Saturday, July 14, 2012
Activists in Syria have uploaded video, which Al Jazeera cannot independently verify, of what they say are funerals in Tremseh. The opposition blames government militias, but the government denies responsibility. Al Jazeera's Jane Ferguson reports.
Britain has imposed a restriction on the airspace over London ahead of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games which start in a fortnight with a warning that planes that stray into the zone could ultimately be shot down. Under the Olympic air security plan, 48km of airspace surrounding the Olympic park will become a no-fly zone and general aviation will not be allowed in but passenger planes heading for Heathrow or London City airports will not be affected. There is also a larger restricted zone which includes Stanstead, Luton and Gatwick airports and while private pilots can enter this area, but must submit their flight plans ahead of time. Al Jazeera's Laurence Lee reports.
A regional summit in Asia has ended in serious discord. That is because parties could not agree on how to deal with a territorial dispute. Several countries have competing claims over parts of the South China Sea. But it is the Philippines and China who are in a tense standoff over the Scarborough Shoal. The Philippines says that the area is within 200 nautical miles from its coast, and therefore part of its exclusive economic zone, under UN maritime laws. But China says it has a historic claim to the territory. (INVIS) An Aljazeera team experienced first-hand how China is establishing its presence there. Al Jazeera's Steve Chao reports.
The American Civil Liberties Union says the US state of Michigan and the Highland Park School District failed to properly educate the state's children. The accusation has prompted a class-action law suit - the first of its kind, says hundreds of students from the Detroit-area district are functionally illiterate, and are not reading well enough for their age. The school district has not responded to the legal action and already facing an $11 million deficit, and so the problem may not be corrected anytime soon. Al Jazeera's Scott Heidler explains.
Friday, July 13, 2012
Russia's lower house of parliament, known as the Duma, has passed the third reading of a bill that aims to label foreign funded NGOs as "foreign agents". Opposition groups say the law is the latest attempt by President Valdimir Putin to stifle political opposition. Jonah Hull reports from Moscow.
Many Haitians have marched in the capital Port-au-Prince to protest a government plan to relocate hundreds of families before destroying their homes in a shantytown on the city's outskirts for a flood-control project. The government says it needs to clear the town of Jalousi, which sits on the edge of a ravine, in order to reforest a hill to reduce the risk of flooding as the rainy season approaches. Many residents of the town also voiced anger about the new slums they would be moved to, saying the government has repeatedly reneged on promises to build them proper new homes years after an earthquake devasated much of the country. Rachel Levin reports from Port-au-Prince.
African leaders call for military action as UN peacekeepers move in to protect civilians from a rebel army - M23 - that is moving closer. Not everyone believes that the UN will be able to defend cities from the rebel army; some residents say that the UN should leave because they are not able to protect the people.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
(Click photo to enlarge.)
Facility Outraged Over Israel's Blatant Omission from Prestigious Global Counter-Terrorism Forum
Algeria, Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, European Union France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Morocco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, and the United States.
These countries make up the Global Counterterrorism Forum, a group formed in 2011 under the leadership of the United States, to “provide a unique platform for senior [counterterrorism] policymakers and experts from key partners in different regions to share key insights and best practices.”
But who’s missing? The State of Israel, according to the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC).
The SWC notes that following Israel’s blatant omission when the Global Counterterrorism Forum was created, assurances were given by the United States government that a way would be found to include the Jewish State.
“It is one year later, and nothing has changed,” stated Rabbi Marvin Hier, SWC Founder and Dean.
“This is why the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s letter of protest to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is so urgent.”
Hier wrote, “I am well aware that Turkey, one of the co-chairman of the Forum is in opposition to an Israeli presence, but with all due respect to Turkey or any other country, the Forum was created by the United States and Israel is amongst the United States’ most reliable and trusted allies.”
Rabbi Hier also added, “…having a Global Counterterrorism Forum and not including Israel, is like having a global technology conference and excluding the United States of America. There is no one with more experience at combatting terrorism or educating civilians about it, than the State of Israel. I think the time has come for the United States to make it very clear why Israel continues to be excluded.”
Additionally, just last month, Senators Joseph Lieberman and Mark Kirk also wrote to Secretary Clinton expressing their surprise and disappointment of “the absence of our ally, Israel, from the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), which you attended in Istanbul last week…. As you know, there are few countries in the world that have suffered more from terrorism than Israel, and few governments that have more experience combatting this threat… We look forward to hearing from you about whether the Administration shares our views that Israel rightfully belongs as a full participant in the GCTF, and what, if any, steps you are prepared to take to right this wrongful omission."
Photo courtesy of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Thousands of soldiers - some recently returned from Afghanistan - are to be called in to help with security for the Olympic Games. That's because of fears that the private company responsible has not trained enough staff. And with the opening ceremony just weeks away, continuing problems with London's road network are adding to concerns about the games. Paul Brennan reports.
US secretary of state Hillary Clinton has warned of more conflict in the South China Sea if China doesn't agree to a maritime code of conduct. Clinton was speaking in Cambodia, at the Asia Pacific's leading security forum. Territorial claims in the South China Sea have dominated the agenda. But as Al Jazeera's Steve Chao reports, the talks ended with little meaningful agreement.
New Legislation Takes Effect Immediately
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation to ensure that any firefighter who is killed while performing services in the line of duty has their name included on the Fallen Firefighter Memorial.
The new law ensures that the both volunteer and professional firefighters who lost their lives while protecting others are subject to the same criteria for inclusion on the Memorial.
"The Fallen Firefighters Memorial honors the lives of our state's bravest men and women who died while protecting others," Governor Cuomo said.
"Every firefighter who has paid the ultimate sacrifice while protecting their community deserves to be recognized for their courage and heroic service. This new law will ensure that New York State properly recognizes the extraordinary sacrifice of all firefighters who died while putting their lives on the line and that their memory is preserved forever. I commend Majority Leader Skelos, Speaker Silver, and Assembly Member Weisenberg for their hard work on this important legislation."
Under previous law, only firefighters who were killed as a direct and proximate result of a line of duty injury had their names included on the wall.
In 2006, a 42-year-old firefighter named Paul Brady was killed as a result of injuries sustained from falling off a fire engine that was accidentally moved. Brady's name was not approved for the Memorial as he did not die while fighting fires.
The new law signed today by Governor Cuomo expands the criteria for inclusion on the wall to ensure that fallen firefighters like Brady are included in the Memorial and recognized for their bravery and sacrifice. The law takes effect immediately.
The New York State Fallen Firefighters Memorial is located on the Empire State Plaza, adjacent to The Egg.
The wall bearing the names of the fallen was dedicated in 1999, and includes more than 2,300 names with the earliest dating from a death in 1811.
Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos stated, "Our firefighters put their lives on the line each and every time they respond to a distress call. They all deserve our respect, and those that give their lives in the service of others while in the line of duty deserve to be included in a lasting memorial such as the New York State Fallen Firefighters Memorial. Paul Brady was a hero and I thank Governor Cuomo for signing this important bill."
"I am greatly appreciative to Governor Cuomo and his counsels, who provided valuable assistance in ensuring these firefighters are recognized for their sacrifice," added Assembly Member Harvey Weisenberg.
Image courtesy of http://www.gifs-paradise.com.
Statement by President Obama
No veteran who fought for our nation overseas should have to fight for a job when they return home. That’s why I’m pleased that Democrats and Republicans in Congress have come together to pass legislation that will make it easier for veterans to put their skills to work.
This legislation complements the new partnership launched by my Administration that will make it easier for manufacturing companies to hire thousands of returning servicemembers who have the skills our country needs. And it builds on several steps my Administration has taken to help veterans find a job. Already we have created new tax credits for businesses that hire veterans. The Joining Forces initiative, begun by the First Lady and Dr. Biden, has helped 90,000 veterans and military spouses find jobs. And we have developed online tools to help connect veterans to employers.
We’ve made progress, but we have much more to do. Congress needs to pass legislation creating a Veterans Job Corps so we can put our returning heroes back to work as cops and firefighters, and on projects that protect and preserve our public lands and resources. And we must all continue our efforts to ensure that these talented men and women who would be an asset to any company have every opportunity to succeed after they serve our nation.
Details on the new legislation available here: Congressional Budget Office
National Security Council Spokesman Tommy Vietor Responds to the Crisis in Mali
Today, the President authorized the use of up to $10 million from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund to respond to the unexpected and urgent refugee and migration needs resulting from the conflict in northern Mali. The emergency funds will be used to support the efforts of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to provide lifesaving protection and assistance to those fleeing the conflict. Currently, almost 230,000 Malian refugees have fled to Algeria, Burkina Faso, Mauritania and Niger, while an additional 155,000 Malians are internally displaced.
The United States is deeply concerned about the situation of the Malian people. We call on all parties to support the restoration of democratically elected civilian governance in Mali as soon as possible. Specifically, we ask that the interim government issue its roadmap for elections without delay so that preparations can begin in earnest. We reiterate our call for the military-led National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy (CNRD) to refrain from any interference in political matters. We strongly condemn the attacks against civilians in northern Mali, as well as the reported destruction and looting of religious, historical and cultural sites in Timbuktu. We call on the rebel groups in northern Mali to renounce any connection with terrorist groups and enter into legitimate political negotiations. In addition, we urge all parties to ensure neutral, impartial, and unhindered humanitarian access to all populations in northern Mali
The United States continues to support the leadership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in its mediation efforts and will continue to consult with ECOWAS and other regional stakeholders on the best way to facilitate the political transition and restore peace and security across Mali.
Drug addiction in Afghanistan is on the rise. According to UN reports, around three percent of Afghans abuse drugs, making the country the world's top user per capita. But only a fraction of addicts receive proper treatment, as Jennifer Glasse reports.
Leaders of the opposition Syrian National Council say people in Syria are suffering because of Russia's stance at the UN security council. The decision to back the Syrian government has little to do with loyalty to Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and more to do with maintaining beneficial economic and intelligence relationships. From Moscow, Johan Hull takes a look at Russia's dealings with the Syrian government and the opposition.
The Obama administration is hoping China will accept a code of conduct for resolving territorial disputes in the resource-rich South China Sea, a difficult mediation effort that's often been rebuffed by the communist government.
Flooding in South Africa has left more than thirty thousand people struggling to cope with water-damage to their homes and businesses. The poorest areas in and around Cape Town are worst affected. Haru Mutasa reports from Cape Town.
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
Syria's ambassador to Iraq has defected in protest at the military crackdown by Assad's forces against a 16-month uprising. In exclusive statement to Al Jazeera, Nawaf al-Fares said that his decision came in the wake of what he described as horrible massacre committed against the Syrian people by the regime. Nicole Johnston reports.
The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is preparing to donate hundreds of millions of dollars towards improving access to contraception in the developing world. Reaching 100 million women, the initiative hopes to bring about major economic and health benefits and control population growth. In Nigeria, it is estimated that only 10% of married women use contraception. More than 20% want it, but do not have access to it. Some believe that using birth control and other types of contraception goes against their faith. Cultural beliefs about contraception is one of the many challenges the Gates initative faces. Al Jazeera's Yvonne Ndege reports from Nigeria's capital Abuja.
"I Applaud Efforts to Hold These Individuals Accountable for Their Crimes Against Humanity"
WASHINGTON D.C. -- On Tuesday, July 10, 2012, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands, sentenced Congolese militia commander Thomas Lubanga to 14 years in jail for recruiting and using child soldiers, in his long-running campaign of violence in the eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Court had received conclusive evidence that Lubanga had abducted children as young as eleven years old, forcing the boys to fight in his rebel army and the girls to serve as sex slaves.
The Thomas Lubanga case marks the ICC’s first conviction in its nearly decade long history, Congressman Meeks commended the ICC for committing to justice on behalf of the children who lost their childhood, innocence, and lives to the atrocities of war.
“This is a victory for human rights, and I applaud efforts to hold these individuals accountable for their crimes against humanity,” Rep. Meeks said.
Congressman Meeks, in his role as member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, advocates for protection and promotion of human rights, globally, particularly launching bilateral initiatives to eliminate discrimination.
Assistance Available at the Department of Financial Services' Mobile Command Center on July 14
The Department of Financial Services, in partnership with Neighborhood Housing Services of Bedford-Stuyvesant, is reaching out to offer help to Bedford-Stuyvesant area homeowners in Brooklyn struggling to save their homes from foreclosure.
Foreclosure prevention specialists will be available to meet homeowners from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, July 14 in the Department of Financial Services' Mobile Command Center (MCC) at Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza.
The MCC will be located on the Herkimer Street side of the plaza at 380 Herkimer St. The program is being presented as part of the Family Health & Resource Day sponsored by Assembly Member Annette M. Robinson and co-sponsored by Senator Velmanette Montgomery and Council Member Albert Vann.
"It is essential that we provide as much help as possible to financially-troubled homeowners," Governor Cuomo said.
"This initiative will help provide direct assistance to homeowners and get the word out to others that it is important to ask for help as quickly as possible. The longer a homeowner waits, the harder it may be to save a home."
Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo directed the Department of Financial Services (DFS) to launch the foreclosure prevention program as a means of extending help to homeowners in foreclosure or at risk of foreclosure.
Since then, the program has visited more than a dozen sites with high foreclosure rates throughout the state.
Department of Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin M. Lawsky stated, "It's important that homeowners who start to see financial problems know that there are more options available to them if they act sooner, rather than later. The foreclosure prevention program allows homeowners to meet one-on-one with foreclosure prevention specialists who are knowledgeable and can offer practical guidance."
"I'm very happy to be able to co-sponsor the Community Health & Resource Day event with Assembly member Robinson and Council Member Vann. We all know well how devastating foreclosure can be on a family. I'm pleased that the State Department of Financial Services will provide the foreclosure van to assist homeowners with concerns they have regarding foreclosure. I encourage all my constituent homeowners in the 18th Senatorial District to take advantage of this," said Senator Velmanette Montgomery.
Assembly Member Annette M. Robinson noted, "I am happy to sponsor this event with Senator Montgomery and Council Member Vann. The Districts we serve have homeowners who are concerned about foreclosure. As Chairperson of the Assembly Banking Committee, I work closely with the State Department of Financial Services to help alleviate this problem throughout New York State. I urge all residents to attend the Community Health and Resource Day and strongly encourage all homeowners to speak to the staff of the foreclosure van if they are experiencing foreclosure issues."
"As chair of the City Council's Community Development committee, I'm very aware that maintaining homeownership by preventing foreclosure is an essential component of neighborhood health. So it's very appropriate that these services are being provided as part of this year's Health and Resource Day. I encourage residents to take full advantage of this opportunity for confidential, individualized consultation and other services. With foreclosure, as in other matters of health, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," added Council Member Albert Vann.
State Resources Available to Homeowners
The state's foreclosure prevention program enables homeowners to have confidential meetings with DFS foreclosure specialists who assess where homeowners are in the pre-foreclosure or foreclosure process.
Depending on individuals' specific situations, the specialists may offer homeowners assistance in such areas as: applying for mortgage modifications or providing help to homeowners who have already sought mortgage modifications; interceding on behalf of homeowners with their mortgage lenders or servicers; assisting homeowners in communicating with mortgage lenders or servicers; and accepting complaints from homeowners who believe they were victimized by mortgage lending abuses, so complaints can be investigated by the Department.
U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved housing counselors will also be available to offer assistance to homeowners.
Homeowners unable to meet personally with foreclosure prevention specialists are urged to the call the Department's toll-free foreclosure hotline, 1-800-269-0990 or 518-457-1654, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Homeowners may also file complaints using the Department website, www.dfs.ny.gov.
The Department urged homeowners to be wary of mortgage rescue scams, which may be marketed by private businesses. For example, the Department said homeowners should:
Be wary of anyone asking for an upfront fee in exchange for getting a loan modification, saving a home from default or stopping a foreclosure or tax sale. New York law prohibits the collection of such fees in most cases. Also, many not-for-profit housing counselors will help homeowners negotiate with lenders for free.
Be wary of anyone who says they can save a home if a homeowner signs or transfers the deed to his or her house over to them so the homeowner can catch up on mortgage payments or refinance a loan. A homeowner should never submit mortgage payments to anyone other than the homeowner's mortgage company without its approval.
Image courtesy of the following:
Statement by President Obama
Today, the United States is easing restrictions to allow U.S. companies to responsibly do business in Burma. President Thein Sein, Aung San Suu Kyi and the people of Burma continue to make significant progress along the path to democracy, and the government has continued to make important economic and political reforms. Easing sanctions is a strong signal of our support for reform, and will provide immediate incentives for reformers and significant benefits to the people of Burma.
Burma’s political and economic reforms remain unfinished. The United States Government remains deeply concerned about the lack of transparency in Burma’s investment environment and the military’s role in the economy. As we indicated in May, the armed forces and Ministry of Defense-owned entities will not be covered by these General Licenses. In addition, U.S. companies will be asked to report on their activities in line with international corporate governance standards. I have also signed a new Executive Order that expands the Secretary of the Treasury’s existing sanctions authorities to those who undermine the reform process, engage in human rights abuses, contribute to ethnic conflict, or participate in military trade with North Korea. This Order is a clear message to Burmese government and military officials: those individuals who continue to engage in abusive, corrupt, or destabilizing behavior going forward will not reap the rewards of reform.
Americans for decades have stood with the Burmese people in their struggle to realize the full promise of their extraordinary country. Responsible investment will help facilitate broad-based economic development, and help bring Burma out of isolation and in to the international community. My Administration will continue to support the Government of Burma in its efforts to work toward international standards for economic growth, responsible governance, and human rights. And in all that we do, we are committed to working with the people of Burma as they shape a future of greater freedom and prosperity future, and continue their national reconciliation and democratic transition.
The following news report provides more insight on the easing of the sanctions: Reuters
Governor Encourages Businesses Across New York to Apply for Funding
New York State has received a $6.4 million federal grant, the largest award in the nation, to implement job training programs throughout the state.
"Rebuilding our state's economy starts with creating jobs in all corners of New York State, and we must do everything we can to ensure job seekers have the training and skills they need to succeed," Governor Cuomo said.
"This award recognizes New York State's leadership and commitment to helping the unemployed find new opportunities. With the NY Works program helping jumpstart job creating projects and get the economy back on track, this federal funding will help hundreds of companies hire new workers and train them for successful careers right here in New York State."
This award from the U.S. Department of Labor will allow New York State to build on the success of a previous $3.4 million training grant which has helped 308 businesses hire 543 workers since 2011.
Past grant provided businesses an average wage reimbursement of over $5,500 per worker.
"In these difficult economic times, we need to do everything we can to help create jobs in New York and around the country. Helping train our workforce is essential to making sure workers have the skills they need to get jobs, and I’m proud to have help secured the largest grant in the nation to help train workers right here in New York," stated U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand added, "You won’t find harder working people anywhere outside New York State. With the right training and skills, we can fill the jobs of tomorrow right here – with more of our workers in good-paying, family supporting jobs. When we strengthen our workforce, we can help more local businesses grow, attract new businesses, and set the foundation for a strong and growing economy. And, the best way to cut the deficit is to put people back to work."
"Helping New Yorkers gain the skills they need to succeed in a highly competitive global economy is good for employers, employees, and our state as a whole. I am pleased the federal government has chosen to invest in New York’s highly educated and capable workforce. This investment will help add to local businesses’ bottom line while preparing new workers for successful careers," noted U.S. Representative Nita Lowey.
The training must take place at a business location in New York State. The job the employee trains for must be a full-time job (30 hours or more per week).
To be hired under this program, a person must be a Dislocated Worker and unlikely to return to their prior occupation.
"Governor Cuomo’s commitment to making New York ‘open for business’ is paving the way for businesses and workers to flourish here in this state. These job training grants will help hundreds of businesses increase their bottom line while upgrading the skills of workers in the process. Training grants work and we want businesses and workers to know about these available dollars," stated State Labor Commissioner Peter M. Rivera.
For more information about training grants, send an email to StateOJT@labor.ny.gov.
Department of Labor staff will work with businesses to determine eligibility. Businesses can begin applying now via the DOL website www.labor.ny.gov
500 Companies Join Forces with Secretary LaHood and First Lady’s Initiative to Employ Over 5,000 Veterans
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Association of American Railroads (AAR) President and CEO Ed Hamberger and Joining Forces Executive Director Brad Cooper announced that the railroad industry will hire more than 5,000 veterans in 2012.
Five hundred companies and organizations including freight, inter-city passenger and commuter railroads, as well as rail supply companies represented by AAR are making today’s significant commitment.
“As a result of their service, veterans have the right skills and training for successful careers in transportation,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood.
“Helping our veterans find work strengthening America’s transportation system is a commitment we are proud to fulfill.”
The rail industry joins the First Lady and Dr. Biden’s Joining Forces initiative launched last year to bring Americans together to recognize, honor and take action to support veterans and military families as they serve our country and throughout their lives.
More than 1,600 companies have hired more than 90,000 veterans and military spouses in the last year through Joining Forces. These same companies have committed to hire 170,000 veterans and military spouses in the coming years.
“The commitment from AAR and companies in the railway industry to veteran hiring is exactly the type of effort we hoped to see when the First Lady and Dr. Biden launched Joining Forces last year – companies stepping up to hire our nation’s veterans. The railway industry clearly recognizes that hiring veterans is good for their companies’ bottom line and we are appreciative of their efforts to serve veterans as well as they have served this country,” Joining Forces Executive Director Brad Cooper said.
Railroad companies have hired military men and women for almost two centuries and today 25 percent of the industry’s workforce has military service. This is because of the natural link between military service skills and railroad careers.
Servicemen and women gain experience working with heavy machinery, managing safety operations, conducting their work in challenging conditions, promoting teamwork and being adaptable.
Knowing that these skills are easily translatable, the rail industry is looking to veterans to fill jobs that have become available due to waves of retirements occurring every year. Today, roughly 23 percent of the railroad workforce is eligible to retire by 2015.
“Railroads offer people the chance to have true life-long careers in well-paying jobs,” said Hamberger.
“We are proud to offer our heroes transitioning from military service the opportunity for another career in service to our country.”
Key commitments and opportunities in the rail industry include:
Freight Railroads: the nation’s freight railroads, including the country’s major Class I and shortline railroads, will hire at least 4,700 veterans in 2012. This year’s aggressive hiring target is in line with the industry’s sizable hiring trend kicked off in 2011 in the face of a significant wave of retirements.
Passenger Railroads: the nation’s inter-city passenger and commuter railroads will hire approximately 500 veterans in 2012, based on the significant need to fill positions being made vacant through retirements as well as through typical attrition. Passenger railroads also estimate 12 to 14 percent of new hires will be veterans.
Rail Supply Companies: dozens of the nation’s rail supply companies represented by AAR have committed to hire at least 200 veterans in 2012. These companies are responsible for supplying materials and equipment, including rail components, cars and locomotives and cutting edge technology.
To connect veterans with current rail industry employment opportunities, AAR is also collaborating with the Department of Transportation to list jobs on the newly established “Veteran Transportation Career Center” website.
Log on to http://www.dot.gov/veteranstransportationcareers/ for more information.