Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Update on Renewal of Viral Hepatitis Action Plan

September 23, 2013 • 0 comments • By Ronald Valdiserri, M.D., M.P.H., Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases, and Director, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 
Dr. Ronald Valdiserri
As we announced this past May, federal partners are working to renew and extend the Action Plan for the Prevention, Care and Treatment of Viral Hepatitis for three more years. Since that announcement, several important activities have been undertaken and I wanted to share this update with readers.
To inform the renewal of the plan, which will span calendar years 2014-2016, we gathered important input and perspectives from community members and other stakeholders through several webinars and a formal Request for Information early this summer. Simultaneously, the federal partners implementing the plan – agencies and offices from across the Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of PrisonsDepartment of Housing and Urban Development, and Department of Veterans Affairs – set about reviewing their progress to date and developing proposed actions for the three-year extension of the Action Plan.
VHAP September 2013 MeetingThis past week, these activities came together as representatives of all the participating agencies and offices met for a full-day working meeting to review and discuss both the stakeholder input and the initial drafts of the proposed actions. During that meeting, partners identified opportunities for coordinating efforts as well as new partners to engage. They also discussed prioritization of some of the proposed actions and explored revising or reframing others.
Building on these important activities, all of the federal partners will work to refine and finalize our respective actions for the renewed plan over the coming weeks. My office will then consolidate the actions into the formal document that we hope to have finalized, formally approved, and ready for release early in the new year.
With the renewed Action Plan, we will be able to continue and expand the momentum generated by the original plan as we work together to address the silent epidemic of viral hepatitis in the United States.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The brutal rape of a five-year-old girl in Lahore shocked

An Article from the Asian Human Rights Commission
PAKISTAN: Strict yet victim-friendly legal mechanisms are required to minimize 
sexual violence against women and children                                     -Amir Murtaza
The brutal rape of a five-year-old girl in Lahore last week has literally shocked the country, from the officials in the highest office down to the ordinary citizen in the street.
The tragic incident has sparked a nationwide debate and outcry against the lack of a safety mechanism in the country for women and children.
Certainly, women and child molestation cases are nothing exceptional in this part of the world; however, the coverage of the recent rape in Lahore in the electronic media and social networking websites has forced the concerned police officials to take immediate action.
Meanwhile, Pakistan's Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, has also taken notice of this heinous crime and ordered the provincial police officials to submit the case report.
According to reports the five-year-old girl was found unconscious and in critical condition near a crowded hospital in Lahore. Later, a medical examination confirmed that the victim had been raped.
The Punjab provincial law minister, while talking to the reporters stated that, "Those who have done this are not humans but beasts and will be arrested and prosecuted under the law and given exemplary punishments."
One can only hope that police will arrest the culprit or culprits of this heinous crime as soon as possible and that the presiding court of law will award the severest possible punishment to them so that it could serve as an example to other, like-minded perverts. This is desperately required in order to minimize the incidence of sexual violence against women and children.
Violence against women and children is quite common in male dominated South Asian societies, including Pakistani society. The research reports of child-focused NGOs suggest that violence against children has increased significantly although a large number of cases go unreported.
It is also a fact that the majority of violent cases against children are not reported by the parents or other family members for various reasons, including the low rate of convictions against the accused.
For example, in 2002 Mukhtaran Mai was gang raped, allegedly on the orders of a village council in the southern Punjab village of Meerwala. The incident shocked the country and people from all walks of life, notably the media and civil society organizations, supported Mukhtaran Mai in her efforts to obtain justice. However, finding justice for rape victims can be a difficult task in the country. It is shameful that all the accused in Mukhtaran's case were acquitted due to insufficient evidence.
Rape victims are severely stigmatized in Pakistani society and it is extremely difficult for the victim or her family to make a report in a police station and a court of law. In many such cases families try to sweep the matter under the carpet to avoid further trauma for the victim.
An unfriendly policing structure, cumbersome legal system and the secondary status of women in society have made women and children, particularly girls, even as young as five years old, vulnerable to all sorts of physical and sexual violence. Therefore, the perpetrators of such heinous crimes have little or no fear of punishment and the frequency of rape and gang rape is increasing.
The recent Lahore case has brought the issue of sexual violence to the national agenda. For once the media, civil society organizations, government ministers, police officials and the judiciary are in agreement that the perpetrators must be arrested immediately, tried and given exemplary punishment.
It is absolutely high time to initiate a national debate on the issue and build strict, yet victim-friendly legal mechanisms to minimize sexual violence against women and children in the country.
NGOs, CBOs and other social welfare organisations should also design different risk reduction programs for women and children. Furthermore, rape prevention programs for men are an urgent need so as to involve them in campaigns to diminish the prevailing gender inequalities and gender based violence in the society.
About the Author: Amir Murtaza is a senior researcher, analyst and writer on social development issues, especially pertaining to women, youth and children. He can be reached at amirmurtaza@hotmail.com
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation that monitors human rights in Asia, documents violations and advocates for justice and institutional reform to ensure the protection and promotion of these rights. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Here is my first report--Newton Dunn Bill

Thu, Sep 12, 2013 at 5:44 PM

Subject: report for Leicestershire from Bill Newton Dunn MEP

HELLO !  The European Parliament has resumed work after its summer break so here is my first report of the autumn.

State of the Union report
Barroso, the President of the EU's executive body, the Commission, gave his tenth and final annual "State of the Union" speech.
Barroso has been a disappointment to the parliament, because he has repeatedly spoken about leading Europe to further integration but behaved instead as an obedient errand-boy for reluctant national leaders. Next summer he leaves the job and a new President of the Commission will be appointed for five years : a constitutional crisis looms, because the national leaders will probably again propose an obedient errand-boy or girl, but MEPs, who can with-hold their approval of the national leaders' candidate for President of the Commission, want a true leader for the EU who will also command majority support in the new parliament which will be elected next May.

This week the most contentious issue in the parliament (about which I received hundreds of email from people in our region) was about how much the EU should subsidise the growing of Biofuels (plants such as maize grown to create fuels) and thus how agricultural land should be used, the effect on third-world agriculture and food prices, and the link with greenhouse gas emissions.
The parliament, by an extremely narrow majority, decided to set the upper limit at 6%. I wanted 5%. 
Unfortunately, at the time of writing this, the full text is not yet available to send to you.

The parliament debated the use of chemical weapons in Syria. The winding-up resolution, passed by a huge majority, gave no support to the use of American force, called on Assad to go, and called on Russia and China to face up to their responsibilities to facilitate a common position within the UN Security Council.
My personal line, if I had had to vote in the Commons, would have been against joining a UK-USA attack on Syria. Lib Dems are internationalists, who believe in working through international institutions, particularly the United Nations, and not acting alone.

Next month's controversial issues to be decided in the parliament :
1.   The proposed Tobacco directive  which will determine how large health warnings should be on cigarette packets, whether electronic cigarettes should be available without a medical prescription, and whether Snus (a form of chewing tobacco used only in Sweden and Norway) should be allowed more widely.
2.   Whether there should be minimum road-worthiness testing for Caravans which travel across Europe.
3.   Money laundering. As the draft stands, it would require on-course bookmakers (who exist only in Ireland and in the UK) to check anybody who brings them a bet of 1700 pounds or more in notes.

Watch out for
1.   The German national election on Sunday 22 September. The Christian-Democrat party of Chancellor Angela Merkel, already the longest-serving leader in Europe, is expected to win again but to need to find a coalition partner.
2.   The continuing pantomime of Berlusconi. Last Tuesday a vote was scheduled in the Italian Senate in Rome to eject him and so end his political career, and strip him of his parliamentary immunity and thus send him to prison to serve four years for tax evasion crimes. He responded that if he was expelled, he would pull his party out of the coalition government and thus precipitate a general election with the ensuing financial instability that would create. His party is entirely his own : after the fall of communism and the collapse of the Christian-Democrat party in Italy, he created his own party, totally finances himself being a billionaire, and personally chooses all its candidates for election, so he can collapse it now if he wishes.
The scheduled vote in the Senate to expel him was delayed - surprise ! - to "allow for more questions to be answered". The expectation is that a compromise will be found in order to avoid holding a new general election and therefore that, somehow yet again, Berlusconi the billionaire politician will survive.
3.  The proposal to ban all telephone roaming charges within the EU from next April. The USA manages without roaming charges across its fifty states, so why should Europeans put up with having to pay them. See http://euobserver.com/economic/121397

All the best