Visa Reciprocity: Vietnam & the US

us vn flag pinAs you can see from the announcement below, given to Vietnamese who receive a US visa, the US government is engaging in some low-key lobbying in an effort to persuade the Vietnamese government to bring the length of its visas into line with those of the US, i.e., from 3 months to one-year for business travelers and from one to three months to one-year for tourists.  The implication is that if it doesn’t the US will decrease the duration of its visas for Vietnamese citizens.  Will this effort succeed?  If I were a betting man, I’d say “yes.”

My advice is to follow suit and also to increase the cost of a Vietnamese visa from $100 (single entry, one-month) to $160 so there is “fee reciprocity” as well.  That’s being generous, considering that the U.S. per capita income (PPP) is 10X that of  Vietnam.

visa validity ENG

visa validity VIE

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At TPP, Vietnam, developing nations come under US onslaught on affordable cancer treatments

Below is a repost of an article that originally appeared on 23 October in Thanh Nien News and was picked up by Info.vn.  There are basically two sides in this debate:  1) those who support profit over people; and 2) those who support people over profit.  Unlike most things in life, it’s really that simple.  Whose side are you on?  Affordable medicine is a human right.  MAA

Vietnamese cancer patients, many of whom have succumbed to the disease due to high drug prices, are likely to pay even more if their country falls prey to a US-led attack aimed at handing out largesse to American Big Pharma in a regional free-trade pact, critics say.

A man holds a placard as he takes part in a protest against Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks outside the prime minister's official residence in Tokyo, Japan in April 2014. Photo credit: Bloomberg
A man holds a placard as he takes part in a protest against Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade talks outside the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo, Japan in April 2014. Photo credit: Bloomberg

The US, which has already sought to hand stronger monopolies to the drug industry in the ongoing negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), continues to push for measures that would significantly constrain affordable access to life-saving drugs, according to a document released October 16 by WikiLeaks.

Health activists said this move threatens access to affordable cancer treatments, particularly in developing countries like Vietnam, where the average person earns less than $15 a day.

“One of the most frightening revelations in the text is a proposal to monopolize new cancer treatments for up to 12 years, which would price many people out of access,” Peter Maybarduk, director of US-based Public Citizen’s Global Access to Medicines program, told Thanh Nien News.

“It’s an unfortunate and deadly capitulation to the pharmaceutical giants,” Maybarduk said.

According to what WikiLeaks said in May 2014 was the latest draft text of the intellectual property chapter of the TPP, the US Trade Representative proposed a long automatic monopoly period (marketing exclusivity) for biologic drugs, which are the latest and most effective treatments for cancer, health activists said after reviewing the leaked document.

“The text reveals that the US is still insisting upon extension of data exclusivity for 8-12 years on biologic drugs,” Patricia Ranald, coordinator of the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, said.

“Pharmaceutical companies already have the right to charge monopoly prices on patented medicines for 20 years, so this will delay cheaper generic versions of these medicines for even longer.”

According to another Wikileaks document leaked in November 2013, a raft of US-proposed provisions would extend and strengthen existing monopolies on medicines, and restrict the ability of governments to exercise safeguards and flexibilities to protect public health and ensure affordable drug prices, the activists said.

They would also delay market entry of generic equivalents of patented medicines, which would raise the cost of medicines and thereby increase private and public spending on them.

According to the leaked text, the US is also pushing for 20-year patent protection in certain areas related to public health such as therapeutic, surgical, and diagnostic methods, which are not provided under World Trade Organization rules.

Health activists said making the regional intellectual property rules tougher could prevent other countries like India, which is not part of the TPP negotiations, from continuing as a generic supplier to low- and middle-income countries.

Such provisions have pitted the US against most of the other negotiating countries, except for its closest allies, the leaked document showed.

When the intellectual property chapter was first leaked in November of last year, it showed that Australia closely aligned with the US throughout the text. But according to the May 2014 document, the US has got, in a move that comes as no surprise, a different closest ally: Japan.

“Multinationals are pulling the strings for almost all legislation in the US and Big Pharma has perhaps the most control,” Dennis McCornac, a professor of economics at Loyola University in Baltimore (Maryland), said.

“Japan also has a developed and important pharmaceutical industry which will also benefit from the TPP proposals,” McCornac said.

“I know Japan will fight against the US if Japan would get hurt, but the government in Japan is now very conservative and aligns with the multinationals and want to be on good terms with the US as the US is a good ally against China.”

Patients wait for health check at the Tumor Hospital, a major cancer treatment facility in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Thanh Tung
Patients wait for health check at the Tumor Hospital, a major cancer treatment facility in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Thanh Tung

 

 Cancer concerns

Many in the pro-TPP camp see the pact as key to ensuring the US will continue to write the rules for trade in the Asia-Pacific region and stay central to the global economy at a time when many are organizing their manufacturing, agriculture, and service sectors around China.

Its proponents say the TPP would create a free-trade zone from Australia to Peru with $28 trillion in economic output, or 39 percent of the global total, according to a recent Bloomberg report. The countries in the pact are the US, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam.

But the TPP comes at a bad time since Vietnam is struggling to deal with rising cases of cancer among its population of 90 million.

At a conference on October 18, health experts said the number of patients contracting certain types of cancers have doubled or even quadrupled over the past decade. Cancer patients are also getting increasingly younger, they added.

Vietnam records around 150,000 new cases of cancer annually, more than half of them fatal, according to figures released by the World Health Organization. At least 50 percent fail to seek timely treatment, many simply because they cannot afford it.

But Nguyen Chan Hung, a prominent doctor who chairs the Vietnam Cancer Society, disputed the WHO figures on cancer cases in Vietnam.

“According to my calculation, there are up to 85,000 cancer-caused fatalities every year in Vietnam,” Hung told Thanh Nien News.

India-ed out of the job

To make matters worse, health activists say the US government and its Big Pharma continue to put relentless pressure on access to affordable measures outside of the TPP negotiations.

India, considered the “pharmacy of the developing world”, has amended its patent laws to dovetail with WTO provisions, but has taken advantage of flexibilities within the WTO framework to protect its domestic generic drug industry and keep drug prices low for its people, many of whom continue to live in poverty, according to an article in October by Truthout, a nonprofit that provides news and commentary on a daily basis.

The article revealed this month that aggressive lobbying by pharmaceutical interests pushed the US Congress and White House into mounting pressure on India to change its patent laws.

In just the last two years the US has twice placed India on its Special 301 priority watch list for not meeting US intellectual property (IP) standards. The US Congress has also ordered two successful inquiries against India at the US International Trade Commission.

The White House has also exerted direct pressure, sending Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden to India to seek modification of its IP regime and also setting up a US-India IP working group that “put the US fox in the India chicken coop,” according to Brook Baker, an expert at the US-based Health Global Access Project (GAP).

“Since India is a major exporter of generic medicines of assured quality, including for HIV/AIDS where it supplies 90 percent of the global supply in low- and middle-income countries, attacks on India are attacks on patients in other countries,” Baker said.

The latest push from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), an influential drug industry lobbying group, and its allies came in late September, as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his first visit to the US to meet with President Obama and prominent business leaders, according to Truthout.

It is unclear if mounting pressure from the US is having an impact on Modi, who, as PhRMA is quick to point out, has declared India “open for business”, the Truthout article said.

But Modi was quoted by India’s Economic Times as saying: “I understand that you want to be compensated for your investments in [research and development]. At the same time, India needs medicines that are affordable for its population.”

The US Trade Representative has maintained there is a need for tough patent standards to “incentivize” drug companies to keep innovating.

Unsurprisingly, US pharmaceutical giants back this view, saying the American patent regime fosters useful medical innovation.

“As all of us around the world face the persistent problems of disease, poverty, natural disaster, and other challenges, we all need India and it’s 1.3 billion people to fully develop their latent capacity for innovation – and not only India, but Vietnam, too,” Patrick Kilbride, executive director for International IP Policy at the US Chamber of Commerce’s Global Intellectual Property Center, said.

But activists rejected this, holding up plenty of data that suggest otherwise.

“There is growing evidence the US IP-based incentive system for pharmaceutical innovation is broken. Fewer truly new and therapeutically important medicines are being invented as drug companies instead try to game the patent system to extend patent monopolies on existing medicines,” Baker said.

A 2008 research paper titled “The Cost of Pushing Pills: A New Estimate of Pharmaceutical Promotion Expenditures in the United States” confirmed that pharmaceuticals spend about twice as much money marketing their drugs as they do on researching and developing them.

Much of the research pharmaceutical companies do is simply not relevant to public health concerns, a Huffington Post report said in 2011. Money pours into research to reverse hair loss, for instance, while funding for diseases that mainly affect the poor, like tuberculosis, is in perpetual short supply, it said scathingly.

Pharmaceutical insiders bristle at such allegations.

“Critics will continue to say what they want, but the fact is most of the research and development for new medicines is completed by pharmaceutical companies,” Mark Grayson, a PhRMA spokesman, said.

“If you wish to have new medicines you need to have an environment that recognizes the importance of innovation,” he said.

‘Irresponsible public policy’

Some of the more controversial issues related to access to medicines await higher-level discussions this month.

TPP negotiators have sat down again in Australia since October 19 with a ministerial-level meeting following on October 25-27. US President Barack Obama seeks a final announcement on the TPP on November 11, when he will be with other TPP country heads of state in China at a regional summit.

Though Vietnam has objected to the US demands on medicine prices, by and large ranking Vietnamese officials in Hanoi have expressed high hopes for the TPP, which some believe will provide leverage against China’s outsized economic influence.

“The government has continued to push for negotiations on both multilateral and bilateral free trade agreements,” Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung told the National Assembly, Vietnam’s legislature, at its opening session Monday.

At a meeting with US Trade Representative Michael Froman in Hanoi Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh also exhibited Vietnam’s determination to conclude the pact successfully.

In Vietnam, claims of the TPP’s benefits have overshadowed its negative ramifications though the texts and contents of the pact remain shrouded in secrecy.

People in Vietnam and Tunisia — 95 percent — had the most positive view of the benefits of growing trade among 44 countries covered by a recent poll by the Pew Research Center. On the contrary, citizens in two countries participating in the TPP negotiations show little enthusiasm for it: the US, the world’s second-biggest trading country, was fourth from last and Japan, eighth.

Truong Dinh Tuyen, a former trade minister who has advised the government on negotiations for entry into the WTO and now the TPP, has showed up to a number of economic forums trying to sell the benefits of joining the TPP, saying it would play a crucial role in restructuring the economy.

But he declined to speak to Thanh Nien News over phone.

“Don’t waste your time calling me again,” he said before hanging up brusquely.

Even Hung, the leading Vietnamese cancer expert, declined to comment about medicine prices under the TPP, citing “lack of information” about the issue.

The activists said that at the end of the day of all the TPP negotiating countries Vietnam has the lowest per capita income and thus faces the greatest development challenges. Oxfam, an international anti-poverty group, said thousands more Vietnamese could be pushed into poverty since they would have to choose between medicines and other basic necessities.

“Although Vietnam is developing rapidly, its economic development is primarily benefiting elites and select sectors,” GAP’s Baker said.

“Adopting heightened intellectual property burdens to gain temporary, short-term trade advantages for certain selectors is irresponsible public policy and goes against social solidarity for current and future generations.”

Source: Thanh Nien News

Link to article

BONUS:  Press Release – Updated Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) – IP Chapter (second publication) (on 2014-10-16)

Below is an excerpt from a Wikileaks document mention in the article.  Click here to read the press release and scroll to the bottom to find the link that will take you to the full secret TPP treaty IP Chapter from May 2014. 

WikiLeaks_TPP_IP2_cartoonThe 77-page, 30,000-word document is a working document from the negotiations in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, dated 16 May 2014, and includes negotiator’s notes and all country positions from that period in bracketed text. Although there have been a couple of additional rounds of talks since this text, little has changed in them and it is clear that the negotiations are stalling and that the issues raised in this document will be very much on the table in Australia this month.

The last time the public got access to the TPP IP Chapter draft text was in November 2013 when WikiLeaks published the 30 August 2013 bracketed text. Since that point, some controversial and damaging areas have had little change; issues surrounding digital rights have moved little. However, there are significant industry-favouring additions within the areas of pharmaceuticals and patents. These additions are likely to affect access to important medicines such as cancer drugs and will also weaken the requirements needed to patent genes in plants, which will impact small farmers and boost the dominance of large agricultural corporations like Monsanto.

The Audacity of Monsanto & the Short Memory of the Vietnam National University of Agriculture

Note:  This is obviously NOT a post about education.  Given the relative freedom of speech that this blog has afforded me since I left the employ of a quasi-US governmental nonprofit five years ago, I reserve to right to explore other important issues related to Vietnam, including the war legacy of Agent Orange and the issue of food sovereignty as it relates to genetically modified crops.

Below is a guest post by Chuck Palazzo, an American war veteran and Agent Orange and Unexploded Ordnance activist and researcher, who is currently living, writing and working in Danang.  Consider this rather lengthy introduction an opportunity to add my two cents, echoing some of the points Chuck makes.

A 13 October 2014 post on Monsanto’s blog Beyond the Rows, entitled Monsanto and Vietnam University of Agriculture Collaborate to Develop Talents in Agricultural Biotechnology, announced a new VND 1.5 billion scholarship program “for outstanding students studying agricultural biotechnology. This scholarship aims to nurture and encourage the engagement of young talents in the development of agricultural biotechnology and products thereof to support farmers.”  How noble but I wish the source of funding weren’t an entity that was once voted the Most Evil Corporation of the Year and which happens to have an unsavory “Vietnam connection.”  Audacity (the Yiddish word “chutzpah” also comes to mind) is the correct word to describe this charm offensive.

[I once advised a well-known student organization that they should be careful who they take money from in the form of corporate sponsorship.  One example was an organization that promotes the sale of cigarettes and other tobacco-related products.  The moral of the story is choose carefully and ethically, when it comes to sponsorship.]

At first glance, I had a visceral reaction to the obscene symbolic and practical significance of  this scholarship program, sponsored by Monsanto, one of the companies that gave the world – and profited handsomely from – Agent Orange  (AO) and is now reaping huge profits from highly controversial genetically modified (GM) crops.  For a paltry $70,000, rounded down, they have bought their way into the Vietnam University of Agriculture and the country’s media, a wolf in sheep’s clothing – in more than one media reference – with a Trojan horse approach to improving the bottom line, so to speak.

Keeping in mind that Monsanto’s 2013 revenue was nearly $15 billion, I wonder what the ROI will be on that 70k?  Monsanto execs must be smiling like a Cheshire cat at how easy it is to buy access and influence in a country that was once on the receiving end of one of its most infamous products, a country that continues to pay a steep price in environmental degradation and human suffering, as do US war veterans and others exposed to AO.

If the world were just, Monsanto is one of a number of multinational companies of US origin that would be forced to compensate the millions of victims – here, in the US and elsewhere – for the multi-generational effects of one of their marquee products, Agent Orange, rather than being given the opportunity to (once again) profit from Vietnam.   If they want to curry favor with the public here and massage global public opinion, why not establish a multimillion dollar grant program for AO victims, all four generations of them?  No need to accept any responsibility, just make the lives of these people more bearable, less painful, more livable.  Just do the right thing.

Monsanto has two offices in Vietnam.  Note:  Dekalb is a Monsanto subsidiary.

DEKALB VIETNAM COMPANY LIMITED
Unit 1303, Floor 13, Centec Tower
72-74 Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street
Ward 6, District 3
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Phone: (84-8) 3823 3470 -76
Fax: (84-8) 3823 3473 – 3823 3469

DEKALB VIETNAM COMPANY LIMITED – HA NOI REP. OFFICE
10th Floor, 442 Doi Can Street
Cong Vi Ward, Ba Dinh District,
Ha Noi City, Vietnam
Phone: (84-4) 3762 1146
Fax: (84-4) 3762 1149

MAA

The Audacity of Monsanto and the Short Memory of the Vietnam National University of Agriculture

by Chuck Palazzo

monsanto
 In a recent article, Monsanto and the Vietnam University of Agriculture announced:

“…a pledge of VND 1.5 billion scholarship for outstanding students studying agricultural biotechnology. This scholarship aims to nurture and encourage the engagement of young talents in the development of agricultural biotechnology and products thereof to support farmers.”

As I read this, several ethical questions immediately came to mind. Could it possibly be that the same Monsanto that manufactured one of the most disastrous herbicides in history, Agent Orange, has been allowed to resurface in Vietnam in the guise of agriculture? To be more precise – GMO – Genetically Modified Organisms and Seeds?  That is exactly what has occurred.  According to various estimates, the U.S. military sprayed approximately 11 to 12 million gallons of Agent Orange over nearly 10% of then-South Vietnam between 1961 and 1971. One scientific study estimated that between 2.1 million and 4.8 million Vietnamese were directly exposed to Agent Orange. Vietnamese advocacy groups claim that there are over 3 million Vietnamese suffering from health problems caused by exposure to the dioxin in Agent Orange.

Yes, the same Monsanto which, according to their own website, states: “At the time the herbicides were used, there was little consideration within the U.S. military about potential long-term environmental and health effects of the widespread use of Agent Orange in Vietnam.  As a result, the governments that were involved most often take responsibility for resolving any consequences of the Vietnam War, including any relating to the use of Agent Orange. U.S. courts have determined that wartime contractors (such as the former Monsanto) who produced Agent Orange for the government are not responsible for damage claims associated with the chemistry.”

OK, Monsanto, agreed that you were and continue to be complicit with the US Government. OK, it’s convenient for Monsanto and the other manufacturers of Agent Orange to hide behind the US courts. But is it OK for this same Monsanto, which lied to the public about the deadly effects of Agent Orange, be allowed to return to Vietnam under the guise of improving agriculture? Is it OK for this same company that has been responsible for some of the worst chemical concoctions known to man (PCBs is another example) are now held in such high esteem that the Vietnam Ministry of Agriculture awards them The Sustainable Agriculture Company Award? Sustainability? GMO’s do not contribute to the sustainability of agriculture or anything else for that matter. To make matters worse, some of the same components used in Agent Orange are also being genetically implanted into GMO seeds – for human consumption. Other GMO seeds have been developed to withstand mega-doses of herbicides without killing the crop itself – albeit, the chemicals will saturate and ultimately destroy the surrounding environment. This is clearly NOT sustainability.

Nguyen Hong Loi and child born without eyes in Agent Orange children's ward at Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Nguyen Hong Loi, 24, cares for a child born without eyes in the Agent Orange children’s ward of Tu Du Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. About 500 of the 60,000 children delivered each year at the maternity hospital, Vietnam’s largest, are born with deformities, some because of Agent Orange, according to doctors. May 1, 2013. Photo: Drew Brown (http://drewbrown.photoshelter.com)

Monsanto has not compensated any victim of Agent Orange in Vietnam, the US, or anywhere around the world for the death and destruction this corporate giant has been responsible for over the years. They refuse to. They hide behind US laws, which, in my opinion are a disgrace, as evidenced by my own fellow American veterans who continue to die as a result of their own exposure to Agent Orange and the countless Vietnamese victims who I see and advocate for daily, many of whom are 2nd and 3rd generation victims.

Monsanto is an incredibly large, multinational company that has the financial capability to do as they please – in the US, in Vietnam and throughout the world. GMO’s do not resolve the world hunger problems; they do not resolve drought-related issues. Poor farmers around the world enter into contracts with Monsanto that ensure the seeds they use are destroyed at the end of each season – forcing the farmer to continue to buy seeds from Monsanto. Yep, control the food and you will control the people.

What about food sovereignty? There is none as long as Monsanto is part of the agricultural food chain in Vietnam and anywhere their seeds are being used.

Sure, let us recognize talent in our universities and grant awards and scholarships based on academic achievement.   But not by using the blood money Monsanto has granted to the Ministry of Agriculture, paid in part by profits earned from the Agent Orange they manufactured and sold to the U.S. Government during the American War. The same Vietnam that was saturated with Agent Orange. The same Vietnam whose victims of Agent Orange who, now very well into the 3rd generation, continue to suffer and die, for very likely, many more years to come.

2014 Operation Light the End of the Tunnel

Below is an interview with Chuck Searcy, a former Army intelligence analyst who has lived in Vietnam for the last 20 years working – in partnership with Vietnamese colleagues – to ameliorate the effects of various war legacies, including unexploded ordnance (UXO) and Agent Orange.  The interview was with Mike Cerre, a former ABC News Correspondent and war veteran, and took place on 4 September 2014 at the Marines’ Memorial Club and Hotel in San Francisco.  Follow this link to read an announcement about the event and to learn more about Mr. Searcy’s background.

Vietnam Education Dialogue: Higher Education Reforms

cg hcmcOn July 31st and August 1st, US Consul General, Rena Bitter, hosted a conference on Vietnamese higher education.  The star-studded list of guests included Dr. Ngo Bao Chau, the first Vietnamese to receive the prestigious Fields Medal, known as the Nobel Prize of Mathematics, Dr. Nguyen Quan, Minister of Science and Technology, and Professor Bui Van Ga, Vice Minister, Ministry of Education and Training.   About 150 people attended the conference.  You can find the agenda here, along with a number of presentations in the form of PDF downloads.

The 1.5 day conference, entitled “Vietnam Education Dialogue: Higher Education Reforms” and organized by the Education Dialogue Group and Dr. Chau, “brought together senior government officials, educators, college and university representatives, and businesspeople to discuss strategies and recommend reforms to Vietnam’s higher education system,” according to a US Consulate General press release.  “The Vietnam Education Dialogue is part of the U.S. government’s commitment to this joint goal, based on enhancing educational, cultural, and people-to-people ties between the United States and Vietnam,” the statement added.

My two cents:

  • Soft Power:  Given the fact that education looms large in the US government’s exercise of soft power in Vietnam and other countries, I view these events primarily as political exercises, something to write about and showcase in a press release, media report, and post-conference diplomatic cable.   They are part of an ongoing charm offensive that began in earnest during “Education Ambassador” Michael Michalak’s tenure. 
  • Impact:  I wonder about the impact of these types of events, short- or long-term.  Aside from the fleeting PR value, you can’t claim that they’re networking opportunities on this scale – in contrast to the annual education conferences of AMB Michalak.
  • Authority:  A couple of sources told me that while the academic presenters who hold positions overseas may be experts in their fields, they wonder A) how up-to-date all of these experts are vis-à-vis Vietnamese higher education; and B) why they think that what works in another country will work in Vietnam.
  • More Inclusive?  I know this is asking a lot of what is essentially a very conservative entity with its own narrow agenda but… why not expand the circle and include other voices?  This is about dialogue, after all.

MAA

Of Proposed Fulbright Cuts, Reaper Drones & the American Fulbright University in Vietnam

fulbright logo

The Fulbright Program aims to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in friendship and peace.

– Senator J. William Fulbright in the Foreword to “The Fulbright Program: A History, 1965”

Here’s an item that’s been in the news recently and that encompasses the three Is of this venerable blog, Information, Insights & Intrigue:  a proposed cut of 13% or $30.5 million – from $234.7 to $204.2 million – to the US government’s “flagship international educational exchange program”, namely, the Fulbright Program.   (I have always considered this to be one of the US government’s most noble initiatives.)

To put this expenditure in perspective the cost of a MQ-9 Reaper Drone is $16.9 million, according to its manufacturer, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems.  This means that the current worldwide Fulbright budget equals the cost of about 14 MQ-9 Reaper Drones, one indication of just how much official USA loves its military hardware.

800px-MQ-9_Reaper_in_flight_(2007)
A MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle prepares to land after a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The Reaper has the ability to carry both precision-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles.

As Ann Jones, the author of They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars — The Untold Story and a Fulbrighter herself (Norway 2012),  points out in her recent piece, Washington’s Pivot to Ignorance, it’s also a sign of how much Washington “has come to rely on the ‘forward projection’ of military force to maintain its global position… the Fulbright Program may be the last vestige of an earlier, more democratic, equitable, and generous America that enjoyed a certain moral and intellectual standing in the world.”  That, of course, was one of Senator J. William Fulbright’s goals in creating the program that bears his name.  (Speaking of the “forward projection” of military power, the current defense budget is $640 billion.)

There is additional funding for several new programs, including $20 million for the Young African Leaders Initiative and $10 million for the Young South-East Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI), both examples of the use of soft power as a tool/weapon to influence young leaders in strategically important countries, including Vietnam.  This statement appears on the YSEALI website:  Young people in Southeast Asia are working to make tomorrow a brighter day and the United States is here to help.  When I read this, one my favorite idioms came to mind:  Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.  (How nice of the US to want to help but, rest assured, there are always strings attached!)

American Fulbright University in Vietnam

Tucked away in Ann Jones’ article is this paragraph, which refers to the creation of the American Fulbright University in Vietnam, which was discussed during President Sang’s meeting with President Obama last summer in Washington, D.C.

The ECA also plans to spend $2.5 million next year in Vietnam on what seems to be a consolation prize: a new American Fulbright University, named in honor of Senator J. William Fulbright who created the flagship program that bears his name and ushered it through Congress back in 1946.  Fulbright, an Arkansas Democrat, was then a first-term senator whose experience as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford had fostered his international perspective. He went on to spend 30 years in the Senate, becoming the longest serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the twentieth century’s most influential senators. Yet if the State Department has its way, the proposed university to be named in his honor will be paid for by money cut from the international exchange program he considered his most important achievement.

My question, dear reader, is this:  What will a paltry $2.5 million buy, given the exorbitant cost of establishing a new university or, in this case, building on the foundation of an existing program, the Fulbright Economics Teaching Program (FETP) in Ho Chi Minh City?  They would need at least tens of millions of dollars to get things moving.  Why not forgo a few MQ-9 Reaper Drones for the sake of higher education and international educational exchange?  State says that the $2.5 million is earmarked to support “academic freedom and autonomy in developing new curricula”, whatever that means.  Stay tuned…

Bonus: Yussi Pick, a Fulbright alumnus from Austria who was a German teaching assistant at the College of Wooster, in Ohio, created the SaveFulbright.org website and petition, which has generated over 26,000 signatures as of today.

MAA (ardent admirer of J. William Fulbright, eloquent and outspoken Vietnam War opponent, author of The Arrogance of Power, etc.; one-time Fulbright adviser for US students/faculty; and the first Fulbright Senior Specialist to Vietnam, 2003)

 

President Obama Nominates Ted Osius to Become the Next US Ambassador to Vietnam

President Obama has nominated Ted Osius to become the sixth US Ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.  Osius will replace David Shear, who arrived in August 2011 and has left to take up his duties as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs.

Below is an excerpt from a 14.5 White House press release about this and other nominations.

Ted Osius, Nominee for Ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Department of State

Ted Osius, a career member of the Foreign Service, Class of Minister-Counselor, is an Associate Professor at the National War College, a position he has held since 2013.  He was a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies from 2012 to 2013.  Prior to that, Mr. Osius served as Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, from 2009 to 2012.  Before that, he was Political Minister-Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, India from 2006 to 2009.  Mr. Osius also served as Deputy Director of the Office of Korean Affairs in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at the Department of State from 2004 to 2006.  Prior to that, he was Regional Environment Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand from 2001 to 2004.  From 1998 to 2001, he was Senior Advisor on International Affairs in the Office of the Vice President at the White House.  He served as Political Officer at the U.S. Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City and at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi, Vietnam from 1997 to 2001.  Other positions he has held include: Staff Aide and Political Officer at the United States Mission to the United Nations, Political and Management Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Vatican City, The Holy See, and Political and Consular Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines.  From 1985 to 1987, he was a Legislative Correspondent in the Office of U.S. Senator Al Gore, Jr.  Mr. Osius received an A.B. from Harvard College and an M.S. from the School of Advanced International Studies at The Johns Hopkins University.

As you can see from this article, the Vietnamese media didn’t waste any time picking up this story:  Mỹ đề cử đại sứ mới tại Việt Nam.

If confirmed by the US Senate, Mr. Osius will be the first gay US Ambassador to Vietnam.  Below is a photo of him and his partner, Clayton Bond, and their adopted son, Theodore Alan Bond-Osius.

 

Ted Osius
Photo courtesy of Ted Osius