No 4-year-old should have a bucket list

courtesy of: Water is Life

About 783 million people live without access to clean water— which is just less than three times the population of the United States.

More than 3.4 million people die each year from water, sanitation and hygiene-related causes— with nearly all of them occurring in the developing world.

And among children…

Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death among children under 5 in the world.

Nearly 1.5 million children under the age of 5 die every year from diarrhea globally— that is an estimated 4,100 children each day.

That means every 21 seconds a child dies from a water-related illness.

Living with clean water is a necessity, not a luxury people should bear in the 21st Century.

Donate $10 to Water is Life and you can provide clean water to one person for one year.

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Government shutdown impact: Mail, air travel, prisons – Associated Press – POLITICO.com

Last night, Congress caused the nation into a partial government shutdown after they failed to come to budget  agreement over President Obama’s health care law. The impact: 800,000 government employees to be furloughed and more than one million others will be asked to work without pay, according to the NY Times.

Apart from this being the first government shutdown in nearly two decades, this is also ridiculous because now hundreds of thousands of government employees will not be receiving a paycheck WHEN Congress will be. If they are so hell bent on continuing this stalemate over Obamacare, then they should be the ones who feel the brunt of this, not the many government employees.

Government shutdown impact: Mail, air travel, prisons – Associated Press – POLITICO.com.

A government shutdown would have far-reaching consequences for some, but minimal impact on others.

Mail would be delivered. Social Security and Medicare benefits would continue to flow.

But vacationers would be turned away from national parks and Smithsonian museums. Low-to-moderate income borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages could face delays.

A look at how services would or would not be affected if Congress fails to reach an agreement averting a government shutdown at midnight Monday.

AIR TRAVEL

Federal air traffic controllers would remain on the job and airport screeners would keep funneling passengers through security checkpoints. Federal inspectors would continue enforcing safety rules.

INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

The State Department would continue processing foreign applications for visas and U.S. applications for passports, since fees are collected to finance those services. Embassies and consulates overseas would continue to provide services to American citizens.

BENEFIT PAYMENTS

Social Security and Medicare benefits would keep coming, but there could be delays in processing new disability applications. Unemployment benefits would still go out.

FEDERAL COURTS

Federal courts would continue operating normally for about 10 business days after the start of a shutdown, roughly until the middle of October. If the shutdown continues, the judiciary would have to begin furloughs of employees whose work is not considered essential. But cases would continue to be heard.

MAIL

Deliveries would continue as usual because the U.S. Postal Service receives no tax dollars for day-to-day operations. It relies on income from stamps and other postal fees to keep running.

RECREATION

All national parks would be closed, as would the Smithsonian museums, including the National Zoo in Washington. Visitors using overnight campgrounds or other park facilities would be given 48 hours to make alternate arrangements and leave the park. Among the visitor centers that would be closed: the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in New York, Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Alcatraz Island near San Francisco and the Washington Monument.

HEALTH

New patients would not be accepted into clinical research at the National Institutes of Health, but current patients would continue to receive care. Medical research at the NIH would be disrupted and some studies would be delayed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would be severely limited in spotting or investigating disease outbreaks, from flu to that mysterious MERS virus from the Middle East.

FOOD SAFETY

The Food and Drug Administration would handle high-risk recalls suspend most routine safety inspections. Federal meat inspections would be expected to proceed as usual.

HEAD START

A small number of Head Start programs, about 20 out of 1,600 nationally, would feel the impact right away. The federal Administration for Children and Families says grants expiring about Oct. 1 would not be renewed. Over time more programs would be affected. Several of the Head Start programs that would immediately feel the pinch are in Florida. It’s unclear if they would continue serving children.

FOOD ASSISTANCE

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, could shut down. The program provides supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for pregnant women, mothers and their children.

School lunches and breakfasts would continue to be served, and food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, would continue to be distributed. But several smaller feeding programs would not have the money to operate.

TAXES

Americans would still have to pay their taxes and file federal tax returns, but the Internal Revenue Service says it would suspend all audits. Got questions? Sorry, the IRS says taxpayer services, including toll-free help lines, would be shut as well.

LOANS

Many low-to-moderate incomes borrowers and first-time homebuyers seeking government-backed mortgages could face delays during the shutdown. The Federal Housing Administration, which guarantees about 30 percent of home mortgages, wouldn’t underwrite or approve any new loans during the shutdown. Action on government-backed loans to small businesses would be suspended.

SCIENCE

NASA will continue to keep workers at Mission Control in Houston and elsewhere to support the International Space station, where two Americans and four others are deployed. The National Weather Service would keep forecasting weather and issuing warnings and the National Hurricane Center would continue to track storms. The scientific work of the U.S. Geological Survey would be halted.

HOMELAND SECURITY

The majority of the Department of Homeland Security’s employees are expected to stay on the job, including uniformed agents and officers at the country’s borders and ports of entry, members of the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration officers, Secret Service personnel and other law enforcement agents and officers. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services employees would continue to process green card applications.

MILITARY

The military’s 1.4 million active duty personnel would stay on duty, but their paychecks would be delayed. About half of the Defense Department’s civilian employees would be furloughed.

PRISONS

All 116 federal prisons would remain open, and criminal litigation would proceed.

VETERANS SERVICES

Most services offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs will continue because lawmakers approve money one year in advance for the VA’s health programs. Veterans would still be able to visit hospitals for inpatient care, get mental health counseling at vet centers or get prescriptions filled at VA health clinics. Operators would still staff the crisis hotline and claims workers would still process payments to cover disability and pension benefits. But those veterans appealing the denial of disability benefits to the Board of Veterans Appeals will have to wait longer for a decision because the board would not issue any decisions during a shutdown.

WORK SAFETY

Federal occupational safety and health inspectors would stop workplace inspections except in cases of imminent danger.

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A Way of Life Is Ending. Thank Goodness.

courtesy of NY Times’ Nicholas D. Kristof’s column

One of my most searing experiences as a reporter occurred in Cambodia, where I met a woman whose daughter had just died of malaria and who was left caring for seven children and grandchildren.

The woman, Nhem Yen, showed me her one anti-malaria bed net and told me how every evening she agonized over which children to squeeze under it — and which ones to leave out and expose to malarial mosquitoes.

That’s the kind of excruciating question that extreme poverty forces on families.

For thousands of generations, a vast majority of humans have lived brief, illiterate lives marked by disease, disability and the loss of children. As recently as 1980, a slight majority of the world’s people lived in extreme poverty, defined as surviving on less than $1.25 in today’s money.

Yet in a time of depressing news worldwide, about dysfunction and crisis from Syria to our own Congress, here’s one area of spectacular progress.

The share of the world’s people living in extreme poverty has been reduced from 1 in 2 in 1980 to 1 in 5 today, according to the World Bank. Now the aim is to reduce that to almost zero by 2030.

There will still be poverty, of course, just as there is far too much poverty lingering in America. But the extreme hanging-by-your-fingernails subsistence in a thatch-roof hut, your children uneducated and dying — that will go from typical to essentially nonexistent just in the course of my adult life.

Here’s something even more important than Congressional name-calling or the debt limit: New approaches are saving millions of children’s lives each year. In 1990, more than 12 million children died before the age of 5. Now that figure is down close to 6 million. Bill Gates, whose foundation with his wife, Melinda, pioneers the vaccines and medicines saving these lives, tells me that in his lifetime the number will drop below 1 million.

Illiteracy is retreating and technology is spreading. More people worldwide now have cellphones than toilets.

Timeout for a skeptical question that is both callous and common:

When additional kids survive in poor countries, does that really matter? Isn’t the result just a population explosion leading to famine or war, and more deaths?

That’s a frequent objection, but it’s wrong. When child mortality drops and families know that their children will survive, they are more likely to have fewer babies — and to invest more in them. There’s a well-known path from declining child deaths to declining births, which is why Bangladesh is now down to an average of 2.2 births per woman.

Ancient diseases are on the way out. Guinea worm and polio are likely to be eradicated in the coming years. Malaria has been brought under control in many countries, and a vaccine may reduce its toll even further.

AIDS is also receding. Last year in southern Africa, I interviewed coffin-makers who told me grumpily that their businesses are in recession because AIDS is no longer killing large numbers of people.

The drop in mortality understates the gains, because diseases don’t just kill people but also leave them disabled or unproductive, wrecking the economy. Poor people used to go blind routinely from disease or were unable to work for want of reading glasses. Now they are much less likely to go blind, and far more likely to get glasses.

These achievements aren’t just the result of work by Western donors or aid groups. Some of the biggest gains resulted from economic growth in China and India. When the poor are able to get jobs, they forge their own path out of poverty.

Rajiv Shah, the administrator of the United States aid agency, says he is optimistic that extreme poverty will be eliminated by 2030 but notes that increasingly the focus will have to be on lagging countries like Congo. Aid groups are everywhere in countries like Rwanda or Malawi that are easy to work in, but scarce in eastern Congo or the Nuba Mountains of Sudan where the needs are desperate but working conditions can be dangerous and primitive.

Despite the gains, a Pew poll early this year found that the budget area that Americans most wanted to cut was “aid to the world’s needy.” Perhaps one reason is that aid groups and journalists alike are so focused on problems that we leave the public mistakenly believing that the war on poverty and disease is being lost.

So let’s acknowledge that there’s plenty of work remaining — and that cycles of poverty in America must be a top priority at home — yet also celebrate a triumph for humanity. The world of extreme poverty and disease that characterized life for most people throughout history may now finally be on its way out.

 

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Ninety-two abducted children rescued in China in crackdown on human trafficking

We might live in a society where slavery has been formally abolished, but that does not mean it is nonexistent. Today, thousands of children, women and men are trafficked around the world to serve as prostitutes, workers, housemaids etc., forced to live in substandard conditions and earning little to no money. Some of these people are sold into the life by their parents or family members, others join willingly with a false hope of a better life and others are forced into. Whatever the circumstance, it does not matter since the trafficking of humans is illegal and needs to be eradicated.

Human trafficking is a REALITY, and one that can be found in their own backyard. Please help stop the trafficking of humans, like the 92 abducted children found in China.

Chinese police rescue 92 abducted children in crackdown on human trafficking

courtesy of: The Telegraph

Over 300 suspects were detained in latest operation by Chinese authorities to crack down on chronic problem of child trafficking linked to the country’s one-child policy.

Police forces from 11 provinces were involved in the operation to break up a massive network that stole, bought and sold children in Henan province in central China and other provinces.

Revealing one of the biggest busts of its kind in years, officials said on Saturday that the group had targeted children in Yunnan and Sichuan provinces in China’s southwest and transported them to other provinces for sale.

The exact date of the police operation, which was the result of a six-month investigation, is not known.

Child abduction is a major problem in China, where such police operations have become regular occurrences as authorities crack down on child trafficking.

Strict family planning laws, a traditional preference for boys, ignorance of the law, poverty and illicit profits drive a thriving market in babies and children.

State media did not give a breakdown of how many boys and how many girls were kidnapped, but kidnapped women are frequently sold to men in remote areas who are unable to find brides due to a sex imbalance resulting from the draconian one-child policy, which has also encouraged sex-selective abortions.

China also plans to introduce laws to punish buyers of children and parents selling their own children.

China has trumpeted the success of an intensified crackdown on the kidnapping and sale of children and women recently. In 2011, police said they had rescued more than 13,000 abducted children and 23,000 women over the past two years or so.

A U.N. committee is scheduled to issue on Oct. 4 its findings on China’s implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Beijing ratified in 1992.

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Judge orders NJ to allow gay marriage

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June, a New Jersey judge orders the state to allow gay marriage. With this action, the U.S. is moving in the right direction— one step closer to the legalization of gay marriage countrywide.

 

Judge Orders New Jersey to Allow Gay Marriage

courtesy of: New York Times

A New Jersey judge ruled on Friday that the state must allow same-sex couples to marry, saying that not doing so deprives them of rights that were guaranteed by the United States Supreme Court in June.

It is the first time a court has struck down a state’s refusal to legalize same-sex marriage as a direct result of the Supreme Court ruling, and with lawsuits pending in other states, it could presage other successful challenges across the country.

The decision was a rebuff to Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican who vetoed a bill passed by the Legislature last year that would have allowed same-sex couples to marry. His office said it would appeal to the state’s highest court. And he is likely to seek a stay preventing same-sex marriages from beginning on Oct. 21, as the judge ordered.

New Jersey was particularly ripe for a challenge after the Supreme Court ruling, because of a previous ruling by the state’s highest court in 2006. In that decision, in the case Lewis v. Harris, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled unanimously that same-sex couples were entitled to all of the rights and benefits of marriage. But the court stopped short of saying they had a fundamental right to marry, and in an unusual step instructed the Legislature to define how to confer equal protection.

“The ineligibility of same-sex couples for federal benefits is currently harming same-sex couples in New Jersey in a wide range of contexts,” Judge Mary C. Jacobson of State Superior Court in Mercer County wrote on Friday. “Same-sex couples must be allowed to marry in order to obtain equal protection of the law under the New Jersey Constitution.”

Legislators had responded to the 2006 court ruling by passing a bill to allow civil unions, but same-sex couples sued again, arguing that civil unions denied them many benefits, particularly in health care decisions and financial matters.

The United States Supreme Court’s ruling in June striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act meant that the federal government must provide the same benefits to gay married couples as it does to heterosexual married couples. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy noted in his opinion that the ruling was “confined” to legal marriages, and several federal agencies have since said that partners in civil unions would not be extended benefits, including those having to do with immigration, tax status and health care. Thirteen states and the District of Columbia allow gay couples to marry.

The same-sex couples in New Jersey pressed for a fast judgment after the Supreme Court’s decision. Judge Jacobson agreed with the plaintiffs that the federal decision demanded a change in New Jersey, to abide by the state’s earlier ruling recognizing equal protection for gay couples.

“Under these circumstances, the current inequality visited upon same-sex civil union couples offends the New Jersey Constitution, creates an incomplete set of rights that Lewis sought to prevent, and is not compatible with ‘a reasonable conception of basic human dignity,’ ” she wrote, quoting from the earlier State Supreme Court decision.

While the decision is limited to New Jersey, gay rights advocates said that it would help fuel the argument that marriage is a fundamental right for gay couples.

“Other states may not have a Lewis decision that says that not giving same-sex couples an equal footing violates the Constitution, but I think that argument is available, and a vibrant argument to make,” said Hayley Gorenberg of Lambda Legal, who argued the New Jersey case on behalf of Garden State Equality and six gay and lesbian couples and their children.

The federal decision, she said, “made the freedom to marry even more urgent than before because the state stood between these families and a host of federal protections, benefits, rights and responsibilities.” She hailed Judge Jacobson’s ruling as “thrilling.”

The ruling heightens the political drama for Mr. Christie, who is up for re-election in November, and is considered a leading candidate for his party’s nomination for president in 2016.

His Democratic opponent, State Senator Barbara Buono, called the ruling “a stark reminder that Governor Christie stands on the wrong side of history.”

“The courts have spoken and the people have spoken,” Ms. Buono added. “It is time for Chris Christie to stop blocking equal rights for all New Jerseyans.”

But the court ruling might not work against him in a presidential campaign as he courts conservative voters in key primary states. He frequently rails against the New Jersey Supreme Court as too liberal, and has tried to fill it with judges who would rule more conservatively on issues like affordable housing and school financing.

If the appellate court rules against him on same-sex marriage, and even opponents believe there is a strong chance it will, Mr. Christie could simply campaign against activist judges. He could even ask the appellate court to push the case immediately to the State Supreme Court for quick resolution.

When Mr. Christie vetoed the same-sex marriage bill, he urged lawmakers to put the issue before voters. The Democratic-led Legislature declined, saying that questions of civil rights should not be subject to a referendum.

The governor’s office, in a statement on Friday, signaled that he intended to make the Legislature, if not the courts, his boogeyman. “Since the Legislature refused to allow the people to decide expeditiously, we will let the Supreme Court make this constitutional determination,” the statement said.

Legislative leaders, working with state and national gay rights groups, are pushing to override Mr. Christie’s veto, which they have until January to do.

 

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Germany to allow “third gender” on birth certificates

Parents will no longer have to put male or female on their child’s birth certificates in Germany, as the country has enacted a law that will allow parents to assign a “third gender” if sex cannot be clearly identified at birth.

This new law, in my opinion, is a step in the right direction, as parents should not be forced to assign their baby a “male” of “female” identification [sometimes by cutting off body parts if they are ambiguous in order for their child to fit into one of the two categories]. By forcing parents to assign a sex, parents are essentially solidifying that child’s fate— either into a male or female stereotyped world,— when the child might not actually associate with that gender. By allowing parents to assign a third gender, the child will have the opportunity to assign him or herself a gender later in life.

Germany to become first European state to allow ‘third gender’ birth certificates

German parents will no longer be legally obliged to register their newborn child as male or female, and will instead be officially allowed to assign the baby a “third gender” if the sex cannot be clearly identified at birth.

The new law will come into force on November 1, on the back of a constitutional court decision which states that as long as a person “deeply feels” that they belong to a certain gender, they have a personal right to choose how they legally identify themselves.

Parents of newborn infants will be allowed to leave the gender form on the child’s birth certificate completely blank if it is born with unusual physical characteristics making it impossible to determine the gender.

The new law will apply to intersexuals, also known as hermaphrodites, rather than transsexuals. Hermaphrodites are people in possession of both female and male physical characteristics.

Justice Minister Sabine Leuthheusser-Schnarrenberger said the decision will have deep repercussions and will require “comprehensive reform” of all documents issued by the state. Adult passports currently require people to state their gender, partly to avoid potential problems when traveling abroad.

The ‘third gender’ designation will also have an effect on marriage laws. As of now, only men and women are allowed to legally marry in the country. Homosexual couples can enter into a civil partnership, and no provisions are made for unions between other genders.

Germany is the first European country to implement such legislation, although Australians have allowed citizens to mark their gender on a passport as X since 2011. New Zealand followed suit last year. Activists in both countries say the legislation has helped curb discrimination against transsexuals and those of indeterminate gender, whether they have had gender reassignment surgery or not.

Silvan Agius, policy director at human rights organisation ILGA Europe – the European branch of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association – told Spiegel newspaper that the decision will push the rest of the EU to do the same.

“Germany’s move will put more pressure on Brussels,” Agius said. “That can only be a good thing.”

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It’s a Boy

The anticipation is over…Kate Middleton just delivered a healthy baby boy!! He will be the third in line for the throne, behind Prince Charles, his grandfather, and Prince William, his father.

Statement from Kensington Palace:

Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge was safely delivered of a son at 4.24pm.

The baby weighs 8lbs 6oz.

The Duke of Cambridge was present for the birth.

The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh, The Prince of Wales, The Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Harry and members of both families have been informed and are delighted with the news.

Her Royal Highness and her child are both doing well and will remain in hospital overnight.

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