The USA is not a safe place to send kids

When I was 17, I spend a year as a student in rural Canada, which resulted in a lot of culture shock. But you’re told about that when you prepare for your trip, and also that the Canadian families are very likely going to be much more religious than what we were used to. The kids who went to the USA got similar speeches, and sometimes their experiences were similar to mine. Very often however, the experiences went like this instead:
Polish Exchange Student in US: My Half-Year of Hell With Christian Fundamentalists

For example, every Monday my host family would gather around the kitchen table to talk about sex. My host parents hadn’t had sex for the last 17 years because — so they told me — they were devoting their lives to God. They also wanted to know whether I drank alcohol. I admitted that I liked beer and wine. They told me I had the devil in my heart.

My host parents treated me like a five-year-old. They gave me lollipops. They woke me every Sunday morning at 6:15 a.m., saying ‘Michael, it’s time to go to church.’ I hated that sentence. When I didn’t want to go to church one morning, because I had hardly slept, they didn’t allow me to have any coffee.

One day I was talking to my host parents about my mother, who is separated from my father. They were appalled — my mother’s heart was just as possessed by the devil as mine, they exclaimed. God wanted her to stay with her husband, they said.

or like this: Chinese Atheists Lured to Find Jesus at U.S. Christian Schools

When Randy Liang wanted to study in the U.S., his parents’ friends at a Christian group that provides medical and small business services in Shanxi Province recommended Ben Lippen. He enrolled in January, 2010, as a sophomore, largely unfamiliar with the Scriptures and the English language.

He “really hated” the school at first, he said. “I thought they were trying to force me to be Christian. I couldn’t understand what they’re talking about. I thought, ‘This is boring.’”

Liang adjusted as his English improved and he joined teams in four sports: football, wrestling, cross-country and track. After watching a creationist video in Bible class, he developed doubts about evolution. Now a senior, he prays with teammates before games, he said. He lives in a teammate’s home, and prays with the family for success on exams.

or like this: High School Exchange Students Housed With Murderers, Sexual Predators

One of the most shocking cases alleges that at least four exchange students suffered sexually abuse over the years by the same host father — even after the first student to stay with the host reported the incidents, NBC reported.

“He said ‘this is American culture,’ and I should get used to it,” Christopher Herbon of Germany told NBC News.

or this: Exchange students live American nightmare

Jarbola said a girl from Norway, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Anne, tried to alert officials that she and some of the students were in dire straits.

Anne told CNN she had school officials send an e-mail to Aspect in October explaining how bad things were and including photographs of the inside of the home where she was placed. The home was later condemned by the city.

Anne’s high school principal took her in, but other students weren’t as lucky and spent nearly the entire school year in unsafe homes, until Children and Youth Services was tipped off about a month before school ended, Jarbola said.

Jarbola, who said Anne’s e-mail is now evidence in the criminal investigation, told CNN that when welfare officials interviewed the students, one was so hungry he wept when they gave him pizza during questioning. In all, five of the students were removed from homes where they’d been placed by Aspect.

and even though the last article is peppered with references to how very seriously the State Department is taking the cases, the end result of that taking it seriously was that the State Department requires prospective host-parents to photograph their houses and provide “outside” references, and not much else.

And exchange programs are not the only way in which bringing foreign kids to the USA can end up extremely dangerous. For one, the same reasoning that leads Fundies and Fundie schools to try to get foreign students to come to the US is also fueling the adoption-craze among fundie Christians. In the past, there have been reports of abuse related to the Fundie “To Train Up A Child” abuse manual, or the “adoptions” of Haitian “orphans” post-earthquake which turned out to be kidnappings, and other such reports. Now, there is another report about “re-homing” children, which is basically about treating international adoptees like pets, to be dumped when they become inconvenient, often onto the first person who volunteers to take them in (which, unsurprisingly, sometimes turn out to be child abusers of various kinds); and again we hear of the complete lack of oversight by US government.

It’s no wonder than that many countries are wary of sending minors to the USA. In the past, some exchange programs stopped offering exchanges to the USA; and many countries also block adoptions to the US, or insist on being able to track the well-being of these children themselves.

UN admits cholera in Haiti was caused by MINUSTAH

…but refuses to actually say it out loud. Instead, it’s “The Independent Panel concludes that the Haiti cholera outbreak was caused by the confluence of circumstances as described above, and was not the fault of, or deliberate action of, a group or individual.”


anyway, this is in relation to one of my previous posts on Haiti, and the way the media and assorted agencies have been treating the claims that the cholera virus was introduced by the UN forces. Now, the UN has concluded its investigation, and I’m willing to bet no one is going to be writing apologies to the Haitian people for smearing them in the press previously.

some quotes from the executive summary of the Final Report of the Independent Panel of Experts on the Cholera Outbreak in Haiti (emphasis mine):

The source of the cholera has been controversial, with hypotheses that the pathogen that causes cholera (Vibrio cholerae) arrived into Haiti from the Gulf of Mexico due to tectonic shifts resulting from the earthquake, evolved into disease-causing strains from non-pathogenic strains naturally present in Haiti, or originated from a human host who inadvertently introduced the strain into the Haitian environment. A specific form of the third hypothesis, that soldiers deployed from a cholera-endemic country to the Mirebalais MINUSTAH camp were the source of the cholera, is a commonly held belief in Haiti.

After establishing that the cases began in the upper reaches of the Artibonite River, potential sources of contamination that could have initiated the outbreak were investigated. MINUSTAH contracts with an outside contractor to handle human fecal waste. The sanitation conditions at the Mirebalais MINUSTAH camp were not sufficient to prevent fecal contamination of the Meye Tributary System of the Artibonite River.

[The independent researcher’s] results uniformly indicate that: 1) the outbreak strains in Haiti are genetically identical, indicating a single source for the Haiti outbreak; and, 2) the bacteria is very similar, but not identical, to the South Asian strains of cholera currently circulating in Asia, confirming that the Haitian cholera bacteria did not originate from the native environs of Haiti.

These research findings indicate that the 2010 Haiti cholera outbreak was caused by bacteria introduced into Haiti as a result of human activity; more specifically by the contamination of the Meye Tributary System of the Artibonite River with a pathogenic strain of the current South Asian type Vibrio cholerae.

Guess the Haitians were right to be pissed at MINUSTAH. This cholera outbreak made 300 000 people ill, killed 4500, and it continues to spread.

The UN in Haiti

The reports of the “Cholera Riots” in Haiti are ubiquitous now. A lot of them touch on the many issues that lead to this, but most of them seem to want to say that it’s street gangs, or it’s because “It’s a tradition in Haiti to have violence before the elections”, with the claim that MINUSTAH is responsible for the cholera outbreak being treated as if it was the same as the claims by African witchdoctors that polio vaccines were meant to sterilize the population. The articles seem to all focus on the (rather undisputable) fact that the riots and barricades are blocking or hindering supplies of medicine, fresh water, and water filters.

This line of reporting misses the entire context of the situation. Would you trust an organization that was brought into your country with the official mission to “restore a secure and stable environment, to promote the political process, to strengthen Haiti’s Government institutions and rule-of-law-structures” at the same time that the most powerful country in the world, and undeniably the most powerful force in the UN, kidnaps and deposes your democratically elected president, after having destabilized your country in the first place? Would you trust an organization that was supposed to “promote and to protect human rights”, but instead has been guilty of , among other things, violently suppressing protests, massacres, individual killings, and rape? Would you trust an organization of “peacekeepers” from countries with similar or higher homicide rates (Jamaica 54 per 100 000; Brazil 25.2; Sri Lanka 6.69; Argentina 5.45; USA 5.0) than Haiti itself (estimated at around 5.6 per 100 000 according to the UN’s own data), and which have at least as bad a Human Rights record as Haiti?

Would you really trust that organization now to actually want to help? Even if we assume that this is indeed what MINUSTAH is doing, the average Haitian has very little reason to believe that this time, they’ll really be there to help, or that accepting this help will make things better instead of worse, regardless of whether this is actually true.
Now add to that already untrustworthy mix the story about the origin of the cholera outbreak. Like I said, the news seems to want to make look like the anti-polio rumors that had been spread by religious leaders in some African countries. However, this one is different. Cholera isn’t endemic to the Caribbean (as a matter of fact, I couldn’t find any information about cholera outbreaks in that region at all, not even in the WHO report(pdf file) on cholera), and some outside sources seem to have confirmed that the strain came from Nepal. At the very least then, there’s reasonable cause to believe that the disease came from the troops. It certainly didn’t magically appear in the region by itself, so if not MINUSTAH, then some other outsider must have dragged it in.

In that context, I think, the protests no longer look like what a lot of the media wants to portray them as. And in any case, if the world really wanted to help Haitians as well as other places in which cholera has been pandemic for ages, they’d push for funding for increased production and distribution of the cholera vaccine. But the world doesn’t care THAT much about Haitians, or the other 100,000-130,000 people who die from it every year worldwide