Friday, 30 January 2009
"The teenagers and college students who left their homes to march in the streets of Birmingham and Montgomery; the mothers who walked instead of taking the bus after a long day of doing somebody else's laundry and cleaning somebody else's kitchen -- they didn't brave fire hoses and Billy clubs so that their grandchildren and their great-grandchildren would still wonder at the beginning of the 21st century whether their vote would be counted; whether their civil rights would be protected by their government; whether justice would be equal and opportunity would be theirs.... We have more work to do."
-- Barack Obama, Speech at Howard University, September 28, 2007
President Barack Obama has spent much of his career fighting to strengthen civil rights as a civil rights attorney, community organizer, Illinois State Senator, U.S. Senator, and now as President. Whether promoting economic opportunity, working to improve our nation's education and health system, or protecting the right to vote, President Obama has been a powerful advocate for our civil rights.
* Combat Employment Discrimination: President Obama and Vice President Biden will work to overturn the Supreme Court's recent ruling that curtails racial minorities' and women's ability to challenge pay discrimination. They will also pass the Fair Pay Act, to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work, and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
* Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: President Obama and Vice President Biden will strengthen federal hate crimes legislation, expand hate crimes protection by passing the Matthew Shepard Act, and reinvigorate enforcement at the Department of Justice's Criminal Section.
* End Deceptive Voting Practices: President Obama will sign into law his legislation that establishes harsh penalties for those who have engaged in voter fraud and provides voters who have been misinformed with accurate and full information so they can vote.
* End Racial Profiling: President Obama and Vice President Biden will ban racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies and provide federal incentives to state and local police departments to prohibit the practice.
* Reduce Crime Recidivism by Providing Ex-Offender Support: President Obama and Vice President Biden will provide job training, substance abuse and mental health counseling to ex-offenders, so that they are successfully re-integrated into society. Obama and Biden will also create a prison-to-work incentive program to improve ex-offender employment and job retention rates.
* Eliminate Sentencing Disparities: President Obama and Vice President Biden believe the disparity between sentencing crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong and should be completely eliminated.
* Expand Use of Drug Courts: President Obama and Vice President Biden will give first-time, non-violent offenders a chance to serve their sentence, where appropriate, in the type of drug rehabilitation programs that have proven to work better than a prison term in changing bad behavior.
Support for the LGBT Community
"While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It's about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect."
-- Barack Obama, June 1, 2007
* Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: In 2004, crimes against LGBT Americans constituted the third-highest category of hate crime reported and made up more than 15 percent of such crimes. President Obama cosponsored legislation that would expand federal jurisdiction to include violent hate crimes perpetrated because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or physical disability. As a state senator, President Obama passed tough legislation that made hate crimes and conspiracy to commit them against the law.
* Fight Workplace Discrimination: President Obama supports the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and believes that our anti-discrimination employment laws should be expanded to include sexual orientation and gender identity. While an increasing number of employers have extended benefits to their employees' domestic partners, discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace occurs with no federal legal remedy. The President also sponsored legislation in the Illinois State Senate that would ban employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
* Support Full Civil Unions and Federal Rights for LGBT Couples: President Obama supports full civil unions that give same-sex couples legal rights and privileges equal to those of married couples. Obama also believes we need to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and enact legislation that would ensure that the 1,100+ federal legal rights and benefits currently provided on the basis of marital status are extended to same-sex couples in civil unions and other legally-recognized unions. These rights and benefits include the right to assist a loved one in times of emergency, the right to equal health insurance and other employment benefits, and property rights.
* Oppose a Constitutional Ban on Same-Sex Marriage: President Obama voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2006 which would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman and prevented judicial extension of marriage-like rights to same-sex or other unmarried couples.
* Repeal Don't Ask-Don't Tell: President Obama agrees with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Shalikashvili and other military experts that we need to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. The key test for military service should be patriotism, a sense of duty, and a willingness to serve. Discrimination should be prohibited. The U.S. government has spent millions of dollars replacing troops kicked out of the military because of their sexual orientation. Additionally, more than 300 language experts have been fired under this policy, including more than 50 who are fluent in Arabic. The President will work with military leaders to repeal the current policy and ensure it helps accomplish our national defense goals.
* Expand Adoption Rights: President Obama believes that we must ensure adoption rights for all couples and individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation. He thinks that a child will benefit from a healthy and loving home, whether the parents are gay or not.
* Promote AIDS Prevention: In the first year of his presidency, President Obama will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. The President will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system. The President also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. President Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS.
* Empower Women to Prevent HIV/AIDS: In the United States, the percentage of women diagnosed with AIDS has quadrupled over the last 20 years. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. President Obama introduced the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections.
Barack H. Obama is the 44th President of the United States.
His story is the American story — values from the heartland, a middle-class upbringing in a strong family, hard work and education as the means of getting ahead, and the conviction that a life so blessed should be lived in service to others.
With a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, President Obama was born in Hawaii on August 4, 1961. He was raised with help from his grandfather, who served in Patton's army, and his grandmother, who worked her way up from the secretarial pool to middle management at a bank.
After working his way through college with the help of scholarships and student loans, President Obama moved to Chicago, where he worked with a group of churches to help rebuild communities devastated by the closure of local steel plants.
He went on to attend law school, where he became the first African—American president of the Harvard Law Review. Upon graduation, he returned to Chicago to help lead a voter registration drive, teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago, and remain active in his community.
President Obama's years of public service are based around his unwavering belief in the ability to unite people around a politics of purpose. In the Illinois State Senate, he passed the first major ethics reform in 25 years, cut taxes for working families, and expanded health care for children and their parents. As a United States Senator, he reached across the aisle to pass groundbreaking lobbying reform, lock up the world's most dangerous weapons, and bring transparency to government by putting federal spending online.
He was elected the 44th President of the United States on November 4, 2008, and sworn in on January 20, 2009. He and his wife, Michelle, are the proud parents of two daughters, Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7.
Thursday, 29 January 2009
Crop Production and Water
Although the deyr rains (October to November 2008) have brought much relief in terms of availing pasture and water in Somali Region (potentially addressing concerns over livestock survival in the current jilaal (dry) season), their contribution in terms of reducing overall food insecurity was insignificant, notes the January DPPS/SC UK Food Security Update. The failure of 2007 and 2008 rains, led to low livestock reproduction rate and high mortality and miscarriage levels in the dry seasons (jilaal and hagaa) of 2008. Crop production, despite the deyr rains, was severely constrained by shortage of seeds, early cessation of the rains and floods in the riverine areas. Harvests were below normal in most parts of Jijiga zone; while crops in Kebribeyah, Southern Babile and Shinile zones have failed due to poor rains, notes the regional update. Additionally, pocket areas including some kebeles in Aysha and Bokh woredas that are currently dependent on water trucking interventions continue to face severe water shortages. In response to water shortages in the Region, the Regional Water Bureau constructed borehole in Bokh woreda of Warder zone and the Ogaden Welfare and Development Association (OWDA) is constructing cisterns for rain water harvesting in Kebridehar woreda and hand-dug wells in Degehabur woreda with support from UNICEF. In addition, within the framework of the integrated Water, Sanitation and Health (WASH) schools project, construction of cisterns in seven schools in Gode Town has been finalized. Humanitarian partners with support from UNICEF are also undertaking construction of hand-dug wells, latrines and water points in primary schools in Jijiga, UNICEF reports.
The unseasonable rains in early November 2008 benefited late planted crops in most parts of the country, however, they have not significantly improved crop yields in some eastern parts of the country. In East and West Harerghe zones of Oromiya, production yields obtained from this year's meher crops, including sorghum and maize, are very low compared to average production rates, according to CARE's latest food security and Livelihood Update. Sorghum and maize normally contributed for 55
percent and 88 percent, respectively, of the total seasonal production in the areas.
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WFP reports that 74 percent of the November Relief allocations have been dispatched countrywide as of 20 January 2009 including Afder and Liben zones in Somali Region which are covered by the Disaster Management and Food Security Sector (DMFSS). A total of 54,379 MT of food commodities were allocated for December 2008 for all regions. Available monitoring report from Somali Region indicates that 4,047 MT of food commodities have been dispatched to the region thus far.
WFP continues to face resource shortfalls for 2009 for Relief 345,876 MT (US$ 290.6 million), Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) 54,655 MT (US$ 47.2 million), Targeted Supplementary Food (TSF) programs 41,710 MT (US$ 36.1 million) and Urban HIV/AIDS 10,039 MT (US$ 8.7 million). Meanwhile a total of 154,977 MT of mixed commodities comprising 117,492 MT of cereals, 5,000 MT of pulses, 26,715 MT of blended food and 5,770 MT of oil are expected to arrive in the country from January on. Currently, the total WFP in-country stock stands at 55,933 MT including 15,664 MT in hubs in Somali Region, while DMFSS in-country stock amounts to 40,156 of which free stock is 7,547 MT. Available stock at the Ethiopian Food Security ReserveAdministration (EFSRA) totals 111,179 MT as at 21 January 2009. The impact of resource shortfalls has resulted in reduced rations applied since July 2008. In addition, the November relief ration has excluded pulses and oil (the Decemberallocation will contain all commodities, however, at a reduced ration). WFP further reports that the second quarter of 2008 post distribution monitoring survey indicates that households continue to engage in negative coping strategies in order to meet their basic food needs. The survey reveals the strategies include selling a higher number of productive assets (44 percent), reducing the number of meals or quantity taken per day (92 percent) and borrowing food/money (69 percent). For more information contact: email@example.com
In Afar Region, the Regional Health Bureau with financial support from UNICEF has conducted sensitization training on Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD) in Yallo woreda; hygiene promotion and health education activities are currently being conducted in Gewane woreda.
Key overall developments
In 2009, WFP plans to support 3.8 million conflict-affected people in Darfur with approximately 516,000 mt of food assistance. The bulk of this assistance will be provided through General Food Distributions to IDPs living in camps and host communities, as well as to poor rural households. Nutrition support will also continue to malnourished women and children through the Supplementary and Blanket Supplementary Feeding programmes. School children will also continue to receive daily cooked meals at school to encourage enrolment and regular attendance. Where the security situation allows, WFP plans to support rural communities with small-scale recovery projects to rehabilitate community infrastructure.
In 2008, the NFI & ES Common Pipeline in Darfur supported a total of 232,390 IDP households who required replenishment, 52,101 newly-displaced households and 26,964 households of other categories such as disaster-affected populations, extremely vulnerable persons, refugees, organized and spontaneous returns, and vulnerable host communities. Of the households supported, 31% were located in North Darfur, 42% in South Darfur and 27% in West Darfur. In total 1,224,159 non-food items and emergency shelter were distributed throughout the region, considerably less than in 2007,which reflects the introduction of the policy of targeted distributions
Needs and response by sector
In collaboration with UNICEF, the State Ministry of Education has provided 280 desks and benches, 20 chalkboards, and sets of office furniture to eight communities across the state, as part of the ongoing Child-Friendly Community Initiative (CFCI) that encourages community leadership in providing social services. Twenty new classrooms have been constructed in these communities. In addition, the State Ministry of Education has provided 204 sets of classroom furniture to a further 12 schools operated through the CFCI programme.
World Vision mobilised community members to construct two classrooms at
Mercy Corps in Zallingei trained 160 girls in crochet handiwork in Hassa Hissa and Hamidiya camps. They also delivered messages on breastfeeding to 80 mothers in Hamedia camp, and trained 90 children from the two Child Friendly Spaces in Hassa Hissa camp in personal hygiene.
Food Security and Livelihoods
Despite the deteriorating security conditions in the state, WFP trucks have dispatched 94% of the planned tonnage for this month. Distributions have so far occurred with minimal disruptions. WFP is working with partners to ensure capacity building for local Food Aid Management Committees (FAMCs) who carry out food distributions when insecurity prevents WFP or NGO access. Plans are underway to re-elect community members to FAMCs and carry out trainings. Nutrition food preparation hand books were distributed to schools participating in WFP's Food for Education (FFE) programme as well as to nutrition feeding centres in an attempt to improve the use of WFP food commodities. FFE programme management and reporting trainings were completed for school feeding focal points in WFP supported schools in Saraf Omra and Serief Bin Hussein localities.
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- Food security situation continues to deteriorate
- Flash Appeal remains severely under funded with only $2,486,428 (12.1%)
of original request for $20,586,803 received.
- General population and social infrastructure are subject to prolonged
(4-14 h) power cuts and service interruption
SITUATION: The government of Kenya has declared a famine, and issued aninternationalappeal for food assistance to ensure that the nutritional needs of 10 million Kenyans are met until the end of August 2009. This is a substantial portionof the population of some 37 million.
The 10 million persons affected by food insecurity in Kenya right now are asfollows: 3.5 million directly affected by an ongoing drought; an additional 1.5 millionchildren dependent on a school feeding program; an additional 2.5 millionvulnerable Kenyans suffering from various diseases including HIV/AIDS; and another 2.5 million urban poor having trouble making ends meet.
Compounding these problems, according to humanitarian groups: The increasing cost of food and non-food items like fertilizer; further crop failures; political conflicts in the pastoral areas; and continued post-national election violence that has severely affected the planting seasons in many parts of the Rift Valley province. Farmers are afraid to return to their fields given the ongoing violence and threats.
The lack of seasonal rains mean that dams have dried up, women trek long distancesin search of water, and livestock has been decimated. As a result of theseconditions,food is now at a premium: A 90-kilogram bag of maize is now selling for $72, at a cost that few can afford.An assessment recently conducted by Church World Service East Africa concludes: "There is serious need for emergency food relief; supplementary feeding for those five and under and the aged; rehabilitation of dry water pans (or basins); and construction of water retaining structures (or sand dams)."
CWS RESPONSE: Church World Service East Africa is responding to this emergency,working with local partners, including the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), the Kenya Evangelical Lutheran Church (KELC), the Community RuralInitiative (CRI) and the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK), providing assistance to affected families in the agricultural districts of Makueni and Mwingi in Kenya's Eastern Province.
CWS has a history of working in the region as part of its "Water for All" program.The recent assessment by CWS concludes that immediate emergency assistanceis needed in these areas so that further development work can resume. *The drought in Kenya is* getting worse by the day, and a majority of the families from communities that CWS has been working with in development activities are currently going without food," the assessment said.
The CWS response includes:
++ Immediate food relief in Kenya's Eastern Province.
++ Enhancing selective feeding programs among children and people living
with HIV and AIDS, and where nutrition is already poor or deteriorating,
particularly among pastoral households.
++ Providing additional food allocations /school feeding support to
schools where enrollment has decreased due to drought.
Helping coordinate the CWS response are the specific partners:
++ The NCCK-implemented part of the CWS program is for food assistance
of maize and beans to 2,637 beneficiaries, with a budget of $49,307.
++ The KELC portion of the CWS program is for 3,000 beneficiaries and
focuses on a three-month feeding program, seeds distribution and
immediate food relief. Total budget: $73,289.
++ The CRI-implemented part of the CWS effort is for 11,000 beneficiaries and focuses on a three-month feeding program with a budget of $59,496.
++ The ACK portion of the CWS program is for the provision of food
assistance including corn and beans for 3,600 persons at $65,064.
Total number of beneficiaries: 20,237. Total budget for project is $252,099, which includes the costs of the four partners activities plus CWS coordination and monitoring costs ($4,943).
While assessing needs in the Eastern Province, the CWS team encountered a sand dam that was part of CWS-supported drought mitigation measures begun in 2006. This sand dam, which is the only remaining water source for the Ing*oini village of about 500 households, is still holding water today despite the current drought.
CWS recognizes the beneficial impact of drought mitigation measures like this water conservation effort and wants to encourage partners to construct similar sand dams in each of the currently affected areas.
CWS is in discussion with the affected communities and hopes, through a later longer-term appeal, to secure support for the construction of sand dams in many of these communities in coming months.
For further information about disasters to which Church World Serviceis responding please visit www.churchworldservice.org or call the CWS Hotline, (800) 297-1516.
CWS Emergency Response Program special contacts: (212) 870-3151
JOHANNESBURG, 26 January 2009 (IRIN) - Zimbabwe's worst-case cholerascenario, as predicted by the World Health Organisation, is likely to besurpassed within a few weeks and there are still about two months of therainy season left.
In December 2008 the WHO said cholera cases could balloon to 60,000before the rainy season ended in March 2009, but Gregory H=E4rtl,spokesman for the organisation's Epidemic and Pandemic Alert andResponse office in Geneva, told IRIN that as of 25 January, 53,306cholera cases and 2,872 deaths had been recorded since the outbreak began in August 2008.
Cholera, an easily treatable waterborne disease, thrives in poorsanitary conditions and is expected to remain a feature until Zimbabwe'srainy season subsides.
The Herald, a state-owned daily newspaper, trumpeted in its 26 Januaryedition that cholera was on the "retreat" in the capital, Harare, butcautioned that "Cholera is still present in the city, especially thesouthwestern suburbs, and any relaxation in our guard and our efforts will see the caseload explode."
However, H=E4rtl said the conditions causing Zimbabwe's cholera outbreakremained in place. "The systemic underinvestment in water and sanitationinfrastructure and the health system ... These conditions will notchange overnight."
Zimbabwe's cholera death toll has now exceeded the number of people whohave died from the disease in the entire African continent over severalyears: in 2001 (2,590 deaths), 2003 (1,884), 2004 (2,331) and 2005(2,230), according to the WHO. Figures for 2006, 2007 and 2008 were notavailable.
Africa had 4,610 cholera deaths in 2000, and 4,551 in 2002.
The disease has also spread to neighbouring countries. South Africa'sHealth Minister, Barbara Hogan, told a local television station that thecountry's cholera outbreak was a consequence of the spread of the disease from neighbouring Zimbabwe.
According to local media reports, between 15 November and 24 January,5,696 cases were diagnosed in South Africa and 36 people died.
The South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD)notes on its website that the disease strain in both South Africa andZimbabwe is Vibrio cholerae O1 serotype Ogawa biotype El Tor.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs(OCHA) said in its regional update on 23 January 2009 that ninecountries in the Southern Africa region were reporting cholera cases:Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland,Zambia and Zimbabwe.
"Trans-border infections have been recorded and cholera is becomingendemic (recurrent throughout the year) in most of the affected countries," OCHA said.
GBARNGA, 26 January 2009 (IRIN) - Army worms have now struck 65 towns across Liberia, leaving in their wake wells contaminated by faeces, fields empty of crops and markets devoid of food.
The worms, which invaded Bong country in central Liberia on 15 January, have spread to Gbarpolu County in the northwest and to Lofa County, which borders Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Crops that remain in the affected Liberian towns - including bananas, plantains, taros and peppers - are not being harvested. "Farmers are now scattered around the area and are no longer harvesting their crops so.there is a shortage of food in the markets," said farmer Massaboi Kollie, who runs a 10-acre taro and pepper farm in the town of Belefanai, which was infested on 23 January.
This leaves market vendors in Bong's capital Gbarnga with nothing to sell. "We are no longer making business. The worms have taken over all the towns where we normally buy bananas, plantains and peppers," said vendor Mamie Morris.
Up to 20,000 people have fled their villages in Bong, Lofa and Gbarpolu counties, according to Liberia's Ministry of Agriculture.
"Life is becoming unbearable for us," Anthony Menkor, 55, told IRIN from Gbarnga, where he fled from Zota District with his 13-member family. "We are relying on the limited crops that are left, and depending on other food being transported in from other regions."
Rising food prices
In Gbarnga the cost of some foods has more than doubled: a large bunch of bananas now cost US$10 up from $4; 1 kg taros that used to cost 38 cents now costs $2.25, according to fruit-seller Annie Sumo.
As much as 75 percent of Zota District has been invaded by the worms, said the district's agricultural commissioner, Joseph Urey.
"There is food shortage right now in my district and we are sending emergency calls for aid agencies to bring water and food to the affected people, who have been displaced from their towns," Urey said.
Fighting the worms
Officials with the ministries of agriculture, health and internal affairs and the Environmental Protection Agency have been spraying affected areas with insecticide, forcing most of the worms into the forest, according to Joseph Queliboh Subah, who manages the government effort to contain the insects.
But this has sparked fear that the worms might cross the borders to Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Subah said only aerial spraying can stem the spread, as insects climb trees to fertilise their eggs."Liberia cannot contain the invasion so the international community has to come in to help with more advanced spraying,"
He said NGOs have not yet responded to appeals for assistance.
Experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) were expected to arrive in the capital Monrovia on 26 January to assess the extent of the damage and decide how to fight the worms, according to FAO's Liberia emergency coordinator Tim Vaesen.
Area 51-Fact or Fiction?
Area 51 is a military base, and a remote detachment of Edwards Air Force Base. It is located in the southern portion of Nevada in the western United States, 83 miles (133 km) north-northwest of downtown Las Vegas. Situated at its center, on the southern shore of Groom Lake, is a large secretive military airfield. The base's primary purpose is to support development and testing of experimental aircraft and weapons systems.
The base lies within the United States Air Force's vast Nevada Test and Training Range. Although the facilities at the range are managed by the 99th Air Base Wing at Nellis Air Force Base, the Groom facility appears to be run as an adjunct of the Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC) at Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert, around 186 miles (300 km) southwest of Groom, and as such the base is known as Air Force Flight Test Center (Detachment 3).
Though the name Area 51 is used in official CIA documentation, other names used for the facility include Dreamland, Paradise Ranch, Home Base, Watertown Strip, Groom Lake, and most recently Homey Airport. The area is part of the Nellis Military Operations Area, and the restricted airspace around the field is referred to as (R-4808N), known by the military pilots in the area as "The Box" or "the Container".
The intense secrecy surrounding the base, the very existence of which the U.S. government barely acknowledges, has made it the frequent subject of conspiracy theories and a central component to unidentified flying object (UFO) folklore.