Dehiwala brothel raided

The police raided the premises yesterday and made the arrest. The police media unit also said that among those arrested was a woman.The police also seized a car used to transport the prostitutes to the hotel. The police said that they had raided a brothel operating in the Dehiwala area and arrested three people.According to the police media unit, the brothel was operating inside a mini hotel along Belanthara Road in Dehiwala. The suspects are to be produced in court today. The Dehiwala police are conducting further investigations. read more

Nalaka Godahewa arrested by the FCID

He was asked to appear to respond to allegations over financial irregularities said to have taken place at the Securities and Exchange Commission when he was the chairman. (Colombo Gazette) Former Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission Nalaka Godahewa was arrested by the police Financial Crimes Investigations Division (FCID).Godahewa was arrested after he arrived at the FCID to make a statement this morning.

Transfer of elephant gifted to New Zealand halted

The elephant was due to be brought to Auckland this month. However, a Sri Lanka court has put the transfer on hold after animal activists said it would be cruel to separate the baby elephant from its family.Auckland Zoo director Jonathan Wicken said zoo staff were very much looking forward to welcoming Nandi and to strengthening the long-standing relationship they have with Sri Lanka. It is the second elephant given to New Zealand by Sri Lanka. An eight-year-old female, Anjalee, was flown to Auckland in June 2015. The transfer of a baby elephant to Auckland Zoo is on hold after animal activists in Sri Lanka took legal action against the move, Radio New Zealand reported.Six-year-old Nandi was a gifted to former Prime Minister John Key by Sri Lanka president Maithripala Sirisena in February last year. Zoo vets had travelled to Sri Lanka to prepare the elephant for the move.The court is due to hear the case later this month. (Colombo Gazette) read more

Lankan woman in US wins car by kissing it for two days

Jayasuriya said she was surprised to win. There were times she felt like giving up during the contest, she said. “I had a couple of freak-out moments like something was in my eye,” she said. She said she would then tell herself she could keep going.The car Jayasuriya won is worth $23,108. The other six finalists who had kept their lips pressed to two cars on and off since 7 a.m. Monday won a variety of prizes, including Austin City Limits passes and tickets to Justin Timberlake, Bruno Mars and the Chainsmokers.The competition started with 20 contestants but most never made it to the end because they took their lips off the cars they were kissing, either because they fell asleep, got distracted or just wanted to leave.The contestants had a 10-minute break every hour. They also were required to rotate around the cars they were kissing and had to spend time sitting and standing. The event drew national attention and part of it was filmed by ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America.”About 150 people initially entered the contest but a drawing narrowed that down to the 20 people who competed.Anne Hudson, an on-air personality for the radio station, said she was not surprised that seven people lasted the full 50 hours. “They were determined,” she said. (Colombo Gazette) Her husband, Ashan Panagoda, was at Southwest Kia Round Rock on Wednesday morning when she won the car. She called out to him, “I want to go to the beach,” before he gave her a big hug. August Kostroun, a 36-year-old draftsman and designer from Round Rock, was one of the finalists. He said the friends and family who texted him during the contest helped him last until the very end. The hardest part was when it was his turn to sit down, he said, because he would lose circulation in his legs and get cramps. Jayasuriya, who is married and works in a state health lab, is a native of Sri Lanka. She said she and her husband were sharing one car since since she had to give up on her 1998 Toyota Camry because it broke down too much. A 30-year-old Sri Lankan woman in Austin in the US won a new car Wednesday by keeping her lips locked on it for 50 hours, My Statesman reported.Dilini Jayasuriya got the keys to a 2017 Kia Optima LX after winning a drawing that included the six other people who had finished the “Kiss a Kia” contest held by 96.7 KISS FM radio at Southwest Kia in Round Rock. read more

Basil meets Duminda and a top UNP MP

The talks focused on obtaining the support of the UNP MP for Mahinda Rajapaksa in Parliament. (Colombo Gazette) Former Economic Affairs Minister Basil Rajapaksa, tasked with brokering support for Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, met United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Parliamentarian and former Minister Duminda Dissanayake today.Duminda Dissanayake is said to be unhappy with working with Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. However following the talks held today it is understood that Duminda Dissanayake had agreed to support Mahinda Rajapaksa in Parliament.Meanwhile, the Colombo Gazette learns that Basil Rajapaksa also had separate talks with a top United National Party (UNP) Parliamentarian. read more

Hyping Up Hybrid Making the Case

To fears over managing a “split” system, Korte suggested that enterprises assess their human capital before jumping into a hybrid model – making sure IT staff understands the new parts of the system and can easily manage a mixed prem-cloud environment. Are We Heading for Cloud in a Box? Tom Nolle September 26, 2019 As the cloud craze continues, enterprises are looking for simplified “in a box” cloud solutions to address their communication and collaboration needs. In terms of implementation, enterprises aren’t uniform in their approaches to hybrid, either – some are moving one application to the cloud at a time, while others are going site by site; for example, replacing on-prem PBXes with cloud voice services. “We are really seeing a mix. It’s based on the organization’s reason or reasons for making a change,” Korte said. Some enterprises might favor a site-by-site approach because it allows them to learn the system quirks and improve implementation on the next site, she added. In other cases, an enterprise might move an application to the cloud when its server license expires. Anytime you introduce complexity into a system, you’re inviting potential risks. However, Korte said she believes this complexity can be “easily managed” from an enterprise level — with a few caveats. “If you have a good understanding of your overall architecture, if you have the right monitoring in place, if you have the right partner or partners providing your cloud-based solution … I think it’s certainly manageable.” When these aren’t in place, a hybrid model can fall apart, Korte said. A hybrid deployment, which combines elements of cloud and traditional on-prem systems, can be a best-of-both-worlds approach – allowing an enterprise to move to the cloud gradually or complement what works on-premises with cloud services. With the Gartner Magic Quadrant report speculating that “40% of new enterprise telephony purchases will be based on a cloud office suite” by 2023, moving “partially” to the cloud through a hybrid solution can be a good way to introduce an enterprise to the benefits of a cloud system. Dedicated vs. Shared Cloud Voice Services Darin Ward October 03, 2019 When moving voice to the cloud, many service providers tout their dedicated solutions. But is “dedicated” all that it’s cracked up to be? A ‘Managed’ Complexity, CostProbably the biggest obstacles to adopting a hybrid deployment model come down to two Cs – complexity and cost. cloud-3998880_1920.jpg 5 Ways Cloud UCC Changed the Workforce Mark Roberts September 16, 2019 The UCC digital renaissance has come and stayed. Now, enterprises are fine tuning their networks to better engage employees and customers. For an enterprise used to treating a communications system as a capital expense – bought and paid for upfront —the idea of switching to the operational expense model that would come with an all-cloud or hybrid cloud deployment might be a barrier. However, enterprises need to think about “cost” holistically, Korte said. “It depends on what CapEx costs that they might already have and how they are configuring their new solution. If you take a pure-cloud solution, that can introduce huge cost savings. You don’t need the hardware anymore. You don’t need as much human capital,” she said. Despite costs associated with ongoing service costs, an OpEX solution will still provide savings, like in the case of human capital, according to Korte. In addition to transitioning to an OpEx cost model, enterprises might be leery about “throwing out” technology. However, Korte discussed two ways to address this concern. First, some UCaaS providers allow you to bring your own devices (telephones, etc.) rather than having to purchase new ones. This means you can leverage CapEx on existing equipment. Secondly, migrating to a new deployment model allows enterprises the opportunity to determine what hardware is really needed, Korte suggested. As an example, she shared how an anecdote about a clinic that wanted to get rid of telephones entirely because staff primarily used headsets – making the phones unnecessary. If phones have essentially become bricks on a desk carrying them forward into a new deployment doesn’t make sense, she said.Tags:News & Viewshybrid cloudcloud migrationCloud TelephonyCloud CommunicationsCCaaSContact Center & Customer ExperienceDeployment ModelsSystems Management & Network Design Articles You Might Like While UCaaS and other marketers make a cloud-based future for communications seem inevitable, we know that not all enterprises are approaching the cloud in the same way. Many enterprises still have concerns about a purely cloud-based communications system. Do I have to scrap my current on-prem system? What’s the cost? How do I manage a “split” deployment? Instead of looking up just at the cloud, some enterprises are moving forward with one eye on the ground and one on the cloud. Log in or register to post comments A Steppingstone to the CloudAs mentioned, one of the biggest advantages to a hybrid deployment over a purely on-prem system, or a private cloud, is scalability. Enterprises that want greater control over their services can easily turn them “on” or “off” with a hybrid solution, a “[luxury] not typically afforded to you when you are on a private cloud,” Korte said. Enterprises that are responding to an emergency, a weather event, or a seasonal boost in activity can scale up their communication services to meet the demand and scale down once it’s over. Similarly, hybrid deployments can be used as a “steppingstone” to a full-cloud platform. 5 Steps for A Seamless Contact Center Cloud Migration Elizabeth Magill September 09, 2019 Ensuring that IT and business teams are on the same page before, during, and after the process is key to a successful migration. In the last five years, UC&C consulting firm TetraVX has often seen clients turn to a hybrid deployment for the scalability and other advantages it affords, according to Kara Longo Korte, director of product management, TetraVX. See All in Cloud Communications » ‘UC’ a Container in Your Future? Beth Schultz September 03, 2019 As cloud comms providers continue to modernize, you’re going to want to know what containerization does and how you might benefit from it. read more

Meet Scott Behie Presidents Surgite Award winner

Scott Behie is a President’s Surgite Award winner. The President’s Surgite Award is given to current students to recognize those who have been outstanding in one or more of the following areas: leadership, advancing the University’s reputation, contribution to life at Brock or valuable service to the University or broader community.This is the first in a series of three stories featuring the graduate student recipients of the 2015 awards.***Scott BehiePhD student in BiotechnologyHometown: Calgary, AlbertaGraduate award highlights: 2015 President’s Surgite Award; Dean of Graduate Studies Excellence Scholarship; Queen Elizabeth II Graduate Scholarship in Science & Technology (September 2013 to August 2014); NSERC Postgraduate Doctoral Scholarship (September 2014 to August 2017)You can inspire and lead someone with words and with setting good examples, says Scott Behie, a 2015 winner of the President’s Surgite Award. But now and then, he says, it’s a “kick in the bum” that makes all the difference.“I don’t have a leadership philosophy per se, as everyone needs something different,” says the PhD student in Biological Sciences when asked about his personal leadership skills.“I guess I just try to make people comfortable with me, set a good example, and try to inspire the people around me to do well. I think a good leader is someone who can recognize when a student, or friend, or colleague needs a push, when they need a soft approach, and when they need a kick in the bum.“Through my time here at Brock, and in my family life, I’ve been given some great examples of leadership. My supervisors in my fourth year thesis and PhD, Dr. Michael Bidochka, and Dr. Paul Zelisko, as well as my dad and my sisters, have all just been confident and amazing people in my life.”Behie has had a stellar research experience at Brock with an impressive list of publications.“The best example of how I have contributed to Brock would be my academic publications,” says Behie. “With my supervisor and research team, we have published in a number of international journals, Science being the most notable. Our research has therefore been noticed internationally. It’s really exciting that I was able to add to the research profile at Brock.”At Brock, Behie has been part of a research team that studies properties of Metarhizium, a widespread soil-borne fungus that feasts upon more than 200 different kinds of insects. Metarhizium has long been known to be an insect pathogen, destroying soil-borne pests by robbing them of nitrogen. Metarhizium is currently used as a bio-control agent in agriculture around the world.This research is the first of its kind to show that the Metarhizium fungus is also able to transfer nitrogen from the insects that they kill to plants via their root systems because it’s a plant endophyte. That means the fungus lives inside the plant without causing any harm to its host. And that may have tremendous implications for nitrogen-poor soils, especially in developing countries.Behie is closing out his graduate career at Brock in the next few months. He’ll be defending his thesis this summer and then he’s off to begin a post-doctoral research fellowship at UC Berkeley.“I’m very excited about being part of the Berkeley team that has some really new ideas on how to potentially find some new antibiotics,” he says.Julian Petrachenko, Master’s student in Applied Health Sciences will be featured next week. read more

China criticizes US opposition to Chinese 5G telecom tech

BEIJING — China has criticized Washington’s opposition to Chinese-made next-generation telecoms technology after Vice-President Mike Pence called on Iceland and other governments to find alternatives.A foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, accused American leaders Friday of “abusing the concept of national security” to block commercial activity by Chinese companies.China’s Huawei Technologies Ltd. is a leader in next-generation, or 5G, technology. But Washington says Huawei is a security risk, an accusation the company denies.Pence said during a meeting this week with Iceland’s prime minister, Katrin Jakobsdottir, that Washington wants to “work with Iceland and other freedom-loving nations to find alternatives to essentially China’s state-based 5G operation.”The Associated Press read more

Bill Morneau to update Canadians on Kinder Morgan talks today as Trans

OTTAWA — Finance Minister Bill Morneau will provide an update Wednesday on the status of his talks with Kinder Morgan to expedite the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion — but he is not expected to announce a deal.Rather, Morneau is expected to articulate the broad strokes of how Ottawa sees a deal coming together — setting forth the federal Liberal government’s principles, values and goals that could form the basis of an eventual agreement.Morneau had been engaged in intensive talks with Kinder Morgan officials up until Tuesday, but the two sides have yet to declare any common ground on the amount of federal money involved.The finance minister’s very public display, which comes the day before the company’s annual meeting in Calgary, is likely to put additional pressure on the company.Amid mounting opposition from the B.C. government, environmental groups and protesters, not to mention skittish investors, Kinder Morgan halted all non-essential spending on its $7.4-billion plan to double an existing pipeline between Edmonton and Burnaby, B.C., and gave Ottawa until the end of May to broker some calm.Earlier Tuesday, before Morneau’s news conference — scheduled for 9 a.m. ET — was announced, Trudeau was in Calgary, trying to convince skeptical Albertans to believe his latest mantra: that the pipeline will be built.“Let’s be honest about these things. I don’t think there is anything that I can say that would reassure some of my critics who have such little faith in my government getting anything done for Alberta,” he said.“I don’t think there’s any magic phrase I can say that will have critics and skeptics put down their criticism and say, ‘You know what? The prime minister reassured me today.”‘As Trudeau spoke, a small group of protesters were heard shouting, “Build KM” and “Build that pipe.”Morneau’s talks with Kinder Morgan had their genesis a month ago, when Trudeau promised to deploy both financial and legislative tools to ensure the disputed expansion is able to proceed.During a remarkable eight-hour stopover in the national capital, an unscheduled break from a busy overseas travel itinerary, Trudeau convened a summit in Ottawa with B.C.’s John Horgan, who has staked his government’s survival on opposing the pipeline, and Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, whose province’s economic health depends on it.Trudeau instructed Morneau to sit down with Kinder Morgan to find a financial solution that would soothe their investors. He also promised legislation that would reaffirm Ottawa’s authority to press ahead with a development deemed to be in Canada’s national interest.The Liberal government position is that it approved the project in 2016 after a rejigged environmental assessment and Indigenous consultation process, and in concert with the its climate change and oceans protection plan. Approval came in consultation with the previous B.C. Liberal government, which gave its consent to the project after its own conditions were met.Horgan’s election last year changed that. His minority government exists at the pleasure of the Green party, and on condition of his continued opposition to the project. read more

Queensway West endurance test

A Toronto developer said this week that he had tenants and buyers for a 35-store plaza project in Simcoe but lost them all because of “hurdles” in the county planning process.Ed Bain, managing director of S. Land Development Corporation, said his firm has spent $500,000 over the past five years satisfying all requirements for Norfolk’s site-plan approval process.Two years ago, he had the development on the Queensway West at Cedar Street fully tenanted. However, Bain told Norfolk council Tuesday that interest faded as the site-plan process dragged on.It was a familiar story for Mayor Kristal Chopp, who said she’s “deeply concerned” by Bain’s report.“There are reasons why people don’t want to come and don’t want to develop in Norfolk County,” Chopp said. “It shouldn’t take this long.”Chopp asked her colleagues to remember this story as council considers ways of making the Norfolk planning process more user-friendly.Chris Baird, Norfolk’s general manager of public works, was general manager of development and cultural services for most of the five years in question.Baird said council didn’t hear the entire story.“The development is only as fast as the developer,” Baird said during a break in Tuesday’s meeting.“It would not be fair to say staff was delaying them. They were working at their own pace and staff was there to facilitate them.”S.Land Development has cleared the site-plan control process and is ready to proceed. Once a shovel is in the ground, Bain said the $12-million project could be finished within a year.Bain and partners were at Governor Simcoe Square to get council’s blessing for a property-tax rebate under Norfolk County’s Community Improvement Plan.The province allows municipalities to give developers breaks when they re-develop problem parcels such as brownfields.The 5.2 acres in question once had a rail line running through it.The parcel is also in a low-lying area. Bain’s company has raised it six feet with 13,000 cubic metres of clean fill.The improvements made plus the increased assessed value of the real estate qualifies S. Land Development for consideration under the county’s Community Improvement Plan.A previous owner wanted to build housing on the land but thought better of it when methane gas was detected from an underlying peat deposit.S.Land Development intends to build on a pile-supported slab foundation. Problem gases will be vented away from the buildings and will not impede or complicate commercial activity.At Tuesday’s meeting, Norfolk council supported economic development officials and county lawyer Nicholas Loeb drawing up an agreement that would commit the county to a tax-incentive rebate.The document and the magnitude of the rebate will be presented to council at a later read more

Police digest Stolen gun found in Simcoe

A handgun that was reported stolen last year near Toronto turned up in a bush in Simcoe this weekend.Norfolk OPP were notified of the firearm over the noon hour Sunday.Police report a man was renovating a business on Sydenham Street when he came across the gun in bushes nearby.Police report the firearm was reported stolen in York Region in 2018.Norfolk OPP are investigating.Failure to yieldA Haldimand man was charged following a collision last week east of Simcoe.The crash occurred at the corner of Blue Line Road and Townsend Road 13.Around 1:30 p.m. Friday, a Jeep eastbound on Townsend Road 13 turned south onto Blue Line Road. As it did so, it collided with a north bound vehicle. No injuries were reported.A 26-year-old Haldimand man has been charged with failure to yield to oncoming traffic.Stolen vehicle abandoned near BostonA vehicle abandoned along the roadway this weekend with its doors open and engine running turned out to be stolen.The white 2001 Chevrolet Suburban was located along Townsend Road 3 near Boston around 5 p.m. Friday.Police were told two suspects were seen fleeing from the vehicle to an awaiting black Cadillac Escalade. The Escalade reportedly left the area at a high rate of speed.Police later determined that the Suburban was reported stolen from an address in Haldimand County.Anyone with information related to the theft is encouraged to contact the Norfolk OPP at 1-888-310-1122. Information can also be shared with Crime Stoppers of Haldimand and Norfolk.Callers to Crime Stoppers who help solve a crime are eligible for a cash reward of up to $2,000.Helmet, impaired charges for motorcyclistA Haldimand man was charged with several offences after he was thrown from a motorcycle in Fisherville.Haldimand paramedics were alerted to a man apparently injured in a motorcycle crash on Erie Avenue around 6 p.m. Friday. He was taken to hospital suffering minor injuries.Following an investigation, Haldimand OPP charged a 36-year-old Fisherville man with impaired driving, refusing to provide a breath sample and failure to wear a helmet.The accused will answer the charge in the Ontario Court of Justice at a later date.Shoplifting charge in SimcoeTwo Norfolk residents face theft charges following an incident in Simcoe last week.Friday around 9:30 p.m., the Real Canadian Superstore on the Queensway East in Simcoe reported that a woman left the store without paying for merchandise.The woman reportedly got into a vehicle that left the scene.Police patrolling the area located the woman and took her into custody. The driver of the vehicle was also charged.A 50-year-old woman has been charged with theft under $5,000 and failure to comply with a probation order.A 53-year-old man has been charged with failure to comply with a probation order.Deer collisions in NorfolkDeer are out and about and on the move now that spring has arrived.Police report there have been several collisions in Norfolk in recent days involving deer.Norfolk OPP remind motorists it is never a good idea to crank the steering wheel in a bid to avoid deer on the road. Doing so could put motorists into the path of oncoming traffic or into the ditch and into a tree or hydro pole.“If you suddenly have deer in your path, we encourage drivers to stay in control, reduce as much speed as possible and – whatever you do – steer straight,” Staff Sgt. John Fashing, operations manager for the Norfolk OPP, said Monday in a news release.“Don’t veer for deer. By changing your direction quickly, you increase the risk of losing control, running off the roadway and rolling your vehicle. This increases the likelihood of sustaining greater damage to your vehicle and serious injury.”The best advice according to the OPP is to drive the posted speed limit, be vigilant and assume in rural areas that deer are somewhere near the roadway and could dart across at any time. read more

General Assembly examines reports by UN war crimes tribunals

Introducing the report on the activities of the International Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), Tribunal President Judge Claude Jorda said the Trial Chambers had pronounced six judgments on 17 accused and issued many decisions over the past 12 months. In the Appeals Chamber, the judges had issued 30 decisions and three judgements for seven defendants. With the gradual adoption of reform, the Tribunal’s judicial activity had increased, making it possible for the Tribunal to double its trial capacity and complete first-instance proceedings in 2007, he said. Judge Jorda noted, however, that several accused high-ranking political and military leaders remained at large, with some of them residing with impunity in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and others taking refuge in the Republika Srpska. To have the courts of the countries from the former Yugoslavia conduct trials in some cases would lighten the Tribunal’s workload, he said, but warned that the international community must ensure that with such “relocation” of cases, war criminals did not enjoy impunity, and that trials were not trials only in name. Introducing the report of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the court’s President, Judge Navanethem Pillary, noted that seven trials involving 17 defendants were currently in progress.As for why the number of judgements by the Tribunal was low – just eight in four years – Judge Pillary said the Prosecutor’s strategy had focused on suspects who were alleged to have been in the highest positions of leadership and authority in Rwanda in 1994. Trials of those who were the alleged architects of killings were far more complicated because command responsibility had to be established and a far greater range of facts was at issue.Judge Pillary noted that there was broad consensus among the judges that the delays experienced by both Tribunals needed to be addressed, and that there was a need for greater control over the presentation of evidence by the parties. In other action this morning, the Assembly appointed a number of new members to several subsidiary financial and budgetary bodies, the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC) and the UN Board of Auditors. read more

UN agency welcomes closure of squalid Jalozai Afghan refugee camp in Pakistan

The final convoy of Afghans left the Jalozai refugee camp in Pakistan today, marking the close of the notoriously squalid site – a move that was immediately hailed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).“For much of the past year, Jalozai was tragic and visible evidence of the miserable plight of Afghans fleeing decades of war, abuse, drought, and deprivation,” High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers said, referring to the camp where up to 80,000 lived and many died. “Jalozai’s very existence was a sad reminder of the international community’s neglect of the Afghan situation prior to the events of September 11,” he said in a statement released at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva. Senior Pakistani officials as well UN representatives were on hand today as the last buses pulled out of the camp, ferrying 1,570 refugees to three recently opened camps – Barkili, Shalman, and Asgharo – near the border with Afghanistan.More than 190,000 Afghans are currently housed in the new camps, where they can receive proper medical care and adequate food and shelter. The agency says the new sites can handle up to 250,000 people and that it will continue to relocate those refugees that request it into the camps.Jalozai first became a “precarious and unhealthy” home to tens of thousands of Afghans in late 2000, according to UNHCR. Crude shelters, made of canvas and plastic, were often flooded when it rained. The Pakistani government, already hosting more than 2 million refugees largely forgotten by the international community, was reluctant to officially recognize the new arrivals, the agency said. Many died, especially children, as relief workers struggled to provide minimum health and other services.“For the people who have spent the last 12 months in Jalozai, I think this has been a very bitter experience,” said UNHCR senior emergency officer Mohammed Adar. “They have lost quite a number of children there, and I would think that anybody who has been in the camp would wish that it had been closed a long time ago.”High Commissioner Lubbers, who visited the Jalozai camp last spring and made its closing a key priority of his first year in office, said Tuesday that “by finally emptying it today, we are demonstrating the international community’s renewed commitment to help end the suffering of the Afghan people.” read more

UN Israeli officials to meet on Jenin mission

The decision to convene the session stemmed from yesterday’s discussions between the Secretary-General and Israeli Ambassador Yehuda Lancry, who “sought clarification on the team’s composition and scope of action, as well as other issues,” spokesman Fred Eckhard told a press briefing at UN Headquarters. The spokesman stressed that the mission – initiated by the Secretary-General and welcomed by the Security Council – was expected to be in the region on Saturday.”The Secretary-General said clearly that the mandate of the team was Security Council Resolution 1405 of 19 April,” the spokesman said. “While he would not discuss his choice of team members, he did not rule out adding additional experts as might be deemed necessary.”During the meeting with the Israeli Ambassador, Mr. Annan had declined to discuss the composition of the team, Mr. Eckhard said in response to questions from the press. “[The Secretary-General] feels it was his team to name, he feels that the Israelis indicated to him in advance that they would cooperate with whatever team he named, and those are his people, and that’s the end of the discussion,” said the spokesman. “There are three principals on the team, but [team leader Martti Ahtisaari] said let’s not draw any divisive lines,” Mr. Eckhard noted. “The Secretary-General said that any additional expertise that Mr. Ahtisaari feels he might need can be brought on board.””If out of the discussions with the Israelis tomorrow there are recommendations that Mr. Ahtisaari thinks would be helpful for additional kinds of experts we’ll bring them on board,” he said. “The idea is to have all of the expertise we need to do a fair assessment.”Concerning tomorrow’s meeting, the spokesman said that the “Israeli mission this morning said three individuals would participate; one each from the Defence Ministry, the Foreign Ministry and the Israeli Defence Forces.” He added that the meeting would be chaired by the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Kieran Prendergast, and attended by senior officials from the Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Office of Legal Affairs. read more

Annan appoints head of UNHabitat to level of UnderSecretaryGeneral

Mr. Annan informed the General Assembly this morning of his intention to elevate Ms. Tibaijuka from the level of Assistant Secretary-General, a UN spokesman told a press briefing. UN-Habitat had been newly constituted following a decision last December of the Assembly to upgrade, the UN Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat) and its governing body, the UN Commission on Human Settlements.

Thousands of Iraqi children will die unless they are made top priority

Thousands of Iraqi youngsters will die and hundreds of thousands more will be injured, fall prey to disease, suffer abuse and exploitation or fall behind in school, unless all involved in shaping the post-war future make the battle to protect children the number one priority, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned today.“The war may be over but the work is far from done,” UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy said in a message issued a day after some of the agency’s international staff returned to work in Baghdad for the first time in more than six weeks. “Children are still dying, and they’re still at grave risk. Let’s make protecting children as comprehensive and urgent an objective as ending the war was.”Outlining the dangers confronting Iraqi children, UNICEF cited insecurity stopping aid from reaching needy communities; degradation of the water system with widespread health hazards like diarrhoea, cholera and other killer diseases; unexploded munitions with daily reports of injuries and deaths; enormous stress on hospitals, including insufficient medical supplies; insufficient emphasis on opening schools, leaving children on the streets exposed to hazards; and ongoing malnutrition with more than a quarter of all children under age five already malnourished.“We’re calling on both Iraqis and the parties shaping Iraqi society to make the protection of children job number one,” Ms. Bellamy said. “Iraq’s future depends on the health and well-being of its children. At the moment, we are failing them. They should be our first priority – not only in words but in action. And frankly, I’m not seeing nearly enough action for children.”Stressing the overriding importance of schools, she added: “Nothing will do more to immediately improve the well-being and protection of Iraq’s children than getting them back in the classroom. Classrooms give children a positive focus, they allow the sharing of vital information, they keep children off the streets, they protect them from exploitation, they relieve parents and help them focus on their own recovery.“For UNICEF, there is no more obvious and urgent priority than getting learning underway as widely and as quickly as possible,” she added. Returning to Baghdad yesterday, UNICEF’s Iraq representative Carel de Rooy paid tribute to the 200-strong national staff who carried on throughout the war despite enormous difficulties. “These people worked throughout the conflict to maintain water systems and deliver humanitarian supplies,” he said. “They did this despite fears for their own safety, and we at UNICEF applaud them for their courage and dedication.”The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that despite the damage done to the Iraqi health system by years of under-investment, economic sanctions and most acutely by weeks of conflict and looting, a mere $20 million a month was all that was needed to “jump start” hospitals and health centres across the country.The idea behind the plan is to build on existing facilities and their highly committed staffs, WHO said. In the first place, that means making sure the very basics are in place – that floors are cleaned, patients fed and waste removed; that staff are given a daily allowance until a system is worked out to pay their salaries; that basic maintenance work can be done, generators can operate and the most essential medicines can be supplied.The cost of not making this monthly investment could be much greater, the agency added. Without basic cleaning and maintenance, disease outbreaks are almost certain; without food, patients cannot recover; and without an allowance to enable them to feed themselves and their families, health workers and other hospital staff will have to look for work elsewhere.”In the past days and weeks, we have seen the commitment of Iraqi health workers to public health. They have continued to work under some very difficult conditions,” WHO Director General Gro Harlem Brundtland said. “Now we must ensure that their dedication and bravery is not wasted. Iraq’s health system must not collapse for want of finance and support.”On their first full day back in Baghdad, the UN international team led by the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Ramiro Lopes da Silva, continued meetings with their national staff and representatives of non-governmental organizations in an effort to increase UN activities in the capital. read more

UN condemns killing of 2 aid workers in Afghanistan

A spokesman for Jean Arnault, the Special Representative of Secretary General Kofi Annan and the chief of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said, “Violence against aid workers is unacceptable and [Mr. Arnault] vigorously condemns this attack.” The two victims were Afghan workers for the Catholic relief agency Malteser, an implementing partner of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Emal Abdul Samad, a driver, and Mohammad Idrees Sadiq, a field officer, were travelling on the road from Zurmat to Gardez yesterday afternoon when their unmarked taxi came under fire. According to Mohammad Nader Farhad, a spokesman for UNHCR in Kabul, Mr. Sadiq was killed instantly while Mr. Samad was airlifted to Bagram Hospital, where he was treated for heavy injury before succumbing to his wounds. UNAMA spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva said Mr. Arnault expressed his deep condolences to the families and friends of the two Malteser staffers and that “he shares his solidarity” with the German non-governmental organization (NGO). Mr. Farhad said Malteser – which provides vocational training, cash for work projects and income generation activities in refugee return areas – has suspended all operations in the southeast and central regions of Afghanistan to review the situation. UNHCR Gardez, meanwhile, has also suspended all movements in the southeast until further notice. “We are extremely concerned by the repeated security incidents involving aid workers and the increasingly shrinking humanitarian space,” he said. read more

UN envoy to Iraq provides update to Kurdish leader Barzani

The senior United Nations envoy to Iraq has updated Masoud Barzani, the new President of the Kurdish Regional Government, on the world body’s activities in the country.Ashraf Qazi also congratulated the President on his recent inauguration during their talks on Friday, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI).In a separate meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, the UN envoy discussed the upcoming International Conference on Iraq, to be held in Brussels on 22 June. Mr. Qazi also thanked the Foreign Minister for his continued support of the UN in Iraq, UNAMI said. read more

Refugee repatriation to Liberia jumps sharply UN refugee agency says

Citing improved security after years of civil war, more than 5,000 Liberian refugees have returned home from Côte d’Ivoire in the past four weeks, a big jump from the total of 700 who returned in the first five months of the year, the United Nations refugee agency said today.The returnees, who have gone mainly to eastern Maryland and Nimba counties, told staff members from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that security conditions had improved in Liberia and deteriorated somewhat in western Côte d’Ivoire, where some had lived for over a decade during the 14-year Liberian civil conflict.UNHCR has repatriated 28,000 Liberians from Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria and Sierra Leone since it launched the voluntary repatriation programme last October. Some 6,500 Liberian refugees were allowed to emigrate to the United States from 2003, but the programme is being closed down, UNHCR said.About 470,000 Liberian refugees remain in Côte d’Ivoire, mainly in the west, it said. read more

Colombia UN rights office condemns murder of four civilians including priests

The four were killed on Sunday by an illegal armed group in El Diviso in Norte de Santander Department. The statement by the office was the latest intervention by various UN agencies over the devastating impact that four decades of fighting between leftist rebels, Government forces and rightist paramilitaries have had on the civilian population throughout the Andean country, where more than 2 million people have been displaced in the biggest humanitarian crisis in the western hemisphere.“In deploring and rejecting this new act of violence against unarmed civilians, exacerbated by the priestly status of two of the dead, the Office stresses that the principles and norms of international human law concerning the protection of the civilian population must at all times and everywhere be fulfilled by those who directly participate in hostilities within the framework of internal armed conflict,” the statement said. Just three weeks ago, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) warned that local communities in southern Colombia had been cut off by an armed blockade following intense fighting between irregular armed groups and the military and were suffering from a severe shortage of food and other essential items. read more

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