Wholesale prices edge up 02 per cent in April

WASHINGTON — U.S. wholesale prices edged up 0.2% in April, driven higher by a big jump in energy costs.The Labor Department says the increase in its producer price index, which measures inflation pressures before they reach the consumer, followed an even bigger 0.6% March increase.Wholesale prices are up 2.2% over the past year while prices, excluding volatile food and energy, have risen 2.4%. Inflation pressures remain under control, a fact that has allowed the Federal Reserve to move to the sidelines in terms of pushing interest rates higher. After four rate hikes in 2018, Fed officials have indicated they expect no further rate hikes this year.For April, energy prices jumped 1.8% following an even bigger 5.6% per cent March gain. Gasoline prices were up 5.9%.Martin Crutsinger, The Associated Press read more

Fire triggers pollution concerns at US Steel coke plant

Another fire at U.S. Steel’s massive coke plant outside Pittsburgh knocked a key pollution control system offline Monday, triggering a health warning as officials monitored the air around the plant for signs of a release of toxic sulfur dioxide.It was the second fire since December at U.S. Steel’s Clairton coke works, the largest facility of its kind in the United States. The plant turns coal into coke, one of the raw materials of steel.While the Dec. 24 fire triggered significant releases of sulfur dioxide, a pungent byproduct of fossil fuel combustion that can cause breathing problems, Allegheny County health officials said Monday that monitoring equipment had not detected a similar spike from latest blaze. Nevertheless, the elderly, parents of children and people with respiratory conditions “should be aware of the potential for elevated levels of (sulfur dioxide),” the Allegheny County Health Department said in a statement.U.S. Steel said a small fire in an electrical panel around 4:30 a.m. caused three control rooms to lose power. Though power was restored in one control room, the others remained without electricity Monday afternoon. Those facilities house equipment used to remove sulfur dioxide from coke oven gases. The company could not immediately say when the desulfurization unit would be operational again, but said in a statement that it was taking steps to “mitigate environmental impacts.”The Pittsburgh-based steelmaker is continuing to deal with significant regulatory and legal fallout from the Dec. 24 fire at Clairton, which caused $40 million in damage.Two Pennsylvania environmental groups, PennEnvironment and the Clean Air Council, have filed a federal lawsuit that alleges U.S. Steel violated the Clean Air Act by operating the plant without its desulfurization unit for more than three months. In a separate lawsuit, a woman alleges she suffered headaches, a persistent cough, throat irritation and difficulty breathing. That suit seeks class action status.Allegheny County health officials have levied more than $2 million in fines against U.S. Steel since June 2018 over persistent emissions problems at the coke works.“This just adds to a long list of permit violations and air quality issues at the plant,” said Matt Walker, community outreach director at the Philadelphia-based Clean Air Council. “Two incidents in that short amount of time should raise serious concern from regulators, elected officials and residents.”U.S. Steel’s Clairton facility produces about 4.3 million tons of coke annually to serve its own steelmaking operations and the larger commercial coke market.Michael Rubinkam, The Associated Press read more

Intensive work needed to reintegrate returning Afghan refugees UN agency warns

The international donor and humanitarian community must work even more intensively to ensure that Afghan refugees returning home are able to resume a normal life, with the lack of land, shelter and jobs posing a very long-term challenge for which there are no quick fixes, the United Nations refugee agency has warned. Since 2002, some 5 million Afghan refugees have returned to their battle-scarred homeland, mostly from Pakistan and Iran, a majority aided by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). There are currently 3 million registered Afghans left in neighbouring countries, most of whom have been abroad for more than two decades. “The return of millions of Afghans to their homes and communities has been one of the major success stories of Afghanistan’s recovery,” UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Operations Judy Cheng-Hopkins said yesterday at the end of a three-day visit to see first hand the challenges faced by refugees returning to Afghanistan. “Repatriation will certainly continue but we will have to work even more intensively with the Government of Afghanistan, the donor community, and our implementing partners if we are to make return and reintegration sustainable for those who choose to return home in future,” she added. She noted that the deteriorating security situation in part of the country and difficult economic conditions underlined how important it will be to continue to maintain a gradual and voluntary approach to repatriation. “The primary responsibility lies with the government of Afghanistan. But UNHCR will look closely at how we and our partners will need to work from now on to meet the reintegration needs of the long staying population,” she declared. Ms. Cheng-Hopkins left Afghanistan yesterday for Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, to extend the Tripartite Agreement governing the voluntary repatriation of refugees from Pakistan. The agreement, first signed in 2003, is a joint programme between the Governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan and UNHCR to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of registered Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. From Pakistan, she goes to Iran, where there are currently just over 900,000 registered Afghan refugees. The main purpose of her mission to Afghnaistan, where she met with senior Government officials, was to review UNHCR’s activities in the country, one of the agency’s most important operations in the world alongside Iraq and Sudan. She visited one of the busiest returnee centres, close to Kabul, the capital, where she met with families as they received a UNHCR cash grant for transport and reintegration expenses and prepared to travel onwards to resettle in their places of origin. She then went to Parwan province to see a land allocation site. 1 August 2007The international donor and humanitarian community must work even more intensively to ensure that Afghan refugees returning home are able to resume a normal life, with the lack of land, shelter and jobs posing a very long-term challenge for which there are no quick fixes, the United Nations refugee agency has warned. read more

UNbacked African Green Revolution meeting to kick off

28 August 2007The United Nations-backed conference on the African Green Revolution – which supports African farming communities as they evolve from subsistence farming to sustainable modern agriculture – kicks off tomorrow in Oslo, Norway. The United Nations-backed conference on the African Green Revolution – which supports African farming communities as they evolve from subsistence farming to sustainable modern agriculture – kicks off tomorrow in Oslo, Norway. The first such gathering took place last year, spurred by a July 2004 call by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan to bolster agricultural productivity and food security through a “Green Revolution” in Africa, which he said is the only continent bypassed by the transformation. This year’s conference – themed “Partnership for Productivity” – emphasizes public-private partnerships, and will draw a wide range of participants, including policymakers, Government officials, representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), farmers, entrepreneurs and business leaders. “The rural world is at a crossroads, facing ever-increasing pressure to produce more food to feed growing populations amid a number of rapidly evolving global challenges such as climate change, rural-urban migration and emerging biofuel markets,” said Kanayo Nwanze, Vice-President of the UN International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The Green Revolution “will move forward with support from the outside because the challenges facing African agricultural development require comprehensive solutions only possible through strategic alliances,” he stressed. Mr. Nwanze is one of scores of speakers to address the four-day conference, expected to be attended by around 200 people. read more

UN launches International Year to draw attention to global sanitation crisis

The United Nations today kicked off the International Year of Sanitation in a bid to accelerate progress for the 2.6 billion people around the world who do not enjoy the basic right to proper sanitation facilities. Speaking at the official launch at UN Headquarters in New York, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said access to sanitation is one of the most “overlooked, and underserved human needs.”International efforts to deliver on this basic right have proved “lacklustre,” with an estimated 42,000 people dying every week from diseases related to low water quality and an absence of adequate sanitation, he stated. “This situation is unacceptable.”The Secretary-General stressed that investments in sanitation are among of the most important allocations any nation can make. “For every dollar spent on improving sanitation it is estimated that at least nine dollars are saved in costs related to health, education, and social and economic development.”He called on the international community, national governments and civil society to take up the cause of sanitation with “unprecedented vigour” to accelerate progress towards the global target to reduce by half the proportion of people without access to basic sanitation by 2015 – one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set at a 200 UN summit.According to the UN, although more than 1.2 billion people worldwide have gained access to improved sanitation between 1990 and 2004, an estimated 2.6 billion people – including 980 million children – still lag behind.If current trends continue, there will be 2.4 billion people without basic sanitation in 2015, with children continuing to pay the price in lost lives, missed schooling, in disease, malnutrition and poverty.The International Year will include major regional conferences on sanitation, including one focusing on school sanitation. It will also encourage public and private partnerships to bring real changes for the billions who bear the brunt of the crisis. “Today, we go from a stage of planning to one of implementation,” said His Royal Highness Prince Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands, Chairperson of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation. “It is vital that progress is accelerated if we are to reach the Millennium Development Goal target on sanitation, and indeed the other development goals.” 21 November 2007The United Nations today kicked off the International Year of Sanitation in a bid to accelerate progress for the 2.6 billion people around the world who do not enjoy the basic right to proper sanitation facilities. read more

Caribbean tsunami warning system to take step forward with UNbacked group

The creation of the real-time sharing system for existing seismic monitoring networks will be discussed at the third session of the Intergovernmental Coordination Group for the Tsunami and Other Coastal Hazards Warning System for the Caribbean and Adjacent Regions (CARIBE EWS) taking place in Panama through Friday, according to the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). An implementation plan for the system, drafted by a group of experts from the Member States and the Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC), will be submitted for approval by Member States during the meeting, UNESCO said. The new system will replace the temporary service being provided by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre. UNESCO’s IOC set up a tsunami early warning system for the Pacific Ocean as early as 1965 and, after the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, has been instrumental in putting rapid warning systems in place in that region as well as in the Mediterranean, North-East Atlantic and the Caribbean. The goal, according to UNESCO, is a rapid tsunami early warning system for the entire globe. The Caribbean region, with its population of nearly 40 million, is by no means spared the risk of tsunamis, the agency said. The most recent catastrophes occurred in the San Blas Islands of Panama in 1882, Puerto Rico in 1918 and the Dominican Republic in 1946. 12 March 2008An independent tsunami early warning system for the Caribbean region, in place by 2010 at the latest, is likely to be a major step closer today when a United Nations-backed coordination group decides whether to give the go-ahead for a regional data-sharing system. read more

UNICEF project allows child workers in droughthit Ethiopia to attend school

About 300 children who work in the Lake Awassa fish market will be able to continue their studies at an informal school under the project, which is being implemented with the help of the South Ethiopia People’s Development Association and other local partners.Drought conditions across the Horn of Africa have become so severe that many families are sending their children away from home to find work, such as families in villages near Lake Awassa.The informal school will have social workers on site to provide students with counselling, and the pupils will be given the clothes and school supplies they need to continue their studies.“Every child has the right to an education,” UNICEF project officer Felekech Basazinew said in a press release issued on Monday. “These children have been forced to leave home because of the difficult circumstances their families are in. We are trying to make sure their rights are not denied.”Eight-year-old Shakur was sent away to work by his mother when she could no longer afford to feed him. He now rises at dawn to try to find work on the shores of Lake Awassa.“I work from 8 a.m. until noon,” he said. “I will buy a piece of bread for breakfast for 50 cents. For lunch I will buy a samosa for 60 cents, and then another piece of dry bread for my dinner”Shakur said he hopes to save enough money to buy a bicycle that he can then rent to other boys for 25 cents per ride. That way he can pay for schooling and try to become a doctor.UNICEF has already appealed for $49 million to fund its emergency operations for children and women in Ethiopia, particularly the south and southeast, where the drought is most severe.About 75,000 Ethiopian children are estimated to be severely malnourished as a result of the drought, and another 4.6 million people need immediate humanitarian assistance. 30 July 2008The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is backing a new project in drought-hit southern Ethiopia that will ensure child labourers in the impoverished region can attend school. read more

UN rural development arm supplies nearly 250 million to curb poverty

In West and Central Africa, the agency will make nearly $30 million in loans and $9 million in grants available.In Cameroon, smallholder farms without access to financial services will receive a boost, while in the Republic of Congo, IFAD will support a project targeting 250 villages and 20,000 households to help planters there increase their harvests.Some 200,000 farmers in northern Mozambique will benefit from a 7-year scheme seeking to increase the profitability of their crops through basic business training and direct counselling.Meanwhile in Albania, the IFAD-backed “Mountain to Markets Programme” seeks to augment the incomes of those living in mountainous areas, the poorest in the European nation.Rwanda, Senegal, Madagascar, Moldova, Sudan, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Costa Rica, Honduras and Nicaragua will also receive grants or loans from the agency.Since its creation three decades ago, IFAD has invested over $10 billion in low-interest loans and grants to help nearly half a billion poor rural people enhance their incomes. 15 September 2008The United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) announced today that it has approved almost $250 million in loans and grants to support one dozen initiatives aimed at fighting poverty in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. read more

Myanmar Ban welcomes release of political prisoners looks forward to further action

24 September 2008Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has once again called for the release of all political prisoners in Myanmar, following yesterday’s “welcome” move by the Government in freeing several detainees as part of an amnesty procedure. Those released included the country’s longest-serving political prisoner, U Win Tin, and six other senior members of the National League for Democracy (NLD), whose leader Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest. The other six are Dr. May Win Myint, U Aung Soe Myint, U Khin Maung Swe, Win Htain, Dr. Than Nyein and U Thein Naing. “The Secretary-General reiterates that all political prisoners should be released and that all citizens of Myanmar should be able to enjoy political freedoms, as necessary steps towards the process of national reconciliation and dialogue,” his spokesperson said in a statement. “He looks forward to any further action by the Myanmar Government in this regard.”The release of political prisoners was one focus of discussion between the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser, Ibrahim Gambari, and the Myanmar Government during his latest visit to the country in August.The head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has expressed his “immense joy” at the release of the 79-year-old U Win Tin, a writer and former newspaper editor who was detained for nearly 20 years, and the laureate of a press freedom prize instituted by the agency.“In freeing U Win Tin and other prisoners, the authorities have taken a wise and positive step towards respecting the fundamental human right of freedom of expression, an indispensable component of democracy and rule of law,” UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said. U Win Tin was arrested in July 1989 and was accused of belonging to the banned Communist Party of Myanmar. Sentenced to 14 years jail, he received an additional term of five years in 1996 for breaking prison regulations prohibiting the possession of writing materials.In 2001, he was honoured with the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano Press Freedom Prize, named after the Colombian newspaper publisher assassinated in 1987 for denouncing the activities of powerful drug barons in his country. News of the release of the seven prisoners was also welcomed yesterday by the independent UN expert on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, who said he hoped the move “would be the first in a series of releases of other prisoners of conscience, some 2,000 of whom are currently estimated to be still detained in Myanmar.” read more

UN chief in Sudan spotlights achievements and UN role since end of

Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative in Sudan, highlighted the achievements of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended the long-running conflict between the Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), during an open forum at the University of Khartoum.At the meeting, Mr. Qazi reiterated the UN Mission in Sudan’s (UNMIS) readiness to assist in implementing upcoming CPA benchmarks on such issues as elections, border demarcation, the downsizing of the two armed forces and the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration process. Some 80 participants, from academia, civil society, political and media organizations, engaged in discussions on a range of issues related to the CPA and the UN’s role in Sudan, including the UNMIS mandate, the relationship with the joint UN-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur – known as UNAMID – and the democratic transformation of the country. 15 October 2008The establishment of government institutions, the redeployment of former combatants and the successful implementation of the national census have been the major accomplishments in Sudan since the 2005 accord ending the north-south civil war, the top United Nations envoy to the country said today. read more

International Monetary Fund moves to boost Ukraine Hungary and Iceland

“An IMF staff mission and the Ukraine authorities have today reached agreement, subject to approval by IMF Management and the Executive Board,” said IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn yesterday.“Ukraine has developed a comprehensive policy package designed to help the country meet the balance of payments needs created by the collapse of steel prices, and the global financial turmoil and related difficulties in Ukraine’s financial system.”Issued under a 24-month standby arrangement, the loan will address financial sector liquidity and solvency problems. In the case of Hungary, IMF has been working with both the country’s authorities and the European Union (EU) to outline a framework of policies that will shore up the Hungarian financial sector and ensure economic growth potential. “A substantial financing package in support of these strong policies will be announced when the program is finalized in the next few days…the policies Hungary envisages justify an exceptional level of access to Fund resources,” said Mr. Strauss-Kahn.The announcement follows an agreement last Friday to loan Iceland more than $2 billion over two years in support of an economic programme to help restore confidence in the Nordic country’s banking system and stabilize its currency. Last Friday Mr. Strauss-Kahn also joined Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the meeting of the Chief Executives Board (CEB) – which brings together the heads of various UN agencies and entities, the World Bank and the IMF – where leaders discussed issues of global financial crisis, particularly their impact on the world’s poorest. “The crisis we are seeing today will impact all countries, developed and developing, but its most serious repercussions will be felt most by those who are least responsible – the poor in developing countries,” the officials said in a joint statement after the meeting. During the meeting, the Secretary-General told participants that “drastic measures” will be needed to resolve the financial crisis, possibly including the IMF and the world’s major central banks setting up substantial standby lines of credit so that banks in poor countries have adequate funds to draw on in an emergency.Following the conference, Mr. Ban reiterated the UN’s position on the global financial crisis and the needs of the undeveloped world. “All agreed that the UN has a special responsibility, the protection of the poorest and most vulnerable…We express our full commitment to the cause of economic development and will do our utmost to deal with the repercussions of this worldwide crisis,” he said.On 15 November world leaders – including Mr. Ban – will gather in Washington for a summit to devise ways to respond to the crisis. 27 October 2008The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has announced forthcoming loans for Hungary and Ukraine – the latter potentially receiving up to $16.5 billion – to strengthen both countries’ financial systems and ensure fiscal sustainability. read more

DR Congo UN envoy tells Rwandan Hutu militia to leave Congolese soil

The Special Representative for the Secretary-General, Alan Doss, insisted that the ethnic Hutu militia, the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), join the voluntary disarmament, demobilization, repatriation, reintegration and rehabilitation (DDRRR) programme managed by the UN mission in the DRC, known by its French acronym MONUC.“The FDLR have to understand that there”s no room for them on Congolese soil,” Mr. Doss said after a two-day visit to North Kivu, which ended yesterday, to assess the situation on the ground. “Many thousands of civilian refugees have also taken the path of return with [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] UNHCR assistance. I urge the fighters who remain in the DRC for they follow their example and take the way back,” added Mr. Doss, who also heads the peacekeeping operation, MONUC.Mr. Doss also visited the areas of fighting in North Kivu to assess the Government”s joint military offensive with Rwanda aimed at eradicating the FDLR from the region, in which MONUC provides logistics, transport and medical assistance.Accompanied by Mohamed Boukkry, the new UNHCR Regional Representative, and General Bipin Rawat, Commander of MONUC”s North Kivu Brigade, Mr. Doss visited the town of Pinga, where UN peacekeepers have a base which coordinates with the Congolese military to protect the 10,000 residents and some 6,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) uprooted by the violence. Mr. Doss told the media many FDLR fighters have chosen to join the DDRRR process in recent weeks and urged more to follow the example returning in “peace and dignity [to Rwanda] with their dependents.”Located some 150 kilometres north of Goma, the capital of North Kivu, Pinga was in the heart of the one of the main FDLR strongholds and illustrates one of the major security challenges facing MONUC. FDLR fighters, driven out by coalition forces, have returned a number of times to harass civilians, loot, rape and murder in retaliation for the military operation attempting to drive them out of the area. 22 February 2009The top United Nations official in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has again urged combatants fighting with a Rwandan militia group in the volatile North Kivu province of the DRC to put down their arms and return home. read more

UN urges end to interethnic clashes in Southern Sudan

Clashes on 8 May between the rival Lou Nuer and Jikany ethnic groups in the village of Torkech reportedly wounded 57 people, the majority of them children with some in critical condition, and forced at least 1,550 from their homes.“The UN is seriously concerned about the increasing violence in the area and the continuing loss of innocent lives of women, men and children,” stressed UN Deputy Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Southern Sudan Lise Grande.Ms. Grande called on “community leaders, and all relevant authorities to intervene and resolve the conflict through peaceful means and reconciliation.” The UN has sent an assessment mission to the area, and the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC) is mobilizing food assistance to be distributed to the displaced people.Security in Nasir town, where many of the displaced have taken up camp, is calm but there is fear of retaliatory attacks in the neighbouring Ulang County, part of which is composed of the same ethnic groups fighting in Torkech.In a related development, the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) has dispatched some 120 civilian, military and police personnel to Jonglei State, where thousands are taking shelter after fleeing recent tribal confrontations.The move is aimed at supporting the Government of Southern Sudan in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), and in providing humanitarian assistance and protection to civilians in the state.Last week, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that up to 1,000 people have been killed and over 100,000 uprooted from their homes since January in seven states in Southern Sudan due to the activities of the Ugandan rebel Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and inter-ethnic clashes.UNMIS personnel will assist the local communities in restoring dialogue by supporting peace and reconciliation conferences between communities in the area to prevent a further deterioration in relations and address the root causes of the conflicts, as well as to ensure a quick delivery of humanitarian aid to the affected populations. Military and police units from UNMIS will also provide technical and logistical assistance on security issues to the state government. 13 May 2009The recent surge in deadly ethnic violence in Southern Sudan, killing at least 66 people, is cause for serious concern, a United Nations official in the region warned today, calling for an immediate and peaceful resolution to the clashes. read more

Security Council extends terms of judges on UN war crimes tribunals

The Council, in two separate resolutions that were adopted unanimously, urged both tribunals “to take all possible measures to complete their work expeditiously,” and expressed its determination to support their efforts in this regard. The so-called “completion strategy” of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which is based in The Hague, requires it to finish trials of first instance by 2009, and then start downsizing in 2010. Among the decisions taken today, the Council extended the term of office of eight permanent judges at the ICTY and 10 ad litem, or temporary, judges until 31 December 2010, or until the completion of the cases to which they are assigned.In addition, the Council decided, on the request of the President of the ICTY, that the Secretary-General may appoint additional temporary judges to complete existing trials or conduct additional trials. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which is based in the Tanzanian town of Arusha, is also aiming to finish first-instance trials by the end of 2009. The Tribunal was created in November 1994 to prosecute people responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Rwanda that year. Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were murdered, mostly by machete, in just 100 days. The Council decided, among other matters, to extend the term of office of five permanent judges at the ICTR and 11 temporary judges until 31 December 2010, or until the completion of the cases to which they are assigned if sooner. Reporting to the Council last month on their activities, officials from both tribunals stressed that the cooperation and assistance of Member States remains crucial if the courts are to successfully fulfil their mandates to bring those responsible for the most serious crimes to justice. 7 July 2009The Security Council today extended the terms of the judges serving on the United Nations war crimes tribunals set up to deal with the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the Balkan conflicts of the 1990s, so they can complete remaining cases by the deadline set for the courts’ work. read more

UNESCO chief voices concern after media outlets in Venezuela lose licenses

“I am deeply concerned over the reduction in the number of outlets through which citizens can exercise their right to receive information from diverse sources,” said UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura.“The people of Venezuela have the right to benefit from a diversity of perspectives in reports and analyses of events that concern them,” stressed Mr. Matsuura.He added that without a number of media outlets operating in the country, there can be no freedom of expression, or even democracy, and urged authorities “to reconsider their decision to take a great many broadcasters off air, and to protect media personnel from harassment.” According to an order issued in July, another 240 radio stations and 45 television channels are in danger of losing their licenses for alleged breaches of Telecommunication Law, in addition to the 32 radio and two television stations which have already lost the right to broadcast.Mr. Matsuura also noted recent reports of an attack on the headquarters of Globovisión by 30 individuals, led by Lina Ron, head of the Venezuelan Popular Unity party (UPV), who forced their way into the building, throwing teargas which reportedly affected four people. 12 August 2009The head of the United Nations agency tasked with defending press freedom has voiced deep concern today over a recent order to revoke the licences of 34 radio and television broadcasters in Venezuela. read more

Belgian rights defender Pakistani philanthropist win UN prize for nonviolence

20 October 2009A Belgian human rights defender and a Pakistani philanthropist were today awarded a prestigious United Nations prize that draws its inspiration from the life of Mahatma Gandhi for their work in promoting tolerance and non-violence. François Houtart of Belgium and Abdul Sattar Edhi of Pakistan were awarded the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)-Madanjeet Singh Prize on the unanimous recommendation of an international jury to UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura. They will share the $100,000 prizemoney and receive the award on 16 November, the International Day for Tolerance.Dedicated to advancing tolerance in the arts, education, culture, science and communications, the prize was created in 1995 on the 125th anniversary of the birth of the great Indian apostle of non-violence thanks to the generosity of Indian writer and diplomat Madanjeet Singh, who is also a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador. It is awarded every two years to individuals or institutions for outstanding contributions towards its goals. Previous laureates include Myanmar Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen.Mr. Houtart, an ardent promoter of North-South cooperation and founder of the Tri-Continental Centre (CETRI), a non-governmental organization (NGO) renowned for its work on development issues, was honoured for his life-long devotion to world peace, intercultural dialogue, human rights and promotion of tolerance. A life-long human rights defender, he has contributed significantly to advancing inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue. Mr. Edhi, one of the most active philanthropists in Pakistan through his Edhi Foundation, a non-profit social welfare programme with over 300 centres, received the accolade for life-long efforts to improve the conditions of the most disadvantaged groups in Pakistan and South Asia, and promote human dignity, human rights, mutual respect and tolerance.His foundation provides the needy with medical aid, family planning, emergency assistance and education, and sets up maternity homes, mental asylums, homes for the physically handicapped, blood banks and orphanages, among other services. Mr. Matsuura also decided to award two honorary mentions: to the Saint Petersburg Government Programme on Tolerance in Russia for its efforts to inculcate mutual respect and tolerance in a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic society, and eradicate all forms of discrimination; and to the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, United Kingdom, for commemorating millions of enslaved Africans and fighting against legacies of slavery such as racism, discrimination, inequalities, injustice and exploitation. read more

International Criminal Court case against Kenyan officials to proceed

30 August 2011The International Criminal Court (ICC) today dismissed an appeal by the Kenyan Government to throw out the cases against six high-ranking national officials, including a deputy prime minister, two ministers and a police chief, for possible crimes against humanity in post-electoral violence more than three years ago. The International Criminal Court (ICC) today dismissed an appeal by the Kenyan Government to throw out the cases against six high-ranking national officials, including a deputy prime minister, two ministers and a police chief, for possible crimes against humanity in post-electoral violence more than three years ago. The ICC appeals chamber ruled that no legal, factual or procedural error could be discerned in the pre-trial chamber’s decisions in May to proceed with the cases. The six are: Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance; William Samoei Ruto, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology; Henry Kiprono Kosgey, Minister of Industrialization; Joshua Arap Sang, Head of Operations for KASS FM radio station; Francis Kirimi Muthaura, Head of the Public Service and Secretary to the Cabinet; and Mohamed Hussein Ali, Police Commissioner at the time of the violence. More than 1,100 people were killed, 3,500 injured and up to 600,000 forcibly displaced in the violence that followed the December 2007 elections. There were also hundreds of rapes, possibly more, and at least 100,000 properties were destroyed in six of Kenya’s eight provinces, according to ICC Chief Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Appeals chamber presiding judge Daniel David Ntanda Nsereko explained that for the cases to be inadmissible a national investigation must be ongoing, covering the same individuals and substantially the same conduct as alleged before the ICC. The chamber ruled that the pre-trial chamber made no error when it found that the Government had failed to provide sufficient evidence to substantiate that it was investigating the six suspects for the crimes alleged in the ICC summonses. The pre-trial chamber found reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Kenyatta, Mr. Muthaura, Mr. Kosgey and Mr. Ruto were criminally responsible as indirect co-perpetrators for murder, forcible transfer and persecution, and also for rape and other inhumane acts in the case of the first two. It found that while there were not reasonable grounds to believe that Mr. Sang and Mr. Ali were indirect co-perpetrators, there were such grounds to believe that they otherwise contributed to the alleged crimes. Mr. Ruto has been suspended and Mr. Kosgey has stepped aside from the ministerial positions because of issues not related to the ICC. Earlier this year Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon discussed the cases with Kenyan Vice-President Stephen Kalonzo Musyoka at UN Headquarters in New York. read more

UN official discusses global organized crime with US congressional delegation

Yury Fedotov, the UNODC Executive Director, and the US delegation took note of the interconnections between the various forms of illicit crimes across the globe, with the US legislators showing particular interest in the linkages between transnational organized crime, drug trafficking and terrorism, during the meeting at the UNODC headquarters in Vienna on Friday.The congressional delegation voiced concern over organized crime, and were informed about the linkage between opium production in Afghanistan and the instability in the country, including the insurgency, and illicit money flows from piracy activities off the coast of the Horn of Africa.The United States has been collaborating with UNODC in the UN agency’s country programme for Afghanistan, while counter-piracy work has been ongoing, particularly under the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia of which the US has been a keen supporter.“This meeting was of enormous help in strengthening the already good cooperation between UNODC and the United States in the areas of our mandate,” said Mr. Fedotov. “Hopefully, it is the first of many such discussions and we will continue to work together in areas of mutual interest,” he added.Last year, the United States pledged $34.3 million to assist in implementing UNODC’s work across the globe, and Washington is a lead supporter of the Office’s programmes.On the linkage between transnational organized crime, drug trafficking and terrorism, Mr. Fedotov stressed the need for an integrated approach to all forms of crime.“UNODC is already doing everything possible to mainstream the issues of transnational organized crime both inside and outside the United Nations system and I am glad that the congressional delegates showed such a keen understanding of these trends,” said Mr. Fedotov.The US delegation was made up of representatives Harold Rogers (Republican, Kentucky), Norman D. Dicks (Democrat, Washington [state]), Edward Lopez Pastor (Democrat, Arizona), Steve Austria (Republican, Ohio), Ken Calvert (Republican, California), Steven A. Womack (Republican, Arkansas) and John J. Duncan, Jr. (Republican, Tennessee). 3 September 2011The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has had a meeting with a United States congressional delegation during which they discussed the situations in Mexico and Colombia, drug production and trafficking in Afghanistan, cyber security, money laundering, piracy and human trafficking. read more

Markets focused on Fed as investors expect small reduction in stimulus

North American markets were subdued Wednesday ahead of a much-anticipated announcement this afternoon from the U.S. Federal Reserve at the end of its two-day policy meeting.The S&P/TSX composite index dipped 24.20 points to 12,809.91. The Canadian dollar fell 0.12 of a cent to 97.01 cents US.The Fed is expected to announce that it will begin to reduce its massive $85-billion-a month bond-buying program, which was launched after the 2008 financial crisis to boost the flailing U.S. economy.The plan was put in place to keep borrowing rates low, resulting in more investors in the markets and fuelling market rallies across the globe.Since May, Fed chairman Ben Bernanke has hinted that the central bank will begin to scale back its stimulus once it has enough data to show that the economy is recovering. The markets are expecting the Fed to announce a $10 billion reduction in monthly bond purchases.What will be most important is the wording that accompanies the announcement, as investors listen to hear whether more hints will be dropped on the pace of future stimulus reductions.Bernanke is set to make an announcement at 2:30 p.m. ET.Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz will give a morning speech in Vancouver, followed by an afternoon news briefing, before the Fed’s announcement.Wall Street was slightly higher as the Dow Jones index jumped dropped 15.06 points to 15,514.67, the Nasdaq was up 4.43 points to 3,750.13 and the S&P 500 climbed 0.57 of a point to 1,705.33.Prior to the Fed speech, the U.S. Commerce Department reported that builders started work in August on the highest number of single-family homes in the last six months and requested permits to build more. The figures suggest housing is a driver of economic growth despite higher mortgage rates.Meanwhile, in corporate news, smartphone maker BlackBerry (TSX:BB) announced that a new phone will hit the markets in the coming weeks. The BlackBerry Z30 comes with a five-inch display, which means it’s about the same size as its competitor, the Samsung Galaxy S4. The company says the phone has a larger battery that will last for up to 25 hours.The Waterloo, Ont., company says the new phone will be available at a number of Canadian carriers, though specific dates haven’t been announced.BlackBerry has been in the midst of major changes with its organization and has a committee considering strategic alternatives, which could include the sale of the company. Its shares rose 1.10 per cent, or 12 cents, to $11 on the Toronto Stock Exchange.The TSX was mixed, as the energy sector came out as the leading advancer with an uptick of 0.18 per cent as the October crude contract gained 47 cents to US$105.89 a barrel.The gold sector was the leading decliner, down by 0.99 per cent, as December bullion fell $12.70 to US$1,296.70 an ounce.The metals and mining sector was up slightly at 0.08 per cent, while December copper was ahead four cents to US$3.27 a pound.Britain’s FTSE 100 rose 0.2 per cent to 6,580.02. Germany’s DAX advanced 0.3 per cent to 8,618.78. France’s CAC-40 gained 0.2 per cent to 4,154.99.In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei 225 rose 1.4 per cent to close at 14,505.36. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.3 per cent to 5,238.10. South Korean markets were closed for a public holiday. Benchmarks in mainland China, India, New Zealand and Singapore rose while the Philippines and Indonesia fell.Hong Kong’s Hang Seng, which gained more than 1,000 points so far this September by Tuesday’s close, fell 0.3 per cent to 23,117.45 as investors booked profits. read more

Shaw Communications Inc profit drops 24 as reorganization effort continues

CALGARY — Shaw Communications Inc. says ongoing efforts to improve its customer care operations cut into its profit in the second quarter but provided positive momentum for the longer term.The Calgary-based telecom and media company says it recorded $38 million of expenses related to severance and employee-related costs for about 1,600 affected employees.Shaw’s profit for the three months ended Feb. 28 was $168 million, down 24 per cent from the same period last year when it had a gain from the sale of specialty TV channels.This year’s second quarter net income amounted to 34 cents per share, which was five cents below the Thomson Reuters analyst estimate of 39 cents per share.Shaw said its second quarter operating income before restructuring costs and amortization was $557 million, up 5.5 per cent from $528 million a year earlier.Rogers, Shaw sign deal to stream original Amazon video content on ShomiShaw Communications Inc profit declines 7% as cable, satellite, phone subscriptions slipIt said the operating income benefitted from a more focused approach to its consumer-oriented telecom services, as announced last year, as well as growth in its two business-oriented segments.Its media segment — which includes specialty TV channels and the Global Television network — had $58 million of operating income before items, 4.9 per cent from $61 million last year.The consumer telecom segment had $409 million of operating income before restructuring and amortization, up from $408 million.The business network segment increased operating income by $6 million to $65 million while the new business infrastructure segment contributed to $25 million in the most recent quarter, compared with nil last year.Shaw’s overall revenue rose to $1.34 billion, up about five per cent from last year. Revenue from the media segment was flat, dipping to $238 million from $239 million in the second quarter of 2014.“The positive operating momentum continues across our businesses,” chief executive Brad Shaw said in a statement.“We are seeing the financial and operational benefits of the restructuring we started last year as part of our multi-year Focus to Deliver initiative . . . enhancing our efficiency and growth potential while better serving the needs of customers and viewers.” read more