Information and stories about United States.

8 Facts About Education in the Virgin Islands
The U.S. Virgin Islands, born out of colonization and slavery, consists of many different cultures today. This cultural diversity represents the torn history that the Virgin Islands experienced centuries ago with the arrival of European explorers such as Christopher Columbus. The peoples of the U.S. Virgin Islands reflect the many cultures of the West African, Danish, Spanish, Irish and German people. Here are 8 facts about education in the Virgin Islands.

8 Facts About Education in The Virgin Islands

  1. The Virgin Islands education system provides public and private education to all residents from preschool to college. The U.S. Virgin Islands Public University has over 43 degree programs for students to excel in. Additionally, the education system focuses on preparing citizens for employment.
  2. The territory spends 7.5 percent of its Gross National Product (GNP) on education. The Virgin Islands care strongly about supplying their citizens with the education necessary to make an impact on the world.
  3. The U.S. Virgin Islands is a territory of the United States. Because of this, it receives federal entitlements as well as beneficial educational programs, including Head Start, nutrition programs and Upward Bound.
  4. The program Upward Bound provides fundamental support for students to succeed in high school and prepare for college. This program serves lower-income and first-generation students, whose families may have a difficult time helping them prepare for college, as they never attended and/or completed college themselves.
  5. A project known as From Farm to School communicates with local farmers to bring students in public schools locally grown, fresh produce. From Farm to School has supported school gardens to enrich students’ learning and promote healthy eating habits. At this time, From Farm to School has constructed school gardens in 50 percent of public schools across the Virgin Islands.
  6. The Virgin Islands must comply with the education law which states equal learning opportunities for all students, including those with disabilities. A court case in 2007 – Nadine Jones v. the Government of the Virgin Islands – changed the way the Department of Education operated forever. Nadine Jones, a student with a disability was not receiving free and required services to aid in her learning. As a result of this case, the Department of Education was required to conform more closely to the educational law of the U.S. They have to provide free public schools to all students and be inclusive to students like Nadine Jones.
  7. Schools in the Virgin Islands such as Charlotte Amalie High School are still recovering from back-to-back hurricanes from over a year and a half ago. Students and teachers are still struggling after hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged their school facilities. Consequently, this makes daily school life difficult to thrive in. Students are often forced to eat in crowded hallways due to overpopulated schools and destroyed cafeterias.
  8. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided over $1.4 billion for reparations after the two hurricanes struck. Approximately $874 million went to emergy work, including debris removal, while the rest is designated for combating the damage to the education system. FEMA’s support has allowed for the reconstruction of many school facilities that were destroyed by storms.

These 8 facts about education in the Virgin Islands help illuminate the successes of education initiatives as well as some recent struggles caused by natural disasters.  The U.S. Virgin Islands is a territory that cares deeply about its education system, however, and strong efforts in the aftermath of the hurricanes are helping get students back on track to a high-quality education.

– William Mendez
Photo: Flickr

10 Myths about RefugeesRefugees have long been a much-debated topic in the United States and Europe. As the internet and media technology grows, so does the potential for the rapid spread of false information. It is imperative to separate fear-driven inaccuracies from tangible facts in order to dissolve inaccurate myths about refugees. Here are 10 myths about refugees.

10 Myths About Refugees

  1. Refugees pose a health risk to U.S. citizens. Refugees’ medical problems usually arise from a lack of access to appropriate medical care in their home country. Other refugees may also contract illnesses while running from persecution. Either way, preventative measures are readily available. Medical treatment in first-asylum camps and in refugee processing centers are two examples of these measures.
  2. The U.S. does not take sufficient preventative measures to make sure terrorists posing as refugees do not enter the country. The refugee screening process is one of the most rigorous screenings for people entering the U.S. The entire process takes approximately 18 to 24 months and involves collaboration with a number of security agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. The U.S. considers fewer than 1 percent of incoming refugees for residency in the country.
  3. Smartphones are not a necessity for refugees. Social connectivity across the internet platform is a vital part of job networking, maintaining finances and staying up-to-date with the news. Although refugees should have access to smartphones, less than 50 percent of them have access due to the inflated price rates for smartphone plans and maintenance.
  4. Refugees and migrants are the same. Refugees and migrants are distinctly different groups of people. Refugees are people who must leave their homes and flee for safety because of life-threatening internal conflict happening within their homeland. Migrants are people who voluntarily leave their homeland in order to search for better job opportunities and living arrangements.
  5. Refugees take away jobs from local communities. Unemployment exists independently from refugees seeking asylum in other countries. In fact, migrants and refugees have helped increase the workforce in the U.S. by 47 percent over the past 10 years. This is because they tend to take jobs that most people are not willing to do, thus filling in gaps in the job market.
  6. Most refugees seeking asylum are young men. Approximately 75 percent of incoming Syrian refugees are women and children, according to UNHCR. Additionally, more than half of the refugee population entering Europe to seek aid are women and children.
  7. Refugees are all Muslims. Although Muslims do fall into the mix of refugees that are fleeing war and persecution, not all refugees are Muslims. Only 24,768 refugees who arrived between January 2016 and August 2016 were Muslim, according to the U.S. Office of Admissions Refugee Processing Center. More than 30,000 refugees were either Christian or of another religious faith.
  8. All refugees that come to the U.S. lead financially comfortable lives. This varies substantially based on their origins and other important factors. For example, Russian and Iranian refugees may come to the U.S with better education and income than the U.S. average. On the other hand, fewer than 60 percent of Liberian and Somali refugees that arrived were literate in their native language.
  9. Refugees are exempt from paying taxes. Refugees have an obligation to pay employment, property, sales and other types of taxes just as every U.S. citizen. However, they cannot vote.
  10. History is repeating itself and the inevitable is bound to happen, no matter what people try to do to prevent mass persecutions. Refugee crises like these stir up fears that a travesty could occur in the near future. People should use education about history should as a motivator to take preventative measures to ensure that such an attack on human rights may never happen again. Displacement could be a sign of dictatorships forming, but through international unity and intervention, preventing such formations is possible.

The inaccuracy of these 10 myths about refugees can be harmful to their integration into new countries like the U.S. With further understanding and knowledge, however, their refugees’ transition into a new life should be much easier.

Lucia Elmi
Photo: Flickr

Poverty Rates of Filipinos
Crystal Tai, a journalist from South China Morning Post, reported that Filipinos were the largest immigrant minority in Alaska. They represent at least 15 percent of the population. According to the article, Filipinos have been in the state since the late 1700s, often heading to the Last Frontier for jobs. Many held positions as sailors, ore sorters and salmon cannery workers. People would eventually describe these seasonal workers and their descendants as Alaskeros. Some of the descendants came from Filipino soldiers who married Alaska Natives. Filipinos in the Philippines, Filipinos in the United States, Alaska Natives and Filipinos in Alaska or Alaskeros tend to have different economic outcomes. Poverty rates of Filipinos in different regions look different because each region brings out different challenges.

However, it is hard to tell which data belongs to which group as people continue to aggregate them or forget them altogether. People may have even overlooked Filipinos when it came to their status as Asians among other Asian countries. Some even describe Filipinos as the “orphans of the Pacific.” Researchers often overlook native people. As a result, Alaskeros and Filipino descendants in Alaska, in general, suffer from a multi-dimensional statistical invisibility cloak. The descendants of the Philippines in these respective regions deserve an honest look at how poverty has evolved or changed. Looking at each group individually might help distinguish the data.

Poverty in the Philippines

A December 2019 article of the Philippine Daily Inquirer declared that the poverty rate in the archipelago had fallen to 16.6 percent. It decreased from 23.3 percent in 2015. However, there is a difference between the poverty incidence of the Philippines and the subsistence incidence. The subsistence incidence is the proportion of Filipino families whose incomes fall below the food threshold. For the Philippines, the per capita food threshold was P1,505.6 per month in 2018. The poverty threshold was P2,145.36 per month for an individual or P10,726.79 for a family of five. ” Research group IBON stated that one could consider the Philippine Statistics Authority’s (PSA) April 2019 report on poverty misleading.

According to PSA, poor Filipinos fell to 21 percent in the first semester of 2018. This was 23.1 million poor Filipinos down from 27.6 percent or 28.8 million poor Filipinos in the first semester of 2015. IBON observed that the improvements were based on daily per capita poverty. The research group did not consider these thresholds to be decent minimum standards for basic necessities. It found the official poverty line to be too low and grossly underestimating the true number of poor Filipinos. If one were to take the average of the poverty rates of Filipinos in different regions, the variable of the country of the Philippines would bring the average down.

Filipinos in the United States

The Migration Policy Institute states that the United States is home to the largest number of Filipinos abroad with 1.9 million residing in the country in 2017. The rate of poverty for Filipinos in the United States was 8.8 percent in 2015. The median household income for Filipinos living in the U.S. in 2015 was $80,000.

Identifying Minorities on a Census

According to a Census.gov fact sheet on American Indians and Alaska Natives, 19.9 percent of Alaska’s population identified as a member of one of the two groups, alone or a combination, in 2016. That was the highest share for this race group of any state.

In 2014, the Pew Research Center listed the poverty incidence for Alaska Natives and American Indians as the highest in the United States with 26 percent of this group living in poverty. Another 2014 Pew Research Center article found that millions of Americans who had selected one race or ethnicity in the 2000 census had changed it in the 2010 census. Hispanics, mixed-race individuals, American Indians and Pacific Islanders were the ones most likely to do so. The article noted that a variety of factors could influence why people decide to change their race or ethnicity on a census form. They might discover an ancestor of another racial or ethnic group or they might discover that there are benefits to ticking a certain box.

A 2014 meta-analysis of how researchers studied multiracial populations over 20 years, even noted that “not reporting data from multiracial participants, or combining data from all mixed subgroups together into a single “multiracial” category) have led to conflicting representations in the literature.” The difficulty in coming by accurate research on Native populations is determined both by researchers’ oversimplifications and by participants’ complex and changing views on race, their own or otherwise. According to a 2018 report on the economic well-being of Alaska children, the number of Alaska children living in poverty is worsening to a rate of more than a third of them living in poverty.

Poverty in Alaska

There are many Alaskans who are Filipino descents. Nez Danguilan, a local Filipino community leader, noted that most Alaskans do not even realize that they are of partial Filipino descent. People start to realize when they communicate with more recent arrivals from the Philippines. Filipinos appear to have low rates of poverty in the United States and both Filipinos and Alaska Natives share a history of colonialism. This particular Asian group appears to be one of the more successful Asian populations. However, the poverty rate of Filipino descendants who live in Alaska specifically remains unclear.

It is difficult to tell which policies Alaskeros would be interested in. The poverty rates of Filipinos in different regions are diverse. Thus the policies could end up being very diverse as well. A good place to start however would be with disaggregating data on AAPIs. The census conflates Asians and Pacific Islanders. In addition, the Census conflates Alaskan Natives and Native Americans.

Hence, an Alaskero has the added issue of the truths of their communities getting scattered among three or four different statistical identifiers. In December 2019, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a bill that would require state agencies to disaggregate and collect data on Asian American and Pacific Islanders of different ethnic backgrounds. As a result, this issue continues to be important and the 2020 census needs to take the differences of these groups into account. The different poverty rates of Filipinos in different regions demonstrate that.

Julia Stephens
Photo: Flickr

North American Free Trade Agreement
In December 2019, the United States House of Representatives passed the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, ushering in a new paradigm for trade between the three North American countries. In doing so, it ended a 30-year trading period governed by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This was a landmark trade deal that George H. W. Bush initiated in 1989 with the passage of the U.S. Canada Free Trade Agreement. Negotiations with Mexico ensued, with Canada joining the talks and a conclusion of a deal between the three, signed into force under the administration of Bill Clinton in 1994. With the adoption of the USMCA, the previous agreement has become obsolete. One can now assess the legacy of the North American Free Trade Agreement, though the countries will update and analyze the agreement throughout the next few years as the components of the new deal take effect.

Proponents and Opponents of NAFTA

NAFTA broke ground in neoliberal terms. Free trade principles that Bush, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan championed dissolved tariffs and liberalized trade with a focus on the agriculture, textile and automobile industries. Supporters of the deal proclaimed the benefits that the deal would bring, including boosting the trade and economies of the three countries, particularly Mexico’s developing one. They forecasted that Mexicans would find better jobs in Mexico. Therefore, they would stay, rather than immigrating illegally to the United States. Furthermore, NAFTA would benefit U.S. and Canadian companies seeking markets for goods and cheap labor.

There were many arguments against NAFTA from the onset. Critics jeopardized the legacy of the North American Free Trade Agreement before it even started. Headlined by then third-party U.S. presidential candidate Ross Perot, opponents claimed that opening the Mexican border to free trade principles would result in what he called a “giant sucking sound” as companies outsourced American jobs to Mexico to seek lower wages.

The Results

With the benefit of hindsight, experts now say that NAFTA had neither as good nor as bad of an impact on the economies of the United States, Canada and Mexico as some initially predicted. Like many things, the reality lay in the middle. While trade objectively increased, even tripled by some accounts, American jobs did indeed flee to Mexico. Many left the Midwest and created the so-called Rust Belt. An article published by the Economic Policy Institute details the extent of the losses, contending that 682,900 jobs suffered in the U.S. at NAFTA’s expense. Many of these job losses, 60.8 percent, were in manufacturing. Supporters predicted manufacturing would see an increase of up to two million in five years.

In short, U.S. companies benefited at the detriment of Mexican families. Further, two million Mexican families with previous engagement in farming activities lost their livelihoods. In addition, small businesses closed in the 10s of thousands. Between NAFTA and subsequent free trade deals with countries like Peru, Colombia and some Central American and Caribbean countries, millions experienced displacement from their homes and fled. Many fled to the United States, proving to exacerbate illegal immigration rather than alleviate it. Mexico did see an increase in jobs for a while, especially in the automotive industry, expanding from 120,000 to 550,000 since 1994. However, this has not been nearly enough to offset the harm caused; even when accounting for a boost in trade and considerable improvement in foreign direct investment to Mexico from $15 to $100 billion.

The Potential Future

Overall, companies in the U.S., Canada and Mexico benefited in some ways from free trade. Generally, this left a significant legacy of the North American Free Trade Agreement. However, it came at a substantial loss for individuals and worsened existing problems like outsourcing and illegal immigration. The biggest hope for the future lies in the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement. The USMCA, agreed to by the three countries, passed with bipartisan support in the House of Representatives. Ideally, it will right some of the wrongs that NAFTA inflicted, while continuing to promote trade and economic growth in North America.

Alex Meyers
Photo: Flickr

Haiti's Earthquake 10 Years Later
January 12, 2020, marked the 10th anniversary of the 7.0 magnitude earthquake that devastated Port-au-Prince, the capital of the small Caribbean nation of Haiti. People have taken time to remember what happened a decade ago, with one Haitian-American residing in Boston commenting, “I’m in pain. I’m in pain inside of me. Even my bones hurt me because of what’s happening in my country. We are human beings like everybody else, we have to live a life like everybody else.” Haiti has undeniably suffered greatly, but there is hope after Haiti’s earthquake 10 years later.

The Devastating Aftermath of the Disaster

The quake also impacted Haiti’s neighboring country, the Dominican Republic. Two aftershocks followed with a magnitude of 5.9 and 5.5., making it the worst natural disaster the country has seen in modern times. Haiti is located above two of the earth’s tectonic plates, the North American and the Caribbean plates, making it prone to large earthquakes. At the beginning of 2010, many news outlets covered the aftermath of the disaster, leaving much of the world shocked.

Between 220,000 to 300,000 people lost their lives in the 2010 quake, 122 of them American citizens, leaving 300,000 more injured and 1.5 million displaced from their homes. Nearly 4,000 schools suffered damage or complete eradication. This resulted in an estimated $7.8 to $8.5 billion in damage.

The disaster left many people with families living in Haiti anxious, wondering if their loved ones had survived the catastrophe. Others fled the country in search of a better life elsewhere. Jean-Max Bellerive, the Prime Minister of Haiti at the time of the earthquake called it “the worst catastrophe that has occurred in Haiti in two centuries.”

Foreign Aid Comes to the Rescue

In the midst of what seemed like the absence of hope, many Haitians prayed for help. Within a few days, foreign powers from all over the world responded, willing to aid the survivors with their needs. Within a day, President Obama stated that the United States would provide their “unwavering support” for the people of Haiti pledging $100 million in financial support.

Members of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy arrived in the country to assist the survivors of the earthquake with their medical needs. Outside of the United States, the European Commission promised $4.37 million in aid. In Asia, the South Korean and Indian governments provided $1 million in aid, and the Japanese government granted $5 million. Japan also donated a total of $330,000 value in tents and blankets for those without shelter.

Doctors and aircrafts supplied with food and water swarmed in quickly from countries such as Sweden, Brazil, Israel and Venezuela. It seemed as if the entire world had its eyes on Haiti. People all across the globe prayed for the relief Haitians needed to rebuild their lives and recover from such a traumatic event.

Haiti 10 Years Later

Despite the overwhelming efforts from foreign powers across the world in the aftermath of the earthquake, the earthquake has impacted Haiti even 10 years later. While the world has still not forgotten the 2010 earthquake, relief efforts often diminish because there are more recent natural disasters that require attention. When remembering the anniversary of such events, especially ones that occurred in impoverished nations, it is important to remember that relief efforts should not cease once mass media outlets elect to move on to new events.

Even before the earthquake, Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, with about eight out of every 10 citizens living in poverty. Six years after the earthquake, Hurricane Matthew affected Haiti in early October 2016, the most powerful storm to affect the country in decades and resulting in almost $2 billion in damage.

In the 2000s, hurricanes like but not exclusive to Hurricanes Ike and Hanna, also affected Haiti resulting in flooding and hundreds of lives lost. Haiti’s economy is highly susceptible as a result of its location and the possibility of earthquakes and hurricanes. Because each disaster results in such high costs in damage when a majority of its people already live on only $2 a day, this poses a significant problem in providing a long-term solution for Haitians in need.

As of January 2020, many Haitian children face malnutrition due to high levels of food insecurity and infections, resulting in the deaths of infants, ages 2 and under. Many mothers also still face complications in childbirth resulting in death.

Much of these statistics do not appear to be promising on the surface, appearing as it virtually nothing has changed in a decade despite support from foreign powers during the country’s time of need. However, Haitians still refuse to discard their efforts for a better and more prosperous Haiti. In 2019, many Haitians protested the government and President Jovenel Moise. Haitians say that while citizens are “used to political and economic crises,” the cost of necessities such as food, gas and education has gone up significantly. These protests have continued into January 2020.

Reach Our World and the World Bank

Others around the world have also not given up on their efforts to create a stronger Haiti, even after Haiti’s earthquake 10 years later. Reach Our World is one of the missionary groups that visited Port Au Prince shortly after the 10th anniversary of the quake from January 17 to 22, 2020. As of January 8, 2020, ongoing contributions from the World Bank, consisting of 20 projects, have grossed $866.46 million.

Therefore, while the mass media outlets do not commonly cover the continuing political and economic tensions existing after Haiti’s earthquake 10 years later, many advocacy groups and world powers have not forgotten about the work that the world still needs to accomplish to help further the nation and its people. In order to become more successful in such efforts, it is imperative to be consistent and not wait until another natural disaster strikes to contribute to relief efforts so that the people of Haiti can achieve a stronger and brighter future.

A. O’Shea
Photo: Flickr

8 Facts About Migrant Caravans from Central America
Over a year has passed since the migrant caravans from Central America arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border. The migrant situation is complex and continues to have great effects on the economy, U.S. international affairs and the lives of thousands of people. The issue is far from resolving and continues to require attention, so here are eight facts about Central American migrant caravans.

8 Facts About Central American Migrant Caravans

  1. Central American Migrants: The first of the eight facts about Central American migrant caravans is that the migrants are mostly from Central America’s Northern Triangle, which consists of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The caravans began in Honduras and most of the migrants are Honduran but their Central American neighbors have joined them because they face similar issues of violence and poverty. These people traveled through Central America and Mexico until they reached the U.S.-Mexico border.
  2. The Largest Caravan: The biggest caravan, migrating in late 2018 and drawing international attention, started as a small grassroots social media movement in Honduras. One hundred and sixty Hondurans gathered at a bus terminal in San Pedro Sula on October 12, 2018. More and more people joined them along the route; the U.N. estimates that the group was as large as 7,000 people by the time it arrived in Tijuana.
  3. Reasons for Migration: Those who joined the caravans are migrating for a better future which they hope is waiting for them in the United States. Gang violence and persecution threatens them in their home countries; the murder rate in Honduras is 800 times higher than in the U.S. The migrants are leaving in an attempt to save their lives. In addition, there is widespread poverty in the Northern Triangle and the migrants are hoping for higher salaries and better lives for their children in the United States.
  4. Challenges on the Road: There are many hardships and health risks that the migrants face when traveling on foot, by bus or hitchhiking. The journey is arduous and results in road injuries and fatalities such as when a young Honduran man fell off a truck during the journey and passed away. Sunburn, dehydration and a continuous lack of access to clean water and sanitation are threats as well. The migrants also faced violence when crossing borders, such as when authorities used teargas. The group was dependent on local aid, such as church and civic groups or local government entities that provided food and water in the towns they passed.
  5. International Law on Asylum: International law on asylum states that anyone who enters U.S. soil or wants to enter U.S. territory to claim asylum must be able to do so and receive a chance to have a court hear their case. Because of this, the United States legally cannot ban asylum seekers according to their countries of origin or force asylum seekers to return to countries where their lives are in danger. However, President Trump labeled the caravans an invasion and the U.S. responded with a zero-tolerance policy and threats to close the border. The U.S. passed the Migrant Protection Protocol in January 2019 which forces asylum seekers to wait for their court date in Mexico. Between January and December 2019 only 11 migrants out of 10,000 cases at the border received asylum, a rate of about 0.1 percent in the whole year.
  6. Changes in Caravan Numbers: There was a swell of caravans until late 2018, but patterns in migration are changing. The caravans, while safer in numbers during the journey, were not successful at gaining asylum at the border. Current migrants have been traveling in smaller groups which are harder for others to track. Those who were in original caravans are now spread out, some suffering deportation back to their original countries, others opting to stay in Mexico or waiting in Mexico for a chance to apply for asylum or for their court date in the U.S. A small subset is even living in the U.S. undocumented or after gaining asylum.
  7. Doctors Without Borders: Health issues are a pressing concern for members of the migrant caravan especially as they are living in temporary camps near the border. Many migrants suffer from injuries and illnesses that they sustained through their long journey and exposure to the element along with violence they may have encountered on the way. Aside from physical issues, the migrant community is also suffering from many mental health issues including anxiety and depression, a result of the prolonged stress of their journey and precariousness of their position. Doctors Without Borders has sent an emergency team to provide aid and treatment, collaborating with the Mexican Ministry of Health to attend to the needs of the migrants.
  8. Border Kindness: Migrant caravan members at the border are not always able to meet basic needs. However, organizations such as Border Kindness have stepped in to provide immediate needs including shelter, food, water, clothing, medication and legal aid to a population with low resources. Its work is ongoing and pivotal in protecting and providing for the especially vulnerable including women, children and the elderly at the U.S.-Mexico border.

With so much happening globally all the time, people can sometimes push important issues aside as agendas shift. These eight facts about Central American migrant caravans are a brief overview of the basic situation and the changes occurring over time. The realities of the migrant crisis at the border continue to be relevant and pressing.

– Treya Parikh
Photo: United Nations

Innovation Capabilities
Innovation is essential for countries to develop, but there are countless barriers to innovation capabilities. Innovation capabilities are the parts of a production process that people cannot buy but are critical to supporting and driving innovation. Companies must learn and develop these elements. These elements include basic organizational skills, human resource management, planning routines and logistical abilities.

The Importance of Innovation

Without innovation, companies cannot evolve and be sustainable. This, in turn, impacts the progress of whole countries. A lack of innovation leads to people being unable to leverage their resources.

According to the World Bank, many developing countries suffer from low innovation. Low innovation includes the following:

  1. Weaker managerial and technological capabilities and the lack of ability to cultivate them.
  2. Weaker government capabilities.
  3. A general lack of physical, human and knowledge capital.
As a result, developing countries often have a difficult time progressing through innovation. In 1900, many now developed countries were in a similar state to developing countries today. These developed countries were able to capitalize on their innovation capabilities and successfully manage new technologies. This is what developing countries must now do to progress.

Innovative Examples

There are several examples of how developed countries have capitalized on innovation, compared to those still developing:

  1. Brazil was able to upgrade technologically after a slump in its iron industry.
  2. Japan took its textile technologies and modified them for the needs of different locales. It also diversified into machinery, chemicals, cables, metals and banking. This enabled Japan to establish its first leading manufacturing industry.
  3. The United States leveraged its copper resources. It pushed the frontiers of metallurgy and chemistry through a combination of high-level human capital and a network of universities and laboratories.

Developing countries, however, have had trouble reaching the same goals. While Norway was able to leverage its oil and gas deposits with its high-tech sector, Nigeria was not. Spain and Chile were unable to successfully identify and adopt new advances in mining and metallurgy for their copper industries. This eventually leads to these country’s selling out to foreign interests who could.

Production Capabilities: Management and Government

Two subsets of capabilities directly impact innovation including production and technology. Production includes management and government, while technology includes incentives and the environment.

Management focuses on the organization and maintenance of a company. Developing countries tend to have weaker managerial capabilities than developed countries. In these developing countries, managers tend to not have as much education. This greatly impacts their capabilities to properly identify and understand high-return on potential projects, take responsibility for long-term planning and implement new talent.

Limited competition can prop up inefficient companies. A lack of government support, however, makes it difficult for more efficient companies to effectively incentivize their workforce and upgrade their technologies.

A country’s productivity can illustrate an example of the effects of different management practices. There is a 25 percent difference in productivity between developing countries and those in the United States.

Governments organize and support how effectively companies run. In developing countries, governments generally do not have enough human resources or they are unable to efficiently organize policies. The organization, design and implementation of these policies help to rectify market or systemic failures and promote innovation.

These capabilities are the rationale and designing of a policy, efficacy of implementation, comprehensibility for the National Innovation System (NIS) and consistency. Most developing countries, however, are unable to meet these requirements.

Technology and Innovation: Organization and Environment

Governments and management often work to organize companies. It is the organization of the company itself, however, that allows it to implement and expand new technologies. Companies must incentivize workers so they can receive the tasks that make them the most productive. This also empowers workers to brainstorm new ideas and improvements for products or systems.

This type of organization creates an innovation-friendly environment for the company. These incentives show positive influences on creativity and innovation in workers and the company as a whole.

An example of innovation at work is the Aquafresh company in Ghana. It dealt with fierce competition from Asia, eventually discovering that the best way to confront this competition was not to address it at all. Aquafresh started as a clothing company but later reinvented itself, turning to soft drinks. This was possible due to its innovation-friendly environment and organization. This environment eased the transition and sustained them through the change.

Solutions for the Barriers to Innovation Capabilities

Adopting better managerial and organizational practices can push companies to innovate in products, processes and quality. This can also inspire companies to create innovative projects, which can lead to new products and technologies.

Access to human, knowledge and technological capabilities increases a developing country’s innovation potential. This renders foreign aid less important as the countries learn to become self-sustainable.

Companies in developing countries need help with overcoming the barriers to innovation capabilities. If the National Innovation System could focus on supporting companies with better capabilities, investing in higher-level human capital and management and the development of capable governments, a larger innovation system could come into fruition for developing countries. This, in turn, would benefit the entire world.

– Nyssa Jordan
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About the Migration Crisis at the Border
The migration crisis at the United States-Mexico border is a deep-rooted issue affecting many people in the United States, both documented and undocumented. The quantity of media coverage about the topic makes it hard to separate fact from fiction. To shed light on the different aspects of this matter, below are 10 facts about the migration crisis at the border.

10 Facts About the Migration Crisis at the Border

  1. Climate Change and Migration: Climate change is emerging as a root cause of the crisis at the border. Increasingly, people have left their homes in Central and South America due to the food insecurity, poverty and unlivable conditions that climate change has created in these regions. For example, in the highlands of Guatemala, climate change has forced residents out of their homes after unseasonal frost destroyed their crops. Climate change drives migration both directly and indirectly — flooding or drought may physically force residents away in the same way that the negative social impacts of climate change may impact a resident’s decision to leave.

  2. Unaccompanied Minors: Between October 2017 and September 2018, the United States Customs and Border Protection apprehended more than 396,000 people attempting to cross the border and more than 50,000 of these people were unaccompanied minors. The data for 2019 thus far shows an increase in the number of children under the age of 18 without a legal guardian or parent in the United States apprehended at the border. While still treacherous, border policy can be more lenient on individuals under the age of 18, possibly allowing a better chance at successful immigration.

  3. History of Immigration: The first instance of the United States placing restrictions on certain immigrant groups came with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. The country has since continued to limit immigrants from certain countries, including most Asian countries in 1917 and Southern, Eastern and Central European countries in 1924, leading to the current attempt to limit Central and Southern American and Mexican immigrants. U.S. immigration policy prioritizes reunification of families, value to the U.S. economy, diversity and humanitarian protection of refugees.

  4. The Northern Triangle: The Northern Triangle of Central America, comprised of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, accounts for the leading source of migrants who are fleeing Central America. More than 90 percent of these migrants will then attempt to cross the border between Mexico and the United States. Despite attempts to bring safety and stability to the Northern Triangle, the region still has high rates of crime and poverty; Honduras and El Salvador have among the highest murder rates in the world and around 60 percent of the population lives below the poverty line in Honduras and Guatemala.

  5. State of National Emergency: The migrant crisis at the border prompted President Trump to declare a national emergency in February 2019, despite opposition from the majority of citizens in the United States. Declaring a national emergency allows a president to potentially bypass Congress to achieve their desired policy or funding. The U.S. remains in a state of national emergency regarding the border despite attempts from Congress to end the measure.

  1. The $4.5 Billion Emergency Spending Bill: In July 2019, President Trump signed a bill designed to provide financial aid to the border, allocating  $4.5 billion to humanitarian assistance and security. The U.S. government first introduced this bill in response to criticism of the treatment of migrant children at the border, but the bill will also provide increased health and safety standards for all people seeking entry into the United States.

  2. The Southern Border Communities Coalition: Founded in 2011 as a response to the ongoing pressures facing border towns, the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) is a diverse group of organizations, such as Frontera de Cristo (Agua Prieta, Mexico) and the Southwest Environmental Center (Las Cruces, NM), who have united to create a safer and more humane environment at the border. The SBCC comprises 60 organizations across Texas, California, Arizona and New Mexico. In May 2019, the SBCC released a document entitled A New Border Vision, an outline for action to improve conditions at the border.

  3. Domestic Violence and Asylum: In spite of recent attempts to limit asylum seekers, the United States will continue to offer asylum for victims of domestic violence. In 2018, then-Attorney General Sessions threatened this right, stating that the United States would reject asylum cases founded on domestic violence. While Session’s decision increased the difficulty of securing asylum on these assertions, undocumented victims of domestic violence can still be eligible.

  4. Undocumented Immigrants and Crime: Contrary to the popular narrative connecting immigrants and violence, undocumented immigrants make the communities they join safer. A 2015 study by the Cato Institute shows that documented United States-born citizens have a much higher crime conviction rate than both undocumented and documented immigrants. Arguments against immigrants often champion the association of undocumented people to violent crime, yet the facts increasingly show this association to be invalid.

  5. Why People Keep Coming: This final point is perhaps the most important of these 10 facts about the migration crisis at the border. The journey to the border is long, expensive and dangerous. Frequent instances of kidnapping, rape, assault and trafficking make getting to the southwestern border of the United States treacherous and arriving at detention facilities at the border provides a slue of difficulties and dangers as well. Undocumented migrants are not undertaking this daunting task because they want to, but rather because their circumstances force them. Their home situation has become unlivable and they seek to escape to a better life in the U.S.

These 10 facts about the migration crisis at the border show that this issue creates dangerous situations that threaten both society and human lives. To fight this problem, the public must know what is truly happening in the stretch of land that connects Mexico and the United States. 

– Elizabeth Reece Baker
Photo: Flickr

The Trump Administration’s Foreign Aid PolicySince the 1940s, the U.S. has been a global leader in foreign aid. The first U.S. foreign assistance program began when Secretary of State George Marshall enacted the Marshall Plan. The program provided $12 billion to help a war-torn Europe recover after World War II. In 1961, President Kennedy started the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) after signing the Foreign Assistance Act into law. Today, the U.S. operates foreign aid programs with the aid of more than 20 U.S. government agencies, helping more than 100 countries. Since taking office, the Trump administration’s foreign aid policy has consisted of numerous attempts to pare down U.S funding for foreign aid.

The Trump Administration’s Foreign Aid Policy: 2017-2019

  1. The White House proposed a budget requesting a 31 percent cut in funding for several different agencies and programs.
  2. The Trump administration canceled $300 million in aid to Pakistan, claiming the nation had failed to properly combat terrorism in the region.
  3. The Trump administration cut the budget to fund Palestinian refugees through the U.N. Relief and Works Agency to $65 million from the initial promise of $125 million.
  4. The Trump administration ended aid to the Northern Triangle of Central America for not doing more to prevent illegal immigration to the U.S.
  5. The White House froze billions of dollars worth of foreign aid funding. The decision was in an effort to identify “unobligated resources of foreign aid” and “ensure accountability.”

The freeze in August created a logjam that left many officials at the State Department scrambling in the days before the end of the fiscal year. As a result, the State Department was unable to deliver more than $70 million to non-profit and humanitarian organizations in time. To help understand this complex process and the role of the executive and legislative branches in the funding of foreign aid, The Borgen Project reached out to an expert in the field.

An Expert’s Opinion

Dr. Steven Shirley, Ph.D. is an adjunct professor at the University of Southern Maine and Southern New Hampshire University. He earned his doctorate in International Studies from Old Dominion University, has lived and worked abroad in Southeast and East Asia. He has authored several “Op-Eds, articles and books.” According to Shirley, foreign policy is the responsibility of the executive branch. Although Congress provides the budget, it cannot dictate its allocation. That power lies with the executive branch.

Critics see the Trump administration’s move as a “bureaucratic maneuver” intended to surreptitiously cut funding for foreign aid. One official who is familiar with the matter said this method of cutting funds will have “major ripple effects.” Dr. Shirley believes that some good may yet come from these ripples. He thinks it may increase accountability for the agencies in regard to spending. Dr. Shirley says that requiring an account of money spent is “fiscally responsible” although it runs the danger of delaying the disbursement of funds.

Countries That Are Impacted

Because of the Trump administration’s foreign aid policy, various programs are in jeopardy. Due to a lack of funding, four non-profit humanitarian organizations working in China are at risk of shutting down. These NGOs remain unnamed due to the sensitivity of their work in China. The cuts also affected roughly $1 million to support programming in Ethiopia through the non-profit group Freedom House. Freedom House receives its primary funding in the form of grants from USAID and the State Department.

In Ethiopia, Freedom House is working to improve human rights, aid the country in its transition to democracy and establish a free press. According to Freedom House, Ethiopia is an authoritarian state ruled by the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. Despite progress toward eliminating extreme poverty, Ethiopia remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Around 30 percent of the population lives below the poverty line and millions suffer from food insecurity. Transitioning to democracy is often the first step in improving these living conditions.

These examples show that U.S. foreign aid does a lot of good around the world. The Trump administration’s foreign aid policy would cut funding to a lot of these programs. What long-term effects this may have globally are yet to be seen.

Adam Bentz
Photo: Flickr

FeelGood Grilled CheeseFeelGood grilled cheese stations have been popping up all over the country, from UCLA to Boston University and 23 other chapters across the United States and Canada. On Tuesday nights from 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. in the Warren Towers Late Nite Café at Boston University, FeelGood’s grilled cheese deli comes alive. This station has been a staple at the university for years, selling grilled cheese sandwiches for $6.50. FeelGood is a non-profit social enterprise run completely by students that deliver 100 percent of its proceeds to charitable organizations that work to combat extreme poverty and hunger. Since its inception in 2005, FeelGood has raised $1.96 million for global poverty reduction efforts across 25 chapters.

FeelGood is devoted to the goal of ending extreme poverty by 2030 with the help of over 1,500 volunteers. Aisha White is one of those volunteers. As a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh, White received a flyer regarding a meeting about grilled cheese, “I love food and I love volunteering, so it seemed like a good fit. Like most students who attend their first meeting, I was drawn in by the grilled cheese—but stayed for the community of people who not only cared about ending global poverty but were dedicated to ending it in our lifetime.”

The FeelGood grilled cheese system operates on three levels, the first is raising money. Originally, selling sandwiches was an easy way for FeelGood founders Kristin Walter and Talis Apud-Hendricks to raise money for their favorite non-profit organizations. Today, chapters raise between $15,000 to $30,000 a year and every cent goes to the Commitment 2030 Fund, a group of organizations whose initiative is to eliminate global poverty by the year 2030 in a sustainable manner. These organizations include the Pachamama Alliance, Water for People, The Hunger Project and Choice Humanitarian.

The second level of operations is conversation. FeelGood provides anyone who visits a grilled cheese shop the opportunity to engage in a dialogue on global hunger and poverty. President of the Boston University Chapter Abigail Mack says FeelGood is “an interesting way to get people involved and to take something really simple like cheese and bread and then turn it into a really big impact to make a difference.” This leads to the third level, empowering youth. For more than a decade, FeelGood grilled cheese delis have displayed a proven means of empowering students with the opportunity to run a business and work towards ending global poverty by 2030. Anna Yum, Vice President of the BU chapter, says, “We’re not just asking for money, we’re also creating a business model.”

Students can get involved by joining a chapter or starting one if their university does not have an existing chapter. As a low-effort way to get involved, any student can visit a local chapter or event to make a donation by purchasing a grilled cheese sandwich.

– Adam Bentz
Photo: Flickr