Skip to content

U.S. attempting to decrease visa waiting time

More stringent policies placed on visas in the wake of 9/11 have discouraged many from visiting the U.S. and slowed down tourism, according to the Wall Street Journal. Fortunately, the Obama administration is looking into ways to improve this situation and allow more people to visit America.

The Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, formed by Obama to look at ways to increase the number of jobs in America, made several recommendations to invest in visa-granting capacity. With more people to process visas, the U.S. hopes to get more people to visit America and expand the tourism industry.

"If you were running a business with a line out the door of people who wanted to come in and buy your product, you would do everything you could to get them in there," Geoff Freeman, executive vice president of the Corporation for Travel Promotion, told the news source.

As of now, the wait for a visa can be excessive, depending on the country. In Brazil, the time can often exceed more than four months, according to the news source.

Whether you're living in America or just visiting for a bit, using an online money transfer service to send money back home can make the separation from one's family a bit easier. 


Brothers and sisters will bond on Raksha Bandhan

On August 13, the moon will be full and many Indian people will observe Raksha Bandhan, a festival to celebrate the bonds between brothers and sisters. On this special day, sisters tie sacred threads called Rakhi around their brothers’ wrists to symbolize their love for their siblings.

In return for their sisters’ love, prayers and devotion, brothers make lifelong vows to protect them. They give their sisters gifts while the girls feed their brothers sweets. Some families also honor the connection between male and female cousins in the same way. Many people will send money to India to help their families get everything they need for the celebrations.

Raksha Bandhan, which means “knot of protection,” originated more than 6,000 years ago, and the holiday crops up in many historical and religious tales.

One legend has it that Lord Krishna was injured while trying to protect good people from an evil ruler, King Shisupal. Draupathi, the wife of the five pandavas, tore off a piece of her silk sari and bound it around the wrist of the Hindu deity. Her kindness and love moved him so much that he declared her his sister and swore to protect and repay her.

Many years later, Draupathi’s husbands bet her in a dice game and lost. Kauravas, the man who won her, tried to remove her sari, but Krishna made the fabric so long that no matter how much the kauravas unwound her, he could not reach the end.

Perhaps one of the most iconic stories of Raksha Bandhan is the tale of Rani Karnawati and Emporer Humayun, according to During medieval times, India was at war and Rani Karnawati was the widow of the king of Chittor. Realizing that without her late husband, the Rani would have difficulty protecting her kingdom against invasion, she sent a Rakhi to Emporer Humayan. The emporer, touched by her gesture, sent his troops to her aid right away.

These days, the Rakhi festival is a time of happiness and family togetherness. Women spend a lot of time preparing for the festivities, buying new clothes, Rakhis, sweets, gifts and food for the big day, which is why many will send money to India for their loved ones.

On the day itself, families don their best clothes and, after honoring their gods, the ceremonial tying of the Rahki and presentation of gifts commences. Once the formalities are over, the parties begin and families and friends gather to dance, eat and revel in each other’s company.


Hearty French stew can fill hearts and stomachs of people who are far from home

Cassoulet is a traditional French bean stew with a story – the French dish can be traced back to the 14th century, during the Hundred Years' War. When Castelnaudary, a small town in the south of France, was under siege, the citizens of the town came together to cook a hearty meal for their soldiers. The story goes that the soldiers were so invigorated by their meal that they were able to chase out the invaders and save the town.

"God the Father is the cassoulet of Castelnaudary, God the Son that of Carcassone, and the Holy Sprit that of Toulouse," French chef Prosper Montagne said in 1929 to clear up the issue of the origin of the dish, according to Time magazine.

Cassoulet, Toulouse and Carcassone are all bean-based stews, but the type of meat in the recipe determines the type of stew. The traditional Castelnaudary cassoulet usually calls for duck confit, while Toulouse's variation uses mutton and pork shoulder and Carcassone often has partridge and mutton. There are canned versions available at the supermarket, but people who are living away from home will make international wire transfers so their families back home can buy the ingredients to make cassoulet from scratch.


Football Transfer Window Roundup 8/9/11

Teams are sending money back and forth all throughout the summer as the transfer window remains open, but the early weeks in August are typically a slow period on the football calendar. There hasn’t been too much for fans to get excited about lately, but as always, the rumors will fly as the summer heats up. And of course, with the deadline approaching, there’s always the possibility of deals approaching at the last hour.

Perhaps one of the bigger moves of the past few days has been Chelsea engineering the signing of Anderlecht striker Romelu Lukaku. The Blues have paid a reported £20 million for the player, who they view as the eventual successor to Didier Drogba. The 18-year-old doesn’t have a ton of experience and is coming from a smaller club, so it will take some time for him to adjust to the Premier League. That said, his talent is undeniable, so Chelsea may have gotten a steal here.

Another young player on Chelsea’s radar is Borussia Dortmund’s Neven Subotic. The 22-year-old Serbian has turned heads with his rock-solid displays for Dortmund’s back line, along with his aerial prowess. At this point, the club have simply registered their interest, but they’ll have to fend off Liverpool if they want the signature. It’s also possible that Subotic sticks with a strong Dortmund side that has already begun its Bundesliga campaign.

Staying with Chelsea for a moment, the Blues reportedly still want Tottenham midfielder Luka Modric – quite badly in fact. The team has had two bids rejected thus far, of £22 million and £27 million – yet the club appears to be ready to make a third offer of an undisclosed amount. Some believe that the Spurs will reject that too, as they’ve repeatedly said Modric is not for sale.

That said, Tottenham apparently has a backup plan in place if Modric does end up leaving. The team is said to be very interested in midfielder Miralem Pjanic, who plays for Lyon in France. Again, Lyon says Pjanic is not for sale, but we all know how quickly that changes when one team offers to send money.

The two big names of the summer transfer window continue to remain in a holding pattern. The only update on the recent “Cesc Fabregas to Barca” saga is that Fabregas is reportedly willing to give up nearly £4 million in bonuses in order to play for the Spanish squad. Whether that speeds up the glacial pace at which this seemingly-inevitable transfer is moving remains to be seen.

In other news, Wesley Sneijder is almost assuredly going to Manchester – it’s just a matter of whether he’ll play for City or United. Both teams have been heavily linked with the Inter star, and recent comments by the player suggest that Inter is listening intently to all offers, despite previous reports that the deal was dead.

In smaller transfer news, Michael Bradley, the son of the recently-fired U.S. National Team coach Bob Bradley, has been linked with a move to Italian Serie A side Bologna. Bradley was loaned to Aston Villa last season but failed to catch on with the first team, and now it appears as if Borussia Monchengladbach are looking to end their relationship with the American national midfielder. Bologna is reportedly willing to send €5 million via international wire transfer for the player.

Finally, Arsenal has yet to make a big signing in the transfer window, but that could end soon if a deal for Germany international Per Mertesacker goes through. The Werder Bremen player says that his club has told him they are considering offers from all teams, with Arsenal reportedly out in front.


No Polish holiday is complete without a bowl of borscht

Borscht is a traditional Eastern European soup that is said to originate from medieval times and is served in two distinct varieties that originate from the Ukraine and Poland. The Ukranian version of the dish is more of a stew than a soup, containing lots of vegetables and a bit of meat. The soup, regardless of where it is made, can be enjoyed hot or cold.

The dish is traditionally served during both Jewish and Christian holidays – Passover and Christmas meals are not complete without borscht, according to the Nassua Telegraph. On Christmas Eve, many Polish families will serve the soup with uszka, small dumplings stuffed with mushrooms and sauerkraut, since meat is traditionally excluded from the holiday menu.

The medieval recipe for Polish borscht contained no beets – rather, it called for cow parsnip that was known locally as the bear's claw, and the news source reports that it is unclear when beets became a standard ingredient.

Polish legend explains how the soup and the parsnip got their names.

One spring, a hungry bear wandered to a nearby village and caught the scent of food cooking. He followed the smell to a home and climbed into the kitchen through an open window. The cook took one look at the giant creature and fainted, so the bear grabbed the pot of soup and left the way he came. Since it was so hot, the bear dropped the pot and the soup spilled out onto the ground. The legend goes that the first cow parsnip grew up from this very spot.

Polish boscht can also be served without straining the vegetables and meats, so it is more of a stew and can be eaten as a main course. The broth for the soup is often made with leftover kielbasa water, and the main attraction of the dish is its acidity. In order to obtain the proper levels of acidity, the soup can be cooked slowly, taking anywhere from three days to one week to complete.

However, if you're in more of a hurry, you can speed up the process with lemon juice, citric acid or vinegar. Since the dish is staple in holiday celebrations, Polish people who are working or living in other countries wire money to Poland to make sure their families have enough funds to buy all the ingredients for borscht and all the other fixings for their holiday celebrations.


Popular Indian street treat is easy to replicate in any kitchen

Panipuri, a popular Indian snack, is a fried ball of Indian bread, which is often stuffed with potato, chick peas, chaat masala spices, tamarind chili and onion. The snack is also called golgappa, which loosely translates to a crisp snack that can be eaten in one bite, and can be purchased at nearly any food cart on the streets of India.

Indian people who live outside the country send remittances to their families back home so they can indulge in a snack when they are out on the town or purchase the ingredients to make these treats at home.

Depending on the area, panipuri may be made in a number of variations, but the snack is most commonly made with water that has been flavored with mint, lemon or tamarind. Some serve panipuris as just the flavored fried bread, while others stuff the fried bread with potatoes and onions.

One of the delights of panipuris is that they can be made to taste, and Indian street vendors are renowned for their ability to remember specific orders. But Indian people who live in other countries can easily recreate the street-side treat with flour, spices, a touch of salt and whatever flavors and ingredients they most prefer inside their panipuri.

To make the treat at home, combine the flour, spices, a touch of oil and water to make the puri dough. Cover the dough with a wet cloth for 30 minutes and prepare the stuffing. Peel and mash boiled potatoes and combine them with spices, then set aside. After the allotted 30 minutes, uncover the puri dough and knead it again. Then take small pinches of dough and roll them into disc-shaped roti.

Heat enough oil for deep frying in a large pan. To check that the oil is hot enough, sprinkle a few drops of water into the pan. The water should sizzle when it makes contact with the oil, but don't let the oil get too hot. When the right temperature is reached, slip the rotis into the pan and cook them until they are golden brown, flipping once. They will puff up a bit.

When the puri is ready, combine your choice of herbs and spices into a paste and mix the paste with water. Make a small indent in the top of the fried dough and spoon in a bit of the potato mixture, then top with the pani and freshly chopped onions, if you prefer, and enjoy. 


Flamengo and Santos dazzle in Brazilian clash

Last night’s match between Santos F.C. and Flamengo reminded Brazilians why they love football, as the two of the game’s best went head to head in a thrilling battle for the ages.

The contest was full of flash and some brilliant offensive moments – although it was somewhat light on the defense. Santos started the proceedings with three goals with 25 minutes – two from Borges, and then an amazing run and finish by international sensation Neymar.

Somewhat amazingly, despite being down 3-0 quickly, Flamengo came back and tied the game before halftime with strikes from Ronaldinho, Thiago Nieves and David. There were six goals in one half, but the match was far from over.

Neymar again put one away shortly after halftime to give the lead back to Santos, but Ronaldinho didn’t take long to equalize. The former AC Milan star then beat the youngster to a hat trick and got his third goal of the match, leading Flamengo to victory, 5-4.

Flamengo fans have plenty to celebrate after coming out on top in that clash, but its Neymar who gives the Brazilians hope for the future. The young striker may have disappointed in the recent Copa America, but all signs point to him being the top striker when the World Cup is held in Brazil for 2014. Ahead of the massive tournament, many working abroad will be using international wire transfers back home to help assist with the festivities.


It’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s haggis?

Guardian News conducted a poll back in 2003, which found that nearly one third of Americans believed haggis to be a small animal, and 23 percent traveled to Scotland with hopes of catching one. Imagine their disappointment when they discovered that it is actually a food that makes many people cringe, but plenty others love the sheep-based sausage.

Haggis, a traditional Scottish pudding, consists of sheep's lungs, liver and heart – mixed with oatmeal and spices – that are stuffed into the sheep's stomach lining or an artificial casing. The haggis is then boiled for a few hours. When it's ready, the Scottish sausage is traditionally served with neeps and tatties (mashed potatoes and pureed turnips).

Last year, rumors were circulating that the U.S. import ban on haggis was to be lifted, but this was never the case, according to National Public Radio. The U.S. Department of Agriculture made it illegal to import all food made with lungs in 1971.

Alton Brown, a Food Network chef, suggests substituting the sheep lung with tongue, so Scottish people who are living or working in the U.S. can enjoy the comforts of home. They can also wire money to Europe so their families can prepare their own haggis meal, and they can bond over the shared experience.


World Football Transfer Window Roundup: 7/20/2011

Transfer window news continues to heat up as August rapidly approaches and teams get serious about their offers and signings. This is always a great time for soccer fans, as sometimes it’s the speculation that’s as much fun as the actual transfers. Everybody wants to know which teams will be sending money for which players, and that always keeps things interesting, even if no blockbuster deals were struck this week.

With many of the top teams shockingly eliminated from the Copa America this week, transfer rumors have begun swirling around some of the players who were linked with clubs before the tournament but didn’t have time to negotiate during the competition.

While the deal is not official yet, the major news this week is Barcelona’s signing of Chilean winger Alexis Sanchez. The Udinese winger has been linked with the club for months, and now it appears that a deal is done. Gino Pozzo, the son of Udinese president Giampolo Pozzo, told an Italian radio station that an agreement had been reached and would be completed within the next few days. The big question here is how big of an international wire transfer Udinese will ultimately demand. Pozzo originally rated Sanchez at €50 million, but it’s possible that was simply a negotiating tactic.

With the Sanchez transfer fee likely to be significant, it could have an effect on other transfers. Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas has made no secret that he wants to move to Barcelona, but the Spanish side likely doesn’t have the funds for two mega-transfers this year. Combine that with the fact that Arsene Wenger is doing everything to keep Fabregas, and the unsettled playmaker may be a Gunner for at least a few months.

Meanwhile, rumors continue to swirl over the brilliant young striker Neymar, who appears close to signing with Real Madrid. The player recently revealed that he wants to stay with his South American club, Santos. However, the player’s agent revealed that a deal with Madrid was done, and the La Liga squad simply had to wire money – €45 million – to complete the transfer. It’s possible that Neymar could stay with Santos for the time being, play in the Club World Cup, and then move in the January transfer window.

Another young Brazilian player for Santos could be set to move in the near future as well. Media reports are heavily linking Paulo Henrique Ganso with a move to Italian side AC Milan. There’s been a flurry of interest in the midfielder after a strong showing in the Copa America, despite Brazil’s early exit. Russian team Aznhi Makhachkala, Manchester United, Paris Saint-Germain and AC’s rivals Inter are all reportedly interested in the player. However, Ganso apparently has great admiration for the Brazilian midfielder Kaka, and wants to follow in his footsteps at AC Milan.

Meanwhile, Chelsea continue in their search for a holding midfielder to replace Michael Essien. Tottenham’s Luka Modric was originally tabbed as the top target, but interest has waned as the transfer fees have risen. There are rumors about Roma’s Daniele De Rossi making a move, although the Italian side seems to be doing everything to sign him. Thus much of the attention has now fallen to Bayern Leverkusen’s Arturo Vidal. Vidal was initially thought to be moving to Bayern Munich, as the Leverkusen coach from last season is now in charge at the German giant.

However, Leverkusen apparently don’t want to sell the star to their rival if they can avoid it, which is why talks began to progress quickly with Italian side Juventus. Now, it appears Chelsea has entered the fray at a late stage in order to prevent Juventus from scooping up the midfielder.


Genetically modified wheat may provide problems for local Australian farmers and environment

Wheat is a part of many people’s diets as it comes in the forms of bread, noodles, pastries, crackers and more. Not only do people love to eat wheat but the farming and harvesting process provides jobs for thousands of farmers across the globe, including Australia which is one of the world’s leading wheat export countries.

However, new genetically modified wheat produced by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) is threatening to disrupt Australian traditional cuisine values, as thousands of farmers may lose their jobs or be forced to grow wheat in a new fashion.

Greenpeace, an international organization designed to aid in environmental conservation, is largely against the overtaking of local Australian crops by genetically modified products. In order to assist families who are affected by these takeovers, many Australians living abroad will wire money to Australia to help out.

Canada and Europe, both worldwide wheat market competitors to Australia, have both rejected the idea of harvesting genetically modified wheat, which makes the Australian farmers and Greenpeace even more nervous.

“[Canada and Europe] were not convinced by global biotech companies that [the process] would not contaminate their natural wheat crops and threaten their billion-dollar export markets,” Greenpeace spokeswoman Laura Kelly said. “The economic implications of [genetically modified] wheat are dire.”

CSIRO is strongly against the negative publicity that Greenpeace and other Australian environment protection agencies are promoting. CropLife, a United States group that represents the plant industry, jumped into the fray to back up CSIRO’s proposed genetic methods.

“[Genetically modified] crops have demonstrated over the last 15 years that they improve the on-farm environment while reducing the pressure to convert wilderness areas to farmland,” CropLife CEO Mathew Cossey said in a public statement.

Other scientists have vowed that CSIRO crops make no difference in the long run.

“In controlled conditions in a laboratory you can get marvelous results…but when they put [the crops] in the field there is zero percent difference because …all the genes are expressing themselves and it’s complete competition,” Maarten Stapper, a former CSIRO scientist, told the Australia Associated Press on Thursday.

Though the definitive answer for whether or not genetically modified crops will take over local farms and the potential results are unknown, local farmers are likely in need of assistance from family and friends livign abroad who can send remittances.