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January, 2015


Indonesian Defense Minister Visits Singapore

World Affairs – Defense
open eyes opinion {source: SG/gov}


Indonesian Defence Minister General (GEN) (Rtd) Ryamizard Ryacudu called on Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen after inspecting a Guard of Honour at the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) this morning.

During Dr Ng’s meeting with GEN (Rtd) Ryamizard, the Ministers reaffirmed the strong and long-standing cooperation and friendship between both Armed Forces and discussed initiatives to further strengthen bilateral defence ties.

GEN (Rtd) Ryamizard, who is in Singapore for an introductory visit from 28 to 30 January 2015, also met with senior MINDEF and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officials.

As part of his visit, GEN (Rtd) Ryamizard will call on Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong later this afternoon.

He will then visit the Information Fusion Centre at the Changi Command and Control Centre, where an international liaison officer from the Indonesian Navy is deployed as part of a multi-national effort to enhance maritime security in our region.

GEN (Rtd) Ryamizard and his wife will also be attending an official dinner hosted by Dr Ng and Mrs Ng tonight.

GEN (Rtd) Ryamizard will call on Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, visit Headquarters Armour at Sungei Gedong Camp, and visit Singapore Technologies Kinetics tomorrow.

GEN (Rtd) Ryamizard’s visit underscores the strong and long-standing defence ties between Singapore and Indonesia.

The SAF and the Indonesian National Defence Forces interact regularly through exercises, visits, professional exchanges, and cross-attendance of courses. These interactions serve to build mutual understanding and enhance the professionalism and camaraderie between the two militaries.

Us Border Patrol Seizes $3.7 Million In Marijuana

News Snippet/US
open eyes opinion {source USCBP}

Border Patrol Seizes $3.7 Million in Marijuana

January 2015
TUCSON, Ariz. – Tucson Sector Border Patrol agents seized three vehicles and more than 7,500 pounds of marijuana in multiple incidents during the past week.

At approximately 6 p.m., Jan. 28, Ajo Station agents observed a black Chevrolet Tahoe in the village of Charco on the Tohono O’odham nation driving without lights. Agents saw the vehicle pull off the road into a thicket and went to investigate. Agents discovered the vehicle abandoned and loaded with more than 788 pounds of marijuana worth approximately $394,000.

Later that evening, Tucson Sector agents responded to a citizen’s call and found an abandoned Suburban near Sil Nakya, Arizona, covered with a tarp and hidden in brush. Inside the vehicle, agents discovered more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana worth in excess of $1 million. Agents found no suspects during a subsequent search of the area.

On Jan. 23, following a citizen’s report, Nogales Border Patrol agents and the Nogales Police Department responded to Citizen’s Express Line Warehouse in Nogales to investigate a discrepancy in a manifest and cargo. The investigation led to the confiscation of 4,220 pounds of marijuana. NPD took custody of the narcotics, worth approximately $2.1 million.

On Jan. 21, agents followed a Ford pickup truck near the Village of Newfield, Arizona, after it turned down a road paralleling the border. When vehicle’s two occupants realized the Border Patrol was closing in, they bailed out of the vehicle and absconded on foot into Mexico. The truck contained more than 500 pounds of marijuana worth approximately $256,000.

Agents seized all vehicles, in accordance with Tucson Sector Guidelines. The Drug Enforcement Administration is taking possession of the marijuana

US Department Of Defense Creates New Agency To Account for POW/MIA

News Snippet

open eyes opinion {source: US-DOD}


 Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Becomes Operational

The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) and the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) officially merge into the newly established Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.

In March 2014, Secretary of Defense Hagel directed the department to reorganize efforts into a single, accountable organization with comprehensive oversight of the past conflict personnel accounting resources, research, and operations.

The new agency combines DPMO, JPAC, and select functions of the U.S. Air Force’s Life Sciences Equipment Laboratory (LSEL).

“Today marks an important step in establishing the new agency and the continued commitment to the families of service members who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and remain unaccounted for,” said Christine E. Wormuth, undersecretary of defense for policy.

On Jan. 9 the secretary announced Rear Adm. Mike Franken as the interim director of the agency, Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague as the interim deputy, and Lt. Gen. Mike Linnington as the senior advisor.

They will lead the agency into this phase of the consolidation process and are committed to fulfilling our obligation to the families who have lost a loved one and providing the answers they deserve, while increasing identification capacity.

Norwegian Cruise Line Opens New Sales Office In Brazil

World Travel-Cruise Lines
open eyes opinion {source: Norwegian Cruise Line}

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings LTD. Opens Sales Office In Brazil

Company’s three brands to be represented in growing South America market

Miami   –    Jan 2015  

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (Nasdaq: NCLH) announced today the expansion of its sales presence in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with the establishment of a sales, marketing and reservations center to support the growing demand for cruise travel in the region.

The company’s three lines: Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises have all experienced growth in the number of Brazilian guests that have chosen to take a cruise vacation, particularly in Europe, Alaska and Caribbean itineraries. “Given its economic growth and the increasing interest of Brazilians to experience the world by taking a cruise, Brazil represents a significant opportunity to advance Norwegian Cruise Line Holding’s international growth strategy,” said Andy Stuart, executive vice president of international sales for Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. has acquired Firstar Representacoes, the local representative for Norwegian Cruise Line and Oceania Cruises in Brazil. Estela Farina will lead the new office as general manager. The company will have its main office in Sao Paulo and a satellite office in Rio de Janeiro.

The new office provides multiple benefits for local travel partners. For Norwegian Cruise Line bookings, these include the ability to offer cruise fares in BRL (Brazilian Reais), accept payment in up to ten installments with no financing fees and an on-line booking engine in Portuguese. For Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Sea Cruises bookings, the sales center will allow guests to pay in up to four installments with no financing fees.

The office will also offer local reservations, sales and marketing support for all three brands, providing direct access to travel partners and consumers. The local reservation center will be available to make reservations in real time and invoice directly from the cruise line. Additionally, individual travel agency sales will be recorded and recognized for performance and compensation based on production. Finally, travel partners will continue to be provided training opportunities, now on a more regular basis and directly by Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd staff.

Travel partners in Brazil can contact the new Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. office at 011 3253 7203 in Sao Paulo and 021 3553 7646 in Rio.

About Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. (Nasdaq: NCLH) is a diversified cruise operator of leading global cruise lines spanning market segments from contemporary to luxury under the Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises brands. These brands operate a combined 21 ships with approximately 40,000 lower berths visiting more than 430 destinations worldwide. The company’s brands will introduce six new ships through 2019.

Norwegian Cruise Line is the innovator in cruise travel with a history of breaking the boundaries of traditional cruising, most notably with the introduction of Freestyle Cruising, which revolutionized the industry by giving guests more freedom and flexibility on the most contemporary ships at sea.

Oceania Cruises is the market leader in the upper-premium cruise segment featuring the finest cuisine at sea, gourmet culinary experiences, elegant accommodations, impeccable service and destination-driven itineraries. Regent Seven Seas Cruises is the market leader in the luxury cruise segment with all-suite accommodations, highly personalized service and the industry’s most inclusive luxury experience featuring round-trip air, fine wines and spirits and unlimited shore excursions among its numerous included amenities.

Korean Government To Concentrate On Vitalizing Creative Industries

World Trade-Korea
open eyes opinion {source: koreaGov}

Korean Government to focus on strengthening creative industries in 2015

The Korean government will concentrate on vitalizing the creative industries in order to help the economy make a big leap forward this year.

Five government organizations announced their plans to realize their creative economy vision for 2015 at a policy briefing on January 15. The gathered organizations included the Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning and that of Trade, Industry and Energy.

The Ministry of Science, ICT & Future Planning (MSIP) will open an additional 17 Centers for Creative Economy & Innovation (CCEI) within the year. Minister Choi Yanghee of the MSIP said, “When the 17 new CCEIs open this year, we will strive to help them share information and knowhow among the centers.”

In this regard, President Park Geun-hye said, “The center should provide one-stop service, ranging from business support and suggestions on how to attract investment all the way to helping penetrate overseas markets, and should be open to anyone who visits there with ideas.”

“The government needs to take an interest in improving and supporting the centers after all the CCEIs open so that they can perfectly take root,” said President Park, emphasizing the support and cooperation among related government organizations.

In regard to ICT and the video game industry, the science ministry will create a Creative Economy Valley (CEV) in Pangyo, Gyeonggi-do (Gyeonggi Province), where many IT and games businesses can locate. The CEV will be equipped with necessary facilities and a support center in order to help those who wish to start small businesses or venture startups. It will also facilitate information-sharing among startups and offer business infrastructure support services to them.

The government will also extend support to those with a higher education who wish to start a business. The Small and Medium Business Administration will create a “high tech campus for business starters” and provide support of up to KRW 1 billion over the next three years for each of the selected teams. The planned campus will be located along Teheran-ro in Gangnam-gu (district), southern Seoul. It will open in June this year and some 170 startups will then move in.

In order to boost the competitiveness of IT in the financial sector, the government will strengthen its support. The Financial Services Commission (FSC) will establish a support center for “fintech,” a created word made from “financial” and “technology,” in cooperation with the CCEIs. The FSC will also supply a total of KRW 180 trillion to support industries with good growth potential, such as the software and content sectors. It will also earmark KRW 200 billion to incubate fintech companies in cooperation with state financial bodies, such as the Korea Development Bank.

President Park Geun-hye emphasizes measures to boost the creative industries at a policy briefing on January 15.

The government will also provide extended support to enterprises that enter overseas markets. The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy will establish a “China Desk” at the Korea International Trade Association and provide support, including managing place of origin documents, and exploring markets for export, all to help firms enter the mainland Chinese market.

The ministry has set the goal of exporting more than USD 600 billion worth of goods this year, up from last year’s USD 573.1 billion. It also hopes foreign investment will reach USD 20 billion, and it aims to help more Korean firms continue their business overseas.

Finally, changes will follow in the broadcasting and content sectors, too. The Korea Communication Commission (KCC) will introduce a new advertisement organization system under which broadcasters can choose the type, length and number of ads. Rules on indirect and virtual advertisements will be also eased. Starting this January, the KCC will operate a pilot service of multi-channel broadcasting at Education Broadcasting System (EBS) by securing educational programs for elementary schools and middle schools and English education programs.

USITC Is investigating Economic Effects of Trade Policy with Cuba

World Trade-US/Cuba
open eyes opinion {source: USITC}


The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) has launched an investigation to examine the economic effects on exports of U.S. goods and services, including digitally traded goods and services, of statutory and administrative restrictions related to trade with and travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens.

The investigation, Overview of Cuban Imports of Goods and Services and Effects of U.S. Restrictions, was requested by the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance in a letter received on December 17, 2014.

As requested, the USITC, an independent, nonpartisan, factfinding federal agency, will provide an overview of recent and current trends in Cuban imports of goods and services, including from the United States, and an analysis of U.S. restrictions affecting such purchases, including restrictions on U.S. citizen travel to Cuba.

The USITC report will include:

1.) An overview of Cuba’s imports of goods and services from, to the extent possible, 2005 to the present, including identification of major supplying countries, products, and market segments

2.) A description of how U.S. restrictions on trade, including those relating to export financing terms and travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens, affect Cuban imports of U.S. goods and services;

3.) And, for sectors where the impact is likely to be significant, a qualitative and, to the extent possible, quantitative estimate of U.S. exports of goods and services to Cuba, in the event that statutory, regulatory, or other trade restrictions on U.S. exports of goods and services as well as travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens are lifted.

The report will also include, to the extent possible, state-specific analysis of the impacts described above.

The USITC will deliver the report to the Committee by September 15, 2015.

The USITC will hold a public hearing in connection with the investigation on March 24, 2015. Requests to appear at the hearing should be filed no later than 5:15 p.m. on March 10, 2015, with the Secretary, U.S. International Trade Commission, 500 E Street, SW, Washington, DC 20436. For further information, call 202-205-2000.

The USITC also welcomes written submissions for the record. Written submissions should be addressed to the Secretary of the Commission at the above address and should be submitted at the earliest practical date, but no later than 5:15 p.m. on April 15, 2015. All written submissions, except for confidential business information, will be available for public inspection.

Further information on the scope of this investigation and appropriate submissions is available in the USITC’s notice of investigation, dated January 29, 2015, which can be obtained from the USITC Internet site ( or by contacting the Office of the Secretary at the above address or at 202-205-2000.

USITC general factfinding investigations cover matters related to tariffs or trade and are generally conducted at the request of the U.S. Trade Representative, the House Committee on Ways and Means, or the Senate Committee on Finance. The resulting reports convey the Commission’s objective findings and independent analyses on the subjects investigated.

The Commission makes no recommendations on policy or other matters in its general factfinding reports. Upon completion of each investigation, the USITC submits its findings and analyses to the requester. General factfinding investigation reports are subsequently released to the public unless they are classified by the requester for national security reasons.

Malaysian Coastal Tanker Recovered By Maritime Enforcement Agency

World Trade-Maritime/Malaysia
open eyes opinion {source:IMB/ICC}

Malaysian authorities recover hijacked tanker and arrest pirates

Friday, 30 January 2015

A hijacked Malaysian coastal tanker has been recovered by the prompt actions of the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (MMEA) off the coast of Malaysia.

The owners of the Malaysian tanker lost contact with the tanker at 2200 hours on 28 January 2015.

The tanker, with ten crew members on board and carrying 700 metric tonnes of marine fuel oil was off Tanjung Ayam at the Southern entrance to the South China Sea.

Fearing that the vessel may have been hijacked, MMEA requested the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre to track and provide the position of the vessel.

MMEA then deployed a number of vessels in the area and finally located the tanker, in the South China Sea about 35 nautical miles north east of the location of the hijack.

The vessel was then under control of nine pirates.

Further to an engagement by the MMEA, at 2300 hours on 29 January 2015, seven of the pirates were arrested. Two of them jumped overboard.

The IMB PRC sent out a broadcast to all ships to lookout and rescue the two pirates.  Another merchant vessel subsequently picked the pirates and handed them over to the MMEA.

The crew of the hijacked tanker were rescued and reported unhurt. The vessel is proceeding to a safe destination for further investigations.

Since April 2014 there have been 16 vessels hijacked in South East Asia of which eleven vessels were coastal product tankers hijacked in the Southern approaches to the South China Sea.

“We commend the Malaysian authorities for their immediate response to the reported hijacking. The arrest of all the pirates involved is exactly the kind of response needed to bring this crime under control”, said an IMB spokesperson.

Philippine President Aquino proclaims National Day Of Mourning

World Affairs-Philippines
open eyes opinion {source: philippine/Gov}

President Aquino proclaims Friday January 30, 2015 a national day of mourning.

By virtue of Proclamation No. 953, s. 2015, this Friday, January 30, 2015, has been declared a national day of mourning.
All public institutions and military installations are instructed to lower the Philippine flag to half-mast in honor of the 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force that fell during an armed encounter in Maguindanao last Sunday, as well as a sign of solidarity with their families.
The necrological service will be led by President Benigno S. Aquino III on the national day of mourning. It will be held at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig, at 10:00 a.m.

The remains of the members of the PNP Special Action Force arrived Thursday morning at Villamor Air Base in caskets draped with the Philippine flag.

This was done in recognition of and to honor their service to the nation.
We invite private institutions and the general public to pay their respects to the honored dead by joining us in displaying the national flag appropriately.


National Address of His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III

President of the Philippines
On the incident at Mamasapano, Maguindanao
[This is the English translation of the speech delivered in Malacañan Palace on January 28, 2015]
I stand before you today to report on what we know about the incident in Mamasapano, Maguindanao, last Saturday and Sunday. I do this not because I wish to preempt the board of inquiry tasked to uncover the entire truth, but because you have a right to know what we know at this point.

On Saturday, January 24, a group composed of members of our Philippine National Police’s Special Action Force headed to Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Their mission was to serve outstanding arrest warrants to two notorious terrorists who have long been pursued by authorities, namely Abdulbasit Usman and Zulkipli Bin Hir, alias Abu Marwan. According to the most recent report of the NDRRMC, 44 of our policemen died in the process of fulfilling their duties, while 16 others were injured, including 3 civilians.

As President and as father of this country, I am greatly saddened that our policemen had to lay down their lives for this mission. Without question, these people are heroes; they who willingly put themselves in danger to address threats to our security; they who were wounded; they who gave their lives in the name of peace. To honor those who perished, I am declaring a National Day of Mourning to symbolize the sorrow and empathy of our entire country.

Marwan and Usman are not common criminals. There is a long string of outstanding warrants for their arrest. There are no less than 8 outstanding warrants against Usman alone, while there are no less than 2 for Marwan. One of the earliest warrants was issued in 2002, which means that they were already being pursued when I was a member of Congress. Allow me to clarify: When a warrant is issued against an individual, all officers of the law are obligated to serve it. This is precisely why, since long ago, our security sector, including the AFP, PNP, and NBI, has undertaken multiple operations to capture Marwan, Usman, and other terrorists.

These agencies are not always required to obtain my approval for each and every one of their operations, because it would be impractical for them to wait for my clearance before proceeding. My duty: to make certain that they are carrying out their responsibilities. There are times when certain matters are elevated to my desk so that I may give guidance, give a more holistic view of the situation, or explain its wider implications.

A few examples of this are: our response to rogue MNLF elements in Zamboanga, the capture of individuals high on our list of Most Wanted Persons, and the assault on our peacekeepers in Golan Heights. In the Golan Heights case, the decision of whether or not to depart could not simply be left to our battalion commander there. As the person primarily responsible for foreign relations, I had to be consulted to make certain that we are likewise upholding our obligations to the United Nations.

Marwan is part of the Central Committee of the Jemaah Islamiya, which was responsible for the Bali bombing in Indonesia. In this incident, two consecutive blasts occurred, which meant that first responders and individuals who had not left the area were also affected. 202 people died, and Marwan was a suspect in this case. In Cagayan de Oro in 2012, Marwan attempted to replicate this modus; the second bomb did not explode, as it was discovered ahead of time, yet 2 people still died as a result of this incident.

There are allegations that, in 2006, Marwan, along with Umbra Kato, led a plot to plant a bomb to assassinate then-Governor of Maguindanao, Andal Ampatuan. Marwan’s membership in international terrorist networks means that he has the capacity to acquire the knowledge, the equipment, the funding, and the necessary safe havens for his fellow terrorists. This is why he was considered the primary target of the operation. Usman, on the other hand, is connected to nine bombing incidents in Mindanao. He is the primary accused in the bombing in General Santos City in 2002, in which 15 people died, and 60 were injured.

Together with another terrorist named Mawiyah, Marwan and Usman committed several acts of terrorism in various parts of Mindanao. They are also both known bomb-making trainers. There are reports that they run factories of improvised explosive devices, which they sell to fellow terrorists. They have injured and killed many people, and they continue to threaten the safety of our citizens as long as they roam free.

I emphasize: It is stated in Article II, Section 4 of our Constitution that “The primary duty of government is to serve and protect the people.” This is why, when our police force uncovered the precise location of Marwan and Usman, they decided to take action and serve the warrants of the two individuals. Our authorities gathered actionable intelligence. They found not just the region, the province, or the municipality, but the very house in which the two were hiding. Not acting on this knowledge would make it possible for Marwan and Usman to escape, which would mean that the long process of gathering information would have to start all over again.

It was past 4 in the morning when the SAF reached the stronghold in which Marwan and Usman were hiding. In the encounter that followed, the primary target, Marwan, was allegedly killed. Upon hearing the gunshots, Usman and his cohorts fought back. There were also non-combatants spotted in the houses in which Marwan and Usman were located; it was necessary for our forces to close the distance to avoid involving the innocent. Marwan’s house was the first attacked; Usman responded, and the element of surprise, which was necessary to avoid detection, was lost. This is why the SAF decided to withdraw and rendezvous with their companions, who were securing their exit route from the area where the encounter occurred. It appears that it was during this withdrawal when the bloodiest part of the clash happened.

Like so many others, I have many questions surrounding the incident, and I expect the board of inquiry to uncover the truth behind this incident. In the briefings the PNP gave me about the continuing operations against Marwan and Usman, I repeated countless times the need for proper, sufficient, and timely coordination. The terrain covered by this operation is complicated: muddy, with swampland, and there is even the need for our SAF to cross a river to reach their destination. There are also many other forces scattered in the area: the BIFF, MILF, and even a Private Armed Group. Even if the MILF and BIFF now constitute two different groups, many of them are related by blood or by affinity. Strangers cannot just enter their territory. Our troops needed to enter quietly and carefully; otherwise, their targets may have been alerted.

It is precisely because the forces of the SAF were much smaller than the surrounding numbers who could intervene that it was important for the Armed Forces to be ready to position their troops, resources, and equipment like cannons or artillery, should our police require support. They needed sufficient notice to place their troops where they would be of greatest assistance. In these kinds of encounters, had the assistance of the Armed Forces been necessary, they would not have been able to mobilize and arrive at a moment’s notice, especially because the members of the 6th Infantry Division, who were nearest to the action, have other duties.

To my repeated reminders about the necessity of coordination, the director of the SAF answered, “Yes Sir.” All that he said was that operational security, or the restriction of information only to those who needed to know, was likewise necessary. Even then, I underscored the need to alert other branches, or their respective heads; the notification must come at the appropriate time, with complete information, for them to make the necessary preparations.

I wonder: how and why could it have happened that the notification of the AFP battalions close to the operation only came close to the time of jump-off, or even after our forces had already jumped-off? The problem there was that the soldiers who were members of the battalion assigned to guard the main supply routes to this location were scattered in different areas. In simple language, the notification to the AFP came too close to the time of the encounter, thus making it difficult to determine if they were given enough time to prepare, had their assistance been necessary. If my order to ensure sufficient coordination had been complied with, then perhaps it was pushed to the limit, resulting in very minimum compliance. In fact, I was surprised to learn that the heads of the Western Mindanao Command, or even of the 6th Infantry Division, had only been advised after the first encounter involving Marwan and Usman; the SAF forces were already retreating, and the situation had already became problematic.

Now, on the MILF: We have already made such great strides because we trusted one another. We have already proven that we can work together: in 2014, a Japanese national was rescued in Maguindanao; in that same year, we were able to prevent the explosion of a bomb in Maguindanao. I have also read the statement of Chairman Al Haj Murad about the Mamapasano incident; the MILF’s formation of a Special Investigative Commission in order to determine the details of the incident constitutes a good first step. I am hopeful that the MILF will show, in the soonest possible time, even more concrete evidence of their solidarity in the pursuit of peace, towards the pursuit of truth, and the accountability of those responsible.

Let us also avoid spreading rumors and fueling speculation about the incident. The Bible itself says: The truth shall set us free. There is already a board of inquiry assigned to uncover the whole truth. Let us wait for the results of their findings.

We have already come such a long way in our quest to realize the peace that we have long desired for Muslim Mindanao. All sides exhibited great trust to reach this point. The incident in Mampasano has already given rise to those who want to take advantage of this tragedy to undermine that trust; they wish to derail the peace process. There are even some already calling for a halt to the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law in the House of Representatives and the Senate.

This should not happen. The success of the entire peace process is contingent on this law. If this law is kept from being passed at the soonest possible time, the peace process will be derailed; the status quo will remain. If that happens, we cannot hope for anything but the same results: Citizens who take to the mountains after losing hope; individuals kept from gaining justice who instead choose to exact violence on their fellowmen. It would be as if we helped Marwan and Usman to reach their goals. Do we want to return to the point when communities are ready, at a moment’s notice, to flee to evacuation centers, because of the threat of an encounter? If this were to happen, who would benefit? If the peace process were derailed, how many more graves would we have to dig? How many more children will idolize Marwan; how many will want to grow up to be Usman; how many engineers will choose to build bombs rather than buildings?

Let us also remember: The members of the SAF lost their lives while fulfilling their duty to maintain the peace. If the peace process fails, if we return to the status quo, or if the violence were to worsen, is this not the exact opposite of the cause to which they gave their lives?
Is it not true: In facing this challenge, in order to realize peace, should we not link arms more tightly, and pursue with greater determination the next steps in the process, like passing the BBL; forming the Bangsamoro Transition Authority; widening opportunities for all; and correcting a political system where a few benefit to the detriment of the majority of our countrymen?

To the families of the SAF members who perished: I fully sympathize with your grief. I know that this grief may be accompanied by worries about your future, especially if your loved ones who sacrificed their lives were also your breadwinners. I guarantee: The state will give the maximum assistance it can, within the limits of the laws and rules. On this occasion, I also take the opportunity to appeal to the public: If possible let us extend our utmost support to the bereaved, and maximize the help we can give to the families of those who fell, in recognition of the valor of these heroes who gave their lives for the realization of the peace we have long desired.

In the face of our grief, in the face of the desire of some to exact revenge, in the face of the threats to destroy the trust we have forged over such a long period of time, today, our ability to show compassion to our fellowmen faces a great test. This is why, to all of my countrymen who desire peace, from lawmakers, to the members of the uniformed forces, to the leaders of the MILF, to our countrymen in the Bangsamoro, and to every decent Filipino: Let us show what heights a country united by a single aspiration can reach. Let us ensure that the ultimate sacrifice made by some members of the SAF does not go to waste. We will gain justice, in time, through the right processes, and without letting go of our dreams to realize a widespread and lasting peace.
Thank you, and good evening to us all.

Australian Dave Brown Receives Prestigious International Award

World Affairs-The Arts
open eyes opinion {source: Australia/Gov}

29 January 2015

Australia Council for the Arts Chief Executive Officer Tony Grybowski has congratulated Patch Theatre Artistic Director Dave Brown on winning one of the most prestigious honours for youth arts – the Mickey Miners Lifetime Achievement Award.

The award was presented to Mr Brown on Sunday at the renowned International Performing Arts for Youth Showcase in Philadelphia.

“We are absolutely delighted that Dave Brown has received this year’s Mickey Miners Lifetime Achievement Award ,” Mr Grybowski said.

“This is a very prestigious award, given to a person who has made a significant impact on the field of the performing arts for young audiences, and it is the first time an Australian has received this honour.

“The Australia Council supports a number of youth arts organisations and we are proud to support Patch Theatre, based in Adelaide.

“Mr Brown has been at the helm of excellent productions for children during his time as Artistic Director, and earned the admiration of his peers both in Australia and internationally.

“On behalf of the Australia Council I congratulate Dave Brown for being recognised by the International Performing Arts for Youth as one of Australia’s international trailblazers and leaders.”

The Mickey Miners Lifetime Achievement Award is named after the former Curator of Performing Arts for Children at the Detroit Institute of the Arts.

It is given annually and past recipients include Mary Rose Lloyd, Saskia Janse, Onny Huisink and Jim Morrow.

The Cost Of War

World Affairs-The Cost of War
open eyes opinion {source: Mercatus Center}

A Report by Veronique de Rugy- Senior Research Fellow – Mercatus Center

Wars in the Middle East Have Cost Taxpayers Almost $1.7 Trillion

A recent report from the Congressional Research Service, which examines the cost of Iraq, Afghanistan, and other global “War on Terror” operations since 9/11, calculates a cumulative (fiscal year 2001 through fiscal year 2014) nominal price tag of $1.6 trillion.

Adding the war funding for fiscal year 2015 that was passed in December pushes the total to almost $1.7 trillion.
When it comes to funding national defense, policymakers tend to ignore war costs so an accurate assessment on the burden on taxpayer of overseas military ventures is increasingly important as pressure mounts to increase the Pentagon’s regular “base” budget.

Read Report…..

Statistical Reporting- Best Practices Are Outlined By The UNSD

World Affairs-World Statistics
open eyes opinion {source: UNSD}

The global populace is inundated with statistical reports.

For the most part, the general population is lacking resources
to investigate the validity of the statistics being reported.

I approach my statistical reading with a little skepticism, especially
if I think it is being driven by a political agenda.

I am under the impression that you can find faults in almost any set of
statistics by finding flaws in the procedures used to compile the data.

The United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) has set forth a set
of principles that is a guideline for Good/Best practices.




See outline below:

Bearing in mind that statistics are essential for sustainable economic, environmental and social development and that public trust in official statistics is anchored in professional independence and impartiality of statisticians, their use of scientific and transparent methods and equal access for all to official statistical information, the Chief Statisticians or coordinators of statistical activities of United Nations agencies and related organizations, agree that implementation of the following principles will enhance the functioning of the international statistical system.

In doing so, they note the endorsement of these principles by the Committee for the Coordination of Statistical Activities on 14 September, 2005; they further recall the adoption by the United Nations Statistical Commission of the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics in its Special Session of 11-15 April 1994, and the endorsement of the Declaration of Good Practices in Technical Cooperation in Statistics in its 30th Session of 1-5 March 1999.
High quality international statistics, accessible for all, are a fundamental element of global information systems
Good practices include:
Having regular consultations with key users both inside and outside the relevant organisation to ascertain that their needs are met
Periodic review of statistical programmes to ensure their relevance
Compiling and disseminating international statistics based on impartiality
Providing equal access to statistics for all users
Ensuring free public accessibility of key statistics

To maintain the trust in international statistics, their production is to be impartial and strictly based on the highest professional standards
Good practices include:
Using strictly professional considerations for decisions on methodology, terminology and data presentation
Developing and using professional codes of conduct
Making a clear distinction, in statistical publications, between statistical and analytical comments on the one hand and policy-prescriptive and advocacy comments on the other.

The public has a right to be informed about the mandates for the statistical work of the organisations
Good practices include:
Making decisions about statistical work programmes publicly available
Making documents for and reports of statistical meetings publicly available

Concepts, definitions, classifications, sources, methods and procedures employed in the production of international statistics are chosen to meet professional scientific standards and are made transparent for the users
Good practices include:
Aiming continuously to introduce methodological improvements and systems to manage and improve the quality and transparency of statistics
Enhancing the professional level of staff by encouraging them to attend training courses, to do analytical work, to publish scientific papers and to participate in seminars and conferences.
Documenting the concepts, definitions and classifications, as well as data collection and processing procedures used and the quality assessments carried out and making this information publicly accessible
Documenting how data are collected, processed and disseminated, including information about editing mechanisms applied to country data
Giving credit, in the dissemination of international statistics, to the original source and using agreed quotation standards when re-using statistics originally collected by others
Making officially agreed standards publicly available

Sources and methods for data collection are appropriately chosen to ensure timeliness and other aspects of quality, to be cost-efficient and to minimise the reporting burden for data providers
Good practices include:
Facilitating the provision of data by countries
Working systematically on the improvement of the timeliness of international statistics
Periodic review of statistical programmes to minimise the burden on data providers
Sharing collected data with other organisations and collecting data jointly where appropriate
Contributing to an integrated presentation of statistical programmes, including data collection plans, thereby making gaps or overlaps clearly visible
Ensuring that national statistical offices and other national organisations for official statistics are duly involved and advocating that the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics are applied when data are collected in countries

Individual data collected about natural persons and legal entities, or about small aggregates that are subject to national confidentiality rules, are to be kept strictly confidential and are to be used exclusively for statistical purposes or for purposes mandated by legislation
Good practices include:
Putting measures in place to prevent the direct or indirect disclosure of data on persons, households, businesses and other individual respondents
Developing a framework describing methods and procedures to provide sets of anonymous micro-data for further analysis by bona fide researchers, maintaining the requirements of confidentiality

Erroneous interpretation and misuse of statistics are to be immediately appropriately addressed
Good practices include:
Responding to perceived erroneous interpretation and misuse of statistics
Enhancing the use of statistics by developing educational material for important user groups

Standards for national and international statistics are to be developed on the basis of sound professional criteria, while also meeting the test of practical utility and feasibility
Good practices include:
Systematically involving national statistical offices and other national organisations for official statistics in the development of international statistical programmes, including the development and promulgation of methods, standards and good practices
Ensuring that decisions on such standards are free from conflicts of interest, and are perceived to be so
Advising countries on implementation issues concerning international standards
Monitoring the implementation of agreed standards

Coordination of international statistical programmes is essential to strengthen the quality, coherence and governance of international statistics, and avoiding duplication of work

Good practices include:

Designating one or more statistical units to implement statistical programmes, including one unit that coordinates the statistical work of the organisation and represents the organisation in international statistical meetings
Participating in international statistical meetings and bilateral and multilateral consultations whenever necessary
Working systematically towards agreements about common concepts, classifications, standards and methods
Working systematically towards agreement on which series to consider as authoritative for each important set of statistics
Coordinating technical cooperation activities with countries between donors and between different organisations in the national statistical system to avoid duplication of effort and to encourage complementarities and synergy

Bilateral and multilateral cooperation in statistics contribute to the professional growth of the statisticians involved and to the improvement of statistics in the organisations and in countries
Good practices include:
Cooperating and sharing knowledge among international organisations and with countries and regions to further develop national and regional statistical systems.
Basing cooperation projects on user requirements, promoting full participation of the main stakeholders, taking account of local circumstances and stage of statistical development
Empowering recipient national statistical systems and governments to take the lead
Advocating the implementation of the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics in countries
Setting cooperation projects within a balanced overall strategic framework for national development of official statistics

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-CDC Update

World Affairs-World Health
open eyes opinion {source: CDC}

Update on the Epidemiology of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) Infection, and Guidance for the Public, Clinicians, and Public Health Authorities — January 2015

January 30, 2015 / 64(03);61-62
Brian Rha, MD1, Jessica Rudd, MPH1, Daniel Feikin, MD1, John Watson, MD1, Aaron T. Curns, MPH1, David L. Swerdlow, MD2, Mark A. Pallansch, PhD1, Susan I. Gerber, MD1 (Author affiliations at end of text)

CDC continues to work with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners to closely monitor Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infections globally and to better understand the risks to public health.

The purpose of this report is to provide a brief update on MERS-CoV epidemiology and to notify health care providers, public health officials, and others to maintain awareness of the need to consider MERS-CoV infection in persons who have recently traveled from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula.*

MERS-CoV was first identified and reported to WHO in September 2012 (1). As of January 23, 2015, WHO has confirmed 956 laboratory-confirmed† cases of MERS-CoV infection, which include at least 351 deaths. All reported cases have been directly or indirectly linked through travel or residence to nine countries: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Jordan, Oman, Kuwait, Yemen, Lebanon, and Iran.

In the United States, two patients tested positive for MERS-CoV in May 2014, each of whom had a history of fever and one or more respiratory symptoms after recent travel from Saudi Arabia (2). No further cases have been reported in the United States despite nationwide surveillance and the testing of 514 patients from 45 states to date.

The majority (504) of the 956 MERS cases were reported to have occurred during March–May 2014 (Figure). However, WHO continues to receive reports of MERS cases, mostly from Saudi Arabia.§ From August 1, 2014, through January 23, 2015, WHO confirmed 102 cases, 97 of which occurred in persons with residence in Saudi Arabia, including three travel-associated cases reported by Austria, Turkey, and Jordan; of the remaining cases, two cases were in persons from Qatar, and three cases were in persons from Oman.

CDC continues to recommend that U.S. travelers to countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including MERS, by washing their hands often and avoiding contact with persons who are ill.

If travelers to the region have onset of fever and symptoms of respiratory illness during their trip or within 14 days of returning to the United States, they should seek medical care. They should call ahead to inform their health care provider of their recent travel so that appropriate isolation measures can be taken in health care settings.

Health care providers and health departments throughout the United States should continue to consider a diagnosis of MERS-CoV infection in persons who develop fever and respiratory symptoms within 14 days after traveling from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula, and be prepared to detect and manage cases of MERS.

Recommendations might change and be updated as additional data become available. More detailed travel recommendations related to MERS, including general precautions posted by WHO for anyone visiting farms, markets, barns, or other places where animals are present, are available at
The website also lists more specific WHO recommendations for persons with diabetes, kidney failure, or chronic lung disease, and immunocompromised persons, that include avoiding contact with camels.¶

Guidance on the evaluation of patients for MERS-CoV infection, infection control, home care and isolation, and clinical specimen collection and testing is available on the CDC MERS website

Treatment is supportive; no specific treatment for MERS-CoV infection is available. WHO has posted guidance for clinical management of MERS patients at
1Division of Viral Diseases, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, CDC; 2Office of the Director, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, CDC (Corresponding author: Brian Rha,, 404-639-3972)

1. Zaki AM, van Boheemen S, Bestebroer TM, Osterhaus AD, Fouchier RA. Isolation of a novel coronavirus from a man with pneumonia in Saudi Arabia. N Engl J Med 2012;367:1814–20.
2. Bialek SR, Allen D, Alvarado-Ramy F, et al. First confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection in the United States, updated information on the epidemiology of MERS-CoV infection, and guidance for the public, clinicians, and public health authorities—May 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2014;63:431–6.