Main Menu

April, 2015

 

Air Canada Is The First Foreign Airline To Offer Passengers From The U.S. TSA Pre-Check

World Travel – Airlines

Open Eyes Opinion {source: Air Canada}

Air Canada First Foreign Airline to Offer Customers the Ease and Convenience of TSA Pre-Check Program at U.S. Airports

Customers to uniquely benefit from fast-track security clearance, extended mobile check-in

MONTREAL, April 30, 2015 /CNW Telbec/ – Air Canada customers travelling from the U.S. can now obtain electronic boarding passes at U.S. airports, not only making check-in and boarding simpler but also giving them easier access to the TSA Pre✓™ program. AirCanada is the only foreign airline qualified for pre-check, which uses features such as dedicated lanes and less intrusive search measures to make it easier for pre-approved travellers to pass through security.

“Air Canada is pleased to now offer customers the convenience of mobile check-in and e-boarding passes at U.S. airports we serve. This will also make it easier for eligible customers to access the TSA Pre✓™ program, a welcome smart security initiative that saves time and avoids cumbersome requirements such as removing shoes and belts,” said Benjamin Smith, President, Passenger Airlines at Air Canada. “For frequent business travellers TSA Pre✓™ is attractive because many already have Nexus or other recognized security documents to qualify. As the only foreign airline approved for TSA Pre✓™, it is another way Air Canada is distinguishing itself in the transborder business market, including by being the only Canadian carrier to offer Business Class, Maple Leaf Lounges at major airports, the Altitude loyalty program and fully-lie flat seats on select long-haul routes with our new Business Class -Transcontinental service.”

Electronic boarding passes are now or soon-to-be available for all 52 U.S. airports that Air Canada serves, allowing customers to complete their web check-in and obtain their boarding pass via e-mail or text message. Customers completing mobile check-in for departures from any airport in the U.S. may also now obtain their boarding pass directly on their smartphone, providing a seamless mobile check-in experience. Customers who are eligible for pre-check will no longer be required to print their boarding pass at the airport with an Air Canada agent or from an Air Canada self-service check-in kiosk to take advantage of expedited security clearance.

TSA Pre✓™ is a U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Transportation Security Administration (TSA) risk-based security initiative which allows low-risk travellers to experience expedited, more efficient security screening at U.S. airport checkpoints for domestic and international travel. Among those eligible for the program are Canadian citizens who belong to NEXUS, U.S. citizens with a Known Traveller Number or those who belong to Global Entry. For more information, including details on how to qualify, please see https://www.aircanada.com/en/travelinfo/before/tsa_precheck.html.

About Air Canada

Air Canada is Canada’s largest domestic and international airline serving more than 190 destinations on five continents.  Canada’s flag carrier is among the 20 largest airlines in the world and in 2014 served more than 38 million customers.  Air Canada provides scheduled passenger service directly to 64 Canadian cities, 52 destinations in the United States and 78 cities in Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Mexico,Central America and South America. Air Canada is a founding member of Star Alliance, the world’s most comprehensive air transportation network serving 1,321 airports in 193 countries.  Air Canada is the only international network carrier in North America to receive a Four-Star ranking according to independent U.K. research firm Skytrax that ranked Air Canada in a worldwide survey of more than 18 million airline passengers as Best Airline inNorth America in 2014 for the fifth consecutive year.  For more information, please visit: aircanada.com.

###

 


ERAM Uses Two Million Lines Of Computer Code To Process Data For Aircraft Traffic Control

World Affairs – Aviation

Open Eyes Opinion {source: US/FAA}

ISGS-ERAM-Display-460

 

U.S. Transportation Secretary Foxx Announces Completion of Major NextGen Foundational Technology 

April 30, 2015

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today announced a significant NextGen milestone with the completion of En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM), a highly advanced computer system used by air traffic controllers to safely manage high-altitude traffic.

“Looking at the future of air travel, we know that there will be more planes in our skies and more people in our airports, and in order to meet this challenge we must integrate cutting-edge technology into our aviation system,” said Secretary Foxx.  “ERAM is a major step forward in our relentless efforts to develop and implement NextGen.  With this new technology, passengers will be able to get to their destinations, faster, safer, and have a smoother ride – all while burning less fuel to get there.”

ERAM is the backbone of operations at 20 of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) en route air traffic control centers.  The system, a crucial foundation for NextGen, drives display screens used by air traffic controllers to safely manage and separate aircraft.

“ERAM gives us a big boost in technological horsepower over the system it replaces,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.  “This computer system enables each controller to handle more aircraft over a larger area, resulting in increased safety, capacity, and efficiency.”

The first ERAM system went online at Salt Lake City Center in March 2012.  The final installation was completed last month at New York Center. 

ERAM uses nearly two million lines of computer code to process critical data for controllers, including aircraft identity, altitude, speed, and flight path.  The system almost doubles the number of flights that can be tracked and displayed to controllers.  ERAM was designed to be the operating platform for other NextGen technologies, including: 

  • Performance Based Navigation (PBN):  Controllers are already using ERAM to make use of Performance Based Navigation (PBN) procedures that enable controllers and flight crews to know exactly when to reduce the thrust on aircraft, allowing them to descend from cruising altitude to the runway with the engines set at idle power, saving on flying time and fuel consumption.
  • Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B):  The FAA is moving steadily toward replacing the old system of ground-based radars to track aircraft with one that relies on satellite-based technologies.  ERAM already receives information from aircraft equipped with ADS-B and displays that data on controllers’ screens.  This technology has made it possible for controllers to provide radar-like separation to aircraft that previously operated in areas where no radar is available, such as the Gulf of Mexico and large parts of Alaska.  ADS-B will replace radar as the primary means of tracking aircraft by 2020.
  • Data Comm:  To reduce congestion on radio frequencies, the FAA and the aviation industry continue to develop Data Comm, which will allow controllers and pilots to communicate by direct digital link rather than voice, similar to text messaging.  ERAM is already equipped to handle this technology.

Secretary Foxx and Administrator Huerta attributed the success of the development and installation of ERAM to the collaboration between FAA management and labor, including the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) and the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS).  This collaborative process is now a blueprint that will be applied to the rollout of future technologies.

To see how ERAM works see our video: En Route Automation Forms NextGen Cornerstone

###

 


United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Call for Funds For Nepalese Farmers

World Affairs – Humanitarian

Open Eyes Opinion {source: FAO}

Nepal

Nepal Earthquake’s impact on food security and agriculture likely very high

FAO calls for $8 million to help farmers

Photo: @AFP/Sajjad Hussain

Millions of people are affected by the disaster, among them villages in the most vulnerable agricultural areas of Nepal.
FAO logo.svg

30 April 2015, Rome– Some $8 million is urgently needed to help disaster-struck Nepalese farmers rapidly recover lost agricultural inputs and resume preparations for the imminent rice sowing season, FAO said today.

The impact of the recent major earthquake on food security and agricultural livelihoods expected to be very high.

Farmers who miss the planting season that is expected to start late May onwards will be unable to harvest rice – the country’s staple food — again until late 2016. This, together with likely losses of food stocks and wheat and maize harvests, would severely limit food supplies and incomes in the South Asian country, where around two-thirds of people rely on agriculture for their livelihood, FAO said.

Last week, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake – the country’s biggest in 80 years – shook Nepal, killing thousands while limiting access to food and leaving some 3.5 million in need of food assistance.

Agricultural areas among worst hit

Million of people across the country’s Western and Central Regions are affected by the disaster, including its largest cities, Kathmandu and Pokhara.

But some of the country’s most vulnerable agricultural areas, particularly the villages in mountain and hilly regions, also bore the brunt.

Although damage to the agriculture sector has not yet been assessed, affected families have likely lost livestock, crops, food stocks and valuable agricultural inputs. At the same time, the disaster has destroyed markets and infrastructure, including roads and crucial irrigation and drainage canals. As a result, internal trade, including the movement of emergency assistance, is severely constrained.

Before the earthquake hit, FAO estimated Nepal’s wheat production in 2015 at 1.8 million tonnes – some 5 percent below last year’s record harvest. But crop damage and farmer’s inability to harvest in earthquake-affected areas are likely to change this forecast.  In addition, disruption of planting operations for rice and maize may severely reduce the planted area for these crops in the most affected areas.

Critical window of opportunity

In addition to distributing crop-production packages to secure this year’s harvest, FAO and partners will support the Nepalese government in preventing further loss of livestock by providing animal feed and veterinary supplies that will ensure animals stay healthy and productive for families relying on them for food and income.

In all, FAO will support 20.000 of the most vulnerable farming households protect and rebuild their livelihoods. Timely agricultural interventions are essential to increase the resilience of affected farming families and greatly reduce the time and cost of recovery.

“There is a critical window of opportunity to help crop producers plant in time  to have  a rice harvest this year and regain their self-sufficiency,” said Somsak Pipoppinyo, FAO Representative in Nepal. “At the same time, we need to do all we can to preserve vital livestock assets which provide affected families with much needed income and nutrition.”

UN agencies and partners launched a $415 million emergency appeal for Nepal to address the most urgent needs. FAO’s appeal is part of a larger $128-million request under the Food Security Cluster, led by FAO and the World Food Programme. In addition to emergency agriculture support, the cluster aims to distribute 50.000 tonnes of food to families in need, along with setting up cash-transfer programmes and helping communities rebuild.

###


United Arab Emirates and Poland Talk Bilateral Economic and Trade Relations

World Trade

Open Eyes Opinion {source:WAM}

UAE and Poland Bilateral Relations

 

Hazza bin Zayed, Polish Deputy PM explore prospects of joint economic cooperation

Abu Dhabi, 29th April, 2015  — H.H. Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, National Security Advisor and Deputy Chairman of Abu Dhabi Executive Council, held talks today with the Polish Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, Janusz Piechocinski, over best ways to realise the aspirations of the two countries’ leadership in maintaining vibrant bilateral ties that serve mutual interests.

Sheikh Hazza expressed the hope that Piechocinski’s visit would contribute towards enhancing further the relations of cooperation and friendship between the countries.

Wishing success for the second meeting of the UAE-Poland Joint Ministerial Committee, that met in Abu Dhabi today, Sheikh Hazza emphasised that the UAE, driven by its approach to extend bridges of cooperation and ties with other countries, is pleased to open up new prospects for cooperation with the Republic of Poland in various fields in order to deliver benefits to both countries, notably in economy.

He added that meetings between government officials and representatives of the private sector and business community in the UAE and Poland would advance bilateral cooperation, and stimulate economic growth by exploring promising business opportunities, developing new frameworks for introducing laws that attract investment.

During the meeting, attended by H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Minister, and Sultan bin Saeed Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy, the parties exchanged views on the latest regional and international developments of mutual concern.

On his part, the Polish Deputy Prime Minister said he was pleased to visit the UAE and expressed admiration at the progress the UAE is witnessing.

He said his country was eager to bolster its relations and cooperation with the UAE in various domains for the benefit of the countries and was working to increase trade exchange and forge joint partnerships.

Adam Krzymowski, Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the UAE, and members of the delegation accompanying the Polish minister, attended the meeting.

###


Austria’s Gebrüder Weiss Transport And Logistics Trucks the Silk Road

World Trade – Logistics

Open Eyes Opinion {source: EBRD}

Spotlight on Gebrüder Weiss Transport and Logistics

 

Gebrüder Weiss resurrects ancient trade routes via Georgia

By Alexander Kharlamov

Gebrüder Weiss resurrects the Silk Road via Georgia

Gebrüder Weiss believes in Georgia’s great potential for transit from Europe to Asia
.
With about 6,000 employees and 150 company-owned locations, Gebrüder Weiss is one of the leading transport and logistics companies in Europe.
.
Gebrüder Weiss believes in Georgia’s great potential for transit from Europe to Asia
.

This is one report from a series

.

Today Gebrüder Weiss is the largest provider of logistics and transportation services in the Caucasus, and we are trying to put the Silk Road back on the global trade map, with Georgia at its heart.
.
We have been providing transportation services here since 2012. In 2013 we constructed a logistics centre outside of Tbilisi, financed by the EBRD, and started offering transport logistics services.
.
We transport from Europe all kinds of dry goods, cars, textiles and appliances. We ship back mineral water, wine and other agricultural produce.
.
We work with all of Georgia’s trading partners, from Germany and Austria to Turkey, and we also use our Tbilisi logistics centre to deliver goods to Armenia.
.
As a specialist, I can see the massive transit potential of Georgia.
.
The country’s geopolitical importance was well understood by leaders of various regional empires. Georgia is a gateway to the Caspian and beyond: the route via Georgia and then Kazakhstan is the shortest from Europe to China. Georgia can and should become a trans-Caucasian hub in terms of transportation and logistics.
.

Local mentality is also an asset: Georgians know how to do business both with Europeans and with Asians.

.

Gebrüder Weiss is a pioneer in the sector as the first major player in the region. But we would be happy to see more competitors coming to the market. It sounds counterintuitive but it would help us to shape the market more after a European model, to help companies see that outsourcing to specialists makes much better business sense.
.
To fully benefit from its position, though, Georgia should develop its own exports. Georgian industries need to adopt the EU’s higher standardisation and certification requirements.
.
But the EU also needs to be more open to Georgian goods, particularly food, which already deserve a place on the tables of Europe.
.
Alexander Kharlamov is General Manager, Gebrüder Weiss
.
###
Please Visit  Gebrüder Weiss    http://www.gw-world.com/
Please Visit The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development     http://www.ebrd.com/home
**********

Inter-American Development Bank Brings Water And Sanitation To Peru’s Rural Communities

World Affairs – Finance

Open Eyes Opinion {source: IDB}

Peru

Imagen

Alongside valuable partners, the IDB brings water and sanitation to rural communities in Peru

LIMA, Peru – The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and its partners have launched an innovative pilot project that will bring access to water and sanitation services to dispersed rural communities in Peru. Utilizing $1 million in both Bank and partner funds channeled through the IDB-managed AquaFund, this effort is made possible by the Governments of Switzerland, Spain and Austria and the PepsiCo Foundation.

With Peru as their target, the partners are responding to one of the most acute water and sanitation challenges in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). Providing sustainable safe water access and sanitation services to families living in sparsely populated rural communities is a challenge. Traditional technical solutions are not cost-efficient while maintenance services needed to keep systems working are difficult to provide as these communities are hard to reach. Peru is home to more than 3.3 million of inhabitants across 73,500 rural disperse communities, or less than 200 inhabitants per community. Only 12 percent of the homes in these areas have access to water through public water systems, which is not disinfected or treated in 99 percent of the cases.

As such, the collaboration is working closely with the Peruvian government on an approach that is both comprehensive yet tailored to the needs of each population. Specifically, the project seeks to design and implement solutions that integrate low-cost adapted infrastructure alongside an intervention model to assure sustainability through facility management and use.

According to Jean Gabriel Duss, Director of Cooperation, Global Programmes, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) “access to drinking water and sanitation is crucial to leading a decent life in a society that respects human rights. Water and sanitation is everyone’s responsibility.”

Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) uses its expertise to generate a virtuous circle that will ensure a reliable and affordable basic infrastructure service in the partner countries, specifically by financing best-practice projects with high potential for replication and by supporting thematic or regional financing facilities with development banks working towards the same goals. “The longstanding partnership with the AquaFund”, said Martin Peter, Director of Swiss Economic Cooperation SECO in Peru, “is exemplary andit also helps us in leveraging the substantial knowledge and experience of the IDB in our own water and sanitation projects to the benefit of the Peruvian population.”

“Water and Sanitation are thematic priorities of the Austrian Development Cooperation” added Austrian Ambassador Andreas Rendl. “We support an approach that provides all parts of a country’s population with adequate and affordable access to clean water and sanitation. This project follows this principle and responds to the particular needs of the Peruvian population.”

“Spain’s commitment to securing the human right to water and sanitation is a firm one, materializing both in policy and in specific initiatives” stated Juan Carlos Sánchez Alonso, the Spanish Ambassador in Peru. “This project focuses on finding sustainable solutions where they are most needed, such as in dispersed rural settings, and is in line with other work financed by Spanish Cooperation’s Water and Sanitation Cooperation Fund in Peru.”

“We believe that strong partnerships are a critical and driving force for positive change in underserved communities” said Luis Montoya, President, PepsiCo Latin America Beverages. “The PepsiCo Foundation, the philanthropic arm of PepsiCo, is proud to be the first private sector partner of the Inter-American Development Bank’s AquaFund. Our $5 million contribution expands on the valuable relationships between IDB and PepsiCo, which has helped with expertise and funds to spur social development throughout Latin America and make change possible.”

As the executing agency of this project, Milo Stanojevich, National Director of CARE Peru explained that “Providing water and sanitation services in dispersed rural communities is essential for the integral development of the most vulnerable families. This project is a clear example of the collective commitment of the State, international cooperation, civil society and the private sector with those poor and marginalized families; and it is an opportunity to show the work and experience of CARE in its fight to eradicate poverty in a strategic and sustainable way.”

About the IDB

The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) provides financial products and technical resources to assist countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to reduce poverty and inequality in a sustainable manner. As a leading source of multilateral financing, the IDB seeks to create opportunities for cooperation in the region.

About AquaFund

AquaFund provides resources to reach goals established within the framework of the IDB’s Water and Sanitation Initiative and the Millennium Development Goals of the United Nations (UN). It facilitates investment in water and sanitation and water resources management, solid waste, and waste waters. It supports services related to these areas that are sustainable and accessible for the poor. The Fund also helps its IDB client countries to address new challenges presented by climate change, the rapid degradation freshwater ecosystems, and increasing water insecurity.

About AECID

The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) is the main management body for Spanish cooperation, which combats poverty and works for sustainable human development. The agency was created to foster full development, conceived as a fundamental human right, with the fight against poverty as part of the process for building this right.

About PepsiCo Foundation

Established in 1962, the PepsiCo Foundation is the philanthropic anchor of PepsiCo, collaborating with non-profit organizations to develop innovative solutions to challenges facing underserved communities around the world. In support of PepsiCo’s commitment to Performance with Purpose, the PepsiCo Foundation provides grants to eligible non-profit organizations to advance progress in the fields of Human, Environmental, and Talent Sustainability.

About SDC

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is Switzerland’s international cooperation agency within the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA). In operating with other federal offices concerned, SDC is responsible for the overall coordination of development activities and cooperation with Eastern Europe, as well as for the humanitarian aid delivered by the Swiss Confederation. It supports countries in their efforts to overcome poverty- and development-related problems.

About SECO

The Economic Cooperation and Development Division within the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO is responsible for the planning and implementation of economic cooperation and development activities with middle income developing countries, with countries of Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States as well as the new Member States of the European Union. It seeks to ease its partner countries’ integration into the world economy and promote economic growth that is socially responsible as well as environmentally and climate-friendly. The division also coordinates Switzerland’s relations with the World Bank Group, the regional development banks and the economic organisations of the United Nations.

About CARE

CARE is one of the largest NGOs in the world and the one with largest presence in Peru, where this year celebrates 45 years of operations seeking greater opportunities for girls in poverty, through various strategic development programs. CARE has 70 years of worldwide operations and has presence in 90 countries, benefitting 97 million people during last year alone. In Peru, CARE implements development programs in twenty country departments, where it has directly benefited 177.443 people last year.

###

 


An international donor conference secured financing for the completion of Chernobyl shelter

World Affairs – Finance

Open Eyes Opinion {source: EBRD}

 

Chernobyl pledging event raises €180 million to close funding gap

By Axel  Reiserer

Completion of New Safe Confinement on track
An international donor conference has secured financing for the completion on schedule by the end of 2017 of the New Safe Confinement (NSC), the protective structure being built to cover the destroyed reactor 4 on the site of the nuclear accident in Chernobyl.
.
At the conference, the G7 and European Commission confirmed an additional contribution of €165 million to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund, while other countries pledged €15 million. Several other countries indicated that they would also make contributions in the near future. EBRD Governors had already said in November 2014 that the EBRD would provide an additional €350 million.
.
Prior to these new pledges, the NSC project had been facing a funding gap of €615 million, which has now been reduced to €85 million by the international community.
.
The new funds allow all works in Chernobyl to continue without delay.  Meanwhile, efforts to raise the remaining shortfall will continue, with the EBRD covering any outstanding amount.
.
The pledging event was chaired by State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth representing the German G7 Presidency and hosted by EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti. The EBRD serves as fund manager for the international community’s efforts to transform Chernobyl into an environmentally safe state.
.
The Chernobyl Shelter Fund was set up in 1997 to assist Ukraine in achieving this goal. The NSC, at a cost of €1.5 billion, is the most prominent element of the €2.15 billion Shelter Implementation Plan, the strategic framework developed to overcome the consequences of the 1986 accident.
.
State Secretary Jochen Flasbarth, representing the German G7 Presidency, said: “The G7 members and the EU Commission have traditionally taken the lead in raising funds for the Chernobyl Shelter Project. Therefore I am very pleased that under our G7 presidency we were able to ensure that the shelter project to make the Chernobyl site stable and environmentally safe could be brought to a successful conclusion.
.
We, the members of the G7 and the EU Commission, are convinced that there is no responsible alternative to the completion of the project within the agreed cost and schedule. The New Safe Confinement will ensure that the destroyed unit will remain under control so that there will be no further contamination of the environment or harm to the population of Ukraine, Belarus and other countries that could be affected.
.
It will be a visible sign of the continued commitment by the G7 members and the EU Commission to nuclear safety and security.”
EBRD President Sir Suma Chakrabarti added: “We are very pleased with the outcome of this conference and grateful to all donors for their contributions at a time when national budgets are tight. The additional funds will allow us to keep the project on track and gives us confidence that the New Safe Confinement can be delivered on time and on budget.”
.
Klaus Rudischhauser, European Commission, Deputy Director General, stated: “On behalf of the European Union, the European Commission pledges €70 million to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund.
.
In spite of the difficult financial situation we all face, the solidarity with Ukraine shown today is quite remarkable and proof of the importance the international community attaches to the resolution of the Chernobyl legacy. We will continue working with Ukraine, the EBRD and the international donors to ensure that the projects are brought to a successful conclusion.”
.
With a height of 110 metres, a length of 165 metres, a span of 260 metres and a weight of more than 30,000 tons the New Safe Confinement is the largest moveable land-based structure ever built. It has been constructed since 2010 in a cleared area in two halves which have been lifted and joined.
.
The structure is currently being equipped with heavy duty cranes and other specialised equipment before it will be moved over the damaged reactor in late 2017. It will have a lifespan of a minimum of 100 years and allow for the future dismantling of the old shelter and its radioactive inventory as well as waste management operations.
.
To date, 43 donor governments have contributed to the Chernobyl Shelter Fund. In addition to its role as fund manager the EBRD has provided €675 million of its own resources to support Chernobyl projects including the NSC.
###

The U.S. National Institute of Health researches brain circuitry mechanism critical to survival

World Affairs – Health

Open Eyes Opinion {source: NIH}

To study how sensory information influences motor activity, scientists will watch brain circuits in fruit flies fluorescently light up as they move through the environment and process visual and odorant cues.

Brain circuitry of positive vs negative memories discovered in mice

Push-pull control cinches causal connection – NIH funded study

Neuroscientists have discovered brain circuitry for encoding positive and negative learned associations in mice. After finding that two circuits showed opposite activity following fear and reward learning, the researchers proved that this divergent activity causes either avoidance or reward-driven behaviors. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, they used cutting-edge optical-genetic tools to pinpoint these mechanisms critical to survival, which are also implicated in mental illness.

Illustration of mouse brain

 The researchers pinpointed separate brain circuits for positive and negative associations in mouse brain by injecting retrograde fluorescent bead tracers (green, red) that migrated upstream through neuronal projections linking a reward center (NAc, nucleus accumbens) and a fear center (CeM, centromedial amygdala) to an emotional memory crossroads (BLA, basolateral amygdala).  Source: Praneeth Namburi, Anna Beyeler, Ph.D., Kay M. Tye, Ph.D., MIT

“This study exemplifies the power of new molecular tools that can push and pull on the same circuit to see what drives behavior,” explained Thomas R. Insel, M.D., director of NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). “Improved understanding of how such emotional memory works holds promise for solving mysteries of brain circuit disorders in which these mechanisms are disrupted.”

NIMH grantee Kay Tye, Ph.D. External Web Site Policy, Praneeth Namburi and Anna Beyeler, Ph.D., of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, and colleagues, report their findings April 29, 2015 in the journal Nature.

Prior to the new study, scientists suspected involvement of the circuits ultimately implicated, but were stumped by a seeming paradox. A crossroads of convergent circuits in an emotion hub deep in the brain, thebasolateral amygdala, seem to be involved in both fear and reward learning, but how one brain region could orchestrate such opposing behaviors – approach and avoidance – remained an enigma. How might signals find the appropriate path to follow at this fork in the road?

To find out, Tye and colleagues explored whether two suspect circuit projections from the crossroads might hold clues. One projects to a reward center, thenucleus accumbens, and the other to a nearby fear center, thecentromedial amygdala, the output station of the emotion hub.

Image showing neural projections of negative and positive associations.

Neuronal projections mediating negative (red) and positive (green) associations were often intertwined, perhaps hinting at mechanisms by which positive and negative emotional associations may influence each other. Source: Praneeth Namburi, Anna Beyeler, Ph.D., Kay M. Tye, Ph.D., MIT

Each circuit projection is composed of separate populations of intertwined neurons. The researchers first used telltale fluorescent bead tracers to sort out which neurons belonged to each circuit. They then measured an indicator of connectivity — the strength of neural connections — in the projections, after mice underwent fear or reward learning. Animals were trained to either fear a tone paired with a shock or to associate the tone with a sugar reward.

Strikingly, crossroads connectivity to reward center projections decreased after fear learning and increased with reward learning. By contrast, connectivity to fear center projections increased with fear learning and decreased after reward learning.

These converging mechanisms in anatomically intertwined circuits could hold clues to teasing apart how positive and negative emotional associations may influence each other, Tye suggested.

To prove a causal link between the projection-identified circuits and behavior, Tye’s team turned to optogenetics, which enables light pulses to control brain circuitry in animals genetically engineered to be light-responsive. Optically stimulating the reward center projection enhanced positive reinforcement, while stimulating the fear center projection promoted negative reinforcement. Similarly, blocking the fear center projection impaired fear learning and enhanced reward learning.

Finally, the researchers pinpointed defining electrophysiological, anatomic and genetic features of the two circuits that help to explain the opposite connectivity responses.

“Given that many mental health problems, including anxiety, addiction, and depression, may arise from perturbations in emotional processing, these findings could help to pave the way to a circuit-based approach to treating mental illness,” said Tye.

Grants: MH102441, MH101528, MH106018, DK102256-01, NS090473

The mission of the NIMH is to transform the understanding and treatment of mental illnesses through basic and clinical research, paving the way for prevention, recovery and cure. For more information, visit the http://www.nimh.nih.gov.

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the NIH, conducts and supports basic and clinical research and research training on some of the most common, severe, and disabling conditions affecting Americans. NIDDK’s research interests include diabetes and other endocrine and metabolic diseases; digestive diseases, nutrition, and obesity; and kidney, urologic and hematologic diseases. For more information on CKD, visit the NIDDK’s National Kidney Disease Education Program website at http://www.nkdep.nih.gov.

The NINDS is the nation’s leading funder of research on the brain and nervous system. The mission of NINDS is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation’s medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

 

###

 


Together, IHG And Amadeus Will Develop A Next-Generation Guest Reservation System (GRS)

World Travel – Hotels/Airlines

Open Eyes Opinion {source: IHG}

 Buckingham Palace Guards

29 April, 2015

IHG and Amadeus to Revolutionise the Technological Foundations of the Global Hospitality Industry

Pioneering partnership with world’s leading technology provider.

Wednesday 29th April 2015, London: InterContinental Hotels Group (“IHG”) today announces that it is to continue its strategic relationship with Amadeus, the world’s leading provider of advanced technology solutions for the global travel industry. Together, IHG and Amadeus will develop a next-generation Guest Reservation System (GRS) that will revolutionise the technological foundations of the global hospitality industry.

Amadeus will use a new cloud-based community model, a first in the hotel sector, and similar to the model it developed for the global airline industry.

As launch partner, IHG will work with Amadeus on the design, functionality and evolution of the system, which will ultimately replace HOLIDEX, IHG’s proprietary reservation system. This follows the completion of a successful engineering study by IHG and Amadeus to scope out potential technologies and solutions to drive innovation in the industry for the long-term benefit of owners and guests.

GRS can be operated alongside HOLIDEX and the transition to GRS, which is due to be rolled out globally in 2017, will be undertaken in phases to minimise risks.

IHG’s history of innovation in technology, in addition to its global scale, provides Amadeus with the critical mass and complementary skills to develop this next generation community model. Amadeus has an excellent track record of leadership in this area, most recently with the airline industry. The community model is a highly innovative and cost-effective approach for IHG and the hospitality industry, with Amadeus taking responsibility for funding and maintaining the reservation system and each member paying for usage on a transaction fee basis.

IHG will continue to work with Amadeus to evolve and future-proof the system over time.

Today’s announcement marks a significant step forward for IHG as we continue to make strong progress in developing industry leading technology solutions. The next-generation GRS gives IHG a foundation to continue to invest smartly in technology through system funded capital investments and evolve our own bespoke systems, which will be connected to GRS and hotels directly through a separate, state of the art interface.

This will result in a first of its kind, standardised, scalable and flexible global technology eco-system, which will provide significant value to our guest and owners.

Richard Solomons, Chief Executive Officer of IHG commented:“Technology is fundamental to driving superior experiences for our guests before, during and after they stay with us.

IHG has a long track record of innovating through technology to ensure we meet the needs of current and future guests, starting with being the first company to offer online bookings, having the highest rated app in the hotel and travel industry, and offering Mobile Check-In and Check-Out. Our collaboration with Amadeus will build on this heritage and will enable IHG to shape the future technological foundations of our industry.

The next-generation guest reservation system we will create with Amadeus will deliver a powerful global platform for hotels to manage guest interaction, will be intuitive for hotel teams, and will help us accelerate our work to revolutionise and personalise the guest experience through technology.”

Luis Maroto, President & Chief Executive Officer of Amadeus commented: “Travellers today expect a great experience wherever they are and technology can play a key role in delivering that.

IHG has exciting ambitions for its hotels and guests and Amadeus is proud that our innovative technology will play a key role in delivering them. Our technology partnership with IHG is a watershed moment for the industry.

It will provide a huge leap forward in the flexibility and functionality available to hoteliers, and marks an important step in our journey to deliver our established community technology model into a new industry segment.”

About IHG

IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) [LON:IHG, NYSE:IHG (ADRs)] is a global organisation with a broad portfolio of hotel brands, including InterContinental® Hotels & ResortsHUALUXE® Hotels and ResortsCrowne Plaza® Hotels & ResortsHotel Indigo®EVEN™ HotelsHoliday Inn® Hotels & ResortsHoliday Inn Express®Staybridge Suites® and Candlewood Suites®. In January 2015, IHG acquired Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, the world’s leading boutique hotel business.

IHG manages IHG® Rewards Club, the world’s first and largest hotel loyalty programme with over 84 million members worldwide. The programme was relaunched in July 2013, offering enhanced benefits for members including free internet across all hotels, globally.

IHG franchises, leases, manages or owns over 4,800 hotels and more than 710,000 guest rooms in nearly 100 countries, with over 1,200 hotels in its development pipeline. Over 350,000 people work across IHG’s hotels and corporate offices worldwide. In January 2015 we completed the acquisition of  Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, adding 62 hotels (11,300 rooms) to our system size and 16 hotels to our development pipeline.

InterContinental Hotels Group PLC is the Group’s holding company and is incorporated in Great Britain and registered in England and Wales.

Visit www.ihg.com for hotel information and reservations and www.ihgrewardsclub.com for more on IHG Rewards Club. For our latest news, visit: www.ihg.com/mediawww.twitter.com/ihgwww.facebook.com/ihg
or www.youtube.com/ihgplc.

IHG’s Approach to Technology

IHG’s approach to technology starts with understanding our guests and their needs across the entire Guest Journey. Our strategy is driven by our own expertise and our industry-leading in-house capabilities. Our priority is to own the ‘Stay’ experience through smart investment in on-property and mobile technology.

We also plan to target areas where we add real value to our guests across the rest of their journey (the Dream, Plan, Book and Share phases). IHG has a rich history of innovation and industry firsts. IHG was the first company to develop a computerised reservation system; the first to introduce online bookings and the first to have a number one rated app on all mobile platforms.

About Amadeus

Amadeus is a leading provider of advanced technology solutions for the global travel industry. Customer groups include travel providers (e.g. airlines, hotels, rail, ferry operators, and car rental companies etc.), travel sellers (travel agencies and websites),travel buyers (corporations and travel management companies) and airports and ground handlers.

The Amadeus group employs around 10,000 people worldwide, across central sites in Madrid (corporate headquarters), Nice (development) and Erding (operations), as well as 71 local Amadeus Commercial Organisations globally.

The group operates a transaction-based business model.  For the year ended December 31, 2014 the company reported revenues of €3,417.7 million and EBITDA of €1,306.0 million.

Amadeus is listed on the Spanish Stock Exchange under the symbol “AMS.MC” and is a component of the IBEX 35 index.

To find out more about Amadeus please visit www.amadeus.com, and www.amadeus.com/blog for more on the travel industry.

About Amadeus Hotels

Amadeus offers next generation hotel management solutions based on open technology and offered as Software as a Service (SaaS). Newmarket, an Amadeus company, acquired in 2013, is a leading provider of cloud-based group and event IT solutions to the hospitality industry.

Newmarket has more than has more than 40,000 installations and 150,000 users in 154 countries worldwide.  Newmarket’s expertise combined with Amadeus’ global scale, reach and core IT infrastructure represents a compelling end-to-end solution to empower hospitality organizations to lower costs and increase revenue, while improving the guest experience and loyalty.

In distribution, Amadeus connects some 300 of the world’s leading hotel providers with our global community of travel agencies with 320,000+ unique properties and with 970,000+ hotel shopping options distributed through custom-built reservation applications. Through Amadeus LinkHotel, Amadeus connects independent and small-chain hotels to the multi-GDS and online travel community.

About Amadeus’ Airline Model

Amadeus was originally created through a partnership with the airlines – Air France, Iberia, Lufthansa and SAS in 1987. Amadeus’ vision today is to power an open, intelligent, dynamic and customer-centric global travel ecosystem that seamlessly connects airlines, travel sellers, airports, hotels and all other participants in the travel industry. All players will be able to share information in real-time and across all touch-points of the travel lifecycle, creating a single view of the traveller.

Amadeus has developed and deployed the Altéa Suite, the new generation Passenger Service System portfolio which offers a robust and comprehensive set of tools as it includes full reservation, inventory and departure control capabilities, and delivers a uniquely integrated solution.

 Since its creation in 2000, 133 airlines around the world contracted for both Altéa Reservation and Altéa Inventory, 117 of which contracted to use the full Altéa Suite (figures as at December 2014). At the same date, 124 airlines were implemented for both Altéa Reservation and Altéa Inventory, 91 of which to the full Altéa Suite.

Based upon contracts signed, Amadeus estimates that by 2017 the number of annual contracted Passengers Boarded using the Altéa Suite will be close to one billion, which would represent an increase of 44% vs. the 695 million passengers processed on the Altéa platform during 2014 – or a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of circa 13%.

Over the last three years Amadeus has expanded its airline model to offer cloud-based common use services for mission critical operations to ground handlers and airports globally.

 

###

 


Livestock Is A Major Export Of Somalia

World Trade

Open Eyes Opinion {source: FAO}

Somalia

 

Photo: ©AFP/Simon Maina

Somalia registers record exports of 5 million livestock in 2014

Long-term sector investment boosts country’s trade with Gulf States

29 April Nairobi/Mogadishu – Somalia in 2014 exported a record 5 million livestock to markets in the Gulf of Arabia thanks to heavy investments in animal disease prevention backed by the European Union and the United Kingdom, FAO said today.

This is the highest number of live animals exported from Somalia in the last 20 years.

The export data, collected by the FAO-managed Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU), indicates that Somalia exported 4.6 million goats and sheep, 340,000 cattle and 77,000 camels in 2014, worth an estimated $360 million.

Livestock is the mainstay of the Somali economy, contributing 40 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.

“This is a key milestone for the Somalia’s livestock sector that reflects the large investments being made to support the commercial development of the livestock sector to become more competitive in international markets,” said Said Hussein Iid, Somalia’s Minister of Livestock, Forestry and Range. “This is important for both Somalia’s economy in general and for the livelihoods of the millions of livestock owners throughout Somalia.”

“The sector’s potential is enormous,” Iid added.

“This shows that despite the challenges, the Somali people are successfully working to improve their economy and food security,” said Richard Trenchard, head of FAO’s office for Somalia. “FAO and our partners are committed to remaining engaged and involved in supporting those efforts.”

Buyers from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait Qatar and United Arab Emirates have all taken advantage of Somalia’s thriving livestock scene and its improved disease surveillance and control mechanisms.

Saudi Arabia, in particular, has contributed to steadily rising exports over the last six years, following a move to lift a 9-year ban on the import of livestock from Somalia aimed at preventing the spread of Rift Valley fever.

Return on investments

For the last five years, FAO, with financial support from the European Union and the UK government, has engaged with the Somali government to invest heavily in livestock infrastructure, fodder production and livestock vaccination and treatment services. Transboundary animal diseases have been a major point of attention because they can kill large numbers of animals, resulting in food shortages, market disruptions and trade and export barriers.

Every year, FAO vaccinates an average of 12 million animals in Somalia against peste des petits ruminants (PPR) – a highly contagious and often deadly viral disease of goats. Another 12 million goats are treated and vaccinated every year against Contagious Caprine Pleuropneumonia (CCPP), a source of major losses among Somali livestock producers.

In addition to animal health campaigns, four modern slaughterhouses, four meat markets and three livestock markets are also boosting local livestock trade across Somalia.

“There is no doubt that livestock is, and will remain for a long time, central to the Somali economy,” said Trenchard.

Continued investment in building Somali livestock institutions is key to boosting incomes, reducing the vulnerability of rural households, and steering the future growth of the sector, according to Trenchard, who says the livestock sector is at a tipping point.

“An investment in livestock means an investment in economic growth for the whole of Somalia,” he said

Added value from by-products

With trade of live animals booming, FAO is now working with the Somali government and partners to identify other opportunities to derive added value from livestock by-products.

In 2012, under a UK-funded initiative, Somali pastoralists were trained in soap manufacturing using camel bone marrow and trained jewelers carved spoons, necklaces and flower vases out of the dense bones.

In May 2015, FAO will start training 150 Somalis in curing leather, a potentially lucrative opportunity for the entire livestock sector, while an EU-funded programme is currently underway to improve milk quality in northwestern Somalia, one of the country’s main milk production regions.

The 2014 figures represent an optimum level of live animal export for Somalia, according to FAO experts, who urge producers to shift focus towards export of meat and other by-products.

A livestock certification system developed by FAO along the Galkayo-Bossaso livestock corridor will further help to ensure high quality livestock for local consumption and export.

###


Speech Given By Peter Maurer, President Of The ICRC: Remembering The Shoah

World Affairs

Open Eyes Opinion {source: ICRC}

Geneva

Remembering the Shoah: The ICRC and the international community’s efforts in responding to genocide

Remembering the Shoah: The ICRC and the international community's efforts in responding to genocide

Speech given by Peter Maurer, president of the ICRC, 28 April 2015, Geneva, Switzerland

History does not end. History is remembered, recounted, studied and discussed, time and again, and by each generation anew. 70 years is a lifetime – an appropriate moment therefore to remember the horrors of the Shoah and the liberation of the concentration camps.

I would like to thank all of you for joining us tonight. My very special thanks to our co-host, the World Jewish Congress, and President Ronald Lauder, to the CEO, Robert Singer, to Tom Gal, the Representative here in Geneva, and to the distinguished panelists who agreed to participate in the discussion.

Over the past seven decades, we have come to grips with the details of what was known for long and unspoken for too long: the unparalleled human disaster of the Holocaust, the power of fear, the danger of lawlessness disguised as law, the insidious nature of state terror, the “banality of evil”, and the failure to act of those who knew.

Over the past seven decades, we have learned about the political, moral and professional failures of systems, institutions and individuals, which resulted in the man-made disaster and which rooted in what Karl W. Deutsch so aptly described as a “cognitive catastrophe” – or in other words, the inability of too many contemporaries to understand the very character of the Nazi regime.

Over the past seven decades, we have heard innumerable versions of the perverse justifications for the horrors of the Shoah. These justifications were first and foremost those of the perpetrators but they extended to the rest of the world who stood by and watched.

Tragically, the leaders of the International Committee of the Red Cross were part of the by-standers who – when confronted with questions about the silence of the institution – defended standard responses to extraordinary circumstances: To speak now would be ineffective; it would not change the course of history; it would compromise existing access to people in need; it would reflect badly on the neutrality and impartiality of the organization etc… At the origin of such justifications, there were profound misunderstandings about the character of the system and the nature of terror.

The ICRC did not see Nazi Germany for what it was. Instead, the organization maintained the illusion that the Third Reich was a ‘regular partner’, a State that occasionally violates laws, not unlike any army during WWI, occasionally using illegal means and methods of warfare.

We all know that the Shoah was a defining moment for the world, for humanity, for the Jewish community, and for international relations. It shaped and sharpened the expectations of public policies in numerous countries and in international relations with regard to the legal and moral obligations and responsibilities of individuals.

As a historian, I spent many years studying German and European politics of the 1930s and 40s, trying to understand the dynamics of power and of totalitarian regimes as well as the breakdown of civility. As a Swiss diplomat I have experienced the strong tensions between historical truth and the politics of justifications and as a president of the ICRC I keep asking myself how the past disaster links to present day violence.

In the wake of the Shoah and of the Second World War, the international community adopted the fourth Geneva Convention with its focus on the protection of civilians, a novelty in an area of international law that had focused much more on protecting the wounded, sick and detained soldiers.

Around the same time, the United Nations adopted the Convention against Genocide and in the years that followed, the international community saw accountability for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide emerge as triple red lines. The right to know, the right to reparation, the right to justice and the right of non-recurrence emerged as important benchmarks for dealing with the past and as necessary pillars of meaningful reconciliation.

With regard to legal and policy frameworks, the world has learned some lessons from the Shoah.

In institutional terms, the ICRC also learned some hard lessons. It had failed to protect civilians and most notably the Jews persecuted and murdered by the Nazi regime; it had failed to understand the uniqueness of the inhumanity by responding to the outrageous with standard procedures; it had looked on helplessly and silently, not really trying – certainly not hard enough – to live up to the principle of humanity.

The ICRC failed because it drew inexcusably false conclusions from perfectly valid observations. It failed as a humanitarian organization because it had lost its moral compass. This failure has become an intrinsic part of our institutional history.

Twenty years ago, my pre predecessor, Cornelio Sommaruga – whom I welcome warmly amongst us tonight – was the first ICRC president to publically recognize that the organization’s failure to speak out was a moral defeat. I can only echo his judgment tonight and commend him for recognizing it when he did.

Since then, we have chosen to confront our past and to embrace transparency. Our public archives are proof of our acknowledgment of the past and our continued effort to confront uncomfortable truths.

The ICRC has also adopted a new policy on confidentiality, explicitly acknowledging that there is a path to condemnation of acts of inhumanity. We have chosen not to let ourselves be cornered by the binary logic of silence vs. denunciation, which inevitably leads to paralysis.

Instead, the ICRC has opened up many avenues for action: mobilizing High Contracting Parties, engaging diplomatically, reaching out to the public to explain our modus operandi, ceasing activities when confronted with unacceptable conditions imposed on it by warring parties, withdrawing from a context in extreme circumstances where staying would do more harm than good, and – ultimately – publicly denouncing violations of international humanitarian law.

Today, the big question is not whether to speak out but how, when, and to whom we should speak on what, in order to further our objective of preserving human dignity and enlarging space for humanitarian action.

When mass atrocities are no longer hidden behind the walls of concentration camps and in the dark cellars of the Gestapo, when the display of inhumanity, anti-Semitism and exclusion is part of a generalized attempt to terrorize groups and societies at large, we may need more refined strategies than public outcry.

Given today’s challenges, it will come as no surprise to you that the ICRC’s current four-year strategy places a particular emphasis on furthering its humanitarian diplomacy agenda and capacities. Given our roots, our role and our responsibilities, we cannot just be a relief organization.

We must put the protection of vulnerable people first, which entails injecting a more forceful dynamic between our daily work in favor of war-affected populations and our mandate to develop and promote international humanitarian law, and to influence the humanitarian policy developed by the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions.

Even the best and most ambitious institutional strategy will not solve the dilemmas that persist between the high principles that inform humanitarian action and the stark realities with which we are confronted in so many conflicts today.

We are all aware that the opposite of failure is not necessarily success. But this should not mean that we do not strive to improve. Success for me involves asking the right questions, which is precisely what today’s panel seeks to do.

We are invited to think about the singularity of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust, and whether it can be connected with enduring patterns of genocide. This raises a number of related questions, such as:

  • Whether we can distinguish between violations of the law that take place within the framework of a general acceptance of the law and systematic violations that fundamentally question the principle of humanity?
  • How to avoid misguided analogies that lead us to wrong conclusions?
  • What is new and what is old?
  • Where is the line between compromise and rotten compromise?
  • When is persistent and patient engagement the right thing to do? And when is it a dangerous illusion?

Many have committed to learn from the past and not to see history repeat itself. Two weeks ago, on Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, the words ‘never again’ once more reverberated across the world. But for the ICRC, somehow, ‘never again’ resonates with difficulty because of what we see and experience on the ground every day.

We cannot guarantee that a humanitarian catastrophe of the extent of the Holocaust will not happen again. On the contrary, we witness a catalogue of atrocities, every day, in wars across the globe.

In reflecting on what it means to have learned from the Shoah, in preparation for our gathering today, I re-read some of Justice Thomas Buergenthal’s writings.

In his famous book “A Lucky Child”, he recounts his time as a lawyer and judge dealing with cases involving atrocities committed in the Balkans, Cambodia, Rwanda and El Salvador which triggered memories of his days in Auschwitz as a young boy. Buergenthal to me personifies the most positive turn history can take.

Many of you may recall when Buergenthal compares survival in Auschwitz with those kids who survive poverty and violence in today’s urban slums. He certainly has shown the way: turning trauma and bare instinct for survival into productive energy to build institutions, strengthen accountability and legal frameworks and thus open spaces for more humane societies. Such are the ingredients to ensure that societies are learning the right things from the past. Such are the ingredients that allow an organization like the ICRC to move forward humbly yet decisively.

Whether in Syria, Iraq, Yemen or Palestine, whether in Ukraine or Colombia, in Myanmar or in the Mediterranean, the ICRC is challenged every day to leverage influence in order to assist and protect people from the impact of violence, to prevent violations of the law, and to ensure a minimum of humanity and to prevent worse: that is a beginning and never enough!

Thank you

###


300 unidentified females have been rescued by Nigerian troops in the northeast Sambisa forest

World Affairs

Open Eyes Opinion {source: SAgov}

Lagos – Up to 300 unidentified females have been rescued by Nigerian troops in the northeast Sambisa forest, following a daring and precise operation on Tuesday.

National Defence spokesperson Major General Chris Olukolade said he could not confirm the identity of the freed victims and their origins.

The spokesperson added that he could not state if any were from Chibok, until after thorough screening and proper investigations.

“I can only confirm the rescue this afternoon of 200 girls and 93 women in different camps in the forest. We are yet to determine their origin as all the freed persons are now being screened and profiled,” he said.

Olukolade added that at least three major terrorist camps have been destroyed in the well-coordinated attacks that include the destruction of the notorious Boko Haram’s Tokumbere camp in the Sambisa forest.

About 300 schoolgirls were abducted from the remote Nigerian town of Chibok a year ago. Dozens of the girls escaped but 219 remain missing.

The kidnapping provoked international outrage, but the majority are still missing despite Western pledges to help track them down and a Chadian attempt to broker their release.

Nigeria’s President-elect Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to make every effort to free the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram militants a year ago, but admitted it was not clear whether they would ever be found.

Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, claims the girls had been “married off” to his fighters.

Boko Haram Islamic militants have kidnapped at least 2000 girls and women since the start of 2014, turning them into cooks, sex slaves and fighters, and sometimes killing those who refused to comply.

About 800 000 children have been forced to flee fighting, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The number of children absent from primary school in Nigeria has increased from eight million in 2007 to 10.5 million – the highest figure in the world, the world’s leading organization for children said. – SAnews.gov.za-Xinhua

###