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Mexico’s President-Elect Vows to Fly Commercial Despite Delay

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MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s frugal president-elect, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has vowed to sell the luxurious presidential plane and instead, fly commercial. But traveling like the rest of us can have one big downside: delays.

On Wednesday night, Mr. López Obrador endured a doozy, stuck on the runway aboard a commercial flight for more than three hours in the Pacific beach resort of Huatulco, Mexico. But rather than lament, he used his predicament to drive home his commitment to an austere presidency.

“I would cringe with shame at boarding a luxurious plane in country where there is so much poverty,” Mr. López Obrador said, in comments captured on video by dozens of passengers aboard the crowded, low-cost VivaAerobus flight.

They huddled around Mr. López Obrador’s exit row window seat — the leader was not so severe as to opt out of the extra leg room — and recorded him on their smartphones as they waited to depart.

“I won’t get on the presidential plane,” Mr. López Obrador said of the luxurious aircraft purchased by his predecessor. “I would be so embarrassed.”

The leftist leader, commonly referred to by his initials AMLO, has been outspoken about plans to shirk the luxuries often seen as political perks since his landslide victory in the country’s July elections.

Critics of Mr. López Obrador’s predecessor, President Enrique Peña Nieto, had slammed the purchase of a new luxury presidential plane, which was approved by his predecessor but delivered to Mr. Peña Nieto in 2016. The Boeing 787 cost the government of Mexico $218.7 million, to be paid over a 15-year period. The airliner replaced a presidential plane that was nearly three decades old.

After a campaign run on the core promises of ending the corruption that riddles the Mexican political system, reducing violence, addressing widespread poverty and leading with austerity, Mr. López Obrador said he would cut his salary, convert the sprawling presidential residence into an arts center and not employ bodyguards.

He also vowed to sell the presidential plane and fly commercial.

Wednesday’s unexpected delay — a result of bad weather that temporarily closed the Mexico City airport where the flight was headed — offered the opportunity for Mr. López Obrador to show off his man-of-the-people persona.

He smiled at fellow passengers as he explained that politicians had an obligation to use their power to serve others.

“Power is humility,” Mr. López Obrador said during the delay. “Any politician who acts arrogantly won’t last.”

Some have welcomed his commitment and said Mr. López Obrador is leading by example.

Carmelo Gasca, a security guard in Mexico City, applauded Mr. López Obrador for living and traveling “like the rest of us,” but was eager to see if the new leader would deliver on his campaign promises.

“He continues to show that he does not want to live with the luxury that all politicians live with in Mexico, at the expense of all the rest of us,” said Mr. Gasca, 46. “I think that is why we all voted for him, for that to change for once and for all.”

Many heads of state use private planes for greater ease of travel, privacy and security. Miguel Trejo, a software developer, supports Mr. López Obrador’s decision to sell the presidential plane but thinks the president-elect’s intention to fly on commercial airlines is unrealistic.

“It is unnecessary and unpractical for him to be traveling in commercial airlines, not to mention it is unsafe,” Mr. Trejo said. “He should be using a private plane, a modest one, for him and his team.”

Others, including college student Eduardo Elias Basaldúa, 23, considered Mr. López Obrador’s action a publicity stunt.

“That is how he wants people to see him, as a martyr who wishes to transcend in history, but I don’t buy it,” Mr. Basaldúa said. “What is the point of using a commercial flight if he can travel on a private one?”

Aldá Rodríguez, a 24-year-old law student, said the president-elect knows how to work a crowd. His proclamations about being a regular citizen were part of a strategy that worked during the campaign, and that he will likely continue to use, she said.

But that’s what this was as well: “political marketing, not honest conviction,” Ms. Rodríguez said.

As for Mr. López Obrador, he seems ready to go through with the promise of selling the presidential plane. In August, he said he had received the first serious offer for the aircraft, from Russell Dise, an American businessman.

Mr. Dise is a vocal supporter of President Trump and advocate for building a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Theresa May: EU must respect UK in Brexit talks

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Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionTheresa May: “I will not overturn result of the referendum”

UK Prime Minister Theresa May has said the EU must treat the UK with more “respect” in Brexit negotiations.

In a statement at Downing Street she said for EU leaders to reject her plan with no alternative at this “late stage of negotiations” was “not acceptable”.

She said talks had reached an “impasse” and could only be unblocked with “serious engagement” from the EU side.

At an EU summit on Thursday, European Council President Donald Tusk said Mrs May’s plan “will not work”.

The pound’s fall against the dollar and the euro deepened following Mrs May’s statement.

The UK is due to leave the EU on 29 March 2019.

The two sides are trying to reach a deal by November so it can be ratified in time.

They want to avoid a hard border – physical infrastructure like cameras or guard posts – between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic but cannot agree on how.

Mrs May says her plan for the UK and EU to share a “common rulebook” for goods, but not services, is the only credible way to avoid a hard border.

She tried to sell the plan directly to EU leaders at a summit in Salzburg, Austria, this week.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Tusk said that while there were some “positive elements” in Mrs May’s proposals, EU leaders had agreed that “the suggested framework for economic co-operation will not work, not least because it is undermining the single market”.

Speaking on Friday, the prime minister said: “Throughout this process I have treated the EU with nothing but respect. The UK expects the same, a good relationship at the end of this process depends on it.

“At this late stage in the negotiations, it is not acceptable to simply reject the other side’s proposals without a detailed explanation and counter proposals.”

She said Mr Tusk had not explained an alternative in any detail or made any counter-proposal adding: “So we are at an impasse”.


Analysis by BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionTheresa May: “We will never agree to it – it would mean breaking up our country.”

A stern tone, strong words.

But while there is no remote sign from the PM today that she is about to compromise, forces in the EU and in her own party are intent on forcing her to do so.

Her problem is that they want to push her in different directions.

Rhetoric doesn’t change the fact that few of the players involved outside Number 10 believe that the suggestions the prime minister has put forward can be the ones that ultimately will win the day.

Read Laura’s blog


She said the two sides were still “a long way apart” on two big issues: the post-Brexit economic relationship between the UK and EU, and the “backstop” for the Irish border, if there is a delay in implementing that relationship.

The two options being offered by the EU for the long-term relationship – for the UK to stay in the European Economic Area and customs union or a basic free trade agreement – were not acceptable, she added.

The first would “make a mockery of the referendum” she said, while the second would mean Northern Ireland would be “permanently separated economically from the rest of the UK by a border down the Irish Sea.”

Mrs May said no UK prime minister would ever agree to that: “If the EU believe I will, they are making a fundamental mistake.”

The prime minister attempted to reassure EU citizens living in the UK that, in the event no deal can be reached “your rights will be protected”.

She said “no-one wants a good deal more than me” but added: “But the EU should be clear: I will not overturn the result of the referendum. Nor will I break up my country.”

Mr Tusk followed up his remarks on Thursday by posting a photograph on Instagram of he and Mrs May looking at cakes with the caption: “A piece of cake, perhaps? Sorry, no cherries.”

The EU has argued that the UK cannot “cherry-pick” elements from its rulebook.

That was criticised by some Conservatives, including Brexiteer Iain Duncan Smith who described it as “quite insulting”.


EU officials deny disrespect

By the BBC’s Europe Editor Katya Adler

The EU is not reacting publicly to the prime minister’s statement, which is viewed in Brussels as a “tubthumper” designed to bolster her political position at home.

EU diplomats tell me that they do not share the interpretation of the Salzburg EU summit reflected in the UK media.

They say they have listened to the UK position and are offering a unique partnership post-Brexit but they insist they will not agree to anything that would harm the EU.

From their perspective, EU officials working on Brexit negotiations have never been disrespectful.

They say they intend to keep working constructively to find areas of common ground between the UK and EU positions.

As for Donald Tusk’s controversial Instagram post, it’s quietly viewed in European circles as misjudged and ill-timed.

His team says his Instagram presence is aimed at reaching out to a younger audience.


Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said the prime minister’s negotiating strategy “has been a disaster” and said “political games from both the EU and our government need to end” to avoid a no-deal scenario.

“The Tories have spent more time arguing among themselves than negotiating with the EU. From day one, the prime minister has looked incapable of delivering a good Brexit deal for Britain,” he said.

Labour wants to see the UK join a customs union with the EU after Brexit, but remain outside of the single market.

Leading Conservative Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg welcomed the “strong and forthright” speech from the prime minister but said she should abandon her Chequers plan and come forward with a Canada-style free trade agreement.

“This is the most realistic approach and similar to the EU’s proposal.”

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that while the EU position had been “bluntly expressed” it was not new – it was just that the prime minister “hasn’t been listening”.

She tweeted:

The Lib Dems said Parliament should be recalled to sort out the “mess,” with leader Sir Vince Cable describing the Chequers plan as “dead as a Dodo”:

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Polish leader resists view that he was disrespected by Donald Trump

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WARSAW: Poland’s president is fighting back against criticism at home over a photo posted by Donald Trump that some say shows the Polish leader in a subservient role during a White House visit.

Trump tweeted photos of himself with President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday, including one of them signing a strategic cooperation agreement in which Trump is sitting at his desk and Duda is standing.

Both leaders look into the camera, Trump with a stern look on his face and Duda grinning.

Critics of Duda, a conservative, have accused him of allowing himself and Poland to be dishonored, even humiliated. Some have reposted the photo with one of Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sitting together at a table as they signed a memorandum in June. The message: even a dictator gets better treatment than the president of Poland, one of Washington’s most loyal allies.

Duda replied late Thursday with a photo of his own showing himself and Trump standing together with their signed agreement.

“The mockery and assault of the leftist media and some politicians and commentators of known views show the success of the Washington DC visit,” Duda wrote in his caption.

Duda argued that if the trip hadn’t been so successful, his critics would have said nothing, adding sarcastically: “Thank you for the words of appreciation!”

Duda is aligned with the ruling nationalist Law and Justice party, which has long vowed to restore a sense of national dignity to Poland after a long history of domination by foreign powers, and now what it considers excessive interference by the European Union. A key party slogan has been to get Poland “rising from its knees.”

“This is the moment of signing an important declaration between the USA and Poland? This is rising from knees?” said political scientist Marcin Palade, arguing that Duda’s closest staff should be fired over the photo.

The sense of Duda having been slighted was heightened by the fact that he had come to the U.S. to ask Washington to create a permanent American base in Poland, offering to name it Fort Trump and provide more than $2 billion toward that effort.

The fallout from the photo has included the firing of a reporter for a government-funded television broadcaster after he refused to delete the photo in question from his Facebook page.

The only comment he added to the photo were the words: “On the left, the president of Poland.”

The reporter, Ivan Shyla, worked for Belsat, which broadcasts news and other programming from Poland into autocratic Belarus. He said Friday that he felt he was the victim of “censorship.”

Belsat accused him of disloyalty and argued that posting the image compromised Poland’s national security given the importance of Polish-US military cooperation.

Netanyahu support for Trump on UNRWA exposes political-military divide.

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When the Trump administration announced last month it would immediately cut all US aid for UNRWA, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately hailed it as a “praiseworthy” and “important” decision.

Established to care for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians displaced by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East has long been a punching bag for Israeli politicians. They denounce it as a political arm of the Palestinians that perpetuates demands for a return of millions of registered refugees to Israel.

But embracing the new US policy to end $350 million in annual aid actually marks a shift for Israel. It upends a 50-year old accommodationist policy supported by the defense establishment, which considers UNRWA’s social welfare work – for all its political warts – as a stabilizing force among some 2.1 million registered refugees in the West Bank and Gaza.

Recommended: Think you know the Greater Middle East? Take our geography quiz.

“This is a pretty big change in policy. It was done over the objections of the security establishment,’’ says Gerald Steinberg, a political scientist at Bar Ilan University and the founder of NGO Monitor. “For many years there has been discussion among members of Congress of cutting the budget to UNRWA, and each time the Israeli government has said, ‘Don’t do that, we are in favor of the status quo.’ ’’

The policy change toward UNRWA has sharpened a debate in Israel that pits the political goal of rolling back Palestinian demands for a “right of return” for refugees against the security interest of preventing unrest and violence in the Palestinian territories. That is especially so in impoverished, Hamas-ruled Gaza – scene of many deadly confrontations this year and three recent wars – where more than half of the population of 2 million are eligible for UNRWA assistance.

According to UNRWA, which operates in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip, the population of Palestinian refugees and their descendants numbers more than 5 million. When Israel conquered the Palestinian territories in the 1967 Six-Day War, it actually signed an agreement with the United Nations allowing the agency to continue to administer schools, food assistance, and other social services in refugee districts. The subsequent relationship has been described as an “uneasy marriage of convenience.”

“Every single Israeli government has permitted UNRWA to operate. When it is so enmeshed in Palestinian society, ordering an abrupt aid cut can lead to catastrophic consequences for Israelis and Palestinians alike,” says Peter Lerner, a reserve Israeli military spokesman who also was the spokesman for the army agency that liaises with UNRWA.

Weakening UNRWA would encourage radicals in Gaza, where unemployment is around 50 percent and most residents rely on food assistance, and weaken the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank.

“The instability risked by the UNRWA cut could require the IDF to mobilize more forces in the West Bank and create more friction with the civilian population,” Mr. Lerner says. “The military will have to deal with counter-terrorism, and it will divert focus from Israel’s biggest threats: Iran and Hezbollah.”

A headline from Israel’s Walla! news website framed the issue in starker terms: “The Security Threat from the Cut to UNRWA: When Hundreds of Thousands of Hungry Gazans Run to the Border Fence.”

On Wednesday, thousands of UNRWA staff demonstrated in Gaza City to protest cuts to the organization’s activities.

In Gaza’s refugee camps, garbage collections have been cut back and officials have warned of environmental fallout from the cuts to UNRWA.

President Trump “can’t come and say that I will delete your dream of return,’’ says Hassan Jaber, a journalist who lives in Gaza’s Bureij refugee camp. “The next generation will continue fighting, until they achieve their right of return. We don’t want to make war with Israelis, but we want our rights.”

Defunding US aid to UNRWA is part of a larger policy to pare back financial assistance in order to pressure the Palestinian leadership on the moribund peace process. In recent months, the US has cut aid to the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, ended support for Palestinian hospitals in East Jerusalem, and most recently, programs for Israeli-Palestinian coexistence.

According to some Israeli analysts, Israel’s support for UNRWA’s role had become an orthodoxy that calcified Israeli thinking on how to handle the issue of Palestinian refugees.

Preserving UNRWA because of its service-provider function is a “cash register approach,” said Einat Wilf, a former Labor member of parliament and a leading UNRWA critic who co-authored a Hebrew book entitled “The War of Return.”

Wilf and other Israelis argue that UNRWA has perpetuated the refugee issue by preventing Palestinians’ resettlement outside of Israel, recognizing subsequent generations as refugees as well, and cultivating claims for millions of Palestinians to return to ancestral homes inside Israel.

The UN agency has “cultivated a Palestinian nationalism that is single-mindedly focused on this idea of return and of undoing Israel – of going back to before 1947,” Wilf said in a recent interview with the Israel advocacy organization, the Israel Project. “We need to say enough, call it quits, UNRWA is not a force a for good. UNRWA is the radicalizing force.”

The emotion-laden issue of the Palestinian refugees has been one of the symbolic wedges preventing a resolution of the conflict. In the 1950s and 1960s, Israeli officials secretly explored resettling Palestinian refugees in North Africa and South America. During the heyday of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the sides mulled a compromise solution to resettle some refugees in their host countries, some in the West Bank, and to allow a symbolic number to live in Israel as part of family unification.

Dahlia Schiendlin, an Israeli-American public opinion expert, says many Israelis aren’t familiar with UNRWA, but among those who are, it is seen as an agency set up exclusively for the Palestinians and that makes compensation demands of Israel that no other country has to deal with.

UNRWA’s image among Israelis suffered more damage after several of its schools were used by militants during the 2014 Gaza war to store rockets and other weapons. 

Supporting the Trump administration’s anti-UNRWA policy marks a new approach for Israel’s government on the refugee issue.

“It’s part of the strategy of the Netanyahu administration to downgrade the national claims of the Palestinians, and roll them back to a humanitarian issue,’’ says Ehud Eiran, a political science professor at Haifa University. “The hope of the government is that UNRWA disappears and in the eyes of the Palestinians, the international community no longer views them as refugees, and this will change their consciousness.”

But some Israeli analysts expressed doubt that this strategy would have the desired effect. While UNRWA has an interest in perpetuating the refugee issue, the agency would continue to receive support from other countries, and the agency would not collapse, says Shlomo Brom, a former Israeli military director of strategic planning.

“It will cause an economic and humanitarian crisis on top of the existing crisis, and in the West Bank, it will make the situation of the PA worse than it is already,’’ Mr. Brom says.

“It’s taking a risk to give a mortal blow to the existence of the Palestinian refugees, but I doubt this will go away. It’s a strong narrative. It’s part of their identity.”

Read this story at csmonitor.com

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Freezing Inside UAE’s High Rise Buildings While Temperatures Soar Outside — Global Issues

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  • by Amna Khaishgi (dubai, united arab emirates)
  • Thursday, September 20, 2018
  • Inter Press Service

The United Arab Emirates is also paying the price of rapid economic development in terms of climate change. Air-conditioning has proved to be a major challenge to climate change mitigation and because of the rise in temperatures in Dubai, most new buildings have air-conditioning. Credit: Busani Bafana/IPS

“Temperatures outside have been increasing so fast that it drains our energy quickly. We cannot fight with nature. But at least we could play our role in protecting the environment,” the 45-year old Pakistani tells IPS. For him, sitting under the shade of a tree during his work break is the best form of relaxation.

While the rise in temperatures is certainly a concern, this Gulf state has a high level of awareness and government response when it comes to climate change mitigation.

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) has referred to the UAE as the most responsible country in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) when it comes to green growth, and as one of the best-performing countries across the globe.

“The kind of initiatives the UAE is taking is very encouraging and we expect things will improve with the passage of time,” GGGI Director General Dr. Frank Rijsberman tells IPS. The institute has a mandate to support emerging and developing countries develop rigorous green growth economic development strategies and works with both the public and private sector.

Rijsberman gives credit to the country’s leadership, who embraced green growth and sustainability much earlier and faster than many countries in the world.

Rijsberman adds also that the UAE was quick to realise the challenges of water scarcity and installed desalination plants at a time when other countries were only planning, theirs. A GCC report shows that Kuwait was the first country in the region to construct a desalination plant in 1957, with the UAE constructing its first plant two decades later.

Rijsberman, however, says that a lot remains to be done.

“Right now, the challenge is how to run a plant with energy efficiency. Now is the time to move green energy options to run these huge plants, which are a major source of water supplying to the country,” says Rijsberman.

Like many countries, the UAE is also paying the price of rapid economic development in terms of climate change.

“Rapid economic development and population growth in the UAE has led to the challenges like greenhouse gas emissions, extreme weather conditions, water scarcity and habitat destruction. All these issues are interlinked,” Rijsberman tells IPS.

According to the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment; direct impacts of extreme weather events, as well as slow-onset phenomena such as sea level rise, could disrupt the daily functioning of transport and infrastructure, impact the value of real estate, affect environmental assets, and damage the tourism industry.

“The effects of climate change are likely to be felt most severely in coastal zones, where marine habitats will suffer from rising water temperatures and salinity, whereas infrastructure will be tested by storm surges and sea level rise. Other risks include weakened food security and health damages from extreme weather events,” the report further says.

The UAE’s National Climate Change Plan 2017-2050, which was released early this year, notes that climate change impacts increase national vulnerability and, if left unmanaged, will affect the growth potential of the country.

“Potential impacts of climate change on the UAE include extreme heat, storm surge, sea level rise, water stress, dust and sand storms, and desertification. Even small variations in weather patterns could significantly affect the country’s economic, environmental, and social well-being,” the report states.

According to the report, the most vulnerable areas to climate change in the UAE include water, coastal, marine, and dry land ecosystems; buildings and infrastructures; agriculture and food security; and public health.

“Based on the analysis of past and present anthropogenic drivers, future projections using climate models suggest an increase in the UAE’s annual average temperature of around 1°C by 2020, and 1.5-2°C by 2040.

“The effects of climate change are likely to be felt most severely in coastal zones, where marine habitats will suffer from rising water temperatures and salinity, whereas infrastructure will be tested by storm surges and sea level rise. Other risks include weakened food security and health damages from extreme weather events.”

In addition, climate change could have implications on the UAE’s development objectives. “Direct impacts of extreme weather events, as well as slow-onset phenomena such as sea level rise, could disrupt the daily functioning of transport and infrastructure, impact the value of real estate, affect environmental assets, and damage the tourism industry,” the report further says.

But plans are already in place. “They have seen the storm coming and they are preparing themselves to fight it,” says Rijsberman.

However, there are many challenges that remain to be tackled.

According to the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, the country  has a relatively low share, less than 0.5 percent, of global emissions. For this reason, the voluntary adoption of measures to control and limit domestic GHG emissions would have a negligible impact in solving the global problem of climate change.

However, the country’s capital, Abu Dhabi, has very high per capita CO2 emissions, 39.1 tonnes in 2012 an increase of 4.4 percent compared to 37.44 tonnes in 2010more than triple the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) average of 10.08 tonnes.

The main contributors to CO2 emissions in 2012 were the production of public electricity and water desalination (33 percent), oil and gas extraction and processing activities (25 percent), transport (20 percent) and industry (12 percent).

Rijsberman was in Dubai to launch a joint initiative with the World Green Economy Organisation (WGEO). Both organisations have signed a partnership agreement to fast track green investment opportunities to develop bankable smart green city projects across the world.

“The UAE has been a leader in green growth. It is not only investing within the country but also helping other states to promote green cities,” Rijsberman says.

Lack of awareness and insufficient resources are also hindering the UAE’s green growth momentum.

Khawaja Hasan has been working as an environmentalist with both public and private sectors in the UAE for about a decade and tells IPS that while government is serious about promoting green growth initiatives across the board there are several challenges that slow down implementation.

“The private sector suffers with lack of awareness, lack of technology and above all cost are major issues that the green growth.

“They believe in short term goals. They don’t want to invest extra to benefit long term. Moreover there is no major direct monetary incentives from the government side to acquire and implement green approach.”

He also says that a lack of affordable green technology is also a major factor for mid level and small companies.

Green growth is not a luxury. It is a necessity, says Rijsberman.  He urged governments, including the UAE, to develop policy and introduce incentives that reach the grassroots. “If the green policy and initiatives are not reaching the people then it is not going anywhere.”

For instance, Rijsberman says air-conditioning, is a major challenge to climate change mitigation.

“It is directly related to how the buildings are constructed. If we contract close boxes without any air ventilation, air-conditioning or artificial cooling is inevitable. However, if we work on building style and work on structural changes, dependency on air-conditioning would decrease.

“Today, the situation in Dubai is, inside the building, we are shivering with the lowest temperature and outside, our local environment temperature is becoming unbearable due to the hot air that millions of air-conditioning are throwing out in the environment. The whole cycle becomes artificial and imbalance,” he said.

Though Akhtar is doing his little bit to address the balance.

“If we are building beautiful air-conditioned buildings, we should also plant trees too,” says Akhtar who, each year on his daughter’s birthday, plants a tree in his residential compound in Dubai. “This is my gift to this city who has given me an opportunity to earn decent money for my family back in Pakistan.”

*Not his real name.

© Inter Press Service (2018) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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Tanzania ferry capsize: Dozens killed as rescue effort suspended | News

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Dozens of people have died in Tanzania when a passenger ferry capsized in the south of Lake Victoria, an official said on Thursday.

While it wasn’t confirmed, it is believed more than 200 passengers were on board the vessel with a capactiy of about 100 people.

“According to reports that President John Magufuli has just received from the authorities in Mwanza, the toll now stands at more than 40 dead,” Gerson Msigwa, the president’s spokesman, said on state television.

Tanzania’s Electrical, Mechanical and Services Agency, which operates ferry services, said the boat known as MV Nyerere sank Thursday afternoon near Ukara Island.



 

“There were more than a hundred passengers on board when the ferry sank. It is feared that a significant number have lost their lives,” said George Nyamaha, head of Ukerewe district council.

John Mongella, the commissioner of Mwanza, said 37 people were rescued but those efforts were suspended until daybreak Friday.

He couldn’t say how many people were on the ferry until the search-and-rescue operation was over.

Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, reporting from Nairobi in neighbouring Kenya, said the boat was also carrying cargo when it went down.

“What we also know from witnesses that the ferry appeared to be overloaded. It has a capacity of 100 people,” she said. “The ferry was affected by bad weather as well.”

In 1996, a ferry disaster on Lake Victoria in the same region killed more than 500 people.

In 2012, 145 people died in a ferry disaster in Tanzania’s semi-autonomous archipelago of Zanzibar, in the Indian Ocean, on a vessel that was overcrowded.



In 1996, more than 500 people were killed when a ferry sank near Mwanza on Lake Victoria [File: Danny Wilcox Frazier/AP]


SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

Passengers Gasp for Air After Airline in India Fails to Pressurize Cabin

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Jet is only one of several Indian carriers that have had major safety issues this year. This spring, regulators forced IndiGo, a low-cost carrier that has become the country’s biggest and most profitable airline, and GoAir, another low-cost carrier, to ground some of their Airbus A320neo planes after problems with engines manufactured by Pratt & Whitney contributed to in-flight engine failures at the airlines.

IndiGo also had to deal with the fallout of a video showing employees dragging an angry customer across the tarmac, an incident reminiscent of the Chicago security officers who violently removed Dr. David Dao from an overbooked United Airlines flight last year. Like United, IndiGo was slow to publicly apologize for its actions. IndiGo also fired the employee who shot the video of the abuse while allowing others involved to keep their jobs.

But the biggest problems facing India’s airline industry are financial ones. A sharp increase in oil prices over the past year to around $80 a barrel, combined with an 11 percent drop in the value of the Indian rupee against the dollar, have dealt a double whammy to expenses.

At the same time, the carriers are adding planes in a bid to attract millions of new fliers, many of whom are trying to decide between ponying up for a plane ticket or taking a cheaper, slower option like a bus or train. The result has been a brutal price war: Just this week, AirAsia India, a joint venture between a Malaysian airline and one of India’s biggest conglomerates, announced a sale with one-way fares as low as 500 rupees, or about $7.

The country’s state-owned flagship carrier, Air India, is functionally bankrupt, kept alive only through periodic infusions of government cash. An attempt to sell a majority stake in the airline a few months ago drew no bids because potential buyers were concerned that the government would force the winner to retain Air India’s bloated staff and money-losing routes, and absorb much of the airline’s accumulated $8 billion in debt. Now the airline is having trouble paying its employees and maintaining its planes as it waits for the next tranche of bailout money.

Harsh Vardhan, chairman of Starair Consulting and former chief executive of Vayudoot, a now-defunct regional airline, compared the current state of India’s airline industry to an “unending marathon.”

“They cannot truncate operations. They cannot increase the prices because the moment one reduces price, they risk being out of the market,” he said. “If the situation continues for the next 12 to 18 months, airlines could go bust.”

China urges US to show sincerity, correct behaviour in trade actions

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BEIJING: China hopes the United States will show sincerity and take steps to correct its behaviour, its commerce ministry said on Thursday, after both countries slapped new tariffs on each other’s goods this week in an escalating trade war.

China has been forced to take retaliatory measures against the United States and to defend its interests, ministry spokesman Gao Feng said at a weekly news briefing in Beijing.

US President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened further retaliation against China if Beijing targets US agricultural or industrial workers amid their trade dispute, and accused China of trying to sway the US election by targeting farmers.

China is studying targeted measures to help foreign firms in China in response to the effects of the latest US tariffs, Gao said.

Chamber of Commerce opposes a trade war. But can it deter Trump?

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If ever there was a good time for America to launch a trade war, this is it.

The economy is booming. Jobs are plentiful. Even as tariffs begin to raise prices and slow business activity, things are going so swimmingly that consumers may barely notice.

Even the politics pose little obstacle, with Republicans holding both houses of Congress and hesitant to challenge their president on trade while Democrats are divided over the issue.

Recommended: US versus China: How a tussle for advantage fuels risk of a trade war

So as President Trump pushes trading partners to make concessions – and threatens a trade war if they don’t – he is doing so from a position of strength. His challenge is that the more he exerts his economic leverage on other nations through tariffs, the more opposition he is likely to face at home.

Businesses, feeling the squeeze, are already becoming more vocal. Consumers will eventually notice those higher prices and, possibly, fewer choices on the store shelves.

“The single biggest threat facing the economy right now is the potential for a real trade war,” US Chamber of Commerce president Tom Donohue said Wednesday at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. He said his group agrees on the need to confront China over its trade practices, but that “it shouldn’t be the US consumer that’s paying.”

This week, Mr. Trump escalated his trade battle with China. The administration announced on Monday 10 percent tariffs on some $200 billion in Chinese imports, scheduled to take effect next week. On Tuesday, China announced it would retaliate with tariffs of its own affecting $60 billion in US imports.

“The economy is giving him a lot of leeway to conduct policy this way,” says Bart Oosterveld, director of the global business and economics program at the Atlantic Council, an international-affairs group based in Washington. The dollar is so strong, keeping import prices low, that consumers may not notice the price hikes, he adds. “The people who line up in front of the doors of Walmart at 5 o’clock on Black Friday, I’m not sure they’re going to be concerned with the two or three dollars that they’re going to pay more for certain goods.”

LATEST TARIFFS WILL AFFECT CONSUMERS

But those duties will go up to 25 percent at the end of the year, the administration announced. And the more tariffs spread to new goods, the more personal they become to consumers. When the administration first announced tariffs on Chinese goods back in June, they hit products like auto parts and semiconductors, things most consumers don’t buy directly. The latest round of tariffs, by contrast, will raise prices on everything from Chinese-made high chairs to handbags, toilet paper to seafood.

What will happen if the tariffs hit the new Apple iPhone XS or XS Max, models that are already giving consumers pause because of their $1,000 and up price tags? (Notably, Apple’s smart watch and wireless headphones were trimmed from the list of tariffs announced this week.)

Another important voice is big business. While some industries such as steel applaud tariffs because of the insulation it provides from foreign competition, more industries, which depend on exports or imports, are likely to resist Trump’s trade policies as tariffs spread to new sectors and disrupt supply chains. In a survey of its members released Tuesday, the US-China Business Council found 73 percent of companies saying their business has been affected by trade tensions.

Mr. Donohue, speaking for businesses nationwide, said the Chamber of Commerce isn’t brushing off concerns such as the erosion of American firms’ technological edge or theft of intellectual property. At the breakfast, he said the issues with China are “real serious, and if we don’t fix them now it’s going to get more and more difficult to do it.”

But the Chamber would like to see the US lead a multilateral effort on trade policy, rather than going it alone in a stand-off with China.

Donohue said that in urging against a trade war, “we’re finally getting other people to join in this effort in a broader basis than we had in the past, because they’re beginning to understand the need to convey what their concerns are – individual associations, other national groups, to say, ‘Hey, this is affecting our constituents.’ ”

Another potential change looming on Trump’s horizon are the midterm elections, although their effect on trade may be limited. If Democrats recapture the House, the president will no longer be able to rely on automatic support from Congress. And if they retake the Senate as well, in a “blue wave” election that calls into question Trump’s popularity, even GOP lawmakers may be more likely to criticize his trade policies.

But if a blue wave happens, the GOP lawmakers who fall will be the moderates who support free trade, and those who remain will be solid red-district Trump supporters, says Stephen Biddle, professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University in New York. And “Democrats are conflicted on trade,” so they’re unlikely to push on an issue that divides their party.

Overall, tariffs are not a winning political issue. Forty percent of voters oppose them while 38 percent support them, according to an AP-NORC poll of 1,055 adults in mid-August. But two-thirds of Republicans approve of the imposition of tariffs, fueling suspicions that Trump is taking a tough line with trading partners ahead of the elections to whip up his supporters.

To some observers, Trump’s trade policy is purely based on such domestic political considerations. “This is playing to the base,” says Professor Biddle.

TOO BIG AN ‘ASK’ FROM TRUMP TO CHINA?

Trump’s fans, by contrast, say the saber-rattling bravado is all part of a shrewd strategy to extract maximum concessions from trading partners. They point to trade deals the president has completed with South Korea and now Mexico. And some of China’s trade-related actions have been so egregious that other countries as well as previous US administrations have also complained about them, they point out.

The problem is that it’s not at all clear what the administration is asking China to do. Some administration officials suggest it is to end certain practices, such as forcing US companies to transfer technology to a Chinese partner in return for permission to operate in the country. Other officials appear to be calling for China to renounce its strategic development plan.

“The US administration is really asking China to surrender unconditionally on all trade fronts,” says Gregory Daco, an economist at Oxford Economics, a forecasting and analysis firm based in Oxford, England. “We know from prior experience that China will not fold just because there is a threat of tariffs.”

So the escalation in trade tensions is likely to continue for some time, analysts say. Perhaps until there’s a sharp plunge either in the stock market or economic growth (says Mr. Daco), or “a new president,” (says Biddle).

Staff writer Mark Trumbull contributed to this article from Washington.

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Levelling the Playing Field for Persons with Disabilities Individuals in the United States — Global Issues

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  • by Emily Thampoe (united nations)
  • Wednesday, September 19, 2018
  • Inter Press Service

New York City held its first Disability Pride parade on 12 July 2015, marking the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, was signed into law on July 26, 1990. Courtesy: United Nations

“I wanted to go to college and be like my older brother and have the college experience. I wanted to meet other people like me and learn how to be more independent,” the now 22-year-old tells IPS via email.

While it is common in the United States for public school districts to have special education programmes that offer educational support to disabled individuals, many universities only meet the minimum requirements of the country’s Disabilities Act. But there are currently at least 50 universities that go further and offer programmes and/or resources for students with disabilities.

The College Experience Programme (CEP) at the College of St. Rose in Albany, New York is one of those programmes.

The CEP is a two-year residential, non-credit certificate programme hosted in partnership with Living Resources, a local organisation that helps people living with disabilities. While the programme is not a traditional one—it does not end in students earning a bachelor’s or associate’s degree—it allows students to focus on a career area that interests them. It also teaches students valuable skills that they can apply to their life, in parallel to the educational classes they take.

Lupinacci and his family learned of it through their own research and when CEP staff visited his high school’s college fair. After visiting the College of Saint Rose on several occasions, he and his family found it a great fit.

Colleen Dergosits, the coordinator of student life and admissions for the programme, tells IPS via email that its objective is to, “give students with developmental disabilities opportunities similar to their siblings and high-school peers.”

“Life skills are not taught in traditional college experience, these are often the skills people without disabilities take for granted in knowing. For those with a disability, when life skills are not naturally developed, it can hold back a person from being able to transition into a natural college atmosphere away from their family members or furthermore an independent life,” Dergosits says.

The CEP provides finance classes that help students understand how to make purchases in an effective way, how to split a bill between friends, and the importance of paying bills on time.

For Lupinacci, who entered the programme in 2015 and graduated in 2017, the CEP has given him skills and so much more.

“After going through the programme I made good friends. I learned to cook, clean and make decisions on my own,” he says. He also gained a new-found sense of independence.

With the programme’s “community involvement” component, students learn how to navigate their neighbourhood and attend off campus activities, and how to save money for those activities. These are all skills that many students on the programme may not have been exposed to before.

Learning through experience is imperative. Dergosits says that the CEP’s vocational courses are “invaluable.” “When the foundation of employment is broken down and taught, then supervised in a real world setting, our students are better prepared to hold employment on their own post-graduation,” she says. Students can learn what the workforce is like through interning and/or working at local businesses with assistance from an on-site job coach.

Dergosits and the rest of the staff have seen progress from the growing number of students they have worked with since the programme’s beginnings in 2005.

Students who previously kept to themselves and were reliant on familial support, have developed. They now have friends, can do household chores, travel independently and even have part-time jobs.

Lupinacci says he ended up going out quite often with his friends without adult supervision. “It was fun planning and going out with my friends with no adults. I went to many campus and off site sporting events that were really fun,” he shares.

Recreation is Key

While equal educational opportunities are important in the lives of disabled people, balance is also imperative.

Steve Ritter, a coach for the New Jersey Daredevils, a special needs ice hockey team for players of all ages, believes in the power of sports for disabled people.

“Sports helps them with social skills, which is lacking in this community. We make sure when we travel to places to play games that there is a place where they can get together and hang out,” he tells IPS.

According to a United Nations publication entitled Disability and Sports, “Sport can help reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with disability because it can transform community attitudes about persons with disabilities by highlighting their skills and reducing the tendency to see the disability instead of the person.”

The team practices pretty much every Saturday during the year and also plays matches with other teams from all over the east coast. They also make an effort to have outside opportunities for the players to bond and create long-lasting friendships.

Ryan Griffin first joined the Daredevils in 2001 after trying several options to stimulate his mind. He was diagnosed as being on the Autism spectrum when he was three and a half years old, and feels he has benefited from his involvement with the team.

“I turned from a unfocused player who would skate around the rink touching every pane of glass to a player who got into the game and played like a man. Daredevils has helped me gain friendship.

“I’ve learned about sportsmanship too, it’s not just about winning. Once I got to know all my teammates, we quickly bonded together as friends and we always will be there for each other like family,” Griffin, who is now 23, shares with IPS via email.

Griffin feels as though the experience he has had with the team has given him valuable life skills.

“Most importantly, Daredevils has taught me leadership. As team captain, I learned that leaders, like captains, should always lead by example. That means, trying to stay as positive as possible, even when things are not going the way they should be,” Griffin says.

In a world that has excluded disabled people from partaking in basic human needs such as education, the workforce, and being a part of a community, it is clear that programmes that encourage mental and social growth can be important in the life of a disabled person.

So while the CEP in Albany and the New Jersey Daredevils in New Jersey are both different localised experiences, they are examples of what communities should be doing in order to promote the inclusion and development of people with disabilities.

© Inter Press Service (2018) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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