June 29, 2020

Christina Thomas: Virtual Training for Young Global Leaders

Bio Christina Thomas is the Divisional Vice President for Youth Exchanges at World Learning. Christina oversees the World Learning’s multimillion-dollar U.S. and international youth exchange portfolio consisting of World Learning’s flagship...


Christina Thomas is the Divisional Vice President for Youth Exchanges at World Learning. Christina oversees the World Learning’s multimillion-dollar U.S. and international youth exchange portfolio consisting of World Learning’s flagship program, the Experiment in International Living. The Exchange portfolio serves over 1,200 high school age U.S. and international students and adult educators and hires up to 150 program leaders annually. Programs focus on experiential learning, global issues, and youth leadership.

Christina also serves as the Board President of the Federation EIL providing member support in strategic planning, capacity building, and quality assurance. The Federation is a nonprofit association representing a global network of international educational program providers supporting 12 members around the globe who offer programs in volunteerism, group travel, language training, and study abroad.

Before joining World Learning in 2003, Christina taught English to junior and senior high school students and designed teacher training programs for Japanese English teachers on the Japan Teaching and Exchange Program (JET) for three years. Christina received her master's degree in international communications from the School of International Service with an emphasis on international education and management from American University in Washington, DC.


Global Youth Exchanges - World Learning, World Learning (2020), https://www.worldlearning.org/what-we-do/global-youth-exchanges/ (last visited Jun 28, 2020).


News Roundup      

Growing list of companies pull ads from Facebook 

As of Monday morning, Verizon, Coca-Cola, Starbucks and Unilever announced they would be pulling their ads from Facebook in protest over the social media giant’s refusal to take down hate speech. Patagonia, North Face, and REI had previously announced they’d be pulling their ads, along with Ben & Jerry’s, Eddie Bauer, and Honda America who were among the first companies to make the announcement. Unilever announced it would be pulling its ads at least until the end of the year. Bloomberg reported Friday that Zuckerberg lost over $7 billion of his wealth after Facebook’s stock price dropped 8.3%.  While Zuckerberg has come under intense scrutiny, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook investor, board member, and Trump adviser Peter Thiel is actually the one calling the shots.


What exactly is Peter Thiel’s role in the “boogaloo” movement?

Thiel donated $1.25 million to President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and is also a co-founder of Palantir, the controversial surveillance firm that’s developed a predictive policing algorithm popular among the boys in blue. The company has sold its software to local law enforcement agencies around the world, as well as to the U.S. military and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. It’s notorious for allegedly helping police unfairly target Blacks and Latinos and reinforcing racialized patterns within the criminal justice system, which apparently has become a breeding ground for white supremacists, including 2 now-fired cops, in Wilmington, North Carolina, who were caught on a patrol car video saying they couldn’t wait to slaughter black people. The Department of Health and Human Services has also awarded Palantir a mysterious coronavirus contract, about which Democrats in Congress, led by Congressman Joaquin Castro, wrote HHS Secretary Alex Azar Thursday, calling for the Palantir contract, as well as similar contracts with Oracle and Amazon, to be made public. The increased focus on Thiel last week came amidst reports of the growing anti-government “boogaloo” movement pushing for a Second Civil War, the type of apocalyptic event about which Peter Thiel has ostensibly been pining for years, given his 477-acre retreat in New Zealand, the Guardian reported about in a 2018 article, which would be perfect to escape such a calamity. Peter Thiel has pulled strings in the background before, when he funded Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker after Gawker alleged that Thiel was gay, resulting in Gawker’s 2016 bankruptcy.


The American right partners with Falun Gong

Axios first reported last week President Trump has fired the head of the U.S. Agency for Global Media, which includes the Open Technology Fund, which used to fund a variety of projects, like Signal, that allow devices access to sites repressive regimes try to block. Trump replaced USAGM’s former lead John Lansing with Steve Bannon ally and conservative filmmaker Michael Pack. Pack then fired Libby Liu, former head of the Open Technology Fund within USAGM. Now conservatives are looking to invest exclusively in two specific technologies known as UltraSurf and Freegate, technologies religious freedom advocacy organizations like Asia’s Falun Gong prefer because they see them as a way to topple China’s “Great Firewall”. Falun Gong also owns Epoch Times, which Axios notes is part of Trump’s conservative news ecosystem, and the organization is seen to align themselves with religious freedom advocates on America’s far-right, in an effort many fear will politicize America’s international media outlet.

Federal government ramps up surveillance efforts

The Intercept reported last week the FBI has ramped up surveillance efforts, citing contracts with companies like Venntel, which tracks the movements of millions of Americans. The Intercept found what it termed an “expedited agreement” between the FBI and a company called Dataminr as demonstrators took to the streets to protest systemic injustice, worldwide protests triggered by the killing of George Floyd, a black man killed by a police officer who knelt on Mr. Floyds neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds in Minneapolis despite the fact that he repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe, called for his mother, and was motionless for several minutes. The FBI has a long history of targeting racial, ethnic, and religious minorities especially Muslims.

Boston bans facial recognition

In a major victory for civil rights advocates, the City of Boston has officially banned facial recognition from policing, becoming the second-largest city to do so, following San Francisco. The Boston City Council voted unanimously in favor of the ban. On the federal level, however, no one seems to know how facial recognition technologies are used, after lawmakers sought information from the Department of Housing and Urban Development on how the Department uses the technology in public housing, which includes some 1.2 million households. The Department said it doesn’t keep track. In another development, more than 1,000 machine learning experts wrote a letter to the publisher of an article set to be released from a couple of researchers at Harrisburg University claiming they have developed a facial recognition program with an accuracy rate of 80%. Also check out the profile The New York Times did on the black man whose case became the nation’s first dealing with false identification by an facial recognition algorithm.


Indiana Supreme Court rules woman not required to unlock her phone for police

The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled in favor of a Carmel, Indiana woman, Katelin Seo, who refused to unlock her phone for police during a criminal investigation, which led to the lower court holding her in contempt. The Indiana Supreme Court found that requiring Seo to unlock her phone would have violated her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

Trump restricts highly-skilled worker visas

The White House last week announced that it will be restricting the number of foreign worker visas including the H1B visas tech companies use to attract highly skilled workers. Most of these workers are people of color from countries in Asia. The Trump administration claims the visas would put America at an economic disadvantage during its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

TaskRabbit CEO, Stacy Brown-Philpot Resigns

 Finally, Task Rabbit C.E.O. Stacy Brown-Philpot has resigned after four years leading the gig working company. Ms. Brown-Philpot said she will stay with the company until the end of August to give it enough time to find her successor. Brown-Philpot is one of the few Black or Female technology industry CEOs. She is also on the Boards of HP and Nordstrom and is currently advising a $100 million Softbank fund to support companies led by people of color. Ms. Brown-Philpot indicated she was deeply affected by the killing of George Floyd, championed the hiring of more women and black people in tech, and said the gig working industry needs to do more for contract workers.