Better Believe It......Because They Actually Happen(ed) Collection 31

Trump intervenes to grant rejected Afghan girls entry to U.S. for robotics contest

Members of a female robotics team from Afghanistan Robotic House, a private training institute, arrive from Herat province to receive visas from the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan on July 13. | Rahmat Gul/AP Photo

By Nahal Toosi

At the urging of President Donald Trump, U.S. officials have reversed course and decided to allow into the United States a group of Afghan girls hoping to participate in an international robotics competition next week, senior administration officials told POLITICO on Wednesday.

The decision followed a furious public backlash to the news that the six teens had been denied U.S. visas. That criticism swelled as details emerged about the girls’ struggle to build their robot and get visas.

“The State Department worked incredibly well with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that this case was reviewed and handled appropriately,” Dina Powell, Trump's deputy national security adviser for strategy, said in a statement. “We could not be prouder of this delegation of young women who are also scientists — they represent the best of the Afghan people and embody the promise that their aspirations can be fulfilled. They are future leaders of Afghanistan and strong ambassadors for their country.”

Critics had argued that the visa denials sent the wrong message to the people of Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are still fighting Taliban militants who once barred girls from attending school. The denials bolstered allegations that Trump is, via executive orders and other means, trying to impose a ban on Muslims entering the United States. The visa rejections also undercut the administration’s insistence that it cares about empowering women globally.

The State Department dismissed the girls’ visa requests at least twice, according to media reports, though, citing privacy laws, it did not spell out its reasons. One common reason Afghans are rejected for U.S. entry is the concern that they will overstay their visas and refuse to go back home.

Full story at Politico (July 2017)

George and Amal Clooney to help fund Syrian refugee schools in Lebanon

Donation from Clooneys, Google and HP will pay for transport, supplies, computers, content, curriculum and teacher training

Syrian women and children in a refugee camp in the Bekaa plain in Bar Elias, Lebanon. Photograph: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

George and Amal Clooney have said they will help 3,000 Syrian refugee children go to school this year in Lebanon, where the United Nations says 200,000 children are not receiving an education after fleeing the war in neighbouring Syria.

The Clooney Foundation for Justice said it has teamed up with Google and HP Inc to help the UN children’s agency, Unicef, and the Lebanese ministry of education open seven so-called “second shift” schools for Syrian refugee children.

Lebanon has more than a million Syrian refugees, including nearly 500,000 children. It is educating Syrian children in public schools through a “second shift” system of additional afternoon classes exclusively for them.

“We don’t want to lose an entire generation because they had the bad luck of being born in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Oscar-winning actor George Clooney and international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, who gave birth to twins last month.

The Clooney Foundation for Justice has announced a new partnership with Google, HP and Unicef. Photograph: Jordan Strauss/AP

“Thousands of young Syrian refugees are at risk – the risk of never being a productive part of society,” the couple said in a statement. “Formal education can help change that.”

A $3.25m donation from the Clooney Foundation for Justice, Google and HP will pay for transportation, school supplies, computers, content, curriculum and teacher training.

Full story at The Guardian (August 2017)

Why so many teens are clueless about money

They need financial knowledge now more than ever

Financial-literacy levels are low and not getting any better and the differences in teens’ levels are larger within countries.

By Annamaria Lusardi

When it comes to financial literacy, U.S. teenagers’ are average — and not getting any better.

The latest data from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) reveal several disturbing findings. Not only are financial-literacy levels low and not getting any better, but the differences in teenagers’ financial literacy levels are larger within—rather than across—countries.

Every three years since 2000, PISA has assessed the reading, math and science knowledge of 15-year-olds around the world. Since 2012, the program, which is headed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OEDC,) has also measured students’ financial literacy.

When the latest findings were released in late May, it became clear that the needle on the financial literacy rate in the U.S. has not moved in the past three years. Young Americans remain entrenched in the average range. In the 2012 assessment, they scored an average of 492. In 2015, they scored 487. The average for the OECD countries in 2015 was 489.

This inertia is alarming because, if anything, American teenagers’ need for financial knowledge has grown more urgent over the past three years. Student loans have ballooned to $1.4 trillion. The average student leaves college owing more than $30,000, according to the Institute for College Access & Success. As I wrote previously, these students know little about their loans. Many have not even attempted to calculate what it takes to repay them.

Financial decisions made early in life are consequential. Young Americans carry greater responsibility than previous generations for mapping their own financial security, not just at retirement but for an entire lifetime. And they must do so using the most developed and complex financial products and markets in the world. The latest PISA scores are clear evidence that young people do not have the savvy to manage the responsibilities awaiting them.

Knowledge gaps

American teenagers are already making financial decisions. Yet more than 20% of them have below proficient levels of financial literacy. That means it’s not just about future stakes. The present, too, is dangerous for these young people.

Amid all this, there is another finding that should give us pause: U.S. teens show greater knowledge gaps when compared with each other than when compared with their counterparts in other countries, such as Australia, Spain or Brazil.

Full story at Market Watch (July 2017)

‘My sister says I am an alien’: A 9-year-old applies to be NASA’s planetary protection officer

A sunrise from the vantage point of the International Space Station, about 220 miles above Earth's surface, on Aug. 10, 2015. (Scott Kelly/NASA/AP)

By Amy B Wang

When NASA announced last week that it was looking for a new planetary protection officer, the space agency received some incredulous responses.

Some were agog at the six-figure salary: between $124,000 and $187,000 per year. Others laughed at the fantastical job title, one that conjured up science-fiction fantasies and battles with aliens. (In reality, NASA says, the position is focused on preventing astronauts from bringing biological contaminants from space back to Earth — and vice versa.)

But one 9-year-old boy in New Jersey took the vacancy seriously. So he took a sheet of paper and an obviously well-sharpened pencil and carefully hand-wrote his application.

“Dear NASA, My name is Jack Davis and I would like to apply for the planetary protection officer job,” Jack wrote. “I may be nine but I think I would be fit for the job.”

Among his qualifications? For one, he wrote, his sister says he's an alien. Jack also said he had watched the TV show “Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and “almost all the space and alien movies I can” — though not yet “Men in Black.” (In Jack's defense, the 1997 hit movie with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones came out more than a decade before he was even born.)

Toward the end of his letter, Jack casually mentions that he is great at video games. But his final assertion is perhaps the most persuasive.

“I am young, so I can learn to think like an alien,” Jack wrote.

Full story at The Washington Post (August 2017)

These 42 Disney apps are allegedly spying on your kids

The New York Stock Exchange on Monday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

By Brian Fung and Hamza Shaban

The Walt Disney Co. secretly collects personal information on some of their youngest customers and shares that data illegally with advertisers without parental consent, according to a federal lawsuit filed late last week in California.

The class-action suit targets Disney and three other software companies — Upsight, Unity and Kochava — alleging that the mobile apps they built together violate the law by gathering insights about app users across the Internet, including those under the age of 13, in ways that facilitate “commercial exploitation.”

The plaintiffs argue that Disney and its partners violated COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a federal law designed to protect the privacy of children on the Web. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California, seeks an injunction barring the companies from collecting and disclosing the data without parental consent, as well as punitive damages and legal fees.

The lawsuit alleges that Disney allowed the software companies to embed trackers in apps such as “Disney Princess Palace Pets” and “Where’s My Water? 2.” Once installed, tracking software can then “exfiltrate that information off the smart device for advertising and other commercial purposes,” according to the suit.

Disney should not be using those software development companies, said Jeffrey Chester, the executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “These are heavy-duty technologies, industrial-strength data and analytic companies whose role is to track and monetize individuals,” Chester said. “These should not be in little children’s apps.”

Disney said the lawsuit is misguided and intends to defend it in court. “Disney has a robust COPPA compliance program, and we maintain strict data collection and use policies for Disney apps created for children and families,” the company said in a statement Monday. “The complaint is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of COPPA principles, and we look forward to defending this action in Court.”

Full story at The Washington Post (August 2017)