Saturday, 25 October 2014

U.S.: Federal Commission Begins Deliberating in Effort to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities

BURLINGTON, Vt., Oct. 24, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- The Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities (CECANF) began deliberations today in Burlington, Vermont in advance of issuing a report to President Obama and Congress on a national strategy to eliminate child abuse and neglect fatalities.  The meeting took place one day after the Commission heard from local, state and tribal stakeholders from the Burlington, Vermont region.

The Commissioners met as a body for the first time to begin deliberating on key questions related to how federal, state, and local governments define and count child abuse fatalities.  Some of the key questions they reviewed include:
  • What are the purposes of counting child abuse and neglect fatalities?
  • What data on child abuse and neglect fatalities are currently collected?
  • What are the limitations and economic impact of our current data collection efforts?
  • What strategies could be implemented to improve the counting of child abuse and neglect fatalities? 
  • Does defining child abuse and neglect fatalities need to be standardized?
According to Dr. David Sanders, Chairman of the Commission, "We are beginning our deliberation process with a focus on counting, because we all agree that we cannot solve a problem this complex until we agree it exists. And that begins by defining exactly what constitutes a child abuse or neglect fatality. When we understand how these deaths occur, we can develop more effective strategies to prevent them. It is not enough to agree that a death occurred. Information about the circumstances around that death shows us which risk factors were present. These risk factors can then be used, in conjunction with real-time data, to identify other children who are at increased risk of harm -- and to prevent future deaths by offering timely services to their families or moving the children to a safe environment.

Commissioner Teri Covington summarized the data that the Commission has received to date on how to quantify child abuse and neglect fatalities. "It is estimated that the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), which defines cases of child abuse and neglect based on state-specific statutes, currently undercounts the number of fatalities by as much as fifty percent, according to numerous studies," she noted. "There is little consistency in which fatalities are being counted, which affects both the validity and reliability of the current system. Our challenge is to identify ways not just to more accurately count fatalities, but to verify data through multiple sources and a multi-disciplinary approach that is standardized across states and localities."

The Commission discussed the contention that while most instances of "physical abuse" were readily identifiable, it was the category of "neglect" deaths that was more difficult to define and classify. They also discussed the recommendation suggested by many experts and stakeholders who presented to the Commission that the development of uniform, operational definitions for child maltreatment fatalities based on a public health model would be an important step to more accurately counting those deaths. They concluded their initial day of deliberations with a focus on the issue of confidentiality and the challenges it presents to a more cohesive system of data sharing.

CECANF was established by Public Law 112-275 (112th Congress), the Protect Our Kids Act of 2012, and has spent the past six months gathering detailed information and insight related to federal policy, research, and practice associated with child abuse and neglect fatalities. To date, the Commission has hosted public meetings in San Antonio, TX; Tampa, FL; Detroit, MI; and Denver, CO. One more public meeting is planned for 2014, to take place in Burlington, VT on October 23-24, 2014

The commission is charged with the study of:
  • The use and effectiveness of federally funded child protective and child welfare services
  • Best practices for and barriers to preventing child abuse and neglect fatalities
  • The effectiveness of federal, state, and local data collection systems, and how to improve them
  • Risk factors for child maltreatment
  • How to prioritize prevention services for families with the greatest needs
The legislation mandates that the commission submit a report to the president and Congress on these issues within two years (with the potential to extend the deadline by an additional year). The report will detail specific recommendations for strategies to better track and eliminate child abuse and neglect fatalities.

About The CommissionThe Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities is a federal agency established by legislation to study and make recommendations on eliminating child abuse and neglect fatalities.  The Commission was formed as a result of the "Protect Our Kids Act" and is made up of six Presidential appointees and six Congressional appointees. For more information, please go to
SOURCE Commission to Eliminate Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities
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Friday, 24 October 2014

SBA Refusing To Release Unredacted Terry Sutherland Emails

The Small Business Administration (SBA) is refusing to release complete copies of all Press Office Director Terry Sutherland's emails. The American Small Business League (ASBL) originally requested Sutherland's emails for the month of March on April 9, 2014 under the Freedom of Information Act.

The SBA originally claimed Sutherland only had 73 emails in March. The ASBL appealed the request and the SBA then acknowledged he actually had over 2,000 emails.  When the ASBL finally received Sutherland's 2000 emails, several had been redacted.
After analyzing Sutherland's emails, the ASBL believes the SBA is still withholding a significant number of the documents. ASBL President Lloyd Chapman has been the SBA's harshest critic issuing several press releases and blogs a month criticizing the fraud that has been uncovered in SBA programs. None of the emails released by the SBA makes any mention of Chapman or the ASBL. The ASBL believes the SBA is withholding any of Sutherland's emails that would reveal the SBA's campaign to discourage journalists from writing about fraud at the SBA.

Several of Sutherland's emails seem to indicate he does not physically work at the SBA headquarters, but actually works out of his home. Sutherland's emails also indicate he is still closely connected to the Pentagon Force Protection Agency (PFPA) where he was head of Corporate Communications.

The ASBL believes Sutherland took over the SBA Press Office in April 2013 to reduce media coverage of the Obama Administration's plan to quietly dismantle the agency. President Obama initially tried to close the SBA by combining it with the Department of Commerce. That plan was derailed after the ASBL launched a national campaign to expose the plan to shutter the agency. The Obama Administration dropped their plan to close the SBA after several journalists published stories agreeing with Chapman that President Obama was actually trying to close the agency.

"It's obvious the SBA Press Office is attempting to block stories on the Obama Administrations plan to close the agency. They are also trying to kill any media coverage of the rampant fraud at the SBA that has been uncovered by the GAO, the SBA's own Inspector General and the mainstream media," Chapman stated.
News organizations such as NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox News, CNBC, MSNBC and RTTV have all reported on the fraud in SBA managed programs.

The ASBL plans to file suit in the Federal District Court in San Francisco to force the SBA to release all of Terry Sutherlands emails in their entirety. 

Watch new ASBL documentary trailer.
SOURCE American Small Business League

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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Google Spends $3.94 Million On 3rd Quarter Lobbying; Comcast $4.23 Million; Facebook $2.45 Million

Google spent $3.94 million lobbying the federal government in the third quarter, off from its record $5.30 million in the previous quarter, but up 17 percent from $3.37 million in the comparable period in 2013, according to records just filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives and analyzed today by Consumer Watchdog.

Of 15 tech and communications companies' lobbying spending monitored by Consumer Watchdog only Comcast, which is seeking approval for a $45 billion deal to acquire Time Warner Cable spent more than the Internet giant, reporting lobbying costs for the third quarter of $4.23 million.  Nine of the 15 companies monitored trimmed their expenditures from compared to the third quarter of 2013.
Facebook spent $2.45 million, topping $2.12 million spent in the second quarter, but not quite matching their record $2.78 million spent in the first quarter.  Third-quarter spending by the social network in 2014 increased 70 percent from $1.44 million in 2013.

Amazon set another company record for its spending, $1.18 million, spending more than $1 million in a quarter for the second time.  Amazon's lobbying outlay was a 51 percent increase from $780,000 in 2013. Amazon spent $1.06 million in the second quarter of 2014.

Google's archrival Microsoft, which until recently had outspent Google on lobbying efforts, trimmed its outlay to $1.66 million, decrease of 26 percent from $2.23 million in 2013.  It was also below second quarter spending of  $2.34 million.

"These lobbying disclosure statements don't include payments to trade associations or the sort of 'soft' lobbying that has become a Google trademark – funds to think tanks and academic research centers," noted Simpson. "When all that is factored in, the amounts are staggering. Policymaking is no longer about what's right; it's all about the money."

View the Clerk of the House's Lobbying Disclosure database here:

Here are the third quarter lobbying amounts for the six other tech firms:
  • Apple spent $1.01 million in 2014, a 4 percent increase from $970,000 in 2013.
  • Cisco Systems spent $730,00 in 2014, an 18 percent decrease from $890,000 in 2013.
  • IBM spent $850,000 in 2014, a 28 percent decrease from $1.18 million in 2013.
  • Intel spent $810,000 in 2014, a 23 percent decrease from $1.12 million in 2013.
  • Oracle spent $1.20 million in 2014, a 12 percent decrease from $1.36 million in 2013.
  • Yahoo spent $730,000 in 2014, a 16 percent increase from $630,000 in 2013.
Here are third quarter lobbying expenditures for three telecommunications companies:
  • AT&T spent $3.47 million, a 19 percent decrease from $4.30 million in 2013.
  • Sprint spent $706,343, a 2 percent decrease from $718,096 in 2013.
  • Verizon spent $2.91 million, a 4 percent decrease from $3.04 million in 2013.
Here are lobbying expenditures for two cable companies:
  • Comcast spent $4.23 million, a 6 percent increase from $3.98 million in 2013.
  • Time Warner Cable spent $1.80 million, an 8 percent decrease from $1.96 million in 2013.
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SOURCE Consumer Watchdog

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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Sub-Saharan Africa Farm Yields 70-90 Percent Below Potential, Atlas Research Finds

Sub-Saharan Africa has the world's largest gap in farm yields – 70-90 percent below their potential – according to a new research tool unveiled today. The outcome of a 6-year international collaborative research effort led by the Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska and Wageningen University in the Netherlands, the Global Yield Gap and Water Productivity Atlas is the first transparent, interactive and map-based web platform to estimate exploitable gaps in yield and water productivity for major food crops worldwide.

The Atlas can help farmers, policy makers, foundations and private sector organizations identify regions with the greatest potential to sustainably produce more food with strategic use of resources. The Atlas also provides a digital platform for analyzing location-specific crop production and land-use changes, as well as the potential impact of certain crops or new agriculture technologies on specific areas.

"Producing enough food to meet the demands of more than 9 billion people in 2050, while conserving natural resources and ecosystems, depends on improving crop yields on existing farm land around the world," said Roberto Lenton, founding executive director of the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska. "The foremost use for the Atlas is to leverage data to identify opportunities to strategically increase yield and water productivity of existing cropland, rather than tilling more land that may not be ideal for sustainable crop production." 

Composed of data gathered by a variety of international scientists beginning in 2008, the Atlas includes information from nearly 20 countries and projects are in place at an additional 30 countries. The data show that Sub-Saharan Africa – primarily smallholder farmers practicing subsistence agriculture in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda – can potentially increase yields of existing farms by more than twofold. Other studies show that Ethiopia's surface water and groundwater supplies could irrigate 10 times as much land than they are right now.

"The Atlas enables farmers and policy makers to identify regions with the greatest potential to improve water productivity and grow more food sustainably. It provides data that helps determine where we can get the most bang for the buck from prudent use of inputs such as fertilizer, better seed and water," said Lenton. "For example, in Nebraska, the yield gap is about 10 percent, but in a place like Tanzania, the yield gap is closer to 40 percent – there is a significant opportunity to improve that yield."

The Atlas is innovative in that its research follows a bottom-up approach, using agronomists from each target country to identify key agricultural areas and collect data about local conditions and farming methods. Researchers scale this data to national, regional and global levels through an agro-climatic zone scheme, which considers geographic regions with similar climate conditions. The international research team is also developing methodology to accurately convert short-term weather data into long-term patterns and to scale-up local yield estimates. 

The Atlas was presented at the sixth annual Water for Food Global Conference held Oct. 19-22 in Seattle, Wash., hosted by the Water for Food Institute in association with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Water for Food ConferenceThis year's conference, "Harnessing the Data Revolution: Ensuring Water and Food Security from Field to Global Scales," provided a forum for more than 250 global experts and policy leaders to discuss ways to overcome the urgent challenge of growing more food with less pressure on scarce water resources. Attendees specifically focused on how data can improve the productivity and sustainability of both small and large farmers around the world. 

The conference included presentations and panel discussions by internationally renowned speakers, such as Jerry Bird, director general, International Water Management Institute, Robb Fraley, executive vice president and chief technology officer for Monsanto, and Jeff Raikes, co-founder of Raikes Foundation and former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. They covered a range of topics, including the data needs of smallholder farmers, using climate data to improve decision-making, water in agriculture, public health, and the policy and economic implications of water metering. Another key highlight of the conference was the announcement of a Memorandum of Understanding between the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the Water for Food Institute. 

For additional information on the Global Yield Gap and Water Productivity Atlas, visit: For additional information on the 2014 Water for Food Conference, visit:

About Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute

Founded in 2010, the Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska is a research, education and policy analysis institute created to address the global challenge of achieving food security with less pressure on water resources through improved management of water in agricultural and food systems. The institute is committed to ensuring a water and food secure world without compromising the use of water for other human and environmental needs.

SOURCE Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska

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Saturday, 18 October 2014

IFAW partner Interpol on the hunt for suspected Kenyan ivory smuggler

Interpol, the world's largest international police organization is cracking down on wildlife criminals. Just this week, they issued a red notice alert – similar to an international arrest warrant - for suspected Kenyan ivory trafficker Feizal Ali Mohamed. He is accused of being the mastermind behind the slaughter of tens of thousands of elephants in Kenya.

In June Kenya Police issued a warrant for his arrest in connection with a seizure in Mombasa including 228 tusks and 74 ivory pieces with a total weight of more than two tonnes. Feizal Ali Mohomed escaped arrest and has been a fugitive ever since. If convicted, he could face life imprisonment or fines of at least 20 million shillings or US$224,000.

"This red notice is a good move to protect elephants. We need to get to the kingpins to end the ivory trade," said IFAW CEO Azzedine Downes. "INTERPOL can undertake enforcement operations in source, transit and end-user countries, which complements IFAW's strategy to combat wildlife crime."

In May 2013 International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) was the first non-governmental organization to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Interpol's Environmental Crime Program. The two have collaborated on numerous projects since 2005 including Interpol's largest-ever illegal ivory trade operation in 2012. The organizations joined forces to combat global wildlife crime, especially crime related to the illegal killing of and trafficking in elephant, rhinoceros and tiger parts.

As one of the world's most lucrative criminal activities, valued at US$19-billion annually, illegal wildlife trade ranks fifth globally in terms of value, behind the trafficking in drugs, people, oil and counterfeiting.
Most illegal ivory is destined for Asia, in particular China, where it has soared in value as an investment vehicle and is coveted as "white gold". Availability of legal ivory in China purchased form the stockpile sale in southern Africa in 2008 has, in turn, boosted demand encouraging illegal ivory trade and the poaching of elephant to meet market needs.

As part of a worldwide capacity building initiative IFAW trains law enforcement officers in wildlife trafficking prevention in several countries throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Oceania, and the Caribbean

The IFAW report, Criminal Nature: The Global Security Implications of the Illegal Wildlife Trade, documents the threat the illegal trade poses to animals like elephants and rhinos, and also people. The learn more about the illegal ivory trade, download IFAW's digital magazine Unveiling the Ivory Trade

SOURCE International Fund for Animal Welfare

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