US college officials are struggling to meet an Aug. 1 deadline to register all foreign students with federal authorities under post-Sept. 11 security laws, but they complain many innocent foreigners could be denied an American education or even be deported due to computer glitches in the registration system. \nCampus offices that deal with foreign students are cutting back day-to-day services and working 14-hour days, but administrators say they still are stymied in trying to load information into the Student and Exchange Visitor Information Service, known as SEVIS. \n"The database is flawed. It couldn't have been done worse," said Gail Szenes, director of New York University's (NYU) Office for International Students and Scholars. \nForeigners omitted from the database will face strict scrutiny before their visas are renewed, and administrators fear some students will be denied visas unfairly simply because their names are not properly registered. \nWorse, they say, is that some foreign students will feel compelled to turn elsewhere for higher education, creating tensions between the US and the young men and women likely to become influential leaders in their own countries. \nMichael Brzezinski, director of the international students office at Purdue University, said that last summer 60 students at the Indiana school were denied visas or got them late, several for minor technical reasons. He said that until SEVIS is made more efficient, the trend will likely continue. \n"There has been some damage done," he said. "I am aware of at least two government programs, in Malaysia and Saudi Arabia, that are now sending their students to other countries." \nChris Bentley, a spokesman for the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement that oversees the SEVIS system, said the agency would not be able to tell whether the stricter registration system had discouraged some students from coming to the US until full numbers would be available after the Aug. 1 deadline. \nDownplaying any troubles with the system, Bentley said 950,000 names have been registered and predicted the number would reach 1.2 million by the deadline. He also said the SEVIS system should turn out to be an improvement. \n"In the past we had an antiquated paper system," he said. "I think it is going to speed up the process through which students come to the US and allow that to be done more easily." \nCollege officials argued, however, that the government had not fully developed the system when it mandated last December that all universities transfer their paper records on overseas students to the computerized system. \nA trial version of SEVIS debuted in 2000, and just 20 schools had begun using the program in 2001 when the USA Patriot Act required all colleges to adopt the new system. \nAlthough the government allocated US$36.8 million to the system, many college officials agree that lawmakers took disastrous shortcuts. \n"We were just beginning to test the program in July 2001, and then 9-11 hit," said Catheryn Cotton, director of the International Office at Duke University, which was part of the SEVIS pilot program. "The new SEVIS system was written and pushed through so quickly that a lot of the kinks we worked out worked their way back into the system." \nOne of the most significant "kinks" is that the SEVIS program does not successfully deliver the students' information to the consulates which issue visas in their home country, college officials say. \nBrzezinski at Purdue said his office receives about 15 e-mails each day from students overseas panicking that their records are incomplete. \nAt Michigan State University, Rosemary Max, assistant director of the Office for International Scholars, said her office has been bombarded with phone calls from distressed students. \n"These students are anxious and angry with us ... and wow, it's killing us," she said. \nMax said Michigan State has had several visas denied, adding she knows of some students who are now looking to Canada, Australia and the UK for an education. \nPurdue's Brzezinski is not alone in observing governments shying from sending students to the US, though some of the resistance may reflect broader political problems rather than unhappiness with the SEVIS system. \nA survey last year conducted by the Institute of International Education showed that some colleges reported a 30 percent decline in students from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, although 41 percent of schools surveyed said their total number of international applicants had increased.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
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KEEN INTEREST: India is trying to procure medical gear from domestic producers and abroad, and China has emerged as a possible supplier as its factories reopen India is to buy ventilators and masks from China to help it deal with COVID-19, a government official said yesterday, even though some countries in Europe had complained about the quality of the equipment. India has recorded 1,251 cases of the coronavirus, with 32 deaths, but health experts said the country of 1.3 billion people could see a major surge in cases that could overwhelm its weak public health system. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government said that it was trying to procure medical gear, including masks and body coveralls, both from domestic firms and from countries such as South Korea and