Category Archives: LATEST NEWS

De Blasio Administration Honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. With Day Of Service, Calls New Yorkers To Lifelong Civic Action.

NEW YORK—Marking Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the de Blasio administration today held a Day of Service, spotlighting educational excellence and student mentorship through various service activities across New York City. The City also encouraged New Yorkers to commit to volunteering and deeper civic engagement year-round.

“Today we reflect on the powerful lessons of Dr. King—his calls for justice and healing, and his ability to unite people in common cause. We must not only remember, but ennoble Dr. King’s legacy through our own action and community involvement. I thank each volunteer who has committed to serve others and invite more New Yorkers to engage in their neighborhoods,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “Let us resolve to turn toward each other, rather than turning on each other. Let us give back to one another. And let us rededicate ourselves to fight for every New Yorker’s safety and economic opportunity. That’s the legacy of Dr. King—a mission we will achieve as one New York family, working each day to rise together.”

This morning, First Lady Chirlane McCray joined students in crafts and letter writing, as part of a series of workshops and service learning events held by the Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation in partnership with NYC Service. Students wrote letters of gratitude to troops serving overseas, made bracelets with notes of hope for local domestic violence shelters, and created peace quilts.

“To all those who are volunteering today, I extend my thanks,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray. “Among the many things we learned from Dr. King is that service is not just a series of discrete acts—it’s a way of life.”

NYC Service Chief Service Officer Paula Gavin, Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro, and many FDNY members hosted a speed mentoring event for high school students to help them gain career and college preparation knowledge from FDNY professionals, through 15-minute interactions with several adults. FDNY members also took part in college and career mentoring for high school students, as well as middle school community service projects, in Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx. Throughout the year, FDNY and NYC Service are partnering with the Department of Education to train more than 5,000 New York City high school students to perform compressions-only CPR.

“NYC Service is proud to honor the legacy of Dr. King through community service in neighborhoods across the five boroughs. Dr. King wholeheartedly believed—and manifested by his own example—that activism can effect social change. At NYC Service, we seek to promote Dr. Kings’ belief—today and every day—that “Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.” From student mentorship events marking National Mentoring Month to our long-term efforts to boost volunteerism, we urge all New York City residents to give back to their fellow New Yorkers and commit to service. Volunteering. Good for You. Good for Your City,” said Chief Service Officer Paula Gavin.

“Mentors are absolutely crucial to educate, provide support, and set an example for young people to follow,” said FDNY Commissioner Nigro. “FDNY members are proud to honor the legacy of Martin Luther King by taking part in this important service project that will help shape the lives of many young men and women in our city for years to come.”

“In a school system as dynamic and diverse as New York City’s—with some of the best and brightest minds sitting in our classrooms—today is an important chance to reflect on how best to further Dr. King’s vision of equality and justice,” said Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. “I encourage students, educators and families to give back to their communities by becoming a mentor or volunteering in our schools. Together, we can help educate future generations of great leaders.”

“With the support of partners like NYC Service attracting the best and brightest mentors and volunteers in our City, DYCD’s SONYC (School’s Out NYC) initiative and other programs such as Teen ACTION (Achieving Change Together In Our Neighborhood) are making a real difference in the lives of young people and their communities—not just in the spirit of Dr. King on this special day, but throughout the year,” said Department of Youth and Community Development Commissioner Bill Chong.

“The Sports and Arts in Schools Foundation is so proud to honor Dr. King’s legacy by joining our neighbors for a day of service,” said Jessica Jarahian, Leadership Curriculum Coordinator at SASF. “We could not be more grateful for the help and leadership we’ve received from NYC Service. With their help, our students will spend the day learning healthy communication methods; how to be dedicated, peaceful community leaders; and the importance of supporting positive forces in our communities. And the leadership curriculum will be supported by service activities that reinforce those themes.”

“This time of the year is an exciting opportunity to be able to add my own contributions to a legacy of national service for the benefit of our communities. The opportunities I had to work with my mentors greatly impacted my personal and professional development. My mentors acted as a network of support that provided me with guidance, friendship, and new skills. Their influence has motivated me to serve my community, so that I can create positive change in the lives of others,” said Antony Colon, NYC Civic Corps Member.

“As a current AmeriCorps member, MLK Day is a reminder of what might be possible if every young American committed to not just a day of service, but a service year. Imagine the impact it would have—not only on the issues these corps members were addressing, but also on the young people themselves—if we all had a shared experience based in service. MLK Day provides a window through which we can see a sliver of this possibility,” said Adam Coretz, NYC Civic Corps Member.

“I believe national service is always important, especially on a day like MLK Day. Besides being a pathway to a career, national service is a way to become an active citizen—engaging your community and working toward a common purpose of serving others,” said Jacqlene Moran, NYC Civic Corps Member.

 

About NYC Service

NYC Service is fulfilling its mission and its goals of promoting volunteerism for all New Yorkers and helping more New Yorkers connect to service opportunities more easily. NYC Service targets volunteers to address New York City’s greatest needs by mobilizing the power of volunteers to impact six areas: Strengthening Communities, Education Excellence, Economic and Workforce Development, Health and Well Being, Environment and Emergency Preparedness and Response. In addition to these six areas, NYC Service seeks to elevate Youth Volunteer Service as a leadership and development strategy for our city.

About SASF

SASF is the largest CBO provider of school-based extended learning programs in NYC. In the current school year, SASF has almost 200 programs around the city, providing services to more than 20,000 students this year alone. Research shows that after-school programs like those provided by SASF improve students’ academic performance, increase high school completion rates and college admission results, and strengthen students’ resilience, self-esteem, and self-discipline.

– See more at: http://washingtonsuntimes.com/2015/01/19/de-blasio-administration-honors-dr-martin-luther-king-jr-with-day-of-service-calls-new-yorkers-to-lifelong-civic-action/#sthash.hCOQ6WuR.dpuf

George W. Bush gives 50-50 odds his brother will run for president

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — Former U.S. President George W. Bush believes the odds are even as to whether his brother, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, will decide to run for the White House in 2016, but said he would be “one of his strongest backers” if he does join the race.

“It’s a lot of speculation about him. I occasionally fuel the speculation by saying that I hope he runs. I think he’d be a very good president,” George W. Bush said during an interview with journalist Bob Schieffer for CBS’ Face the Nation. “I understand the decision-making process pretty well. And I know that he’s wrestling with the decision.”

The former president said he would give it “a toss up” when asked to estimate the chances of his brother running for the White House in 2016. “I think it’s 50-50. He and I are very close. On the other hand, he’s not here knocking on my door, you know, agonizing about the decision,” he explained. “He knows exactly – you know, the ramifications on family, for example.”

Jeb Bush served as Governor of Florida between 1999 and 2007 and is frequently mentioned as a possible candidate for the 2016 presidential election. A Gallup poll in July showed that about 31 percent of Americans view Jeb Bush favorably, but another 35 percent did not have an opinion about him yet.

George W. Bush, when asked whether he would campaign for his brother if he decides to run, said he would do whatever is asked of him. “I will be one of his strongest backers. If he wants me out there publicly, I’ll be out there publicly. If he wants me behind the scenes, I’ll be behind the scenes,” he said. “I’m all in for him. He’d be a great president. And the country could use an optimistic view like his.”

Former First Lady Laura Bush agreed. “If he wanted me to, I’d be happy to campaign for him,” she said.

George W. Bush, the 43rd President of the United States, was in office from January 2001 until January 2009, when incumbent President Barack Obama took over. Bush previously served as the Governor of Texas and he is also the son of former President H. W. Bush, who was in office from January 1989 until January 1993.

Singapore’s head of its national water agency tries to keep his island’s population afloat with clean water

Singapore – As Chief Executive of PUB, Singapore’s national water agency, Chew Men Leong oversees the country’s water, used water and drainage systems.  He is responsible for ensuring an adequate and affordable water supply for the island’s more than 5.3 million people.  Before heading Pub in 2011, Chew spent 25 years with the Singapore Armed Forces and was the Chief of the Republic of Singapore Navy from 2007 to 2011.  He earned his Master of Science degree from California’s Stanford University in 2002.  He gives us his take on trying to quench Singapore’s thirst for water as many countries across the globe face the same water dilemma.

 

Does Singapore have enough water? And what are ways it is trying to increase its volume?

As a small island not naturally endowed with an abundance of land to capture all the

rainwater, Singapore has always viewed water as an existential issue. Its early years were fraught with a series of water challenges including flooding, sanitation and pollution problems. Investments in critical environmental and water infrastructure had to compete with the pressing need for economic development. Notwithstanding this, the provision of a safe and adequate supply of water has always been a top priority.

As the national water agency, PUB manages the entire water cycle, from rainwater collection to the purification and supply of drinking water, to the treatment of used water and its reclamation into NEWater, Singapore’s own brand of high-grade reclaimed water. This has effectively allowed us to close the ‘water loop’ and put in place a robust and diversified water supply strategy known as the Four National Taps – water from local catchment, imported water, NEWater and desalinated water. Our approach to water management can be distilled into three principles that will continue to guide our future plans to ensure an adequate supply of water: to capture every drop of rain that falls on Singapore; to collect every drop of used water; and to recycle every drop of water more than once.

We have been making major investments to build up and diversify our water supply sources in order to strengthen our water security. Over the years, we have also expanded the water catchment areas, which now cover two thirds of Singapore’s land surface and increased our raw water reservoirs from three in the 1960s to 17 today. Our continual efforts in R&D have also led to the introduction of NEWater and desalinated water into our water supply in the last decade, which supplement our local catchment and imported water.

NEWater, essentially ultra-clean, high-grade reclaimed water is the jewel of our water

diversification strategy as it allows us to reduce our dependence on nature. By allowing every drop of water to be used and re-used, it creates a multiplier effect, and is therefore a much more sustainable source of water than adding catchments to collect rainwater, a luxury in land-scarce Singapore. NEWater can currently meet 30% of Singapore’s total water demand, and the plan is to expand NEWater capacity so that it meets up to 55% of demand in the longer term.

R&D (research and development) has been and will continue to be vital in ensuring a sustainable water supply for Singapore. We have to always look at new, innovative ways to contain the rising costs of treating and producing water, to help keep water supply both sustainable and affordable. One focus area of R&D is on reducing energy consumption. These include projects to demonstrate the use of electrochemical technology to desalinate seawater using half the energy. Some exciting R&D in this area is based on biomimicry or mimicking the biological processes by which mangrove plants and euryhaline fish extract seawater using negligible amounts of energy. Another research area is biomimetics, where aquaporins are embedded on membranes. These proteins are nature’s way of shuttling water in and out of cells while blocking out salts.

 

Extreme weather conditions have brought droughts to California and other Southwestern American states. Has Singapore gone through a similar experience and what measures did you take to resolve this?

Earlier this year, Singapore experienced a prolonged dry spell from mid-January to mid-

March, with little rain. February 2014 was the driest month in Singapore since 1869.

To ensure that Singapore’s water needs were met during the dry period, PUB operated the desalination and NEWater plants at close to full capacity. Together, desalinated water and NEWater – which are more weather-resilient sources – can meet about half of the current water demand. The reservoirs were topped up with NEWater to maintain adequate buffers for extended dry periods.

Singapore’s investments in NEWater and desalination over the years have diversified our sources of water supply and strengthened our water security. It is worthwhile to note that the additional capacity was developed within the last decade. In fact, the most recent desalination plant which added 70 mgd to our overall capacity only came online about six months ago.

In tandem with efforts to ramp up supply, we also encouraged members of the community to play their part in conserving this precious resource. For the non-domestic sector, this included stopping leaks promptly, stopping vehicle washing, stopping the use of high pressure water jets and hoses for washing activities, stopping unnecessary watering of plants and turf, gardens and lawn, and switching off water features, fountains, water play areas and cascades.

In the context of the drought that affected the State of California and the West Coast of the U.S., this year’s Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize recipient, the Orange County Water District (OCWD), pioneered work in groundwater management and water reclamation using advanced water reuse technologies.

OCWD’s Groundwater Replenishment System (GWRS) is a visionary water project that

purifies treated used water to recharge aquifers. Its water reuse model is a sterling example of a sustainable water solution that allows us to circumvent the vagaries of nature. This model has inspired programs in other countries, such as Singapore’s own NEWater program and Australia’s Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme. The real value of recycled water such as NEWater and GWRS lies in their capability to strengthen water supply resilience, especially against weather extremities like dry spells and droughts.

The award of the Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize 2014 to OCWD is in recognition of the

importance of identifying sustainable solutions to such challenges faced by countries around the world. It is also in line with the focus of Singapore International Water Week (SIWW), which is to create a global platform for industry and government to share and co-create innovative water solutions.

Leveraging on SIWW as a platform to advance global thought leadership in water

management, it is critical for countries to look at water challenges differently and more

holistically, and ensure that water is integrated in the urban master planning of cities. SIWW is also aimed at bringing together the world water ecosystem to drive collaborative efforts, share resources and best practices towards the co-creation of innovative water solutions.

 

How does Singapore capture storm water for use in its water supply?

 

With no natural lakes and little land to collect rainwater, Singapore’s strategy has been to try and collect and store as much of the 2,400mm of rain we get annually, even from

unprotected, urbanized catchments. However, this could only be done with complete

separation of the rainwater and sewerage infrastructure, good land use and environmental control, to ensure that the rain that falls is not polluted.

Today, two-thirds of Singapore’s land area is water catchment, and rainwater is collected in the 17 reservoirs. Singapore is probably the city with the most extensive urban rainwater harvesting in the world. Marina Reservoir, Singapore’s 15th reservoir and the first right in the heart of the city, is perhaps the best example of our success in urban storm water harvesting. Created with the damming of the Marina Channel to form the Marina Barrage, the Marina Reservoir collects water from some of the oldest and most densely-built up areas of Singapore.

Given the highly urbanized nature of the catchment, PUB has in place a comprehensive and integrated catchment management plan, with pollution control and mitigation measures to manage the water quality in the reservoir. The dam itself is a tidal barrier that serves to block out the seawater. Besides boosting Singapore’s water supply with the creation of Marina Reservoir, Marina Barrage also alleviates flooding in the low-lying city areas and offers a venue for water-based recreation in the heart of the city center.

Urbanized catchments are not new to Singapore as we have been collecting water from such unprotected catchments in densely populated areas since the 1980s. It was a bold move then and even today, this is not the norm internationally. However, with today’s advanced water technologies, all water can be treated to drinking water standards albeit at a cost.

Keeping the catchments clean then becomes a matter of paramount importance. This is why we constantly engage the public to play their part to keep the catchments and waterways clean by not littering as rain that falls onto the catchment will flow and carry the litter to the reservoirs. We also embarked on an Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters (ABC Waters) program to transform Singapore’s waterways and water bodies beyond their utilitarian functions of drainage and water storage into beautiful streams, rivers and lakes that are well integrated with the surrounding parks and spaces. By creating focal points and community spaces out of these waterways and water bodies, we bring people closer to water and cultivate in them a sense of ownership so that they will better appreciate this precious resource and are committed to keep our catchments clean.

With all the major estuaries already dammed to create reservoirs, the next step is to move into tapping the minor catchments. PUB has pioneered a new technology known as the Variable Salinity Plant to harness water from the remaining streams and rivulets near the shoreline. With this new technology, PUB aims to increase the overall catchment area to 90% in the long term.

 

What role does desalination play in Singapore’s water strategy?

 

As an island surrounded by water, desalination is a natural step for Singapore.  After years of monitoring desalination technologies, especially the positive developments in membrane technologies which led to improvements in cost and performance, desalinated water was added to Singapore’s water sources in 2005. Singapore’s first desalination plant with a capacity of 30 mgd (millions of gallons per day) was also the first project to be awarded under the Private Public Partnership (PPP) approach. Under the contract, Singspring Pte Ltd will design, build, own and operate the plant and supply water to PUB for a period of 20 years.

A second and larger desalination plant, the Tuaspring desalination plant with a capacity of 70 mgd was opened in Sep 2013. With the opening of Tuaspring desalination plant, desalinated water can meet up to 25% of Singapore’s current water demand.

Like NEWater, desalinated water is independent of rainfall and can be used to supplement water from local catchments. We plan to increase desalination capacity to enhance our water supply resilience. We are actively studying the expansion of our desalination capacity over the near term.

However, desalination is an energy-intensive process, and we are carrying out much

research and development work to try to uncover more cost-efficient ways of producing

desalinated water.

 

Let’s talk infrastructure and hit the road with President Clinton and Los Angeles Mayor

LOS ANGELES —  As part of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI)  conference held at LA City Hall recently, Mayor Eric Garcetti joined President Bill Clinton for a discussion on investing in resilient infrastructure and announced that the U.S. Green Building Council will move its 2016 Greenbuild International Conference and Expo from San Diego to Los Angeles.

"I was very pleased to hold the CGI 21st Century Infrastructure and Innovation for a Resilient Economy Conference in Los Angeles, which is setting a great example in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating a more resilient city, while saving money for taxpayers," said  former President Bill Clinton.  "Today's conference gives us the opportunity to share best practices across cities and states on how to improve and maintain key infrastructure in a cost-effective way."

"It was an honor to host President Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative at City Hall today, and a perfect opportunity to announce that we'll be hosting the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo, which will bring 30,000 visitors to Los Angeles" said Mayor Eric Garcetti. "Our city is leading the way when it comes to making meaningful investments in a sustainable future, including retrofitting 140,000 street lights with more efficient LED bulbs, and the world is taking note."

The Clinton Global Initiative America was established in June 2011 and addresses economic recovery in the United States.  Under President Clinton it brings together leaders in business, government and society to help create jobs, stimulate economic growth and support workforce development in America.  Since its inception, it has made more than 300 commitments valued at more than $15 billion.

Clinton pointed out that he felt “the one thing that I think has the best chance of destroying this political polarization in America is grassroots public-private partnerships.

“When people get up in the morning, when they think tomorrow is going to be just like yesterday, they are much more vulnerable to the siren song of politics,” Clinton added.

As Garcetti also observed regarding the deplorable state of infrastructure including Los Angeles to “fail forward” is not an option and among the new initiatives is installing solar panels and Wi-Fi hot spots on the new street lamps.

Oh, and as an aside, the busy Garcetti also penned a note off to CBS CEO Les Moonves asking his network to bring the next CBS late show to Los Angeles from its current location once David Letterman vacates his office and stupid pet tricks.  We’ll have to see which infrastructure the new host wants, New York or Los Angeles.

 

Photo : President Bill Clinton and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti talk before a packed audience at the Los Angeles City Hall.  (Photo by Jon Endow)

Obama’s remarks on nuclear deal with Iran

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — U.S. President Barack Obama on late Saturday evening delivered the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, after the United States and other world powers reached a historic breakthrough agreement with Iran on Tehran's disputed nuclear program.

— START —

Today, the United States – together with our close allies and partners – took an important first step toward a comprehensive solution that addresses our concerns with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program.

Since I took office, I have made clear my determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. As I have said many times, my strong preference is to resolve this issue peacefully, and we have extended the hand of diplomacy. Yet for many years, Iran has been unwilling to meet its obligations to the international community. So my Administration worked with Congress, the U.N. Security Council and countries around the world to impose unprecedented sanctions on the Iranian government.

These sanctions have had a substantial impact on the Iranian economy, and with the election of a new Iranian President earlier this year, an opening for diplomacy emerged. I spoke personally with President Rouhani of Iran earlier this fall. Secretary Kerry has met multiple times with Iran’s Foreign Minister. And we have pursued intensive diplomacy – bilaterally with the Iranians, and together with our P5+1 partners: the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, and China, as well as the European Union.

Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure – a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful, and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.

While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal. For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back. Iran has committed to halting certain levels of enrichment, and neutralizing part of its stockpile. Iran cannot use its next-generation centrifuges—which are used for enriching uranium. Iran cannot install or start up new centrifuges, and its production of centrifuges will be limited. Iran will halt work at its plutonium reactor. And new inspections will provide extensive access to Iran’s nuclear facilities, and allow the international community to verify whether Iran is keeping its commitments.

These are substantial limitations which will help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Simply put, they cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb. Meanwhile, this first step will create time and space over the next six months for more negotiations to fully address our comprehensive concerns about the Iranian program. And because of this agreement, Iran cannot use negotiations as cover to advance its program.

On our side, the United States and our friends and allies have agreed to provide Iran modest relief, while continuing to apply our toughest sanctions. We will refrain from imposing new sanctions, and we will allow the Iranian government access to a portion of the revenue that they have been denied through sanctions. But the broader architecture of sanctions will remain in place and we will continue to enforce them vigorously. And if Iran does not fully meet its commitments during this six month phase, we will turn off the relief, and ratchet up the pressure.

Over the next six months, we will work to negotiate a comprehensive solution. We approach these negotiations with a basic understanding: Iran, like any nation, should be able to access peaceful nuclear energy. But because of its record of violating its obligations, Iran must accept strict limitations on its nuclear program that make it impossible to develop a nuclear weapon.

In these negotiations, nothing will be agreed to until everything is agreed to. The burden is on Iran to prove to the world that its nuclear program will be for exclusively peaceful purposes. If Iran seizes this opportunity, the Iranian people will benefit from rejoining the international community, and we can begin to chip away at the mistrust between our two nations. This would provide Iran with a dignified path to forge a new beginning with the wider world based on mutual respect. But if Iran refuses, it will face growing pressure and isolation.

Over the last few years, Congress has been a key partner in imposing sanctions on the Iranian government, and that bipartisan effort made possible the progress that was achieved today. Going forward, we will continue to work closely with Congress. However, now is not the time to move forward on new sanctions – doing so would derail this promising first step, alienate us from our allies, and risk unraveling the coalition that enabled our sanctions to be enforced in the first place.

That international unity is on display today. The world is united in support of our determination to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Iran must know that security and prosperity will never come through the pursuit of nuclear weapons – it must be reached through fully verifiable agreements that make Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons impossible.

As we go forward, the resolve of the United States will remain firm, as will our commitment to our friends and allies – particularly Israel and our Gulf partners, who have good reason to be skeptical about Iran’s intentions.

Ultimately, only diplomacy can bring about a durable solution to the challenge posed by Iran’s nuclear program. As President and Commander in Chief, I will do what is necessary to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. However, I have a profound responsibility to try to resolve our differences peacefully, rather than rush towards conflict. Today, we have a real opportunity to achieve a comprehensive, peaceful settlement, and I believe we must test it.

The first step that we have taken today marks the most significant and tangible progress that we have made with Iran since I took office. Now, we must use the months ahead to pursue a lasting and comprehensive settlement that would resolve an issue that has threatened our security – and the security of our allies – for decades. It won’t be easy. Huge challenges remain ahead. But through strong and principled diplomacy, the United States of America will do our part on behalf of a world of greater peace, security, and cooperation among nations.

— END —

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in booze-fuelled rant video

TORONTO – Toronto Mayor Rob Ford apologises for an alcohol-fuelled rant in which he threatens to kill an unknown person

Critics and allies alike renewed their claims that Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is not fit to lead Canada's largest city after a new video surfaced showing the mayor in a rambling rage, threatening to "murder" someone.

His mother defended him later Thursday, saying she has advised him to work on his "huge weight problem" as well as his drinking problem, and watch the company he keeps. But she insisted that her son, who has acknowledged that he smoked crack about a year ago in a "drunken stupor," is not an addict and did not need to enter rehab.

Moments after the new video was posted online, the mayor told reporters that he was "extremely, extremely inebriated" in it and "embarrassed" by it. The context of the video is unknown, and it's unclear who the target of Ford's wrath is. The video appeared at length on the Toronto Star's website...Read More

Mayor Gray Declares Islamic Heritage Month

WASHINGTON, DC.—A traveling exhibition and local non-profit organization will join together to honor the first Islamic Heritage Month in the District. Islamic Heritage Month will be celebrated throughout the month of October, and held at the Eighth Annual America’s Islamic Heritage Festival.
 
Collections and Stories of American Muslims, Inc. (CSAM) and America’s Islamic Heritage Museum and Cultural Center will be hosting the festival. Since April 2011, the Museum, located at 2315 Martin Luther King Ave. SE, Washington, D.C., has opened its doors to the general public. The theme of the festival, “connecting people using culture,” aims to engage the community through partnering fun activities with education.
 
Mayor of the District of Columbia, Vincent C. Gray, issued a proclamation Oct. 1 declaring October Islamic Heritage Month as a time to acknowledge the history and contributions of Muslim Americans in the District of Columbia, as well as across the country.  
 
In his address to D.C. residents, Mayor Gray encourages residents to acknowledge the contributions made by Islamic peoples. Public schools in the D.C. metropolitan area are also encouraged to learn about “America’s rich Islamic history, to teach tolerance and understanding,” he said. Read More
 
Source : The Hill Top Online     Photo by Andrew Bossi

Mayor Emanuel, US Transportation Secretary Foxx and Illinois Senators Durbin and Kirk Announce $92 Million in Funding for Partners for New Taxiway Project as Part of O’Hare Modernization Program

CHICAGO — Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Secretary Foxx and Senators Durbin and Kirk of Illinois announced today that Chicago O'Hare International Airport is receiving nearly $92 million in infrastructure investment funding enabling the construction of the Lima Lima Taxiway Project, providing greater operational efficiency and flexibility at O’Hare.  This $92 million infrastructure investment was made possible by a $10 million Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and O’Hare’s airline partners, including United and American, who have committed $78.4 million in funding to complete the Lima Lima Taxiway Project with the remaining $3.5 million funded from passenger facility charges at O’Hare.

“I want to thank Transportation Secretary Foxx, U.S. Senators Durbin and Kirk and our airline partners for their leadership and support in prioritizing this funding for critical improvements to Chicago’s global gateway, O’Hare International Airport,” said Mayor Emanuel. “O'Hare is a key driver of Chicago's economy and through strategic federal and private investment in this project and others at O’Hare we are driving economic growth and job creation, while ensuring that O’Hare is at the forefront of efficiency and productivity.”

“The Obama Administration is committed to transportation investments like the improvements to O'Hare's runways that will enhance safety and help travelers get where they need to go faster and more efficiently,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “When completed, the taxiway project will improve mobility around one of the world's busiest airports, benefitting airlines and travelers moving throughout the country.”

As part of the O’Hare Modernization Program (OMP), Taxiway Lima Lima will provide greater operational flexibility to certain currently congested sections of airfield traffic, allowing for multiple departure queues from Runways 28R and 28C and at all times providing more efficient aircraft flow in both directions north of Runway 10L-28R.

Similarly, with construction of Runway 10C-28C to be opened on October 17th of this year and the expected completion of runway 10R-28L in 2015, Taxiway Lima Lima will better facilitate aircraft movements to and from the south airfield runways. Design will commence this fall and construction is expected to start in late summer of 2014 with an expected completion in 2016.

This project includes an approximate 725-foot taxiway located south of O’Hare’s domestic terminal core; taxiway connectors between; and related enabling projects including the relocation of American Airlines Ground Support Equipment facility.

"O'Hare Airport is a crucial economic engine for northern Illinois,” Senator Kirk (R-Ill.) said. “These funds will help keep the O'Hare Modernization Program on schedule and support efforts to retake the title of the nation's busiest airport.”

“The federal government has invested a total of $747 million to expand and modernize O’Hare International Airport. Today’s additional funding, in combination with a significant contribution from the airlines, will help create jobs and keep the project on track,” Senator Durbin (D-Ill.) said.  “As the largest airport reconstruction project in history, the O’Hare Modernization Program is a worthy investment that will pay dividends for years to come.  I want to thank Transportation Secretary Foxx, Mayor Emanuel and Senator Kirk for their efforts to keep Chicago’s transportation system one of the safest and most efficient in the world.”

“United and American continue to support a demand-driven approach to the O’Hare Modernization program, and thank the U.S. DOT for providing partial funding for the construction of taxiway Lima Lima.  This new taxiway will improve operational efficiency for the runways that have already been constructed,” said Kate Gebo, United Airlines Vice President of Corporate Real Estate. “With this $78.4 million in funding for the taxiway, the airlines at O’Hare have now invested more than $2.2 Billion in O’Hare modernization.” 

The OMP is currently the largest airport construction project in the U.S. The $8 billion program is transforming O’Hare’s airfield into a modern, parallel runway configuration with eight runways: six east-west parallel runways and two crosswind runways.  Once complete, the OMP will create up to 195,000 new jobs and add an additional $18 billion to our region’s economy.

Mayor Vincent Gray : “We need sensible gun control…and we need it now”

WASHINGTON, D.C. "Last Monday’s tragic shootings at the Navy Yard have weighed heavily on my mind and on my heart this week.

My thoughts and prayers continue to be with the families of those whose lives were so senselessly cut short last Monday, and I wish for the speedy and full recovery of those who were injured.

Among those injured was one of our own Metropolitan Police officers. Officer Scott Williams, who works with our K-9 unit, was one of the first to respond to the early 911 calls. He and his colleagues, without hesitating, went into the area to find the gunman – and Officer Williams ended up getting shot in both legs, shattering the bones in one.

His bravery is symbolic of countless other first responders from our Metropolitan Police Department, our Fire and Emergency Medical Services, the National Park Police, and other federal and local public-safety agencies who quickly and unselfishly answered the call to duty at the Navy Yard.

The first MPD officers were on the scene of the shootings a mere two minutes after 911 calls started, and they were inside Building 197 – where the main attack took place – within seven minutes. Despite being challenged by conditions inside the building, their speed and bravery undoubtedly kept this attack from becoming even more horrific than it already was. Our Fire & EMS workers did their jobs admirably under dangerous conditions, doing triage and tending to the injured while the shooter was still active.

Chief Lanier and MPD are already reviewing their response to this situation for lessons learned and improvements that can be made. And we are reviewing the overall response from all the District agencies that were involved.

We have a lot still to learn from this event. But one thing is abundantly clear to me after this latest mass shooting – just like it was clear to me after the Sandy Hook massacre, and the Aurora murders, and the Sikh temple shooting, and the terrible list that goes on and on.

We need sensible gun control on the federal level in this country, and we need it now.

One of Monday’s 12 innocent victims was a District resident whose family had already been tragically touched by gun violence. Arthur Daniels was 51 years old, and he was working in Building 197 on Monday when his life was snuffed out. His widow, Priscilla, told me how their 14-year-old son was also murdered just four years ago, shot in the back while running away from an assailant outside a Metro station.

Senseless gun violence is a sad fact of life in America and in the District – but it’s not a fact we have to live with forever. How many more tragedies – whether at a military installation just blocks from the Capitol last week, or in a movie theater in Colorado last year, or on the streets of our nation’s cities every day – how much more do we have to endure before we enact common-sense gun legislation?

I urge our members of Congress to get past their political paralysis before even more are lost to the plague of guns that afflicts our nation"

 

Photo by Andrew Bossi

 

One Suspect Dead in Navy Yard Shooting; 2 others may be on the loose.

WASHINGTON, DC (CNN ) — A suspect is dead after a shooting at the Washington Navy Yard, a senior Navy official said Monday.

Conflicting reports emerged about whether there was another shooter. Ed Zeigler, director of public affairs for Naval District Washington, told CNN earlier Monday that two suspected shooters were "down," but the senior Navy official could not confirm whether there was more than one gunman.

Multiple people were killed in the deadly shooting, Zeigler said, which sent police in SWAT team gear swarming to the scene. Live blog

Helicopters hovered overhead. In one chopper, there appeared to be a police sniper peering out, with a scope at the ready.

Earlier, authorities said a gunman dressed in all black fired shots inside the Navy Yard, injuring at least 10 people.

Witness: 'He aimed his gun at us' and fired

The injured included a Washington police officer who has been hospitalized, and a base security guard officer, said Metropolitan Police Department spokeswoman Saray Leon.

Three people, including the D.C. police officer, were admitted to MedStar Washington Hospital Center with multiple gunshot wounds. They are expected to survive, chief medical officer Janis Orlowski told reporters.

The incident started unfolding at 8:20 a.m. when several shots were fired inside the headquarters for Naval Sea Systems Command in southeast Washington.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sent a team of about 20 special agents to the scene, a law enforcement official said. The team was the same group that helped apprehend Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the official said.

Police spokesman Chris Kelly earlier described the suspect as an adult male, about 6 feet tall with a bald head and medium complexion, dressed in a black top and black jeans.

Shooting at Washington Navy Yard

Two witnesses told CNN affiliate WJLA that they heard a fire alarm go off in the building where they worked, then saw a man with a rifle down the hallway as they exited the building.

"He aimed the gun and fired our way," a man who identified himself as Todd Brundidge told WJLA, adding, "I couldn't believe it."

People frantically tried to run out of the building, Brundidge said.

"Everyone was going down the stairs. They were pushing. They were shoving. People were falling down," he told WJLA. "As we came outside, people were climbing the wall trying to get over the wall to get out of the spaces. It was just crazy."

Emergency personnel, the FBI, U.S. Capitol Police and local D.C. police responded to the shooting, shutting down traffic in the area on the District's south side along the Anacostia River. Some people are being evacuated, and others are sheltering in place.

At least eight schools were on lockdown as a precaution, the Washington public schools said.

Air traffic to Reagan National Airport in northern Virginia, the closest airport to downtown Washington, was suspended but later resumed, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

A White House statement said President Barack Obama was briefed on the situation.

The headquarters — the workplace for about 3,000 people — is the largest of the Navy's five system commands. It has a fiscal year budget of nearly $30 billion.

"With a force of 60,000 civilian, military and contract support personnel, NAVSEA engineers, builds, buys and maintains the Navy's ships and submarines and their combat systems," the Navy said.

The Washington Navy Yard — the Navy's oldest land establishment — was created in 1799 following an act of Congress, according to the Naval History and Heritage Command. Originally envisioned as a shipbuilding and fitting facility on the Anacostia River, it serviced some of the Navy's most famous early vessels, including the USS Constitution.

Burned during the War of 1812, the Navy Yard was transformed into a center for ordnance and technological development. The facility was the world's largest ordnance plant during World War II, but its military role steadily diminished during the Cold War era.

Today, the Navy Yard includes the headquarters of Naval District Washington and is home to a naval museum. The area around the facility has been marked in recent years by significant commercial and residential revitalization.

 

Source and Copyright : CNN        Photo credit :NPR

President Obama addressed the nation.

WASHINGTON, DC –U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday delivered the following address to the nation, saying he will pursue diplomatic efforts to remove Syria's chemical weapons but maintaining military pressure on Damascus in case the efforts fail.

"My fellow Americans, tonight I want to talk to you about Syria — why it matters, and where we go from here.

Over the past two years, what began as a series of peaceful protests against the repressive regime of Bashar al-Assad has turned into a brutal civil war. Over 100,000 people have been killed. Millions have fled the country. In that time, America has worked with allies to provide humanitarian support, to help the moderate opposition, and to shape a political settlement. But I have resisted calls for military action, because we cannot resolve someone else’s civil war through force, particularly after a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The situation profoundly changed, though, on August 21st, when Assad’s government gassed to death over a thousand people, including hundreds of children. The images from this massacre are sickening: Men, women, children lying in rows, killed by poison gas. Others foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath. A father clutching his dead children, imploring them to get up and walk. On that terrible night, the world saw in gruesome detail the terrible nature of chemical weapons, and why the overwhelming majority of humanity has declared them off-limits — a crime against humanity, and a violation of the laws of war.

This was not always the case. In World War I, American GIs were among the many thousands killed by deadly gas in the trenches of Europe. In World War II, the Nazis used gas to inflict the horror of the Holocaust. Because these weapons can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant, the civilized world has spent a century working to ban them. And in 1997, the United States Senate overwhelmingly approved an international agreement prohibiting the use of chemical weapons, now joined by 189 governments that represent 98 percent of humanity.

On August 21st, these basic rules were violated, along with our sense of common humanity. No one disputes that chemical weapons were used in Syria. The world saw thousands of videos, cell phone pictures, and social media accounts from the attack, and humanitarian organizations told stories of hospitals packed with people who had symptoms of poison gas.

Moreover, we know the Assad regime was responsible. In the days leading up to August 21st, we know that Assad’s chemical weapons personnel prepared for an attack near an area where they mix sarin gas. They distributed gasmasks to their troops. Then they fired rockets from a regime-controlled area into 11 neighborhoods that the regime has been trying to wipe clear of opposition forces. Shortly after those rockets landed, the gas spread, and hospitals filled with the dying and the wounded. We know senior figures in Assad’s military machine reviewed the results of the attack, and the regime increased their shelling of the same neighborhoods in the days that followed. We’ve also studied samples of blood and hair from people at the site that tested positive for sarin.

When dictators commit atrocities, they depend upon the world to look the other way until those horrifying pictures fade from memory. But these things happened. The facts cannot be denied. The question now is what the United States of America, and the international community, is prepared to do about it. Because what happened to those people — to those children — is not only a violation of international law, it’s also a danger to our security.

Let me explain why. If we fail to act, the Assad regime will see no reason to stop using chemical weapons. As the ban against these weapons erodes, other tyrants will have no reason to think twice about acquiring poison gas, and using them. Over time, our troops would again face the prospect of chemical warfare on the battlefield. And it could be easier for terrorist organizations to obtain these weapons, and to use them to attack civilians.

If fighting spills beyond Syria’s borders, these weapons could threaten allies like Turkey, Jordan, and Israel. And a failure to stand against the use of chemical weapons would weaken prohibitions against other weapons of mass destruction, and embolden Assad’s ally, Iran — which must decide whether to ignore international law by building a nuclear weapon, or to take a more peaceful path.

This is not a world we should accept. This is what’s at stake. And that is why, after careful deliberation, I determined that it is in the national security interests of the United States to respond to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons through a targeted military strike. The purpose of this strike would be to deter Assad from using chemical weapons, to degrade his regime’s ability to use them, and to make clear to the world that we will not tolerate their use.

That's my judgment as Commander-in-Chief. But I’m also the President of the world’s oldest constitutional democracy. So even though I possess the authority to order military strikes, I believed it was right, in the absence of a direct or imminent threat to our security, to take this debate to Congress. I believe our democracy is stronger when the President acts with the support of Congress. And I believe that America acts more effectively abroad when we stand together.

This is especially true after a decade that put more and more war-making power in the hands of the President, and more and more burdens on the shoulders of our troops, while sidelining the people’s representatives from the critical decisions about when we use force.

Now, I know that after the terrible toll of Iraq and Afghanistan, the idea of any military action, no matter how limited, is not going to be popular. After all, I've spent four and a half years working to end wars, not to start them. Our troops are out of Iraq. Our troops are coming home from Afghanistan. And I know Americans want all of us in Washington — especially me — to concentrate on the task of building our nation here at home: putting people back to work, educating our kids, growing our middle class.

It’s no wonder, then, that you're asking hard questions. So let me answer some of the most important questions that I've heard from members of Congress, and that I've read in letters that you've sent to me.

First, many of you have asked, won’t this put us on a slippery slope to another war? One man wrote to me that we are “still recovering from our involvement in Iraq.” A veteran put it more bluntly: “This nation is sick and tired of war.”

My answer is simple: I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria. I will not pursue an open-ended action like Iraq or Afghanistan. I will not pursue a prolonged air campaign like Libya or Kosovo. This would be a targeted strike to achieve a clear objective: deterring the use of chemical weapons, and degrading Assad’s capabilities.

Others have asked whether it's worth acting if we don’t take out Assad. As some members of Congress have said, there’s no point in simply doing a “pinprick” strike in Syria.

Let me make something clear: The United States military doesn’t do pinpricks. Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver. I don't think we should remove another dictator with force — we learned from Iraq that doing so makes us responsible for all that comes next. But a targeted strike can make Assad, or any other dictator, think twice before using chemical weapons.

Other questions involve the dangers of retaliation. We don’t dismiss any threats, but the Assad regime does not have the ability to seriously threaten our military. Any other retaliation they might seek is in line with threats that we face every day. Neither Assad nor his allies have any interest in escalation that would lead to his demise. And our ally, Israel, can defend itself with overwhelming force, as well as the unshakeable support of the United States of America.

Many of you have asked a broader question: Why should we get involved at all in a place that's so complicated, and where — as one person wrote to me — “those who come after Assad may be enemies of human rights?”

It’s true that some of Assad’s opponents are extremists. But al Qaeda will only draw strength in a more chaotic Syria if people there see the world doing nothing to prevent innocent civilians from being gassed to death. The majority of the Syrian people — and the Syrian opposition we work with — just want to live in peace, with dignity and freedom. And the day after any military action, we would redouble our efforts to achieve a political solution that strengthens those who reject the forces of tyranny and extremism.

Finally, many of you have asked: Why not leave this to other countries, or seek solutions short of force? As several people wrote to me, “We should not be the world’s policeman.”

I agree, and I have a deeply held preference for peaceful solutions. Over the last two years, my administration has tried diplomacy and sanctions, warning and negotiations — but chemical weapons were still used by the Assad regime.

However, over the last few days, we’ve seen some encouraging signs. In part because of the credible threat of U.S. military action, as well as constructive talks that I had with President Putin, the Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons. The Assad regime has now admitted that it has these weapons, and even said they’d join the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits their use.

It’s too early to tell whether this offer will succeed, and any agreement must verify that the Assad regime keeps its commitments. But this initiative has the potential to remove the threat of chemical weapons without the use of force, particularly because Russia is one of Assad’s strongest allies.

I have, therefore, asked the leaders of Congress to postpone a vote to authorize the use of force while we pursue this diplomatic path. I’m sending Secretary of State John Kerry to meet his Russian counterpart on Thursday, and I will continue my own discussions with President Putin. I’ve spoken to the leaders of two of our closest allies, France and the United Kingdom, and we will work together in consultation with Russia and China to put forward a resolution at the U.N. Security Council requiring Assad to give up his chemical weapons, and to ultimately destroy them under international control. We’ll also give U.N. inspectors the opportunity to report their findings about what happened on August 21st. And we will continue to rally support from allies from Europe to the Americas — from Asia to the Middle East — who agree on the need for action.

Meanwhile, I’ve ordered our military to maintain their current posture to keep the pressure on Assad, and to be in a position to respond if diplomacy fails. And tonight, I give thanks again to our military and their families for their incredible strength and sacrifices.

My fellow Americans, for nearly seven decades, the United States has been the anchor of global security. This has meant doing more than forging international agreements — it has meant enforcing them. The burdens of leadership are often heavy, but the world is a better place because we have borne them.

And so, to my friends on the right, I ask you to reconcile your commitment to America’s military might with a failure to act when a cause is so plainly just. To my friends on the left, I ask you to reconcile your belief in freedom and dignity for all people with those images of children writhing in pain, and going still on a cold hospital floor. For sometimes resolutions and statements of condemnation are simply not enough.

Indeed, I’d ask every member of Congress, and those of you watching at home tonight, to view those videos of the attack, and then ask: What kind of world will we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas, and we choose to look the other way?

Franklin Roosevelt once said, “Our national determination to keep free of foreign wars and foreign entanglements cannot prevent us from feeling deep concern when ideals and principles that we have cherished are challenged.” Our ideals and principles, as well as our national security, are at stake in Syria, along with our leadership of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used.

America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.

Thank you. God bless you. And God bless the United States of America."

Source : White House

Syrian Rebels Execute 7 Soldiers

NEW YORK — The Syrian rebels posed casually, standing over their prisoners with firearms pointed down at the shirtless and terrified men.

The prisoners, seven in all, were captured Syrian soldiers. Five were trussed, their backs marked with red welts. They kept their faces pressed to the dirt as the rebels’ commander recited a bitter revolutionary verse.

“For fifty years, they are companions to corruption,” he said. “We swear to the Lord of the Throne, that this is our oath: We will take revenge.”

The moment the poem ended, the commander, known as “the Uncle,” fired a bullet into the back of the first prisoner’s head. His gunmen followed suit, promptly killing all the men at their feet. Read More

 

Source : New York Time

Senate Foreign Relations Panel Approves Resolution on Military Action in Syria

WASHINGTON, DC — A divided Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday approved an authorization of force against the Syrian regime, setting up a showdown next week in the full Senate on whether President Obama should have the authority to strike. The 10-7 vote showed bipartisan support for a strike, but bipartisan opposition as well. Yes votes included Senators John McCain, Republican of Arizona, Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, and Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona. No votes included Democratic Senators Tom Udall of New Mexico and Chris Murphy of Connecticut. The Senate’s newest member, Edward Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts, voted present..Read More

Source : New York Times

British parliament votes against military action in Syria

LONDON, ENGLAND — British lawmakers on Thursday rejected a proposal that would have paved the way for military action in Syria, marking a stunning defeat for Prime Minister David Cameron whose government had been expected to join the U.S. in possible airstrikes against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The government's nonbinding motion was defeated by 285 to 272, a majority of just 13 votes. The military action would have been in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons near the Syrian capital of Damascus last week, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of people in an attack the U.S. and other countries have blamed on Assad.

Cameron, speaking in the House of Commons after Thursday's vote, assured lawmakers that the United Kingdom will not take part in any military action against Syria unless another vote takes place. "I can give that assurance," he said, responding to a question from Opposition leader Ed Miliban.

"I strongly believe in the need for a tough response to the use of chemical weapons, but I also believe in respecting the will of this House of Commons," the prime minister told lawmakers. "It is very clear tonight that, while the House has not passed a motion, the British Parliament, reflecting the views of the British people, does not want to see British military action. I get that, and the Government will act accordingly."

Earlier on Thursday, the British government published a summary of its legal advice on a possible military strike on Syria. It said such military action would be considered to be a "humanitarian intervention," of which the aim would be to relieve humanitarian suffering by deterring or disrupting the further use of chemical weapons.

"If action in the [UN] Security Council is blocked, the UK would still be permitted under international law to take exceptional measures in order to alleviate the scale of the overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe in Syria by deterring and disrupting the further use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime," the government's document said.