Monday, February 9, 2009

New Jobs for Foreign Language Speakers

Translators wanted by recruiter in Washington, D.C language company that provides translation and interpreting services to the US. government. The recruiter suggested I share these new career opportunities with you. If qualified, please reply this email and I will forward them to him.
Please reply by Thurs Feb 19, 2009. Reply only if you meet the requirements stated below.
Preliminary Requirements for all Interpreters:Resume including all formal and informal interpretation experience US Citizen or Permanent Resident (green card holder) Lived in the US for 3 of the past 5 years Must have one year of judicial interpretation experience for The Department of Justice contract –
Please response with your resume including all interpretation experience.
Luo – Kenya
Maragoli - Kenya
Nuer - Sudan, Ethiopia
Bamun – Cameroon *
Basaa ( Douala ) - Cameroon
Ngemba - Cameroon
Oku - Cameroon
Vengo (Babungo) – Cameroon
Ngwe - Cameroon
Chokwe - Democratic Republic of the Congo *
Tama – Chad *
Ejagham - Nigeria
Baule - Cote d'Ivoire *
Bassa - Liberia
Kru - Liberia
Dagbane – Ghana *
Ga - Ghana
Moba - Togo
Dyoula - Burkina Faso
Songhay - Burkina Faso
Toma – Burkina Faso
Manjaku - Guinea-Bissau *
Kissi Northern – Guinea
Limba - Guinea/Sierra Leone *
Mende - Sierra Leone
Temne - Sierra Leone

Languages needed The Department of Justice – Immigration Court in specific locations: (all languages are urgent)
Amharic – Ethiopia – Los Angeles and San Francisco
Tigrinya – Ethiopia - Los Angeles and San Francisco
Soninke – Mali and all other regions – New York City
Somali – Somalia – San Antonio

Languages needed for Department of Homeland Security – Telephonic Interpretation (does not require one year of experience)
Amharic – Ethiopia – morning availability
Fulani – West Africa - daytime availability
Somali – Somalia – daytime availability
Tigrinya – Ethiopia – daytime availability
DioulaBurkina Faso - open availability
Mandingo – Senegal - open availability

Saturday, February 7, 2009

A Runner Knows She’s Not in Kenya Anymore

Courtenay Morgan Redis for The New York Times

Salome Kosgei had never seen snow until she arrived at Kennedy Airport in 2004.

Published: February 5, 2009
GREENBURGH, N.Y. — When Salome Kosgei arrived at Kennedy Airport with only a change of clothes and a track scholarship, she stepped into a world she had never imagined.
Courtenay Morgan Redis for The New York Times

Salome Kosgei placed a call to Kenya after winning a race in late December.

Courtenay Morgan Redis for The New York Times

Salome Kosgei set seven team records at Iona College and graduated with a degree in economics.

Smiling as she recalled her first “I’m not in Kenya anymore” moment, Kosgei said: “There was snow all over the place. Everything was white. This is country I’ve never seen. Wow! I remember trees were, well, dry. No leaves. This was most amazing to me.”

On that December morning in 2004, Kosgei did not anticipate becoming one of the fastest female runners inIona College history or graduating with an economics degree just as the financial crisis strangled markets around the world. And she did not foresee cradling an infant son on her first visit home.

Salome Kosgei (pronounced sah-LOM-ay KOSS-gay), who is about 5 feet 6 and weighs barely 100 pounds, has a fluid and elegant stride. When Kosgei, 28, won the Bermuda International Half-Marathon in early January, finishing nearly three minutes in front of her nearest competitor, she was driven by the same thought that pushes her to the trails each morning as she faces another day apart from her son, Michael — prove that the sacrifice is worth it.

Her dreams of becoming a great runner took seed on her family’s farm in the red volcanic dirt above 8,000 feet in the Keiyo District of Eldoret in northwestern Kenya. Kosgei was a quiet adolescent member of the Kalenji tribe, living in the shadow of the mountains above the Rift Valley, which is home to many fleet-footed East Africans. Of seven siblings, she was the only one to leave her village and attend college.

In her three years at Iona, Kosgei set seven team records, from the mile to the 10,000 meters. She was a nine-time regional champion, and the most outstanding female runner in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in 2006. She reached her peak as an all-American in the 5,000 in early 2007.

At a meet in which Kosgei set Iona’s 5-kilometer record, 16 minutes 1.03 seconds, she “cruised, lapping everyone else at least once,” said her coach at the time, Mick Byrne, who now leads the men’s cross-country team at the University of Wisconsin. That qualified her for the 2007 N.C.A.A. indoor championships, where she finished eighth.

That spring Kosgei earned a spot in the 10,000 at the N.C.A.A. outdoor championships. But as the meet approached, her training was not producing results. Doctors at the New Rochelle, N.Y., campus eventually told Kosgei that she was pregnant.

“Sometimes in the families, you know, the ladies don’t have much freedom,” she said in December. “If they give the ladies such a freedom, they maybe get spoiled.”

Kosgei took a sip of water, then looked away as she continued.

“Spoiled like food that is not good,” she said. “Things can happen to ladies. And if you make a mistake, maybe you will not be able to express your talent. And then, maybe you become a burden to your brothers and they have you cut off” from the family.

She revealed the pregnancy in a call to her oldest sister, Ann, whose encouraging words brought relief and solace.

Kosgei declined to identify the father, who provides no regular child support, but said counselors at Iona and at the Pregnancy Care Center, where she lived with other single mothers close to campus, offered help.

She also relied on Mike Barnow, her coach with the Westchester Track Club, whose top runners are primarily East Africans. He and Kosgei spoke daily about her training, her health and her concerns.

When Kosgei woke after a Caesarean section on Nov. 7, 2007, she found the reality of motherhood both beautiful and terrifying.

“I was so scared,” she said. “I cannot be prepared for this, I was thinking.”

Barnow, who figured a return to training would help untangle her emotions, talked Kosgei into running again. Four weeks after giving birth, she started with walking, then jogging easily. Within two months she was running daily for more than an hour.

Although her training was going well, her student visa and the center’s policy required her to work or attend school. The staff could not grasp that running was her job.

In January 2008, ethnic violence after a national election killed more than 1,200 in Eldoret. While her family remained safe in their village, many in her tribe were dead or injured. Kosgei could not go home immediately, but she knew she would eventually accept her family’s help in rearing Michael.

The turning point for Kosgei came in New York last June. She placed 10th in a high-caliber women’s field at the New York Mini 10K. It included the race winner, Hilda Kibet, a Dutch citizen born in Kenya; Madaí Pérez, Mexico’s leading marathoner; and the three American qualifiers for the Olympic marathon in Beijing, Deena Kastor, Magdalena Lewy Boulet and Blake Russell.

“That really gave me the motivation — that if I can run this big race and come in 10th, I know I can make it,” Kosgei said.

Like many immigrants, at least 30 high-caliber East African athletes toil in low-wage jobs in the New York metropolitan area, sending money home to ailing parents and multiple siblings. Runners are like day laborers — they work even when they are sick, no matter the weather, without health insurance or a steady paycheck.

Kosgei must train twice a day and, like most professional runners just below elite status, resist the temptation to run too much to eke out a living. Racing well means money in the pocket, but an injury from overuse can end a career.

Unable to afford child care while training and racing, Kosgei had few options. Barnow offered to pay her way home — and back.

“Salome never asked me, but I understood what she was thinking,” Barnow said.

Kosgei prayed and talked it over with her sisters. Last July she flew home with Michael.

Twelve excited relatives met them at the Nairobi airport and took the five-hour bus ride to Eldoret. Over the next eight weeks, Kosgei answered the villagers’ many questions about the United States.

“ ‘Tell us about crops, cattle, farm machinery,’ they all ask,” Kosgei said. “At that time I have no answers. I never saw such things in America.”

In September, Kosgei returned alone on a tourist visa. (She has applied for a P-1 visa, for internationally recognized athletes and entertainers.) Her younger sister, Naomi, offered to raise Michael alongside her two young daughters, for the time being.

“I would never want anyone, any friend, to live this sacrifice,” Kosgei said, holding back tears. “It is the most difficult thing I have ever done. It still affects me so much to be this great distance from my son.”

She lived temporarily with five other Kenyan runners crammed into a two-bedroom apartment in the Bronx. Then a local newspaper article prompted MaryElizabeth Murray to invite Kosgei to stay free in a private suite in her Greenburgh home. After a big snowstorm, they decorated the Christmas tree and shoveled the driveway, another first for the Kenyan.

A 10-minute walk and a short bus ride deliver Kosgei to her favorite running trails at the Rockefeller Preserve in Tarrytown. Some days she trains with the team in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, averaging 70 miles a week.

Kosgei is climbing the ranks on the national level. At a 10-kilometer race in California over Thanksgiving, she finished in front of Lewy Boulet, earning $2,250 for a course-record victory in 32:27. In late December she won the Millennium Mile in 4:36 after leaving home at 4 a.m. for a seven-hour bus ride to Londonderry, N.H.

Once she is consistently earning enough money, Kosgei said, she will bring Michael here and maybe pursue a graduate degree, or perhaps live and train in Kenya but race internationally.

After making her weekly call home, she glanced at the snow falling outside. Kosgei said she hoped she was making the best choices for her family.

“They say, maybe, you make a mistake, but you can still do good in life,” she said. “If you have a talent, a gift, you can still achieve it.”

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Chaotic Kenya Vote and a Secret U.S. Exit Poll

Uriel Sinai/Getty Images.Kenyan police officers charged at supporters of the opposition leader Raila Odinga in the Nairobi slum of Kibera last January.
Published: January 30, 2009

For three days in December 2007, Kenya slid into chaos as ballot counters steadily took what appeared to be a presidential election victory for the challenger and delivered it to the incumbent.

Noor Khamis/Reuters. Ballot-counting in Nairobi, Kenya, in December 2007. Violence erupted when the incumbent was finally declared the winner

As tensions mounted, Kenneth Flottman sat in Nairobi and grew increasingly frustrated. He had in his hands the results of an exit poll, paid for by the United States government, that supported the initial returns favoring the challenger, Raila Odinga.
Mr. Flottman, East Africa director for the International Republican Institute, the pro-democracy group that administered the poll, said he had believed that the results would promptly be made public, as a check against election fraud by either side. But then his supervisors said the poll numbers would be kept secret.
When the incumbent, Mwai Kibaki, was finally declared the winner amid cries of foul, Kenya exploded in violence that would leave more than 1,000 people dead before the two sides negotiated a power-sharing deal two months later. With rioters roaming the streets, Mr. Flottman sent an e-mail message to a colleague saying he was worried that, in rebuffing his pleas to release the poll, the institute had succumbed to political pressure from American officials.
"Supporting democracy and managing political outcomes are two different objectives for a nonpartisan, foreign-based organization or country," he wrote, "and sometimes there is a conflict that requires a choice."
A year later, the poll's fate remains a source of bitter contention, even as Kenya has moved to remake its electoral system. The failure to disclose it was raised at a Senate hearing in Washington last year and has been denounced by human rights advocates, who said it might have saved lives by nudging Mr. Kibaki to accept a negotiated settlement more quickly.
Exit polls, of course, are not always accurate, and it is impossible to know if events might have played out differently had the institute publicized the results, as it has usually done elsewhere. But in Kenya's highly contested election, this particular exit poll, conducted by an experienced American organization, might have been the best gauge of who really won.
An examination by The New York Times found that the official explanation for withholding the poll — that it was technically flawed — had been disputed by at least four people involved in the institute's Kenya operations. The examination, including interviews and a review of e-mail messages and internal memorandums, raises questions about the intentions and priorities of American observers as Kenyans desperately sought credible information about the vote.
None of those interviewed professed to know why the institute withheld the results. But the decision was consistent with other American actions that seemed focused on preserving stability in Kenya, rather than determining the actual winner.
When Mr. Kibaki claimed victory on Dec. 30, 2007, the State Department quickly congratulated him and called on Kenyans to accept the outcome, even though international observers had reported instances of serious ballot-counting fraud. American officials backed away from their endorsement the next day and ultimately pushed the deal that made Mr. Odinga prime minister.
After insisting for months that the poll was flawed, the institute released it last August — long past the point of diplomatic impact — after outside experts whom it had hired determined that it was valid. It showed Mr. Kibaki losing by about six percentage points.
The institute would not make anyone available for interviews. In written responses to questions, a spokeswoman, Lisa Gates, said that the decision to withhold the results was based on "a lack of confidence in the data, nothing else," and that any suggestions that it was at the behest of the United States government were "completely false." To clear its name, the institute has asked that the State Department inspector general look into whether the poll was withheld "at the request of U.S. government officials," she said.
"Had I.R.I. released a poll which we had reason to believe was incorrect," she said, "The New York Times would be asking — quite rightly — how we could have been so cavalier and irresponsible." The outside experts' review, she said, showed that the initial results were off by two percentage points.
American Preferences
The institute, which is mostly government financed, conducts campaign workshops, polling and election monitoring in emerging democracies. It has earned praise from elected officials in many countries. But at times, it has also been accused of meddling. In Haiti, for example, a former American ambassador asserted that the institute's operatives undermined reconciliation efforts among political opponents, contributing to a coup in 2004. The institute denied it.
The institute has worked in Kenya since 1992, but the 2007 presidential election provided its most high-profile assignment yet: monitoring the vote and conducting an exit poll for the United States Agency for International Development.
Despite initial economic successes and popular support after his election in 2002, Mr. Kibaki had gained a reputation for playing divisive tribal politics, and his administration had become tainted by scandal. Still, he had a good relationship with the Bush administration and generally supported American counterterrorism policies in East Africa.
Mr. Odinga was viewed skeptically by some in Washington because of his flamboyant manner and his background: he was educated in East Germany and named his son after Fidel Castro.
Heading the institute's Kenya operations in 2007 was Mr. Flottman, on leave from his job as a senior counsel for a major defense contractor. His position put him in close proximity to Western officials in Kenya, including the American ambassador, Michael E. Ranneberger, a career diplomat appointed in 2006. Mr. Flottman said he was surprised when, before the election, Mr. Ranneberger made public comments praising Mr. Kibaki and minimizing Kenyan corruption.
Behind the scenes, Mr. Flottman recalled, the ambassador was even more direct. A few months before the election, Mr. Ranneberger proposed releasing a voter survey showing Mr. Kibaki ahead and trying to block a roughly simultaneous one favoring Mr. Odinga, according to Mr. Flottman, who said he witnessed the episode during a meeting at the ambassador's office. The suggestion was dropped, he said, after the embassy learned that the pro-Odinga results were already out.
"It was clear, in my opinion, that the ambassador was trying to influence the perceptions of the Kenyan electorate, and thus the campaign," Mr. Flottman said.
In an interview, Mr. Ranneberger said it would have made little sense to try to squelch one of many pre-election polls, and he called the suggestion that he had tried to tilt the outcome toward Mr. Kibaki "utter nonsense." He added, "Odinga praised me for being very evenhanded."
Deepening Disquiet
Another episode deepened Mr. Flottman's unease. As the institute assembled its monitoring delegation, the ambassador objected to plans to include his predecessor, Mark Bellamy, according to two delegation members and a former State Department official. The institute withdrew the invitation, citing budget constraints.
"I don't know the reason why the ambassador wanted Mark off, but he did," said one delegation member, Joel D. Barkan. He added, "Perhaps somebody in the Kenya government made comments along the way."
Mr. Flottman reached the same conclusion during a conversation in which the ambassador remarked that the Kibaki camp viewed Mr. Bellamy as "antigovernment," according to an e-mail message that Mr. Flottman sent to institute officials in Washington shortly afterward.
"In sum," Mr. Flottman wrote, "the ambassador indicates respect for our independence, but seems to have some agenda in regard to the election itself."
Mr. Ranneberger disputed that characterization, saying that he played no role in Mr. Bellamy's removal. Mr. Bellamy declined to comment.
Under its contract, the institute was expected to consult with the Agency for International Development and the embassy before releasing the exit poll results, taking into account the poll's technical quality and "other key diplomatic interests."
Quality was not expected to be a concern. In addition to retaining a local polling firm it had used since 2000, the institute contracted with Clark C. Gibson, chairman of the political science department at the University of California, San Diego, to oversee the design of the questions, the surveying of voters and the collection of data.
When the voting ended and ballot-counting began, Mr. Gibson and others involved in the exit poll said they expected its results to be announced soon.
But senior institute officials decided to withhold it. Most opposed to releasing the numbers, Mr. Flottman said, was Constance Berry Newman, the institute board member leading the monitoring delegation. In an e-mail message to another delegation member shortly after the election, Mr. Flottman said Ms. Newman opposed "any kind of release from the outset — essentially suggesting it would be inflammatory and irresponsible."
Ms. Newman, who had worked with Mr. Ranneberger when she was the Bush administration's assistant secretary of state for African affairs, declined to comment. Mr. Ranneberger said he recalled speaking briefly with Ms. Newman or another institute official about the exit poll but had no role in deciding whether to release it.
By Dec. 29, two days after the voting, trouble was brewing. The Kenyan electoral commission's tally showed that Mr. Odinga's 370,000-vote lead had shrunk to 38,000 and was still dropping, prompting accusations of fraud. Demonstrators took to the streets in several cities, setting fires and threatening members of rival tribes. The next day, paramilitary officers converged on the ballot-counting center, and the commission chairman, on state-owned radio, declared Mr. Kibaki the winner.
Push for Information
Among those aware of the exit poll, there was rising clamor for its release.
"With the breakdown of the electoral commission, that is precisely the point when you want an exit poll to be released," said Mr. Barkan, a Kenya expert and a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The institute remained silent until Jan. 15, 2008, when it issued a statement citing "concerns about the validity of the initial results."
In February, with Mr. Kibaki resisting calls to share power, the leaders of two Kenyan human rights groups wrote an opinion article for The Times, saying the refusal to release the poll had "fueled mistrust." After the poll was mentioned during a Senate hearing, the institute stepped up its public criticism of the poll, saying it "does not have confidence in the integrity of the data and therefore believes the poll is invalid."
Mr. Gibson said he told the institute that its technical concerns were baseless, to no avail. His contract barred him from publicly disclosing the polling data for six months, and in March of last year the institute asked him to sign a new contract that would have restricted him from speaking publicly about the institute's polling program without written permission.
"I think they were trying to shut me up," he said. "I refused to sign it."
In July, after his contract expired, Mr. Gibson and one of his doctoral students presented their analysis of the data at a seminar in Washington. A month later — one day before Mr. Gibson was to testify before Kenyan investigators — the institute announced that, after the outside review, it "now had confidence" in the poll and released the results.
For Mr. Odinga, bitterness lingers. He declined to sign a letter the institute drafted last month that amounted to an unqualified endorsement of its conduct. Instead, he wrote that while he appreciated the institute's past work, "the 2007 experience has cast some doubts among ordinary Kenyans."
"While I have no evidence to make me believe that I.R.I. withheld the exit poll results at the request of the U.S. government," Mr. Odinga wrote, "my supporters believe that had I.R.I. released those polls, they would have made a huge difference and even saved lives."