrom 1974 called, “I Don’t Want to Be President.” It’s a fun and timely song by Billy Vera’s favorite singer-songwriter. I found it on an Atlantic Records two-LP set from the 1980’s called Atlantic Blues:Vocalists.

Finally, Ry Cooder wrote “Cold Cold Feeling” about presidential blues on his albumElection Special. The 2012 CD, released before Obama’s second term, also included the sad lament about Mitt Romney’s poor canine,”Mutt Romney Blues“.

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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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What Sparked the Student Protests in South Africa?

October 13th, 2016

2016-10-16
University of Witwatersrand (Wits University) on Monday, protesters throwing rocks were dispersed by riot police using tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades. (Photo credit: Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images)

Monday, October 10, 2016 was supposed to be the start of regular classes at the University of Witwatersrand but this did not happen as students continue their protests against tuition hikes.

Here is some background and update on the ongoing student protests in South Africa:

1. In 2015, tuition fee hikes of between 10% and 12% were proposed.

2. The demonstrations began last October at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. Students blocked the entrance to the university campus in protest against proposed hike in fees by 10.5% for 2016.

3. Under the banner #FeesMustFall, demonstration caused the closure of some of the country’s top universities. President Zuma ordered a freeze on tuition fees for a year.

4. Students have been protesting since September 20th, following the education minister’s announcement that universities can raise tuition up to 8 percent.

5. Protests at many universities have been peaceful. But at the University of Cape Town, protesters lobbed petrol bombs.

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Students protesting under the “FeesMustFall” banner. (Photo credit: BBC)

 

6. Fire destroyed a library at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

7. Fires were set at Cape Peninsula of Technical (CPUT).

8. Students at Rhodes University put up burning barricades on campus streets.

9. President Jacob Zuma says the damage has cost the government more than $40 million.

10. According to President Zuma, the government has also absorbed $1 billion after similar protests forced a tuition fee freeze last year.

11. Annual increases in student fees differ between universities as fees are determined by institutions. Fees also vary by degree programs.

12. The government subsidizes tuition for poorer students, but undergraduate fees can be as high as $5,000 a year, which makes it unreachable for many black students.

13. More than two decades after the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africans continue to face extreme income inequality. The students want the opportunities they were promised when apartheid ended.

14. Protests show growing disillusionment with the governing African National Congress (ANC), which took power after 1994.

15. On Tuesday, October 11, 2016, President Zuma announced the establishment of a Ministerial Task Team to resolve the current impasse at institutions of higher learning. Those invited to serve on the  Task include heads of the following Ministries: The Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Minister of Higher Education and Training, Minister of Science and Technology, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Minister of Police, Minister of State Security, Minister of Defense and Military Veterans, and Minister of Home Affairs.  Absent from the team is the Minister of Finance who is set to answer a summons to appear in court on November 2. Ultimately, it is the Finance Ministry that would be tasked with finding the funds to address the funding issue for higher education.

For an audio/webinar presentation of this blog report on student protests in South Africa, please click here: http://www.anymeeting.com/mwemfxacpupn/E954DD83804B3F

Sources: 

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/10/10/497380342/photos-students-police-clash-in-south-africa-over-free-tuition demands?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=2036

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-37607757

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-34615004

http://www.thedailyvox.co.za/president-zuma-leaves-pravin-task-team-deal-feesmustfall/

http://www.thedailyvox.co.za/buildings-torched-overnight-wits-cput-ukzn/

http://www.dontparty.co.za/latest-news/is-feesmustfall-the-most-significant-protest-of-the-new-south-africa/

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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The New Normal in the 21st Century

September 22nd, 2016

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Police Robot sent on the mission to deactivate/detonate the suspicious object.

The “new normal” paid me a visit on September 20, 2016 at 7:02 AM PST. My husband and I woke to the sound of our neighbor knocking on our door alerting us to news that the police and bomb squad were outside our condominium building. A medium-sized pressure cooker was found sitting on the sidewalk directly in front of our building. In no time, our quiet non-descript neighborhood in West Los Angeles, was turned into a crime scene. LAPD had barricaded all roads and streets around us blocking all types of traffic.  The police robot was brought in which detonated the suspicious object. Luckily, the object was empty, no one was hurt though a little shaken. By 8:00 AM the police began lifting the barricades and one by one left the scene returning our neighborhood to normal.

This event happened at the heels of the bomb that exploded in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood over the weekend. The term I heard on the NPR news hour, following the Chelsea explosion, was that this is the “new normal.” For a second, I nodded in agreement; yes, this is now the new normal and we just have to continue with our lives. Yet, this is not the new normal at least not for those of us growing up in the 1970’s where the “new normal” was most likely originally introduced. In the 70’s, I was attending a boarding school in Bexhill-on-Sea, in Sussex County, England. This sleepy beach town, home to mostly blue-haired retirees and a couple of boarding schools, was the quintessential English town with charming tea shops and antique stores. Ensconced in the protective walls of my school, my classmates—fellow boarders from the four corners of the world—and I were hundreds of miles away from the terror and disruption experienced in European capitals like London, Munich, Rome and beyond. We did not have social media or round the clock cable news alerting us of terrorist attacks, but they existed and had become a part of our daily lives; the new normal.

Every morning, especially, in the last two years of my schooling, before the start of our classes, we would converge in the school’s small library and pour over the daily newspapers in preparation for a pop quiz to be delivered by our fastidious History teacher, Miss Wade, an Australian transplant. This exercise kept us abreast of the world, the ongoing war in Vietnam, the Cold War between the USA and USSR, the Watergate Scandal, terrorist threats and attacks by the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Spain’s Basque separatist group Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), Italy’s Anni di Piombo (Years of Lead) and the Red Brigade, Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), the Libyans, Germany’s Red Army Faction aka Baader Mainhoff Gang, and other subversive groups with agendas to disrupt societies and topple governments. A day didn’t pass us by without news of a plane hijacking, explosion at an airport or Tube station in London, kidnappings of top government officials, and even the assassination of Aldo Moro, the Prime Minister of Italy. There was even the 1975 brazen hostage taking of oil ministers from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) who were meeting in Vienna, Austria by German and Arab terrorists led by Carlos the Jackal. And, let us not forget the brutal hostage taking and massacre of athletes at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, Germany. 

In September 1975, during a weekend visit to London, where I was going to spend the time with my father who was staying at the Hilton Hotel on a business trip, the lobby of the hotel became the target of a suspected IRA bomb explosion. My father and I had just the left the hotel to dine at a nearby restaurant and returned to find the entrance blocked off with police, ambulance and fire trucks parked outside in the driveway. Two people were killed and 63 people were injured in the main lobby. Londoners woke up the next day to the tragic news and set off to work, school, or on errands as before. It was the new normal.

Another time, in mid-70’s, when returning to England after a short holiday at home in Iran, the BOAC flight from Tehran to London made a surprise landing in Beirut, Lebanon. It may have been a technical problem which had forced the Captain to land us in Beirut. We were not allowed to disembark. I was most likely 13 or 14, traveling alone, something I did regularly on the trips between school and home and back. I had read about the civil war which had erupted in Lebanon and remember looking out the window of the airplane and through the darkness of the night, I could make out the silhouettes of tanks and military vehicles. It was an eerie sight and one that I remember clearly to this day. The plane sat on the tarmac for perhaps an hour but soon after takeoff the Captain apologized on the PA system for the unscheduled stop and explained how lucky we were to have taken off when we did as the airport had been the target of a bombing as soon as we were in the air.

In its March 25, 2016 article, The Telegraph includes a glimpse into what the world was like in the 70’s and 80’s, marred by terrorist attacks fueled by various governments and insurgent groups. The world, as the old saying goes, has not just recently gone to hell in a hand basket. Yes, there’s no denying the horrific impact and loss of lives brought on by this century’s recent terrorist attacks in the U.S., Norway, Spain, Belgium and France, the ravages of the Civil War in Syria, the Refugee crisis, the savagery of religious fanatics who will go unnamed as their mere mention gives their heinous acts credit.  In no way am I belittling or dismissing this century’s horrible acts of violence. The present is as equally horrible as the past. The new normal has been with us throughout history. I always say that the only way to understand or make sense of the present is to know our history. It will not lessen the grief for the loss of a loved one or a way of life, but knowing the lessons learned from the past offer us perspective and focus to understand the present so that we can courageously navigate our way through it empowered without feeling afraid and helpless. It may sound trite or simplistic, but there is something to be said for the two words “Carpe Diem,” so beautifully memorialized in the film “Dead Poet’s Society,” by the late actor/comedian Robin Williams. The lessons of the past are there for us to learn from. We need to know the past in order to survive the present with its currents threats and Seize the Day.

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert

jasmin_2015
Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert is the President and CEO of the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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How many countries?

August 5th, 2016

How many countries

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit www.acei-global.org.

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