Inter Press ServiceExtra TVUN – Inter Press Service http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Sat, 23 Jun 2018 00:37:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.6 Pompeo in Talks with Blacklisted North Korean Official in New Yorkhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/pompeo-talks-blacklisted-north-korean-official-new-york/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pompeo-talks-blacklisted-north-korean-official-new-york http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/06/pompeo-talks-blacklisted-north-korean-official-new-york/#respond Fri, 01 Jun 2018 09:52:04 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156336 A rare closed-door meeting between the United States and North Korea was described as a major breakthrough—the first time in nearly two decades. The venue for the meeting was, not surprisingly, New York City which hosts the Permanent Mission of North Korea to the United Nations, the only official presence of the heavily-sanctioned Pyongyang regime […]

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By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Jun 1 2018 (IPS)

A rare closed-door meeting between the United States and North Korea was described as a major breakthrough—the first time in nearly two decades.

The venue for the meeting was, not surprisingly, New York City which hosts the Permanent Mission of North Korea to the United Nations, the only official presence of the heavily-sanctioned Pyongyang regime in the United States.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with General Kim Yong Chol, the highest ranking North Korean official to visit the US in 18 years, who is also described as the “right-hand man” of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The meeting was in advance of the upcoming summit meeting between Kim and President Donald Trump scheduled to take place in Singapore June 11-12.

Prior to the talks in New York, the Trump administration issued a waiver for General Kim to travel to the US since the Obama administration had blacklisted him back in 2010 for his role as the head of North Korean intelligence agency.

The agency had been castigated for its secretive role in supplying conventional weapons to countries such as Syria in defiance of UN sanctions.

General Kim refused to respond to questions from the press as he left the residence of the deputy permanent representative of the United States to the UN, where he and his delegation were hosted for dinner.

After the bilateral talks, Pompeo told reporters: “I believe they are contemplating a path forward where they can make a strategic shift, one that the country had not been prepared to make before. And they will have to choose”

With Singapore summit still up in the air, a senior State Department official was quoted as saying: “The president can make a fly or no-fly decision any time he wants to.”

 

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Movie Mogul Arraigned on Charges of Sexual Abusehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/movie-mogul-arraigned-charges-sexual-abuse/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=movie-mogul-arraigned-charges-sexual-abuse http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/05/movie-mogul-arraigned-charges-sexual-abuse/#respond Mon, 28 May 2018 09:54:13 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156337 When Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein arrived for his arraignment on charges of sexual abuse, there were hordes of photographers and reporters waiting for him outside the New York Supreme Court.   But this time the scenario was different for a celebrity movie producer who was surrendering to authorities after scores of women, including several […]

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By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, May 28 2018 (IPS)

When Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein arrived for his arraignment on charges of sexual abuse, there were hordes of photographers and reporters waiting for him outside the New York Supreme Court.  

But this time the scenario was different for a celebrity movie producer who was surrendering to authorities after scores of women, including several A-list actresses and fashion models, accused him of sexual misconduct, including first and second degree rape.

Benjamin Brafman, one of the best known lawyers in town, who was defending Weinstein, said in a statement to the media on Friday: “Mr. Weinstein has always maintained that he has never engaged in non-consensual sexual behavior with anyone. Nothing about today’s proceedings changes Mr. Weinstein’s position. He has entered a plea of not guilty and fully expects to be exonerated.”

The arraignment came about seven months after both the New Yorker and the New York Times published damning investigative reports detailing some of Weinstein’s sexual encounters in hotel rooms and Hollywood offices. Weinstein has vehemently denied the charges and said all his sexual encounters were “consensual”.

The charges followed a joint investigation by the police and the Manhattan District Attorney’s office. The allegations became a driving force in the #MeToo movement  against sexual harassment, which also triggered a “zero tolerance” policy for sexual misconduct at the United Nations.

At the hearing, Weinstein had to surrender his passport and was released on a $1 million bail. He was barred from travelling beyond New York and Connecticut and his movements will be monitored electronically.

Speaking to reporters outside the court, Brafman said: “Under the circumstances, he’s holding up reasonably well. No one can be happy to be in the position that he is in.”

“As terrible a crime as rape is, it is equally reprehensible to be falsely accused of rape, and since Mr. Weinstein has denied these allegations, that’s where we are,” he added.

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Women’s March Focuses on Gender Equality & Minority Rightshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/womens-march-focuses-gender-equality-minority-rights/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=womens-march-focuses-gender-equality-minority-rights http://www.ipsnews.net/2018/01/womens-march-focuses-gender-equality-minority-rights/#respond Sun, 21 Jan 2018 09:13:11 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156283 The one-year anniversary of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington was commemorated in mid-town Manhattan yesterday where thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of New York protesting the policies of the Trump administration—focusing specifically on gender empowerment, women’s rights, diversity, migrants, people of color, and gay and lesbian rights, in what is described as […]

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By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Jan 21 2018 (IPS)

The one-year anniversary of the 2017 Women’s March in Washington was commemorated in mid-town Manhattan yesterday where thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets of New York protesting the policies of the Trump administration—focusing specifically on gender empowerment, women’s rights, diversity, migrants, people of color, and gay and lesbian rights, in what is described as an increasingly polarized American society.

The slogans, which captured the political mood of the demonstrators, were strikingly feminist: “God is Coming & She is Pissed off”, “Equal Rights are Human Rights,” “Nasty Women Unite”, and “I will not Go Quietly”.

The marchers, spread over 20-25 blocks, were noisy but not unruly as hundreds of New York City police officers provided security, with demonstrators gathering at Central Park West. The march was organized by the Women’s March Alliance.

Katherine Siemionko, the founder of the Alliance and lead organizer of the New York City march, said: “Our goal is to unite people all over the world in the fight for human rights. Women’s March Alliance is honored to be one of the leaders in this effort and we’re excited – but not surprised – that New Yorkers have already come out and committed themselves to leading the effort”.

She said there will be marches happening all over the world on January 20th and 21st – and there will surely be another record-setting #weekendofwomen.”

Rosie Perez, actress and feminist activist, told the crowd: “We are going to keep the pressure on. Thank you to the women who came forward…who called out Mr. Weinstein and brought him down. We need to do the same for Trump.”

Last year’s protests were triggered by the election of Donald Trump as the 45th US President and took place on Jan. 21, the day after his inauguration. This year’s “weekend of women” is expected to include about 250 similar marches worldwide.

This is the second Women’s March in NYC. The first march last year drew an estimated 400,000 people.

The Alliance, which is independent from the Women’s March group in Washington D.C. march, is a nonprofit created in January 2017 and “whose mission is to raise women’s voices through education and activism.”  Besides the march, the group hosts educational workshops, training sessions, nonpartisan events, and festivals.

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Bronx Fire Deadliest in Over 25 Years, Says Mayorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/bronx-fire-deadliest-25-years-says-mayor/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bronx-fire-deadliest-25-years-says-mayor http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/bronx-fire-deadliest-25-years-says-mayor/#respond Fri, 29 Dec 2017 09:16:03 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156284 A major fire, fueled by strong winds on a frigid night, killed at least 12 people in a Bronx building, inhabited mostly with migrants from West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America. New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro described the fire as “historic,” since it was one of the deadliest fires in the city […]

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By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Dec 29 2017 (IPS)

A major fire, fueled by strong winds on a frigid night, killed at least 12 people in a Bronx building, inhabited mostly with migrants from West Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America.

New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro described the fire as “historic,” since it was one of the deadliest fires in the city in more than a quarter century.

Addressing reporters, Mayor Bill de Blasio said that besides the 12 deaths, four were critically injured and two people suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Amongst the dead was a one year old child.

“Tonight in the Bronx we’ve seen the worst fire tragedy in at least a quarter of a century,’’ the mayor said. “It is unspeakable, and families have been torn apart.”

The building, constructed of plaster and brick and built in 1916, was not fireproof, according to property records. The blaze was raised to a five-alarm status, involving more than 160 fire fighters.

Commissioner Nigro said that City records indicated the building had six open violations, including one for a defective smoke detector on the first floor, where the fire began.

While the American Red Cross responded with blankets, the nearby Grace H. Dodge vocational high school was turned into a reception center for people who needed housing and other services.

The last deadly fire took place at the Happy Land social club in New York city which killed 87 people back in 1990. An arsonist, Julio Gonzalez, used $1 worth of gasoline to set fire to the club, after a bouncer booted him following a spat with an ex-girlfriend. He died in prison on Sept. 13, 2016.

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Police Tighten Surveillance to Thwart Terrorist Attacks on Cityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/police-tighten-surveillance-thwart-terrorist-attacks-city/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=police-tighten-surveillance-thwart-terrorist-attacks-city http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/12/police-tighten-surveillance-thwart-terrorist-attacks-city/#respond Tue, 12 Dec 2017 16:11:53 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156150 A Bangladesh immigrant, 27 year-old Akayed Ullah, set off a pipe bomb strapped to his body in a crowded passageway at a Times Square subway station yesterday. The explosive failed to detonate but burnt him and injured three others causing panic during the morning rush hour in the heart of the city. At a news […]

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By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Dec 12 2017 (IPS)

A Bangladesh immigrant, 27 year-old Akayed Ullah, set off a pipe bomb strapped to his body in a crowded passageway at a Times Square subway station yesterday. The explosive failed to detonate but burnt him and injured three others causing panic during the morning rush hour in the heart of the city.

At a news conference, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters: “This was an attempted terrorist attack’, pointing out that “terrorists yearn to attack New York City.”

But that target may be increasingly difficult due to stepped up Police surveillance and unprecedented security measures to thwart future attacks.

New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill told reporters the suspect had “an improvised low-tech explosive device attached to his body”

But in the fight against domestic terrorism, experts believe that the biggest single challenge facing New York City is “lone wolf” attacks by terrorists acting individually –and with no known ties to groups overseas.

The pipe bomb followed an attack in October when, Sayfullo Saipov, an immigrant from Uzbekistan rammed a rented truck along a lower Manhattan bike bath killing eight and injuring 12. He was known to have been “radicalized” while living in the US and had not ties to terror groups.

In September 2016, a New Jersey man was convicted of planting bombs in the Chelsea neighborhood in Manhattan. The attack with home-made bombs injured dozens of people.

All three have been described as “lone wolf” attacks on an unsuspecting public.

In a television interview, John Miller, Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism, said preventing lone wolf attacks “is very difficult and getting harder.”

The NYPD’s monitoring of potential attackers has generated civil rights law suits, including charges of “illegal surveillance of Muslims” living in the city.

After the October attack, Miller said Saipov “appears to have followed almost exactly to a T the instructions that ISIS has put out on its social media channels”.

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US Woman Cracks Africa’s Dominance in New York City Marathonhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/us-woman-cracks-africas-dominance-new-york-city-marathon/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=us-woman-cracks-africas-dominance-new-york-city-marathon http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/11/us-woman-cracks-africas-dominance-new-york-city-marathon/#respond Mon, 06 Nov 2017 16:15:54 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156151 With an estimated two million people lining up the streets, the annual New York City Marathon ended on a predictable note: the Africans dominated one of the most popular events testing the endurance of over 50,000 athletes from more than 125 countries in a 26.2 mile run through the city’s five boroughs—- Staten Island, Brooklyn, […]

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By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Nov 6 2017 (IPS)

With an estimated two million people lining up the streets, the annual New York City Marathon ended on a predictable note: the Africans dominated one of the most popular events testing the endurance of over 50,000 athletes from more than 125 countries in a 26.2 mile run through the city’s five boroughs—- Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan.

But this year, there was one remarkable exception: the women’s race was won by 36 year-old Shane Flanagan, the first American woman to do so since Miki Gorman back in 1977. She completed the course in 2 hours and 26 minutes.

The first three to reach the finishing line in the men’s event were all from Africa: Geoffrey Kamworor (Kenya) followed by his country man Wilson Kipsang (Kenya), who won the marathon in 2014,  and Lelisa Desisa (Ethiopia) finishing third.

In the womens’ event, Flanagan was followed by Mary Keitany (Kenya), the reigning champion for the last three years, and Mamitu Daska (US).

At the conclusion of the event, Flanagan told reporters: ”What I know 100 percent is that we are a very resilient nation and I don’t know that there are tougher people than New Yorkers.”

She was one of the runners in the ill-fated 2013 Boston marathon which came under a terrorist attack.

Described as one of the biggest gathering since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the New York City marathon took place under tight security and in the shadow of an attack last month in lower Manhattan that killed eight people and injured and dozen more.

With reports of rising terror attacks on the streets of France, Belgium and Germany, the New York Police Department provided an extensive security cover – ensuring an incident-free event.

At a press conference before the marathon, NYPD officials said there would be additional security measures, including sand trucks to block intruders and sniper teams in rooftop locations.

Referring to the increased number of police officers, Carlos Gomez, chief of the department, said: “It will be the most deployed at this event.

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UN to be in Lock Down Mode For Meeting of World Leadershttp://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/un-lock-mode-meeting-world-leaders/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-lock-mode-meeting-world-leaders http://www.ipsnews.net/2017/09/un-lock-mode-meeting-world-leaders/#respond Thu, 14 Sep 2017 08:18:03 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=156233 President Donald Trump’s appearance before the UN General Assembly next week will be accompanied by tight security measures by local and federal law enforcement agencies, including the New York Police Department (NYPD), the US Secret Service and UN Security. The 72nd session of the General Assembly, which will be attended by over 150 world leaders, […]

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By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Sep 14 2017 (IPS)

President Donald Trump’s appearance before the UN General Assembly next week will be accompanied by tight security measures by local and federal law enforcement agencies, including the New York Police Department (NYPD), the US Secret Service and UN Security.

The security measures will include road closures, rooftop snipers and heavy concrete barriers to thwart the entry of any vehicles that could be used in terrorist attacks
The 72nd session of the General Assembly, which will be attended by over 150 world leaders, will be a “first” both for Trump and for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, a former Prime Minister of Portugal, who took office in January 2017.

The security measures will include road closures, rooftop snipers and heavy concrete barriers to thwart the entry of any vehicles that could be used in terrorist attacks. The UN will be in a lock down mode – and will continue to be so until all of the world leaders leave town by end September.

According to the NYPD, thousands of police officers will be deployed outside the UN perimeter—and residents in the neighborhood will be checked and double-checked before they are permitted to cross from Second to First Avenue. So will UN delegates, staffers and journalist, even with valid UN passes.

All UN retirees, representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and visitors, however, will be banned from the UN neighborhood even if they are armed with passes. And the UN precincts will be a restricted security zone.

The Police is also expecting anti-Trump protestors in the city—along with a march to combat “white supremacy” that will begin outside the Grand Central Terminal.

A left-wing group Code Pink has organized a march to protest Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Among other planned protests will be a rally against Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, mostly by Iranian dissidents in the US.

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New York City Rejects Singling Out Muslims for Surveillancehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/new-york-city-rejects-singling-out-muslims-for-surveillance/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-york-city-rejects-singling-out-muslims-for-surveillance http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/03/new-york-city-rejects-singling-out-muslims-for-surveillance/#respond Fri, 25 Mar 2016 19:28:27 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=144383 With the rise in terrorist attacks in Europe, the Muslim community in New York City is fast becoming the centre of attention in the US presidential campaign currently underway. But the city’s Police Commissioner William Bratton strongly denounced a statement attributed to Republican Presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who called on the police […]

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By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Mar 25 2016 (IPS)

With the rise in terrorist attacks in Europe, the Muslim community in New York City is fast becoming the centre of attention in the US presidential campaign currently underway.

But the city’s Police Commissioner William Bratton strongly denounced a statement attributed to Republican Presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz of Texas who called on the police to “patrol and secure” Muslim communities.

Addressing a press conference, Bratton told reporters that Cruz was “out of line” and unfit for the White House and pointed out there were 900 Muslim members in the New York Police Department (NYPD).

Bratton’s comments were backed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio who shared the stage with the Police Commissioner as they faced reporters.

Currently, there are over 600,000 Muslims in a city with a population of more than 8.5 million people. New York is considered one of America’s most culturally and religiously diverse cities.

The political rhetoric against Muslims – erroneously perceived as being potential terrorists or sympathizers with global terrorism – has been rising in the current presidential campaign with the Republican front runner Donald Trump calling for a temporary halt to all Muslim visitors entering the US.

Referring to Cruz’s comments, Bratton told reporters: “He doesn’t know what the hell he is talking about, to be frank with you.” “While he’s running around here, he probably has some Muslim officers guarding him.”

“If he’s that short-sighted, I can understand why the American public would repudiate his efforts to run this great country,” said Bratton. “You’ve got to be careful when you paint with a broad brush, because you tend to spill some of that paint on yourself,” he warned.

NYPD Deputy Police Commissioner John Miller, who is in charge of counter-terrorism, said the call for “patrol and secure” had a sub-text: “occupy and intimidate”.

He said the NYPD has more than 15,000 in its Counter-Terrorism task force and has no plans to intrude into Muslim communities in violation of their civil rights.

Miller said the NYPD has been sending investigate teams to France, Belgium and Tunisia following several terrorist attacks in these countries.

The current rhetoric, he said, is reminiscent of the internment of over 110,000 Japanese-Americans in 1942 (after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour) and the “red scare” of Communism during the McCarthy era in the 1950s when thousands of Americans were falsely accused of being Communists and a threat to the United States.

Bratton said New York City has, without a doubt, the most effective and extensive counterterrorism capacity of any city in this country — and virtually any city in the world.

These, he said, include: the Joint-Terrorism Task Force, with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the Critical Response Command, deploying more than 500 highly trained and thoroughly equipped officers to critical sites and potential targets; the NYPD Counterterrorism Bureau, which encompasses both the Joint Terrorism Task Force and Critical Response Command, including a 40-officer bomb squad; a 150-officer World Trade Center Command; radiological detection water vessels and aircraft; the NYPD Intelligence Bureau; and the NYPD Domain Awareness System consisting of one of the most sophisticated networks of cameras, license plate readers and radiological censors in the world.

(End)

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Survivors Speak Out to End Genital Mutilationhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/survivors-speak-out-to-end-genital-mutilation/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=survivors-speak-out-to-end-genital-mutilation http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/02/survivors-speak-out-to-end-genital-mutilation/#respond Tue, 09 Feb 2016 19:24:58 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143846 “I had no identity, I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t know what I was going to do, I didn’t know what my place was in society because of what I went through,” Inna Modja said while recounting her experience with female genital mutilation (FGM). FGM, which consists of procedures involving partial or total […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 9 2016 (IPS)

“I had no identity, I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t know what I was going to do, I didn’t know what my place was in society because of what I went through,” Inna Modja said while recounting her experience with female genital mutilation (FGM).

FGM, which consists of procedures involving partial or total removal of female external genitalia, is a deeply ingrained cultural practice with devastating medical, psychological, and social consequences for young girls and women, as well as for their families and communities.

While speaking to IPS, Modja, a young musician from Mali, told her story of undergoing FGM against the will of her parents. “My mom was out and when she came back, my grandmother’s sister took me and cut me, so it was a terrible moment for my family,” she described. She was just four years old.

Modja is one of millions of girls and women around the world who have had and continue to experience FGM. According to a report by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), approximately 200 million girls and women alive today have undergone the harmful practice in 30 countries. UN agencies including the World Health Organisation have described FGM as an extreme form of discrimination against women.

Though more governments have increasingly outlawed FGM, the cultural practice remains strong in many communities. To discuss and raise awareness of the issue, Modja was one of the speakers at a UN high-level event marking the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.

“It took a lot away from what I could achieve as a teenager…cutting me was telling me I was not good enough,” she told delegates.

When asked what her biggest challenges were, Modja told IPS that it was those who strongly believe in traditions and do not want change.

“I once was brutally assaulted by a family of a girl I was taking care of because she had surgery to repair her mutilation and she was staying at my place. And her brother and dad assaulted us both,” she recounted. “I think traditions are great when they’re not harmful like FGM,” she continued.

In Mali, 89 percent of women and girls experience FGM.

Also speaking at the event, “Mobilizing to Achieve the Global Goals Through the Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation by 2030” organized by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and UNICEF, was Keziah Bianca Oseko, a FGM survivor from Kenya.

She was eight years old when she experienced FGM. “The scar still remains fresh in me,” Oseko said in a blog post. She described that in her village, all girls had to undergo the practice.

“I didn’t have any option but to follow the community traditions and it’s the community that dictates, not you,” she continued.

The practice of FGM is not isolated to African communities. In Indonesia, more than half of girls under the age of 12 have undergone some form of FGM.

Patricia Tobón, a lawyer from Colombia and another panelist, said about the prevalence of FGM among the Emberá indigenous community. The practice, which many thought did not exist in the country, came to light in 2007 following the deaths of two newborn Emberá girls.

Tobón said that though legislation banning FGM is important, working at the community grassroots level and promoting dialogue is essential to ending the harmful practice.

Modja and Oseka echoed similar sentiments. “It’s going to be from villages to villages, from countries to countries, it’s going to be the fieldwork that is going to make the difference,” she told IPS while stressing the importance of speaking directly to families to change attitudes to FGM.

Oseka also highlighted the need to include boys and men in the conversation, stating: “If they stand up and speak about it, we can make a milestone in ending FGM.” “We are together in this,” Oseka remarked, looking over to Modja and then to participants.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) includes a commitment to eliminate all harmful practices, including FGM.

(End)

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Academics & Activists Discuss Poverty, Inequality, Conflicthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/academics-activists-discuss-poverty-inequality-conflict/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=academics-activists-discuss-poverty-inequality-conflict http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/academics-activists-discuss-poverty-inequality-conflict/#respond Thu, 14 Jan 2016 19:28:24 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143601 Poverty, inequality and global conflict are issues that remain under-prioritised, said President of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca in a recorded message, kicking off a conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York. “Poverty and inequality are now recognized worldwide as causes of violent conflict…the sad truth is that not enough is being done to […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Jan 14 2016 (IPS)

Poverty, inequality and global conflict are issues that remain under-prioritised, said President of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca in a recorded message, kicking off a conference at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

“Poverty and inequality are now recognized worldwide as causes of violent conflict…the sad truth is that not enough is being done to uphold the rights of vulnerable people,” she continued.

Delving into these issues further were a group of almost 30 representatives from the academic community and civil society who gathered for a workshop on ‘Poverty, Inequality and Global Conflict’.

Jointly organized by the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI), George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR), and the Chicago-based People Programme International (PP), the workshop explored the complex relationships underlying the three issues.

Among the attendees were Edward Palmer, Director of Programme International and the Black Press Institute, Glyn Ford, former member of the European Parliament, and Arturo Muyshondt, El Salvadorian actor and producer.

Speaking to IPS, Richard Rubenstein, Professor at S-CAR and one of workshop’s organisers, commended the group’s diversity and collaboration, stating: “I have not attended meetings at which academic experts from various parts of the world were able to meet with community activists, professionals, journalists, and artists to discuss problems that all agreed were of urgent global importance and to begin to explore creative political solutions.”

Chief of UNAI Secretariat Ramu Damodaran echoed similar sentiments, noting the significance of the workshop for the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “One of the aspects of these goals, is the creation of truly inclusive societies with an aspect of peace and conflict resolution,” Damodaran told IPS.

“This is really the start of seeing how the academic community can come to terms with every aspect of the sustainable development goals,” he continued.

The interactive discussion examined whether poverty and inequality are structural causes to global conflict and to what extent; actors involved in the denial of human rights and incitement of violence, including States and corporations and; potential solutions to end or mitigate these issues, not only in developing nations, but also in developed countries.

“One important aspect of its mission is to make clear the powerful connection between systems of social domination and global violence,” Rubenstein told IPS.

For instance, Cedric Herring and Loren Henderson, professors from the University of Maryland, analysed structural violence within the United States by discussing the wealth gap along racial lines.

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2013, the average wealth of white households was 13 times higher than the median wealth of black households, the highest levels observered in 30 years by the organisation.

More internationally, Dean of the School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University Andrea Bartoli, revealed the denial of rights in the Basque Country which resulted in one of the longstanding conflicts in European history.

Participants explored a range of top-down and bottom-up solutions, from cross-sector fair trade to global youth engagement to reduce poverty and inequality.

Though the gathering did not culminate in a final position on the issues, Damodaran and Rubenstein noted that this is only the start.

“A conference is really very much, in many ways, an abbreviated conversation. And what we are trying to do is to start a conversation on something that is really unfamiliar,” Damodaran told IPS.

Rubenstein said the conference, which not only generated conversations but also created a collaborative scholar and activist network, has set the stage for follow-up workshops. The group has already been invited to continue the discussion in Washington, D.C. and Malta later this year.

In the coming weeks, UNAI will publish a report concluding the workshop’s findings and recommendations. “The idea really is to sustain the conversation,” Damodaran concluded.

(End)

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Homelessness in New York City Has Exploded, Says Police Commissionerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/homelessness-in-new-york-city-has-exploded-says-police-commissioner/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=homelessness-in-new-york-city-has-exploded-says-police-commissioner http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/homelessness-in-new-york-city-has-exploded-says-police-commissioner/#respond Thu, 24 Dec 2015 19:57:19 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143442 Police Commissioner William Bratton has publicly declared that homelessness in New York City has “exploded” over the last two years. He blamed the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio for playing down the problem far too long. “A mistake the administration made early on was not validating what everyone was seeing”: the rise in street […]

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By Thalif Deen
Dec 24 2015

Police Commissioner William Bratton has publicly declared that homelessness in New York City has “exploded” over the last two years.

He blamed the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio for playing down the problem far too long. “A mistake the administration made early on was not validating what everyone was seeing”: the rise in street homelessness, he noted.

“It hasn’t crept on us,” Bratton told a panel discussion on quality-of-life issues at the Manhattan Institute, described as a conservative think tank.

Providing stark statistics and confirming the growing problem, the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development said the State of New York alone has an estimated 75,323 homeless people — out of a total population of about eight million.

But New York City, described as the world’s political and cultural capital, accounts for over 58,000 homeless people, largely living in publicly-funded shelters.

The problem of homelessness, which affects millions of people in the developing world, is fast becoming a socio-economic problem in one of the world’s most affluent nations.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there are more than 610,000 people who remain homeless on any given night in the US.

The news of the rising homeless population coincided with an announcement by de Blasio for a 2.5 billion dollar, 15-year plan to build 15,000 housing units—largely for veterans and mentally-disabled people.

De Blasio said homeless people on the streets of New York City “make many New Yorkers uncomfortable, and even fearful.”

The Mayor plans to launch a new initiative called NYC Homeless Outreach and Mobile Engagement Street Action Team or HOME-STAT.

The primary objective of HOME-STAT, which will be fully operational in March 2016, is to collect data and track the homeless in real time.

“In the face of skyrocketing housing costs, wages remaining flat, and the plummeting number of rent-regulated apartments, thousands upon thousands of families simply can’t afford their rent,” he told business leaders.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the city spends billions of dollars annually on homeless programs and plans to spend an additional one billion dollars over the next four years.

De Blasio said: “I want to make something clear. It is not illegal to be homeless, and those experiencing this painful reality take no joy in it.”

“But it is illegal, “said the Mayor, to harass New Yorkers, use drugs, erect a makeshift shelter, urinate in public and commit other quality-of-life crimes.”

(End)

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Analysis: Paris Climate Accord Lacks Legal Commitmenthttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/analysis-paris-climate-accord-lacks-legal-commitment/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=analysis-paris-climate-accord-lacks-legal-commitment http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/analysis-paris-climate-accord-lacks-legal-commitment/#comments Wed, 23 Dec 2015 19:21:39 +0000 Dr. Palitha Kohona http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143435 Former Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United Nations

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Former Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United Nations

By Dr. Palitha Kohona
COLOMBO, SRI LANKA, Dec 23 2015 (IPS)

Over 195 countries gathered in Paris and agreed on a set of broad measures to address the looming threat to human existence of global warming and climate change. A beaming UN Secretary-General, for whom climate change has been “one of the defining priorities of his tenure”, described the Paris Accord as heralding a generation with climate hope and a “monumental triumph for people and the planet”.

The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, who Chaired COP21, with emotion written all over his face, gaveled the meeting closed. The global web movement Avaaz, described the Paris Accord as a “brilliant and massive turning point in human history”. The 79 member Africa, Caribbean and Pacific Countries group (ACP), most with relatively small economies, enthusiastically welcomed the accord.

In Paris, the international community agreed, by consensus, to curtail GHG emissions and limit global warming to 2 degrees celsius by 2050, with an aspirational target of 1.5 celsius. Importantly, 188 countries pledged to implement measures unilaterally to realise this goal. They have submitted the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) to the Climate Change Secretariat, to be reviewed every five years.

There is also a commitment to provide $100 billion to developing countries by 2020 for adaptation and mitigation and at least that amount afterwards. The most vulnerable countries will receive over $250 million. Some opine that, if sincerely operationalised, the Paris Accord will have the potential for decarbonising the world economy by the middle of the current century.

The Paris Agreement will be open for signature at the UN in New York from 22 April 2016 and will enter in to force upon ratification/accession by 55 countries that account for at least 55% of the global emissions.

While the exhausted negotiators left for their distant homes, after much backslapping, hugs and teary farewells, some doubts continue to remain on whether humanity has really succeeded in meeting this overwhelming challenge to its very existence.

Even with the INDCs faithfully implemented, global temperatures will continue to rise at least till 2030. Comprehensive changes to human economic activity are essential to achieve the target of limiting global warming by at least 2c by 2050.

Past experience does not engender too much confidence in this regard. The Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, concluded by consensus in 1997, was also welcomed with joyous acclaim.

But the US, the biggest emitter of GHGs at the time, having actively participated in the negotiations, signed, but never became party to, the accord. A new administration in Washington ensured that the US would not only not become party but would stridently oppose the Kyoto Protocol.

While the US, now the second biggest emitter of GHGs, played a central role in consensus building in Paris, President Obama’s tenure as president will end in 2016. The Republican Party which has not thrown its weight behind the need to control emission levels, continues to control Congress. Republican presidential hopefuls are anything but sympathetic to limiting GHG emissions. The US policy approach to climate change would provide the excuse for many others to dither.

Canada which also participated enthusiastically in the Kyoto negotiations, formally denounced the Protocol in 2011 largely due to its inability to fulfil its commitments. Australia, another key player in Kyoto, is a major exporter of coal and gas. As to whether countries such as Australia and Canada have the economic ability and the political will to change their fossil fuel export dependent economies will remain a question.

Similarly, harmful industrial agricultural practices, especially large scale animal farming, may present difficult hurdles. Subsidised exports of fossil fuel consuming power plants by developed countries such as Germany, will tie up developing countries to years of fossil fuel use.

Similarly the fast growing economies of China and India which have only recently dragged millions of their people out of poverty, largely through the use of fossil fuels, may face huge challenges domestically in any effort to curtail GHG emissions.

About 60% of GHGs emanate from just five countries, the USA, China, India, Russia and Japan. The EU is responsible for 12% of global emissions. The above countries and the EU can on their own make a significant contribution to decarbonising the world economy.

Furthermore, the Paris Accord contains no legal commitment to curtail emissions in accordance with the INDCs. It requires parties only to meet every five years to review progress. This process could be subject to different pressures, especially from domestic industry.

While some developing countries may be capable of realising the INDCs on their own, many will need funding and climate safe technology to achieve the transition. Much of the climate safe technology is already available although at a high cost.

Developed countries agreed to provide US 100 billion to developing countries till 2020. This figure refers only to funds made available through public sources, although where exactly the full amount will come from is not exactly clear.

The World Bank estimates the funding requirement to facilitate the transition to low carbon and climate resilient economies by developing countries to be in the trillions of Dollars. For its part, it will increase the proportion of funds available to 28% of its portfolio. The Bank hopes that once financing from partners and associated private sector funders are included, the grand total available would be a potential $29 billion per year by 2020.

The World Bank will use the INDCs to develop country specific programmes for its client countries. The US has pledged $800 million. What has been offered still falls far short of the $100 billion that has been agreed to be made available by 2020.

The rapidity with which the developed world produced trillions to rescue the staggering banking system after the financial crisis prompted the present High Commissioner For Human Rights, and the then Permanent Representative of Jordan to the UN, Prince Zeid, to suggest that the climate crisis be described as a banking crisis.

An insurance mechanism for loss and damage and population displacement, relocation, etc., is recognised in the accord but may not be adequate to deal with the emerging crisis. Vast population displacements and climate refugees could be a consequence of global warming. Some writers have alluded to the possibility of Europe’s present refugee crisis, at least partly, having its roots in climate change.

The Paris Accord does not refer to “new and additional funding”, leaving room for official development assistance to be mixed up with climate assistance. Already private sector lending is being counted by some countries as development assistance. Efforts to hold historic polluters responsible for the current crisis have been effectively quashed.

One recalls the abortive effort by Palau and Trinidad and Tobago to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on responsibility for global warming. Funding for the Sustainable Development Goals, despite the Addis Ababa Accord on funding for development, will remain a competing challenge. With climate change adding to the burden, some needs will miss out.

One bright spot might be the encouragement that the renewable energy industry will receive from the Paris outcomes. China, today’s leading emitter of GHGs, with a long term policy approach guiding its industry, is investing heavily on renewable energy in an apparently targeted manner. This has resulted in specific industrial sectors, such as the manufacture of solar panels and wind turbines, booming. The environment will benefit.

Given the complexity of the problem of climate change, the enormous estimated cost of addressing it comprehensively and the inevitable resistance from vested interests, consideration should be given by governments to approaching the challenge through key economic sectors, including power generation, motor transport, railways, etc.

(End)

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Excerpt:

Former Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the United Nations

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New York Vows to Stop Terrorist Attacks on Cityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/new-york-vows-to-stop-terrorist-attacks-on-city/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=new-york-vows-to-stop-terrorist-attacks-on-city http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/new-york-vows-to-stop-terrorist-attacks-on-city/#respond Thu, 26 Nov 2015 19:48:35 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143136 When New York city launched a new counter terrorism unit, immediately following the terrorist attacks in Paris, Mayor Bill de Blasio was emphatic in his reaction: “We can say more certainly than ever before that no city in America is better prepared to defend against terrorism.” Speaking at a news conference during the launch of […]

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By Thalif Deen
NEW YORK, Nov 26 2015 (IPS)

When New York city launched a new counter terrorism unit, immediately following the terrorist attacks in Paris, Mayor Bill de Blasio was emphatic in his reaction: “We can say more certainly than ever before that no city in America is better prepared to defend against terrorism.”

Speaking at a news conference during the launch of the new Critical Response Command (CRC), based in Randall’s Island, De Blasio said New York city was using “every tool in our arsenal to stop the terrorists and protect the safety of the people of this city.”

The heavily-armed new unit has been described as a standby force ready for emergency operations at short notice and operating round the clock.

Although there were no threats against the city, the New York Police Department (NYPD) is training its entire 35,000-member force to thwart any Paris-style attacks. With the upcoming Christmas holidays, security in the city has been tightened –even as there are fears of a marked drop in tourists next month.

As part of its counter terrorism operations, the Police performed a drill in an abandoned subway station, as an exercise responding to a potential terrorist attack.

Responding to a video from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Police Commissioner William Bratton said the video had been pieced together from old footage of some of the tourist spots in the city.

“Quite frankly, there is nothing new about this video”, Bratton told a press conference, and advised New Yorkers: “Beware, but do not be afraid.” And emphasizing the safety of the city, he took a subway ride.

Still, despite the assurances, several schools in neighouring New Jersey and Long Island, have cancelled plans for visits to the city by students – primarily due to safety concerns.

Reacting to the Paris attacks, the 15-member UN Security Council adopted a unanimous resolution November 20 urging member states to take “all necessary measures” against attacks by ISIS.

But such action should be taken “in compliance with international law, in particular international human rights, refugee and humanitarian law, on the territory under the control of the Islamic State in the Levant (ISIL)”, also known as ISIS.

(End)

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UN Staff Union Warns Pay Cuts Will Largely Undermine Womenhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/un-staff-union-warns-pay-cuts-will-largely-undermine-women/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-staff-union-warns-pay-cuts-will-largely-undermine-women http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/un-staff-union-warns-pay-cuts-will-largely-undermine-women/#comments Mon, 09 Nov 2015 06:23:34 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142942 The UN’s 60,000-strong international staff union is challenging some of the proposed cuts both on salaries and allowances which will “damage living standards, working conditions and family lives” of some 32,000 staffers “working in the world’s most dangerous locations.” After a meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Friday, Ian Richards, President of the Coordinating Committee of […]

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By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 9 2015 (IPS)

The UN’s 60,000-strong international staff union is challenging some of the proposed cuts both on salaries and allowances which will “damage living standards, working conditions and family lives” of some 32,000 staffers “working in the world’s most dangerous locations.”

After a meeting with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Friday, Ian Richards, President of the Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations (CCISUA), told lPS: “We were glad to be able to raise our concerns with the Secretary-General on behalf of the 32,000 UN staff who will be affected by the first stage of the compensation review. Staff will experience cuts to pay and leave arrangements equivalent to up to 10 per cent of their income, after a three-year pay freeze.”

“The Secretary-General was frank with us and said he shared many of our concerns about the review.”
These, Richards said, included the impact on single parents, the majority of whom are women, who will lose the most — if the ICSC proposals are implemented. (undermining the UN’s role as one of the strongest advocates of women’s rights)

The 15-member International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), an independent expert body, which regulates and coordinates the conditions of service of staff in the U.N. system, has already recommended the new salary structures.
But the final decision will be taken later this month by the U.N.’s Administrative and Budgetary Committee (also known as the Fifth Committee) which will begin discussions November 9.

In a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, CCISUA said: “When Pope Francis visited New York in September, you asked His Holiness to bless the staff and called us “the heart and soul” of the UN’s work.”

“Now you are being asked by the ICSC to accept cuts to the pay and leave arrangements for the very same ‘heart and soul.’“

The letter says the ICSC proposals would: “Cut pay and allowances for sections of the professional staff in hardship stations by up to 10 per cent; make it more difficult and expensive for us to take leave to see our families and get medical check-ups; and undermine the UN’s ambition for a more diverse staff with more women in diverse roles.”

Additionally, the proposals “would also damage the UN’s ability to move staff quickly to danger zones where we are needed to save lives; take most from single parents and parents with a working spouse; reduce the right to leave for parents whose families join them at duty stations; and make pay discrimination against single parents, mainly women, worse than it is already. “

This will widen the pay and allowances gap between single parents and parents who are in couples with one income, and delay progress on the pay scale for length of service and performance, so that for the lowest grades rising through the pay scale will take 19 years instead of 10, the letter said.

Since 2000, 319 UN staffer and contractors have been killed in service, 325 injured and 164 kidnapped.

The personal risks for staff in danger zones already deter all but the most highly motivated.

“We ask: Who will work in the frontlines in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and South Sudan if they do not feel valued by the UN?”

The CCISUA has said it is “in strong agreement with the UN Agency Chiefs who have submitted that the changes would negatively impact the “fitness for purpose” of the pay structure and its ability to meet your ambitions for the staff of more diversity, more women in more diverse positions, greater mobility and support for staff health and well-being, especially mental health.”

Richards told IPS “We have pointed out that the changes will make it more difficult and more expensive for frontline staff to take leave to see their families and get medical check-ups, and the Secretary-General said it was important to protect leave arrangements and that adequate rest and recuperation is essential for health and wellbeing, as well as productivity.”

Ban also said he was concerned to avoid any negative impact on the UN’s ability to rapidly deploy staff to frontline field stations.

“We can’t believe the ICSC intended its review to have negative impacts on this scale, and we think the detail of how staff will be affected has not been fully taken into account, “ Richards said.

“We will be asking the Fifth Committee to take a view on whether the ICSC needs to do more work on this.”

The UN, he noted, needs a pay structure that supports its strategy for a highly motivated, internationally mobile staff with the necessary skills and experience, and for a more diverse staff with more women in senior roles.

“The ICSC proposals don’t meet that ambition,” Richards declared.

The writer can be contacted at thalifdeen@aol.com

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UN Frontline Staff Consider Their Options as Pay Cuts Loomhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/un-frontline-staff-consider-their-options-as-pay-cuts-loom/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=un-frontline-staff-consider-their-options-as-pay-cuts-loom http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/un-frontline-staff-consider-their-options-as-pay-cuts-loom/#respond Tue, 03 Nov 2015 09:23:50 +0000 Ian Richards http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142879 Ian Richards, president of the Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations

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Ian Richards, president of the Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations

By Ian Richards
Nov 3 2015

When the world’s most powerful ambassadors gathered in New York last week to celebrate the United Nations’ 70th anniversary, it would have been undiplomatic to mention the looming crisis facing the UN’s proudest achievement – its humanitarian aid programmes.

But the diplomats and political leaders at the anniversary concert in the General Assembly Hall with Lang Lang and the Harlem Boys Gospel Choir were well aware that they have just a few months to avert a fundamental threat to the UN’s ability to deliver its aid programmes effectively.

UN professional staff who deliver emergency relief in some of the most dangerous places in the world are now considering their options after learning that the value of their pay and allowances, including the right to family leave, will be cut by up to 10% next year, after a three year pay-freeze. The cuts will be heaviest at the lower grades, thereby falling disproportionately on staff recruited from the same developing countries that the UN is trying to help.

When the cuts were announced to World Food Programme workers in South Sudan, a staff association representative who was there said: “Everyone looked like they’d been punched in the stomach.”

With the UN weathering allegations of corruption and retaliations against whistle-blowers, the last thing it should do is undermine the humanitarian aid programmes that justify its existence and uphold its reputation across the developing world.

In the tragedy that is Syria today, the UN can at least say that it is providing food, shelter and places of safety for the displaced population and people in insecure areas.

The World Food Programme has just over 200 staff in Syria, organising daily food rations for 4.25 million people. The staff regularly cross front lines between Government and opposition control in conditions of extreme danger. Work like this has led to 319 UN staff and contractors being killed in service, 325 being injured and 164 kidnappings since 2000.

Lourdes Ibarra, WFP’s Head of Programmes for Syria, and an experienced manager in South Sudan, Afghanistan, Iraq and other “hardship stations” says: “We work in dangerous, challenging conditions. Some colleagues leave because of the conditions and the strain on their families, and we have lost colleagues who were killed in armed attacks and bombings.

“What keeps us working here is knowing that we can save lives, and to do that takes a highly committed, highly motivated staff.

“One of the most stressful situations is not actually the physical danger – it is the feeling of not being supported by some people we work with, and more so by the UN itself.

“If my staff are not being supported, and conditions mean we cannot make a difference, what do we think will keep them working here?”

Any Member State that votes in favour of these cuts needs to be able to answer that question.

Staff have set up the Fairness for Frontline Workers campaign asking the public across the world to put pressure on their Governments to reject these flawed proposals.

The cuts have been put forward by the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), the pay advisory body for global public sector organisations, in the context of budget constraints forced by austerity. This year’s package affects 32,000 globally mobile UN staff; next year the ICSC turns its attention to the 62,000 local staff.

The ICSC has struggled to justify the unbalanced impact of the cuts, which take the most from single parents, who are mainly women, at a time when Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has pledged to increase the number of women in senior field positions.

The cuts will make it more difficult and more expensive for workers posted in the most difficult and dangerous locations to take leave to see their families and get medical checkups. The UN’s medical directors have said: ‘This is an area of great concern’ because family leave and respite breaks ‘prevent stress-related symptoms and disorder in the long term.’ Mental health problems already account for 25 per cent of UN sickness leave and 40 per cent of the costs.

An unusual aspect of the situation is the strong degree of agreement between UN staff unions and management. UN aid agency chiefs have warned that effective aid programmes and humanitarian interventions will be severely compromised without experienced, motivated staff to run them.

Further, the chiefs of all UN agencies including UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the UNHCR have jointly voiced their concern that the pay changes are ‘not fit for purpose’ in terms of meeting the UN’s stated ambitions for a more diverse staff with more women in senior roles, or for increased ‘mobility’ – moving staff quickly to danger zones where they are needed to save lives.

They warn that the cuts will make it harder to attract ‘the brightest and best,’ and have a negative impact on staff motivation – when the personal risks for staff in danger zones already deter all but the most highly motivated.
We believe the cuts are penny wise, dollar foolish – saving some agencies 1 per cent of their budgets next year, but costing far more in the medium term when experienced aid managers, with years under the belt in the world’s most remote locations, leave and cannot be replaced.

If that happens, the UN won’t have much to celebrate when its 80th anniversary comes around.

(End)

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Excerpt:

Ian Richards, president of the Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations

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Haider Rizvi: a Rebel Who Battled Many Causeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/haider-rizvi-a-rebel-who-battled-many-causes/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=haider-rizvi-a-rebel-who-battled-many-causes http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/haider-rizvi-a-rebel-who-battled-many-causes/#respond Sun, 01 Nov 2015 18:51:00 +0000 an IPS Correspondent http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142865 Haider Rizvi, who spent nearly 20 years as a reporter for IPS covering the United Nations, died October 29 in Lahore, Pakistan, his home country. At the news of his death, his former colleagues and friends were quick to pay tributes to a journalist who had so much to offer – but, regrettably, failed to […]

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Haider Rizvi
IPS UN Correspondent

By an IPS Correspondent
Nov 1 2015 (IPS)

Haider Rizvi, who spent nearly 20 years as a reporter for IPS covering the United Nations, died October 29 in Lahore, Pakistan, his home country.

At the news of his death, his former colleagues and friends were quick to pay tributes to a journalist who had so much to offer – but, regrettably, failed to achieve the journalistic stature he rightly deserved because he just ran out of time.

Kitty Stapp wrote: Haider was always filled with energy. He had a loud, infectious laugh that put a smile on the face of anyone within range (which was a fair-sized area). As a journalist, he was always true to his ideals of justice and equality, and a passionate advocate of the underdog.

There wasn’t an ounce of snobbery or superiority in Haider. He would happily talk to anyone about anything, and could recite poetry or argue politics with equal fluency.

Haider never earned much money, and he managed to hold onto even less, but he was always generous with what he had. His bank balance might have been low, but his happiness index was high. In the end, that’s what counts the most. He will be sorely missed.

Thalif Deen wrote: Haider Rizvi was a passionate rebel who relentlessly fought for many ideological causes – and the political ideals he stood for. He was both a radical and a liberal who never sacrificed his beliefs even under the most trying circumstances.

Haider began with IPS South Asia back in 1993 and eventually landed in the United States, reporting both from the IPS UN Bureau and later from Washington DC. In between, he grabbed a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Columbia University, New York.

Haider’s writings faithfully reflected the causes he fought for. He passionately advocated the rights of African-Americans, Hispanic minorities and native Americans in the US and indigenous people in Latin America; highlighted student protests in the US; advocated the Palestinian’s right to statehood; battled for the eradication of hunger and poverty in the developing world; joined the global campaign for nuclear disarmament; and covered the “Occupy Wall Street” protests (which for him, also meant “Un-Occupy Palestine”).

http://www.ipsnews.net/author/haider-rizvi/

After the 9/11 attacks on New York, Haider was physically beaten up in the mean streets of Brooklyn where a group of Hispanic thugs mistook him for a bearded Taliban supporter (and threatened to throw him out of a high rise building.) Even as he was being pummeled, he told the misguided attackers: “Brother, why are you beating me? We are all fighting for the same cause.” And, for a moment, he put them to shame.

The next day, Haider was up and running – and all over the pages of New York newspapers, and also being interviewed on morning TV shows. Still, he stood defiant and refused to dispense with his beard – continuing to maintain a striking resemblance to a mujahideen from the battlefields of Afghanistan.

At UN press stakeouts outside the Security Council chamber, he usually looked aggressive, fueled mostly by Dutch courage. At one of the stakeouts, he apparently looked so threatening that UN security officers were on the verge of carrying him out – feet first. But he did not give UN security the pleasure of that privilege.

Kanya d’Almeida wrote: The first time I met Haider I was just an intern. I sought out his company because he was one of the few journalists at the UN who didn’t seem to be afraid of speaking his mind. He refused to recognize the state of Israel. He referred to India/Pakistan as the Indus Valley Civilization, rejecting the British-imposed partition of the country.

He talked loudly about revolution and wrote poetry in his office at night. He was full of love. Sometimes, in moments of deep intoxication, he became unbearable; but when he emerged from these bouts he displayed a brilliant mind and a deep passion for justice.

He called everyone his “brothers” and “sisters”, even when they scorned him. He adored Che and Fidel. He dreamed of a brotherhood of humankind but was too drunk too much of the time to realize his own dreams.

Latin America was a beacon of hope for him, a place where people were closer than anywhere else in the world to throwing off the yoke of capitalism and being free. He identified with the wretched of the earth and indigenous people everywhere.

He was, in many ways, a prophet — someone who saw past the veil to the terrible realities in the world. He spoke the truth so he was dismissed as a madman. I’ve never met anyone else quite like him and I doubt I ever will.

Marty Logan wrote: I remember walking with Haider one night in Manhattan, in 2003, after one of our cheap dinners. I happened to mention that another US-based writer for IPS had left for Iraq to report on the US-led invasion.

He became incensed, and started yelling at me on the street because I hadn’t given him the opportunity to go (although it hadn’t, been my decision to send the other writer). That’s when I realised that while his passion often manifested itself in Haider’s love for the sensual, it also made him deeply committed to reporting on injustice.

Michael Khatana wrote: It is obvious that Haider lived a tortured existence. Nonetheless, he was a free soul. Always broke, but would not hesitate in expressing his views. May the Creator give him a good job in the hereafter, so that he does not have to struggle any more. May God give him peace and bless his soul.

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Indonesia and US Sign 12 Investment Dealshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/indonesia-and-us-sign-12-investment-deals/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indonesia-and-us-sign-12-investment-deals http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/indonesia-and-us-sign-12-investment-deals/#respond Tue, 27 Oct 2015 18:43:30 +0000 Razeena Raheem http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142816 Following a state visit to the US, Indonesian President Joko Widodo finalized 12 investment deals estimated at over 20 billion dollars. The investments, with major US corporations, are expected to spur power generation, enhance linkages in the gas sector and further drive developments in Indonesia’s renewable energy infrastructure, according to a press release. These transactions […]

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By Razeena Raheem
WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct 27 2015 (IPS)

Following a state visit to the US, Indonesian President Joko Widodo finalized 12 investment deals estimated at over 20 billion dollars.

The investments, with major US corporations, are expected to spur power generation, enhance linkages in the gas sector and further drive developments in Indonesia’s renewable energy infrastructure, according to a press release.

These transactions include: Pertamina and Corpus Christie Liquefaction, a subsidiary of Cheniere Energy: Shale gas sales and purchase agreements valued at 13 billion dollars; Coca-Cola: A five-year 500 million dollar investment, announced earlier this year, that will enable the company to strengthen its infrastructure and create additional jobs in Indonesia; General Electric (GE): An investment of up to 1.0 billion dollars over a period of five years in the power, oil and gas, and healthcare sectors to support Indonesia’s accelerated economic growth.

GE also announced various agreements relating to four infrastructure projects. This includes three projects related to the power sector that may contribute an estimated 3 gigawatts (GW) in capacity in Indonesia. It also includes a further letter-of-intent for a multi-year maintenance service agreement for 50 diesel-electric locomotives in Indonesia.

Additionally, there was an agreement with Caterpillar and Fluidic, Inc for the launch of the “500 Island Project,” which will provide reliable and renewable based electricity to 500 remote villages and islands, serving more than 1.5 million people.

“Indonesia has one of the largest economies in Asia and a rapidly-growing middle class. These new partnerships will help Indonesia and the U.S. realize the full potential of our economic relationship as Indonesia diversifies and grows its economy,” said President Widodo.

“I look forward to working together with public and private sector leaders in the U.S. to achieve shared prosperity. Now is the time to invest: Indonesia is open for business.”

Indonesia is the largest economy in Southeast Asia. With more than 60 million Indonesians projected to join the middle class in the next ten years, Indonesia is a growing market for U.S. companies.

The two Presidents also concluded the following agreements/arrangements:

• Memorandum of Understanding on Maritime Cooperation between the Government of The Republic of Indonesia and the Government of the United States of America

• Joint Statement on Comprehensive Defense Cooperation

• Memorandum of Understanding Between the Government of the Republic of Indonesia and the Government of the United States of America Concerning Cooperation on Energy

And a Memorandum of Understanding between the Federal Aviation Administration Department of Transportation of the United States of America and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) of the Ministry of Transportation of the Republic of Indonesia on the Promotion of Sustainable Aviation Alternative Fuels and Renewable Energy.
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South African Students Win Fight Against Rising School Feeshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/south-african-students-win-fight-against-rising-school-fees/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=south-african-students-win-fight-against-rising-school-fees http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/south-african-students-win-fight-against-rising-school-fees/#respond Tue, 27 Oct 2015 18:37:30 +0000 Global Information Network http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142815 (GIN) – In an official response from President Jacob Zuma to massive student protests, the proposed 10% hike in school fees has been cancelled for 2016. It was a major victory for students after protests which began this fall caused the shutdowns of 15 universities. “We agreed that there will be a zero increase in […]

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By Global Information Network
NEW YORK, Oct 27 2015 (IPS)

(GIN) – In an official response from President Jacob Zuma to massive student protests, the proposed 10% hike in school fees has been cancelled for 2016.

It was a major victory for students after protests which began this fall caused the shutdowns of 15 universities. “We agreed that there will be a zero increase in university fees in 2016,” the President said following a meeting with student leaders.

Outside of the meeting, however, police fired stun guns and water cannons and students who tried to force their way into the premises.

The fee issue is not the only grievance felt by students who have cited racism at the previously all-white institutions, and the need for free, quality education.

On Monday, at a senate meeting of the University of the Witswatersrand in Johannesburg, students occupied the venue and cancelled the meeting.

The senate’s special meeting was supposed to deliberate on the continuing protests and to decide on the resumption of the academic program, including postponed exams and lectures.

“This university is under new management now, it is the students that are in charge … this is the struggle we will fight until we win,” said student leader Vuyani Pambo, who is also the chair of the Economic Freedom Fighters, a group led by political activist Julius Malema.

The students had earlier held their own meeting at the Senate House – which they have renamed Solomon House – to come up with a strategy for their renewed #FeesMustFall movement.

Meanwhile, another group of students demanded to be allowed to take their exams and picketed outside the Great Hall.
Lengthy meetings were held on Saturday and Sunday, with students debating how to proceed with the campaign that started at their institution two weeks ago, and spread to other campuses across South Africa.
(End)

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Opinion: Africa’s Agricultural Potential Begins on the Groundhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/opinion-africas-agricultural-potential-begins-on-the-ground/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-africas-agricultural-potential-begins-on-the-ground http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/opinion-africas-agricultural-potential-begins-on-the-ground/#respond Fri, 16 Oct 2015 12:31:57 +0000 Howard G Buffett http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142709 Howard G. Buffett is a farmer and Chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. He has farmed for over 35 years, and the Foundation has invested over $150 million in research to improve agriculture and an additional $350 million in agriculture-related programs globally.

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Howard G. Buffett is a farmer and Chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. He has farmed for over 35 years, and the Foundation has invested over $150 million in research to improve agriculture and an additional $350 million in agriculture-related programs globally.

By Howard G. Buffett
LONDON, Oct 16 2015 (IPS)

My friend Kofi Boa is a Ghanaian agronomist who is probably the biggest advocate for conservation farming in Africa. For decades, Kofi has taught farmers how to increase their yields using no-till, cover crops and other techniques.

He once showed me a demonstration plot I’ve never forgotten: it was a sloped field planted with corn, divided into three equal areas. On the first section, he used traditional plowing and at the bottom were five barrels full of soil – the run-off from a single rainy season. The second plot he strip-tilled, and there was one barrel of soil that had washed down. On the third section he never tilled the soil at all. That field had a strong harvest – its soil run-off barrel was almost empty.

Kofi’s demonstration is one that every farmer and everyone working in agricultural development needs to see, understand and appreciate. I have heard philanthropists and others say things like “Africa can feed the world,” but it’s vital that we first focus on Africa feeding itself. Growing sufficient food for Africa’s fast-rising population demands preserving and enriching its fragile soils.

The continent is home to dramatically diverse landscapes from the vast Tanzanian Serengeti savannahs; to the hilly, volcanic, jungle landscape of the Democratic Republic of Congo; to the Afromontagne and coastal forests that span the entire continent. But what’s often overlooked is that less than 10 percent of Africa has what are considered high-quality soils for agriculture.

When you see photographs of dense jungle or animal migrations, it can be hard to imagine that Africa has such poor soils. The fact is that during early periods of soil formation while glaciers deposited valuable minerals and rich sediments in regions such as the American Midwest, the Ukraine, and Argentina, Africa was shortchanged. It is home to some of the oldest and most weathered stretches of land anywhere. While there are some regions with good soils in lower West Africa, and within several countries including Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Mozambique, most of Africa’s 54 countries did not receive equivalent soil resources.

And unfortunately, the picture for soil never improved: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 65 percent of agricultural land throughout Africa has been degraded by human activity, including farming and overgrazing. Recently the Montpellier Panel, a prominent group of agriculture, ecology and trade experts from Africa and Europe, estimated that these degraded soils are too damaged to sustain viable food production.

There is no quick fix. Reversing this picture means overcoming physical, cultural, and political impediments. The history of Africa’s soils and land use also complicates the picture. For example, while visiting Eastern Congo last month, I stood on a high ridge overlooking the Virunga National Park. The air was hazy and the landscape was dotted with several dozen or more small, smoky fires that signal the practice of “slash and burn” agriculture, which is widespread in Africa. For centuries people have used fire to convert jungle and forests to farmland and to burn crop residues. Unfortunately, this destroys important ecosystems, offering only a few seasons of fertility before farmers must keep slashing into surrounding forests to find land with enough nutrients to support a crop.

Understanding these complex dynamics is essential to making a real, practical difference. Many one-size-fits-all plans are designed by academics, bureaucrats and others with little or no input from farmers themselves. Above all, we must beware of solutions that involve simply transplanting Western farming techniques. Generally speaking, approaches that reduce diversity and rely heavily on synthetic fertilizer, hybrid seeds, and expensive equipment are not practical for millions of Africa’s smallholder farmers, at least not today.

Western farming is also focused on a small number of staple crops such as corn and soybeans. Pushing African farmers toward mono-cropping systems can actually increase hunger. More research aimed at improving African seed types is important, but many crops Africans rely on are not on the list of the 20 crops with historical importance in the world. Therefore they are largely ignored by researchers and seed companies.

As Kofi proves every day, however, there are immediate tools available to help solve Africa’s challenges. At our foundation, we look at Africa’s potential for agriculture through a different lens than some in development. We are focused on what we call a “Brown Revolution.” That means a heavy emphasis on protecting and remediating soils. Regardless of terrain, crops, wildlife, culture, or history, every farmer in the world needs productive soil to grow food. The critical element is to appreciate the unique conditions on the ground in each region. In the Eastern Congo I reviewed soil maps of a relatively small region where the soil quality ranged from nearly “dead”—lacking organic matter and key nutrients—to very rich. Each of those different soil profiles requires a different recipe of ideal crop rotations and farming techniques to achieve maximum production from the land.

This work demands good information about where we are today and the communication of practical ideas for improvement. Our foundation has produced an in-depth analysis that we hope achieves both goals, called Africa’s Potential for Agriculture, now available for download at www.brownrevolution.org. We shared this publication at the 2015 World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue where Kofi and I joined Imperial College’s Sir Gordon Conway and Argentinian agronomist Alejandro Lopez to talk about the importance of soil health and the role of conservation agriculture. Food security is one of the most fundamental challenges the world faces and these are critical conversations.

When I travel to Africa I always visit with smallholder farmers who, despite backbreaking work every day, frequently experience hunger. There is something terribly ironic about farmers who are hungry. In many parts of the world, farmers farm to survive, not for profit. We must realize these different dynamics and risk profiles when proposing solutions that are realistic and applicable in situations that are quite different from our own.

(End)

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Howard G. Buffett is a farmer and Chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. He has farmed for over 35 years, and the Foundation has invested over $150 million in research to improve agriculture and an additional $350 million in agriculture-related programs globally.

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Over 100 Cities Pledge to Fight Hunger & Reduce Food Wastehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/over-100-cities-pledge-to-fight-hunger-reduce-food-waste/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=over-100-cities-pledge-to-fight-hunger-reduce-food-waste http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/over-100-cities-pledge-to-fight-hunger-reduce-food-waste/#respond Thu, 15 Oct 2015 18:16:10 +0000 Tharanga Yakupitiyage http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142708 Over 100 cities around the world have come together in Milan to sign the Urban Food Policy Pact, promising to develop equitable and sustainable food systems. During the Mayors Summit on Oct. 15, the pact was signed by Milan’s Mayor Giuliano Pisapia along with his counterparts from cities worldwide including Belo Horizonte, Barcelona, Dakar, and […]

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By Tharanga Yakupitiyage
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 15 2015 (IPS)

Over 100 cities around the world have come together in Milan to sign the Urban Food Policy Pact, promising to develop equitable and sustainable food systems.

During the Mayors Summit on Oct. 15, the pact was signed by Milan’s Mayor Giuliano Pisapia along with his counterparts from cities worldwide including Belo Horizonte, Barcelona, Dakar, and Moscow.

The agreement was proposed by Mayor Pisapia at the Cities Climate Leadership Group (C40) Summit in 2014 and was launched during his city’s Expo 2015 whose theme was “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.”

The pact includes five core actions: engage with relevant stakeholders to ensure an enabling environment; promote sustainable diets and nutrition; ensure equitable access to food; promote rural-urban food production and supply; and reduce food waste.

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva lauded the initiative, noting that urban centers are key actors in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially the eradication of hunger by 2030.

“Cities have a key role to play in ending hunger and improving nutrition,” said Da Silva in his address to the summit.

“A majority of the population of the world already lives in cities and the urban population is going to increase, particularly in developing countries…nevertheless food security and nutrition remains overlooked in urban planning and development,” Da Silva continued.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), 50 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. By 2050, the global urban population is expected to increase to 66 percent, making access to affordable and sustainable food a key priority.

Da Silva also underlined the link between food security and climate change, stating that sustaining the SDGs in the long-term will require reducing emissions and tackling climate change.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made similar comments during a High-Level Working Lunch on Climate Change on Sept. 27.

“Food production and agriculture contribute as much to climate change as transportation,” Ban remarked. He particularly pointed to food waste as a contributor to climate change.

According to FAO, one third of all food is wasted. The energy that goes into the production and transportation of uneaten food generates more than 3.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases.

If food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind the U.S. and China. Food waste in cities is particularly and increasingly higher, said Da Silva at the summit.

During the High Level Meeting, Ban also noted the social implications of food waste, stating that it is “shameful when so many people suffer from hunger.”

Though world hunger has decreased since 1990, almost 800 million people still go hungry every day.

The Urban Food Policy Pact was developed with FAO as well as key stakeholders from governments, the private sector, and civil society. It is described as “one of the most important legacies of Expo 2015.”

The signed text will be presented to the UN Secretary-General on Oct 16.

(End)

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