New programs are making camps more accessible and affordableHannah Sjovold credits the Blue Sky Fund Outdoor Leadership Institute for helping her “develop who I am and who I want to be.”Blue Sky Fund brings youth from all over Richmond, Va. together through outdoor adventure and service. Rising ninth through twelfth graders spend a few days learning wilderness survival skills like how to set up a tent and light a stove before embarking on a week-long trip to the Grayson Highlands and the summit of Mount Rogers, the highest peak in Virginia.Although she had previously hiked with her dad, Sjovold said she had never done a multi-day trip this long and strenuous with a group of people she had never met before.“The first day, definitely, we were all a bit timid,” Sjovold said. “But it’s incredible being out backpacking together. You meet someone in a way that you can never know them again. By the end of it, we really created our own family. I keep in touch with all of the participants to this day. We still hang out together sometimes. Such a community is built.”The students learn to navigate each other’s strengths and weaknesses while out on the trail, taking on different roles each day.“We hiked basically the entire day,” Sjovold said. “Some people wanted to hike faster, and others couldn’t keep up with that pace. Bonding with each other through that and getting through the tough parts. Some people got blisters on their feet and that’s not a fun experience. There was one day where it rained the entire day. That’s hard on the morale but getting through that together is incredible.”But the program doesn’t end after those two weeks over the summer. The boys’ and girls’ crews come together to meet throughout the school year, volunteering one Saturday a month in urban gardens, parks, and homeless shelters around Richmond.“I am definitely more aware of my surroundings and the impact that I have on the environment,” said participant Malik Ahmad. “I’ve become more conscious of what I can do to help my environment and to help my community and my earth.”Although Ahmad had participated in Blue Sky’s afterschool program through the local Boys and Girls Club, he wasn’t as sure about signing up for the backpacking trip. At the encouragement of his grandmother, he applied for the institute and went on the trip the summer before he started high school.“It pushed me to try harder and made sure I was being honest with myself and honest with how I felt,” Ahmad said. “I’m typically a pretty nonchalant, non-argumentative person, or I was at the time. I was always hesitant to share my opinions or say how I felt at the moment. Then I realized that if I wanted my needs to be met, I needed to make them alert to myself, my counselors, and my team.”Building the TEAMBly Sky Fund’s Outdoor Leadership Institute students are nominated by a teacher, mentor, or alumni of the program and then interview with the program directors. For the students selected, payment is based on a sliding scale to give every student the opportunity to participate.Starting in the summer of 2019, Blue Sky will accept up to 40 students for four summer sessions.“We try to get a diverse range of students from different backgrounds because when we’re talking about race, leadership, and unity in our communities, it’s really important for them to learn some new perspectives,” said Program Manager Dustin Parks.The students build the foundation to have those honest conversations through outdoor adventure and teamwork.“They really just form this unit,” Parks said. “The students work together to set the pace of the day, to figure out where we’re going, how many miles we’re hiking. It’s just a really cool time to see all of these students who four days ago, didn’t even know each other, didn’t really know how to read a map, and they’re navigating the wilderness together… Our students are not only walking away feeling supported by a group of people that are really different from them, but they are also learning a new skill that they can then use in other walks of life.”Once students finish the year long program, culminating in a graduation in June, they are invited to join alumni trips the following summers to continue building that self-confidence and sense of accomplishment.With these trips, the students have more control over where they go, learning how to plan, budget, and execute a trip of their own design. Blue Sky provides them with the funds, transportation, and facilitators to make it happen.After his hesitation about the initial trip, Ahmad was all in on the alumni trip. The group biked from Pittsburgh, Penn., to Washington, D.C. along the C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage.“I think the impact of our programming really creates a safe place for students to come and explore the outdoors,” Parks said. “And explore themselves and kind of learn who they are and learn what they’re passionate about away from the norm of school and sports and stuff like that.”Similarly, Sjovold found she still wanted to be involved with Blue Sky but could not make it on the alumni trip. During the summer of 2018, the program managers invited her to work as a guide in training.“It was an opportunity to see it from the other side,” she said. “I wasn’t really a participant in the way that the other girls were participants… I helped to plan some of the in-town days and the lessons we wanted them to understand. It was a really interesting experience, very fulfilling.”The support from the program leaders extends beyond the institute itself.“They came to one of my cross country meets and cheered me on,” Sjovold said. “It really makes you feel loved and a part of something bigger than yourself.”Follow ThroughThe Outdoor Leadership Institute is only one part of Blue Sky Fund’s mission to engage more students through the outdoors.The organization partners with eight Richmond public elementary schools, working with second through fifth graders on experience-based science instruction. They lead after school adventure clubs at ten locations throughout the city for middle schoolers.“We see a lot of our students who are in our elementary school program in our middle school program,” Parks said. “And we’re starting to see our elementary schoolers making it to our high school program. They know we’re consistent, they know we’re going to show up, they know that we care… We’re basically able to see students from second grade to twelfth grade and support them along the way.”Over the summer, Blue Sky offers a six-week camp to expand on the programming they offer during the school year.A full day of camp gives them more time to take the students to places outside of Richmond, including an overnight camping trip each week.The summer program costs $10 per week but the program works with each individual family so that cost is not a barrier. With all Blue Sky’s programs, most of the funding comes through donations, grants, and private partnerships to reach more children through the outdoors.Brittany Bailey started working with Blue Sky Fund as an intern in 2013 before coming on full time in 2017. As the adventure program manager, she works with students across all grades and heads up the summer program.Each week, the campers learn various outdoors skills such as paddling, rock climbing, Leave No Trace principles, and first aid, venturing out to George Washington National Forest and Shenandoah National Park.“We would love for them to be able to take this and then go to these places with their families,” Bailey said. “Somewhere like Shenandoah, where it’s a paved road that they can get to, it’s really well marked, it’s something that could be really accessible for some of our students to go outside of our program.”Getting the ExperienceFor college students, summer is a time for learning the skills needed for after graduation. Whether it’s through a job, an internship, summer classes, or study abroad, it’s an opportunity to explore.photo courtesy of The Greening Youth FoundationThe Greening Youth Foundation started as an environmental education program, partnering with public schools in Gwinnett County, Ga. to teach students about nature and wellness.As their mission evolved and grew, the foundation began partnering with the National Park Service, USDA Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and several outdoor retailers to offer internships for diverse and underrepresented students among the next generation of environmental leaders.Eboni Preston, the director of programs, said these partnerships present an opportunity for young adults to gain experience in the field and build professional networks. They place around 500 students in a variety of positions every year.“I tell them all the time I am living vicariously through them,” she said. “They’re working on everything from hydrologist assistants to interpretation, graphic design, social media, historic preservation, and architecture.”Students apply through the foundation which then works with the partner organizations to match students with positions and parks.“We are engaging an audience that hasn’t had a lot of opportunities, especially when it comes to this space,” Preston said. “So that screening is we’re talking with them to see what their interests are, who is going to be a good fit. That is really big when it comes to these programs. Like you say that you like nature but are you okay sleeping in a tent? Are you really scared of bugs? Having some conversations so that we can make sure that what the young people enter into will help them be successful there.”Once students start their internship, the foundation is there to provide support throughout the experience. In addition to summer internships for undergraduate students, there also longer internships available for graduate students.“We’re uprooting a lot of these young people, sometimes it is for six months to a year,” Preston said. “So, making sure they have somewhere to stay, being an advocate for them, making sure they’re getting a stipend that will help them with whatever expenses they may have is really important for us…It’s really about making sure these young people are successful and getting to the root of different types of issues they may be having or issues that are within the agency.”At the end of every internship, Greening Youth asks the students to submit a multimedia reflection piece about their experience.“For the folks that go outside a lot or have been fortunate enough to visit [national] parks, it’s just something special,” Preston said. “People always talk about their first park experience. It’s breathtaking and it’s life changing. Folks in that space working for one of these agencies, they definitely take growing opportunities from that.”While studying biology at Spelman College, Cristha Edwards worked with the Atlanta Botanical Gardens for two years as a conservation and biology intern through the foundation. During the summer, she worked full time in the molecular, tissue culture, and GIS mapping labs.“Because you spend two years there, you really got to take time and see a project through from start to finish,” Edwards said. “The skills that I learned there actually helped me in the writing of my first publication.”Now, Edwards is working with the foundation and the Forest Service on a faith-based forestry program at Proctor Creek while she pursues her Master of Divinity at Emory University.“Even if I don’t end up staying in environmental justice or anything like that, just the skills that you learn, you can take it into any field,” she said. “I think professional development is one of the largest things Greening Youth Foundation has to offer… So not only lab skills, but how to communicate with people in an effective manner that is also professional, the importance of punctuality, and networking.”Through it all, Edwards said the team at Greening Youth Foundation has been there for her.“In your 20s, you’re finishing college and it’s a time of transition,” she said. “They’re really good at working with you throughout that time.”For the youngest and the smallestFree Forest School is not a summer program as the weekly meet ups happen year-round. And it’s not a camp. But it’s a chance for children to spend some unstructured time outside, engaging their sense of wonder at a very young age. It caters to families with children from newborns to six year olds.Forests schools are not a new phenomenon. This style of learning encourages people of all ages to interact with the world around them, promoting independence and creativity.But unlike many outdoor programs for young kids, Free Forest School is exactly that. Free.“We were looking for things to do outdoors with our family here in Baltimore and I just found a lot of the outdoor programs for families with young children were just so expensive,” said Atiya Wells.Wells is a pediatric nurse in Maryland and mother of two. After learning about Free Forest School, she went through the process of starting a chapter when she learned there was not one near her family.“It’s all a child led environment,” she said. “The kids pick which way we go on the hike. They pick where we stop. They pick mostly everything we do out there.”The group meets once a week at the same local park, averaging around 12 families. They typically walk between a quarter mile and half mile before setting up base camp. The children are then given at least an hour of free play before coming together for snacks and story time.“Prior to Free Forest School, as a parent with two small children and as a working mom, I was always trying to find something for my kids to do,” Wells said. “After starting Free Forest School, going and observing, I’m thinking I really don’t need to provide them with anything. Everything that they need is already out here. That helped me get them outside, even in our backyard more… It’s really made me more of a relaxed kind of parent. I don’t have to be on edge all the time.”Since starting the Baltimore chapter over a year ago, Wells said her five-year-old daughter has become more independent when it comes to play.“She has never really been one to play by herself,” she said. “It was always, ‘Mommy, can you play with me? Can we do this? Can we do that?’ Now she’s started playing by herself a lot more. She’s more comfortable being outside by herself in our backyard.”Her two-year-old son, who started the program at an earlier age, is more confident on his feet, climbing hills and rocks without any hesitation.Getting involved with Free Forest School also inspired Wells to enroll in the state master naturalist program through the local extension office.“This has also sparked more of an interest in me to learn more about nature from the questions that the children were asking me,” she said. “I didn’t know anything about being outside, honestly. Growing up as an African American and living in the city, nature was not a part of our everyday, even once a month. It’s not something that we did at all. I was under the impression that everything that was green was poison ivy. There were bears everywhere and snakes and everything was going to get you… I was like I really need to know more about what’s out here for the safety of people. From there I realized there’s really nothing to be afraid of.”The class has helped her identify plants, wildflowers, and rocks with her daughter when they are at their weekly meetups.Wells also sits on the board of directors to help guide the organization at the national level and promote the accessibility of the program.“I thought once I started Free Forest School, it’s a free program, there will be more black people and more people of color out there,” she said. “And that was not the response. It really made me do a deeper dive of what’s really going on here. That has led me down the history of institutional racism and why a lot of people of color are not comfortable outdoors and what needs to happen in order for that to be more of a comfort for them.”One of the things facilitators like about Free Forest School is the flexibility it offers depending on location. With dozens of chapters across the country and a handful internationally, it looks a little different in each place.SarahRuth Owens heads up the Southern Blue Ridge chapter with groups meeting in Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina. The group she facilitates rotates locations after 12 weeks, giving the children time to learn an area but also experience new places.Owens plans to homeschool her five, three, and two-year-old so Free Forest School gives them a chance to interact with other children, especially her oldest.“I’ve really seen him take a leadership role in a way I haven’t seen him do,” she said. “He is one of the oldest children. He’ll be like, ‘I know the trail!’ when new kids come. ‘Come with me!’ He’ll race ahead. In other environments, he can be very cautious and not as confident.”Owens said her group likes water, so the parents consider how deep and swift the water is when scouting locations.“There are times I can hear him, but I can’t visually see him anymore,” she said. “I know where he is. He knows that area really well. With that in mind, when we go scout, we’re actually scouting for safety so that when we bring groups of children, we don’t really have to be on guard.”That idea of self-directed play is what drew Matt Jarman and Janice Adelman to the program.“We are both research psychologists and a few years ago we were looking into how to raise a child that is connected with nature in today’s kind of disconnected way of living,” Jarman said. “There’s more and more research showing the benefits of being in nature for everyone, kids and adults. So, I think they’re doing a great job making this an accessible opportunity for people everywhere.”The parents of a four-year-old and a four-month-old started a chapter in Rockbridge County, Va. a few months ago. Although the group is still small, they already know this is something they want to continue growing for other families in the area.“This is what we’ve been needing and what’s been lacking,” Adelman said. “Just that aspect of community building has been really impressive to me, to get people to come together… The organization is really great about putting those ideals and those values first and offering a platform of support to do that.”For decades, campers of all ages have flocked to summer camps around the Blue Ridge Mountains for adventure. Set in the heart of Appalachia, these summer camps offer outdoor experiences for kids and teenagers of all ages. Camp Hidden MeadowsBartow, W. Va.Surround by the Monongahela and George Washington National Forests, Camp Hidden Meadows offers adventure for campers ages 6-16. Spend your summer learning outdoor living skills, farm to table cooking, mountain biking, and more. Older campers have an opportunity to venture further beyond the base camp on one of the Earth Expeditions. Spend a week backpacking to the top of West Virginia’s highest peak, whitewater raft down the New River Gorge, and climb the rocks at Seneca Falls.Green River PreserveCedar Mountain, N.C.With over 3,400 acres to explore, Green River Preserve has plenty of space to explore, create, and learn. During the Mentor Hike, campers explore the many ecosystems of the preserve led by naturalists. These hikes encourage campers to slow down and connect with the natural world. Rising high schoolers through rising college freshmen are invited to return for one of the graduate expeditions in the Blue Ridge Mountains and Outer Banks.Smoky Mountain Adventure CampCosby, Tenn.What better place to spend the summer than in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Campers build relationships with each other, staff members, and the environment through hiking, camping, and paddling. Explore well known areas like Max Patch and Pigeon River, spend a night in the Lost Sea Caverns, and take a turn on the climbing wall. Each session ends with a trip to Ober Gatlinburg for some summertime ice skating.
The road team has a guest suite! This year we’ve partnered with Roof Nest to show-off their line of light-weight, low profile, easy-to-use rooftop tents. Anywhere you can find the LOAP van you can find a RoofNest. We’ll be demo-ing this awesome tent all over Colorado and the Blue Ridge Mountains. We’re excited to climb up there at night to get closer to the stars, or take a break from the mid-day heat with an elevated nap. Now that we have a guest room, there’s no excuse not to come on a camping trip with us, we supply the sleeping arrangments. As with past years, we’ve got a few awesome companies keeping us going for the next few months. We’ll be rocking their gear and putting it to the test. We want introduce you, and share some fun facts. Stio, born in the Tetons, knows a thing or two about making apparel that’s ready for the mountains. Stio is new to the Live Outside and Play program and we couldn’t be more excited about this partnership. Founded in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Stio specializes in beautiful, functional products infused with a mountain soul. Technical performance, quality, and versatility are what stands out in Stio’s product line. Aside from making top-notch products Stio also walks-the-walk so to speak. They use Bluesign approved textiles in their apparel and do their part to advocate for conservation, climate change, and sustainability. Mountain House has been with us since the beginning and we’re excited to have them back! If you’ve seen us at an event, then there’s no doubt you’ve gone home with a sample or two of a tasty Mountain House meal. Mountain House has a lot of exciting things in the works this year but what we’re most excited for is their partnership with TerraCycle to offer a FREE recycling program for their used pouches. TerraCycle is an innovative recycling company that specializes in giving new life to hard-to-recycle products. For those who can make it out to Appalachian Trail Day’s, bring us your empty pouch and we’ll give you a new one and recycle your old one! Sea to Summit has a bunch of exciting things happening this season. They’ve updated and added to an already extensive line of sleep systems; including the addition of women’s specific sleeping bags and inflatable sleeping mats. They’ve also added an exciting product to their fan-favorite line of Aeros Inflatable Pillows to include the Aeros Down Pillow. The new pillow combines the softness and supportiveness of the Aeros Pillow series but with a luxurious down pillow top. Bonus points for using sustainably sourced goose down. Lowe Alpine Photo by Noah Wetzel. Big Agnes We will be all over the Blue Ridge Mountains and Colorado this summer, attending festivals and hosting meetups. We hope to see you out there! Mountain House Welcome back Leki! This season we’re excited to show off Leki’s entirely updated line of aluminum and carbon trekking poles. Leki has been at the cutting edge of comfort and performance since they were founded in 1948. Leki has become synonymous with a perfect grip, easy length adjustment, and outstanding support. Throughout our 2019 tour, we’ll have a full demo fleet of poles featuring all sizes and price-points. So, come say hi and see what you’re missing. Sea to Summit Roof Nest Hello again! It’s Roxy and Ben, your Live Outside and Play Road Team. We are back for another year of adventures, with an incredible summer of travels laid out in front of us. We can’t wait to get back on the road. Franklin County, VA We’ve been using Sea To Summit’s cookware in the van for a while now. For us, it’s as practical as it is packable. This season they have released the Sigma Series. A new line of packable, all stainless steel pots. Keep an eye out for some more cooking videos and how-tos! Leki Stio No doubt you’ve seen Big Agnes gear out on the trail. Their tents, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads are a staple in most camps. Big Agnes also knows a lot about camp comfort. They’ve been specializing in it for a long time. Now they are bringing their expertise to their new line of Camp Furniture. You’ll find a lot of similarities with their other camp gear; simple and intuitive setup, thoughtful and innovative design, and most of all comfort. When you come hang out with us this summer, you can bet you’ll have a comfortible place to hang out! Lowe Alpine has been making framed packs for outdoor lovers since 1967. Founded in Colorado by the now-famous Lowe Brothers, Lowe Alpine packs have been a staple in the global climbing community since Greg Lowe designed an external framed pack that gave climbers more freedom of movement in the mountains than ever before. This year Lowe Alpine is launching two new technical backpacks. The Altus and the Manaslu. Both new packs come in both men’s and woman’s versions. This year, for the first time, we’re thrilled to announce a different kind of partnership. We’re happy to say that Franklin County, Virginia has joined our adventure. We’re excited about this because we spend a lot of time in this area of the Blue Ridge. From an outdoor recreation standpoint, Franklin County has something for everyone. Fishing, hiking, biking, horseback riding — you name it. We’re particularly excited because Franklin County is home to Smith Mountain Lake and we’ve heard it’s the perfect place to cool off during the summer.
By Dialogo February 25, 2009 Bogota, February 24th (EFE).- Fifteen rebels of Colombia’s National Liberation Army ( ELN) have deserted the Colombian guerrilla group after drugging their commanders with a sleep inducing plant , in a camp located in the jungle of Nariño province (southwest), as reported by the fugitives to the local press. A rebel who identified herself as “Pilar” told the Caracol Radio that they abandoned the National Liberation Army (ELN) the previos week in Barbacoas, a Pacific coastal area located 700 km to the southwest of Bogota. The woman said she and another rebel who goes by the alias of “Pepe” organized the desertion. The guerrilla member explained that they rubbed the leaves of the plant known as “Dormilona” (Sleepyhead) into the beds of the group’s leaders, and when they were deep asleep, escaped and walked for two days through the jungle, until they surrendered to the Colombian Army Third Division. ”That plant grows in the jungle, and we rubbed it in the commanders’ beds to put them into deep sleep for around eight hours, so that we have a good lead time,” the guerrilla member explained. The fifteen ELN rebels expect to benefit from the government reintegration program, which offers financial, medical, educational and security assistance to the members of illegal armed groups who surrender to the authorities. According to the government statistics revealed last week, some 50,000 members of paramilitar, right-wing groups and leftist guerrilla organizations have demobilized since 2002.
92SHARESShareShareSharePrintMailGooglePinterestDiggRedditStumbleuponDeliciousBufferTumblr,John Pettit John Pettit is the Managing Editor for CUInsight.com. John manages the content on the site, including current news, editorial, press releases, jobs and events. He keeps the credit union … Web: www.cuinsight.com Details If we’re dealing with stress in our lives, it can often be traced back to situations we’re handling at work. While we can’t always be stress-free and happy, having a laugh with the work crew is always good for morale. Here are 4 reasons you shouldn’t hesitate to have a chuckle or two with your team.Endorphins get releasedEndorphins are cool. These neurotransmitters can relieve stress and pain, and they’re released when you laugh. So, if it’s a tough day around the office, a little laughter may indeed be the best medicine for your crew.It’s a great way to bondWe enjoy working with people we like. You spend a lot of your adult life at work, so it’d be nice to enjoy the people you’re spending this time with. Sharing a few laughs is a great way to become better friends with your co-workers.It’s relaxing, and that’s goodYou don’t want to be too relaxed while at work, but tension isn’t a good thing either. Not only can laughter make the tension go away, but it can spur creativity, which can lead to new ideas and innovations.It can improve communicationWhen an office atmosphere is stuffy and quiet, there’s likely not a lot of collaboration or interaction. A more relaxed, fun atmosphere can lead to inspired ideas and laughter can help take you down that path.
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Sudan will also ban female genital mutilation, which typically involves the partial or total removal of the external genitalia of girls and women, and allow women to travel with their children without a permit from a male relative, he said.Sultan said the government was discreet about dropping the death penalty for gay sex and its amendment document did not detail what Article 148 – the sodomy law – was about.”I think society is still reluctant to accept such changes but I hope that the government will continue in its path toward reform,” she said.Others criticized the justice ministry’s reform agenda.”Congrats to the immoral people who achieved their misguided demands over female genital mutilation, legitimizing sodomy, drinking alcohol, and opening bars and night clubs,” said one Twitter user with the handle @marwanbsas1980.Fabo Elbaradei, an LGBT+ activist based in the capital Khartoum, welcomed the surprise move to lift the death penalty but said it would not change life much for gay people in Sudan.”We are subjected to social discrimination and we face a prison sentence … for simply being who we are,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in emailed comments.”We are still deprived [of] our right to live like any other members of society.”Government officials did not respond to requests for comment. Topics : Sudan’s decision to lift the death penalty and flogging as punishment for gay sex was hailed by LGBT+ activists on Thursday as a promising sign after almost four decades of Islamist rule, with calls for prison sentences to be abolished as well.Others criticized the relaxation of the law in conservative Sudan, where a transitional government has promised to lead the country to democracy after the toppling last year of autocrat Omar al-Bashir, who had been in power since 1989.”These amendments are still not enough but they’re a great first step for the transitional government that’s trying to implement changes,” Noor Sultan, founder of Bedayaa, an LGBT+ group in Egypt and Sudan, said on Thursday. “We see this as a positive change on the path to reform.”Same-sex relations are criminalized in most of Africa and the Middle East. Sudan was one of six countries, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria and Somalia, that imposed the death penalty for gay sex, according to the LGBT+ rights group ILGA.Under Sudan’s old sodomy law, gay men faced 100 lashes for the first offence, five years in jail for the second and the death penalty the third time around. The punishments have been reduced to prison terms, ranging from five years to life.The legal amendment was part of several reforms announced by the justice minister on Saturday, including plans to decriminalize apostasy – the abandonment of a religion – and to permit non-Muslims to consume alcohol.
‘Fighting their own people’ A police crackdown that has seen thousands arrested and widespread allegations of brutality appears to have turned even Lukashenko’s support base at state-owned industries against him. In footage widely shared on social media, workers at the Minsk Wheel Tractor Plant (MZKT) interrupted Lukashenko with shouts of “Leave!” as he tried to give a speech on Monday. An angry Lukashenko, who had earlier told the workers he would not give in to calls for new elections, walked off the stage, saying: “Thank you, I have said everything. You can shout ‘Leave’.” In a video recording of the speech, Lukashenko can be heard saying: “Until you kill me, there will be no elections.” Yet later he suggested that he may be willing to hand over power following a referendum on the constitution. “You should get it approved in a referendum and then, using that new constitution, if you want, hold both parliamentary or presidential elections,” he said. The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on Monday voiced its “concerns about the conduct” of the Belarus election… and the disproportionate use of force against peaceful protesters, widespread detentions and alleged torture and mistreatment by the security forces”. The OSCE said in a statement it made “a formal offer” to the Belarus government to facilitate dialogue between both sides.”An open and constructive dialogue is needed to find a way forward in Belarus,” the statement said.”A formal offer has therefore been submitted to the government of Belarus for a visit by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office” Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama “to meet with the government and representatives of the opposition,” the group added.Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Ottawa joined the chorus of countries condemning the “crackdown on peaceful protestors” and rejecting the “fraudulent” vote while demanding “free and fair elections.”In his statement, he also called “for a thorough investigation to be conducted through” the OSCE.Meanwhile demonstrators also gathered outside the Minsk headquarters of state television, where local media reported that 600 people joined the strike. Maria Kolesnikova, a senior opposition leader, joined the protesters, saying: “I know how scared you are, because we are all scared. Thank you for overcoming your fear and joining the majority.” Production at the Belaruskali potash producer was partially suspended after workers joined the walkout, Russian news agencies reported. Potash, used to make fertilizer, is a major source of income for Belarus, which is one of the largest producers in the world. Demonstrators descended on the Belarusian capital on Monday for a ninth night of protests against strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko, who was heckled by factory workers as pressure grows on him to step down. Several thousand protesters gathered at Independence Square in central Minsk, waving the red-and-white flag of the opposition, chanting “Leave” and calling on the ex-Soviet country’s authoritarian leader to resign. Demonstrators also marched to detention centers demanding the release of opposition leaders and protesters arrested during rallies against the results of a presidential election on August 9 that Lukashenko claims to have won with 80 percent of the vote. Challenger ‘ready’ to lead Lukashenko has defied calls to stand down after the election that saw him imprison his closest rivals, shun independent observers and unleash a brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters. The opposition called for a general strike after hundreds of workers at state-run factories first downed tools last week. In a video posted online on Monday, Tikhanovskaya — now in exile in Lithuania — said that although she never planned to enter politics she was prepared to temporarily take over the leadership. “Fate decreed that I’d find myself on the frontline of a confrontation against arbitrary rule and injustice,” said Tikhanovskaya, a 37-year-old political novice who ran for president only after other potential candidates including her husband were jailed. “I am ready to take responsibility and act as a national leader during this period.” Tikhanovskaya, who says she will organize new elections if Lukashenko steps down, has demanded the release of all detainees and criminal cases be opened against those who ordered the crackdown. More than 6,700 people arrested, hundreds wounded and two people have died in the crackdown.Detainees have gradually been released, many emerging with horrific accounts of beatings and torture. Employees at several factories and state television earlier walked off the job after the biggest opposition rallies in Lukashenko’s 26 years in power on Sunday. More than 100,000 people took part in a “March for Freedom” following calls for continued demonstrations from Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, a political novice who stood against Lukashenko on August 9 and claims she won the election. While European Union leaders are to hold an emergency video summit on Belarus on Wednesday, President Donald Trump said the United States was following events “very closely”, describing it as a “terrible situation”. However, Russia, the most powerful ally of Lukashenko, has said it is ready to step in if necessary. Topics :
SHARE Email Facebook Twitter Governor Wolf, Insurance Commissioner React to the Congressional Budget Office’s New Score of the American Health Care Act May 24, 2017 Healthcare, National Issues, Press Release, Statement Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf and Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller today issued the following statements on the Congressional Budget Office’s new score of the American Health Care Act.Governor Wolf Statement:“The American Health Care Act will hurt millions of Americans, particularly Pennsylvania seniors, by raising costs and putting essential health coverage at risk and the Congressional Budget Office’s score proves this. This legislation will strip millions of people of their health care, increase costs for things like maternal care, and force older Pennsylvanians to pay more.“I will continue to fight to protect access to quality, affordable health care for all Pennsylvanians, especially our elderly and most vulnerable citizens with chronic health needs and pre-existing conditions. I hope the U.S. Senate takes the impact of these attempted reforms to heart moving forward and shows more respect to the people they were elected to serve.“I urge the U.S. Senate to move away from this legislation and instead focus on reforms that can improve the Affordable Care Act by promoting stability and addressing the rising health care costs around the country.”Commissioner Miller statement:“Today, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) confirmed what we already know – the American Health Care Act is a reckless piece of legislation that will endanger health care for millions of Americans and further destabilize the insurance market.“According to the CBO’s score, the number of uninsured compared to the Affordable Care Act would rise to 14 million in 2018, then 19 million in 2020 and 23 million in 2026. Millions of people will be forced off insurance due to higher premiums than they currently are and lower financial assistance that will be based on age instead of financial need.“Higher prices and the elimination of the individual mandate will force people out of the market, causing further instability for insurers if they are left with a less healthy risk pool. This instability will only continue to drive up prices for consumers left in the market.“Instead of focusing on real reforms that can improve how the Affordable Care Act works for all Americans without hurting those who benefit from the law, House Republicans and the Trump Administration doubled down on a bill that jeopardizes affordable and robust coverage for older and low-income Pennsylvanians and the 5.4 million with pre-existing conditions – our most vulnerable citizens.”
Holidays, Press Release, Workforce Development Today, Governor Tom Wolf visited the United Way of the Capital Region for a roundtable discussion with staff, volunteers, and employer partners focused on the organization’s recently established workforce development pilot program.“Giving back to the community has long been a priority of mine, which is why I donate my entire salary each year,” said Governor Wolf. “Today’s visit was an excellent opportunity to hear about how organizations like the United Way of the Capital Region can turn donations into potential solutions and strategies to address the region’s most pressing needs. We all have a part in tackling the skills gap to ensure that everyone is provided the opportunity to obtain family-sustaining employment.”The United Way of the Capital Region recently partnered with the community to launch a pilot project focusing on workforce development. The project helps the un- and underemployed obtain jobs where they earn a living wage. This project unique has been developed through the lens of the employer and focuses on guiding an individual through the first year of work, as well as advancements in the workplace. The project includes financial literacy services to help individuals learn how to budget and save for the future.“Our United Way is committed to breaking the cycle of poverty by helping people secure and keep family-sustaining jobs,” said Timothy B. Fatzinger, United Way of the Capital Region president and CEO. “Through training, mentorships, and support of key services like child care and transportation, our community is coming together to move families forward. We’re honored Governor Wolf could share his time to talk about this shared mission for the future of our community.”Since taking office, Governor Wolf has donated his entire salary to The State Employee Combined Appeal (SECA), an organization through which state employees make charitable donations, directing his donation to United Way organizations and other community groups across Pennsylvania. Governor Wolf Visits United Way of the Capital Region to Discuss Workforce Development and Highlight the Importance of Giving SHARE Email Facebook Twitter December 21, 2017
He added that the trade war between the US and China also seemed to be subsiding, which was helping global markets generally.The asset owner has seen good performance across high yield bonds, emerging market debt and equity overall, however, it doesn’t expect numbers of the same magnitude for 2020, Fawcett said. NEST, the UK’s largest master trust with assets worth £9.6bn (€11.4bn), will continue adopting a cautious stance regarding its investment strategy, even though it has seen a positive year as returns for all its major asset classes posted positive returns during 2019.Mark Fawcett, chief investment officer at NEST Corporation, the master trust’s trustee body, said: “Our current stance is on the cautious side, making sure we have enough exposure to growth assets that will continue to deliver strong returns.”He told IPE its US equities had been its strongest developed market on returns – NEST holds tech shares in companies such as Amazon and Google, which have a major impact on the global economy.He said the positive returns were driven by an accommodative Federal Reserve stance and the fourth quarter saw a final tailwind come through as markets welcomed signs of economic stability. Source: NEST CorporationOver the last five years, NEST’s sharia fund has seen a cumulative performance of 95.7% as of end of December 2019, while its ethical growth and higher risk funds have returned 66.8% and 64.6%, respectively.Long-term diversificationNEST receives more than £400m a month in member contributions and is forecasting £20bn in asset under management by 2022.With a forecast to almost double its assets in the next couple of years, it is imperative that the trust avoids short-term asset allocation changes, and focuses on a long-term strategy, while also keeping an eye on market risks, Fawcett explained.The investor has a low equity allocation (55%), he said, compared to other master trusts, which hold around 80-90% of their assets.“We’ve made use of this lower risk profile and use the rest of our assets for a well diversified portfolio, which is likely to work out well over the next few years, as we see the economic cycle peak,” Fawcett added.The CIO sees investment opportunities in renewables, infrastructure debt and equity – it launched a tender last month seeking unlisted infrastructure equity managers in a bid for further portfolio diversification.He also said NEST has already started funding its first private credit projects – which included wind and solar farms in Europe and is also looking for opportunities in the US.“If growth underwhelms, public financial markets are likely to struggle to achieve the stellar returns seen in 2019”Mark Fawcett, CIO at NEST CorporationThe trust received authorisation last month from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to form NEST Invest as an Occupational Pension Scheme (OPS) firm, which will help implement more sophisticated ways of investing on behalf of its members.Looking ahead, economic expansion is expected to continue, though significant geopolitical risk remains, Fawcett said. “Markets must wait for UK-EU trade talks, the US presidential election, whether the ‘Phase One’ [trade] deal will hold and whether the tension in Middle East will escalate.”He said: “If growth underwhelms, public financial markets are likely to struggle to achieve the stellar returns seen in 2019. Our caution is a significant factor in seeking investment returns in alternative areas such as private credit, which we recently added to our portfolio.”Responsible investmentFawcett told IPE that one of the key factors to drive NEST’s asset allocation is the increased focus on climate change and the need to transition to a low carbon strategy.NEST has published its fourth annual responsible investment report, ‘Paving the Way’, which outlines the trust’s work on integrating environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors into its investment approach, engaging with companies and other stakeholders and communicating with its members.“We included our key highlights through the year such as the several letters we wrote to companies listed on the FTSE100 urging them to become accredited Living Wage employers,” he said, adding that it has also joined Climate Action 100+.The trust has also co-authored and published a report late last year with RPMI Railpen on cyber security, which Fawcett hopes will act as a guide for asset owners on integrating cyber security considerations in their investment approach.NEST facts£9.6bn assets under management0.3% annual management charge/total expense ratio1.8% contribution charge8.8m members