Maple syrup groups seek action on questionable food labels

Maple sugar producer Burr Morse, left, is joined by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., center, and Roger Brown, of Slopeside Syrup, right as they talk about a request by maple producers that the Food and Drug Administration crack down on food producers who use “maple” in their labeling when there isn’t any syrup in their products, during an event Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, in Richmond, Vt. In a letter to the FDA, Vermont producers were joined by maple associations from Maine to Wisconsin who want the FDA to take enforcement action to either remove the maple branding from the products or have the companies add maple syrup to them. (AP Photo/Lisa Rathke) MONTPELIER, Vt. – In the maple-rich areas of New England and the upper Midwest, producers don’t approve of fakers.Last week, industry groups from Vermont to Michigan sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration protesting food labeled as maple that doesn’t contain the real thing.They say products ranging from oatmeal to ice cream are misbranded in violation of FDA regulations because they don’t contain maple syrup, derived from heating sap from maple trees.They want the FDA to take enforcement action to either remove the maple branding from the products or have the companies add maple syrup to them.The FDA said it is reviewing the letter and will respond directly to the petitioners. by Lisa Rathke, The Associated Press Posted Feb 16, 2016 12:45 pm MDT Last Updated Feb 16, 2016 at 6:00 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Maple syrup groups seek action on questionable food labels read more

Ongoing Israeli restrictions hampering Palestinian employment economic activity – UN report

The United Nations labour agency is calling for lifting restrictions on movement, employment and economic activity in the occupied Arab territories to boost opportunities for decent work and to enable the Palestinian economy to grow. In its annual report on the situation of workers of the occupied Arab territories, which was presented today in Geneva, the International Labour Organization (ILO) cites a number of factors for the fiscal crisis in Palestine. These include the ongoing failure of donors to meet their commitments, the decision of Israel to suspend, at least temporarily, the payment of clearance revenues, as well as the pace of settlement growth. “This situation calls for measures by Israel not only to relax the application of restrictions on people and businesses but to lift them altogether, thus enabling the Palestinian economy to grow and generate decent jobs,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder says in his preface to the report. “The continuing occupation and expanding settlement activity are blocking the Palestinian economy, particularly its private sector, from significant progress,” he adds. The current situation will remain unsustainable until it is based on social justice. According to the ILO, the Palestinian economy is grappling with stagnating growth, higher unemployment and poverty and food dependency. The number of unemployed Palestinians rose by 15.3 per cent between 2011 and 2012, with the unemployment rate reaching 23 per cent. The situation is “particularly acute” in Gaza, where unemployment has reached 31 per cent and is almost 50 per cent amongst women, the agency said in a news release.It adds that 18.4 per cent of young Palestinians were neither in the labour force nor in education, including 31.4 per cent of young women. “These bleak indicators point to a clear need to develop large-scale programmes to support the school-to-work transition, such as a youth employment guarantee scheme,” says ILO.Excessive restrictions, which are economically and socially unproductive, are harming both Palestinian and Israeli business activities and any prospects for growth led by the private sector, it adds. While last year’s report warned of a dangerous political stalemate, there had still been, at that time, some advances in terms of economic growth, employment, social dialogue and gender equality in the Palestinian labour market, Mr. Ryder says. “The momentum for growth, already fragile at the time, has now come to a halt, and a fiscal crisis is turning into an economic and social crisis,” he adds.The report says that any effort to maintain a perceived status quo, in effect, promotes or at least permits “a further dangerous deterioration of the situation.” “At the very least, nothing should be done to make the situation worse,” says Mr. Ryder. “Denying rightful resources to the Palestinian Authority, stepping up the already unprecedented pace of settlement growth and constraining the Palestinian economy through restrictions and the weight of the settlements, will inevitably destroy any belief in the promise of two States for two peoples.“Instead,” he states, “together with genuine negotiations, what is needed is action to revive the flagging peace process and restore economic growth.”The report also points out that work in settlements remains largely unregulated and is open to abuse. The State Comptroller and Ombudsman of Israel had recently criticized the Israeli authorities for slow action in ensuring the inspection of wages, occupational safety and health, and social insurance for all settlement workers, including Palestinians.“All workers, irrespective of their place and form of employment, must be treated with dignity and respect for their fundamental rights, and must have effective access to remedies in the event of violations,” Mr. Ryder states.The ILO is currently hosting the 102nd session of the International Labour Conference, which opened on 30 May and runs through 14 June. read more

At Security Council Ban and UN special envoy outline way forward on

“On March 28, I instructed my Special Envoy for Syria, Mr. Staffan de Mistura, to intensify efforts…to find a political settlement to the conflict,” reminded Mr. Ban, who specifically asked him to work to “operationalize the Geneva Communiqué.”Laying out key steps in a process to end the violence, Geneva Communiqué, adopted in 2012 by the first international conference on the issue and later endorsed by the Security Council, calls, among others, for the establishment of a transitional governing body, with full executive powers and made up by members of the present Government and the opposition and other groups, as part of agreed principles and guidelines for a Syrian-led political transition.After extensive consultations, Mr. de Mistura came up with what the Secretary-General called a “viable alternative,” which the Special Envoy presented himself this morning to the 15 Council members, a day after the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Stephen O’Brien, addressed the 15-member body, painting a grim picture of the situation on the ground in Syria.“What I am today proposing is to deepen the Geneva consultations format. I now intend to invite Syrians to parallel thematic discussions through intra-Syrian working groups addressing the key aspects of the Geneva Communiqué,” safety and protection for all; political and constitutional Issues; military and security issues; public institutions; and reconstruction and development.These working groups will start generating movement towards a “Syrian-owned framework document” on the implementation of the Geneva Communiqué, explained Mr. de Mistura, convinced that this effort should be led by a “Steering committee” composed of Syrians from these thematic groups and possibly elsewhere.“The framework document will also provide for a transitional governing body, procedures for a national dialogue, the constitution drafting process and transitional justice issues,” continued the Special Envoy.In that regard, he stressed, the support of the Security Council will be “critical” to convince all Syrian and regional players to get involved.“Syria is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis,” stated the Secretary General. “At least a quarter-million Syrians have been killed. Almost half the country’s people – 12 million men, women and children – have been forced to flee their homes. In a massive cross-border exodus, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq are hosting an ever growing number of refugees, and increasing numbers of Syrians making desperate flights across the Mediterranean in so-called ‘death boats.’”Atrocious crimes are now almost an hourly occurrence, fed by a lack of accountability for the major human rights violations committed over the past four years and through decades of repression, he went on to say. The Syrian people have been exposed to chemical weapons and to new, indiscriminate killing devices such as barrel bombs and hell cannons, Mr. Ban deplored, as much as the fact that the conflict has given rise to terrorist groups such as Da’esh (also known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL) and Al Nusra Front, and fuelled sectarianism and radicalization.The Security Council unanimously endorsed the Geneva Communiqué, which remains the only internationally agreed basis for a political settlement to the Syrian conflict, he emphasized. “[Mr. de Mistura]’s consultations made clear that the major stumbling block in the political process remains the issue of forming a Transitional Governing Body, with full executive powers that can create a suitable environment and safety for all during the transition,” the UN chief acknowledged.The Secretary General said he stands ready to convene a “high-level international conference” to endorse any recommendations or agreement that the Syrian-led political process his Special Envoy intends to initiate may reach, including on the issue of the Transitional Governing Body. read more