New Brunswick premier promises to deliver shale gas blueprint in this session

New Brunswick premier promises to deliver shale gas blueprint in this session FREDERICTON – New Brunswick Premier David Alward is promising to deliver a blueprint this fall that will lay out how his government plans to proceed with shale gas development, an issue that has triggered roars of protests for months.Alward made the commitment in his throne speech Thursday to kick off the fall legislative session, just as supporters and opponents of the shale gas industry rallied outside the provincial legislature.He said the oil and natural gas blueprint will ensure a regulatory system is in place that includes adequate monitoring and enforcement before the province allows the industry to grow.“Those are all things that we need to address to ensure that if we are able to develop natural gas in the future that we are going to have as big a benefit as we possibly can for New Brunswickers,” Alward told a news conference before Lt.-Gov. Graydon Nicholas delivered the speech.The possibility of shale gas development brings the promise of jobs and could be an economic boon at a time when the Progressive Conservative government grapples with a $10 billion debt, a $356 million deficit and an unemployment rate of 11.6 per cent — the province’s highest in nearly a decade.As the speech was delivered, outside a large crowd of people — both for and against shale gas development — marched on the front lawn of the legislature.“New Brunswickers have not given consent to moving forward with a shale gas industry,” said Mark Darcy.“More than 20,000 New Brunswickers signed a petition a year ago, and we’re still waiting for government to have public consultation before moving ahead with the industry.”But Lynn Farmakoulis said the province needs the shale gas industry if it is to get out of its financial mess.“I think it’s time we develop our resources and use them,” Farmakoulis said.“We have people who are working in oil and gas out west and I think we have a responsibility to look at this very seriously.”Following the speech, Liberal Leader Brian Gallant repeated his party’s call for a moratorium on shale gas development until more research is done to protect the environment.“New Brunswickers have a lot of questions that have yet to be answered and they are good questions,” Gallant said.“Developing our economy is a priority, but so is our drinking water.”Alward also used the throne speech to encourage NB Power to seek all avenues — including a possible lawsuit — in efforts to recoup the $1 billion in cost overruns for the refurbishment of the Point Lepreau nuclear power plant.“If a lawsuit is something that makes sense, then that should be one of the options that is evaluated,” he said.The idea has been floated before by Alward and the previous Liberal government under Shawn Graham, but it has so far gone nowhere.Point Lepreau returned to commercial service on Friday, more than three years after the project was supposed to be complete.Alward also promised in the throne speech to strike a ministerial committee on jobs and the economy.NDP Leader Dominic Cardy was critical of that announcement, saying the cabinet should be setting the agenda for job creation, not creating a committee to do it.“It’s as though this government is a spectator at a NASCAR race rather than realizing it’s their job to be in the driver’s seat and take the province in a different direction,” Cardy said.Gallant also called on the government to stop consulting and start making decisions on job creation.“It’s great to talk about plans, committees and studies, but at the end of the day we have to start creating jobs for New Brunswickers,” he said.Alward said he also wants to introduce efforts aimed at boosting the number of people moving into New Brunswick, as well as increasing the value of commercial exports leaving the province.The throne speech made no mention of a catastrophic drug plan and the government’s plans to balance the books by 2014, both of which were key promises the Tories made during the 2010 election.Alward said his priority is dealing with the fiscal realities of today.“Right now, we are focused on the work we need to do with this fiscal year and then to be able to build a budget for next year,” he said.The government also said it will deliver a three-year capital budget during this session and a five-year health plan next year. It also promised to consider recommendations of a committee that reviewed the Official Languages Act and introduce legislation next year. by Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press Posted Nov 27, 2012 4:56 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

Getting online may be easy and cheap but many small businesses still

AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Getting online may be easy and cheap, but many small businesses still skip the website NEW YORK, N.Y. – It’s cheap. It’s easy to do. And it can take less than 20 minutes to set up. Yet more than half of all small businesses still don’t have a website.“It’s just ridiculous,” says Jim Blasingame, a small business author and radio show host. “Every small business needs a website. Period. Nonnegotiable.”Small businesses that don’t have one say they don’t have the time, think it will cost too much or don’t want the rush of orders that comes with being online. But entrepreneurs that have jumped to the digital side say their websites have boosted sales, cut down on time-consuming phone calls and brought more people into their stores.But not everyone wants that.Steve Love has never had a website for the handmade sausage and meat business he’s owned since 1988. He says a website for LoveLand Farms would boost sales and he doesn’t have any more farmland to raise hogs and Black Angus cattle.“I don’t want it to grow,” says Love, who sells his goods at a farmers’ market in Bloomington, Indiana, and a store in another town that’s open once a week. “I’m already maxed out. I’m scared it would blow up on me.”But customers expect one. When they ask him at the farmers’ market if he has a website, he hands them a card with his phone number and a map to his shop called the Sausage Shack in Nashville, Indiana. He has no plans to start a website anytime soon. But it could happen in the future if his kids want to take over and grow the business.“I wouldn’t say never,” says Love.Some owners simply say they have no time.Bill Peatman, who writes blog posts, emails and other content for websites for his corporate clients, doesn’t have one for his own business.“I’ve just been too busy,” says Peatman, who started his Napa, California, business over a year ago. “I haven’t come up with a plan with what I want to do.”He knows he needs one. “People don’t think you exist,” he says. “I want to grow. I want to build my own reputation and brand.”He recently bought a domain name. And he plans to hire someone to build the site, but he thinks it will take him a few more months to get to it.“At the way I move,” says Peatman, “about six months.”Fifty-five per cent of small businesses don’t have a website, according to a 2013 survey of more than 3,800 small businesses conducted by Internet search company Google and research company Ipsos. That’s a slight improvement from the year before, when 58 per cent said they didn’t have a website.Small business owners who want to start a website have lots of options that make it easier than in the past. Companies such as Wix.com, Google, SquareSpace.com and Weebly.com require no coding or technical skills. Users can choose a template, drag in photos and paste in words.And with more people searching for businesses online and on their smartphones, companies without a site may be missing out on extra business.“You might as well be a ghost,” says Blasingame, who hosts “The Small Business Advocate,” an online and nationally syndicated radio show. “The customers and opportunity pass right through you.”Sales at Bad Pickle Tees have doubled since Cyndi Grasman began selling her quirky food-related T-shirts online a year ago. She started the business in 2012, selling shirts with sayings like “Oh Kale Yeah!” and “I Heart Bacon” at food festivals. She launched the site using website publishing company Weebly, paying $250 a year.“I’m reaching a larger audience,” she says.Marilyn Caskey says her website has cut down on time-consuming phone calls with customers. The owner of The Garment Exchange launched a website for her San Antonio consignment shop two years ago using a Google program. The store, which she opened in 2008, used to get calls all the time asking which clothing designers the shop resells.“I’ll be trying to ring up a sale and someone would call,” says Caskey, who would read through a list to the caller of all the designers the store does and doesn’t buy. “Now we refer them to the website.”Amy Gilson hopes to be able to do that soon.She hired a company to build a website for her Oklahoma City snack food business Healthy Cravings. She is paying $4,500 for it, but she hasn’t been able to find the time to take photos and give them other information needed to finish. All customers see on EatHealthyCravings.com is a message that the site is coming soon.“Right now, I do everything,” says Gilson. “I am the accountant, the marketer, the salesman.”When she sells Healthy Cravings’ zucchini brownie bites or chia cookies at farmers’ markets, shoppers ask about a website. One customer, who was looking for the fat content of the snacks, took to Healthy Cravings’ Facebook page to ask if it had a website with more information.“I can’t wait for my website,” says Gilson, who also plans to sell treats from the site. “I can just send them there.”_____Follow Joseph Pisani on Twitter at https://twitter.com/josephpisani by Joseph Pisani, The Associated Press Posted Jun 4, 2014 12:44 pm MDT read more

Obama taps community banker from Hawaii for vacancy on Federal Reserve Board

Obama taps community banker from Hawaii for vacancy on Federal Reserve Board WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama has selected the former head of a community bank in Hawaii to fill a vacancy on the Federal Reserve Board.The White House said Tuesday that Obama will nominate Allan R. Landon, the former chief executive of the Bank of Hawaii, to fill one of two vacancies on the seven-member board. The nomination will require Senate confirmation.The decision comes after a lobbying campaign by community bankers who argued that the Fed, which regulates banks, should have at least one community banker on its board.The White House said that Landon had compiled a strong record in leading the Bank of Hawaii, one of the largest in the state, through the 2008 financial crisis. Landon served as chairman and chief executive officer of the bank from 2004 to 2010.Camden R. Fine, president of the Independent Community Bankers, an industry lobbying group, praised the White House selection.“Having someone with community bank experience, such as Landon, on the board will ensure that community bank interests are more fully understood as the board considers the impact of its policies on smaller banks and the communities and rural areas they serve,” Fine said in a statement.The Fed has had two unfilled positions since last spring. Sarah Bloom Raskin stepped down in March after being picked by Obama to become deputy Treasury secretary and Jeremy Stein left in May to return to his post as an economics professor at Harvard University.The seven members of the Fed board in Washington and the presidents of the Fed’s 12 regional banks serve on the Federal Open Market Committee, the Fed panel that meets eight times a year to set interest rate policies. The Fed board is also a leading bank regulator through its role overseeing bank holding companies.At its last meeting in December, the FOMC said it planned to be “patient” in deciding when to raise a key short-term interest rate, which has remained at a record low near zero for the past six years. Most private economists believe the first rate hike will not occur until the middle of this year. AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email by Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press Posted Jan 6, 2015 1:34 pm MDT read more

ICAO delegates suggest 15minute realtime aircraft tracking as standard

MONTREAL – Member states of the International Civil Aviation Organization have recommended the adoption of a new standard that would see commercial aircraft tracked every 15-minutes.The development was announced Tuesday as more than 850 participants gathered at a high-level safety conference at ICAO’s Montreal headquarters.“This new standard will be an important first step in providing a foundation for global flight-tracking,” said ICAO Council president Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu in a statement.He expects the standard to be adopted as early as the fall.The recommendation was one of several made by a task force set up by the International Air Transport Association last year.The group was set up after Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 went down on March 17, 2014, while flying from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.It was officially declared an accident last week.The industry report suggested identifying the position of an aircraft at least every 15 minutes.Currently, the vast majority of commercial flights are fully tracked, but there are gaps in certain areas of the world.The ICAO safety conference is discussing how to improve the global tracking of aircraft and better share information on conflict zones.Malaysia’s civil aviation chief said Tuesday that real-time tracking is a priority and must be fast-tracked by the organization.Azharuddin Abdul Rahman told delegates they shouldn’t waste any more time debating it.“We cannot delay in implementing changes in the way global commercial aviation operates currently,” he said.“On an average day, more than eight million people fly and (it) will be nothing short of negligence on our part to waste one more day.”One aircraft tracking proposal presented to the conference by NAV Canada suggests using satellites with a control centre based in Ireland.Larry Lachance, a NAV Canada executive, said the service would use existing satellites and technology to track commercial aircraft.“As a result, aircraft can be tracked in real-time, including over oceanic, polar and other remote areas,” Lachance said.The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH370 was one of two unprecedented tragedies involving Malaysia’s major airline last year.The other involved Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 which was shot down by a surface-to-air missile on July 17, 2014 while flying over a war-torn section of Ukraine.Also Tuesday, there was support for developing a prototype online system to advise commercial airlines of potential risks in conflict zones.Russia had suggested ICAO, the United Nations agency that governs civil aviation, develop a prototype before a final vote.Sharing information saves lives, Azharuddin said.“The world must view this tragedy as a wake-up call and we can no longer be complacent and must take preventive measures now,” he said.The high level safety conference continues Wednesday.– Follow (at)Peter_R_Space on Twitter. by Peter Rakobowchuk, The Canadian Press Posted Feb 3, 2015 12:04 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email ICAO Secretary General Raymond Benjamin, left, chats with ICAO Council President Olumuyiwa Benard Aliu, at the International Civil Aviation Organization global safety meeting in Montreal on Tuesday, February 3, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz ICAO delegates suggest 15-minute real-time aircraft tracking as standard read more

Man charged with stealing 160000 worth of Jamaican cheese

Man charged with stealing $160,000 worth of Jamaican cheese by The Associated Press Posted Oct 13, 2016 4:02 pm MDT Last Updated Oct 13, 2016 at 4:40 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email HACKENSACK, N.J. – A New Jersey man has been charged with stealing more than $160,000 worth of Jamaican cheese.Prosecutors said Thursday that 18-year-old Darluis Ortiz stole pallets of Tastee Cheese products from a food warehouse in Moonachie on Sept. 23.Tastee cheese is often eaten with spiced or sweetened buns, especially at Easter. It’s produced by Dairy Industries Jamaica Ltd.Ortiz was arrested on Wednesday and was charged with theft, burglary, conspiracy and possessing burglary tools. He was being held in the Bergen County jail on bail that was $10,000 less than the value of the canned, processed cheese.He couldn’t be reached for comment by phone. It was unknown if he had an attorney who could comment on his behalf.Ortiz was arrested after a two-week investigation by members of the Bergen County prosecutor’s office and the Moonachie police department. read more

4 companies chosen to pursue nuclear waste burial test

4 companies chosen to pursue nuclear waste burial test SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Four companies will pursue the possibility of conducting a test to determine whether nuclear waste can be buried far underground, federal energy officials announced Monday, months after two prospective sites in the Dakotas were abandoned over local opposition.The U.S. Department of Energy said the companies will explore potential sites for the test in South Dakota, Texas and New Mexico. Only one company will eventually carry out the borehole field test, which at no point will involve the use of actual nuclear waste.California-based AECOM is exploring a field test site in Texas, while RESPEC is pursuing a site in South Dakota, where it is based. New Mexico-based TerranearPMC and Georgia-based ENERCON are looking at sites in New Mexico.Boreholes are narrow, vertical holes that are drilled into the earth usually to determine the geological characteristics of the rock below. The proposed test is meant to assess whether nuclear waste can be stored in approximately 3-mile-deep holes.“It is important to note there will be no nuclear waste used as part of this project nor will the site for the field test be used for future nuclear waste disposal,” said Andy Griffith, deputy assistant secretary in the department’s Office of Nuclear Energy. Griffith declined to name the communities where the companies are pursing the sites, but said they will be revealed in the near future.Waste from commercial reactors in the U.S. now is stored onsite at nuclear power plants. The waste generated from defence activities is kept at a few secure locations.The federal government for decades has researched possible sites for a permanent disposal site, including at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, but the country still lacks a repository for waste disposal.The Department of Energy is emphasizing the absence of radioactive material in the project after communities in the Dakotas rebuffed the idea earlier this year over confusion and skepticism. In North Dakota, commissioners in Pierce County voted in March to formally oppose the project. Three months later, organizers abandoned Spink County, South Dakota, as a potential site because of resistance from local officials.The agency has acknowledged that insufficient initial communication and outreach left the communities with a negative impression of the project. Griffith said the department is taking the lessons learned from the two experiences and is working to better engage prospective communities.RESPEC CEO Todd Kenner said the department’s commitment to not use nuclear waste in the test previously wasn’t as “upfront” as it is now. He said the company is pursuing a site in South Dakota’s Haakon County and has met with community representatives and business owners.“There’s information out there that leads you to believe something that this project isn’t, specifically that nuclear waste will be stored there and this will become a repository, which is not the case,” Kenner said. “Hopefully, that dispels a lot of the angst that people had.”The project’s contract dictates that after the project is completed, the borehole will be permanently sealed. The land will then be restored.The company that will eventually conduct the test will be chosen through a multi-phase process. The first phase begins Jan. 3.___Follow Regina Garcia Cano on Twitter at https://twitter.com/reginagarciakNO by Regina Garcia Cano, The Associated Press Posted Dec 19, 2016 3:20 pm MDT Last Updated Dec 19, 2016 at 5:00 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email read more

Under Armour CEO responds to criticism of Trump praise

by The Associated Press Posted Feb 15, 2017 7:03 am MDT Last Updated Feb 15, 2017 at 9:40 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email BALTIMORE – The CEO of Baltimore-based sports apparel company Under Armour responded Wednesday to criticism he received after calling President Donald Trump “an asset to the country.”In an open letter to Baltimore published as a full-page advertisement in The Baltimore Sun, Kevin Plank wrote that he wanted to clarify what values he and his company stand for.“In a business television interview last week, I answered a question with a choice of words that did not accurately reflect my intent,” he wrote referring to an interview on CNBC on Feb. 7.The company stands for equal rights and job creation and believes “immigration is a source of strength, diversity and innovation for global companies based in America,” Plank wrote. Also, the company opposes the president’s travel ban.“With an anticipated new executive order on immigration set to come out, we will join a coalition of companies in opposition to any new actions that negatively impact our team, their families or our community,” he said.Three celebrities the company sponsors — NBA star Stephen Curry, actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and ballerina Misty Copeland — were among those voicing concerns about his praise of Trump.Johnson sent out a statement on social media last Thursday saying Plank’s words “were divisive and lacking in perspective.” Copeland wrote in an Instagram post she was so concerned about Plank’s comments that she spoke to him directly. In this Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015 photo, Under Armour founder Kevin Plank sits courtside during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game between Maryland and Michigan State, in College Park, Md. Plank, is responding to criticism he received after calling President Donald Trump “an asset to the country.” Plank wrote an open letter to Baltimore published as a full-page advertisement in The Baltimore Sun Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) Under Armour CEO responds to criticism of Trump praise read more

Stay put Deadly London fire puts scrutiny on highrise rule

by Colleen Long, The Associated Press Posted Jun 17, 2017 5:18 am MDT Last Updated Jun 17, 2017 at 11:00 am MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Stay put? Deadly London fire puts scrutiny on high-rise rule FILE- In this June 14, 2017 file photo, smoke rises from a 24-story high-rise apartment building on fire in London. Fire safety experts say despite that outcome, “stay put” is still the best advice if fire breaks out in a different part of a high rise building. The recommend sheltering in place as long as the building has proper fire suppression protections, like a sprinkler system, fireproof doors and flame-resistant construction materials.( AP Photo/Matt Dunham, File) NEW YORK, N.Y. – A catastrophic blaze at a London apartment tower has brought new scrutiny to a long-accepted, counterintuitive rule for people in tall buildings: If the blaze breaks out elsewhere in the structure, don’t automatically run for the stairs. Stay put and wait for instructions.That’s what residents of London’s 24-story Grenfell Tower had been told to do, but the strategy failed early Wednesday when flames that began on a lower floor spread shockingly fast and quickly engulfed the entire building.Many residents were trapped, forcing some on higher floors to jump to their deaths rather than face the flames or throw their children to bystanders below. By Saturday, officials counted 58 people missing and presumed dead, including 30 deaths previously confirmed.Despite that outcome, fire experts say “stay put” is still the best advice — as long as the building has proper fire-suppression protections, such as multiple stairwells, sprinkler systems, fireproof doors and flame-resistant construction materials, some of which were lacking in the London blaze.“It is human nature for most of us — if we know there’s a fire, start moving and get out,” said Robert Solomon of the National Fire Protection Association, a U.S.-based organization that studies fire safety globally. “But we try to make sure people know there are features and redundancies in buildings that you can count on, and you can stay put.”Most major cities with many high-rise buildings have detailed building codes and fire safety rules requiring several layers of protections in tall buildings. The rules vary from place to place, as does advice about when to evacuate, but fire experts say the “shelter-in-place” directive is usually applied to buildings of 15 stories or more.Floors directly above and below the reported fire are usually evacuated, but others are to stay and use damp towels to block cracks beneath the door unless told otherwise, and call 911 if they have questions.That’s partly to avoid repeated, unnecessary evacuations that cause people eventually to ignore such orders when they really matter. And it also avoids panicked and unsafe evacuations down a long stairwell choked with smoke, which can be just as deadly as the licking flames.Several such high-rise evacuations over the years have resulted in needless deaths. In 2014, a man who fled his apartment on the 38th floor of a New York City apartment building died when he encountered a plume of suffocating smoke in a stairwell as he tried to descend to the street. His apartment remained entirely untouched by the flames.What makes the London fire maddening for fire experts who believe in the “stay put” rule is that the Grenfell may have lacked many of the safety redundancies necessary to make it work.For example, the Grenfell building had only one stairwell. A lawmaker says it didn’t have working sprinklers. And Britain’s Guardian newspaper reported that cladding used on the high-rise structure was made of the cheaper, more flammable material of two types offered by the manufacturer.“The bottom line: Sprinklers, fire doors and multiple stairwells work,” said Chicago Fire Department Battalion Chief Michael Conroy. “It becomes difficult to shelter-in-place when you have no engineered fire protection systems within a building.”New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro, whose department is among the most practiced in the world at fighting fires in tall buildings, says he believes in the stay-put policy but “what happened in London, in which a fire went from the fourth floor to the 21st floor in what we understand was in 17 minutes, is unprecedented.”The sister of a man still missing in the London blaze told reporters that when she phoned him on the 21st floor as the fire spread, he said he hadn’t evacuated with his wife and three children because fire officials told him to “stay inside, stay in one room together and put towels under the door.” Hana Wahabi said she begged her brother, Abdulaziz Wahabi, to leave but he told her “there was too much smoke.”One question now is whether people will heed that guidance with the Grenfell disaster fresh in their minds.“There is no way I am waiting to die in a building. I am getting out to safety,” said Jennifer Lopez, who works in a high-rise building a short walk from the World Trade Center in New York City.Any move away from the shelter in place tactic would put lives at risk, said Simon Lay, a fire safety expert and fellow at the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat.“Statistics tell us that defend in place remains the best policy and is based on sound principles as it enables firefighters to work unhindered and protects against the apathy that can develop from exposure to false alarms,” he said.Jonathan Lum, an advertising executive who lives on the 57th floor of a glittering Manhattan tower designed by Frank Gehry, said if a fire breaks out there, he will heed the wisdom of the fire department and stay in his apartment, but partly because he lives in a building constructed in the past decade.“If I were in a different, less modern building with less obvious fire safety, I’m not sure how I would feel, honestly,” he said. read more

Strengthened partnerships can boost humanitarian response UN official tells Arab forum

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Valerie Amos, called for strengthening these partnerships as she opened the Third Annual Conference on Humanitarian Partnerships and Information Sharing in the Arab World in Kuwait City. “I hope that we will continue to strengthen our relationships with governments and organizations in the Gulf region, and that you will continue to see OCHA [the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs] as a strong partner helping to make it easier for national organizations and international actors to join forces and maximize the impact of our response,” she stated. “Together, we can make a real difference to the millions of people around the world who need and deserve our support,” she added. The two-day conference, held at the headquarters of the International Islamic Charitable Organization (IICO), brings together senior regional and international officials, aid workers, private sector companies and media representatives to discuss ways to improve strategic planning and achieve better results through effective collaboration and sharing of information.The head of the IICO, Abdullah Al-Maatouq, noted that the gathering is considered a platform to discuss real-time humanitarian challenges and to come up with practical solutions. “The conference aims to enable humanitarian organizations to fulfil their roles towards currently occurring humanitarian disasters,” he added. A web-based Arab Humanitarian Portal, www.arabhum.net, offering information in Arabic on humanitarian affairs, was launched at the conference to serve as a platform for dialogue and data sharing. During her visit, Ms. Amos met Crown Prince Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah to discuss OCHA’s partnership with Kuwait and thanked him for his nation’s strong support for global humanitarian efforts. read more

Nomination of new Prime Minister hailed by UN as another step forward

“The appointment of a new Prime Minister is another important step forward in the country’s peacebuilding process,” said the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Somalia, Augustine P. Mahiga. The Prime Minister’s nomination will now go to the Parliament for endorsement. He will then proceed to form a cabinet, which will also need to be endorsed by the legislature. In recent months, Somalia’s transition process has seen the adoption of a new constitution, the convening of a new parliament, and the selection of a new president. Mr. Mahiga, who heads the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), also commended President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud “for leading a broad consultative process on the appointment of the Prime Minister within the constitutionally-stipulated time period.” He pledged the UN’s full support to Mr. Shirdon and encouraged him to “immediately begin the critical work of establishing a transparent, efficient and accountable government.”“The new authorities will play the central role in promoting the reconciliation and good governance necessary to achieve lasting peace and stability in Somalia,” Mr. Mahiga added in a statement. read more

In Iraq UN envoy urges expansion of development programmes in Basra region

“This has been a very fruitful visit,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, Martin Kobler, said in a news release, adding that he had had “excellent discussions” with the Governor of Basra, Dr. Khalaf Abdul-Samad, over the UN’s ongoing role in the development of the province. According to a news release from the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) – which Mr. Kobler also heads – the UN envoy also visited a UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) accelerated learning programme for juvenile detainees at Basra Central Prison, which aims to deliver education and training to young prisoners for their lives after release. In addition, Mr. Kobler reaffirmed the world body’s role in working for minority rights across the country following his visit to a local non-governmental organization that works for the rights of black Iraqis. “UNAMI will continue to advocate for the political participation and right to development for Iraqis from all backgrounds,” he stated. read more

At key technology conference SecretaryGeneral warns of digital divide in Internet age

In a video message to the ITU World Conference on International Telecommunications, taking place in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, Secretary-General Ban called on Member States to maintain the free electronic flow of ideas and information, adding that the UN “stands behind the goal of an open Internet.”“A digital divide has no place in the information age and 21st-century knowledge economy,” he said. “Our overall objective must be to ensure universal access to information and communication technology – including for the two-thirds of the world’s population currently not online.” The 11-day conference – which is slated to run until 14 December – will bring an estimated 1,900 delegates from 193 nations together to review the current International Telecommunications Regulations (ITRs), which function as the binding global treaty designed to facilitate international interconnection of information and communication services, as well as ensuring their efficiency and widespread public usefulness and availability. Although the treaty sets out general principles for assuring the free flow of information around the world, media reports have anticipated diplomatic clashes between Member States over the level of global oversight necessary in regulating the internet, with some delegates reportedly voicing concern that too much regulation would potentially stifle online freedom of expression and ease of communication. In his address, the Secretary-General affirmed the need for a free internet as part of the digital citizen’s “right to communicate” and share ideas across all media and all frontiers. “Information and communications technologies are transforming our world, opening doors, educating and empowering people, saving lives,” Mr. Ban said, pointing to the effects of social media and technology in driving the Arab Spring protests and similar democratization efforts around the world. “We must continue to work together and find consensus on how to effectively keep cyberspace open, accessible, affordable and secure for all,” he added. read more

Human rights gains in Afghanistan remain fragile – UN top official

“Afghanistan is clearly at a critical juncture with the ongoing political, security and economic transition concluding in 2014 – all of which will have an impact on the human rights of its citizens,” the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said at a press conference in the capital, Kabul.“There have been some distinct human rights achievements during the past 12 years, but they are fragile, and many Afghans are expressing fears that the overall human rights situation is deteriorating on several fronts.”Ms. Pillay said that during her visit, she focused on ensuring that gains on human rights are consolidated and not undermined. She stressed that his will require determination and courage on the part of the Government as well as civil society and the media. “They will need to stand firm, not only against rising political pressures as the election approaches, but also against the ominous background of a sharp climb in the number of civilian casualties during the first six months of 2013.”According to a report released by the by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the number of civilians killed or injured in the first half of 2013 rose by 23 per cent compared to the same period last year, owing mainly to the increased use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by insurgents. The report documented 1,319 civilian deaths and 2,533 injuries – a total of 3,852 civilian casualties – in the first half of the year. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay visited Afghanistan in September 2013. The purpose of the trip was to meet with senior Afghan officials, and representatives from civil society and the international community, in order to review progress and challenges in the area of human rights. Photo: UNAMA ‹ › Ms. Pillay said that although the vast majority of civilian casualties are caused by anti-Government forces, the number of civilian casualties caused by actions of various Afghan security forces including police has also risen, and she stressed the need to try to reduce the numbers of civilians killed and injured during military and police operations. Violence against women is another pressing issue in the country, Ms. Pillay said, noting that while the passing of the law on the Elimination of Violence against Women was a very significant achievement, its implementation has been slow, especially in rural areas, with police, prosecutors and courts being reluctant to enforce it.“Violence against women remains endemic, and I have urged the relevant authorities to do their utmost to speed up and improve the implementation of this important law, which President Karzai passed by decree in 2009,” Ms. Pillay said, adding that she was encouraged by the commitment shown by senior Government officials to advance women’s rights and improve the implementation of the law.During her visit, Ms. Pillay met with senior Afghan officials including President Hamid Karzai. She also held talks with the Chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, members of civil society and the diplomatic community. Ms. Pillay expressed concern to Government officials over the future of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), which could potentially lose its ‘A’ Status under the Paris Principles after the appointment of five human rights commissioners.“There are real concerns – which I share – that the recent process leading up to the appointment of five new members of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission was sufficiently flawed for it to lose its “A” Status,” she said. “This would be a very serious and regrettable setback for one of the current Afghan Government’s most notable achievements in the area of human rights.”Ms. Pillay said she made a strong plea to Mr. Karzai to do his utmost to strengthen the position of the AIHRC before it comes up for review in two months’ time.“I urge an extra effort by the President and his Government to ensure that the human rights gains of the past 12 years are not sacrificed to political expediency during these last few months before the election,” Ms. Pillay said.Afghanistan is scheduled to hold presidential and provincial council elections in April next year, and preparations are underway to ensure a smooth transition. Today, UNAMA acknowledged the appointments of the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission (IECC), stressing it plays an important role as an impartial dispute resolution mechanism. “These appointments represent an important next step in ensuring the preparations for the presidential and provincial council elections on 5 April 2014,” UNAMA said in a news release. “Rapid establishment of the IECC’s operational structure is now required as it prepares to adjudicate objections to candidate eligibility.”UNAMA added that donors and the international community stand ready to provide, at the IECC’s request, technical and financial assistance to support the complaints commission. read more

Gabons President urges international support for Africas fight against terrorism

Citing the recent deadly terrorist attack at a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, President Ali Bongo of Gabon appealed today from the podium of the United Nations General Assembly for full global support for Africa in the battle against terrorism.“Africa, which is becoming a target for terrorism, must benefit from the full support and solidarity of the international community in its effort to combat this threat,” he told the Assembly on the first day of its General Debate, noting that poverty nurtures extremism around the world and the battle against poverty must therefore remain at the centre of national policies. Turning to the post-2015 development agenda, the theme of the 68th General Assembly, Mr. Bongo said attention must be paid to Africa’s priorities, such as energy, access to potable water and sustainable agriculture, as well as the realization of those Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that are not met by the target date of 2015.The MDGs seek to slash extreme hunger and poverty, boost access to health care and education, achieve gender equality and environmental stability, and reduce maternal and child mortality and the incidence of HIV/AIDS, all by the end of 2015, while Assembly President John Ashe says he hopes the focus on the post-2015 agenda will set the stage for sustainable development in the decades ahead. Mr. Bongo underscored the need for predictable funding for development from public and private sources, the importance of combating climate change and the threat to wildlife and biodiversity, and voiced his concern over conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR), praising the efforts of the UN peacekeeping mission in the former country.He repeatedly appealed for international support. “Africa cannot face all these challenges to peace and security alone,” he declared. “Its efforts must receive greater support, because the destabilization of Africa will have implications for other regions.” read more

UN rights office calls on Iraq to determine whereabouts of missing Iranian

“We are gravely concerned about allegations that seven former residents of Camp Ashraf, six of whom are reported to be women, were kidnapped during the events of 1 September,” Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said at a briefing in Geneva. “If they have indeed been kidnapped, all efforts should be made to secure their release unharmed,” Mr. Colville added, noting unconfirmed reports that suggest that they are being held at an unidentified location in Iraq and are at risk of being forcibly returned to Iran.Camp Ashraf was comprised of Iranian exiles, many of them members of a group known as the People’s Mojahedeen of Iran.More than 3,000 residents have been relocated to Camp Hurriya, previously known as Camp Liberty, while the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) carries out a process to determine their refugee status, and resettle them outside of the country, in line with an agreement signed in December 2011 between the UN and the Iraqi Government.Camp Ashraf has been attacked several times, making relocation a priority for the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). Following the latest attack, the remaining residents were transferred to Camp Hurriya, but the circumstances of the attack remain obscure.“As three weeks have now passed, we reiterate our call on the Government to do its utmost to shed light on exactly what happened and to identify the perpetrators of these killings,” Mr. Colville said, while welcoming the transfer of the remaining residents to Hurriya. He added that UNHCR and others shared the concern over the missing former residents and called on the Government to ensure their safety and prevent their involuntary return to Iran. Also in Geneva today, UNHCR’s spokesperson expressed concern that recent waves of sectarian violence in Iraq threatened new internal displacement in the country.“Since the beginning of the year, bombings and rising sectarian tensions have displaced some 5,000 Iraqis,” Melissa Fleming said, noting reports from the last two weeks that suggested that over 200 families had fled their homes in a wide range of locations. “Those displaced so far include Sunni Arabs, Kurds, Shia Shabak, Turkmen as well as Shia Arabs who are in a minority situation,” Ms. Fleming added.She said that UNHCR and its partners have conducted needs assessments of the newly displaced people and are advocating with the Government for their registration. In coordination with the Government, the agency was helping to ensure them food, core relief items, education and adequate accommodation, along with relevant documents. read more

Libya UN official condemns terrorist attack on Spanish embassy

According to media reports, a bomb detonated outside the Spanish Embassy on 20 April damaging part of the compound’s exterior wall but incurring no casualties. The incident is also the most recent in a series of attacks against foreign embassies including those of the Republic of Korea and Morocco.In a statement released yesterday evening, UNSMIL said the attack against the Spanish embassy should serve as “a reminder that the continuing fighting and political instability contribute to providing the safe ground for terrorists to operate and expand” throughout Libya. “UNSMIL urges the Libyans to press ahead with their efforts to reach a political agreement to restore peace and stability, as well as strengthen the State institutions to combat terrorism,” the statement added. The bombing comes at a time when national stakeholders are gathered to reach a mediated settlement to Libya’s continuing fighting.The latest round of political talks, in fact, are currently underway in Skhirat, Morocco with parties expected to present their remarks regarding the overall framework outlined in the Draft Agreement on the Political Transition in Libya. read more

UN envoy on sexual violence in conflict wraps up official visit to

According to a news release, Mrs. Bangura was on a four-day visit to Guinea where she met with senior Government officials, UN agencies and civil society groups. The Special Representative’s office is providing technical and logistical support to a Panel of Judges investigating the incidents of 28 September 2009, where at the national stadium almost 156 people were killed and 109 women were raped and subjected to other forms of sexual crimes during an opposition demonstration. According to the release, 16 people have been indicted so far in connection with the case, including former Head of State- Moussa Dadis Camara and several high ranking military officers. Speaking earlier this year regarding the indictments Mrs. Bangura said, “I commend the national authorities for exercising ownership, leadership and responsibility over this process which seeks to bring justice to victims of crimes committed during the horrific events which took place Conakry in broad daylight.” read more

Despite looting of aid agencies in Central African Republic UN pledges continued

“We must continue with the emergency response,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator in CAR Aurélien A. Agbénonci said. “Access to displaced populations is crucial. The needs of displaced persons are increasing every day and our main aim is to provide assistance to those in need, regardless of their political affiliation, race or ethnicity in compliance with the humanitarian principles of impartiality, independence and neutrality.” The offices and residences of national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were looted during the sudden outbreak of violence that began on 26 September in Bangui, the capital, leaving 42 people dead and 414 injured and driving more than 37,000 people from their homes to seek refuge with host families and in 32 displacement sites in the city. Some 200 humanitarian workers were temporarily relocated out of CAR and about 100 other non-essential staff were relocated to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The security situation has deteriorated, impeding the freedom of movement of humanitarian workers since the beginning of the crisis.“Despite the security constraints, humanitarian actors continue to provide assistance to the affected population,” Mr. Agbénonci said. “We remain firmly committed to maintaining our presence in the country and to providing the necessary assistance to the population in areas where humanitarian access is possible.” Following the recent violence there are over 417,000 displaced people in CAR and about 2.7 million people, over half the population, are in urgent need of assistance.The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA), set up in April 2014 to help bring peace after a breakdown of governmental authority and vicious intercommunal fighting between mainly the Muslim Séléka group and the mainly Christian anti-Balaka movement, currently maintains nearly 11,000 uniformed personnel in the country, one of the world’s poorest. read more

PODCAST actress Gillian Anderson presents film at UN on human trafficking

In the latest episode of the UN Radio podcast series The Lid is On, Ms. Anderson – best-known for her role in television’s X-Files – said the project is a shining example of the impact film can have.“When I started working on this I had no idea what the truth of the situation as it stands right now globally, the amount of children that are trafficked, the amount of humans that are trafficked into slavery, I was completely naïve about it and I was also shocked by the degree of my naivety as somebody who is quite active in various organizations and charities and has been for many years,” Ms. Anderson told UN Radio producer Matthew Wells.She added that combating sex trafficking of young women and girls has now become her number one priority when it comes to advocacy.“The message is bigger than the film itself,” she insisted. “Getting involved with the campaign around the film and seeing the impact that the right kind of campaigning can have on a movement and a broader conversation and a degree of activism is really remarkable and quite unique, and very inspiring.”The podcast also features an interview with a 19-year-old trafficking survivor from the United States, as well as with the film’s director Jeffrey Brown. read more

UN approves largestever emergency funding allocation to scale up response in wartorn

“These funds will help to save lives,” declared UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock as he announced that the funding would rapidly bolster the response for some 22 million people in Yemen who need humanitarian assistance, including more than eight million who are “a step away from famine.”Since 2015, Yemen has been in engulfed a conflict between forces loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and those allied to the Houthi rebel movement.Mr. Lowcock emphasized that to roll back the unfolding catastrophe, three things need to happen. “First,” he began, “there must be reduction both in fighting on the ground and airstrikes, which have greatly intensified in recent weeks.” Armed conflict is killing and injuring people and destroying critical infrastructure. Danger and bureaucratic impediments hamper humanitarians’ ability to reach those in need, including those at risk of diphtheria – a growing outbreak now in most of Yemen’s governorates. Mr. Lowcock maintained that “the parties to the conflict must comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure,” and facilitate humanitarian partners. “Second,” he continued, “we need all ports to remain open without interruption. Yemen imports about 90 per cent of its staple food and nearly all of its fuel and medicine […] a lifeline for millions of people.” Moving forward, sustained and higher levels of food, fuel and medicines must be imported. “Third,” he said, “we need faster and more generous donor financing.” While aid saved millions in 2017, recent restrictions and intensified fighting have forced more reliance on aid. “The CERF allocation today will ensure a comprehensive, integrated response across life-saving humanitarian sectors for the most vulnerable people in 27 high-priority districts at risk of famine, as well as in areas where conflict has recently escalated,” he said. “The Yemeni people need an end to the conflict so that they can begin to rebuild their lives. For this to happen, the parties to the conflict must cease hostilities and engage meaningfully with the UN to achieve a lasting political settlement,” he concluded. read more