first_imgNEW DELHI: PC Chako, All India Congress Committee in-charge of Delhi, on Thursday said his party will have a direct fight with the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections in Delhi and asserted that the possibility of a triangular contest is “slowly disappearing” in the national capital. The senior Congress leader also raised doubts about AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal’s seriousness in defeating the BJP. Chacko said the Congress was getting a good response after the party fielded its candidates for all the seven Lok Sabha seats in Delhi, which goes to polls on May 12. Also Read – Arms supplier arested from RajasthanDelhi Pradesh Congress Committee (DPCC) on Thursday introduced its candidates before the media at its party office here. Talking to reporters, Chacko said he has “doubts” about Kejriwal’s seriousness to defeat the Bhartitya Janata Party in Delhi. “Earlier, we thought there is a triangular fight in Delhi, but (the possibility) of a triangular fight is disappearing slowly in Delhi. We have a direct fight with BJP in Delhi,” the party’s general secretary in-charge of Delhi said. Also Read – Water supply disruption likely in some areasAsked about the possibility of any alliance between the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party even after both parties announced its candidates, Chacko said that it is now a closed chapter. “It is difficult to get the AAP into confidence because we have doubts about Kejriwal’s intension…without any reason, he (Kejriwal) stepped back that is why we still have doubt about him being serious in defeating the BJP,” the Congress leader said. Asserting that there will be no split of anti-BJP votes in Delhi, he said in the entire country, there is fight between the Congress and BJP. “Anti-BJP votes will come to Congress. In the entire country, there is fight between Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi and in view of this, there will be no split of votes,” Chacko also said. Congress president and North-east candidate Sheila Dikshit said that the Congress candidates are familiar with the people of Delhi as they have been serving them for past many years in various capacities.last_img read more

first_imgNew Delhi: IPL franchise Kings XI Punjab co-owner Ness Wadia’s suspended jail sentence of two years for illegal possession of drugs in Japan is likely to come up for discussion during the Committee of Administrators’ (COA) next meeting in Mumbai on Friday.Wadia was arrested earlier this year at an airport in Japanese town Hokkaido for possession of 25gm of cannabis resin. His sentence has been suspended for five years.As per IPL’s Code of Ethics, no person associated with the team can bring the game into disrepute and there is a clause which can lead to suspension of teams as it happened with CSK and Rajasthan Royals during the IPL spot-fixing scandal. Also Read – India gets first tranche of Swiss account details under automatic exchange frameworkHowever, it is still not clear whether the matter will be handed over to the IPL Ethics Committee — comprising three office-bearers (acting President CK Khanna, acting Secretary Amitabh Chaudhary and treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry) — or the newly appointed Ombudsman DK Jain.”The matter will come up for discussion on May 3 at the COA meeting in Mumbai. It needs to be discussed whether the COA will refer the matter to Justice Jain or the three office-bearers. Also Read – Trio win Nobel Medicine Prize for work on cells, oxygen”Since we have a retired SC Judge as Ethics Officer, it’s only fair that the matter is referred to him,” a senior BCCI official told PTI on Wednesday.When asked if Kings XI Punjab can be suspended, the official said: “It’s all in the realms of speculation. The BCCI legal team, Ombudsman all need to come together.” There is no clarity on whether Wadia’s sentencing, even if it brings disrepute to the franchise, can actually lead to a team’s suspension.”The matter is not directly related to IPL. Yes one owner was arrested in a foreign country. Now his image is tarnished.”If that affects the brand, then action should be taken against the owner and not the brand. In any case, proper procedures will be followed,” said the official.last_img read more

first_imgWashington: Pakistan, obsessed with India as a perceived existential threat, has “created terrorist groups to be a tool” in its struggle against India, a former top American spymaster has said. Former CIA acting director Michael Morell, in a podcast discussion with Kurt Campbell and Rich Verma on Thursday, alleged that Pakistan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Pakistan has “created terrorist groups to be a tool” in their struggle against India, Morell said. Also Read – Saudi Crown Prince Salman ‘snubbed’ Pak PM Imran, recalled his private jet from US: ReportCampbell, the former Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Affairs and Verma, the former US Ambassador to India, now regularly host ‘The Tealeaves’ Podcast of the Asia Group. “What they don’t realise is that it’s impossible to keep those terrorist groups under control. And that eventually comes back to bite you. You know, I believe that Pakistan, at the end of the day, maybe the most dangerous country in the world,” Morell said. Morell who played a key role in the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden — the al-Qaeda chief and mastermind behind the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States — in a safe house in Pakistan, said that the population of this South Asian country is exploding, and the demographics are awful. Also Read – Iraq military admits ‘excessive force’ used in deadly protests”The economy’s going nowhere. It simply can’t provide the jobs that need to be provided for the young people who are entering the labour force. The education system is literally broken. I went to Pakistan more often than I went to any other country when I was deputy director,” he said, referring to his impression about Pakistan when he was the deputy head in the CIA during the Obama administration. There’s no wonder that many Pakistani parents send their kids to madrasa and one knows what happens to a small percentage of the kids who go there. “The extremism is growing from a societal perspective. It’s growing within the military. So, it is not impossible, not tomorrow, not next week, not next year, but five years from now, 10 years from now that you could have a color revolution, Arab spring style movement in the streets of Islamabad that ends up with an extremist government there with nuclear weapons. That’s what so scary,” Morell said. According to Morell, then president Barack Obama’s Pakistan policy in his first term was to get the Pakistanis to see their strategic environment in a real way. “They still see India and, I think, for foreseeable future, will see India as an existential threat to the state of Pakistan. It’s not, it’s just not. India stopped focusing on Pakistan a long time ago. They’re focusing on their economic future,” he argued. But because the Pakistanis are so obsessed with this perceived existential threat, they’ve both organised their society in order to protect themselves from that threat. So, they’ve given an immense amount of power to the military, and much less power to the civilian government, he said. “The government therefore makes choices that I don’t believe, and many people don’t believe are in the best long term interest of Pakistan. Pakistan has spent more money on nuclear weapons than they do in education. “And they use terrorism as a tool against the Indians… and then also in Afghanistan, because they fear Indian influence in Afghanistan. So they’ve created terrorist groups, right to be a tool of theirs in the struggle against India,” Morell added.last_img read more

first_imgWhen we think about organising precarious “gig” workers, the task seems biblical. Low pay and no benefits that accrue to gig workers are worsened by the uncertainty of a position where you can only work to deliver something specifically demanded by consumers and at a premium you are often powerless to control. App companies misclassify workers as independent contractors rather than employees in order to pass on all of the maintenance and capital costs, aside from web work and marketing, to the workers, avoiding personnel benefit and equipment costs that are routine for regular employers. Conditions seem to cry out a union. A recent “strike” by Uber drivers in Los Angeles illustrates the kind of problem we deal with when we discuss gig workers and their ability to fight for better conditions. The company had triggered the strike by increasing its percentage of the fare, thereby decreasing drivers’ pay. In response, the drivers turned off the Uber application on their phone. Stated more plainly, they went on strike by simply not responding to any calls or inducements to drive. Did it work? Who knows? How would any of us, whether organisers, curious observers, or company officials, know how to measure the number of drivers protesting in this way versus those who just decided not to drive on any given day or got ticked-off and responded to Lyft instead? ACORN tried a similar approach in the early 1970s when we were fighting increases by the Arkla Gas Company in central Arkansas. Our “Turn Off Arkla Day!” action got a bit of press, as the Uber drivers did in Los Angeles. But in both cases, the company yawned since there was no way to measure whether the strike affected their cash flow. Organising gig workers can be challenging, but there’s some good work going on for bicycle delivery drivers in Europe, where companies like Uber Eats, Deliveroo, and others have become ubiquitous. Last fall, one of ACORN’s affiliates organised a meeting in Brussels that brought together union activists interested in organising European bicycle delivery drivers with fledgeling groups of drivers from a dozen countries including the UK, the Netherlands, and Germany. That meeting highlighted several active organising projects: – Bike Workers Advocacy Project (BWAP), a new group seeking to organise cycling workers and, eventually, lead to some kind of unionisation or union-style representation. Drivers at Postmates and Caviar in New York City and some bicycle shops seemed to be stirring the pot in 2018, but nothing seems to have emerged formally to date. – Bike delivery workers at Foodora and Dilveroo in Germany have raised issues about low wages and their independent contractor situation while advocating for a union. – In 2016, London gig workers for delivery services Deliveroo and Uber Eats organised protests and strikes for higher wages. There was also an outcry in Philadelphia when a rider for Caviar was killed while working. – Legal action has managed to win back employment rights, such as a recent ruling in Spain that declared that a Deliveroo rider was, in fact, an employee and not an independent contractor, as the company claimed. Caviar is in mandatory arbitration in California on the same issue. Just as importantly, riders in London struck for three days in 2018 and joined with striking McDonalds’s workers to demand higher wages, largely organised by a chapter of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). While these examples seem promising, unions clearly lack any real commitment to organise these workers, and the workers have limited leverage. David Chu, who directs the European Organising Center, a joint project between European unions and the US-based Change to Win federation, told me recently that he hears a lot of talk about organising gig workers but sees little action in that direction. Serious organising efforts in the United States have been contradictory and are embryonic at best. Uber in New York City and San Francisco reacted to organising efforts by attempting to co-opt the organisations into agreeing that the workers were not employees in exchange for consultation rights on rule changes and other issues like receiving tips. More concerted efforts to create a mini-National Labor Relations Board representation mechanism were launched at the municipal level in Seattle, but the organising effort is currently mired in litigation over pre-emption by the National Labor Relations Act and the question of employee status. Local efforts reflect the way companies keep changing their practices, as Marielle Benchehboune, coordinator of ACORN’s affiliate, ReAct, noted recently in Forbes. “What will make the difference,” she suggested, is workers organising “on the transnational scale.” Perhaps her analysis is correct. Perhaps a rare global organising plan could create enough pressure and leverage among these competing companies that could weld a workers’ movement together from the disparate pieces of independent worker mobilisations that are cropping up around the world. Given the challenges, how much should we invest in organising gig workers? Labour economists in the US caution that despite all of the hype from Silicon Valley and even some labour officials about the emerging gig economy, it involves a very small percentage of the workforce. I heard something similar 15 years ago when I asked a leader of the Indian National Trade Union Congress if they were doing anything to organise call centre workers in India. He answered that they estimated that there were 30,000 such workers, but there were 450 million workers in India at the time and hardly nine per cent were organised. He then shrugged. That’s all he said, but we got the message. There’s much to be done in organising the unorganised; resources and capacity are always restrained, whether in India, Europe or North America. Is that a reason for not finding ways to organise workers who are attempting on their own to find justice in their jobs? Or is it just another rationale for doing little or nothing? The one thing that seems clear is that if unions are going to be relevant to the modern workforce and the irregular and precarious forms of work that are being created by technology married to avarice, we must debate and address these challenges. It may be difficult, but unions and organisers need to devise practical strategies that allow workers to organise, win, and build enough power to force companies to adapt and change. IPA (Courtesy: People’s World The views expressed are strictly personal)last_img read more

first_imgNew Delhi: Delhi Traffic Police will implement its one-way traffic circulation plan on trial basis on Padam Singh Road and Tank Road in central Delhi’s Karol Bagh from Monday, officials said.To ensure smooth vehicular movement, the scheme would be implemented gradually on four other roads of the area, Pyare Lal Road, Hardhyan Singh Road, Gurudwara Road, and Saraswati Marg, a senior traffic police official said. The move comes in for providing seamless and smooth traffic movement and is being used to create a one-way loop system for comfortable movement of all modes of transport, the officer said. Also Read – More good air days in Delhi due to Centre’s steps: JavadekarKarol Bagh –a hub of commercial establishments having garments, jewellary, electronic items and car dealers –registers heavy footfall and vehicular movement throughout the day thereby leading to street parking of the vehicles on all the major roads of the area. One way circulation plan of Karol Bagh area was approved by the Unified Traffic Transportation Infrastructure (Planning and Engineering) Centre (UTTIPEC) in April, 2010 and the trial run on these roads was also conducted for sometime but could not be continued thereafter, the traffic police said in its statement. Also Read – Union min Hardeep Singh Puri, Delhi L-G lay foundation stones for various projects in DwarkaNow in a concerted effort by Delhi Traffic Police along with other civic agencies, one-way circulation plan on the six roads in Karol Bagh area is being revived with its implementation initially on Padam Singh Road and Tank road, the statement added. Meeting with RWAs and MWAs of Karol Bagh area has been conducted and the finer points of circulation plan have been deliberated with them, as their co-operation is of utmost importance for the successful implementation of the one-way circulation scheme, the senior traffic police official said. About 50 Delhi Traffic Police officers along with marshals from MCD would be deployed to man all the intersections of Tank road and Padam Singh Road to regulate the traffic, the official added.last_img read more

Rabat  –  The governor of Morocco’s central Bank “Bank Al Maghrib”, ruled out any domestic or external inflation pressure, stressing that inflation will continue to evolve at “relatively” low levels with a sound balance of risks.BAM’s governor, who was speaking at a press conference following the Bank’s council meeting, expected inflation to stand at 0.4pc for all of 214, as a result of the rise in the minimum wages, the revisions of water and electricity prices and the expected oil products rates.In 2015, inflation will reach 1.2pc and increase to 1.3pc in the first three months of 2016, he went on. Consequently, he said, the Bank has decided to lower once again by 25 points the interest rates to 2.5pc, after last September’s decrease from 3pc to 2.75pc.The bank explained that this “historic” decrease also seeks to fulfill the goal of maintaining the budget deficit at sound levels and continuing to improve the exchange reserves while supporting economic activity recovery. read more

WASHINGTON — From power restaurants in Washington and a belt-buckle maker in Colorado to a brewery in California, businesses that count heavily on federal employees as customers are feeling the punishing effects of the government shutdown.In many cases, it’s forcing them to cut workers’ hours and buy less from suppliers — measures that could ripple through the larger U.S. economy.“It’s a fog with no end in sight,” Michael Northern, vice-president of a company that owns three restaurants in the Huntsville, Alabama, area near a huge Army base that houses some 70 federal agencies, including NASA. He said business is down 35 per cent. “People are just going home and nesting, trying to conserve resources.”Western Heritage Co. in Loveland, Colorado, which makes buckles for uniformed employees of the National Forest Service and other outdoor agencies, has seen sales plummet 85 per cent this month and laid off 12 of its 13 workers.In the nation’s capital, Clyde’s Restaurant Group, which owns the Old Ebbitt Grill restaurant down the street from the White House and 10 other dining spots, reported a 20 per cent drop in sales and is cutting hours for waiters and kitchen staff.So far, the broader economic impact of the shutdown is not clear — because, well, many agencies that compile such data are closed.The Labor Department, which is open, said Thursday that the number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level since 1969, a sign the job market is still strong.But most economists are forecasting slower growth in the first three months of this year. Analysts estimate gross domestic product shrinks 0.13 percentage points for each week the shutdown lasts.Those estimates reflect the loss of government spending and lost paychecks for federal employees. What is not known is how much the shutdown will reverberate through the rest of the economy. When waiters at restaurants that serve federal employees lose income, for example, will they also cut back spending? And will that then harm other companies?Among the hardest hit are the owners of restaurants, hotels and gift shops near federal agencies and national parks around the country.In Mariposa, California, just outside Yellowstone National Park, tourism has dropped sharply and most of the 6,000 county residents who work in the park have not been paid for a month.“For my business personally it’s been absolutely devastating,” said Hanna Wackerman, owner of the 1850 Restaurant and Brewing Company. “Usually January is a pretty busy month for us. With the new snow being in Yosemite, that tends to bring new tourists to the park.” Instead, business is down 80 per cent, she said.Mike Lynch, owner of Western Heritage, saw online orders collapse almost immediately after the government shut down Dec. 22. The company sells buckles, keychains, commemorative coins and badges to employees of the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies. It also sells patches and some clothing.Most of the purchases are discretionary and customized. For example, if a BLM employee is retiring, co-workers might order a plaque from Lynch’s company. His online orders went from thousands of dollars a week before Christmas to just $78 in the first week of January.On Jan. 7, Lynch laid off nearly everyone, leaving one person to answer the phone “in case someone wants to buy something.” They were the first job cuts in the company’s 43-year history.With business so slow, Lynch isn’t ordering any of the bronze, silver or pewter he uses and isn’t replenishing other inventory.Larger companies are also affected, though it is typically easier for them to weather the impact. Airlines like Delta and Southwest, for example, are losing tens of millions of dollars in business, but that’s out of billions in revenue.David Moran, director of operations for Clyde’s, the restaurant chain in Washington, worries what will happen if the shutdown extends into February, when events like Valentine’s Day typically give a boost to business.“My fear is that it is getting worse, because people are getting panicky,” he said.___Associated Press Writers Martin Crutsinger, David Koenig in Dallas, and AP Videographer Haven Daley contributed to this report.Christopher Rugaber, The Associated Press read more

Rabat – The 4th Oasis festival, held from September 14-16, in the Fellah Hotel of Marrakech did not fail to impress its audience. Marrakech’s Oasis has nothing to envy from the big electronic festivals. In the past four years, the red city’s much-awaited festival has proven to be “the place to be.” Electronic music lovers spent three days of madness thanks to an impressive lineup of national and international artists who came to fire up the different stages of the festival (Oasis, Bamboo and Mirage), from 4 p.m. to 6 a.m. Five thousand festival-goers came from all around the world to listen and dance to the biggest names in techno, house, afro house and electro, such as South Africa’s Black Coffee, Britain’s superstar Carl Cox, America’s Honey Dijon, Dutch DJ Ben Klock, and others. The festival is also a real springboard for the Moroccan scene in full identity construction. Drawn by their ambassador Amine K, DJs come together to build a true Moroccan sound.For the 2018 festival, Oasis hosted Amine K, UNES, Kali G, Pandi, Daox and LasriZ who got festival-goers dancing all day and night.Away from music, Oasis, also called the “Moroccan Coachella” is a complete experience of creativity and discovery that includes other activities, such as yoga classes, live painting, massage sessions, spas, and pools.In addition, festival-goers from around the world had the chance to experience Moroccan culture on-site, with authentic local street food, a wide selection of organic products at the local souk, henna art, traditional Moroccan dishes, and more.The three creators of the festival, Marjana Jaidi, Youssef Bouabid, and Ismael Slaoui, have brilliantly succeeded in making Morocco an essential meeting of electronic music and bringing the Moroccan scene to an international level.This 4th Oasis festival has definitely kept all its promises, leaving its attendees with much higher expectations for next year. read more

Rabat – Yellow vests in France marched carrying a banner saying, “Marrakech, c’est not” (No to Marrakech), referring to the UN’s Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration that will be formally adopted on Monday in Marrakech.A Twitter user shared the video of the protest against the UN migration pact, captioned: “In Lyon, the yellow vests are mobilized against Marrakech’s pact.”À #Lyon les #GiletsJaunes mobilisés contre le #PacteDeMarrakech. #8decembre pic.twitter.com/QAGMv2EK6g— Etienne d’Esparbès (@ey_desparbes) December 8, 2018The protests against migration are not contained only in France, with protests against the migration pact also erupting in Canada. According to CBC, nine people were arrested during the protest which took place on Parliament Hill Saturday afternoon. The protests followed the government’s decision to sign the pact on migration.On Friday, Canada’s Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said in Marrakech that the compact is an important agreement. He added that the pact will make countries work together to challenge migration’s causes and circumstances.The migration pact aims to address humanitarian concerns, human rights issues, and developmental aspects of international migration.It also seeks to protect the dignity of all migrants, regardless of their status.The compact promises to ease the pressure on countries that welcome and host refugees.Leaders of at least 135 countries will convene at the Intergovernmental Conference in Marrakech to adopt the migration compact.However, a number of countries have declined to join the UN pact, including the US, Italy, Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Israel, Latvia, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and Switzerland.The UN migration accord contains 23 objectives including the facilitation of the legal migration process, strengthening coordinated international efforts to save migrants’ lives, and reducing environmental and other factors that force people to leave their countries of origin. read more

BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota’s Republican-led Legislature has voted to repeal the state’s longstanding Sunday business restrictions.The National Conference of State Legislatures says North Dakota is the only state that prohibits shopping on Sunday morning. The ban is rooted in religious tradition.Senators voted 25-21 to repeal the restrictions on Tuesday. That sends the bill to Republican Gov. Doug Burgum. He’s expected to sign it.North Dakota law once required most businesses to stay closed on Sundays. It was changed in 1985 to allow grocery stores to open. In 1991, the Legislature agreed to let most businesses to open on Sundays but not before noon.Lawmakers have defeated several measures over the years to end the Sunday morning shopping prohibition, most recently in 2017.James MacPherson, The Associated Press read more

WASHINGTON — Amazon tycoon Jeff Bezos says he’s going to send a spaceship to the moon, joining a resurgence of lunar interest half a century after people first set foot there.Bezos says his space company Blue Origin will land a robotic ship the size of a small house, capable of carrying four rovers and using a newly designed rocket engine and souped-up rockets. It would be followed by a version that could bring people to the moon along the same timeframe as NASA’s proposed 2024 return.Bezos, who was dwarfed by his mock-up of the Blue Moon vehicle at his presentation Thursday, says, “This is an incredible vehicle and it’s going to the moon.”Bezos says: “It’s time to go back to the moon. This time to stay.”Seth Borenstein, The Associated Press read more

HONOLULU — Southwest Airlines has started a new route in the Hawaiian islands with plans to add more interisland service.The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Sunday that the airline began service between Honolulu on Oahu and Kona on Hawaii Island Sunday.Officials say Southwest plans to begin four-times daily service to Hilo on the eastern side of the Big Island in late 2019 or early 2020.Southwest entered the Hawaii market in March when it initiated service between Honolulu and Oakland, California.With the addition of Kona, Southwest has 16 interisland flights, or 1,800 daily interisland air seats.The Hilo service would add 1,400 more seats each day to the overall Hawaii interisland market.Officials say Southwest also expects to announce upcoming Hawaii service from San Diego and Sacramento, California.___Information from: Honolulu Star-Advertiser, http://www.staradvertiser.comThe Associated Press read more

An attorney for Tesla CEO Elon Musk claims a British diver who is suing his client can’t recover damages because the diver allegedly started the spat and his reputation hasn’t been harmedVernon Unsworth is suing Musk for calling him a “pedo” in a July 15 post on Twitter. The post came during an exchange of insults last summer after the underwater rescue of youth soccer players trapped in a cave in Thailand.In a response to Unsworth’s lawsuit, attorney Alex Spiro wrote that Musk’s statements were opinion protected by the First Amendment. He also wrote that the statements were true or substantially true.Last week a federal judge in Los Angeles set an Oct. 22 trial date, rejecting Musk’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit.The Associated Press read more

FedEx is dropping a contract for air shipment of packages for Amazon within the United States, reducing its ties with an online retail giant that is expanding its own delivery business.FedEx said Friday that it will not renew the contract for domestic FedEx Express handling of Amazon shipments when the deal expires June 30.Spokeswoman Katie Wassmer says the move will let FedEx focus on thousands of other retailers including Target, Walgreens and Walmart.The move doesn’t affect FedEx ground shipments inside the U.S. for Amazon.In a statement, Amazon says only that it respects FedEx’s decision and thanks the delivery company for serving Amazon customers over the years.The Associated Press read more

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — An Illinois broadcast meteorologist who was taken off television after criticizing an unpopular “Code Red” weather alert system has been fired, his former employer confirmed.Joe Crain’s dismissal was confirmed Thursday by Rob Ford, a spokesman for Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns Crain’s former employer, WICS-TV in Springfield, Illinois. Ford declined further comment.Crain, a 15-year WICS veteran, was absent from newscasts after an on-air critique June 5 of Sinclair’s “Code Red” weather-alert brand, which the station subsequently announced would be replaced.Crain acknowledged widespread community complaints that “Code Red” was alarmist and imprecise. He said it was improperly “all-inclusive” and failed to recognize storms’ varying degrees.“When you hear ‘Code Red,’ you think, as they say, the feces is about to hit the fan. We understand your concerns,” Crain said. “It’s not us. This is a corporate initiative, the ‘Code Red’ alert, and behind the scenes, many of us have tried to dissuade it for the last few months.”Crain’s absence unleashed social-media protests, petitions demanding his return, and advertiser boycotts. Businesses pulled their ads in support of Crain and to protest “Code Red” as a needless alarm that persuaded people to stay home and away from restaurants and retail stores.U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, a Democrat who lives in Springfield, voiced support for Crain. A weekly newspaper reporter composed a song, “Joe Crain,” to the tune of the early 20th Century labour anthem, “Joe Hill,” and the brouhaha was the subject of a parody bit on “The Late Show” with Stephen Colbert.Crain has declined comment. WICS general manager Rick Lipps posted an online video Monday in which he announced that the station would replace “Code Red” with a “Weather Warn” banner and that managers would work to improve geographic specificity of alerts.Lipps said in the video that he could not comment on Crain because it was a personnel matter. But Sinclair posted a solicitation for a WICS meteorologist on its website Tuesday.___Follow Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor .John O’Connor, The Associated Press read more

The latest adventures of Rattus Holmes and Felis Watson – a tale of sport and athletes who cheat by taking banned drugs – can be found on a website run by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), starting today. The website features The Case of the Spoilsports, a comic strip, in English, Spanish and French, which dramatizes UNESCO’s anti-doping role and explores the importance of the International Convention against Doping in Sport, adopted by UNESCO’s member states in 2005. In five chapters published weekly, the story – inspired by the famous Sherlock Holmes detective stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – will trace how twin athletes react differently to the pressures of competitive sport. One gives in immediately to the pressure put on him by his trainer and teammates, while the other athlete suffers because his competitors use performance-enhancing drugs. From one sports event to the next, the plot leads to the 29th Olympic Games in Beijing, which open on Friday. 4 August 2008The latest adventures of Rattus Holmes and Felis Watson – a tale of sport and athletes who cheat by taking banned drugs – can be found on a website run by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), starting today. read more

The number of people without adequate access to food in Iraq has been slashed by three-quarters between 2005 and 2007, according to a new assessment conducted jointly by the war-torn nation’s Government and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).The Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Assessment (CFSVA) found that the 930,000 people were hungry in 2007, down from some 4 million in 2005.But Edward Kallon, WFP Country Director for Iraq, said that he could only give a “cautious welcome” to the figures “because 930,000 is still far too many for a relatively wealthy country.”He added that there are an additional 6.4 million people who would go hungry were it not for safety nets such as the Government-run Public Distribution System (PDS).Under that mechanism, all Iraqis are entitled to a monthly food basket, but frequent shortfalls and distribution delays have hurt vulnerable families.Mr. Kallon credited increased economic activity in Iraq, triggered by improved security conditions and the humanitarian efforts of the international community, to the reversal of food insecurity.“But the situation remains volatile and any deterioration could undermine the whole process,” he noted.The Assessment surveyed the food security situation of 26,000 people across the country. It also looked closely at the nutritional status of children under the age of five, and found an improvement in national acute malnutrition rates, little change in chronic malnutrition rates and alarming stunting rates in five districts.The new study – carried out last year with support from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) – called for continued food aid to those most in need and ongoing collaboration with the Government to reform the PDS.It also urged bolstered nutrition and caring practices for mothers and children, as well as scaling up micronutrient programmes and providing food education in the poorest areas, focusing on girls’ school enrollment and attendance. 12 November 2008The number of people without adequate access to food in Iraq has been slashed by three-quarters between 2005 and 2007, according to a new assessment conducted jointly by the war-torn nation’s Government and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). read more

Wrapping up a visit to the country, Edmund Mulet, the Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, also listed among the signs of tangible progress the disappearance of the so-called zone of confidence separating north and south.He noted in addition that the two former warring forces are now working together on security issues along with the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (UNOCI) and French Licorne forces, according to a UN spokesperson. “Even so, much remains to be done,” the spokesperson added, saying that Mr. Mulet requested donors to continue to provide support to the peace process and to streamline their efforts in the maintenance of peace in Cote d’Ivoire.UNOCI is helping to pave the way for the polls, which were scheduled for 30 November but have been delayed for the third time.Elections are one of the key benchmarks of last year’s Ouagadougou Agreement, the political accord reached in neighbouring Burkina Faso that aims to reconcile Côte d’Ivoire’s Government and the rebel Forces Nouvelles. 12 December 2008Genuine progress has been made in identifying the population and registering voters for the long-delayed elections in Cote d’Ivoire, a key element in resolving a political crisis that in 2002 divided the West African country into a rebel-held north and Government-controlled south, a top United Nations official said today. read more

24 December 2008United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on Hamas to ensure an immediate end to rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel and urged all parties to work urgently to ease humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip, including the continuous flow of needed supplies. “The Secretary-General is gravely concerned about the situation in Gaza and southern Israel and the potential for further violence and civilian suffering if calm is not restored,” a statement issued by his spokesperson said. “He condemns today’s rocket attacks on southern Israel.”Israel kept the crossings into Gaza closed for the eighth consecutive day today, cutting off humanitarian supplies, the second longest period they have remained shut since Hamas seized control of the Strip from the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority in June 2007, the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Assistance (OCHA) reported. Israel cites the rocket attacks for its closures.“The ongoing closures have significantly reduced the capacity of UN humanitarian agencies to provide assistance in the event of an escalation in violence,” OCHA said. “UN humanitarian assistance programmes have run out of stock for several essential supplies and are facing severe difficulties in implementing their regular programmes.”Mr. Ban stressed that a lasting solution to the situation in Gaza can only be attained by peaceful means, reiterating calls made earlier this month by the so-called Quartet – the UN, European Union, Russia and the United States – which is championing the Roadmap plan for a two-state solution to the conflict with Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.At the time the Quartet called for a continuation of the calm between Gaza and southern Israel that expired at the end of last week, and underscored that a lasting solution could only be achieved through peaceful means, with all Palestinians committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations. Hamas does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in Gaza has no flour or cash-notes to distribute, affecting thousands of dependant beneficiaries, while the UN World Food Programme (WFP) has been unable to preposition stocks and has no food available in case of an emergency, OCHA reported.There are shortages of over 100 essential pharmaceuticals and critical emergency surgical kits, while over 100 containers of humanitarian aid at Ashdod port in Israel have been cleared for entry into Gaza.Due to the lack of fuel and spare parts, Gaza power plant has been shut since 19 December, affecting all aspects of daily life including sanitation, water and power supply to households, schools, and civilian institutions.In particular, 60 per cent of the Gaza population is receiving running water once every five to seven days. The wastewater treatment plant, unable to operate regularly, has since Saturday doubled the amount of raw sewage it is dumping into the sea to 40 million litres per day, OCHA said. read more

22 June 2009The agency tasked with coordinating the United Nations response to the AIDS epidemic today called for improving HIV information and services for “people on the move,” saying it will help further development and promote human rights. The agency tasked with coordinating the United Nations response to the AIDS epidemic today called for improving HIV information and services for “people on the move,” saying it will help further development and promote human rights.Addressing the HIV-related needs of the millions uprooted from their homes every year, either by forced displacement or migration, is the focus of the annual meeting of the governing body of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), which began in Geneva today. Figures by the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) indicate that there were 16 million refugees, 26 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) due to conflict and an additional 25 million displaced due to natural disasters in 2007, while the International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates there were over 200 million international migrants in 2008. Meeting the needs of people on the move for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support is essential for achieving universal access, UNAIDS noted in a news release.The agency said that populations on the move are sometimes blamed for the spread of HIV, or for increasing the burden on limited services for people living with HIV. However, many of the underlying factors driving mobility also increase the vulnerability of this group to HIV infection. In addition, those among this group living with HIV and those taking antiretroviral medication face additional challenges in obtaining needed care and treatment. It is critical to address the needs of those who ‘fall between the cracks’ in national AIDS strategies, and in global discussions of forced displacement, migration and travel, the agency said. Among the specific issues of concern being discussed at the three-day UNAIDS meeting are human rights, especially in connection with access to services, as well as stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV. read more