Sunday, December 10, 2017

Secretary-General’s message on Human Rights Day

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Secretary-General's message on Human Rights Day - YouTube

Human Rights Day: UN to launch campaign for 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration

UN Middle East envoy warns of ‘risk of violent escalation’ after US decision on Jerusalem

8 December 2017 – Wednesday’s decision by United States President Donald Trump recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel has been widely welcomed in Israel but it has also caused much anger among Palestinians and anxiety across the Middle East and beyond, the United Nations envoy on the region’s peace process told ta special Security Council meeting on Friday.

“I am particularly concerned about the potential risk of a violent escalation,” said Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov, briefing the 15-member Council via video-link.

He told the Council that for both Israelis and Palestinians, Jerusalem “is and will always remain an integral part of their national identity.” Moreover, for billions of people, it serves as a symbol and a cornerstone of their Christian, Jewish or Muslim faith. “That is why it remains one of the most sensitive places in the world.”

“[Yet] there is a serious risk […] that this will spark a chain of unilateral actions, which can only undermine the achievement of our shared goal,” Mr. Mladenov warned.

Since the US announcement, widespread demonstrations and violent clashes have occurred between Palestinian protestors and Israel Security Forces throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

Protests have also been reported in other Arab cities and villages within Israel, as well in cities around the region and beyond, from Lebanon and Jordan to Malaysia and Bangladesh.

Noting the symbolic, religious and emotional charge that Jerusalem holds for people across the world, Mr. Mladenov called on all political, religious and community leaders to “refrain from provocative action and rhetoric that could lead to escalation; and I call on all to exercise restraint and engage in dialogue.” - Read More
UN Middle East envoy warns of ‘risk of violent escalation’ after US decision on Jerusalem

Issue of Jerusalem must be resolved through direct negotiations between parties, UN chief stresses

Human Rights Day: UN to launch campaign for 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration

8 December 2017 – The United Nations will on Sunday kick off in Paris, France, a year-long campaign to honor the foundational human rights document, which next year marks its 70th anniversary.

Since the proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, “human rightshave been one of the three pillars of the United Nations, along with peace and development,” said Secretary-General António Guterres in his message for Human Rights Day, annually observed on 10 December.

As “one of the world's most profound and far-reaching international agreements,” the Universal Declaration proclaimed the inalienable rights of every human being regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. It is the most translated document in the world, available in more than 500 languages.

Mr. Guterres noted that while human rights abuses did not end when the Universal Declaration was adopted, the instrument has helped countless people to gain greater freedom and security, and has also helped to prevent violations, obtain justice for wrongs, and strengthen national and international human rights laws and safeguards.

“Despite these advances, the fundamental principles of the Universal Declaration are being tested in all regions,” he said, citing rising hostility towards human rights and those who defend them by people who want to profit from exploitation and division.

“We see hatred, intolerance, atrocities and other crimes. These actions imperil us all,” he said, urging people and leaders everywhere to stand up for all human rights – civil, political, economic, social and cultural – and for the values that underpin hopes for a fairer, safer and better world for all. - Read More

Human Rights Day: UN to launch campaign for 70th anniversary of Universal Declaration

Friday, December 08, 2017

U.S. has begun fully implementing Trump travel ban: State Dept.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department said it began fully implementing President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting six Muslim-majority countries on Friday, four days after the Supreme Court ruled the order could be enforced while legal appeals continue.

Trump’s order, which calls for “enhancing vetting capabilities” at U.S. embassies and consulates overseas, directs the departments of State and Homeland Security to restrict the entry of people from six Muslim-majority countries - Chad, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia and Yemen - as well as from Venezuela and North Korea.

The State Department said in a statement on Friday that no visas would be revoked under the new vetting procedures. It said the restrictions were not intended to be permanent and could be lifted as “countries work with the U.S. government to ensure the safety of Americans.”

Trump promised as a candidate to impose “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and his effort to implement a travel ban has run into repeated legal challenges since he first announced it a week after taking office.

The current ban is the third version from the administration. Lower courts allowed the provisions covering North Korea and Venezuela to go into effect. - Read More, Reuters

U.S. has begun fully implementing Trump travel ban: State Dept.

Trump lifts refugee ban, but admissions still plummet, data shows

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In late October, President Donald Trump lifted a temporary ban on most refugee admissions, a move that should have cleared the way for more people fleeing persecution and violence to come to the United States.

Instead, the number of refugees admitted to the country has plummeted. In the five weeks after the ban was lifted, 40 percent fewer people were allowed in than in the last five weeks it was in place, according to a Reuters analysis of State Department data. That plunge has gone almost unnoticed.

As he lifted the ban, Trump instituted new rules for tougher vetting of applicants and also effectively halted, at least for now, the entry of refugees from 11 countries deemed as high risk. The latter move has contributed significantly to the precipitous drop in the number of refugees being admitted.

The data shows that the Trump administration’s new restrictions have proven to be a far greater barrier to refugees than even his temporary ban, which was limited in scope by the Supreme Court.

The State Department data shows that the kind of refugees being allowed in has also changed. A far smaller portion are Muslim. When the ban was in place they made up a quarter of all refugees. Now that it has been lifted they represent just under 10 percent. - Read More, reuters
Trump lifts refugee ban, but admissions still plummet, data shows

U.S. deportations down in 2017 but immigration arrests up

Most Americans oppose visa lottery but favor other openings for immigrants: Reuters/Ipsos poll

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Commuting Times, Median Rents and Language other than English Use in the Home on the Rise - CENSUS.Gov


New American Community Survey Statistics Provide Local Data for Every Community Nationwide

DEC. 7, 2017 — The nation experienced an increase in commuting time, median gross rent and a rise in English proficiency among those who spoke another language. These are only a few of the statistics released today from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2012-2016 American Community Survey five-year estimates data release, which features more than 40 social, economic, housing and demographic topics, including homeowner rates and costs, health insurance and educational attainment.

“The American Community Survey allows us to track incremental changes across our nation on how people live and work, year-to-year,” said David Waddington, chief of the Social, Economic, and Housing Statistics Division. “It’s our country’s only source of small area estimates for socio-economic and demographic characteristics. These estimates help people, businesses and governments throughout the country better understand the needs of their populations, the markets in which they operate and the challenges and opportunities they face.”

The survey produces statistics for all of the nation’s 3,142 counties. In addition, it is the only full dataset available for three-fourths of all counties with populations too small to produce a complete set of single-year statistics (2,322 counties). Each year, Census Bureau data helps determine how more than $675 billion of federal funding are spent on infrastructure and services, from highways to schools to hospitals.

Data Highlights

The following highlights are from the 2012-2016 American Community Survey five-year estimates release, unless otherwise noted. - Read More, CENSUS

America today: Longer commutes, higher rents, less English at home - cnn

(CNN) - Americans are commuting longer, speaking less English at home and paying more for rent, according to a new data release from the Census Bureau made Thursday.

The census data, called the American Community Survey, is released in yearly intervals and is filled with facts and figures about how the country's demographics are changing. It shows not just where rents go up but also where they decline. It shows where new immigrant groups are moving and where poverty is declining and rising. It also shows trends, like the increase in Spanish spoken in the home, that are often the subject of political debate.

This year's release summarizes data captured from 2012 through 2016.

Many of the findings of the survey dovetail with the messages President Trump pitched to American voters during the election -- about infrastructure spending on roads, fights about immigration issues and difficulties facing lower income groups.

Americans are driving longer on the country's roads and bridges to get to work. This is particularly true in larger metro areas or smaller metro areas within commuting distance of a larger metro area. Shorter commutes are generally found around smaller metro areas. On the whole, the census found that commutes got slightly longer from 2012 through 2016 than in the previous five-year period.

The worst work commutes are in the Northeast and around Washington, DC. Average commute times to and from these areas are at least 30 minutes each way. They include: - Read More

America today: Longer commutes, higher rents, less English at home ...

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Wildfires threaten several thousand homes in Southern California

Firefighters in Southern California are battling a new wildfire that has engulfed an area near the Getty Center and the Skirball Cultural Center.

The 150-acre brush fire ignited around 5 a.m. CT near 405 Freeway and Mulholland Drive in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. More than 350 firefighters were on the scene with helicopters hovering above as the so-called Skirball fire remained at 0 percent contained later this morning.

Authorities have shut down northbound 405 for an "undetermined period" as a result of the blaze and ordered mandatory evacuations for parts of the affluent Bel-Air neighborhood, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said the Skirball fire has downed trees and destroyed at least four structures in the area so far. Read More

Wildfires threaten several thousand homes in Southern ... - ABC News

Full Video and Transcript: Trump’s Speech Recognizing Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel - NYTimes

President Trump on Wednesday officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing decades of American foreign policy.

Mr. Trump made the formal announcement during a speech in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, with Vice President Mike Pence standing behind him.

The following is a transcript of his remarks, as prepared by The New York Times. - Read More

For more coverage and analysis, read here.

Full Video and Transcript: Trump's Speech Recognizing Jerusalem as ...

Jerusalem is Israel's capital, says Donald Trump

President Donald Trump has announced that the US now recognises Jerusalem as Israel's capital, overturning decades of official US policy.

Mr Trump described the move as "a long overdue step" to advance the Middle East peace process.

The president said the US would support a two-state solution, if approved by both the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Ahead of the decision, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas warned of "dangerous consequences".

Speaking at the White House, Mr Trump said he had "judged this course of action to be in the best interests of the United States of America, and the pursuit of peace between Israel and the Palestinians".

East Jerusalem, which includes the Old City, was annexed by Israel after the Six Day War of 1967, but is not internationally recognised as part of Israel. - Read More

Jerusalem is Israel's capital, says Donald Trump - BBC News

Donald Trump to plunge Middle East into 'fire with no end' with Jerusalem speech - theguardian

A cacophony of angry and despairing voices across the Middle East and the world has urged Donald Trump not to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel at a planned speech on Wednesday, warning him that any such announcement would destroy the peace process, strengthen the extremists and weaken the US’s standing in the world.

The pope issued an unusually heartfelt plea to the president to respect the status quo on the city, and to conform with UN resolutions. He told thousands of people at his general audience: “I cannot keep quiet about my deep worry about the situation that has been created in the last few days.”

Pope Francis said he hoped “wisdom and prudence prevail, in order to avoid adding new elements of tension to a global panorama that is already convulsed and marked by so many cruel conflicts”.

The spokesman for the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, said the US was “plunging the region and the world into a fire with no end in sight”. He added that the Organisation for Islamic Co-operation would meet in Istanbul on 13 December in a special session to co-ordinate a response.

British prime minister Theresa May said on Wednesday that she would call Trump about his proposed announcement.

“The status of Jerusalem should be determined as a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and the Palestinians and Jerusalem should be a shared capital,” she said.

Both Germany and France, fierce critics of the decision, updated travel advice to their citizens, warning of possible clashes in Israel and the occupied territories. - Read More

Donald Trump to plunge Middle East into 'fire with no end' with ...

Any action that would undermine efforts towards a two-state solution must be avoided, Mogherini says after meeting with Tillerson

"The European Union supports the resumption of a meaningful peace process towards a two-state solution. We believe that any action that would undermine these efforts must absolutely be avoided," said Mogherini.

"A way must be found, through negotiations, to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of both states, so that the aspiration of both parties can be fulfilled," the HRVP added highlighting that the European Union supports the resumption of a meaningful peace process towards a two-state solution. - Read More

Any action that would undermine efforts towards a two-state solution ...

Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini ...

World reacts to US Israel embassy relocation plan | News | Al Jazeera

US President Donald Trump is expected to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on Wednesday, and announce his plans to move the US embassy to the city. 

The US president on Tuesday called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and other Arab leaders to inform them of his intentions.

He was warned by many in the Middle East and elsewhere of the "disastrous consequences" the move would have on regional stability and any prospect of a long-lasting peace agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians. 

No country currently has its embassy in Jerusalem, and the international community, including the US, does not recognise Israel's jurisdiction over and ownership of the city.

Echoing Abbas' comments, Jordan's King Abdullah II told Trump that such a decision would have "dangerous repercussions on the stability and security of the region", according to a statement released by the palace. 

"Jerusalem is the key to achieving peace and stability in the region and the world," the statement said, adding that an embassy move would inflame Muslim and Christian feelings.

In a statement, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi also cautioned Trump against "taking measures that would undermine the chances of peace in the Middle East".

Following a separate phone conversation with Trump, Saudi King Salman also told the US president "that any American announcement regarding the situation of Jerusalem prior to reaching a permanent settlement will harm peace talks and increase tensions in the area".

Earlier on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to cut diplomatic ties with Israel, following reports that the US was considering recognising Jerusalem as Israel's capital, a move that would be symbolised by relocating the embassy to Jerusalem. 

"Jerusalem is a red line for Muslims," said Erdogan. "We implore the US once again: You cannot take this step."

Later in the day, Sigmar Gabriel, Germany's foreign ministeralso warned that any US move to recognise Jerusalem "as the capital of Israel does not calm a conflict, rather it fuels it even more," and that such a move "would be a very dangerous development."

Gabriel said in Brussels that "it's in everyone's interest that this does not happen".

Federica Mogherini, the European Union's top diplomat, said "any action that would undermine" peace efforts to create two separate states for the Israelis and the Palestinians "must absolutely be avoided."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has "consistently warned against any unilateral action that would have the potential to undermine the two-state solution", his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters in New York. - Read More

World reacts to US Israel embassy relocation plan | News | Al Jazeera

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Wildfires In Southern California Force Thousands Of People To Flee - NPR

Multiple fires are burning in Southern California, claiming hundreds of structures and thousands of acres and closing many freeways and local roadways, according to state fire officials.

A wind-whipped wildfire swept into the coastal California city of Ventura early Tuesday, one day after thousands of people in Ventura County were forced to flee the blaze, which has now engulfed some 50,000 acres northwest of Los Angeles. It erupted weeks after firefighters in Northern California's wine country managed to contain the deadliest blazes in the state's history.

"This is already the most destructive fire year on record for the state," NPR's Nathan Rott reports.

Around 1,000 homes in the cities of Ventura, Santa Paula and Ojai have been evacuated, according to the Los Angeles TimesMandatory as well as voluntary evacuations were in effect in Ventura on Tuesday, with shelters open at the Ventura County Fairgrounds and in nearby Ojai and Oxnard.

At least 150 structures have been lost in the blaze, said Ventura County Fire Department Chief Mark Lorenzen. The Times reports those include "at least one large apartment complex and the Vista Del Mar Hospital, a psychiatric facility. ... Many more were threatened."

The Thomas Fire broke out around 6:30 p.m. local time Monday northwest of the city of Santa Paula and then exploded in size overnight. Officials initially said at least one person had died as a result of the blaze but clarified Tuesday that no fatalities have been confirmed, according to the Times.

An incident report from Ventura County described the blaze as "a fast moving, active brush fire that started north of Santa Paula near Highway 150 and has burned into the city limits of Ventura and toward Highway 33." - Read More

Wildfires In Southern California Force Thousands Of People To Flee

U.S. to Recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital, Trump Says, Alarming Middle East Leaders

WASHINGTON — President Trump plans to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move the American Embassy there, upending nearly seven decades of American foreign policy and potentially destroying his efforts to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

Mr. Trump’s decision, a high-risk foray into the thicket of the Middle East, was driven not by diplomatic calculations but by a campaign promise. He appealed to evangelicals and ardently pro-Israel American Jews in 2016 by vowing to move the embassy, and advisers said on Tuesday he was determined to make good on his word.

But the president, faced with a deadline of this past Monday to make that decision, still plans to sign a national security waiver to keep the embassy in Tel Aviv for an additional six months, even as he set in motion a plan to move it to Jerusalem. Officials said the process would take several years.

More significantly, Mr. Trump is to announce his formal recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital in a formal speech at the White House on Wednesday, when he will become the first American president to take that step since the founding of Israel in 1948.

Mr. Trump spent Tuesday morning explaining the policy change in telephone calls with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel; Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president; and to Arab leaders who warned him that it would disrupt the peace process, perhaps fatally, and could unleash a new wave of violence across the region.

“Moving the U.S. embassy is a dangerous step that provokes the feelings of Muslims around the world,” King Salman of Saudi Arabia told Mr. Trump in their call, according to Saudi state television. -  nytimes

U.S. to Recognize Jerusalem as Israel's Capital, Trump Says ...

Germany accused over 'illegal' deportation of Afghan asylum seeker, thegaurdian

The German government has been accused of breaking its own rules on removing Afghan asylum seekers with a decision to deport a 26-year-old who fears he will be killed if returned.

The man, who the Guardian is not naming, is due to be flown out of Germany on Wednesday to a country he has not set foot in since he was five years old. 

The case has focused attention on Germany’s acceleration of deportations, which have doubled over the past year. In all, 78 people are due to be deported on Wednesday.

Amnesty has accused Germany and other European countries of breaking international law by returning asylum seekers to Afghanistan at a time when civilian casualties in the country are at their highest for years. 

The deportation is part of a controversial policy in which male Afghan asylum seekers can be returned if they have been convicted of crimes or are considered to be “dangerous” suspects. They can also be sent back if they refuse to cooperate with immigration authorities to clarify their identities.

However, lawyers defending the man say that he does not fall into any of these categories. “He is not a criminal, is not being observed as a potential terrorist and has cooperated in giving his identification papers,” said Philipp Pruy, an immigration lawyer from BC Legal Lawyers who is handling the case. “He is unfairly and callously being sent back but he has not committed a crime and he has cooperated in making sure the government can identify who he is.

“They only told him one week ago that he would be deported. He fears his life could be in danger.”

The man, whose asylum application has been rejected and who has lived in Bayreuth, Bavaria, since 2011, told the Guardian that he was stressed at the prospect of leaving and returning to a country he had not been to since the age of five.  

Pruy says he hopes to stop the deportation before Wednesday and is appealing against the decision as an emergency case. “In my opinion, it is illegal because it is against what the federal government told us in August this year, that people would only be deported in exceptional circumstances.”- Read More

Germany accused over 'illegal' deportation of Afghan asylum seeker ...

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Monday pushed Pakistan to “redouble” its efforts to fight terrorism, according to a Pentagon statement.

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Monday pushed Pakistan to “redouble” its efforts to fight terrorism, according to a Pentagon statement.

In his first trip to Pakistan as Defense secretary, Mattis met Monday with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Minister of Defense Khurram Dastgir Khan, Chief of Army Staff Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence Lt. Gen. Naveed Mukhtar.

“The secretary emphasized the vital role that Pakistan can play in working with the United States and others to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that brings stability and security to the region,” chief Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said in a statement after the meetings. “The secretary reiterated that Pakistan must redouble its efforts to confront militants and terrorists operating within the country.”

President Trump’s strategy to wind down the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan includes pressuring Pakistan to crack down on terrorist safe havens in its borders.

Pakistan denies that it provides safe haven to terrorists, often pointing to the operation launched in 2014 to clear groups such as the Haqqanis from the Waziristan border region with Afghanistan.

But the top U.S. general in Afghanistan said recently he has seen no change in behavior from Pakistan, despite Trump’s insistence for it to do more on terrorism.  - Read More

Mattis tells Pakistan to 'redouble' counterterrorism efforts in first visit ...

US-Pakistan stalemate persists after Mattis visit

United States defence secretary James Mattis has repeated a frequent US call on Pakistan to do more in its fight against armed groups operating in Afghanistan, as he concluded the latest in a series of high-level contacts between the two governments.

During a visit to the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Monday, Mattis met with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and intelligence chief Lieutenant-General Naveed Mukhtar, with both sides pledging to continue to attempt to find "common ground".

"The Secretary emphasised the vital role that Pakistan can play in working with the United States and others to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that brings stability and security to the region," said a US statement.

"The Secretary reiterated that Pakistan must redouble its efforts to confront militants and terrorists operating within the country."

Ties between the strategic allies have been strained since US President Donald Trump announced a new US policy on Afghanistan and South Asia in August, where he said Pakistan "often gives safe haven to agents of chaos, violence, and terror" and said his government would fundamentally change its approach to the South Asian country.

"Pakistan has also sheltered the same organisations that try every single day to kill our people. We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting," Trump said in August.

Pakistan denies that it offers safe havens to any elements of the Afghan Taliban or the Haqqani Network, saying that is has been effectively taking on all armed groups operating in the country since the launch of a major military operation in 2014. - Read More

US-Pakistan stalemate persists after Mattis visit | USA News | Al Jazeera

Monday, December 04, 2017

German pilots refuse to carry out deportations

Pilots across Germany are stopping planned deportations of rejected asylum seekers. At the same time, refugees are appealing their deportation orders in record numbers - and winning.

Many pilots in Germany are refusing to participate in deportations, local media reported on Monday.

Following an information request from the Left party, the government said that 222 planned flights were stopped by pilots who wanted no part in the controversial return of refugees to Afghanistan, which has been deemed a "safe country of origin" in some cases, despite ongoing violence and repression in parts of the country.

Read moreTwo years since Germany opened its border to refugees - a chronology

Some 85 of the refusals between January and September 2017 came from Germany's main airline Lufthansa and its subsidiary Eurowings. About 40 took place at Dusseldorf airport, where the controversial deportations are routinely accompanied by protesters on the tarmac. The majority of the canceled flights, around 140, took place at Frankfurt Airport, Germany's largest and most important hub.

Germany decides more asylum cases than rest of EU combined
Despite an uptick in deportations, Germany remains the main destination for refugees and migrants to the European Union — so much so that in 2017, Germany processed more asylum applications than all 27 other EU countries combined.

Die Welt daily, quoting the European statistics agency Eurostat, said that the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) decided 388,201 asylum cases in the first six months of 2017.

As Germany stepped up deportations, the number of asylum seekers appealing their decisions has increased significantly. Nearly every second ruling made by the BAMF in the first half of the year was brought before a judge.

This is nearly double the number of appeals made during the same period in 2016 – as it stands now, the courts side with about one in every four asylum seekers who appeal their status. According to public broadcaster NDR, these suits have cost Berlin about €19 million ($22.5 million) from January to November 2017, an increase of €7.8 million from the previous year.

In order to reduce the number of appeals and speed up deportations, the government has proposed a program to begin in February 2018 that would see rejected asylum seekers given 3,000 euros as an incentive to accept deportation. - Read More

German pilots refuse to carry out deportations | News | DW | 04.12.2017