Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Give her some space, Barry





Sean McLachlan is visiting Iraq for AOL News and his reports can be found at "Destination: Iraq,"   In his latest, he visits the National Museum in Baghdad. Excerpt:
The National Museum of Iraq is as battered and defiant as the country it represents. Battered because it has suffered looting and neglect, defiant because its staff fought to protect it. Now they're rebuilding and the museum will soon reopen.
I got a sneak peak while
visiting Iraq and was overawed. I knew I would be. Here is the treasure house of the dawn of civilization. Giant statues of Assyrian guardian demons stand next to cases filled with wide-eyed Sumerian statues pleading with their gods. Detailed bas-reliefs from excavated palaces show scenes of war and hunting. Cases full of cylinder seals show scenes of Babylonian life in miniature.
My favorite was the writing. The first scribes developed a simple system around 3300 B.C. or even earlier. Clay tokens represented objects such as sheep or jugs of beer. These were often sealed in clay envelopes with an impression of the tokens on the outside, thus creating the first contracts. Soon tablets were used with a system of writing that was mostly pictorial – a bull's head represented a bull, etc. As the needs of the developing civilization grew more complex, so did the system of writing. The pictures morphed into almost unrecognizable collections of lines, and words for abstract ideas appeared. The writing was done with a stylus on soft clay to make a series of wedge-shaped impressions called cuneiform.
Looking at these ancient texts was hypnotic. The same process we're engaged in right now, with me writing and you reading, was going on 5,000 years ago in a vastly different culture. We don't have to know each other or even be in the same country to communicate. It was an incredible innovation that opened up countless possibilities for the human race.
He has strong photos that accompany his text reports so make an effort to visit "Destination Iraq."  And if you're thinking, "I thought it was already open . . ."  That's because it's forever getting press coverage for 'opening.'
The most infamous opening was February 23, 2009 and it got a lot of press.  At the time the Minister of Culture Jabir al-Jabari was stating that no, the museum was not opening while the Minster for Tourism and Antiquities (Baha al-Mayahi). What happened? Jane Arraf (Christian Science Monitor) reported it was resolved by "a compromise: The museum will reopen Monday for the first time in six years. But only eight of the museum's 26 galleries will be accessible, and for only a few hours". It wasn't a real re-opening. It was just for show. And a few noted that in real time. The Los Angeles Times' Babylon & Beyond blog pointed out, "As for when the rest of Iraq will be able to see the museum, that's unclear. Iraqi guards Monday afternoon told journalists it would be a couple of months." Steven Lee Myers (New York Times) also underscored that key point, "When Iraqis may actually see for themselves a collection of relics and art that spans millenniums was a question even the museum's deputy director, Muhsin Hassan Ali, dared not answer, even when pressed."
But it's supposed to open -- in two months -- so maybe this will finally be the real opening?  No one should hold their breath.
In November of 1979 at the UN, the International Year of the Child Secretariat Representative Dr. E. Aldaba-Lim presented Fleetwood Mac with a citation for their donation of the royalties from "Beautiful Child" (written by Stevie Nicks).  UNICEF continues today as do children in need and today is Universal Children's Day.  UNICEF explains:
On Universal Children's Day, UNICEF issued a new research paper highlighting global demographic shifts forecast for the coming generation of children that present major challenges to policy makers and planners.
The paper for instance says that by 2050 one in every three births will be African – as will also be almost one in every three children under the age of 18. One hundred years earlier, sub-Saharan Africa's share of births was just one in 10.
The paper, Generation 2025 and beyond: The critical importance of understanding demographic trends for children of the 21st century, says that in turn under-5 deaths will continue increasingly to be concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa, in pockets of poverty and marginalization in populous lower-income countries and in least developed nations.
"What is important is whether the world as it prepares for the post-2015 agenda takes account of this fundamental and unprecedented shift," said co-author UNICEF's David Anthony. "We must do everything possible so these children get an equal chance to survive, develop and reach their full potential."
In October 2011, the world's population reached 7 billion and on current projections it will hit 8 billion by 2025. The paper says that next billion of global inhabitants will still be children by 2025 and 90 per cent of them will have been born in less developed regions.
The paper projects only a modest four per cent increase in the global population of children by 2025, but the population growth shifts significantly to countries in the South.
According to projections, the 49 countries classified as the world's least developed nations will account for around 455 million of the 2 billion global births between 2010 and 2025. Five populous middle income countries – China, India, Indonesia, Pakistan and Nigeria – will account for about 859 million births between 2010 and 2025.
The only high-income country projected to have an increasing proportion of children by   2025 is the United States – among the top five countries for births in the next 15 years.
Though China and India will continue to have a major share of the world's population, in absolute terms Nigeria will see the highest increase in its under-18 population of any country, adding 31 million children, a rise of 41 per cent, between 2010 and 2025. At the same time, Nigeria will account for one in every eight deaths among under-18s.
The paper says policy implications of the shift of child population and child deaths to the world's poorest and most populous countries are key. For least developed countries, serious consideration must be given to how to meet the needs of children, especially in health and education.
The study, derived from projections by the United Nations Population Division, says the ageing population globally will increase pressure to shift resources away from children.
"Children do not vote, and their voices are often not heard when governments make decisions about funding," said paper co-author Danzhen You from UNICEF. "So it will be more important than ever to safeguard children so their rights are respected and upheld."
The paper's recommendations include: targeting investments to the areas where children will be born; an emphasis on neglected groups, especially in high population, middle income countries; reaching the poorest and most isolated households, and urgently tackling the issue of old age dependency.
# # #
UNICEF works in 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit:
In the International Year of the Child 1979, UNICEF staged a concert with hosts Gilda Rander, Henry Winkler and David Frost, a declaration read by Henry Fonda and musical acts: Donna Summer, Olivia Newton-John, Rita Coolidge, Earth, Wind & Fire, Rod Stewart, Kris Kristofferson, Andy Gibb, Abba and the Bee Gees.  That took place in NYC.  In England in 1979, Paul McCartney organized four nights of concerts to benefit UNICEF and the people of Kampuchea with Paul and Wings performing each night and other participants included the Pretenders, Elvis Costello & the Attractions, Queen, the Who, the Specials and the Clash.  But neither the NYC or London events were the first UNICEF benefit concert: "UNICEF has started many trends over the years. One of the most influential -- the rock-and-roll benefit concert -- began in 1971, when George Harrison and Ravi Shankar teamed up with UNICEF to raise money for children and families fleeing the war in what was then East Pakistan."  The Concert for Bangladesh.
Children around the world remain in need.  On Iraq, the paper, Generation 2025 and beyond: The critical importance of understanding demographic trends for children of the 21st century, written by Danzhen You and David Anthony, notes that the population is expected to increase by 6 million.  Currently, the CIA estimates Iraq's population to be 31 million.  Due to war and sanctions, it's a very young population.  The median age is 21.1 years.  37.6% of Iraq's population is under the age of 14.  On Iraqi children, UNICEF released the following today:
BAGHDAD, 20 November 2012 -- On Universal Children's Day, UNICEF calls for urgent action for Iraq's most vulnerable children.
"Every third child in Iraq, or about 5.3 million children, is still currently deprived of many of their fundamental rights," said UNICEF's Representative to Iraq, Dr. Marzio Babille. 
"UNICEF calls on all stakeholders - in government, civil society, the private sector and the international community - to urgently invest in these children to respect their dignity and give them an equal chance to become healthy, productive young citizens of the new Iraq," Dr. Babille stated.
Child rights violations across Iraq that need to be addressed include: inadequate access to and promotion of health services; lack of access to quality education; violence against children in schools and families; psychological trauma from years of extreme violence; discrimination; prolonged detention in juvenile facilities; insufficient attention to the special needs of children with disabilities and who are not in their family environment; and lack of access to information and participation in cultural life.
While the majority of children in Iraq experience at least one violation of their fundamental rights, around 1.7 million children, or 10 per cent of all Iraqi children, have most of their rights fulfilled.
"There are extreme disparities amongst Iraq's 16.6 million children," noted Dr. Babille.  "Our collective challenge now is to narrow these gaps between those children who are marginalized, having very limited opportunities to improve their well-being, and the children who have every opportunity to fully progress in their lives."
"Iraq's National Development Plan, which is currently being revised, is the ideal place to start robustly planning the expanded delivery of essential services across Iraq that will narrow this gap."
UNICEF is working with the Government of Iraq and partners to ensure children's rights and best interests are included in policies and that equitable approaches that prioritize the most marginalized children are adopted.
"UNICEF remains unwavering in its commitment to support the Government protect all children's rights and build an Iraq that is fit for all children," stated Dr. Babille.
Today is the 23rd anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which lays the foundational principles from which all children's rights must be achieved, and calls for the provision of specific resources, skills and contributions necessary to ensure the survival and development of children to their maximum capability. Iraq ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994.

Staying with the United Nations, the 67th General Assembly's Third Committee noted Monday, "The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) today approved a draft resolution that would have the General Assembly express its deep concern about the continued application of the death penalty and call on States to establish a moratorium on executions, with a view to abolishing the practice.  The draft text, approved by a record vote of 11 in favour to 39 against, with 36 abstaining, would have the Assembly call on States to respect international standards that provided safeguards guaranteeing the protection of the rights of persons facing the death penalty, as set out in the annex to Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50 (1984)."  Today the Press Trust of India reports that 39 countries voted against the resolution, declaring their right to kill, and among the countries voting no?  The United States and Iraq.  What a proud moment for the US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice who heads the mission.  The US voted no and gave a little speech on the topic, on the right to kill.  And that little speech took place yesterday but all those Susie Rice supporters 'forgot' to tell you about that.  Probably because they guessed, correctly, that a lot of her left support would crater if they were aware she was over arguing that using the death penalty is a decision for individual countries to make.
And what of Iraq?  The Iraqi government can't stop executing these days.  It's got a lust to satisfy.  From the November 12th snapshot:
Staying with violence, as noted in the October 15th snapshot, Iraq had already executed 119 people in 2012.  Time to add more to that total.  Mohammed Tawfeeq (CNN) reported last night that 10 more people were executed on Sunday ("nine Iraqis and one Egyptian").  Tawfeeq notes the Ministry of Justice's statement on the executions includes, "The Iraqi Justice Ministry carried out the executions by hanging 10 inmates after it was approved by the presidential council."  And, not noted in the report, that number's only going to climb.  A number of Saudi prisoners have been moved into Baghdad over the last weeks in anticipation of the prisoners being executed.  Hou Qiang (Xinhua) observes, "Increasing executions in Iraq sparked calls by the UN mission in the country, the European Union and human rights groups on Baghdad to abolish the capital punishment, criticizing the lack of transparency in the proceedings of the country's courts."
At least 129 executions so far this year.  And if you're not getting how death penalty crazy Nouri's Iraq is, sitting Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi has been sentenced to death in recent weeks . . . not once, but four times.  It's an addicition.

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