Wednesday, October 01, 2014

US Sharply Criticizes New Israeli Housing Project

President Barack Obama meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014.



WASHINGTON (AP) — In a striking public rebuke, the Obama administration warned Israel on Wednesday that plans for a controversial new housing project in east Jerusalem would distance Israel from "even its closest allies" and raise questions about its commitment to seeking peace with Palestinians.
The harsh criticism came just hours after President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at the White House. Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said the president privately raised his concerns with Netanyahu though the two leaders made no mention of the matter in their public comments to reporters.
"This development will only draw condemnation from the international community," Earnest said. "It also would call into question Israel's ultimate commitment to a peaceful negotiated settlement with the Palestinians."
The new 2,500 unit project is contentious because it would complete a band of Jewish areas that separate Jerusalem from nearby Bethlehem. The U.S. has repeatedly criticized Israeli construction in east Jerusalem, casting it as damaging to efforts to secure an elusive peace accord with the Palestinians.
The White House also condemned what it called the recent occupation of residential buildings in Silwan, an Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem where several hundred hard-line Israeli settlers have moved in recent years. Earnest called the occupation "provocative" and said it would "escalate tensions at a moment when those tensions have already been high."
Appearing before reporters earlier, Obama and Netanyahu betrayed little of the U.S. displeasure projected by the White House spokesman, as well as officials at the State Department. While the two leaders have long had a tense relationship, each took a polite and cordial tone in their brief public remarks.
Still, areas of discord were evident, most notably Obama's frustration with Palestinian civilian deaths in during the summer war in Gaza and Israel's wariness of U.S.-led nuclear negotiations with Iran.
Sitting alongside Netanyahu, Obama said leaders must "find ways to change the status quo so that both Israel citizens are safe in their own homes, and schoolchildren in their schools, from the possibility of rocket fire but also that we don't have the tragedy of Palestinian children being killed as well."
More than 2,100 Palestinians — the vast majority of them civilians — and more than 70 Israelis were killed during the 50-day war in Gaza. Officials said much of Obama and Netanyahu's private discussions centered on Iran. The U.S. and its negotiating partners — Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China — have until Nov. 24 to reach a deal with Iran on its nuclear program, and all sides say significant gaps remain.
The West suspects that Iran is secretly trying to build a nuclear weapon alongside its civilian atomic program, something that Israel sees as an existential threat. Netanyahu reiterated his skepticism that the diplomatic process will allow Tehran to keep aspects of its program intact.
"Iran seeks a deal that would lift the tough sanctions that you worked so hard to put in place and leave it as a threshold nuclear power," Netanyahu told Obama. "And I firmly hope under your leadership that would not happen."
Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. As Netanyahu arrived at the White House, city officials in Jerusalem announced plans to move forward with the construction of homes in east Jerusalem's Givat Hamatos neighborhood. The announcement was circulated by an anti-settlement watchdog group, though the officials said the decision was made two weeks ago and had no connection to Netanyahu's meeting with Obama.
The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem, which was captured by Israel in 1967, as the capital of a future state. While Israel considers east Jerusalem as part of its capital, the U.S. and most of the international community consider such construction projects to be illegal settlements.
Obama and Netanyahu also discussed the U.S.-led airstrike campaign against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, an effort the Israeli leader said he "fully supports." During a speech at the United Nations earlier this week, Netanyahu had sought to draw a comparison between the Islamic State group and Hamas.
Still on the agenda but with less urgency was the status of stalled efforts to forge peace between Israel and Palestinians. The peace process broke down earlier this year and there has been little sign that either side is eager to resume talks.
Instead, the Palestinians plan to ask the U.N. Security Council to set a deadline of November 2016 for an Israeli withdrawal from all Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including east Jerusalem.
The draft resolution, obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, would affirm the Security Council's determination to contribute to attaining a peaceful solution that ends the Israeli occupation "without delay" and fulfills the vision of two states, "an independent, sovereign, democratic, contiguous and viable state of Palestine" living side by side with Israel in peace and security in borders based on those before the 1967 Mideast War.
U.S. officials have long told their Palestinian counterparts that a negotiated solution with Israel was the only way to resolve the conflict. Netanyahu, meanwhile, has begun calling for bringing an alliance of moderate Arab states into the peace process.
Associated Press writer Josef Federman in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

AP-GfK Poll: Top Issues In The Midterm Election

Graphic shows results of AP-GfK poll on issues of concern to likely voters; 2c x 4 inches; 96.3 mm x 101 mm;



WASHINGTON (AP) — It's October and in some places, voters are already voting. The latest Associated Press-GfK poll finds those likely to cast a ballot are focused more on the economy than other issues. But that hasn't stopped campaigns from trying to appeal on other topics as well. Here's a look at what voters think on the top issues of the election cycle.
THE ECONOMY: The nation's economic blues remain at the top of voters' list of important issues. Asked to name the nation's biggest problem, 19 percent cite the economy, significantly higher than the 12 percent who name the next highest issue on the list, terrorism and national security. Among all adults, 4 in 10 approve of President Barack Obama's handling of the issue, a figure that's held steady since late last year.
Likely voters give Republicans a narrow edge as the party more trusted to handle the economy, 36 percent to 31 percent who favor the Democrats' approach. But six years after impressions of the economy took a negative turn from which public opinion has never recovered, a sizable 22 percent say they trust neither party on the issue. Overall, 62 percent of likely voters describe the economy as "poor," about the same as at this point in 2012, but better than 2010, when 79 percent of likely voters said it was in bad shape.
HEALTH CARE: Many expected Obama's signature domestic policy initiative to become a central topic in this year's campaigns, but the voters are less interested. Though 8 in 10 call health care an important issue for them personally, when asked to name the top issue facing the country, just 5 percent of likely voters named health care.
Public opinion on the law has been stagnant since the rollout of the state insurance exchanges a year ago. Overall, 25 percent of adults say they support the health care program, 40 percent oppose it, and 34 percent are neutral. About 6 in 10 say the law itself has been more of a failure than a success, . Among likely voters, there's more support for the health care overhaul (30 percent), but also more opposition (47 percent).
Those likely voters who call health care an extremely important issue are more closely divided than others on how the law's been working, though still fall mainly on the negative side of the line: 45 percent say it's been a success while 54 percent call it a failure.
IMMIGRATION: About two-thirds of likely voters call illegal immigration a serious problem for the United States today, and 8 percent name immigration or border security as the top issue facing the nation. Only 35 percent say they approve of Obama's handling of the issue.
Voters are generally in favor of providing a legal way for illegal immigrants already in the United States to become citizens, 53 percent back that, but that support rests heavily on Democratic likely voters, 75 percent of whom favor such a policy. Among Republicans who are most apt to mail in a ballot or show up at the polls, 33 percent favor it, along with 37 percent of independent likely voters.
THE THREAT OF TERRORISM: About 8 in 10 likely voters say terrorism is a key issue for them, with Republicans more apt than Democrats to consider it important. Overall, 83 percent of Republicans say the issue is important compared with 72 percent of Democrats. Similarly, 87 percent of Republicans consider the threat posed by the Islamic State group an important issue compared with 75 percent of Democrats. And although some have raised the possibility of security-focused women as a key to the election, there is no difference by gender on the importance of the issue.
Republicans have a 16-point advantage among likely voters as the party more trusted to protect the country, 39 percent vs. 23 percent, and it's one issue where the parties haven't lost quite as much faith among the public. Just 16 percent say they trust "neither" party to keep the nation safe, the lowest share on any issue tested in the poll.
SOCIAL ISSUES: Democrats hold their strongest advantages in the poll on issues such as abortion or same-sex marriage, yet these same issues land near the bottom of voters' priority lists. Asked in an open-ended question to name the most important issue currently facing the U.S., neither issue scored even 1 percent of responses. When asked how important each issue was personally, 43 percent of likely voters ranked abortion an important one, 32 percent said that about same-sex marriage.
Female likely voters are more likely to call both issues important. On abortion, 47 percent of women consider it important compared with 38 percent of men, and on same-sex marriage, 35 percent of women say it's a key issue compared with 28 percent of men.
The AP-GfK Poll was conducted September 25-29, 2014 using KnowledgePanel, GfK's probability-based panel designed to be representative of the U.S. population. It involved online interviews with 1,845 adults, and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points for all respondents. Among 958 likely voters, the margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 points.
Respondents were first selected randomly using phone or mail survey methods, and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't otherwise have access to the Internet were provided with the ability to access the Internet at no cost to them.
Online:
AP-GfK Poll: http://www.ap-gfkpoll.com

Nigeria Independence Day Broadcast by Goodluck Jonathan


In this image by Julie Jacobson of Associated Press, President Goodluck Jonathan speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting, Wednesday, September 24, 2014 at United Nations headquarters. Members of the Security Council met during which members were expected to adopt a resolution that would allow all countries to prevent the recruitment and transport of would-be foreign fighters preparing to join terrorists groups such as the Isxlamic State group.


1. Today marks the 54th anniversary of our country's independence as a sovereign nation. This is also the tenth month of our journey into a new century, having marked the centenary of our nation in January this year.
2. The first one hundred years were marked by triumphs and tribulations, benefits and burdens, opportunities and challenges. We made some far reaching advances in building a strong, united and prosperous nation. We also overcame the forces of disunity that culminated in a debilitating civil war. We have also renewed our faith in one another, and in our country. We have proven that we are truly a resilient nation.
3. In my address to the nation last year, I did emphasize that we were in a sober moment in our country. We are still in that mood in spite of the many accomplishments of our administration. Our sombreness has to do with the crises of nationhood occasioned by the activities of terrorist elements who have done the unimaginable to challenge our unity as a people.
4. On an occasion like this, it is important that we remember all the precious souls that have been lost in the unprecedented war of terror unleashed on some parts of our country by these individuals who want to compel us to live our lives their way. They will not succeed!
5. In their mission, they have maimed and raped. They have killed men, women and children, rendering many children orphans and several women widows.
6. They have made violence their ideology and are bent on destroying our country. Dear countrymen and women, we will not allow them.
7. Night after night, day after day, our security forces continue to engage the terrorists in battle. My gratitude goes out to our armed forces whose will has been greatly challenged by this insurgency more than any other time, since the civil war.
8. Yet, they have remained undaunted and unwearied in the face of constant challenge and mortal danger. Driven by patriotic zeal, they are turning the tide by their prowess and determination. As Commander-in-Chief, I will continue to do all it takes to enable them to keep on inflicting devastating blows at the heart of terror. Fellow Nigerians, it is our collective duty as patriots to avail our men and women in uniform of all the support they need to fight and win this war.
9. This Administration is committed to making Nigeria safe for all Nigerians, irrespective of our places of birth, how we worship God and our political persuasion. To all those waging war against our country, I ask that you lay down your arms and embrace peace.
10. To those who have genuine grievances, I affirm that Nigeria will listen to you, if you bring your grievances to the table of dialogue. To the good people of Nigeria, let me restate that our task of building a better and greater country must not waver.
11. While we continue to deploy our resources in the fight against the terrorists, we do recognize the great toll the conflict is taking on our people.

 12. This is why, to assist the afflicted, we have launched the Victims Support Fund, an independent multi-sectoral charity, which will aggressively solicit resources to augment Government's statutory intervention, in bringing succour to the injured, the displaced and the bereaved.
13. In partnership with Nigerian business leaders and international partners, we have also introduced the Safe Schools Initiative which is aimed at promoting safe environments for education nationwide, starting with the North East region.
14. The Presidential Initiative for the North East, a comprehensive programme to fast-track the economic restoration of this region, which has been the epicentre of terrorist activity, has been set up.
15. Our overall objective is to do all we possibly can, to sustain in the North-East, the momentum of economic advancement, which is on-going in other parts of the country, despite the machinations of the terrorists and their sponsors.
16. It should now be clear to anyone who was ever in doubt that these terrorists do not mean well for anyone, of whatever religion or dispensation. Their persistent choice of the weakest and most vulnerable in society, for gruesome attack, provides an insight into their abnormal mind-set.
17. I urge every Nigerian to put aside political, sectional or other parochial considerations, and support whole-heartedly the efforts of the government and the military, in checking this evil.
18. We are grateful to the international community, and especially our neighbours who are working closely with us in confronting this challenge, for their increased partnership and solidarity. Our steady progress in weakening the insurgency has certainly justified our cooperation.
19. Fellow Nigerians, in my independence anniversary address last year, I informed you that we had taken cognizance of the suggestion over the years by well-meaning Nigerians on the need to focus attention on rebuilding and strengthening the ligaments of our union. It was in that regard that we announced the convening of a National Dialogue on the future of our beloved country.
20. We have successfully delivered on that promise as we established the 2014 National Conference headed by Justice Legbo Kutigi. After months of deliberations, which did not come without its challenges, the conference concluded its assignment and has handed its Report to me.
21. I have made a firm commitment that we would act on the recommendations of the conference. This, I have started by setting up the Ministerial Committee headed by the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation to work out the modalities for implementing the Report. Every promise I make, God willing, I will see to its fulfilment. I assure you, we shall implement the report.
22. One major lesson which the 2014 National Conference has taught us as a country is that, a multi-ethnic country like ours, must learn to embrace painstaking dialogue until consensus is established.
23. To me, the National Conference is the greatest centenary gift to our country that we must cherish and sustain.
24. Fellow Nigerians, our 54 year-journey as a nation has not been easy. There have been tough periods, but the Nigerian spirit and the unflagging resilience of our people have seen us through. We will continue to march forward to greater heights.
25. We have been able to sustain a big, strong and influential country with a robust economy. We are currently in our sixteenth year of uninterrupted democratic rule, daily improving on the consolidation of our democratic process.
26. Our Administration has made a commitment to ensure that we build and sustain a democratic infrastructure anchored on free and fair elections. International and local observers have attested to the positive evolution of electoral credibility and we cannot afford to relent.
27. We will continue to ensure that the will of the electorate prevails so that political leaders would be reminded at all times that there is a day of reckoning when they have to go back to the people at the polls. Election days must not be days of violence and death. We must remain vigilant to ensure that our electoral process is characterised by peace, security and transparency.
28. I enjoin the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), all security agencies, politicians and the electorate to work conscientiously and peacefully, together, to consolidate on the gains of the recent elections. Free and fair elections have come to stay; nothing else will be acceptable to our people.
29. My dear countrymen and women, occasions such as this present an opportunity to thank God for our country and to report to you, on our journey so far.
30. Our power sector reform is on course with the ultimate objective of generating enough electricity to power our homes, industries and businesses. We are making giant strides in the Agricultural Sector which we are re-positioning to diversify our economy. We will continue to upgrade our infrastructure to make life easier for all and create an enabling environment for enterprise to flourish.
31. Over the last four years, the implementation of the Nigerian Content Act in the Oil and Gas Sector has ensured major increase in the participation of indigenous Oil and Gas companies in the industry. Several critical infrastructure projects have been commissioned and commenced. The level of indigenous asset ownership has greatly increased and utilisation of Nigerian-owned and built assets such as marine vessels and rigs is being progressively enforced.
32. There has been maximised local value addition by encouraging the manufacture of equipment components and parts within the country. There has also been massive growth in indigenous participation in the provision of goods and services to the upstream sector from 10% to 60% within the last four years.
33. Today, following the rebasing of our economy, every international monitoring and ratings agency now acknowledges Nigeria as the largest economy in Africa, with a Gross Domestic Product of five hundred and ten billion dollars ($510 billion) which also places us as the 26th largest economy in the world. This is progress.
34. Earlier in the year, we launched the Nigeria Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) and the National Enterprise Development Programme (NEDEP) with the stated objective of fast tracking inclusive growth, job creation, enterprise development and industrialisation.
35. The success of these policies is already evident in the increased value addition in the agricultural and manufacturing sectors.
36. In line with our objective of encouraging the production of made-in-Nigeria vehicles and making Nigeria a regional hub for the automobile industry, a number of foreign auto manufacturers have established plants in Nigeria, complementing the laudable efforts of our local vehicle manufacturers who have also demonstrated great innovation and competitiveness.
37. We have also launched a special support programme for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises with an initial intervention fund of two hundred and twenty billion naira (N220 b). This is in addition to the Presidential Job Creation Board which I inaugurated recently with the charge to create three million jobs annually.
38. In demonstration of our Administration's commitment to addressing Nigeria's housing deficit, we have commenced the new mortgage re-finance programme with the establishment of the Nigerian Mortgage Re-finance Company. It is expected that, in addition to creating additional housing units across the country, this initiative also represents a huge job creation opportunity.
39. We have recorded notable success in the social sector. Nigeria has been globally acknowledged for reducing extreme hunger by more than half, with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) formally presenting the country with an award for achieving the Millennium Development Goal on Hunger three years ahead of the 2015 target date set for the Millennium Development Goals.
40. This progress is as a result of the deliberate policy of government to increase capacity in our agricultural sector of which the first step was to address and eliminate the graft in our fertilizer procurement system and ensure that the product gets directly to the farmer. We are expanding our irrigation infrastructure to ensure that our farmers have sufficient water supply for dry season farming.
41. A benefit of these combined actions is that our national food import bill has declined from 1.1 trillion naira (6.9 billion dollars) in 2009 to 684.7 billion naira (4.35 billion dollars) by December 2013, and continues to decline.
42. Modern hybrid schools are being provided for less privileged children across the country, resulting in significant increase in the national school enrolment figure
43. In order to further enhance access to education at the tertiary level, fourteen new Federal Universities have been established; and, to encourage persons of exceptional abilities, our Administration has also introduced a Presidential Scholarship Scheme based strictly on excellence and merit.
44. On infrastructure, we are building roads, bridges, and new rail lines to make it easier to traverse Nigeria and increase the integration of our people and our ability to do business with each other. In this regard, we have commenced the process of building the Second Niger Bridge. The Loko-Oweto Bridge over River Benue in Nasarawa and Benue States, will significantly reduce travel time by road between Northern and Southern Nigeria. The on-going dredging of the River Niger up to Baro in Niger State is opening up large parts of the Nigerian hinterland to maritime activity.
45. The Zungeru and Mambilla Hydro-electric power projects are on course, and the Kashimbilla dam which we started a few years ago, is nearing completion. The successful privatisation of our power sector will in the long run enhance industrial growth. Policies such as this and others have raised Nigeria to the enviable status of being the number one recipient of Foreign Direct Investment in Africa in the past year.
46. The result of this infrastructure drive is that two and a half million jobs have been created over the past two years. This is a record, which we are committed to improve upon to continue to provide jobs for our youth.
47. An unprecedented number of Airports across the country, are not only being reconstructed at the same time, but being re-equipped and reassessed with emphasis on maintaining global standards
48. Fellow Nigerians, the goals we set to achieve for our country involve expanding the frontiers of economic freedom. Let us therefore unite with one heart and one mind. All our people must have access to the good things of life. All our people must be empowered to pursue the gift of life with happiness. This is our country; we must build it for our common posterity.
49. As we move into an election year, desperate moves to overheat the polity are becoming a regular occurrence. Our political leaders in particular must know that the contest for power should not translate to the destruction of the polity.
50. The contest for the leadership of our country must yield good governance, and not ungovernable spaces. The love of country should rank higher than our individual ambitions.
51. We must remain committed to a united and indivisible Nigeria within democratic parameters. The protection of individual rights, liberty, equality before the law, freedom of thought, and a progressive pursuit of a sound economy must be our goal.
52. I cannot end this address without commenting on the deadly Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) which was sadly brought into our country recently. My directives to the Federal Ministry of Health saw the ministry leading the charge in curtailing the spread of this deadly scourge and managing its impact. This is how it should be: swift, effective and comprehensive action in defence of citizens.
53. It must be pointed out that the Ebola battle is still raging elsewhere in our sub-region. I therefore enjoin all our citizens to continue to adhere strictly to all the guidelines that have been given by our health officials to keep Ebola out of our country.
54. I appreciate and welcome the spirit of collaboration, unity and partnership with which we confronted the threat of the Ebola Virus Disease. I thank all Nigerians for working together to prevent what could have become a major epidemic. I particularly thank the medical personnel, some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice.
55. This is the spirit which we must demonstrate at all times as we face up to our challenges as a nation: one people, united by a common resolve, in the pursuit of one common national interest.
56. As we look forward to another year in our national life, I am more than confident that our tomorrow will be better than our yesterday and today. Nigeria has got the human and material resources to excel and we shall lead the way in that journey to our manifest destiny.
57. Fellow countrymen, brothers and sisters, in all our plans, and in all our words and our actions, we must stand together in love and unity, as one people under God.
58. We are one people from the womb of one Nigeria. We are brothers and sisters. We are one family. We are Nigerians.
59. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Index Ranks Norway Tops For Well-Being Of Elderly

AP80-year-old Marianne Blomberg works out at a gym in Stockholm. A global index reflecting economic security, health and other factors released Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014 ranks Norway and Sweden with the highest level of well-being for older people.


NEW YORK (ASSOCIATED PRESS) — A global index reflecting economic security, health and other factors — and not deducting for cold winters — ranks Norway and Sweden with the highest level of well-being for older people. Of the 96 nations in the index, Afghanistan ranked last.
The Global AgeWatch Index, released on Tuesday, was compiled by HelpAge International, a London-based nonprofit with affiliates in 65 countries. Its mission is to help older people challenge discrimination, overcome poverty and lead secure, active lives.
The 13 indicators measured in the index include life expectancy, coverage by pension plans, access to public transit, and the poverty rate for people over 60. Scores of countries were not ranked due to lack of data for some of the criteria, but HelpAge said the countries included in the index are home to about 90 percent of the world's 60-plus population.
Switzerland, Canada and Germany joined Norway and Sweden in the top five. The United States was eighth, Japan ninth, China 48th, Russia 65th and India 69th. According to HelpAge, there are now about 868 million people in the world over 60 — nearly 12 percent of the global population. By 2050, that's expected to rise to 2.02 billion, or 21 percent of the total, the group said. In dozens of countries — including most of eastern Europe — the over-60 segment will be more than 30 percent of the population.
HelpAge launched the index in 2013. Among the changes for 2014 were the inclusion of five more countries, and Norway replacing Sweden with the highest ranking. The new report devotes special attention to the issue of pensions and their role in helping older people remain active and self-sufficient. It praised several Latin American nations, including Bolivia, Peru and Mexico, for steps to extend pension coverage even to older people who did not contribute to pension plans when they were younger. Peru's government established a means-tested pension program in 2011 that gives the equivalent of about $90 every two months to older people living in extreme poverty.
According to HelpAge, only half the world's population can expect to receive even a basic pension in old age. It urged governments to move faster to extend pension coverage as their elderly populations swell.
Release of the Index was timed to coincide with the United Nations International Day of Older Persons on Wednesday. Various events were planned in dozens of countries to call on governments and civic institutions to better address the needs of older people.
Online:
http://www.helpage.org/global-agewatch/
Follow David Crary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/CraryAP

Oprah Winfrey, Harry Belafonte Honored By Harvard

Actor, talk show host and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey, center left, and television producer and writer Shonda Rhimes, right, embrace on stage during the W.E.B. Du Bois medal award ceremonies, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, on the campus of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass.


CAMBRIDGE, MASS. (AP) — Oprah Winfrey and performer-activist Harry Belafonte were among those honored at Harvard University on Tuesday at its annual celebration of African American culture.
The university's Hutchins Center for African and African American Research presented its annual W.E.B. Du Bois Medals to eight people at the ceremony, also including British architect David Adjaye, civil rights hero U.S. Rep John Lewis, D-Ga.; "12 Years a Slave" director Steve McQueen, "Grey's Anatomy" and "Scandal" creator Shonda Rhimes and movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
he medal has been awarded since 2000 and is Harvard's highest honor in the field of African and African American Studies. Winfrey also accepted a posthumous award for author and poet Maya Angelou, who she has called a mentor. The billionaire television host, producer and philanthropist said one of her fondest memories of Angelou, who died earlier this year, was sitting at her table and eating biscuits.
Rhimes, creator of hit shows with black female protagonists, said it shouldn't be so unusual, in this day, to expect characters on television shows to "look like the rest of the world." In a recent Associated Press interview about her new ABC show, "How To Get Away With Murder," starring Viola Davis as a criminal lawyer and law professor, Rhimes said "Why did it take somebody black to talk about being black?"
Belafonte recalled his days in the civil rights movement with figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and actor Paul Robeson. Lewis, who was presented a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2010 by President Barack Obama, was introduced Tuesday by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.
Introducing the other honorees were novelist Jamaica Kincaid, Harvard sociologist William Julius Wilson, Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard Graduate School of Design Dean Mohsen Mostafavi, and American Repertory Theater's artistic director Diane Paulus.
Du Bois, a scholar who founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard. Selections from his writings were read at the ceremony.
Artist and activist Harry Belafonte addresses an audience after accepting the W.E.B. Du Bois medal during ceremonies, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, on the campus of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Mass.

Government Confirms First Case Of Ebola In US

Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Tom Frieden speaks during a news conference after confirming that a patient at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has tested positive for Ebola, the first case of the disease to be diagnosed in the United States, announced Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014, in Atlanta. The person, an adult who was not publicly identified, developed symptoms days after returning to Texas from Liberia and showed no symptoms on the plane, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)


DALLAS, TEXAS (AP) — The first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S. was confirmed Tuesday in a patient who recently traveled from Liberia to Dallas — a sign of the far-reaching impact of the out-of-control epidemic in West Africa.
The unidentified man was critically ill and has been in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital since Sunday, federal health officials said. They would not reveal his nationality or age.
Authorities have begun tracking down family and friends who may have had close contact with him and could be at risk for becoming ill. But officials said there are no other suspected cases in Texas.
At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Director Tom Frieden said the man left Liberia on Sept. 19, arrived the next day to visit relatives and started feeling ill four or five days later. He said it was not clear how the patient became infected.
There was no risk to any fellow airline passengers because the man had no symptoms when he was traveling, Frieden said.
Ebola symptoms can include fever, muscle pain, vomiting and bleeding, and can appear as long as 21 days after exposure to the virus. The disease is not contagious until symptoms begin, and it takes close contact with bodily fluids to spread.
"The bottom line here is that I have no doubt we will control this importation, or this case of Ebola, so that it does not spread widely in this country," Frieden told reporters.
"It is certainly possible that someone who had contact with this individual, a family member or other individual, could develop Ebola in the coming weeks," he added. "But there is no doubt in my mind that we will stop it here."
In Washington, President Barack Obama was briefed about the diagnosis in a call from Frieden, the White House said.
Four American aid workers who became infected in West Africa have been flown back to the U.S. for treatment after they became sick. They were cared for in special isolation facilities at hospitals in Atlanta and Nebraska. Three have recovered.
Also, a U.S. doctor exposed to the virus in Sierra Leone is under observation in a similar facility at the National Institutes of Health.
The U.S. has only four such isolation units. Asked whether the Texas patient would be moved to one of those specialty facilities, Frieden said there was no need and virtually any hospital can provide the proper care and infection control.
Dr. Edward Goodman, an epidemiologist at the hospital, said the U.S. was much better prepared to handle the disease than African hospitals, which are often short of doctors, gloves, gowns and masks.
"We don't have those problems. So we're perfectly capable of taking care of this patient with no risk to other people," Goodman said.
After arriving in the U.S. on Sept. 20, the man began to develop symptoms last Wednesday and initially sought care two days later. But he was released. At the time, hospital officials did not know he had been in West Africa. He returned later as his condition worsened.
Blood tests by Texas health officials and the CDC separately confirmed an Ebola diagnosis on Tuesday.
State health officials described the patient as seriously ill. Goodman said he was able to communicate and was hungry.
The hospital is discussing if experimental treatments would be appropriate, Frieden said.
Since the summer months, U.S. health officials have been preparing for the possibility that an individual traveler could unknowingly arrive with the infection. Health authorities have advised hospitals on how to prevent the virus from spreading within their facilities.
People boarding planes in the outbreak zone are checked for fever, but that does not guarantee that an infected person won't get through.
Liberia is one of the three hardest-hit countries in the epidemic, along with Sierra Leone and Guinea.
Ebola is believed to have sickened more than 6,500 people in West Africa, and more than 3,000 deaths have been linked to the disease, according to the World Health Organization. But even those tolls are probably underestimates, partially because there are not enough labs to test people for Ebola.
Two mobile Ebola labs staffed by American naval researchers arrived this weekend and will be operational this week, according to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia. The labs will reduce the amount of time it takes to learn if a patient has Ebola from several days to a few hours.
The U.S. military also delivered equipment to build a field hospital, originally designed to treat troops in combat zones. The 25-bed clinic will be staffed by American health workers and will treat doctors and nurses who have become infected.
The U.S. is planning to build 17 other clinics in Liberia and will help train more health workers to staff them. Britain has promised to help set up 700 treatment beds in Sierra Leone, and its military will build and staff a hospital in that country. France is sending a field hospital and doctors to Guinea.
Neergaard reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia, and Francis Kokutse in Accra, Ghana, contributed to this report.

California Becomes First State To Ban Plastic Bags

 (AP) A large pile of washed-up trash, including old plastic bags, sits alongside the Los Angeles River in Long Beach, Calif. On Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014 Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation on imposing the nation's first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags.


SACRAMENTO, CALIF. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday signed the nation's first statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores, driven to action by pollution in streets and waterways.
A national coalition of plastic bag manufacturers immediately said it would seek a voter referendum to repeal the law, which is scheduled to take effect in July 2015. Under SB270, plastic bags will be phased out of checkout counters at large grocery stores and supermarkets such as Wal-Mart and Target starting next summer, and convenience stores and pharmacies in 2016. The law does not apply to bags used for fruits, vegetables or meats, or to shopping bags used at other retailers. It allows grocers to charge a fee of at least 10 cents for using paper bags.
State Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, credits the momentum for statewide legislation to the more than 100 cities and counties, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, that already have such bans. The law marks a major milestone for environmental activists who have successfully pushed plastic bag bans in cities across the U.S., including Chicago, Austin and Seattle. Hawaii is also on track to have a de-facto statewide ban, with all counties approving prohibitions.
"This bill is a step in the right direction — it reduces the torrent of plastic polluting our beaches, parks and even the vast ocean itself," Brown said in a signing statement. "We're the first to ban these bags, and we won't be the last."
Plastic bag manufacturers have aggressively pushed back through their trade group, the American Progressive Bag Alliance, which aired commercials in California blasting the ban as a cash-giveaway to grocers that would lead to a loss of thousands of manufacturing jobs.
"If this law were allowed to go into effect, it would jeopardize thousands of California manufacturing jobs, hurt the environment and fleece consumers for billions so grocery store shareholders and their union partners can line their pockets," Lee Califf, executive director of the manufacturer trade group, said in a statement.
Padilla, the bill's author, said Californians would reject a referendum effort and quickly adapt their behavior to help the environment. "For those folks concerned about the 10 cent fee that may be charged for paper, the simple elegant solution is to bring a reusable bag to the store," Padilla said.
Shoppers leaving a Ralphs supermarket Tuesday in downtown San Diego were divided as they weighed the legislation's environmental benefits against its costs. San Diego does not ban plastic bags. "With the amount of waste that we produce, we can try to help out by slightly inconveniencing ourselves," said Megan Schenfeld, 29, whose arms were full of groceries in plastic bags after leaving reusable bags at home.
Robert Troxell, a 69-year-old former newspaper editor, said the fees are more than an inconvenience for retirees living on fixed incomes like him. He shops daily because he has only a small refrigerator in his hotel for low-income seniors.
"It becomes a flat tax on senior citizens," said Troxell, who lives off social security and other government assistance. "I have not disagreed with Jerry Brown on anything — until this." The American Forest and Paper Association, a trade group representing paper bag makers, says the bill unfairly penalizes consumers who use their commonly recycled products, while holding reusable plastic bags to a lower standard for recyclable content.
Responding to the concerns about job losses, the bill includes $2 million in loans for plastic bag manufacturers to shift their operations to make reusable bags. That provision won the support of Los Angeles Democratic Sens. Kevin De Leon and Ricardo Lara, who had blocked earlier versions of the legislation.
Lawmakers of both parties who opposed SB270 said it would penalize lower-income residents by charging them for bags they once received for free. The bill was amended to waive fees for customers who are on public assistance and limit how grocers can spend the proceeds from the fees.
Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico also have pending legislation that would ban single-use bags, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Associated Press writer Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to the report.
Follow Fenit Nirappil at www.twitter.com/FenitN .

Monday, September 29, 2014

UN Mission To Combat Ebola Opens HQ In Ghana

APResidents of the St. Paul Bridge neighborhood wearing personal protective equipment take a man suspected of carrying the Ebola virus to the Island Clinic in Monrovia, Liberia, Sunday Sept. 28, 2014. Six months into the world’s worst-ever Ebola outbreak, and the first to happen in an unprepared West Africa, the gap between what has been sent by other countries and private groups and what is desperately needed is huge. Even as countries try to marshal more resources to close the gap, those needs threaten to become much greater, and possibly even insurmountable.


DAKAR, SENEGAL (AP) — The U.N. mission to combat Ebola opened its headquarters on Monday in Ghana, where it will coordinate international aid to assist West Africa to combat the accelerating crisis.
This outbreak has spiraled into the worst ever for Ebola, and the World Health Organization says it is has linked more than 3,000 deaths to the disease. Even that frightening figure is likely an underestimate of the true toll, said WHO. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have been hit hardest. Senegal and Nigeria have also been touched, but have not reported a new case in weeks.
In back-to-back speeches at the United Nations on Monday, the foreign ministers of Liberia and Sierra Leone described the terrible toll Ebola has taken on their efforts to lift their people from poverty and recover from civil wars and pleaded with the international community to continue to sending much-needed aid.
"Only when the number of available beds surpasses the number of cases can we say Ebola is under control," Sierra Leone's Foreign Minister Samura Kamara told the General Assembly. "This is a fight for all of us; we must prove that humanity will be equal to this new challenge to our collective existence."
In the face of such desperate calls, many promises of aid have poured in recently, and some of it has begun to arrive. France promised on Monday to set up another field hospital in Guinea and to send 25 more doctors.
But some say the response is still too slow and haphazard. The United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, also known as UNMEER, is now tasked with figuring out where the greatest needs are and making sure aid gets there, said Christy Feig, director of communications for WHO, which will play a significant role in the mission.
The head of the mission, Anthony Banbury, and his team arrived Monday in Ghana's capital of Accra. The needs of the outbreak have continually outstripped projections: WHO says around 1,500 treatment beds have been built or are in the works, but that still leaves a gap of more than 2,100 beds. Between 1,000 and 2,000 international health care workers are needed, and they and local doctors and nurses will require millions of disposable protective suits to stay safe. Thousands of home hygiene kits are also being flown in to help families protect themselves at home.
Despite massive promises of aid in recent weeks, many areas have grossly inadequate resources. For instance Nimba County, one of the places Ebola has hit hardest in Liberia outside the capital, has only one ambulance, and it is often broken down, the county's medical officer, Collins Bowah, said Monday.
And there remain misunderstandings about the disease that have hindered efforts to slow the disease's spread. On Monday, Sierra Leone's Ebola response task force said it learned "with dismay" of reports of people in some regions — including ones put under quarantine recently — rejoicing that Ebola was over. It warned in a statement that the outbreak is continuing and all measures to contain Ebola, like avoiding public gatherings and frequent hand-washing, should be followed.
Associated Press journalists Chris Den Hond in Paris, Alexandra Olson at the United Nations, Jonathan Paye-Layleh in Monrovia, Liberia, and Clarence Roy-Macaulay in Freetown, Sierra Leone, contributed to this report.