Over 320000 Afghans repatriated since 1 March as returns gather pace UNHCR

More than 320,000 Afghans have returned home from neighbouring countries in less than two months, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which assists with the repatriation effort.The figure covers Afghan refugees returning since 1 March from Pakistan, Iran, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, a spokesman for the agency told a press briefing in Geneva today.Over the past three days, the rate of return from Iran reached 2,000 a day under a programme in which UNHCR monitors the voluntariness of the movement and the government provides transport up to the frontier, spokesman Kris Janowski said.The International Organization for Migration (IOM) collects the Afghans at that point and returns them to their home provinces. In less than two weeks, more than 15,000 Afghan refugees have repatriated since the programme began on April 9.From Pakistan, more than 302,000 Afghans have repatriated on their own since 1 March after registering at the UNHCR-run centres in the country. More than 8,900 people have also returned from the now-closed Tajik border camps, and 18 Afghans have repatriated with UNHCR assistance from Turkmenistan, Mr. Janowski added.Meanwhile in Afghanistan, UNHCR was leading a nationwide effort to help thousands of people forced from their homes by decades of internal strife and famine to return to their residences and start anew, according to Mr. Janowski.Monday saw the departure of the first internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Bamiyan to Saighan district in central Afghanistan. A convoy of 12 minibuses and 14 trucks ferried 1,396 people to 13 villages in Saighan valley. Up to 7,500 IDPs were expected to return from Bamiyan in the next eight days under a joint UNHCR-IOM programme.Since December, the UN refugee agency has helped more than 25,600 IDPs return to their homes in central and eastern Afghanistan and plans to assist the return and reintegration of some 400,000 IDPs in 2002. Afghanistan has more than 1.2 million IDPs.In a related development, the United Nations today received a donation of $500,000 from the World Conference on Religion and Peace for assistance to Afghan refugees and internally displaced persons. Welcoming this “act of generosity,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan said it was an example to people everywhere that believers from different faiths could join hands in the cause of peace.Today’s donation marked the second instalment of a $1 million pledge. The money was raised by interfaith organizations all over the world in an effort that began last September. In a letter to Dr. William Vendley, the Secretary-General of the Conference, Mr. Annan noted that while governments required constant reminders, faith communities came forward to make donations “without us knocking on your door.” read more

Security Councils Permanent Members say talks have begun on Iraqi compliance

In a press statement released following their meeting, the Secretary-General and the Foreign Ministers of China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and United States said they had agreed that “Iraqi non-compliance with the relevant Security Council resolutions is a serious matter and that Iraq must comply.”The statement added that the Ministers had begun consultations on how the Security Council could deal with the issue to ensure the implementation of its resolutions.Turning to the fight against terrorism, the Ministers and Mr. Annan reaffirmed the UN’s key role in meeting current challenges and emphasized the need to strengthen global efforts to combat the scourge, especially through the Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee.The statement also welcomed the dramatic changes taking place in Afghanistan, underscoring the “urgent need” for the international community to assist in restoring the country.Concerning the situation in the Middle East, the statement reiterated the group’s determination to promote a “just, comprehensive and lasting settlement” based on Security Council resolutions, the Madrid terms of reference, and the principle of land for peace. The Ministers and the Secretary-General “strongly support the goal of achieving a final Israeli-Palestinian settlement, and remain committed to implementing the vision of two States, Israel and an independent, viable and democratic Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.”Unequivocally condemning all acts of violence and terrorism, the group voiced increasing concern at the mounting humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian areas and, “while recognizing Israel’s legitimate security concerns, call on Israel to take the immediate measures necessary to alleviate humanitarian sufferings of the Palestinian people.”Regarding Africa, the statement stressed the importance of bringing lasting peace to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and welcomed the developing political dialogue in the region. They commended the commitments taken by the Government of Angola and the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) to restore peaceful and secure conditions in the country. On the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, the Ministers “welcomed the pledge by African leaders to the people of Africa to promote peace, security and development and to consolidate democracy and sound economic management.”In addition to the Secretary-General, Foreign Ministers Tang Jiaxuan of China, Dominique de Villepin of France, Igor Ivanov of the Russian Federation, Jack Straw of the United Kingdom, and Colin Powell of the United States took part in the meeting. read more

Senior UN relief official in Africa for talks on humanitarian emergencies

Kenzo Oshima, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator and Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, landed in Khartoum for the start of a 12-day mission to the Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia and Eritrea.On the first leg of his mission, to the Sudan and Kenya, Mr. Oshima is scheduled to meet with senior officials from the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement. He is also slated to hold talks with the UN country team and representatives from donor countries and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).The meetings are expected to cover humanitarian access to people in need, the safety of civilians and aid workers, and ways to assure the smooth functioning of one of the world’s largest humanitarian operations.Accompanying Mr. Oshima is UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Envoy for Humanitarian Affairs for the Sudan, Ambassador Tom Eric Vraalsen.For the second half of his trip, from 5 to 11 October, Mr. Oshima is scheduled to travel to Ethiopia and Eritrea to draw attention to growing humanitarian needs brought about by drought-induced food shortages.He is expected to visit areas hard-hit by drought and discuss how best to address the urgent needs of populations effected by the emergency. Holdbrook Arthur, the UN World Food Programme’s (WFP) Director for the Central Africa Region, as well as officials from the European Commission and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), will accompany Mr. Oshima during this leg of the trip. read more

WHO appeals for funds to buy 6 million doses of meningitis vaccine

Each year, meningitis sweeps across sub-Saharan Africa, sometimes igniting outbreaks involving 100,000 people or more, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Vaccination is the only effective public health weapon to contain these outbreaks, especially after a strain, W135, for which no affordable vaccine existed, emerged two years ago.Working with GlaxoSmithKline and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a vaccine for the new strain was developed in record time. It is being made available to WHO at €1 (euro) per dose, but due to production constraints, funds to purchase the necessary six million doses must be found within days.“This is an urgent health situation which forces quick action,” said WHO’s Assistant Director-General in charge of Communicable Diseases, Anarfi Asamoa-Baah. “But if we can do it, we can ease suffering, save lives and bring hope to tens of thousands of people who live in the direct path of this disease.”The 350 million people who live in the “meningitis belt” stretching from Ethiopia to Senegal are particularly vulnerable, WHO said. The W135 threat exploded in Burkina Faso last year, striking more than 13,000 people and killing more than 1,500 of them. At least 10 per cent of those infected die and many others are left permanently disabled. read more

Summit on UN staff security to be held at Headquarters this week

In a release issued today, the UN said the theme will be “After Baghdad: UN Workers Under The Gun”, and the summit – to be held at UN Headquarters – would examine possible solutions to the continuing dangers faced by UN staff in the field.The release added that the summit would also look at the Ahtisaari report, which criticized the UN’s security management system in the wake of the Baghdad attack, and the accountability of UN officials.After a series of presentations from the principal heads of UN bodies and relevant UN departments, the meeting will have a plenary session followed by a panel discussion. General Assembly president Julian R. Hunte of St. Lucia will give the opening address. read more

UN health agency seeks to combat dangerous misuse and overuse of medicines

“Most people see a lack of access to medicines as the main problem,” the interim Director of Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy at the UN World Health Organization (WHO), Hans Hogerzeil, said in a news release on the eve of a global meeting in Chiang Mai, Thailand. “Unfortunately, the irrational use of available medicines is also a major threat to health and leads to considerable waste.” Irrational use of medicines includes over-treatment of a mild illness, inadequate treatment of a serious illness, misuse of anti-infective drugs, over-use of injections, self-medication of prescription drugs and premature interruption of treatment. Several country figures show that such practices are frequent, and not exclusively in developing countries. At the Chiang Mai meeting opening tomorrow WHO and donor governments, foundations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) will spend four days looking at ways to improve use of medicines in developing countries. Almost half of all medicines globally are used irrationally, with such potential consequences as adverse drug reactions, drug resistance, protracted illness and death. In addition, financial cost incurred by individuals and governments due to irrational use is often extremely high, particularly in developing countries. “Misuse of antibiotics, overuse of injections, and under-use of life-extending drugs for illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses together constitute a global epidemic of irrational use of medicines,” said Jonathan Quick, incoming president of Management Sciences for Health, a meeting co-sponsor. “This epidemic results in untold needless suffering and costs millions of lives each year.” According to figures gathered by surveys presented to WHO, in 2000 about 60 per cent of antibiotics in Nigeria were prescribed unnecessarily. In Nepal, more than half of antibiotics prescribed in 1996 were not needed and 40 per cent of medicine expenditures in the same year was wasted due to inappropriate prescriptions. Overuse of most medicines contributes to drug resistance. For example, overuse of chloroquine, the traditional remedy for malaria, has led to resistance which has been recorded in over 80 countries. Resistance to penicillin, used to treat gonorrhoea, is present in as many as 98 per cent of patients in certain regions. Irrational use of drugs due to inappropriate prescription can also lead to adverse drug events causing illness or death. In the United Sates, adverse drug events represent one of the six leading causes of death. read more

UN High Commissioner for Refugees visits Sierra Leone Guinea and Liberia

During his visit in Sierra Leone, Mr. Lubbers is scheduled to meet with President Tejan Kabbah and visit a camp for ex-combatants near the capital, Freetown, before leaving for Conakry, Guinea. In Guinea, Mr. Lubbers is expected to visit Lainé camp, which was established for some 150,000 Liberian refugees in Guinea, as well as one camp for Sierra Leoneans in Boreah. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said with 255,000 Sierra Leoneans having gone home from countries in the region since 2000, it will start to phase out its assistance and repatriation programmes in June. Mr. Lubbers is scheduled to arrive in Liberia on Monday. “We need to start now in preparing the ground for the return of some 300,000 Liberian refugees from neighbouring countries,” UNHCR said, adding that refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) have been returning on their own to home areas that have been devastated by conflict. Forty-six UNHCR staff members were deployed across Liberia on Monday to reopen offices around the country. The agency noted that it had received only about $14 million of the $39.2 million appeal it had launched to aid the Liberian repatriation and reintegration programme. read more

UNICEF chief urges aid to children threatened by kidnapping in north Uganda

The head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today called for urgent action to alleviate the plight of a million children affected by conflict in northern Uganda, tens of thousands of whom are sent away from their homes every night to avoid kidnapping by rebels.Some 44,000 Ugandan children have been dubbed “night commuters” because they seek refuge each evening in northern towns to avoid kidnapping by the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).Speaking in the capital Kampala at the end of her four-day visit, UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy praised Uganda for its efforts to promote gender parity in education and to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. But she warned that the ongoing conflict in the north threatens to undermine the country’s achievements.”On the one hand, I see the tremendous progress that has taken place,” Ms. Bellamy said. “But on the other, I will be troubled by my memory of mothers in the north who love their children so much that they send them away from their own homes every night to seek safety and the protection that they are powerless to offer.” The number of Ugandans displaced by the nearly 20-year war between the Government and the LRA has tripled to 1.6 million people, 80 per cent of them children and women. Meanwhile, HIV/AIDS is spreading at an alarming rate, basic literacy is in decline and in the district of Gulu, less than 20 per cent of the people have access to adequate healthcare.UNICEF helps feed 700 children every month, but insecurity prevents the agency and its partners from reaching all of those in need. An estimated 7,000 children in the area suffer from the most severe and deadly form of malnutrition.”These figures, and these images, show that Uganda is home to one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today,” Ms. Bellamy observed. “And I say that quite conscious of the great humanitarian crises that lie to the north in Sudan.”While pledging UNICEF’s commitment to alleviating the suffering of Uganda’s children, she called on the country’s Government and the international community to act to tackle the crisis in the north. read more

Top UN envoy in Iraq meets former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi

Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s Special Representative, Ashraf Qazi, and Mr. Allawi had wide-ranging talks in Baghdad on Saturday about the ongoing political process and the risk of political fragmentation in Iraq as the country heads towards the 15 August deadline for drafting its final constitution, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).The meeting was held at the residence of Mr. Allawi, who in addition to being the former Prime Minister also headed the Iraqi National Accord. read more

Israel used disproportionate force in Gaza says UN humanitarian chief

Jan Egeland, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, made his comments while on a visit to Gaza as part of his continuing humanitarian mission to the region, from where he will travel to northern Israel tomorrow to see the destruction caused by Hezbollah rockets.“This was clearly a disproportionate use of force,” he said during a visit that included a health clinic damaged by Israeli incursions last week and also a stop at the power station that was destroyed by an air strike on 28 June, leaving the Gaza Strip without 45 per cent of its prior electricity supply.Mr. Egeland made similar remarks to reporters earlier this month, when he also called for an end to rocket attacks that have rained down on Israel from Gaza and Lebanon, and for all those kidnapped to be released. After Palestinians from Gaza kidnapped a soldier, Israel seized dozens of Palestinians, mainly from the Hamas movement.A UN spokeswoman in New York said Mr. Egeland had also travelled to Gaza City today where he met with the Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), as well as with community members, UN and other agencies.He also met with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, before tomorrow travelling on to Haifa, the spokesman added.More than 100 Palestinians, many of them civilians have been killed in the last month alone in Gaza and Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called for “an immediate cessation of indiscriminate and disproportionate violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” read more

UN agricultural development fund receives largest funding increase in two decades

The Member States of the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) have set a $720 million target for resources replenishment, the largest amount for the agency since 1981. “This increase shows that our members recognize the crucial importance of rural development to achieving the Millennium Development Goals,” said the President of IFAD, Lennart Båge. Seventy-five per cent of the world’s poorest people, 800 million men, women and children, live in rural areas and depend on agriculture and related activities for their livelihoods. “If we are to achieve our commitment to halve the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by 2015, we must focus on the rural areas of developing countries, where most poor people live,” he said, referring to an international target that is part of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).The funding, which covers the period from 2007 to 2009, will allow IFAD to significantly increase its programme of work in developing countries, the agency said in a news release. A specialized agency of the United Nations, IFAD is dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries, especially low-income, food-deficit countries. It works with governments to develop and finance programmes and projects that enable poor rural people to improve their livelihoods sustainably and overcome poverty themselves. read more

UN envoy to Sudan says Darfur peace deal needs fresh discussions to

Jan Pronk, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sudan, told the Security Council that while the DPA – which was signed in early May – is a good agreement in theory, it lacks the support of several key rebel groups who have since been marginalized from the peace process.“The Darfur Peace Agreement is only four months old, but it is nearly dead. It is in a coma. It ought to be under intensive care, but it isn’t.”Mr. Pronk called for new consultations on the DPA to include those groups that did not sign the deal, although he warned against this being labelled as the “reopening of the peace negotiations.” The envoy also recommended the striking of a truce to end the continuing clashes in the region, as well as an enhanced and improved ceasefire commission to deal with the numerous violations of the DPA.“Since its signing, the DPA has been violated day after day, week after week,” Mr. Pronk said, adding that “the use of rape as a tool of terror is frequent and again on the rise.”Mr. Pronk, who was briefing the Council on the Secretary-General’s latest report on Sudan, voiced concern about what might happen at the end of this month, when African Union (AU) troops stationed in Darfur are slated to leave.“The AU is less effective than it was a year ago, but its presence is essential. Departure of the AU leaves the people in the camps [for internally displaced persons] unprotected and vulnerable to anyone who would wish to harm them and resume the cleansing of 2003 and 2004.”The Security Council voted last month to deploy more than 17,000 UN peacekeepers in Darfur, but Khartoum has remained adamant that it is opposed to such a force.“The UN does not deserve the insinuations from Sudanese political leadership in power. We do not intend to recolonize, nor are we laying a carpet for others to do so,” Mr. Pronk said.The envoy cited the work of the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) in the south of the vast country, where it is implementing a December 2004 peace deal that end two decades of civil war, as an example of how the world body has demonstrated it can be “a fair and effective peacekeeper.”Referring to UNMIS’ activities in southern Sudan, Mr. Pronk said the implementation of the comprehensive peace agreement there “remains on course,” although he said the region urgently needs reconstruction and developmental assistance.Mr. Pronk’s briefing comes as UN officials led by Secretary-General Kofi Annan have warned of an impending man-made catastrophe in Darfur if the AU forces are allowed to leave and the UN is not able to replace them.In a statement released today, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned that as many as 350,000 people could be displaced and lose their access to such necessities as clean water and health care if there are no peacekeepers of any kind in place next month.Meanwhile in Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, today decried the deteriorating situation in Darfur. “Combatants routinely make a mockery of the principles of international humanitarian law: not only are armed groups failing to discriminate between civilians and combatants, they specifically target civilians who are from tribes and groups perceived as hostile,” she told the Human Rights Council. “Despite repeated assurances by the Government of Sudan, the level of sexual violence in Darfur continues to rise.”Already about 1.9 million have been displaced across Darfur, and scores of thousands killed, since fighting broke out between Government forces, allied militias and rebel groups in 2003. read more

Japanese stocks rise as business sentiment improves China markets closed for holiday

Japanese stocks rise as business sentiment improves; China markets closed for holiday BANGKOK – Japanese stocks surged Tuesday after a business survey showed mounting confidence among the country’s powerhouse manufacturers.The Nikkei 225 in Tokyo rose 1.2 per cent to 14,627.66 after the latest quarterly “tankan” survey showed a sharp improvement from the prior period. Large manufacturers were especially upbeat, with a reading of positive 12, up from 4 in the July survey.Markets in mainland China and Hong Kong are closed for public holidays and couldn’t react to a survey showing that manufacturing in the world’s No. 2 economy barely expanded in September.Tuesday’s report by the China Federation of Logistics and Purchasing showed manufacturing expanded for the third month in a row. But the group’s purchasing managers’ index rose by only a fraction to 51.1 last month from 51.0 in August, less than economists expected.The federation’s report comes a day after a private survey by HSBC also indicated weaker than expected growth in China’s massive manufacturing sector.Elsewhere, South Korea’s Kospi rose 0.4 per cent to 2,004.77. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 gained 0.1 per cent to 5,223.10. Benchmarks in Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia also rose. New Zealand and Malaysia fell.On Wall Street, stocks fell Monday amid worries that a budget fight in Washington could lead to a failure to raise the nation’s borrowing limit. The so-called debt ceiling has to be raised or the government won’t be able to pay all of its bills, causing at least a partial shutdown.But there was no agreement in Congress late Monday, with just hours to go before hitting a shutdown deadline.The Dow Jones industrial average fell 0.8 per cent to close at 15,129.67. The Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 0.6 per cent to 1,681.55. The Nasdaq composite fell nearly 0.3 per cent, to 3,771.48.Benchmark oil for November delivery was down 36 cents to $101.97 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract grade fell 54 cents to close at $102.33 a barrel on the Nymex on Monday.In currencies, the euro rose to $1.3528 from $1.3522 late Monday. The dollar rose to 98.49 yen from 98.28 yen.___Follow Pamela Sampson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pamelasampson by Pamela Sampson, The Associated Press Posted Sep 30, 2013 4:04 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

Caisse de depot subsidiary getting involved in Mexican real estate

MONTREAL – The real-estate unit of the Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec has formed a partnership with Black Creek Group to invest in developing urban communities in Mexico.Ivanhoe Cambridge intends to invest up to US$500 million in the project.Black Creek Group is a Denver-based private equity firm that has been involved in sponsoring real-estate companies in Mexico for 17 years.Ivanhoe Cambridge’s first level of investment will be US$100 million in a residential development project located in the Mexico City borough of Cuajimalpa.The project consists of two residential condominium buildings with approximately 500,000 square feet (46,500 square metres), comprising 479 residential units.“With this investment, Ivanhoe Cambridge is setting a major foothold in Mexico, which will provide excellent access to opportunities, including long-term investments in a portfolio of high-quality assets,” said Rita-Rose Gagne, an executive vice-president with Ivanhoe Cambridge.“The investment is part of Ivanhoe Cambridge’s strategy of developing a long-term, active presence in growth markets. The economic growth and demographic trends in Mexico are producing a large and sustained local demand for commercial and residential real estate.” by The Canadian Press Posted Oct 8, 2014 3:01 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Caisse de depot subsidiary getting involved in Mexican real estate read more

Judge tosses lawsuit over New Jersey bridge lane closings plaintiffs can refile

NEWARK, N.J. – A federal judge has dismissed a class-action lawsuit filed by people who were stuck in traffic when lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge were closed without warning in 2013.The judge’s ruling posted Monday faulted the plaintiffs for not describing what each defendant’s role was in the scheme, but it gave the plaintiffs leeway to refile eight of the 11 claims contained in the complaint.Attorney Barry Epstein said Tuesday that he planned to file an amended complaint on the eight counts.The consolidated class-action complaint is a combination of two lawsuits filed in early 2014, several months after the lane closings at the bridge caused massive gridlock in Fort Lee.An investigation into the lane closures led to the indictments of Bridget Kelly, former deputy chief of staff to Republican Gov. Chris Christie, and Bill Baroni, the former Christie-appointed deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the bridge.The indictment alleges the lane closures were orchestrated for political retribution against the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie. David Wildstein, another former Port Authority official, has pleaded guilty and is expected to testify against Baroni and Kelly.Kelly, Baroni, Wildstein and former Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien are among the defendants in the lawsuit. Christie is not a defendant and has said he had no knowledge of the planning or execution of the lane closings until well afterward. A taxpayer-funded report by lawyers hired by Christie arrived at the same conclusions.A Democrat-controlled state legislative panel in an interim report on its inquiry didn’t find any proof of a direct connection between the governor and the lane closures.The scandal has led to several resignations and firings and has dogged Christie, who announced Tuesday he was running for president.The consolidated lawsuit charges the defendants with depriving them of constitutional rights to equal protection, racketeering, breach of contract and other violations. One lawsuit was filed by several people who said they were late for work because of the traffic jams; the other was filed by several limousine and taxi companies.“Despite the multitude of media coverage and governmental scrutiny about the facts and circumstances related to the incident giving rise to this action,” U.S. District Judge Jose Linares wrote in his opinion, “Plaintiffs provide only conclusory allegations against Defendants as a group, failing to allege the personal involvement of any Defendant as is required.” by David Porter, The Associated Press Posted Jun 30, 2015 1:20 pm MDT Last Updated Jun 30, 2015 at 5:34 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Judge tosses lawsuit over New Jersey bridge lane closings; plaintiffs can refile some counts read more

New Submarine museum exhibit to explore military music

by The Associated Press Posted Jun 23, 2016 8:19 am MDT Last Updated Jun 23, 2016 at 9:00 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email New Submarine museum exhibit to explore military music MUSKEGON, Mich. – A new exhibit focusing on music in the military is set to open at the USS Silversides Submarine Museum.The Muskegon Chronicle (http://bit.ly/28Pigrw ) reports that the exhibit is called War: A Tribute to Military Musicians. It explores the history of musical instruments in the military, and music’s use as a means of communication and a psychological weapon during war.The exhibit also takes a look at how the U.S. national anthem has evolved over time, based on research by University of Michigan professor Mark Clague.A third component of the exhibit will explore the military importance of musicians through contributions from the collections of Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp.Visitors can view the display from June 27 to Sept. 5.___Information from: The Muskegon Chronicle, http://www.mlive.com/muskegon read more

The Latest UK lawmaker wants Parliament to overturn EU vote

The Latest: UK lawmaker wants Parliament to overturn EU vote by The Associated Press Posted Jun 25, 2016 3:18 am MDT Last Updated Jun 25, 2016 at 1:00 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email LONDON – The Latest on Britain’s historic vote to leave the European Union (all times local):7:25 p.m.A British opposition lawmaker says Parliament should stop the “madness” and overturn the result of a referendum calling for Britain to leave the European Union.Labour legislator David Lammy says Thursday’s national vote was non-binding and “our sovereign Parliament needs to now vote on whether we should quit the EU.”He says some “leave” supporters now regret their votes and Parliament should vote on Britain’s EU membership. He said “we can stop this madness and bring this nightmare to an end. … Let us not destroy our economy on the basis of lies and the hubris of (‘leave’ leader) Boris Johnson.”constitutional experts say Parliament cannot easily ignore the will of the people. Alan Renwick, deputy director of University College London’s Constitution Unit, says “in legal theory that is possible. In practice, that is absolutely not possible.”___6:15 p.m.Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has reverberated through London’s boisterous LGBT pride festival.The flags of European nations flew at the annual Pride in London parade, which ended with a rally in Trafalgar Square.London Mayor Sadiq Khan told the crowd of thousands that Europeans in London are “our friends, our families and our neighbours.”Khan says “I recognize the huge contribution you make to our city, you are welcome here. I make you this promise as your mayor. That won’t change.”Voters in London overwhelmingly supported staying in the EU, but a majority outside the capital voted to leave.Belgian Georges Peters, who was flying his country’s flag at the parade, said he was “very disappointed about the vote. I think this is bad for the economy and it’s important that we stand together.”Antaine O’Briain from Ireland said he was “shocked and horrified” at the result of the Thursday’s vote.___5:55 p.m.France’s economy minister is calling for a new, more transparent plan for the European Union that would be submitted to a popular vote.Emmanuel Macron is accusing Britain’s Conservative Party of taking the rest of the EU hostage with a referendum staged for domestic reasons that now is threatening to torpedo European unity. His unusually outspoken comments came at a debate Saturday at the Institute for Political Science in Paris on how European can cope with Britain’s vote to leave the 28-nation EU.Macron says “If we made a mistake … it’s to have let a member state take hostage the European project in a unilateral manner … and therefore to have choreographed these last few months the possibility of the crumbling of Europe.”___4:10 p.m.Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has spurred a surge in interest in obtaining Irish citizenship from people in Northern Ireland.The Post Office in Northern Ireland says it has “seen an unusually high number of people in Northern Ireland seeking Irish passport applications.”Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, but most people born there can also claim citizenship in the neighbouring Republic of Ireland — an EU member. While Britain as a whole voted to leave the EU in Thursday’s referendum, a majority of voters in Northern Ireland opted to remain.Irish citizenship has generally been taken up by members of Northern Ireland’s Irish nationalist Roman Catholic community, rather than by Protestants who identify as British.But in a sign of how the referendum has turned politics on its head, one of Northern Ireland’s leading Protestant politicians, Ian Paisley Jr., tweeted: “My advice is if you are entitled to second passport then take one.”___3:50 p.m.The European commissioner from Latvia, who is now responsible for overseeing the EU’s financial services sector, says his “priority is to maintain financial stability in markets.”The EU’s euro commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis says he hopes “to live up to tasks entrusted to me.”Dombrovskis wrote on Twitter that “I highly value the work” of Jonathan Hill, the British representative on the EU Executive Commission who stepped down Saturday, saying he was disappointed by the British referendum result.European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker immediately transferred Hill’s responsibilities to Dombrovskis, costing Britain a key voice in a sector that is hugely important to London, whose status as Europe’s financial capital is threatened by Britain’s EU exit.___3:45 p.m.Italy’s finance minister is urging the European Union to do more than “concern itself only about banks. In an interview with Milan newspaper Corriere della Sera Saturday, Pier Carlo Padoan says it’s time to think the “unthinkable.”He says “deep dissatisfaction” over immigration, security and slow economic growth could combine for a further push toward disintegration of the EU bloc. Italy has been pushing for more EU action to encourage economic growth.Padoan says it’s possible Britain’s EU exit could cause smaller growth in Italy.___3:40 p.m.Iran’s Foreign Ministry says in a statement that the British people’s decision to leave the European Union will have no effect on Tehran’s approach toward the U.K.The statement, carried by Iran’s English language Press TV on Saturday, said “Iran respects the British people’s vote to leave the European Union.”An official in President Hassan Rouhani’s office, Hamid Aboutalebi, had called it a “big earthquake” and part of the “domino” collapse of the EU.Iran’s government is still suspicious of Britain over its role in backing a 1953 coup. A British-Iranian woman held by the Revolutionary Guard faces allegations of working toward the “soft toppling” of the government.___Associated Press writer Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran contributed.___3:15 p.m.French President Francois Hollande is holding exceptional meetings with the leaders of France’s political parties, as EU leaders try to keep the union together after Britain’s vote to leave.Far right leader Marine Le Pen called for a referendum on France’s EU membership following Thursday’s British vote. Hollande’s administration dismissed the call, but Le Pen is currently more popular in opinion polls and hopes to replace Hollande in presidential elections next year.Hollande convened a string of meetings Saturday with his own Socialist Party, former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative opposition party The Republicans, the far right National Front, the Greens and parties on the far left and centre.France is a founding member of what is now the EU, but French voters rejected an EU constitution in 2005 that would have enshrined closer unity, and France’s heartland has a lot of the same frustration at economic stagnation and migration that drove the British vote to quit the EU.___2:25 p.m.Danish Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen says Britain’s exit “will echo for years to come and change the Europe as we know it.”He says “the EU must stay away from areas where countries do it best themselves” and pay attention to popular skepticism across the continent.After a government meeting Saturday to discuss the British vote, he wrote on Facebook that the government’s priority was “to defend Danish interests in the upcoming divorce.”Loekke Rasmussen said Friday the Scandinavian country that joined the European Union in 1973 at the same time as Britain, has “no plans to hold a referendum on this basic matter.”___2:15 p.m.European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says he regrets the resignation of Britain’s EU commissioner, Jonathan Hill.Hill was responsible for the EU’s oversight of financial services — a hugely important industry to London.Juncker said that “I wanted the British commissioner to be in charge of financial services, as a sign of my confidence in the United Kingdom’s membership of the European Union. To my great regret, this situation is now changing.”He said he would transfer Hill’s responsibilities to Valdis Dombrovskis, European commissioner from Latvia.___2:10 p.m.The European Union’s six founding nations are urging a quick British departure from the bloc and are pledging to address divergent attitudes toward the EU from its 27 remaining member nations.Foreign ministers of Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg met in Berlin on Saturday and said in a statement that they want Britain to quickly invoke the article in the EU charter allowing it to start negotiations on departure.Regarding the other members, they said “We have to find better ways of dealing with these different levels” of commitment to closer European unity. Founding nations want to increase political and economic co-operation but some newer nations are wary of giving up more sovereignty.“We are aware that discontent with the functioning of the EU as it is today is manifest in parts of our societies. We take this very seriously and are determined to make the EU work better for all our citizens,” it said.___2:00 p.m.France’s foreign minister is hoping Britain can name a new prime minister in the coming days to speed up its departure from the European Union.That timeframe is highly unrealistic given the political turmoil in Britain. Instead it is likely to take months to name a replacement to Prime Minister David Cameron, who is resigning and wants his successor to handle the departure negotiations.French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Saturday “they must designate a new prime minister, which would certainly require several days.” He was speaking in Berlin alongside counterparts from the five other founding members of the European Union, as EU leaders try to keep the project from falling apart after British voters chose Thursday to leave.___2:00 p.m.German Chancellor Angela Merkel says it “shouldn’t take forever” for Britain to deliver formal notification that it wants to leave the European Union but is making clear that the matter is in London’s hands.Merkel said Saturday at a news conference in Potsdam, outside Berlin: “To be honest, it shouldn’t take forever, that’s right — but I would not fight over a short period of time.”The German leader said she is seeking a “objective, good” climate in talks on Britain’s exit from the EU and that there’s no need to make deterrence a priority.Merkel said that there is “no need to be particularly nasty in any way in the negotiations; they must be conducted properly.”___1:55 p.m.An online petition seeking a second referendum on a British exit from the Europe Union has drawn more than 1 million names, a measure of the extraordinary divisiveness of Thursday’s vote to leave the 28-nation bloc.The online petition site hosted by the House of Commons website crashed Friday under the weight of the activity as officials said they’d seen unprecedented interest in the measure.Online petitions — which take little effort and are easy to game — are poor measures of popular opinion, but any petition which draws more than 100,000 names must be considered for debate in Parliament.In the short term, demands for a rerun are likely to go nowhere given that Britain’s “leave” camp won by more than 1 million votes in a high-turnout vote.___1:50 p.m.Britain’s representative on the EU’s executive body says he is resigning because it would not be right to carry on after the U.K. vote to leave the bloc.Jonathan Hill, Britain’s EU commissioner, says he’s very disappointed by the referendum result, but “what is done cannot be undone.”Hill says in a statement that he will work with EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to ensure there is an “orderly handover.”Hill says he started his job skeptical of the EU but leaves it “certain that, despite its frustrations, our membership was good for our place in the world and good for our economy.”___1:00 p.m.British opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn says Britain must react “calmly and rationally” to the divisive EU referendum campaign.Corbyn, whose Labour Party backed a vote to stay in the bloc, says the areas that voted most strongly to leave are “communities that have effectively been abandoned” by economic change and the austerity policies of Britain’s Conservative government.He told a meeting in London Saturday that politicians needed to take seriously voters’ concerns about immigration, which led many to back a British exit from the 28-nation EU.Many Labour lawmakers strongly backed “remain” and accuse the socialist Corbyn, a longtime critic of the EU, of failing to rally party supporters behind staying in the bloc. Several are trying to rally support behind a bid to unseat Corbyn.___12:55 p.m.Luxembourg’s foreign minister says Britain needs to quickly start negotiations with the European Union on its exit from the trade bloc.Speaking Saturday in Berlin after meeting with other top European diplomats, Jean Asselborn said he hoped there would be no “cat and mouse” game now and that Britain would invoke Article 50 of the EU charter, which allows for a country to leave.“There must be clarity,” Asselborn told reporters. “The people have spoken and we need to implement this decision.”He added that once outside the bloc, Britain would be a “third country” — the EU term for non-members — in terms of trade agreements but emphasized that was “not meant negatively.”___12:50 p.m.Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland will launch immediate talks with European Union nations and institutions to find a way to remain in the bloc despite Britain’s vote to leave.Sturgeon says voters in Scotland gave “emphatic” backing to remaining in the bloc. A majority of voters in more-populous England opted to leave.After meeting with her Cabinet she said “we will seek to enter into immediate discussion” with the rest of the EU.She says a new referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom is “very much on the table.”___12:40 p.m.European foreign ministers are urging quick negotiations on Britain’s departure from the EU to avoid prolonged financial and political insecurity for the continent.French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said “there is a certain urgency … so that we don’t have a period of uncertainty, with financial consequences, political consequences.”He spoke in Berlin on Saturday alongside counterparts from the other five founding members of what has become the EU — Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. They also spoke of the need for a speedy renegotiation.He also urged the remaining 27 EU countries to return to “the spirit of the founders” of European unity, forged to prevent conflict via trade after World War II. “It is up to us to recreate this spirit,” he said, noting all the European countries that subsequently joined after overthrowing dictatorships and embracing democracy.___12:20 p.m.German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says negotiations on British exit should begin “as soon as possible” but adds that “intensive European discussions” are needed.Speaking after a meeting in Berlin with foreign ministers of the other five founding members of the EU, Steinmeier there is a need to “show the people of Europe that Europe is important, and not only important but able to carry out its work.”He also called for Britain to engage in talks sooner rather than later. He says: “We understand and respect the result and understand that Great Britain will now concentrate on Great Britain,” but adds that Britain as a responsibility to work with the EU on exit terms.__10:05 a.m.French President Francois Hollande says the British vote to leave the European Union poses questions “for the whole planet.”Hollande vowed Saturday to maintain relations with Britain, notably concerning migrants crossing between the two countries and military and economic co-operation.Speaking after a meeting in Paris with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Hollande said: “For the entire planet there is a question, what will happen?”He called for an orderly separation between Britain and the EU after Thursday’s historic vote to exit the bloc, formed after two world wars to prevent new conflict via trade co-operation.Hollande, whose country was a founding pillar of European unity, is holding emergency meetings Saturday with leaders of France’s political parties as EU leaders try to keep the bloc from unravelling after the British vote.___08:30 a.m.Top diplomats from the European Union’s original six founding nations are meeting in Berlin for hastily arranged talks following Britain’s stunning vote to leave the bloc.German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier says it is critical to see the vote as a wakeup call. He was heading into meetings Saturday with his counterparts from France, Netherlands, Italy, Belgium and Luxembourg.Steinmeier says EU politicians must listen “to the expectations of the European governments but also to the expectations of the people.”He cautioned against rash decisions, saying that “it’s totally clear that in times like these one should neither be hysterical nor fall into paralysis.”Steinmeier’s office says the meeting is one of many conversations now taking place, and shouldn’t be seen as “an exclusive format.” The Foreign Ministers from EU’s founding six Jean Asselborn from Luxemburg, Paolo Gentiloni from Italy, Frank-Walter Steinmeier from Germany, Didier Reynders from Belgium, Jean-Marc Ayrault from France and Bert Koenders from the Netherlands, from left, brief the media after a meeting on the so-called Brexit in Berlin, Germany, Saturday, June 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber) read more

Small municipalities unlikely to benefit from infrastructure bank Morneau hints

Small municipalities unlikely to benefit from infrastructure bank, Morneau hints OTTAWA – Finance Minister Bill Morneau is suggesting that small municipalities won’t see much — if any — benefit from the federal government’s proposed new infrastructure bank.The bank, to be launched next year, is intended to attract billions in private investment for public infrastructure projects.But Morneau told the Federation of Canadian Municipalities on Tuesday that global institutional investors will be looking to invest only in “large transformational projects” that produce a revenue stream, from which they can earn a high rate of return on their investment.He says it’s unlikely they’ll want to sink money into roads and bridges in small communities.In a question-and-answer session hosted by the federation, Morneau made no mention of the notion that a number of small communities with similar projects could bundle them together in order to make them more appealing for international investors.But FCM president Clark Somerville said the federation wants to ensure that all municipalities, big or small, are able to take advantage of the bank; he says rural Liberal MPs have assured him they’ll be pushing hard for the bundling concept.“One thing that they talked about that they were really hoping to push for was exactly the bundling and was having it for the smaller communities,” said Somerville, who met earlier Tuesday with members of the Liberals’ rural caucus.While Morneau didn’t mention bundling during his meeting with the FCM members, Somerville said he’s encouraged by the fact that the minister has promised to consult closely with municipal leaders as the government hammers out the details of the infrastructure bank, which is to be formally created in the 2017 budget in a few months.Morneau has already announced that the bank will be launched with $15 billion in direct federal investments and another $20 billion in repayable contributions, loans and loan guarantees. The government hopes to leverage up to $5 in private investment for every $1 in government funding; to that end, Morneau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have been courting some of the world’s most powerful institutional investors.Asked Tuesday what kind of projects he envisages being financed through the bank, Morneau said: “The notion behind the bank is that it’s going to provide projects that are going to be large because they’re going to large enough that institutional investors will be interested in them and these tend to be large investors that need to be able to write a large cheque.“They’ll be projects that will have some way of having a revenue stream,” he added, like east-west transmission of electricity or public transit.“The kinds of projects that are unlikely to fit the bill might be, you know, bridges or roads in smaller communities, for example.”A spokeswoman for Morneau later did not respond directly when asked if bundling of small projects is still a possibility. Instead, Annie Donolo pointed to the fact that the government has promised to invest $186 billion over 12 years for infrastructure projects, including a targeted $2 billion for rural and northern communities.The bank is “an added mechanism” aimed at helping provinces and municipalities attract additional investment for projects that otherwise wouldn’t get built, she said in an email.While potential investors have told the government they’re interested in large, transformational projects, Donolo said, “It’s too early to tell what those might be, what form they might take, who the players will be, etc. An electricity grid, for example, would have many players. A transit line, fewer.“But in all cases, this added investment will free-up taxpayer dollars for other projects — large and small.”Toronto Liberal MP Adam Vaughan, parliamentary secretary to Trudeau and one of the architects of the infrastructure bank proposal promised in the Liberal election platform last year, has said that one of the primary objectives was to help small municipalities that don’t have the borrowing power to finance expensive projects or projects large enough to attract international investors.“That’s actually one of the reasons it was conceived,” he said in an interview last week, adding that the notion of bundling small projects together is “one of the reasons” the FCM agreed to support creation of the bank.“Small communities are a particular focus of how to bundle little projects that the big (investment) funds won’t touch into larger projects managed by the federal government … to access those pools of capital to deliver those projects.” by Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press Posted Nov 22, 2016 4:39 pm MDT Last Updated Nov 22, 2016 at 5:26 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

Security Council condemns murder of American journalist in Iraq demands release of

“This incident is a tragic reminder of the increasing dangers journalists face every day in Syria. It also once again demonstrates the brutality of [IS], which is responsible for thousands of abuses against the Syrian and Iraqi people,” the Council said in statement to the press.They expressed their deep sympathy and condolences to the Foley family, to the Government of the United States, as well as to the families of all victims of [IS].“[IS] must be defeated and the intolerance, violence and hatred it espouses must be stamped out,” Council members said, emphasizing the unity amongst governments and institutions to counter [IS], Al-Nusra Front and other groups associated with Al-Qaida. According to international law, journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict are generally considered as civilians and shall be respected as such, members stressed. It is essential to bring perpetrators of these “reprehensible acts of terrorism” to justice. “Those responsible for the killing of James Foley shall be held accountable,” the Council stressed, urging all States, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with the United States. The members of the Security Council reaffirmed the need to combat threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts. Any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, members stated.The Council’s strong condemnation echoes that of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who two days ago deplored the Mr. Foley’s “horrific murder”, which he declared “an abominable crime that underscores the campaign of terror the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [IS] continues to wage against the people of Iraq and Syria.” read more

On International Day UNESCO chief says literacy not only improves lives it

With one in four young people – 175 million adolescents – unable to read a single sentence, International Literacy Day is an opportunity to remember one simple truth: literacy not only changes lives, it saves them, said the head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). “Literacy facilitates access to knowledge and triggers a process of empowerment and self-esteem that benefits everyone,” Director-General Irina Bokova said in a message for the Day. This year’s activities for the Day, observed annually on 8 September, are focused on the links between literacy and sustainable development with a literacy award ceremony and a girls’ and women’s literacy conference in Bangladesh. The events underscore the power of literacy to enable people to make choices that promote economic growth, social development and environmental integration. “Literacy helps reduce poverty and enables people to find jobs and obtain higher salaries. It is one of the most efficient ways of improving the health of mothers and children, understanding doctors’ prescriptions and gaining access to healthcare,” Ms. Bokova said. Between 1990 and 2009, the lives of more than two million children under the age of five were saved thanks to improvements in education of women of reproductive age. But today more than 781 million adults in the world still cannot read, write or count. Two thirds of them are women in the developing world. But even in high-income countries, education systems are failing significant minorities. In New Zealand, almost all students from rich households achieve minimum learning standards in grades 4 and 8, but only two-thirds of poor students do. Many immigrants in rich countries are also left behind. In France, for example, fewer than 60 per cent of immigrants have reached the minimum benchmark for reading which may have long-term implications on society. “What kind of societies do we expect to build with an illiterate youth? This is not the kind of world we wish to live in. We want a world where everyone can participate in the destiny of their societies, gain access to knowledge and enrich it in turn,” Ms. Bokova said. She added that the world must change its traditional approach of literacy programmes to encompass broader skills with regard to consumption and sustainable lifestyles, the conversation of biodiversity, poverty reduction, disaster risk reduction as well as civic participation. Commitment to these goals will be central to the forthcoming Aichi-Nagoya conference on education for sustainable development to be held in Japan this November. It will also be discussed at the World Education Forum to be held next year in Incheon, Republic of Korea, to lead the global debate towards the adoption of new sustainable development goals at the UN General Assembly in 2015. UNESCO is working across the world, including in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Egypt, Nigeria, and Senegal, to ensure that literacy is integrated into national development strategies. However, more must be done. “We must invest more,” said Ms. Bokova, “I appeal to every Member State and all our partners to redouble efforts – political and financial – to ensure that literacy is fully recognized as one of the most powerful accelerators of sustainable development. The future we want starts with the alphabet.” read more