Polish drug company Jelfa ordered to shut-down over mislabelled drugs

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Polish Prime Minister Jaros?aw Kaczy?ski has ordered the pharmaceutical company Jelfa to halt production following revelations that Jelfa had placed mislabelled medication on the market, whose use could be potentially fatal.

Jelfa distributed vials labelled as Corhydron, a hydrocortisone used to treat allergies and inflammation, but in fact containing Suxamethonium chloride, a drug normally used to cause muscle paralysis during emergency surgery.

The Health Ministry has appealed to people suffering from asthma or allergies to check their medication and return any Corhydron ampoules they possess to the pharmacy.

Polskie Radio reports that the mislabelling was discovered a month ago, but Jelfa and the Polish Health ministry did not inform of the problem.

Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski ordered Jelfa to halt production until it can assure the Polish Government that it can properly manage its production.

The Polish Outlook reports that that drug companies in Poland were operating unregulated since December, 2005 as the regulations has expired. The government was putting in place new regulations.

The owner of Jelfa is AB Sanitas, the largest drug producer in neighbouring Lithuania. The shut-down has been questioned by the Lithuanian Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas, who expressed concern over the situation and said that he wants to try to settle the issue diplomatically.

Posted on December 9th, 2018 by eE73Dg  |  No Comments »

Pfizer and Microsoft team up against Viagra spam

Sunday, February 13, 2005

New York –”Buy cheap Viagra through us – no prescription required!” Anyone with an active email account will recognize lines like this one. According to some reports, unsolicited advertisements (spam) for Viagra and similar drugs account for one in four spam messages.

BACKGROUND

Spamming remains one of the biggest problems facing email users today. While users and systems administrators have improved their defenses against unsolicited email, many spammers now insert random words or characters into their letters in order to bypass filters. The Wikipedia article Stopping email abuse provides an overview of the various strategies employed by companies, Internet users and systems administrators to deal with the issue.

Ever since pharmaceutical giant Pfizer promised to cure erectile dysfunction once and for all with its blue pills containing the drug sildenafil citrate, spammers have tried to tap into male anxiety by offering prescription-free sales of unapproved “generic” Viagra and clones such as Cialis soft tabs. Legislation like the U.S. CAN-SPAM act has done little to stem the tide of email advertising the products.

Now Pfizer has entered a pledge with Microsoft Corporation, the world’s largest software company, to address the problem. The joint effort will focus on lawsuits against spammers as well as the companies they advertise. “Pfizer is joining with Microsoft on these actions as part of our shared pledge to reduce the sale of these products and to fight the senders of unsolicited e-mail that overwhelms people’s inboxes,” said Jeff Kindler, executive vice president at Pfizer.

Microsoft has filed civil actions against spammers advertising the websites CanadianPharmacy and E-Pharmacy Direct. Pfizer has filed lawsuits against the two companies, and has taken actions against websites which use the word “Viagra” in their domain names. Sales of controlled drugs from Canadian pharmacies to the United States are illegal, but most drugs sold in Canada have nevertheless undergone testing by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. This is not the case for many of the Viagra clones sold by Internet companies and manufactured in countries like China and India. While it was not clear that CanadianPharmacy was actually shipping drugs from Canada, Pfizer’s general counsel, Beth Levine, claimed that the company filled orders using a call center in Montreal, reported the Toronto Star.

For Microsoft’s part, they allege that the joint effort with Pfizer is part of their “multi-pronged attack on the barrage of spam.” As the creator of the popular email program Outlook, Microsoft has been criticized in the past for the product’s spam filtering process. Recently, Microsoft added anti-spam measures to its popular Exchange server. Exchange 2003 now includes support for accessing so-called real-time block lists, or RTBLs. An RTBL is a list of the IP addresses maintained by a third party; the addresses on the list are those of mailservers thought to have sent spam recently. Exchange 2003 can query the list for each message it receives.

Posted on December 9th, 2018 by eE73Dg  |  No Comments »

ACLU, EFF challenging US ‘secret’ court orders seeking Twitter data

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Late last month, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed objections to the United States Government’s ‘secret’ attempts to obtain Twitter account information relating to WikiLeaks. The ACLU and EFF cite First and Fourth amendment issues as overriding reasons to overturn government attempts to keep their investigation secret; and, that with Birgitta Jonsdottir being an Icelandic Parliamentarian, the issue has serious international implications.

The case, titled “In the Matter of the 2703(d) Order Relating to Twitter Accounts: Wikileaks, Rop_G, IOERROR; and BirgittaJ“, has been in the EFF’s sights since late last year when they became aware of the US government’s attempts to investigate WikiLeaks-related communications using the popular microblogging service.

The key objective of this US government investigation is to obtain data for the prosecution of Bradley Manning, alleged to have supplied classified data to WikiLeaks. In addition to Manning’s Twitter account, and that of WikiLeaks (@wikileaks), the following three accounts are subject to the order: @ioerror, @birgittaj, and @rop_g. These, respectively, belong to Jacob Apelbaum, Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Rop Gonggrijp.

Birgitta is not the only non-US citizen with their Twitter account targeted by the US Government; Gonggrijp, a Dutch ‘ex-hacker’-turned-security-expert, was one of the founders of XS4ALL – the first Internet Service Provider in the Netherlands available to the public. He has worked on a mobile phone that can encrypt conversations, and proven that electronic voting systems can readily be hacked.

In early March, a Virginia magistrate judge ruled that the government could have the sought records, and neither the targeted users, or the public, could see documents submitted to justify data being passed to the government. The data sought is as follows:

  1. Personal contact information, including addresses
  2. Financial data, including credit card or bank account numbers
  3. Twitter account activity information, including the “date, time, length, and method of connections” plus the “source and destination Internet Protocol address(es)”
  4. Direct Message (DM) information, including the email addresses and IP addresses of everyone with whom the Parties have exchanged DMs

The order demands disclosure of absolutely all such data from November 1, 2009 for the targeted accounts.

The ACLU and EFF are not only challenging this, but demanding that all submissions made by the US government to justify the Twitter disclosure are made public, plus details of any other such cases which have been processed in secret.

Bradley Manning, at the time a specialist from Maryland enlisted with the United States Army’s 2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, was arrested in June last year in connection with the leaking of classified combat video to WikiLeaks.

The leaked video footage, taken from a US helicopter gunship, showed the deaths of Reuters staff Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen during a U.S. assault in Baghdad, Iraq. The wire agency unsuccessfully attempted to get the footage released via a Freedom of Information Act request in 2007.

When WikiLeaks released the video footage it directly contradicted the official line taken by the U.S. Army asserting that the deaths of the two Reuters staff were “collateral damage” in an attack on Iraqi insurgents. The radio chatter associated with the AH-64 Apache video indicated the helicopter crews had mistakenly identified the journalists’ equipment as weaponry.

The US government also claims Manning is linked to CableGate; the passing of around a quarter of a million classified diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. Manning has been in detention since July last year; in December allegations of torture were made to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the conditions under which he was and is being detained.

Reports last month that he must now sleep naked and attend role call at the U.S. Marine facility in Quantico in the same state, raised further concern over his detention conditions. Philip J. Crowley, at-the-time a State Department spokesman, remarked on this whilst speaking at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; describing the current treatment of Manning as “ridiculous and counterproductive and stupid”, Crowley was, as a consequence, put in the position of having to tender his resignation to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Despite his native Australia finding, in December last year, that Assange’s WikiLeaks had not committed any criminal offences in their jurisdiction, the U.S. government has continued to make ongoing operations very difficult for the whistleblower website.

The result of the Australian Federal Police investigation left the country’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, having to retract a statement that WikiLeaks had acted “illegally”; instead, she characterised the site’s actions as “grossly irresponsible”.

Even with Australia finding no illegal activity on the part of WikiLeaks, and with founder Julian Assange facing extradition to Sweden, U.S. pressure sought to hobble WikiLeaks financially.

Based on a State Department letter, online payments site PayPal suspended WikiLeaks account in December. Their action was swiftly followed by Visa Europe and Mastercard ceasing to handle payments for WikiLeaks.

The online processing company, Datacell, threatened the two credit card giants with legal action over this. However, avenues of funding for the site were further curtailed when both Amazon.com and Swiss bank PostFinance joined the financial boycott of WikiLeaks.

Assange continues, to this day, to argue that his extradition to Sweden for questioning on alleged sexual offences is being orchestrated by the U.S. in an effort to discredit him, and thus WikiLeaks.

Wikinews consulted an IT and cryptography expert from the Belgian university which developed the current Advanced Encryption Standard; explaining modern communications, he stated: “Cryptography has developed to such a level that intercepting communications is no longer cost effective. That is, if any user uses the correct default settings, and makes sure that he/she is really connecting to Twitter it is highly unlikely that even the NSA can break the cryptography for a protocol such as SSL/TLS (used for https).”

Qualifying this, he commented that “the vulnerable parts of the communication are the end points.” To make his point, he cited the following quote from Gene Spafford: “Using encryption on the Internet is the equivalent of arranging an armored car to deliver credit card information from someone living in a cardboard box to someone living on a park bench.

Continuing, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KUL) expert explained:

In the first place, the weak point is Twitter itself; the US government can go and ask for the data; companies such as Twitter and Google will typically store quite some information on their users, including IP addresses (it is known that Google deletes the last byte of the IP address after a few weeks, but it is not too hard for a motivated opponent to find out what this byte was).
In the second place, this is the computer of the user: by exploiting system weaknesses (with viruses, Trojan horses or backdoors in the operating system) a highly motivated opponent can enter your machine and record your keystrokes plus everything that is happening (e.g. the FBI is known to do this with the so-called Magic Lantern software). Such software is also commercially available, e.g. for a company to monitor its employees.
It would also be possible for a higly motivated opponent to play “man-in-the-middle”; that means that instead of having a secure connection to Twitter.com, you have a secure connection to the attacker’s server, who impersonates Twitter’s and then relays your information to Twitter. This requires tricks such as spoofing DNS (this is getting harder with DNSsec), or misleading the user (e.g. the user clicks on a link and connects to tw!tter.com or Twitter.c0m, which look very similar in a URL window as Twitter.com). It is clear that the US government is capable of using these kind of tricks; e.g., a company has been linked to the US government that was recognized as legitimate signer in the major browsers, so it would not be too large for them to sign a legitimate certificate for such a spoofing webserver; this means that the probability that a user would detect a problem would be very low.
As for traffic analysis (finding out who you are talking to rather than finding out what you are telling to whom), NSA and GCHQ are known to have access to lots of traffic (part of this is obtained via the UK-USA agreement). Even if one uses strong encryption, it is feasible for them to log the IP addresses and email addresses of all the parties you are connecting to. If necessary, they can even make routers re-route your traffic to their servers. In addition, the European Data Retention directive forces all operators to store such traffic data.
Whether other companies would have complied with such requests: this is very hard to tell. I believe however that it is very plausible that companies such as Google, Skype or Facebook would comply with such requests if they came from a government.
In summary: unless you go through great lengths to log through to several computers in multiple countries, you work in a clean virtual machine, you use private browser settings (don’t accept cookies, no plugins for Firefox, etc.) and use tools such as Tor, it is rather easy for any service provider to identify you.
Finally: I prefer not to be quoted on any sentences in which I make statements on the capabilities or actions of any particular government.

Wikinews also consulted French IT security researcher Stevens Le Blond on the issues surrounding the case, and the state-of-the-art in monitoring, and analysing, communications online. Le Blond, currently presenting a research paper on attacks on Tor to USENIX audiences in North America, responded via email:

Were the US Government to obtain the sought data, it would seem reasonable the NSA would handle further investigation. How would you expect them to exploit the data and expand on what they receive from Twitter?

  • Le Blond: My understanding is that the DOJ is requesting the following information: 1) Connection records and session times 2) IP addresses 3) e-mail addresses 4) banking info
By requesting 1) and 2) for Birgitta and other people involved with WikiLeaks (WL) since 2009, one could derive 2 main [pieces of] information.
First, he could tell the mobility of these people. Recent research in networking shows that you can map an IP address into a geographic location with a median error of 600 meters. So by looking at changes of IP addresses in time for a Twitter user, one could tell (or at least speculate about) where that person has been.
Second, by correlating locations of different people involved with WL in time, one could possibly derive their interactions and maybe even their level of involvement with WL. Whether it is possible to derive this information from 1) and 2) depends on how this people use Twitter. For example, do they log on Twitter often enough, long enough, and from enough places?
My research indicates that this is the case for other Internet services but I cannot tell whether it is the case for Twitter.
Note that even though IP logging, as done by Twitter, is similar to the logging done by GSM [mobile phone] operators, the major difference seems to be that Twitter is subject to US regulation, no matter the citizenship of its users. I find this rather disturbing.
Using 3), one could search for Birgitta on other Internet services, such as social networks, to find more information on her (e.g., hidden accounts). Recent research on privacy shows that people tend to use the same e-mail address to register an account on different social networks (even when they don’t want these accounts to be linked together). Obviously, one could then issue subpoenas for these accounts as well.
I do not have the expertise to comment on what could be done with 4).
((WN)) As I believe Jonsdottir to be involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), what are the wider implications beyond the “WikiLeaks witchhunt”?
  • Le Blond: Personal data can be used to discredit, especially if the data is not public.

Having been alerted to the ongoing case through a joint press release by the ACLU and EFF, Wikinews sought clarification on the primary issues which the two non-profits saw as particularly important in challenging the U.S. Government over the ‘secret’ court orders. Rebecca Jeschke, Media Relations Director for the EFF, explained in more detail the points crucial to them, responding to a few questions from Wikinews on the case:

((WN)) As a worse-case, what precedents would be considered if this went to the Supreme Court?
  • Rebecca Jeschke: It’s extremely hard to know at this stage if this would go to the Supreme Court, and if it did, what would be at issue. However, some of the interesting questions about this case center on the rights of people around the world when they use US Internet services. This case questions the limits of US law enforcement, which may turn out to be very different from the limits in other countries.
((WN)) Since this is clearly a politicised attack on free speech with most chilling potential repercussions for the press, whistleblowers, and by-and-large anyone the relevant U.S. Government departments objects to the actions of, what action do you believe should be taken to protect free speech rights?
  • Jeschke: We believe that, except in very rare circumstances, the government should not be permitted to obtain information about individuals’ private Internet communications in secret. We also believe that Internet companies should, whenever possible, take steps to ensure their customers are notified about requests for information and have the opportunity to respond.
((WN)) Twitter via the web, in my experience, tends to use https:// connections. Are you aware of any possibility of the government cracking such connections? (I’m not up to date on the crypto arms race).
  • Jeschke: You don’t need to crack https, per se, to compromise its security. See this piece about fraudulent https certificates:
Iranian hackers obtain fraudulent httpsEFF website.
((WN)) And, do you believe that far, far more websites should – by default – employ https:// connections to protect people’s privacy?
  • Jeschke: We absolutely think that more websites should employ https! Here is a guide for site operators: (See external links, Ed.)

Finally, Wikinews approached the Icelandic politician, and WikiLeaks supporter, who has made this specific case a landmark in how the U.S. Government handles dealings with – supposedly – friendly governments and their elected representatives. A number of questions were posed, seeking the Icelandic Parliamentarian’s views:

((WN)) How did you feel when you were notified the US Government wanted your Twitter account, and message, details? Were you shocked?
  • Birgitta Jonsdottir: I felt angry but not shocked. I was expecting something like this to happen because of my involvement with WikiLeaks. My first reaction was to tweet about it.
((WN)) What do you believe is their reasoning in selecting you as a ‘target’?
  • Jonsdottir: It is quite clear to me that USA authorities are after Julian Assange and will use any means possible to get even with him. I think I am simply a pawn in a much larger context. I did of course both act as a spokesperson for WikiLeaks in relation to the Apache video and briefly for WikiLeaks, and I put my name to the video as a co-producer. I have not participated in any illegal activity and thus being a target doesn’t make me lose any sleep.
((WN)) Are you concerned that, as a Member of Parliament involved in the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), the US attempt to obtain your Twitter data is interfering with planned Icelandic government policy?
  • Jonsdottir: No
((WN)) In an earlier New York Times (NYT) article, you’re indicating there is nothing they can obtain about you that bothers you; but, how do you react to them wanting to know everyone you talk to?
  • Jonsdottir: It bothers me and according to top computer scientists the government should be required to obtain a search warrant to get our IP addresses from Twitter. I am, though, happy I am among the people DOJ is casting their nets around because of my parliamentary immunity; I have a greater protection then many other users and can use that immunity to raise the issue of lack of rights for those that use social media.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Do you believe the U.S. government should have the right to access data on foreign nationals using services such as Twitter?
Add or view comments
((WN)) The same NYT article describes you as a WikiLeaks supporter; is this still the case? What attracts you to their ‘radical transparency’?
  • Jonsdottir: I support the concept of WikiLeaks. While we don’t have a culture of protection for sources and whistleblowers we need sites like WikiLeaks. Plus, I think it is important to give WikiLeaks credit for raising awareness about in how bad shape freedom of information and expression is in our world and it is eroding at an alarming rate because of the fact that legal firms for corporations and corrupt politicians have understood the borderless nature of the legalities of the information flow online – we who feel it is important that people have access to information that should remain in the public domain need to step up our fight for those rights. WikiLeaks has played an important role in that context.I don’t support radical transparency – I understand that some things need to remain secret. It is the process of making things secret that needs to be both more transparent and in better consensus with nations.
((WN)) How do you think the Icelandic government would have reacted if it were tens of thousands of their diplomatic communications being leaked?
  • Jonsdottir: I am not sure – A lot of our dirty laundry has been aired via the USA cables – our diplomatic communications with USA were leaked in those cables, so far they have not stirred much debate nor shock. It is unlikely for tens of thousands of cables to leak from Iceland since we dont have the same influence or size as the USA, nor do we have a military.
((WN)) Your ambassador in the US has spoken to the Obama administration. Can you discuss any feedback from that? Do you have your party’s, and government’s, backing in challenging the ordered Twitter data release?
  • Jonsdottir: I have not had any feedback from that meeting, I did however receive a message from the DOJ via the USA ambassador in Iceland. The message stated three things: 1. I am free to travel to the USA. 2. If I would do so, I would not be a subject of involuntary interrogation. 3. I am not under criminal investigation. If this is indeed the reality I wonder why they are insisting on getting my personal details from Twitter. I want to stress that I understand the reasoning of trying to get to Assange through me, but I find it unacceptable since there is no foundation for criminal investigation against him. If WikiLeaks goes down, all the other media partners should go down at the same time. They all served similar roles. The way I see it is that WikiLeaks acted as the senior editor of material leaked to them. They could not by any means be considered a source. The source is the person that leaks the material to WikiLeaks. I am not sure if the media in our world understands how much is at stake for already shaky industry if WikiLeaks will carry on carrying the brunt of the attacks. I think it would be powerful if all the medias that have had access to WikiLeaks material would band together for their defence.
((WN)) Wikinews consulted a Belgian IT security expert who said it was most likely companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, and Google, would have complied with similar court orders *without advising the ‘targets*’. Does that disturb you?
  • Jonsdottir: This does disturb me for various reasons. The most obvious is that my emails are hosted at google/gmail and my search profile. I dont have anything to hide but it is important to note that many of the people that interact with me as a MP via both facebook and my various email accounts don’t always realize that there is no protection for them if they do so via those channels. I often get sensitive personal letters sent to me at facebook and gmail. In general most people are not aware of how little rights they have as users of social media. It is those of uttermost importance that those sites will create the legal disclaimers and agreements that state the most obvious rights we lose when we sign up to their services.
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
((WN)) Has there been any backlash within Iceland against US-based internet services in light of this? Do you expect such, or any increase in anti-American sentiments?
  • Jonsdottir: No, none what so ever. I dont think there is much anti-American sentiments in Iceland and I dont think this case will increase it. However I think it is important for everyone who does not live in the USA and uses social services to note that according to the ruling in my case, they dont have any protection of the 1st and 4th amendment, that only apply to USA citizens. Perhaps the legalities in relation to the borderless reality we live in online need to be upgraded in order for people to feel safe with using social media if it is hosted in the USA. Market tends to bend to simple rules.
((WN)) Does this make you more, or less, determined to see the IMMI succeed?
  • Jonsdottir: More. People have to realize that if we dont have freedom of information online we won’t have it offline. We have to wake up to the fact that our rights to access information that should be in the public domain is eroding while at the same time our rights as citizens online have now been undermined and we are only seen as consumers with consumers rights and in some cases our rights are less than of a product. This development needs to change and change fast before it is too late.

The U.S. Government continues to have issues internationally as a result of material passed to WikiLeaks, and subsequently published.

Within the past week, Ecuador has effectively declared the U.S. ambassador Heather Hodges persona-non-grata over corruption allegations brought to light in leaked cables. Asking the veteran diplomat to leave “as soon as possible”, the country may become the third in South America with no ambassadorial presence. Both Venezuela and Bolivia have no resident U.S. ambassador due to the two left-wing administrations believing the ejected diplomats were working with the opposition.

The U.S. State Department has cautioned Ecuador that a failure to speedily normalise diplomatic relations may jeapordise ongoing trade talks.

The United Kingdom is expected to press the Obama administration over the continuing detention of 23-year-old Manning, who also holds UK citizenship. British lawmakers are to discuss his ongoing detention conditions before again approaching the U.S. with their concerns that his solitary confinement, and treatment therein, is not acceptable.

The 22 charges brought against Manning are currently on hold whilst his fitness to stand trial is assessed.

Posted on December 7th, 2018 by eE73Dg  |  No Comments »

Anthrocon 2007 draws thousands to Pittsburgh for furry weekend

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — Local caterers get ready for big business, as almost three thousand fans converge on the David L. Lawrence Convention Center over the Independence Day weekend for the world’s largest ever furry convention, Anthrocon 2007.

Many hope to renew acquaintances, or meet new friends. Others look to buy from dealers and artists, or show off new artwork or costumes. Some attend to make money, or even learn a thing or two. But one thing unites them: They’re all there to have fun.

Contents

  • 1 Costly expansion
  • 2 Programming and entertainment
  • 3 Audience
  • 4 Art show and dealers
  • 5 Charity and volunteers
  • 6 Local impact
  • 7 Related news
  • 8 Sources

Posted on December 7th, 2018 by eE73Dg  |  No Comments »

UN calls on international community to increase aid for Iraqi refugees

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called on the international community to increase aid and assistance to the two countries shouldering the bulk of displaced Iraqis. Syria and Jordan have received the largest number of Iraqi refugees and are having difficulty coping with the numbers.

The appeal was made by UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond at a press conference on Friday at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. He criticized governments for earlier expressing concern and pledging support for the refugees but not following through on promises. “Syria and Jordan have still received next to nothing in bilateral help from the world community,” said Redmond.

There are an estimated 2 million Iraqi refugees total in Syria and Jordan with the numbers increasing daily. Each day, Syria receives approximately 2,000 Iraqis and, of those, about 1,000 will stay for an extended time. There are a further 2 million displaced Iraqis who move and settle in safer areas within Iraq.

The large numbers of refugees is putting pressure on the infrastructure of the host countries, resulting in difficult living conditions for the inhabitants. Ron Redmond acknowledges that some US$70 million in donations have been received by the UNHCR, and a further $10 million promised since the Iraq displacement conference in April, 2007. He points out, however, that much more is required. “We stressed then and we say it again, donors must provide direct bilateral support to these host countries whose schools, hospitals, public services and infrastructure are seriously overstretched because of the presence of millions of Iraqis they have so generously welcomed,” said Redmond.

It is unconscionable that generous host countries be left on their own to deal with such a huge crisis. We strongly urge governments to step forward now to support them in dealing with this situation…

Schools are particularly difficult to set up and staff in a refugee situation. Syria has currently hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugee children, but only has resources for 32,000 students. Syria offers free access to public schools for refugees, but doesn’t have the infrastructure to cope. Some 14,000 Iraqi refugee children in Jordan attend school, out of the possible 250,000. The refugee children in Jordan don’t have access to public schools and instead go to private schools. UNHCR is partnering with UNICEF to provide 150,000 classroom spots in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon, but the coordination of the required resources, such as buildings, teachers, and school supplies is proving difficult.

Health issues for the refugees is also a concern. UNHCR has set up three primary care medical facilities in Syria, with two more in the works. But approximately 10,000 Iraqis per month require a doctor’s attention, 3,000 of which require serious medical treatment.

Refugee situation in numbers
  • 2,000,000 in Jordan and Syria
  • 2,000,000 internally displaced
  • 750 in the United States
  • 14,000 out of 250,000 children in Jordan attend school

“It is unconscionable that generous host countries be left on their own to deal with such a huge crisis,” said Ron Redmond at the press conference. “We strongly urge governments to step forward now to support them in dealing with this situation and renew our call for international solidarity and burden sharing.”

The president of Refugees International, Ken Bacon, agrees that a more comprehensive approach to the situation is required and believes that it would be good investment for the United States to increase its aid to the region. “The United States ought to be pumping money into Jordan and Syria,” Bacon suggests. He feels that the sheer numbers of refugees can have a destabilizing influence in the Middle East. However, the complicated diplomatic relationship between the U.S. and Syria has resulted in slow progress, according to Bacon, as bilateral discussions have not taken place and the UN is forced to mediate.

Both Jordan and Syria have put in place new entry and residency conditions, which has resulted in thousands of refugees being stranded on Iraq’s borders. Families have been separated based on a person’s age and type of passport held. Jordan and Syria have not signed on to the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

The non-governmental organization Human Rights Watch has been critical of Jordan and Syria on their policy of returning refugees, saying they “are violating on a daily basis the most fundamental principle of refugee protection – nonrefoulement, which prohibits the return of refugees to persecution or serious harm.”

To gain access to Jordan, Iraqi refugees must be over 40 or under 20, and must prove they have sufficient funds to support themselves in the country. They must also be in possession of a new generation passport.

Nasser Hikmat Jaafar drove 900 km from Baghdad with his family to reach Jordan in mid-June, 2007. Half of his family was refused entry to Jordan. “They allowed entry just for my wife and two daughters and denied me and my three sons. They didn’t tell us the reasons, but just said they are fed up with men of such ages [between 20 and 40 years old],” said Jaafar. He changed plans and traveled with all his family to the Syrian border, a distance of approximately 500 km from Iraq’s Jordanian border.

Syria has less restrictions on gaining entry, but has imposed residency conditions. Refugees can only stay up to three months and must then leave Syria and re-enter to be eligible to stay for another period.

The United States government has a program set up for Iraqi asylum seekers in Jordan who meet specific criteria. If they meet the requirements, listed below, they may be eligible for resettlement under the United States Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP).

Interested asylum seekers are encouraged to apply directly with the U.S. Overseas Processing Entity (OPE) in Amman, Jordan, which is operated by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Individual Iraqis and their immediate family that meet one of the conditions below may seek access through the direct program:

  • Individuals who worked on a full-time basis as interpreters/translators for the U.S. Government or Multi-National Forces (MNF-I);
  • Locally Employed Staff (LES) engaged by the U.S. Government under the authority of the Chief of Mission or the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA); or
  • Surviving immediate family members of interpreters/translators or LES.

According to the U.S. government information on the process, those individuals initiating a case with the OPE will not be guaranteed an interview for resettlement in the United States. Applicants would be screened for eligibility as per the requirements listed above and are subject to approval.

In a February 14, 2007 press briefing, U.S. Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula J. Dobriansky addressed the Iraq refugee crisis. “Our key immediate objectives are to assist internally displaced Iraqis and Iraqi refugees by building up the capacities of UN agencies and NGOs,” said Dobriansky. “This includes increasing opportunities for permanent resettlement for the most vulnerable Iraqis, to establish specialized programs to assist Iraqis who are at risk because of their employment or close association with the United States Government, to work diplomatically with regional governments through bilateral and multilateral channels to uphold the principle of first asylum,” she continued.

In the February press briefing, the U.S. committed to receive 7,000 Iraqi refugees by fiscal year end, September 30, but clarified that perhaps only half that number would be “travel-ready” subsequent to the interview process as described above. The U.S. could accommodate 20,000 to 30,000 Iraqi refugees per year without difficulty, according to Ken Bacon of Refugees International.

To date, the U.S. has allowed 750 Iraqi refugees into the country.

Posted on December 6th, 2018 by eE73Dg  |  No Comments »

Australian carbon tax plans hit road block

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s plans to implement a carbon tax in Australia have hit a roadblock today with the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union Paul Howes demanding that exemptions be made to certain heavy polluting industries including steel production as well as concerns about whether jobs will be lost.

Steel producing companies within Australia including BlueScope Steel and OneSteel have supported the move by the union claiming that a carbon tax would affect Australian Jobs. Paul O’Malley, managing director and Chief Executive of BlueScope, said that “the tax threat is still real for the Australian Steel industry and for our customers.”

Paul Howes told The Australian newspaper that “if one job is gone, our support is gone.” Mr. Howes is a powerful figure within the Australian Labor Party who is believed to have been instrumental with the removal of PM Gillard’s predecessor Kevin Rudd. Support for the Gillard Labor Government has dropped to an all time low earlier this year, with only a 30% approval rating.

The move by the AWU has been supported by other unions in Australia, including the Transport Workers Union as well as Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.

Posted on December 6th, 2018 by eE73Dg  |  No Comments »

Uber suspends self-driving car program after pedestrian death in Arizona, United States

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

On Monday, the United States ride-sharing company Uber announced suspension of its experimental self-driving car program after one of the cars fatally struck a 49-year-old woman pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona on Sunday night.

The company characterized the suspension of the program — in the Phoenix area and also in Pittsburgh; San Francisco; and Toronto, Canada — as a standard response in the wake of the accident. Uber released a statement that “Our hearts go out to the victim’s family. We are fully cooperating with local authorities in their investigation of this incident.” According to a spokeswoman, the company is also conducting its own investigation. It was reportedly the first time someone died in an incident involving a self-driving car.

Elaine Herzberg was hit at about 10 pm local time (UTC -7) on Sunday when she walked into the street with her bicycle about 100 yards or less from a crosswalk. She died later in hospital. The Volvo car was operating autonomously. Sylvia Moir, chief of police in Tempe, told the San Francisco Chronicle that according to the human operator in the vehicle — Rafaela Vasquez, 44 — “it was like a flash”, there was no time to override the computer to take evasive action, the first indication was the sound of impact.

The police stated the car was three miles per hour (mph) over a speed limit of 35 mph. According to Moir, recordings from the car’s video cameras indicated it would have been “difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode”. Moir told the San Francisco Chronicle that while she “[wouldn’t] rule out the potential to file charges” against Vasquez, “preliminarily it appears that the Uber would likely not be at fault in this accident”.

Uber started its Arizona self-driving test program in February 2017, using vehicles that had been banned in California due to safety concerns. The next month one was involved in a collision while in self-driving mode after another car failed to yield the right of way; the Uber SUV rolled on its side.

Posted on December 5th, 2018 by eE73Dg  |  No Comments »

England’s elderly face human rights breaches in home care system

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A report published today by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) finds that, in many cases, England’s home care system breaches the human rights of the elderly it is supposed to serve. The Close to home: older people and human rights in home care report is the result of a twelve-month investigation into care generally provided by local authorities.

Approximately half of those receiving home care, plus friends and family, providing evidence to the inquiry were satisfied with the quality of care provided. However, the report stresses that there are “systemic problems” arising from “a failure to apply a human rights approach to home care provision”. The report asserts that it is generally not the fault of individuals providing care, but serious problems exist as local authorities seem unaware of their obligations under the Human Rights Act and fail to commission, procure, and monitor care accordingly.

The report says articles two, three and eight of the European Convention on Human Rights are frequently being breached. These, respectively, cover an individual’s right to life, protection from inhumane and degrading treatment, and respect for dignity and personal independence. Criticisms include that care is not provided in a common-sense manner, and funding of care for the elderly is at lower levels than for younger people with similar problems and needs.

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The EHRC’s investigation highlights a range of recurring complaints and attempts to identify the underlying causes; cost is repeatedly mentioned, with use of the private-sector leading to some local authorities offering a “one size fits all” service leaving many elderly feeling they are “a task to be undertaken” and have “little or no choice” as to help received, or when care workers visit. A failure to invest in care workers is noted, with significant responsibility and the wide range of skills required being rewarded with low pay and status; this, the report states, adversely impacts staff retention and, a high turnover of care workers can put the security of care recipients at-risk.

Within the wider investigation, a commissioned independent social report by The Arndale Centre conducted in-depth interviews with a cross-section of 40 elderly individuals receiving home care. As-stressed in the report, those selected were not on the basis of good, or bad, experiences with their – mainly local authority-provided – care. It highlights a widespread feeling amongst those interviewed that they are treated “like a number”, and that aspects of the care provided lead to, or fail to resolve, feelings of social isolation.

The Manchester-based Arndale Centre report concludes that, “[t]he general picture is of a wider home care system in which older people are noteffectively involved: which they do not understand, and which does not often make the extra effort required to involve them in ways tailored to their state of health and other needs”.

nobody to talk [to] face to face. Nobody will knock on that door,[…] a life of isolation.

A recurring theme in the responses of those interviewed is the social isolation that their home care is not adequately addressing. One male interviewee in his seventies who previously used a scooter to get about said in his interview, “I haven’t been out of the house now for about four weeks. I daren’t. The last time I went out on the scooter I hit the kerb and it frightened the living daylights out of me.” Another, an 85-year-old woman who lives alone, expressed sadness at her inability to do normal things, “I would love to go to town to do some shopping. I haven’t been to town for about two years… Wander round the town and have a cup of tea… I’d love that.”

The social isolation many elderly experience was summed up neatly by another woman in her eighties in her interview: “When you go now, I will maybe not talk to anybody till tomorrow; maybe the whole of tomorrow nobody to talk [to]… face to face. Nobody will knock on that door, that is it, a life of isolation.”

The EHRC, having commissioned this report in the face of funding changes and reform of the care system, intends to press for legislative changes to ensure those receiving care at home are given the same protections under the Human Rights Act as those in residential care. In the conclusions of their report they offer to work with, and support, local authorities in understanding and delivering care that respects peoples’ rights and dignity; and, recommend better guidance as to the choices available to the elderly, and their families, be made available.

Posted on December 4th, 2018 by eE73Dg  |  No Comments »

UN summit results in pledge to mitigate food crisis

Friday, June 6, 2008

A three-day United Nations (UN) summit, bringing together leaders from 181 countries, has wrapped up with a pledge by all attending countries to address the global food shortage crisis. Key actions cited include doubling the world’s food production by 2030, providing resources for farmers in poor countries and increasing humanitarian aid in times of crisis.

Protests and violent riots have resulted in parts of the world in recent months due to increasing unaffordability, and sometimes unavailability, of food. It is estimated that 862 million people, or just over one eighth of the world’s population, are malnourished.

According to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, up to US$20 billion will be required annually to avert crises in the most hard-hit areas. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has put the figure closer to US$30 billion. Pledges made just at the summit amounted to more than US$5 billion, according to the UN.

Despite the largely positively-received outcome of the summit, held in Rome, Italy, there were some who felt that the proceedings could have gone better. Several non-governmental organisations (NGOs) pointed to the fact that they were not invited to partake in the discussions. Food and hunger policy adviser Magda Kropiwnicka of ActionAid commented on the strength of the final pledge: “There were no quantifiable financial commitments. Apart from the existing UN Food and Agriculture Organisation funds, no money has been given to address the key problem of boosting capacity.”

While most delegates agreed that biofuels have been one of the causes of the food crisis, no actions were agreed upon to address this hot topic. Biofuels have been increasingly in demand in recent years, meaning that many crops that would have previously been used for food are now being used as fuel.

The impact that biofuels has goes further than simply increasing the demand of food crops. As fuel prices increase, so do the costs of fertilisers, farm vehicle use and the transport of foods. All of this adds up to a large increase in the cost of food.

Some UN officials say that biofuel use has caused up to 30% of the global food price inflation of late. The United States estimates that figure to be closer to just 3%. The Globe and Mail newspaper indicates that some estimates go as high as 60%. The only consensus that could be reached on biofuels is that they provide both “challenges and opportunities”, and need to be looked into further for a conclusive analysis on their impact on food production.

Other factors increasing food prices are increased consumption of meat and dairy products in developing nations like China and India. Argentina noted that subsidies granted to farmers from the US, the European Union and other Western countries have also been a major player in the increase.

Posted on December 4th, 2018 by eE73Dg  |  No Comments »

Full lunar eclipse due on March 3, 2007

Saturday, March 3, 2007

There will be a full lunar eclipse starting on Saturday, March 3. Earth’s passage between the Sun and the Moon will begin casting its shadow on the surface of the Moon starting at 20:18 UTC. The Moon will be totally eclipsed by the Earth’s shadow between 22:44 and 23:58 UTC.

Cloudless conditions would make for a great viewing experience as the Lunar phase is now full. The color of the moon will be like that of copper.

In England, the lunar eclipse will occur between 8:18pm and until 2:24am.

A chart to calculate the time offset from UTC puts the eclipse starting at 3:18pm EST in North America. The moon will be totally eclipsed 21 minutes prior to sunset in that time zone. The moonrise will occur during the period it is eclipsed, at 6:01pm. Viewers will be able to see the moon re-emerge from the Earth’s shadow, weather permitting.

The eclipse will take place during the Hindu festival of Holi.

Posted on December 4th, 2018 by eE73Dg  |  No Comments »