January 2010

As one of its last acts of the 2009 legislative session, the Senate confirmed on December 24 Dr. Rajiv Shah as USAID administrator. Since May, Shah served as the Under Secretary of Agriculture for Research, Education, and Economics. He previously spent eight years working on public health and agriculture programs at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. He will now run the 8,000-person agency that is responsible for U.S. humanitarian and development priorities.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced on December 22 that it has received enough H-1B petitions to meet the congressionally mandated cap of 65,000 for FY 2009, the American Council on International Personnel reported. USCIS also received more than 20,000 H-1B petitions filed on behalf of persons exempt from the cap under the “advanced degree” exemption.

Noting that social networking technologies can be used “to enable individuals across a country, or across the globe, to interact, engage, and become empowered,” Sen. Richard Lugar, in an article published yesterday on Foreign Policy.com, calls for the broadened use of such tools as an important complement to conventional public diplomacy:

In the wake of the attempted Christmas Day bombing of an airplane over Detroit, Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) suggested last week that the State Department should “no longer have the authority to handle visas for foreigners travelling to the United States,” Roll Call reported.

American university outposts in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are struggling with enrollment in the wake of the collapse of Dubai’s economy, the New York Times reported just before the New Year. For example, Michigan State University, with only 85 undergraduates enrolled at its Dubai campus, is “seeking to raise that figure with a scholarship offering half-price tuition to the first 100 qualified transfer applicants for the semester that starts next month.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented her view on “Development in the 21st Century” in a major address last week at the Center for Global Development. Clinton argued that the time has come, despite economic and political difficulties at home, to give development its proper due and elevate it as “a central pillar of all that we do in foreign policy”:

A “cacophony of sales pitches” for overseas university study has emerged in India, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports, noting that this “distinctly modern phenomenon” may have mixed benefits for U.S. universities working to attract Indian students:

The U.S. Department of State announced today the passing of Victoria DeLong, a Foreign Service Officer serving in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed her condolences to DeLong’s family and commended the efforts of the State Department officials and other American citizens currently serving in Haiti “in its hour of need”:

In a recent article published by Foreign Policy Analysis, author Carol Atkinson examines the effects of U.S.-hosted military and civilian exchange programs on democracy and human rights in the participants’ home countries. Atkinson argues that a participant’s abroad experiences “may impact the political institutions and influence political behavior in their home countries”:

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN), former chair and now ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is described as a “bipartisan lawmaker who is often lauded for his pragmatic approach” in a special piece profiling the Senator in today’s Roll Call. The article examines his long career in the Senate, noting his “low profile” and contrasting his approach to the late Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC), also a former chair of the committee: