Donald Trump Remains Unchanged and Unrepentant After Election

Toronto – Ignoring pre-election promises to be more “Presidential,” three weeks into his tenure, US President Donald Trump remains unchanged and unmoved, according to a report in the Washington Post Friday.During his presidential election campaign, Donald Trump promised to be “more presidential” when he occupied the Oval Office. Critics are still waiting. Reported February 10 in the Washington Post, many in congress had been harbouring a fantasy that Trump would become presidential simply by entering the “magic” office. That has not turned out to be the case. What has occurred in it’s place, is barely contained mayhem.Chaos by Design As many critics predicted before Trump’s inauguration, President Trump has remained largely “unchanged.” What is different is the chaos that staffers insist is being implemented by design. For Mark Salter, confidante and former top aide to Senator John McCain, the transformation was never expected because that would have required Trump “not just growing into the job, but growing up.”According to Salter, top Republicans deluded themselves into believing, like a fairy tale, all would be well as soon as he entered the hallowed Oval Office. “They just couldn’t bring themselves to believe otherwise because it would have been an indictment of them” for their support of Trump throughout the campaign.Part of the chaos currently permeating the White House, involves top aides jockeying for position by outdoing one another in a bid to please the President, going as far as embracing “alternative facts,” no matter how absurd, to secure Trump’s favour. They do anything to please their boss, including attacking critics and their newest soft target, mainstream media.A Promise Made…The same source stated that, at an April 2016 rally,Trump promised “At some point, I’m gonna be so presidential that you people will be so bored.” This was after his January 2016 promise; “When I’m president, I’m a different person, I can do anything. I can be the most politically correct person that you’ve ever seen.”In an NBC interview two weeks later he vowed he would be “much different, much different” as President. When you’re President you act in a different way, there’s no question about that, and I would do that.”… Is a Promise BrokenBy August, however, Donald Trump was feeling decidedly more defiant saying while in Wisconsin, “I am who I am. It’s me. I don’t want to change. Everyone talks about ‘oh well, you’ve got to pivot.’ I mean you have to be you. If you start pivoting, you’re not being honest with people.”Looking into the Trump-as-President future, Brendan Buck, chief communications advisor to House Speaker, Paul Ryan, said “He’s got a unique way of doing things and we don’t ever expect that to change.” read more

2 Arrested for Raping and Hiding Body of Mentally Challenged Minor

Rabat – Two individuals were arrested Thursday morning for the rape of a mentally challenged minor that led to her death. The victim’s body was discovered Monday August 21, in front of the Moulay Baghdad cemetery in the city of Zeghanghane in the Nador province. Local authorities in Nador proceeded, on Thursday, August 24, to arrest two people for “their alleged involvement in a case of luring a minor girl, not assisting someone in danger, and the concealment of the corpse of the victim,” reads a statement from the Directorate General of National Security (DGSN).According to preliminary investigations, the two accused, aged 22 and 23, took the victim, who was mentally disabled, to a dwelling where she was raped before “she was seized with a discomfort which caused her death in the same place,” said the DGSN. The two accused then got rid of the body of the victim in front of the gate of the cemetery, where she was found the next day, adds the statement.The investigations carried out by the security services led to the identification of two of the perpetrators and their arrest, as well as the seizure, in their residence, of some medication likely to contain biological traces of the victim, explained the DGSN. The body of the victim was subjected to an autopsy in order to determine the cause of death.The two accused were placed in police custody and are under the disposal of the investigation conducted by the Nador Judicial Police Brigade. Investigations are ongoing to determine the circumstances of this case, and the police intend to arrest a third suspect whose identity has also been determined.The case comes only days after a violent sexual assault of another mentally challenged girl on a bus in Casablanca, which sparked uproar in the Moroccan public and led to protests all over the country. read more

National Enquirer defends its actions after allegations from Amazon boss

LOS ANGELES — The Latest on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ allegations against the National Enquirer’s publisher (all times local):9:45 a.m.The publisher of the National Enquirer says it will investigate Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ allegation that it threatened to publish revealing personal photos of him unless he stopped investigating how the tabloid obtained his private exchanges with his mistress.American Media Inc. says in a statement issued Friday it “acted lawfully” while reporting the story.The Enquirer published a story last month that included lurid texts between Bezos and former TV anchor Lauren Sanchez. Since then, private investigators have been looking into how the Enquirer got the texts.Bezos says he was the target of “extortion and blackmail” by American Media. But the company says it engaged in “good faith negotiations.”American Media says its board of directors ordered a prompt and thorough investigation. It says it’ll take “whatever appropriate action is necessary.”___12:45 a.m.Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says he was the target of “extortion and blackmail” by the publisher of the National Enquirer. He says the Enquirer chief threatened to publish revealing personal photos of Bezos unless he stopped investigating how the tabloid obtained his private exchanges with his mistress.Bezos, who is also owner of The Washington Post, detailed his interactions with American Media Inc., in an extraordinary blog post Thursday on Medium.com. The billionaire said the Enquirer wanted him to make a public statement that the tabloid’s coverage was not politically motivated.Bezos’ accusations add another twist to a high-profile clash between the world’s richest man and the leader of America’s best-known tabloid.The Associated Press read more

Doctors moonlighting as inventors face unique hurdles to commercialization

TORONTO — In Dr. Joao Rezende-Neto’s 25-year career as a trauma surgeon, he’s only twice dealt with patients who insisted on forking over big bucks to buy equipment for a procedure.One instance occurred in Brazil, where medical technology is far less advanced, and his patient needed a tracheostomy — a procedure involving an incision made in the windpipe to clear breathing obstructions. The patient’s family was so intent that the procedure be done with a specific device that minimizes the incision that they shelled out $5,000 to have the equipment imported.“In my trauma centre we had 10,000 traumas a year and every week we did 10 or 15 tracheostomies,” Rezende-Neto recalled. “I thought this is unfair. Why can’t we have this (device) for everyone?”The incident was so powerful that Rezende-Neto invented a device to make such procedures more efficient and less expensive. However, getting it approved and commercialized has come with challenges — a hallmark of the clinical medicine field.Experts say the sector is ripe for technology, but doctors are often pushed towards research instead of entrepreneurship, and can find themselves lacking funding and support, leaving ideas for more efficient devices and cost-saving innovations unrealized.In the age of hallway medicine, patients and the Canadian health care system are left to pay the price. A 2016 Industry Canada study showed the country exports about $3.1 million in medical device technology, including pacemakers, surgical tools and catheters, but imports far more — about $8.6 billion.“To get a (medical) idea to a final product is extremely complicated and the hurdles are very high,” Rezende-Neto said. “Maybe doctors are discouraged to carry on and give up when they hear about the approvals you have to do.”For Rezende-Neto to get his device closer to market, he started a company called Inventorr with St. Michael’s Hospital surgeon-in-chief Ori Rotstein and entrepreneur Chris Bass.They successfully tested their device in humans and animals, but still felt the need to turn to the Biomedical Zone, a four-year-old partnership between St. Michael’s and Ryerson University in Toronto, which aims to provide guidance, support and access to doctors to health technology startups.Among the dozens of companies it has supported are Pilly, a prescription delivery service; RetiSpec, the creator of a tool for detecting Alzheimer’s disease through the eyes; Marion Surgical, which makes a virtual reality surgery simulator; and HelpWear Wearable Technologies, which invented a what does this mean? electrocardiogram that can be worn on a wrist or arm.Dr. Linda Maxwell, the zone’s founding director and a plastic surgeon, is adamant about startups she courts needing to have a clinical focus because of resistance it faces.“The culture is changing, but it has not necessarily been one to want to embrace a lot of newness (because) we don’t want risk and we want to minimize risk because we want patients to always do well,” she said.Joseph Ferenbok, the co-director of the University of Toronto’s Health Innovation Hub, said doctors who choose to be entrepreneurial know it will be harder for them to receive grants in an increasingly competitive and under-funded sector if they are not producing results quickly. Few, he said, would step away from their jobs for the uncertainty that comes with a startup, especially when most don’t have a business background.But it’s people like doctors and medical professionals that health tech businesses need, he said.“(If you are a startup), you can’t stand outside a hospital and solicit information from people you think are patients coming out and you can’t go into a ward and make sure you understand exactly the nature of the problem unless you have access like a clinician or researcher,” he said.Those who do have access can still struggle, he said, as medical policies are prone to shifting frequently. “Deep science takes a lot of time to get out and a lot of money and it takes a lot of knowledge. It is not like an app where you will get a return in six months,” he said.“I am not sure we are going to be experts in making huge companies that do a lot of manufacturing because we are a small market and (startups) don’t have other companies to work with here. We are the incubators of ideas and companies and what we should be thinking about is how do we help these ideas incubate and sell off their products and intellectual property to others that are bigger globally but retain the talent and knowledge.”Retaining that talent and knowledge is also a fixation for Maxwell, who considers Rezende-Neto — who has 13 other ideas for medical devices, including a cardiac plug already in development that allows for easy temporary hemorrhage control from wounds to the heart — a rarity that she desperately wants to change.She’s also keen on supporting entrepreneurial medical professionals as a way to tackle a common lament in Canada’s tech scene: the growing number of companies that get acquired by American firms or migrate to the U.S., taking Canadian innovation and talent with them.“It takes so long to get things to get to market and it is so expensive that for small- or even medium-sized companies, they just cannot survive in Canada,” she said. “If we want to keep our Canadian companies here, they need a lot more support around them than what we currently do.”Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press read more

Pilot left gun behind in the cockpit of a Delta plane

ATLANTA — A pilot left a handgun in the cockpit of a Delta Air Lines jet, where it was found by an airline ground worker.Delta declined Friday to identify the pilot or say whether the pilot faced punishment for the Feb. 18 incident. A Delta spokeswoman called those internal personnel matters.She says Delta is working with authorities and will conduct its own review.The Transportation Security says it’s “aware of an incident at the Atlanta Airport involving agency issued equipment,” adding that the public was never in danger.Airline pilots who pass special training are issued guns and deputized by TSA to protect their planes against attack and piracy. The Federal Flight Deck Officer program was created after the September 2001 hijackings and terror attacks involving four U.S. airliners.The Associated Press read more

Nominee to lead FAA will face challenge on Boeing oversight

President Donald Trump has tapped a former Delta Air Lines executive to lead the Federal Aviation Administration as the regulator deals with questions about its approval of a Boeing airliner involved in two deadly crashes within five months.The White House said Tuesday that Trump will nominate Stephen Dickson to head the FAA. The agency has been led by an acting administrator since January 2018.Separately, the Transportation Department confirmed that its watchdog agency will examine how the FAA certified the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, the now-grounded plane involved in two fatal accidents within five months.The FAA had stood by the safety of the plane up until last Wednesday, despite other countries grounding it.Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao formally requested the audit in a letter sent to Inspector General Calvin Scovel III on Tuesday.Chao, whose agency oversees the FAA, said the audit will improve the department’s decision-making. Her letter confirmed that she had previously requested an audit. It did not mention reports that the inspector general and federal prosecutors are looking into the development and regulatory approval of the jet.The letter requests “an audit to compile an objective and detailed factual history of the activities that resulted in the certification of the Boeing 737 Max-8 aircraft.” It also says the audit will help the FAA “in ensuring that its safety procedures are implemented effectively.”Boeing said in a statement Tuesday that it will co-operate with the audit.Questions about the FAA’s handling of the issue extend beyond U.S. borders and will pose an immediate challenge for Dickson, if he is confirmed to lead the agency.Canadian Transport Minister Marc Garneau said this week that even if FAA certifies Boeing’s fix for the software on the 737 Max jet, “we will do our own certification.”Dickson was Delta’s senior vice-president of flight operations until retiring on Oct. 1 after 27 years with the airline, including time flying the 737 and other Boeing jets. Before that, he was an Air Force pilot. He emerged in recent weeks as the likely choice to lead FAA.For the past 14 months, the agency has been under an acting administrator, Daniel Elwell, a former Air Force and American Airlines pilot.A Lion Air Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed off the coast of Indonesia last October, and an Ethiopian Airlines Max 8 crashed this month near Addis Ababa.Investigators suspect that incorrect sensor readings feeding into a new automated flight-control system may have played a role in the Indonesian crash, and the Ethiopian plane had a similar, erratic flight path.Boeing began working on an upgrade to software behind the flight-control system shortly after the Lion Air crash. CEO Dennis Muilenburg said in recent days that the company is close to finishing the update and changes in pilot training to help crews respond to faulty sensor readings.Elwell told House Transportation Committee members that Boeing expects the software update to be finished by Monday, according to a person familiar with the briefing who spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak on the timing publicly. The FAA earlier required design changes to the flight-control system “no later than April.”After Boeing finishes the software, the FAA still must approve it.The Associated Press reported Monday that the Justice Department and the Inspector General are probing development of the Max, according to a person briefed on the matter. It is unclear when those inquiries began.The Justice Department and the Transportation Department’s inspector general are examining the way Boeing was regulated by the FAA, according to a person familiar with the matter and who asked not to be identified because the inquiry is not public.Critics have questioned the FAA’s practice of using employees of aircraft manufacturers to handle some safety inspections. FAA inspectors review the work of the manufacturers’ employees, who are on the company payroll and could face a conflict of interest.A federal grand jury in Washington sent a subpoena to someone involved in the plane’s development seeking emails, messages and other communications, the person told The Associated Press.A report in The Wall Street Journal on Sunday said the inspector general was looking into the plane’s anti-stall system. It quoted unidentified people familiar with both cases.The Oct. 29 Lion Air crash killed 189 people, and 157 died in the March 10 accident involving an Ethiopian Airlines jet. Both accidents happened shortly after takeoff.Other nations banned the Max 8 and a slightly larger model, the Max 9, in the days after the Ethiopian crash. The FAA and U.S. airlines that use the planes stood by the plane’s safety until last week.There are about 370 Max jets of various models at airlines around the world. American, Southwest and United have said the grounding of their Max jets have led to some cancelled flights.The plane is an important part of Chicago-based Boeing’s future. The company has taken more than 5,000 orders and delivered more than 250 Max jets last year. Boeing still makes an older version of the popular 737, but it expected the Max to account for 90 per cent of all 737 deliveries this year.___Koenig reported from Dallas and Krisher reported from Detroit. AP staff writer Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.David Koenig And Tom Krisher, The Associated Press read more

24 Candidates Submit Letters of Intent for Algeria’s July 4 Election

Rabat – The Algerian Ministry of the Interior has revealed a list of 24 Algerians who want to run for the July 4 election after the resignation of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika.“The provisional balance sheet of the submission of individual signature application forms for applicants to the candidacy for the election of the presidency of the republic … has twenty-four letters of intent filed,” the ministry said in a statement published by Algeria’s official news agency APS.The statement said that the candidates “were able to benefit from quotas of subscription forms, in application of the legal provisions in force.” Election plans are proceeding “in good conditions,” added the statement.The ministry’s announcement comes on the heel of continuous mass protests against the current government run by Interim President Abdelkader Bensalah, a loyalist to Bouteflika.Throughout the protests, the army has made multiple arrests and purged military officers, investigating them for corruption.An Algerian court summoned former Prime Minister Ahmed Ouyahia, who resigned moments after Bouteflika did, for an investigation.The current finance minister, Mohamed Loukal, was also summoned, international media reported yesterday.The two officials are under investigation for “dissipation of public money” and “illegal privilege.”Friday marked the beginning of the ninth week of mass protests against Bouteflika. Hundreds of thousands of Algerian citizens shouted slogans against the current government demanding radical change.Some political activists are also urging protesters to boycott the election. Dozens of Algerian mayors supporting the Algerian “hirak” movement said they will boycott the July 4 election.The mayors’ decision followed the announcement of Algerian magistrates, who are also threatening to boycott the election.Algeria’s opposition Rally for Culture and Democracy (RCD) party said it supported the Algerian hirak, emphasizing that all of its elected personnel would refuse to “organize the election.” read more

Climate activists block entrance to London Stock Exchange

LONDON — Environmental activists are blocking the main entrance to the London Stock Exchange after gluing themselves to the doorway while wearing LED displays reading “climate emergency.”The Extinction Rebellion demonstrators also climbed on top of a Docklands Light Railway train at Canary Wharf station in east London as they focus on the city’s financial centres during the final day of protests in the capital. The group says the financial services industry is being targeted for “funding climate and ecological destruction.”Activists held signs saying “business as usual = death” and “don’t jail the canaries.”Some 1,000 people have been arrested during the protests, which started April 15. More than 10,000 police officers have been deployed in response to demonstrations that disrupted transportation by targeting bridges, intersections and commuter trains.The Associated Press read more

Apple’s fiscal 2Q revenue, profit sag amid iPhone slump

SAN FRANCISCO — Weak iPhone demand is still causing Apple’s overall sales to shrink, despite the company’s effort to emphasize services designed to bring in a steady flow of money from its 1.4 billion devices still in use.Revenue for the January-March quarter fell 5% from the same time in 2017 to $58 billion, the company said in its earnings report Tuesday. That downturn followed a 5% drop in the previous quarter.Its the first time Apple has suffered two consecutive quarterly revenue declines in two-and-half years.Apple still earned a profit of $11.6 billion during its latest quarter, though that was down 16% compared to last year.The company also announced a 5% increase in its quarterly dividend to 77 cents per share.The Associated Press read more

UN agency launches free ecourse on causes and characteristics of malnutrition

9 May 2007The causes and nature of malnutrition are the focus of a free e-learning course launched today by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) with the aim of improving the collection, analysis and dissemination of food security information. The three-lesson course, known as “Nutritional Status Assessment and Analysis,” has been produced by FAO in conjunction with the European Commission (EC) and was launched in Rome during the latest meeting of the Committee of World Food Security.Each lesson is designed to be interactive and self-paced, using illustrated step-by-step exercises and instructions to guide the student and drawing on case studies, job aids and methodological guidelines. The course also has resources available for trainers.Other e-learning courses already available include “Reporting Food Security Information” and “Food Security Information Systems and Networks.” A French-language version of each course is expected to be developed soon. read more

UN agency helping countries fight illegal fishing in Indian Ocean

Representatives from 13 Indian Ocean countries are meeting in Mauritius, under the auspices of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to focus on strengthening port security – a key tool for combating illegal fishing.“We are now on the threshold of a new era in addressing [illegal] fishing through the key compliance tool of port State measures… widely regarded to be one of the most cost-effective means of combating [illegal] fishing,” Ichiro Nomura, Assistant Director-General of FAO’s Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, told participants.Tighter port controls make it harder for illegal fishers to offload, refuel and take on supplies, and can include requiring boats to radio in prior to docking and in-port inspections.Illegal fishing in the Indian Ocean takes on many forms, including fishing without permission or out of season, harvesting prohibited species, using outlawed fishing gear and disregarding catch quotas. It is a particular concern in the western Indian Ocean and along the eastern coast of Africa, where fishing boats have taken advantage of the lack of strong enforcement measures in coastal countries. The two-day workshop comes on the heels of an international symposium organized by the Indian Ocean Commission in partnership with FAO, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission and the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission, during which country representatives, intergovernmental organizations, industry and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) discussed new measures taken in recent years against illegal fishing in the region.The stakes are high, particularly for the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, whose Executive Secretary, Alejandro Anganuzzi, warned that unless effective control measures are implemented soon, the sustainability of tuna fisheries in the region “might be compromised,” adding that port controls offer an attractive option, given their cost-effectiveness.In March 2007, 131 countries attending a high-level FAO meeting agreed to start work on a legally binding global agreement establishing common port control measures. 21 June 2007Representatives from 13 Indian Ocean countries are meeting in Mauritius, under the auspices of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to focus on strengthening port security – a key tool for combating illegal fishing. read more

DPR Korea UN nuclear agency experts to embark on mission

11 July 2007An inspection team from the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will travel to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the next few days to implement agreements to monitor the shutdown and eventual abandonment of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities. The IAEA received an invitation from the DPRK yesterday, UN spokesperson Marie Okabe told reporters in New York today.Late last month, IAEA inspectors visited Pyongyang and reached agreement with authorities regarding arrangements for the agency’s monitoring and verification of the shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facility and the reactor under construction in Taechon.Earlier this week, the IAEA’s Board of Governors decided to dispatch inspectors after approving a report detailing the agency’s future activities in the Asian country.“This is the beginning of a long and complex process, but I welcome the return of the DPRK to the verification process,” IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei told reporters after briefing the Board on 9 July.Mr. ElBaradei predicted that the shutdown of the facilities should only take “a few days,” and cameras and other equipment will also need to be installed to monitor the sites. read more

UN wellplaced to address issue of international migration Mexico says

3 October 2007The United Nations is well-placed to address international migration, the Ambassador of Mexico said today, calling for the issue to be viewed from a comprehensive perspective and not simply as a security concern. “By virtue of the multidimensional character of international migration, Mexico considers the United Nations to be the suitable forum for dealing with the issue based on the principle of shared responsibility and the strengthening of cooperation among States directly concerned with the phenomenon,” Claude Heller told the General Assembly as it continued its annual high-level debate.He emphasized that migration should not be treated solely as a security concern and called for the promotion of a vision based on respect for the human rights of all migrants, regardless of their status, which takes account of all economic, social and cultural implications.As a country of origin, transit and destination, Mexico urged effective measures to strengthen international protection for migrants, Mr. Heller said, adding that the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families offers a “valuable frame of reference” in this effort. read more

Attack by Liberian contractors condemned by UN mission

11 March 2008The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) has condemned today’s early morning attack on its personnel and vehicles close to its logistics headquarters in the capital, Monrovia, that forced at least three staff to seek medical attention. Between 16 and 20 individuals, believed to be former individual contractors with the mission angry over a change to its maintenance contract, burned two jeeps and damaged a third vehicle at Star Base on Bushrod Island, Monrovia, about 6:30 a.m., UNMIL said in a statement. Liberia National Police, backed by UNMIL military and formed police units (FPUs), responded and brought the situation under control, arresting 17 people in the process. But three UNMIL personnel received injuries and had to receive medical attention at the mission facility at Star Base. The mission condemned “in the strongest terms” the acts of violence against UN staff and the destruction of UN personnel and said it would take all necessary security measures across the country to prevent a recurrence of this morning’s attack. “UNMIL personnel are in Liberia to support the people and Government of Liberia, and these acts constrain the ability of the UN to carry out its mandate,” the mission statement said. In a statement last month, UNMIL said it had taken steps to ensure that all qualified and high-performing contractors are given the opportunity to be interviewed and considered for jobs with the private Liberian company that has taken over their maintenance responsibilities. That company has reported that 24 of 98 individual contractors based in Monrovia have been hired, as well as 114 of 128 contractors based outside the capital. Of the 226 contractors affected by the new maintenance contract, as of today only nine have not picked up their final pay. The mission, which stressed that its recruitment and employment procedures are in line with UN rules, regulations, directives, standards and codes of conduct, also said that those affected contractors with the necessary qualifications and experience would be considered favourably for any future jobs with UNMIL. read more

Senior UN official assesses stabilization plan in eastern DR Congo

23 July 2008A top UN official in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ross Mountain, is visiting North Kivu province with the Congolese Minister of Planning, Olivier Kamitatu, to assess the implementation of the security and stabilization plan for eastern DRC. Mr. Mountain, who is the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Humanitarian Coordinator for the DRC, and Mr. Kamitatu will be meeting the local authorities and representatives of UN agencies to discuss the Amani Programme, the Support Strategy on Security and the Stabilization Plan for eastern DRC. The plan includes improvements to roads, police stations and other priority infrastructure projects.Mr. Mountain and Mr. Kamitatu are traveling today along one of the roads undergoing renovation, between Saké and Masisi which will provide employment to more than 1000 people living along it over the next three months. A similar rehabilitation project along the Rutshuru-Ishasha road is also due to start soon.Meanwhile, the UN Mission in DRC, MONUC, has reported several violations by armed groups of the ceasefire in Ituri province. On Monday, two local armed groups exchanged fire in the town of Tchey. No casualties were reported, and the battle ended with the intervention of UN peacekeepers. In South Kivu, UN peacekeepers intervened three times this week to put an end to gun battles between local Congolese groups.At its weekly news conference, MONUC called for all armed groups in eastern DRC to respect the Goma Acts of Engagement, agreed in January.MONUC said that there had been positive progress at the political level and on the ground, with a reduction in armed clashes between the signatories to the Goma Acts, and improved access for humanitarians to vulnerable people.However, the UN mission said progress remained very slow and the civilian population in both North and South Kivu continued to be subjected to serious human rights violations. This was creating a climate of fear, which was preventing the return of more than a million displaced people, MONUC said. read more

More than 5000 Bhutanese refugees resettled from Nepal with UN help

23 September 2008Over 5,000 refugees from Bhutan have left their camps in Nepal to resettle in third countries this year, in one of the United Nations refugee agency’s largest and most promising resettlement programmes. The vast majority of the refugees have left for the United States, followed by Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Canada and Denmark, under the programme which began only this year, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).Over 50,000 refugees have expressed interest in resettlement – just under half of the total 107,000 refugees from Bhutan who live in seven camps in eastern Nepal. “Some of them have been in exile for as long as 17 years,” UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler told a news conference in Geneva.Regular meetings have been held with the refugees to discuss resettlement and other durable solutions, as well as provide information for women at risk or people with disabilities. “Refugees are being offered English classes as well as additional vocational and skill-based training to prepare for a life in a new country,” Mr. Spindler said.While another 2,000 to 3,000 refugees are expected to leave Nepal for third countries by the end of this year, UNHCR “continues to advocate for the option of voluntary return to Bhutan for those refugees who wish to do so, and hopes that talks on repatriation can restart soon,” he added.UNHCR attributes the success of the programme to close cooperation with the Nepali Government, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the resettlement countries. read more

Violence against women remains widespread and largely unpunished – UN officials

25 November 2008Violence against women is the least punished crime in the world, United Nations officials said today, urging governments to end the widespread impunity and to take measures to ensure that the laws and policies that aim to protect women and girls are enforced. In separate messages to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, observed today, the heads of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) called on policymakers to harness the momentum generated by recent global efforts against the scourge.UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid described the battle to end violence against women as “a major challenge of our time,” alongside climate change and the global financial crisis.“Violence against women is the most prevalent and least punished crime in the world. It is also a grave threat to health and well-being,” Ms. Obaid said in a statement, adding that it was disturbing that it still persisted 60 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted.In her message, Ms. Obaid underscored UNFPA’s commitment to support women’s empowerment, gender equality and reproductive health and rights and said that tackling violence against women and girls was critical to ensuring the success of these efforts. UNIFEM Executive Director Inés Alberdi pointed to two significant events this year that she said have marked a defining moment in the global drive to end violence against women.In March Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched his global campaign, UNiTE to End Violence against Women with a 2015 deadline to coincide with the target date for meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of internationally agreed objectives for eradicating poverty and other social ills, including gender inequality. “[It] is a challenge for all of us, governments, civil society as well as the international community to take the actions needed to stop this prevalent human rights violation,” said Ms. Alberdi.She added that the Security Council reached another milestone in adopting resolution 1820, which recognizes sexual violence in situations of armed conflict as a threat to national and international peace and security and calls for decisive actions by all involved in the conflict to protect women and girls.The UNIFEM campaign, which aims to gather one million names on its “Say No to Violence against Women” website, also wraps up today and the signatures will be handed over to Mr. Ban to coincide with the Day.“Now, we must use this momentum to get governments to implement the laws and policies already in place. Despite the fact that more governments than ever have passed such laws, there is still a wide implementation gap,” said Ms. Alberdi.Mr. Ban, in his message for the Day, noted the progress that has been made but also highlighted the need to address existing gaps. “We need to do more to enforce laws and counter impunity. We need to combat attitudes and behaviour that condone, tolerate, excuse or ignore violence committed against women. And we need to increase funding for services for victims and survivors,” he stated. “All of us – men and women, soldiers and peacekeepers, citizens and leaders – have a responsibility to help end violence against women. States must honour their commitments to prevent violence, bring perpetrators to justice and provide redress to victims. And each of us must speak out in our families, workplaces and communities, so that acts of violence against women cease,” he stressed.Adding her voice to the call to ensure justice for women, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that despite many advances over the past century, some level of impunity for sexual and other forms of violence against women occurs all across the world, and in virtually all societies. “In some societies, men are fully aware that if they beat or injure – or, in some cases, even kill – their wives or daughters, they will not end up in court,” the High Commissioner said in a statement. “What kind of lesson does a State pass on to the next generation, when it turns a blind eye to the abusive treatment of one parent by the other? “Efforts to combat violence against women will never be fully successful while national legal frameworks to protect them, and grant them the possibility of economic and social independence, remain inadequate,” Ms. Pillay added. In Iraq, women and girls are becoming “the soft targets of violence and the invisible victim of the conflict,” said Yakin Ertürk, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.Ms. Ertürk described a dire situation for women in the Middle Eastern country, who are the victims of rape, sex trafficking, forced and early marriages, murder and abduction for sectarian or criminal reasons and are either forced or driven into prostitutionShe also expressed deep concern about the increase in violence within families, in particular the rise of so-called honour killings. “Honour killings are among the primary causes of unnatural deaths among women in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, and a number of reports are also documenting the practice of female genital mutilation,” Ms. Ertürk said in a press release. Faced with the despair of not even being able to report sexual attacks for fear of being ostracized or killed by their own families, many women are turning to suicide to escape the cycle of violence. read more

Rural poverty projects in 16 countries receive major boost from new UN

19 December 2008Efforts to reduce rural poverty in 16 developing countries received a major boost thanks to $258 million in new funding approved by the United Nations agency working to help men and women in impoverished areas increase their incomes and improve their communities. The Executive Board of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) approved more than $197.55 million in loans and $60.83 million in grants for the projects during its meeting this week in Rome.“The agreement of the Executive Board to this package will enable IFAD to continue to work closely with national governments and partners to help poor rural people in these 16 developing countries build better lives,” said IFAD President Lennart Båge. “The rural poor, who are the most vulnerable to global problems like climate change and financial crisis, are at the centre of IFAD’s work and we are single-minded in our commitment to do more and serve them better. The Board’s support will allow us to do that,” he added.The largest portion of the newly-approved funds, over $100 million, will assist several African nations, including the strife-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) as well as Swaziland and Kenya, to reduce poverty, improve food security and enhance living conditions. Projects in Asia and the Pacific will benefit from some $96 million in funds to, among other things, increase agricultural production and market access, acquiring vital inputs such as seeds and tools, and rehabilitating necessary infrastructure. Several countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe, as well as Yemen and the West Bank and Gaza, are also set to benefit from this fresh injection of funds.Meanwhile, IFAD reported that its member States have backed a $3 billion, three-year programme for the agency, which, coupled with co-financing from its many partners, could mean as much as $7.5 billion for agriculture, poverty reduction and food security for the world’s most vulnerable rural populations.As part of this package, members agreed on a target of $1.2 billion in new contributions to help poor rural people already suffering from recent spikes in food and fuel prices.“This significant increase from IFAD’s members, especially given these financially tough times, is an extraordinary expression of political resolve to support poor rural people,” said Mr. Båge. Some 75 per cent of the world’s poorest people – some 1 billion women, children and men – live in rural areas and depend on agriculture and related activities for their livelihoods. With the new resources, IFAD will be able to create and support economic opportunities for an estimated 60 million of them. read more

Cost of violence against women beyond calculation warns UN chief

In some countries, as many as one in three women will be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime, Mr. Ban said in his message for the Day, whose theme this year is “Women and Men: United to End Violence Against Women.” “We must stop the habitual and socially ingrained violence that mars lives, destroys health, perpetuates poverty and prevents us from achieving women”s equality and empowerment,” he stressed.Last year the Secretary-General launched a global campaign “Unite to End Violence Against Women” ending in 2015, the target date for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of internationally agreed objectives which include eradicating poverty, achieving universal gender equality in education and reversing the rate of HIV/AIDS incidence. “Violence against women is also linked to the spread of HIV/AIDS,” said Mr. Ban. He explained that not only are large numbers of women in some countries forced to have sex, but “Women and girls are also systematically and deliberately subject to rape and sexual violence in war.”“Violence, and particularly sexual and gender-based violence, is one of the defining characteristics of contemporary conflict,” said Ron Redmond, the spokesperson of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Mr. Ban noted that “Death, injury, medical costs and lost employment are but the tip of an iceberg. The impact on women and girls, their families, their communities and their societies in terms of shattered lives and livelihoods is beyond calculation.”To change the mindsets and socially ingrained habits of generations will not be easy and will take the collective force of individuals, organizations and governments, added the Secretary-General.“We must work together to state loud and clear, at the highest level, that violence against women will not be tolerated, in any form, in any context, in any circumstance,” he said, adding that “We need a positive image of women in the media. We need laws that say violence is a crime, that hold perpetrators accountable and are enforced.”In another statement, UN Children”s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Ann Veneman underlined the significant role men and boys have to play in ending violence against women and called for putting in place programmes and activities to educate them.Michael Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, called for gender equality to be at the core of all the world body”s actions, saying that it is not only necessary for social justice but also for achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Staffan de Mistura, noted during commemorations marking the Day that, “Iraqi women made much progress towards asserting their political representational rights during the provincial elections held last January, but remain vulnerable to discrimination and violence on the basis of gender.” Mr. de Mistura pointed to the large number of widowed Iraqi women as an issue requiring urgent and immediate attention and expressed his concern that the many years of wars and conflict have stalled and set back progress towards achieving equality for Iraqi women.To mark the occasion in Afghanistan, up to 15,000 women gathered in Kandahar, Bamyan, Kabul, Herat, Mazar, Daikundi and Jalalabad wearing blue scarves to pray for peace.Speaking at the country”s main event at the Amani High School in Kabul the Special Representative for of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Kai Eide said, “Afghanistan needs its women in order to make the progress we all seek.”In Somalia, many women and girls are victims of violence, human trafficking, beatings, rape, child marriage, and female genital mutilation and remain silent for fear of being ostracized or killed by their own families, said Mark Bowden, UN Resident and Humanitarian.“Violence against women and girls is not a women”s issue, it is an issue that concerns and diminishes us all. No custom, tradition or religion can justify cruel and degrading treatment,” said Mr. Bowden. 8 March 2009Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today added his voice to a chorus of United Nations officials calling for an end to the routine violence suffered by women and girls around the world, in a message marking the International Day for Women. read more

Somalia top UN envoy praises new Government urges full support

13 March 2009The United Nations’ top envoy for Somalia today lauded progress made in the past month by the new Government of the Horn of Africa country, which has been torn by factional strife since the overthrow of Siad Barre in 1991. In a statement issued in Nairobi, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah encouraged the Government of National Unity to continue working towards peace and stability and urged Somalis and the international community to support it. The formation of the Government last month, and its return to the violence-plagued capital, Mogadishu, followed on the 2008 UN-facilitated Djibouti Agreement between the Transitional Federal Government and the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, in which the two agreed to end their conflict.In today’s statement, Mr. Ould-Abdallah said he was pleased by the number of “patriotic Parliamentarians” who have returned to Mogadishu to start their work, and called for concrete diplomatic and material assistance for both branches of the administration.“President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the Speaker and the Prime Minister have demonstrated responsible leadership in all fields and the unity Government is now functioning from the capital,” Mr. Ould-Abdallah said. He added that the Council of Ministers has met a number of times and passed important measures, including one on the place of Sharia, or Islamic law, in the country.“All these developments will not only help the move towards normality inside the country, but will also help secure Somalia’s image and reputation abroad. There is now absolutely no excuse for any Somali to continue plotting to destroy more Somali lives,” he said.Planning is underway for the next meeting of the High Level Committee that is tasked to look at such issues as political cooperation, justice and reconciliation, Mr. Ould-Abdallah said, adding that there would also be a meeting of the Joint Security Committee shortly.With the vast majority of Somalis working together for the first time in many years, he said, the international community must do its part to fully support the new Government. “This help is not needed at some point in the future, but right now,” he stressed.He noted that President Ahmed has received offers of support from Africa, the Middle East, Europe, the Unite States and elsewhere and Somalia will be discussed at the Security Council on 20 March and at the upcoming League of Arab States Summit in Qatar.In his latest report on Somalia, Secretary-General Ban also praised recent progress, but cautioned that much work lies ahead, with the instability caused by hostilities, abductions and fear continuing to hinder delivery of vital humanitarian aid.A January UN analysis found that more than three million people in Somalia, a third or more of the total population, will remain dependent on assistance this year.Mr. Ban noted that among the aims of the UN’s comprehensive strategy for Somalia is to help the African Union Mission there (AMISOM) give Somali security institutions the capacity to create a level of security to enable the Djibouti peace process to continue.The UN Security Council has yet to decide whether to deploy a multidimensional UN peacekeeping operation that would take over from AMISOM. read more