Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Confirmed..First US Air Strikes in Syria

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States and partner nations are carrying out the first air strikes against Islamic State targets in Syria, the Pentagon said on Monday, in ongoing operations that mark the opening of a new, far more complicated front in a battle against the militants.
"I can confirm that U.S. military and partner nation forces are undertaking military action against (Islamic State) terrorists in Syria using a mix of fighter, bomber and Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles," Rear Admiral John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement.
"Given that these operations are ongoing, we are not in a position to provide additional details at this time."
Kirby did not disclose which nations joined the United States, which has been building a coalition to combat an extremist Sunni Muslim force that has seized large expanses of territory in Iraq and Syria and proclaimed a caliphate erasing borders in the heart of the Middle East.
But a U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters there were Arab partners helping to carry out the strikes. Still, the official declined to specify their roles or name the countries.
The strikes took place hours before Obama goes to New York for the U.N. General Assembly where he will try to rally more nations behind his drive to aggressively take on Islamic State.
"We will provide Obama had shied away from getting involved in Syria's civil war a year ago, seeing no positive outcome for the United States, but the rise of Islamic State and the beheading of two American captives forced him to change course.
General Lloyd Austin, commander of the U.S. military's Central Command, made the decision to conduct the strikes under authorization granted to him by Obama, Kirby said.
"We will provide more details later as operationally appropriate," Kirby said.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Climate change summit: Global rallies demand action

Street protests demanding urgent action on climate change have attracted hundreds of thousands of marchers in more than 2,000 locations worldwide. The People's Climate March is campaigning for curbs on carbon emissions, ahead of the UN climate summit in New York next week. In Manhattan, organizers said some 310,000 people joined a march that was also attended by UN chief Ban Ki-moon. Earlier, huge demonstrations took place in Australia and Europe.
"This is the planet where our subsequent generations will live," Mr Ban told reporters. "There is no 'Plan B' because we do not have 'Planet B'."
The UN Secretary General was accompanied by primatologist Jane Goodall and the French Ecology Minister, Segolene Royal. New York hosted the largest of Sunday's protests, drawing more than half of the 600,000 marchers estimated by organizers to have taken part in rallies around the world. The protesters in New York used outsized floats to convey their message.

Marchers in Mexico City
A group of marchers in Mexico City pose for a 'selfie'

Manhattan march
In Manhattan, Ban Ki-moon (in blue hat) was flanked by primatologist Jane Goodall (to his right) and French ecology minister Segolene Royal

Marchers at climate change demonstration in New York
Many of the marchers in New York wore costumes associated with indigenous people

Manhattan echoed to the sound of chants, horns and drums as the colorful protest progressed through the streets. Organizers of the Manhattan event said it surpassed the largest previous protest on climate change. They said the massive mobilization was aimed at transforming climate change "from an environmental concern to an everybody issue".
Business leaders, environmentalists and celebrities joined the demonstration. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio also took part, having been appointed as a UN representative on climate change last week.

Another protest, another climate conference - will this time be any different? Well, the marches brought more people to the streets than ever before, partly thanks to the organizational power of the e-campaign group Avaaz.
And the climate talks will also be influenced by technology, as it was reported this week that the sun and wind can often generate power as cheaply as gas in the home of fossil fuels, Texas. Certainly the UN's Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, hopes that he can make a fresh start in the endless blame-your-neighbor round of climate talks.
Next year world leaders are due to show up in Paris to settle a global climate deal based not on a bitterly-contested chiseling negotiation in the middle of the night, but on open co-operative offers of action to tackle a shared problem. Mr Ban has invited leaders to New York to make their offers public. Some small nations will doubtless make new contributions to the carbon contraction effort as they realize the vulnerability of their own economies to a hotter world. But some big players may continue the game of climate poker, holding back their offers until they see what else is on the table.
So there is no guarantee that Ban's idea will work - but at least for weary climate politics watchers it will be a change.

Marchers in London 
Tens of thousands of people - some of them dressed as animals - also marched in London

An image captured from a drone shows protesters forming the words "Beyond Coal + Gas" during a demonstration in Sydney - 21 September 2014 
An image captured from a drone shows protesters in Sydney forming the words "Beyond Coal + Gas"

Protest in Paris
A masked protester joins the demonstration in Paris

Protesters march to demand urgent action on climate change in Brussels, Belgium - 21 September 2014
Protests have been held in about 160 countries around the world

The New York rally was part of a global protest that included events in 156 countries - Afghanistan, the UK, Italy and Brazil among them.

  • In London, the march attracted an estimated 40,000 people, including actress Emma Thompson who likened the threat from climate change to a Martian invasion
  • Some 30,000 people marched in Melbourne, Australia. Demonstrators urged Prime Minister Tony Abbott to take action, citing fears that climate change could lead to more bushfires and droughts
  • Organizers said more than 25,000 marched in Paris
  • About 15,000 people marched in Berlin. Organizers urged world leaders to recognize climate change as a pressing problem
  • In Rio de Janeiro, some 5,000 marchers turned out. Environmental slogans and a green heart were projected onto the famed statue of Christ the Redeemer, overlooking the city
  • Smaller protests - attracting numbers in the hundreds or low thousands - were also seen in cities such as Bogota, Barcelona, Jakarta and Delhi

On Tuesday, the UN will host a climate summit at its headquarters in New York with 125 heads of state and government - the first such gathering since the unsuccessful climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009. Mr Ban hopes leaders can make progress on a universal agreement to be signed by all nations at the end of 2015.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Ask Maxy

Dear Maxy,
I work in a relatively conservative  law  firm in Chicago . Much to my surprise, the  new  administrator  that my company  hired a month ago  came to work  with her  hair  dyed green . I have seen this  trend on  kids  as I walk around  town  but there is  no  room for this  look  at my law  firm . In the  employee  handbook, it  doesn't  specifically  speak about  hair  color but it  does  say  that modest  attire  and  overall presentation is  required . How  can I talk to this  young  woman about  her  hair color  choice  to help her ?
I don't  know if  human  resources  will say  she can be fired but I can say  that  it is  not likely  that she will rise  up through  the  ranks at  any company  if she decides  to be a trendsetter in this  overt, extreme kind of  way
How to Mentor
Dear  How to Mentor ,
Talk to  your  human resources  department  about the legalities of addressing  this  employee  about her choice of  styles . You should  get guidance  to make  sure that you  do not overstep  your authority  to address her  hair  color .
With that information  in tow, speak  to her as  a mentor and tell her  that you want to share some supportive  information with her, should she be interested  . What you may want to tell her is that in every  industry  there are spoken  and  unspoken  standards . In the law profession, people  tend  to err on the  side of  conservative, as they do in your  company . Tell her  that while  her  hair  color  may be a trend,  it may be also  telling  her bosses  and co-workers  that she is not  serious  about working  there .
There  likely are  law firms  where more  personal innovation  is welcomed . She  may want  to think about  what best fits her,  given  her  choices . That being said, if she really excels  at her  job,  your  company may make that a priority and overlook her  style  eccentricities .

Dear Maxy ,
It's  back to school  time  and my  kids  are  having a hard  time getting  their  bodies on the  school  clock . I tried  having  them go to bed  an hour  or  so earlier  for the past few  weeks but it  didn't work  very well . I know  that the beginning  of school is an important  time  for them  to get settled . What can I do ?
Settle  Down
Dear Settle Down ,
It is  never  too late  to work  on getting  your  children focusd. Start by  shutting off  screen time  until the weekends . Set schedules  for  your  children . Review  the  homework  with  them each day  to see how well  they are  doing . Set their  bed times  and enforce  it by walking  them to their  rooms, tucking  them in  and turning  off the  lights. Don't forget a kiss and a hug,

Dear  Maxy ,
My company was  just sold  and the  new owner seems  like  he  could be an OK  guy . Some  people in the  media don't like him , but the buzz around the  office  so far is cool . I'm supposed to have a meeting with him . One of  my friends says I should get ready for  my walking  papers  because I've been there a long  time  and my salary is  high. I don't want to think like  that . What can I do  to help preserve my  job ?
Staking  a Claim
Dear  Staking a Claim,
The sale  of a company  does  not automatically  lead  to a  bloodbath  at the office . That largely  depends  on the  financial  health  of the company when it  is  purchased . The way  to make  yourself the  most appealing  to  your  new  boss is to be  prepared . Do some  research on him  and his  company  so that you can speak  intelligently  about  his  background .
Know  your own company  inside and out, at least your  area . Present  yourself as capable and having valuable experience with the company. Talk to him  about what strengths  you  bring  to your  job,  your  level  of expertise  and  your  ability  to be a team player . Paint  an accurate  and positive  picture  of  your  value to the company  and show him your interest in joining his team . Good luck,

British Reporter John Cantlie in Hostage Video

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Islamic State militants fighting in Iraq and Syria released a video on Thursday that they said shows British journalist John Cantlie in captivity saying he will soon reveal "facts" about the group to counter its portrayal in Western media.
The Islamic State, which controls territory in Syria and Iraq, has already beheaded two American journalists and one British aid worker in recent weeks in what it said was reprisal for U.S. air strikes against it in Iraq.
But in the new roughly three-minute video posted on social media sites, the man identified as Cantlie appears in good health and promises to "convey some facts" in a series of "programs," suggesting there would be further installments.
"Now, I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, 'He's only doing this because he's a prisoner. He's got a gun at his head and he's being forced to do this.' Right?" the man in the video, wearing an orange shirt and closely-cropped hair, says.
"Well, it's true. I am a prisoner. That I cannot deny. But seeing as I've been abandoned by my government and my fate now lies in the hands of the Islamic State, I have nothing to lose."
British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said he had heard reports of a video on social media and said authorities would look closely at any material released online.
"These videos can be very distressing for the families of the individuals involved," he told reporters during a visit to Copenhagen.
President Obama has been trying to build an international coalition to destroy Islamic State, a Sunni Muslim extremist group which has exploited the chaos of Syria and Iraq to seize swathes of territory in both countries.
The United States has already carried out scores of air strikes against the group in Iraq and Obama said in a policy speech he would not hesitate to strike it in Syria as well.
In the new video, titled "Lend Me Your Ears, Messages from the British Detainee John Cantlie," the man identified as Cantlie says he was captured by the Islamic State after arriving in Syria in November 2012.
He says he worked for newspapers and magazines in Britain including the Sunday Times, the Sun and the Sunday Telegraph.
"After two disastrous and hugely unpopular wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, why is it that our governments appear so keen to get involved in yet another unwinnable conflict?" the man says in the video.
"I'm going to show you the truth behind the systems and motivation of the Islamic State, and how the Western media, the very organization I used to work for, can twist and manipulate that truth for the public back home."
Cantlie said other Western governments have negotiated for the release of their hostages but that the British and U.S. governments chose to do things differently.
"I'll show you the truth behind what happened when many European citizens were imprisoned and later released by the Islamic State, and how the British and American governments thought they could do it differently to every other European country," the man in the video says.
"They negotiated with the Islamic State and got their people home while the British and Americans were left behind," he says.
The United States resumed air strikes in Iraq in August for the first time since the withdrawal of the final U.S. troops from the country in 2011.
The raids followed major gains by Islamic State fighters who have seized a third of both Iraq and Syria, declared war on the West and seek to establish a caliphate in the heart of the Middle East.
The U.S. House of Representatives approved on Wednesday Obama's plan to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels in a message of support for his military campaign to "degrade and destroy" Islamic State
Britain has delivered humanitarian aid, carried out surveillance, given weapons to Kurds and promised training in Iraq. On military action, Britain supports U.S. air strikes and British Prime Minister David Cameron has repeatedly said Britain has ruled nothing out except combat troops on the ground.
Cantlie had previously been taken hostage in July, 2012 along with Dutch photographer Jeroen Oerlemans while working near the Syrian border with Turkey. They were released the same month after a group of "Free Syrian Army" fighters freed them.
Cantlie told media after his release they were threatened with death unless they converted to Islam, and both were shot and slightly wounded when they attempted to escape. He was shot in the arm, Oerlemans in the leg.
At the time, Cantlie wrote in the Sunday Times that the group of about 30 militants had been made up of different nationalities, many British and none Syrian, and that the British jihadists had treated him the most cruelly in captivity.
On Saturday, Islamic State released a video showing the beheading of British aid worker David Haines. A black-clad man in the video said another hostage, identified as Alan Henning, would be killed if Cameron continued to support the fight against Islamic State.
"Maybe I will live and maybe I will die," Cantlie says, "but I want to take this opportunity to convey some facts that you can verify. Facts that, if you contemplate, might help in preserving lives."

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Rob has Rare Cancer

The tumour in Rob Ford's abdomen, the discovery of which led the mayor of Toronto to drop out of the election last week, is both malignant and rare, according to medical authorities.
Dr. Zane Cohen of Mount Sinai Hospital's surgical team addressed the media today to provide an update on Ford's medical condition, which, he noted, was done due to great public interest.
He said a repeat biopsy was done Monday on "the mass," meaning the abdominal tumour.
"The diagnosis is a malignant liposarcoma," said Cohen, which is a form of cancer that arises in fat cells in deep soft tissue; it is, Cohen said, a rare and difficult tumour to treat.
"It has about 60 different cell types and that's what makes it a very rare tumour and a very difficult tumour," he said.
"We have not found cancer" in Ford's organs, Cohen noted, later adding that the tumour appears "very aggressive" based on its size after its recent discovery and that it has been growing since well before that, but Cohen added that the treatment plan is also aggressive, involving an initial three days of chemotherapy, a rest day and an 18-day "washout period" before possible subsequent 40-day cycles over the treatment plan, which Cohen said is to begin within the next 48 hours.
The Canadian Press reports :
"Following the chemotherapy and its results, doctors may or may not decide to carry out surgery or radiation treatments."
"Everyone knows chemotherapy is tough ...  he [Ford] is a pretty strong person, but he's going to have some tough days," said Cohen, an internationally recognized colorectal surgeon. He added that Ford will also have some good days, and that "doctors will decide what the next step will be based on how the tumour responds to treatment."
The Ford family, along with everyone following the Toronto mayoral election and the general Ford saga, had been awaiting the results of last week's biopsy.
Having seen the effects of a similar type of cancer, I know this will be a very difficult and traumatic course to follow and there is no predicting how it ends. My partner and I wish Rob a speedy and full recovery.

Hillary, On the Road...Visits Iowa For Tom Harkin's Retirement Steak Fry

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gives a speech at the 37th Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, Iowa 14 September 2014
Hillary Clinton has retained some of her guardedness as she returns her focus to domestic politics,

"Hello Iowa! I'm baaaaaack."

It took 2,446 days for Hillary Clinton to return to the state which caused her so much pain in 2008.
That year, she left Iowa after taking third place in the state's primary contest. On Sunday she was back with her husband, more experience, and some humour, perhaps a bit forced. But the key question was whether she was bringing with her some of the warmth and approachability she had demonstrated consistently on the international stage and which had been so lacking in her presidential race.
The setting certainly lent itself to relaxed encounters with voters. Hay bales, open fields, blue skies with white clouds, grilled steaks and potato salads. It was a perfect Sunday afternoon in a bucolic setting for an Iowa marquee food event, and a political institution: the Harkin steak fry.

Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton poses for a photo with a supporter at the 37th Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, Iowa 14 September 2014
  In the primary contests, the presidential race is centred on meet-and-greet events like the Harkin Steak Fry

2016 speculation
Senator Tom Harkin, retiring after 40 years in politics, is taking his steak fry with him and invited
Bill and Hillary Clinton to attend his last hurrah. Ostensibly, the Clintons were there to pay tribute to Mr Harkin, and get the crowds fired up for the 2014 mid-term elections in November. But there was only one way to explain the record 200 reporters who showed up to cover the event: speculation about a potential Hillary presidential run in 2016.


Hillary Clinton boards a plane at Yerevan airport 4 June 2012 

Hillary Clinton visited 112 countries in four years, making her the most-travelled secretary of state.
Foreign Policy magazine's Secretary of Schlep slideshow has 112 photos, one from each country
"Her total time spent travelling adds up to 2084.21 hours (or 86.8 days), and she will have racked up 956,733 miles," it notes
Since leaving the state department in 2013, Mrs Clinton has already given plenty of speeches and interviews and spent the summer promoting her book. She has shaken hands with fans along the way but this was her first real foray into retail, domestic politics in a crowd of people sizing her up as a potential candidate.
When Mrs Clinton went on her first overseas trip as secretary of state in February 2009, her team organized town hall meetings, transposing the American approach for running for office to international diplomacy. Her first town hall overseas was at Seoul's Ehwa university - from Iowa to Ehwa, engaging with the people. Mrs Clinton thoroughly enjoyed those encounters and by the end of her first year at the state department, she had shed her guarded political cloak.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gives a lecture after awards an 'Distinguished Honorary Ewha Fellow' at the Ewha Womans University in Seoul, South Korea 20 February 2009  
Hillary Clinton holds a town-hall style lecture on her first official trip as Secretary of State in 2009

She spoke with authority and gravitas and was able to do so with passion and empathy as well as genuine interest when engaging in people-to-people diplomacy, meeting with students or women groups or businessmen, even in prickly Pakistan. When she left the building in 2013 she was also soaring in the polls at home.
But with her return to politics in the US, her guardedness seems to have returned. She still appears uncomfortable or uncertain on the domestic stage. Her speech in front of the hay bales was scripted, and somewhat flat. She drew some cheers, mostly when she talked about women's rights or hinted at her intentions for 2016.
But she didn't speak with the passion she usually demonstrated overseas. She's still better at mostly unscripted comments, roaming a stage or in interviews where her knowledge of the issues shines and her wit comes through, whether on policy or politics.
As secretary of state, Mrs Clinton always came to the back of the plane to speak to the press pack and regularly sat down for dinner or drinks in world capitals. Her aides said she genuinely enjoyed the exchanges.
But since leaving Foggy Bottom, Mrs Clinton has shown reflexive guardedness in her encounters with US national politics reporters. Perhaps this is because they too approach her with a degree of scepticism remaining from the miserable relationship she had with the media in 2008 and the many acrimonious years that preceded it.
She has yet to really engage with the new press pack following her every move in the US. On Sunday, it appeared initially she would keep her distance as well. With Bill and the Harkins she flipped some steaks by a grill for staged photos, in a penned-off area at the top of the hill, away from the crowds. Mrs Clinton ignored the reporters and left after a few minutes, but later returned and spent 15 minutes shaking hands and chatting to them.

A ready for Hillary bus 14 September 2014
Though Clinton has made no official announcement, supporters have already begun creating the infrastructure for a campaign

Lessons learned
She didn't say much, insisting that this day was all about 2014 and the key mid-term elections. The American media have speculated that her presence in Iowa was yet another sign she was preparing to run, but it's probably more accurate to say she's preparing to make a decision. In typical fashion, she is approaching the process diligently, with a checklist, doing her homework to find out the state of play, the state of politics, the areas where she could make a difference, talking to donors, supporters, and most importantly trying to determine what her message is going to be.
Her trip to Iowa was part of the decision-making process, a key opportunity for her to re-acquaint herself with the gruelling rhythm of retail politics, at which she did not excel at during her 2008 campaign.
After the speeches, she and Bill spent half-hour shaking hands with Iowans lining up along a fence. She signed T-shirts and books and posed for photos.

When asked what she had learned as secretary of state, she replied,"I have learned even more about how to relate to people of many different backgrounds," suggesting, she had internalized some of the lessons of her failure to connect with voters.

Democratic presidential hopeful and New York Senator Hillary Clinton (C), husband former US President Bill Clinton (2nd R) and daughter Chelsea Clinton (R) at a rally for supporters 03 January 2008  
Clinton came in third place in the 2008 Iowa caucuses

A quick informal poll of Iowans at the steak fry after her speech indicated people thought she had done well but not tremendous.
Did she enjoy the endless posing for pictures and shaking hands with people she may never see again? Did she enjoy chatting with the new press pack, hounding her every step? Was it tolerable enough that she could do it for months on end in a presidential race? Only Hillary knows.

Leonardo DiCaprio appointed UN climate change representative

Actor, Leonardo DiCaprio has been appointed as a United Nations representative on climate change.
The UN secretary general Ban ki Moon said the actor's global stardom was the perfect match for the global challenge posed by climate change.
Mr DiCaprio's first duty in his new role will be to address the opening of the climate summit later this month in New York.