Tourism Australia (TA) will now train an elite group of travel agents to work in China to sell holiday packages to high-net worth Chinese tourists.The new tourist agent A-team will work with small niche agencies in Chinese cities with good air connections to Australia Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Chengdu and Chongqing, The Australian Financial Review reported.TA managing director John O’Sullivan said that the new strategy is more aligned with TA’s 2020 tourism strategy.Mr O’Sullivan also said that the strategy would work because most high net worth Chinese tourists still booked through travel agents.Through the scheme, the new focus for Tourism Australia will be on joint advertising and developing new products and itineraries which better suit the needs of independent travellers.Tourism Australia already has marketing partnerships with Air China, China Eastern and China Southern and China’s biggest credit card and debit card provider, ChinaUnion Pay.Source = ETB News: Tom Neale
AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Berry Gordy fulfills dreams with Motown reaching 60 years FILE – In this Feb. 12, 2019 file photo, Ne-Yo performs during Motown 60: A GRAMMY Celebration at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. The pre-taped concert, hosted by Smokey Robinson and Cedric the Entertainer, with an all-star lineup including Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Diana Ross, Meghan Trainor and Tori Kelly, airs Sunday, April 21, on CBS. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File) by Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press Posted Apr 17, 2019 8:34 am PDT LOS ANGELES — Motown Records founder Berry Gordy looked out at the audience at a 60th anniversary tribute to his groundbreaking record label and saw his dream of making music for “all people” in the world fulfilled.Gordy told the packed Microsoft Theater at the “Motown 60: A Grammy Celebration” that he wanted his label to bring people together from all walks of life through “a legacy of love.” The pre-taped concert, hosted by Smokey Robinson and Cedric the Entertainer, with an all-star lineup including Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Diana Ross, Meghan Trainor and Tori Kelly, airs Sunday on CBS.“My dream came true,” said Gordy, who started the African American label in 1959, building a roster that included superstar artists such as Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, The Temptations, The Supremes and Diana Ross.“I want to thank all of you fans, and your parents, and their grandparents. All around the world. I could say their great grandparents, but that would make me older than I want to be.”When Gordy launched Motown, he gave black musicians the platform to showcase their talents at a time when they struggled to get their records played on mainstream radio stations. His label introduced and helped launch the careers some of the biggest selling music stars from Gaye to Lionel Richie.His label paved a way for the Motown Museum to be built in Detroit. It was the first headquarters of Gordy’s music empire where Wonder, The Supremes, the Miracles and other performers recorded hits before Motown moved to California in 1972.“We didn’t even realize the impact of Motown,” said Gordy, who started the label with an $800 loan from his family. “In those early days, the unsung heroes had the courage to follow me down a road that didn’t even exist.”Some of Motown’s greatest hits were put on display during the concert, which was taped in February.Ciara danced onstage sporting a Rick James-like braided wig with beads during her rendition of “Give It to Me Baby.” Legend crooned while playing the piano during a cover of Gaye’s “Mercy Me” and Ne-Yo sang The Jackson 5’s “I’ll Be There.”“His music set the standard for those following him,” Legend said of Gaye.Ross, who was once signed to Motown as lead singer of The Supremes, brought attendees to their feet when she opened her set singing to Gordy while sitting next to him. After singing a couple of songs onstage, she returned back to Gordy and sang “My Man.”“This is your legacy,” Ross told Gordy. “I want you to know that you have been a gift to all of us.”Trainor, Kelly, Fantasia, Chloe x Halle, Thelma Houston, and Martha Reeves also took turns in a “Women of Motown” medley.Other highlights included the “First Four Bars” segment hosted by Cedric the Entertainer. The house band played several Motown hits and random audience members grabbed the microphone and sang the opening to songs like “My Girl,” ?Super Freak,” ?Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.”___Follow AP Entertainment Writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter: http://twitter.com/MrLandrum31Jonathan Landrum Jr., The Associated Press
By Bejay Browne THOUSANDS of grape growers around the island will find out later this month if their entire yearly production of indigenous xynisteri will be bought by the Sodap cooperative, the island’s largest winery.Last year growers protested over the prices being offered for their xynisteri grapes, an ongoing problem that arose after a glut of the white grape followed the lifting of a partial ban on the indigenous fruit. Previously, xynisteri was only grown in limited, designated areas.Marinos Pericleous, Sodap’s sales and marketing manager, told the Sunday Mail that the facility is a cooperative and includes around 10,000 grape growers from all over Cyprus. This means that members expect their grapes to be bought, even if there is an excess, as has happened the last few years. He said that this year is no exception.“In the last few years the xynisteri grape production has been far more than we need and indications are that this year will be exactly the same.”Last year the cooperative’s committee discussed two options to try and solve this problem, he said.The first option was to buy only what was needed at a higher price, for example the 2016 vintage was priced at 39 cents per kilo. The second was to buy the whole crop but at a lower price, so for the 2017 vintage it would be 30 cents a kilo. They followed the second option, he said.“This year, there is no decision yet, but the matter will be discussed this month. We will start to receive grapes at the beginning of August, if not earlier, due to the weather,” he said.However, Sodap still has grapes left over from last year. In fact the excess quantities are far more than was forecast.“Even before we take any more grapes, we already have around half a million litres of excess wine and that’s before we even see how much there is from this vintage.”Pericleous said the organisation will this month study their budget for next year and will forecast what is needed.“Negotiations (with the growers) have to be give and take. Because we are a cooperative, the committee is made up of members from different villages and this can sometimes present challenges.”The Sodap a cooperative was formed in 1947 by a group of grape growers that brought together around 10,000 families, from 144 vine-growing villages.For the last few years it has been based at the Kamanterena winery in Stroumpi. It is a modern, well-equipped facility that uses the latest technology and expertise of a number of professional oenologists. This has led them to produce excellent, award-winning quality wines, as well as regional wines from Paphos, said Pericleous.The winery is situated in the heart of the main vine producing areas between the Paphos district villages of Stroumbi and Polemi. The winery is open to the public forSodap’s Kamanterena winery near Stroumbiwine-tasting and tours.Although it seems grape production in Cyprus is too much, the indigenous xynisteri variety in particular, Pericleous said that the volume of grapes being grown is about right for the needs of the island.Cyprus produces excess wine only because eight million litres of wine a year is imported to Cyprus.“The entire consumption is only around 17-18 million litres, so a huge chunk of wine available in Cyprus is imported, if this was far less, there would be no problem with our quantity of grapes,” he said.The other main variety that’s produced in large quantities in Cyprus is mavro. Much of this is used in zivania production as it’s cheaper to buy than xynisteri – around 25 cents per kilo. It is also a bigger grape, higher in sugar and alcohol.Those involved in the distillation of zivania prefer mavro over xynisteri for these reasons, he said. However, if xynisteri was cheaper they would buy that too, he said.As regards the European market, he noted that Cyprus can’t complete with countries such as Spain and Italy that can produce indigenous varieties at rock bottom costs.“Exports from Cyprus are low as we can’t compete with other countries such as Spain. They sell low quality wine in bulk at around 52- 53 cents. Our production costs alone are at around one euro per litre. We just can’t compete,” he said.In addition, the wine expert said that Cyprus hasn’t done a great job of establishing the ‘Cyprus wine brand’ in the last 30 or so years, as other countries have done.Many people don’t even know that Cyprus makes wine and establishing Cyprus as a brand is not an easy thing to do and can’t be accomplished overnight. It would take effort, money and years of consistency, he said.Even so, many of the wines produced at Kamanterena winery are popular and this has been recognised by garnering awards from around the world.“Already for 2018, we have 32 awards, last year we had 29 for the entire year. All of our wines win something and we are graded high, consistently, every year.”He added that although such recognition is great for the winery, it builds the company’s name rather than that of the country as a recognised quality wine producer.“If we finally build a name for Cyprus, Sommeliers will look at us seriously and this will help us to export our quality wines abroad.”You May LikeAssisted Living | Search AdsAssisted Living Communities in Rowland Heights Might Be Surprisingly AffordableAssisted Living | Search AdsUndowww.tracemedia.comTrace Media | New York SEO & Digital Marketing Agencywww.tracemedia.comUndoStairliftThe Cost of Stairlifts in Rowland Heights Might Surprise YouStairliftUndo New York state decriminalizes pot, stops short of Cuomo’s legalisation callUndoBritish woman who claimed gang-rape taken to courtUndoProtest outside the House over foreclosures lawUndoby Taboolaby Taboola
Categories: News Lawmaker will serve on three other panels State Rep. Anthony Forlini has been named chair of the House Financial Services Committee by Speaker Kevin Cotter. Forlini also will serve as a member of three other important committees.Forlini, R-Harrison Township, said his 32 years of financial-service experience will be invaluable in his role as chair of the Financial Services Committee.“My knowledge of money comes from my background in the financial-service industry,” Forlini said. “This provides me a huge wealth of knowledge while serving as the chair for Financial Services. Serving four years with the House Appropriations Committee should prove invaluable now that I am on the policy side of the legislation.”He also was named to the House Committee on Families, Children, and Seniors, the Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee and the Natural Resources Committee.Forlini said he looks forward to the role he can take as he continues to work to improve the lives of senior citizens in the state.“I have had a great relationship working with seniors from Harrison and Clinton townships and when I previously represented St. Clair Shores,” Forlini said. “From having an annual shred day in Harrison Township and conducting Senior Brigades at Clinton Township, I truly enjoy working with the seniors and hard-working families within the community.”His role on the Natural Resources Committee also fits in with his efforts to preserve the natural beauty of Lake St. Clair and the surrounding areas.“I believe it is critical to protect the Great Lakes,” Forlini said. “As vice chairman of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Appropriations Subcommittee last session, I was able to secure a $100,000 appropriation to open a laboratory at Lake St. Clair Metropark. This lab will test water samples taken from three local beaches to test for water safety and make the appropriate beach closures if the bacteria levels get too high. This allows residents from local communities to have timely water testing results from the local waterways.”Forlini said he also said he relishes the role he will have in protecting Michigan’s “blue economy” on the Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee.“I believe in promoting the state as Pure Michigan, and in Macomb County we refer to it as the ‘blue economy,’” Forlini said. “I have the privilege to live close to Lake St. Clair in Macomb County and I take advantage of the outdoor recreation it provides. I am also an avid bicyclist who has biked through Michigan and various locations around the world. I plan to encourage and promote the state of Michigan to attract visitors from other states and countries, which will increase revenue for our state.”##### 16Jan Forlini named to chair House Financial Services Committee
Monroe County representative appointed to three other key panelsState Rep. Jason Sheppard, of Temperance, today was appointed by Speaker Tom Leonard to serve as chair of the House Financial Services Committee for the 2017-18 legislative session.The Financial Services Committee is responsible for considering issues related to the regulation of banks, credit unions and other financial lenders.“I’m honored to be asked to serve in this leadership position,” said Sheppard.In addition to serving as chair of Financial Services, Sheppard was named to the Communications and Technology, Health Policy, and Tourism and Outdoor Recreation committees.“I’m looking forward to serving on these committees and helping to shape policies that will impact the residents of Monroe County and beyond,” Sheppard said.The House has 26 bipartisan committees that discuss, analyze and revise legislation before presenting it to the full chamber for consideration.### Categories: Sheppard News 26Jan Sheppard to chair House Financial Services Committee
Rep. Peter Lucido today announced the House Commerce and Trade Committee will hold a hearing Tuesday on his legislation to eliminate the twice-yearly time change in Michigan.“It’s about time,” said Lucido. “The dreaded time change has bothered me for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been working to eliminate it ever since the voters sent me to the Capitol. I’m extremely pleased to see my bill finally gain some traction with my colleagues in the House, and I’m looking forward to hearing how they feel about it on Tuesday.”The second-term Shelby Township legislator said the twice-a-year time changes are disruptive, making employees late to work and negatively affecting how students perform at school. Rather than end Daylight Saving Time, however, Lucido wants Michigan to remain in it all the time.In addition, Lucido said numerous studies have shown harmful health repercussions due to changing the clocks twice a year. Reports have shown increases in heart attacks, seizures, strokes and on-the-job injuries due to time changes. He cites a 2014 study by the American College of Cardiology that shows a 25-percent jump in heart attacks occurred the Monday after moving the clocks, compared to other Mondays during the year.“I’ve talked to people all across our state, and what people hate the most is changing back and forth. It hurts their performance at work and school and, as studies have shown, it’s harmful to their health,” Lucido said. “The majority of people I’ve spoken with want us to stay in Daylight Saving Time all year, so that’s the direction this state overwhelmingly favors. My legislation eliminates this clock-changing foolishness while giving us the added benefit of having more hours of sunlight in the evening.”### 16Mar Rep. Lucido announces hearing on time change legislation Categories: Lucido News
State Rep. Aaron Miller today joined a bipartisan coalition to dramatically cut auto insurance costs for drivers in Michigan, who now pay the highest rates in the nation.Miller supports legislation that will lower the cost of auto insurance in Michigan by offering motorists more coverage options, reining in medical costs and fighting abuse.“Michigan’s current auto no-fault system simply is not working. It’s broken,” said Miller, of Sturgis. “Sky-high prices are literally driving people out of our state, a pain we feel sharply here on the border with Indiana. We’ve got to get our costs more in line with neighboring states so Michigan can be the best possible place to live, work and raise a family.”Michigan’s average full coverage auto insurance premium cost – nearly $2,400 per year – is more than $1,000 above the national average and twice as high as those in neighboring states such as Indiana.The new bipartisan plan continues benefits for Michiganders already receiving lifetime health care after a catastrophic traffic accident. The plan also gives motorists the option to continue to buy unlimited personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, or buy more affordable alternative coverage plans.The legislation:Provides a guaranteed rate reduction for drivers who choose certain coverage plans alternative to the unlimited plan;Gives individuals the choice on the extent of PIP coverage as part of their auto insurance. Choice levels include $250,000, $500,000 or unlimited;Allows seniors age 62 or older with lifetime health care benefits the option to opt out of PIP coverage to avoid the current double taxation;Establishes fee schedules and attendant care limits to lower medical costs related to auto injuries;Helps the state ensure insurance companies are complying with state law, and creates a fraud authority to address fraudulent claims;Provides a state review of the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) to make sure motorists are not overpaying for insurance; andAddresses attorney fee costs and unfounded lawsuits while eliminating attorney conflict of interests with medical providers.“Our current system is out of whack when you look at the other 49 states,” Miller said. “I will continue to fight for reform until we make auto insurance more affordable in Michigan. The time to do something is now.”##### 26Sep Rep. Miller supports bipartisan plan to lower Michigan auto insurance rates Categories: Miller News,News
Categories: Runestad News Rep. Jim Runestad today announced a grant award of $7,835 to a local Milford business. A.B. Heller was awarded funds from the 2018 GoingPRO-Skilled Trades Training Fund (STTF) for the development of a skilled-training program in their manufacturing company.“Michigan is suffering from a huge deficit in qualified, skilled trade workers and I am pleased that A.B. Heller earned this opportunity to further the development of an exemplary skilled training program in manufacturing,” Runestad said. The STTF operates under the Talent Investment Agency and aims to provide opportunities for employers and workers to gain skilled-training experience in high-demand technical fields. Over the past five years, the STTF has helped companies create more than 14,000 jobs and retain 56,000.PHOTO INFORMATION: State Rep. Jim Runestad talks to workers at a local manufacturing business. 07Dec Rep. Runestad announces local skilled-training grant
01Feb Miller part of new effort fixing Michigan’s car insurance system State Rep. Aaron Miller today joined House colleagues in unveiling an eight-bill package repealing Michigan’s no-fault car insurance system.The goal of the plan is to bring significant relief to drivers paying the nation’s most expensive insurance premiums.The proposal eliminates the no-fault system and moves Michigan to a full-tort system similar to other states like Indiana. The legislation continues benefits for everyone already receiving lifetime health care after a catastrophic traffic accident.“I’ve been very consistent with this,” said Miller, of Sturgis. “With the failure of HB 5013 in November, I am no longer advocating for small changes. Opponents to no-fault reform always successfully kill those changes and never negotiate in any way to lower caps or institute fee schedules for care. Therefore, I’m happy to be part of this package to eliminate Michigan’s no-fault system.”The plan still mandates that all Michigan drivers have insurance, but provides more choice and flexibility by eliminating the mandate to buy unlimited medical coverage. Accident victims will have the ability to sue at-fault drivers for economic damages and non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.The legislation also includes a “legacy fee” to continue to fund the Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association (MCCA) until it is no longer needed. The MCCA system will be closed to new entrants.“If it works well in Indiana and people are moving there, it can and will absolutely work for us in Michigan,” Miller said. “It’s time to get rid of this system that has been stopping our population growth and economic development for so long.”Colorado abandoned its no-fault system in 2003. According to a 2008 governor’s study, the average car insurance premium in the state decreased 35 percent since the state moved to a tort auto insurance system. Michigan drivers could see greater savings by parting ways with its no-fault system, which is the only one in the nation that mandates unlimited health coverage. Florida, one of the 12 states operating with a no-fault system, is also debating repeal.Miller said rates would be reduced even further due to more competition from insurance companies coming back to the state to do more business, adding that the no-fault system is the reason why some insurers refuse to do business in Michigan.The bill package, House Bills 5517-23, will be formally read into the record next week. Categories: Miller News
Categories: Filler News 19Apr Rep. Filler announces business growth grant in St. Johns State Rep. Graham Filler announced an incentive by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation will go to support the MAHLE Engine Components USA facility in St. Johns. MAHLE, one of the largest worldwide auto suppliers with a parent company based in Stuttgart, Germany, will shut down a Pennsylvania facility and relocate assembly to their St. Johns location. The project will receive a $186,000 performance-based grant from the Michigan Business Development Program, part of the MEDC’s Michigan Strategic Fund.“This investment is a positive reflection of the business environment our residents have cultivated in the community,” Filler said. “Projects like these are a testament to the citizens of St. Johns and the surrounding area – their strong work ethic and hardworking nature drives our local economy forward. I commend MAHLE for choosing St. Johns and thank the MEDC for their support in this effort.”St. Johns was chosen over alternative sites in Tennessee and Mexico. All told, the project is expected to generate a total of $2.9 million in private investment and create 25 new jobs.
New law to save Southeast Michigan drivers hundreds of dollars per yearHistoric car insurance reform supported by state Reps. Joe Bellino and Jason Sheppard was signed into state law today, lowering costs for all Michigan drivers, including those in Monroe and Wayne counties.The reforms – approved by Bellino, Sheppard and the Legislature – give drivers more choice on personal injury protection coverage, combat fraudulent claims and stop price gouging on medical services for car accident victims. Many Michigan families will save hundreds of dollars or more each year.Michigan has had the most expensive car insurance in the nation mostly because it’s the only state mandating unlimited lifetime health care coverage through car insurance, with no corresponding cap on what medical providers may charge accident victims. The revised law will provide more affordable options for motorists while allowing those who currently use the unlimited coverage to keep it, and those who want it in the future to continue buying it.“Forged by hard work to hammer out bipartisan a compromise, these reforms are now law,” said Sheppard, of Temperance. “This is a huge win for Monroe County drivers and motorists across the state, and this also demonstrates the dignified, deliberative democratic process all voters expect and deserve. The people of Michigan spoke, and we listened. This smart solution – one that I have worked on over the past five years – will deliver real savings to all drivers across the state.”Beginning in July 2020, some drivers will be able to opt out of personal injury protection altogether, including seniors with retiree health coverage such as Medicare and those with health insurance policies that cover car accident-related injuries. Others will be able to continue with unlimited coverage or choose PIP limits of $250,000 or $500,000. A $50,000 option will be available for drivers on Medicaid.“Good things come to those who wait,” said Bellino, of Monroe. “Long-awaited car insurance that’s affordable to hard-working Michigan families is now a reality. After being forced to wait decades for state government leaders to step up and do something, drivers will no longer be forced to purchase insurance plans that are the most expensive in the nation. Cutting costs for Monroe and Wayne county families has been my top priority, and it feels good to have followed through on fixing our broken no-fault car insurance system and deliver real rate relief for all drivers across Michigan.”Other reforms include:Non-driving factors, such as zip codes, home ownership and educational level, can’t be used to determine rates.An anti-fraud unit will help crack down on those abusing the system, which should help further lower car insurance rates.A fee schedule will be established and phased in over three years for medical providers, reining in runaway costs that result from medical care providers charging far more to treat car accident victims than other patients. 30May Reps. Bellino, Sheppard: Long-awaited affordable car insurance now a reality Categories: Bellino News,Sheppard News
Share13Tweet1Share6Email20 Shares August 24, 2015; Inside Higher EdFew experts question the need for basic education as a way to palliate social ills. Education is considered a primary way to overcome all sorts of social problems, from extreme poverty to health literacy.While no one would question the need for the ABC’s, the benefits of higher education are where things get murky. At a time of “qualification inflation,” when highly educated people are working at coffee bars to pay off fancy degrees, is free online education the answer to both relieving debt and improving lives through education?In this area, NPQ has covered for-profit and nonprofit universities, the role of universities as theoretical think tanks or job-readiness factories, and models for lowering college tuition. All of these issues relate to the overall questions of public and private benefits of higher education, who should access it, and for how much.A recent model of nearly-free education is University of the People, an online institution based in California. As reported by Inside Higher Ed, the University of the People was accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (now called the Distance Education Accrediting Commission) in 2014. This nonprofit’s main goal is to help refugees and immigrants get that vital piece of paper for their resumes. While tuition is free, students do have to pay for end-of-course exams.“In the six years since University of the People was established, that idea and mission have taken off. After achieving accreditation a year ago, University of the People has seen interest in the degree programs skyrocket. Currently they have about 300 students waiting for scholarships to attend the online institution,” says Shai Reshef, president of the university.This close-to-free online model has caught the rising wave of massive open online courses (MOOCs), such as edX and Coursera, which are channels for international heavyweights like Harvard and Johns Hopkins to reach more students. For the most part, however, online education still doesn’t carry a lot of weight.The Inside Higher Ed article downplays the stigma of online education and the fact that many students perceive these courses as easy credit. The article addresses this sticky point in passing, with just a short quote from a student who “learned despite underestimating the quality of the work [that] he wasn’t going to be able to coast through the program.”MOOCs nevertheless remain a viable way to provide low-cost education, which has become a hot-button political issue. Recent examples of this are President Barack Obama’s two-year college proposal to reduce community college tuition to zero and Hillary Clinton’s New College Compact to make college and university more affordable for families suffocating under education-related debt, which now surpasses U.S. credit card debt.But does “free” actually motivate students to learn? In a recent Forbes article, John Ebersole, president of the nonprofit Excelsior College, offered the following a critique of the Clinton plan: “While I, and other reformers in the field, applaud efforts to ease financial burdens for students we do have reservations about possible unintended consequences of ‘free’ college. The idea of ‘free’ college degrees comes at a risk. If students don’t perceive value in the credentials, they may not remain committed to their attainment; a degree that costs nothing could be valued accordingly.”What seems more at stake here, though, is not how individual students value these degrees but how the world at large does. Employers’ attitudes about online degrees seem to be changing, and online courses have proven immensely popular, with millions of students enrolled.Free may have another downside, as free or close-to-free models have existed in Europe for a long time, yet most European countries have low university enrollment rates compared to the U.S. And while this correlation isn’t one-to-one (Finland has free education and high university enrollment rates), education experts and economists have pointed out that low-income students face other barriers than just tuition, such as their parents’ education and whether they live in a rural area. In a 2004 paper, Montreal economist Norma Kozhaya also argued that tuition is just one factor in a student’s choice to pursue education and that government subsidies can turn into breaks for the rich:By broadly subsidizing higher education more heavily, the average taxpayer is in effect financing many young people from well-off families and the high salary-earners of tomorrow. It should be asked if it is fair for people who do not benefit from university to contribute to its financing to this extent.Yet University of the People addresses the question of who benefits from lower tuition by targeting refugees and immigrants who would otherwise have finished their degrees in their home countries. They also use volunteers and paid staff, apply peer-based learning and collaboration, and use open learning resources to fill a need for a specific population and not to lower education costs for everyone.Free education may not cure all social ills, but one thing is clear: Scores of students from all backgrounds would undoubtedly prefer to sling coffee with a free degree than one that costs a lifetime of debt.—Amy ButcherShare13Tweet1Share6Email20 Shares
Share3TweetShareEmail3 SharesBy Voice of America News: Scott Bob report from Azaz, Syria. [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsMay 4, 2017; Al JazeeraIn a conflict like Syria’s, which has raged on for nearly a decade without an end in sight, any positive step is a thing to be celebrated. This week, a cautious agreement between aggressors established “de-escalation zones” where humanitarian aid may be more safely distributed and refugees are encouraged to return.A reporter from Al Jazeera was present at the talks in Astana where a leaked copy of the agreement was provided to AFP. He disclosed where “the locations of the ‘de-escalation zones’ are likely to be: Idlib and the Turkmen mountains, parts of Homs governorate, and areas on the outskirts of Damascus—including Ghouta—and in Deraa in the south.” The de-escalation zones do not contain any territory controlled by ISIS or Al-Qaeda affiliates.Under the agreement, the Syrian government and the Russians would cease flying over the zones for six months unless there are what Russian representative Alexander Lavrentyev described as “attempts to destabilize the situation.”The Syrian opposition has suspended their participation in the talks because they object to Iran’s being a signatory to the agreement, as “they are aggressors.” The opposition also objects that there is no guarantee of “the unity of the Syrian territory,” according to rebel spokesman Osama Abu Zeid.The tentative agreement is no guarantor of relief for Syrians; government forces have previously stopped aid from reaching civilians during a ceasefire, and most of the country’s medical infrastructure is destroyed or vastly diminished. Furthermore, the agreement does not yet contain any details about how the zones will be enforced.The U.S. State Department sent a representative to the talks, but is not a direct participant so far. The U.S. says it has “reason to be cautious.” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that the U.S. shares the opposition’s concerns about Iran’s role as a guarantor and about whether the government will really halt its attacks.Still, any positive step in this conflict-torn region is a reason for hope, however small. Nearly a half-million people have died in the conflict so far, without much progress toward a solution. Let’s hope that heroic NGOs, like the White Helmets and MSF who’ve been operating in the region, will have a chance to deliver aid while the small bubbles of calm last.—Erin RubinShare3TweetShareEmail3 Shares
Share11Tweet10Share3Email24 SharesPixabay. Creative Commons 0. Public domain.September 13, 2017; Ledger-Inquirer (Associated Press)Four U.S. senators have joined with the Bipartisan Policy Center to tackle one of the toughest and most resistant challenges facing America: how to turn around communities that have been mired in persistent poverty for decades. However, while the proposals are broad, they are short on funding specifics or grassroots buy-in.The USDA’s Economic Research Service labels a county as “persistently poor” if 20 percent or more of its population have lived in poverty for the previous 30 years. Many initiatives have tried to eliminate such deeply entrenched pockets of poverty, beginning with Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty.” That comprehensive effort laid the foundation for the safety net of today, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps; Medicare; Medicaid; Head Start; and Social Security.It has become popular to deride the War on Poverty, but the data demonstrate that poverty rates did fall after the programs were launched. For example, one region that has been historically mired in poverty has been Appalachia, a region that covers 205,000 square miles and includes all of West Virginia and portions of 12 other states from New York to Mississippi. President Lyndon Johnson traveled to Martin County, Kentucky, to launch his presidential campaign in April 1964. War on Poverty programs helped Appalachia lower its poverty rate from 31 percent in 1960 to 16.6 percent in 2015, as a 50-year retrospective issued by the Appalachian Regional Commission noted.Yet while poverty has fallen in Appalachia, the most recent data show there still are 93 Appalachian counties in which 40 percent or more residents are living at or below the poverty level. Nationally, there are currently 353 persistently poor counties in the United States—11.2 percent of the total. Eighty-five percent of these counties are rural.The report from the council and senators Joe Manchin (D-WV), David Perdue (R-GA), Thom Tillis (R-NC) and Mark Warner (D-VA) makes a number of recommendations. Nineteen prescriptions are offered in the areas of education and workforce, entrepreneurism and job creation, energy and infrastructure, and health. There are tensions among the recommendations, especially those related to energy and infrastructure. For example, one recommendation is to develop technology that can be commercialized for extracting “rare earth elements” from coal byproducts. These chemically similar metallic elements (typically scandium and yttrium) are highly sought after in the new energy economy, says the senators’ report, and Appalachian coal contains some of the highest concentrations in the country. However, it also is true that mined areas are environmentally damaged, and employees suffer from chronic threats to their health. Although the report acknowledges that “a one-size-fits-all policy to address workforce development will not be successful in Appalachia if not done in conjunction with a plan to improve the health and wellness of the citizens who make up that workforce,” no discussion is offered on how to resolve these conflicting priorities.Likewise, the report does not explore the root causes of persistent poverty in any detail (with one of the most glaring omissions being structural racism) or offer specific mechanisms to fund the proposals outlined. And while a list of grandees served on the report committee, there is little evidence that residents—and the nonprofits that serve them on the ground—were involved in conceiving this blueprint, even though Appalachia is home to many innovative nonprofits, such as Accelerating Appalachia, a nonprofit business incubator; small business lender Mountain Bizworks; and the Athens, Ohio-based Appalachian Center for Economic Networks; to name just a few.In its 2017 white paper, “Turning the Tide on Persistent Rural Poverty,” NeighborWorks America listed developing community leaders as one of its top recommendations.. In Appalachia, community leaders have called for the development of what advocates are called a “just economic transition” based on the development of such industries as:Renewable energy productionEnergy efficient homes, farms and businessesSustainable agricultureSustainable forestry and wood productsEnvironmental restorationHealth and community servicesEducation and job trainingAs the nonprofit Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, quoting an Appalachian farmer, notes, today “to be pro-coal miner is to work hard now to create new jobs and businesses to replace lost mining jobs and create opportunities for our children.” Appalachia is often viewed through the lens of poverty, but the southern Appalachian Mountains are one of the most biologically diverse regions in the temperate world, with nearly 10,000 species. In short, there is a lot to build on.—Pam Bailey and Steve DubbShare11Tweet10Share3Email24 Shares
Share15Tweet11ShareEmail26 SharesBy Wholtone [Public domain], from Wikimedia CommonsJuly 10, 2018; TruthOut“On Saturday, July 7, social media was flooded with images of an event in Chicago that was advertised as a shutdown of the Dan Ryan Expressway to protest gun violence,” write organizers Kelly Hayes, Mariame Kaba, and Monica Trinidad in TruthOut. “Led by celebrity-pastor Father Michael Pfleger and cosponsored by half a dozen local groups, 3,000 people marched onto the expressway, at first only occupying two lanes, with the permission of state police. After about an hour, Pfleger announced that state police would be shutting down all four lanes of traffic.”“Some,” note Hayes and her colleagues, “celebrated the protest as a powerful act of resistance. In Chicago and elsewhere, some of us who do the work of direct action and community organizing were far less impressed.” Indeed, the reality was far messier, with major political figures, including the mayor and school superintendent, supporting the action.The point, Hayes and her coauthors explain, is not that civil disobedience is always the preferred tactic. “We are striving for clarity rather than condemnation. Having a permitted march is not inherently bad, but, like petitions or calls to our elected officials, these are less about disrupting power than they are about appealing to it.”When might a social movement decide that civil disobedience is appropriate? “Direct action,” Hayes and colleagues note, “is often an escalation and a tactical response to a system that is not offering acceptable outcomes.” Or, as Berkeley free speech movement activist Mario Savio once more dramatically put it:There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all.So, if you are trying to stop the machine, how should you do so? Building on the work of Dean Spade, Peter Gelderloos, and others, Hayes, Kaba, and Trinidad provide a valuable concise guide of key questions to ask yourself, which are paraphrased below. These include:Does your action legitimize harmful institutions?Does it legitimize or expand a system you are trying to dismantle? (For example, what does it mean to cooperate with cops as part of organizing your action? If the goal is to shrink the power of policing, why are you thanking them for their presence rather than calling for their removal?”)Does it have elite support?Is the action colluding with power or resisting it?Is there a clear demand that will improve the lives of the most marginalized?To summarize: If you are colluding with authority and lack a clear demand, then you’re doing something other than direct action. It also, the authors emphasize, matters who benefits from the action and who is organizing it.What does a direct action look like? Writer and activist adrienne maree brown describes one that took place in Oakland, California, following the refusal of a Ferguson grand jury to indict police officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown:The action…was perfection. Every entrance into the Oakland police department was blockaded. The street in front of the entrance was blockaded on both ends, abundantly. The banners were stunning and clear—“black and breathing,” “complacency is consent,” and a flag flying from the OPD [Oakland Police Department] flagpole, held in place by a brave human who scaled it with muscle and rope, with the faces of our recent martyrs, stating once again that “Black Lives Matter.”Brown notes that what made the action powerful was “the messaging, leadership and visibility of young black leaders, stepping and chanting and singing and marching and fists in the air claiming historical space [while], just as clearly, allies were providing cover, taking risks, embodying solidarity.”As Hayes, Kaba, and Trinidad remind us, “Ultimately, no system of injustice will consent to its own overthrow and the system will never indict itself. People who have won great victories in liberation struggles have not done so by getting the step-by-step consent of their oppressors. They took strategic risks, and often suffered for them. There is nothing in our current historical context that exempts us from the realities of power or history—and anyone who suggests otherwise is not working in furtherance of our liberation.”—Steve DubbShare15Tweet11ShareEmail26 Shares
The Open IPTV Forum is to hold its free Symposium 2012 event in Vilnius, Lithuania on March 12.Nilo Mitra, president of the Open IPTV Forum, and Idrakas Dadašovas, CEO of Penki Kontinentai, will headline the event, which will also include speakers from Philips, Sony, Ericsson, Huawei, Deutsche Telekom, Telecom Italia, France Telecom, Opera Software and Informa Telecoms & Media.
Vivendi has named Michel Combes as the new chairman and CEO of telco and IPTV provider SFR.Combes is currently CEO of Vodafone Europe. Jean-Bernard Lévy will continue as chairman and CEO of SFR until August 1, when Combes will take up his post.“We are very happy that Michel Combes has agreed to come on board to run SFR. His international management experience and his extensive knowledge of the telecoms sector will prove most valuable to lead the company in the challenges it faces. We have total confidence in his ability to mobilize the SFR teams and to build with them a successful future for the company,” said Lévy.
Pay TV operator Sky Deutschland has extended its multi-year exclusive agreement with the Premier League, allowing it to continue its coverage of top-flight English football.The deal, which was closed for undisclosed terms, covers live broadcasts – with Sky Deutschland typically showing three games each matchday – as well as a highlight magazine show.Sky also secured exclusive online and mobile rights for Germany and Austria, making the English Premier League available on Sky Go via iOS devices, web browsers and Xbox 360 games consoles. As before, viewers will be able to access highlight clips on Sky’s Mediathek site.Last week Sky Deutschland secured the broadcasting rights to three major international golf championships – US Open, The Open and the PGA Championships – until 2015, adding to its existing deal for the US Masters tournament. It also recently secured rights to show the US PGA Tour until 2015 and the European Tour and Ryder Cup until 2014.
Amazon Studios has ordered five kids series pilots for Amazon Prime Instant Video service in the US, which will also be available to watch on its LoveFilm video-on-demand service in the UK.The streaming service has been moving into original production and testing pilots with subscribers who provide feedback online, helping the OTT provider make its final selection. The quintet of new shows are all aimed at kids aged 6-to-11.The shows include Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street, a live-action show from first time writer David Anaxagoras about three quirky teens.Grid Smasher is a puppetry and CGI hybrid about a group of aliens competing in a fictional intergalactic sport. It is from Dan Clark who’s previous credits include Yo Gabba Gabba!Duane Capizzi (Transformers Prime) has submitted Hard-Boiled Egg, an animated comedy about special agents who try to fix scientific mistakes.Another offering from a seasoned producer is The Jo B. & G. Raff Show from Josh Selig (The Wonder Pets). The preschool series follows the titular characters as they set about making a daily TV show.The new pilot selection is rounded off with Wishenproof! from Blue’s Clues creator Angela Santomero. The animated show follows a girl who can make wishes come true. It is Santomero’s second Amazon Studios pilot with her first, Creative Galaxy, currently in production and scheduled to be available on Prime Instant Video in early 2014.
Polish pay TV operator Cyfrowy Polsat has added Germany-based channel Romance TV HD to its programming line-up.The channel, which will be part of Cyfrowy Polsat’s Film HD package, will air in MPEG-4, available to users with HD set-tops.Mainstream Networks Holding-owned Romance TV offers a diet of female-focused films and TV series, including adaptations of works by romantic novelists Rosamunde Pilcher, Inga Lindstroem, Barbara Wood, Utta Danella and Emilie Richards, as well as movies including Statek Marzeń (Ship of Dreams) and series including Burza Uczuć (Storm of Emotions). The channel will be presented by Polish actress Aleksandra Wozniak.Tim Werner, director of operations at Mainstream Networks and Romance TV Germany, said that the move into Poland would have a positive effect on the company’s plans to expand internationally.