Washington D.C. (CNA/EWTN News).- The suicide rate in the United States is at its highest in at least 50 years, and is contributing to a decrease in the nation’s life expectancy, the federal government said Thursday.
Life expectancy for the U.S. population declined to 78.6 in 2017, down from 78.7 the previous year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a new report.
“Life expectancy gives us a snapshot of the Nation’s overall health and these sobering statistics are a wakeup call that we are losing too many Americans, too early and too often, to conditions that are preventable,” said CDC director Robert Redfield in a Nov. 29 statement.
The United States saw more than 47,000 suicides in 2017, an increase of more than 2,000 from the previous year.
In addition, there were more than 70,000 drug overdose deaths last year, a 10 percent rise from 2016. Deaths from heroin and prescription opioids remained steady from the previous year, while fentanyl deaths drastically increased.
Other findings in the CDC report included an increase in gun deaths, totaling almost 40,000. Deaths from heart disease – the top killer in the U.S. – are no longer declining, while deaths from flu and pneumonia increased by 6 percent.
While U.S. life expectancy had been rising for decades, the country is now seeing its longest period of generally declining life expectancy since World War I, according to the Associated Press.
Prayer garden damaged by Hurricane Michael at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Panama City, Fla. Courtesy photo.
How a Panama City parish is helping after Hurricane Michael
By Perry West
Panama City, Fla., Oct 19, 2018 (CNA).- This is the story of a hurricane. Or, at least, the story of one Catholic parish trying to help, in the wake of one of the most powerful storms to hit the U.S. in decades.
Hurricane Michael made landfall in northwest Florida Oct. 10. The hurricane has claimed 50 lives in the U.S. and Central America, caused an estimated $8 billion in damage, and displaced thousands of people.
After Hurricane Michael overwhelmed local hospitals, St. John the Evangelist parish in Panama City has become a hub for medical services and emergency supplies.
Father Kevin McQuone, pastor of St. John Evangelist Catholic Church, told CNA that many of his parishioners’ homes are damaged and that some areas are still without power.
“Many people have lost part or all of their home. Many people [who] are displaced are looking for other places to live,” McQuone said. “A handful, I have been informed have moved on, they have lost their jobs because their business were destroyed so they have already found other jobs and moved permanently.”
St. John’s parish school has been heavily damaged, he said. The roof for the middle school building was ripped off and other school buildings have severe water damage. The priest said the school has set up a satellite campus at another parish.
He said two local hospitals in the Panama City have nearly shut down completely aside from their emergency rooms. The hurricane, he said, also destroyed a medical warehouse, which held all of the hospital’s sterile supplies.
The parish has stepped up to offer basic medical supplies and help, relying on Catholic Charities and volunteer medical professionals.
“Bringing in any sort of triage or medical clinic is welcome just to help the whole community to get the care that they need,” he said.
“We also have a mobile medical clinic that was here for part of the day yesterday and was here today as well,” he said. “Next week, we will have a group of 8-12 doctors from around the country who volunteer, and they will be here for a whole week.”
He said people have come in for basic medical help, like tetanus shots. While patients are there, they can also receive supplies – water, toiletries, and food.
The priest said a majority of the aid has been provided and organized by Catholic Charities. Noting that the Catholic population in Florida’s panhandle is only about five percent, he said the parish is helping an entire community, many of whom might have otherwise not visited a Catholic Church.
“Catholic Charities has been really great,” he said. “Immediately, we have been in connection with them. They have been sending people our way and helping us to be of service not just to our parishioners, but really to the whole community. By and large, the far majority of people that we have been serving here I’ve never met before.”
Father McQuone said that more volunteers are still needed in the area.
“Jesus told us to love God with all of our heart and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves,” he said.
For people in distress, we are “doing all we can to serve the needs of their body and the need of their soul – by prayer and by sacrificial giving.”
By Sisters Denise Curry, Therese (Tracy) Dill, Mary Alice McCabe, SNDdeN
During more than 200 years as a Congregation, we, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur have been and are a strong presence in service to immigrants and refugees around the world. In the United States, with an increasing persecution of immigrants living in this country and the denial of entry to asylum seekers, our Sisters search for new ways to help peoples suffering under inhumane US immigration policies. The CARA Pro Bono Volunteer Project, established by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network (CLINIC) with 3 other immigrant advocacy organizations provides a new opportunity to serve immigrant peoples.
In 2017, three of us, Sisters Denise Curry, Mary Alice McCabe and Therese (Tracy) Dillspent a week as CARA Project volunteers in Dilley, Texas at a “Family Residential Center,” under US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This privately-owned facility houses 2,400 refugee women and children. It is a detention center, filled to capacity with mothers and their children, fleeing from persecution in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. These mothers make this dangerous flight toward the US border in a
desperate attempt to protect their children from violence and even death. In fact, these innocent women and children entering the USA find themselves in a prison which treats them like criminals and terrorists.
The CARA Project offers sensitive and compassionate legal assistance to these families. Spanish-speaking mothers prepare for interviews with ICE asylum officers in which they tell their distressing stories of persecution from either gang-related or domestic violence. As volunteers, we found a number of ways to help at the center. As interpreters in
Spanish, we gave in-take talks for helping the women to understand the steps and to feel relaxed and safe in this asylum process. Meeting with each woman individually, we listened to her story and assisted her in preparing for her interview with an ICE asylum officer. We also assisted with the office work that needs to be done in order for the CARA lawyers and paralegals to provide legal services for the women.
To serve the increasing numbers of asylum seekers at Dilley, the Project needs more volunteers: lawyers, paralegals and interpreters. Volunteers meet hundreds of mothers and children, thin, exhausted, and frightened, who have been walking and hiding for weeks. The women and children remain in detention in Dilley until ICE determines their fate. In the interview, the ICE asylum officer listens to the woman’s experience and decides whether or not the persecution in her country of origin is “credible” enough under US immigration law to allow her to seek asylum and stay in the US. The woman must tell her story of having been terrorized and traumatized, in a convincing manner. She must show that she has fled for her life and that return to her country would mean death. The stories are very disturbing: gangs kill family members, kidnap children, force men and teenage boys into gang “membership,” extort monthly payments from well-off and poor alike, abuse and rape girls. In domestic violence cases, women are beaten, treated as property, held captive, and receive death threats.
FUTURE FOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN
A positive evaluation from the asylum officer is required for a mother and her children to be released from detention and sent on to their destination in the USA.
A negative evaluation will send the mother and children into the deportation cycle, which in most cases, means a “death sentence.” CARA lawyers always appeal negative evaluations and do everything to give these women and children a chance at a new life.
A week with these mothers and children is an experience that shakes one’s heart and soul in a unique way. We meet brave women from both cultures: Central American women struggling against all odd sto protect their families, and North American women, volunteers, pro bono lawyers and our own Sisters committed to social justice and basic human rights for immigrant families. At this time, more Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are preparing for volunteer service at this detention center in Texas during the current year 2018.
By Miroslav Lajcák (President of the UN General Assembly)
UNITED NATIONS, Apr 18 2018 (IPS) – First, I want to talk about how we got here.
It was nearly 100 years ago, when indigenous peoples first asserted their rights, on the international stage. But, they did not see much progress. At least until 1982 – when the first Working Group on Indigenous Populations was established.
And, in 2007, the rights of indigenous peoples were, finally, set out in an international instrument.
Let us be clear here. Rights are not aspirational. They are not ideals. They are not best-case scenarios. They are minimum standards. They are non-negotiable. And, they must be respected, and promoted.
Yet, here we are. More than a decade after the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted. And the fact is, these rights are not being realized.
That is not to say that there has been no progress. In fact, we heard many success stories, during yesterday’s opening of the Permanent Forum.
But, they are not enough.
Which is why, as my second point, I want to say that we need to do much more.
Last September, the General Assembly gave my office a new mandate. It requested that I organise informal interactive hearings – to look at how indigenous peoples can better participate at the United Nations.
So, that is why we are all sitting here. But, before we launch into our discussions, I want to acknowledge the elephant in the room.
I know that many of you were disappointed, with the General Assembly’s decision last year. After two years of talking, many of you wanted more than these interactive hearings.
We cannot gloss over this. And that is why I want to address it – from the outset. But I must also say this: Things may be moving slowly. But they are still moving.
When our predecessors formed the first indigenous working group, in 1982, their chances were slim. Many doubted whether an international instrument could be adopted. And, frankly, it took longer than it should have. But, it still happened.
So, we need to acknowledge the challenges, and frustrations. We cannot sweep them under the rug.
But we also cannot let them take away from the opportunities we have, in front of us.
And that brings me to my third point, on our discussions today.
This is your hearing. So, please be blunt. Please be concrete. Please be innovative.
Like I have said, we should not pretend that everything is perfect. Major problems persist – particularly at the national level. And, we need to draw attention to them. Today, however, we have a very specific mandate. And that is, to explore how we can carve out more space, for indigenous peoples, on the international stage.
That is why I ask you to focus on the future of our work, here, at the United Nations. And to try to come up with as many ideas and proposals as possible.
In particular, we should look at the following questions:
Which venues and forums are most suitable?
What modalities should govern participation?
What kind of participants should be selected?
And how will this selection happen?
We should also try to form a broader vision. This will allow us to better advise the General Assembly’s ongoing process to enhance indigenous peoples’ participation.
Finally, next steps.
As you know, this is our very first informal, interactive hearing. There will be two further hearings – next year, and the year after.
Then – during what we call the 75th Session of the General Assembly – negotiations between governments will start up again.
Turning back to today, the immediate outcome of our hearing will be a President’s Summary. But, I am confident that the longer-term outcome will be yet another step, in the direction of change.
So, this is where I will conclude. My main job, now, is to listen.
GAZA, April 5 (Reuters) – Israeli fire killed a Palestinian at the Gaza border on Thursday and another died of wounds suffered several days ago, health officials said, bringing to 19 the number of Palestinian dead from a week of frontier protests.
The Israeli military said one of its aircraft targeted an armed militant near the security fence along the Gaza Strip.
Tens of thousands of Palestinians are holding a six-week-long protest in tent encampments along the fenced border of the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip, an enclave of 2 million ruled by the Islamist Hamas group.
The demonstrators are pressing for a right of return for refugees and their descendants to what is now Israel.
The latest deaths are likely to add to international concerns over the violence, which human rights groups have said involved live fire against demonstrators posing no immediate threat to life.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an independent investigation into the deaths on the first day of the protest last Friday, and B’Tselem, an Israeli rights group, urged Israeli soldiers to “refuse to open fire on unarmed demonstrators.” Orders to do so were “manifestly illegal,” it said.
The United States, however, directed its criticism at the protest leaders. “We condemn leaders and protestors who call for violence or who send protestors – including children – to the fence, knowing that they may be injured or killed,” President Donald Trump’s Middle East peace envoy, Jason Greenblatt, said in a statement on Thursday.
Sixteen Palestinians died after being shot by Israeli troops on the first day of the demonstrations, Palestinian medical officials said, and another was killed on Tuesday.
A 33-year-old man, hit by Israeli fire a few days ago near one of the tent cities, died on Thursday, the officials said.
Israel says it is doing what is necessary to defend its border. The military said that its troops had used live fire only against people trying to sabotage the border fence or rolling burning tyres and throwing rocks.
On Thursday, Brigadier-General Ronen Manelis, Israel’s chief military spokesman, cautioned that Israel might attack deeper inside Gaza if the demonstrations did not stop.
“We have information that tomorrow, under a smoke screen and civilian cover, Hamas intends to carry out terrorist attacks against our civilians and troops, and cross the fence,” he said.
“We have no interest in harming women and children who are protesting. They are not our enemies. We have one intention, not to allow terrorist attacks against our civilians and troops on the other side of the fence.”
LETHAL FORCE Many of the demonstrators who turned out for the first wave of protests along the border returned to their homes and jobs over the week. But organisers expect large crowds again on Friday, the Muslim sabbath.
Protesters on Thursday were bringing more tents and thousands of tyres to burn, in what has become known as “The Friday of Tyres.” They say they intend to use mirrors and laser pointers to distract Israeli sharpshooters.
“Friday is going to be a special day, they will see that we are not afraid,” said one Palestinian youth as he delivered tyres to the area. But Ahmed Ali, a 55-year-old teacher, said that while he wanted his family to see the tent camp, he would not come back on Friday.
“I taught my children one day we will be returning to Jaffa, our home, but I can’t allow them to throw stones because the Israelis won’t hesitate to kill them,” he said.
Hamas said on Thursday it would pay $3,000 to the family of anyone killed in the protests, $500 for critical injuries and $200 for more minor injuries. Israeli leaders say that such payments serve to instigate violence.
Visiting the frontier this week, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman warned protesters that “every person who comes close to the fence is endangering their lives.”
The protest action is set to wind up on May 15, when Palestinians mark the “Naqba,” or “Catastrophe,” when hundreds of thousands fled or were driven out of their homes during violence that culminated in war in May 1948 between the newly created state of Israel and its Arab neighbours.
Israel has long ruled out any right of return, fearing it would lose its Jewish majority.
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller and Stephen Farrell Editing by Richard Balmforth and Peter Cooney)
HARARE, March 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Jimmy Gata, 19, recites an anti-drugs poem at “Theatre in the Park” in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, jumping and gesturing on the stage, as spectators clap and cheer on the former addict.
Before finding his passion for the spoken word, Gata regularly took BronCleer, a cough syrup often smuggled in from South Africa that contains codeine, a painkiller similar to morphine. If enough is drunk, it also intoxicates like alcohol.
“Since Ngoma Yorira Theatre Association took me in to learn about film-making and acting and poetry, I have had no time for (BronCleer),” said Gata, a trained motor mechanic.
There are no accurate figures on the number of drug users in Zimbabwe. The Ministry of Health and Child Care says about 3,000 people nationwide are suffering mental illness directly related to drug abuse.
For 19-year-old Innocent Ndaramashe, an emerging R&B and hip-hop music star who was addicted to substances like BronCleer, the performing arts came to his rescue just in time.
“My music encourages my peers not to consume drugs because they damage our health,” Ndaramashe told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “As a young man who has been taking drugs, I decided to preach against the abuse of drugs through my music career.”
In a country where many people struggle to earn a living in the informal economy, the theatre association has also helped out the poor and hungry.
“(It) gives food parcels, groceries to the needy in my community of which I am also a beneficiary because I am very old,” said 73-year-old Tambudzai Mlambo, a resident of Mbare township in Harare.
As Zimbabwe battles drug abuse made worse by a shortage of jobs for young people, the government acknowledges the contribution of the community arts scene.
“Groups that have of late emerged have helped to keep former drug addicts focused on theatre or art. This diverts their attention from drugs to concentrate on something new and positive for their wellbeing,” said Dorcas Sithole, deputy director of the Ministry of Health’s mental health department.
The state is doing what it can to fight drug abuse in tough circumstances, she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“We are trying to prevent drug users from turning into addicts,” she said, explaining how the government puts them on withdrawal programmes in hospital and is also planning to open rehabilitation centres.
In addition, anti-drugs activists say there is a need for occupational therapy such as theatre, which also helps young people build their self-esteem.
“Nurturing talent provides an avenue for accomplishment as opposed to helplessness which is associated with the onset of drug use,” said Hilton Nyamukapa, programme coordinator for the Zimbabwe Civil Liberties and Drug Network.
Established seven years ago, the national network advocates for strategies to address problems linked to drug use in Zimbabwe and across Southern Africa.
Former drug addict Innocent Ndaramashe, now an up-and-coming musician, works in a studio in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Feb. 14, 2018.
Former drug addict Innocent Ndaramashe, now an up-and-coming musician, works in a studio in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Feb. 14, 2018.
A pioneer of the idea of using theatre to tackle drug problems, Ernest Nyatanga, founder and president of the Ngoma Yorira Theatre Association, said his organisation pays former addicts for their acting.
“Rewarding former drug users for their performances in theatre helps to motivate them and cultivate in them a desire to work for themselves,” he told Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Recently the association shot films highlighting social and economic issues facing the country, such as “The Delinquent” which depicts a misled young man who takes drugs while in school. The films are shown at Harare’s “Theatre in The Park”.
Nyatanga said the association donates some of the proceeds from its performances – which it stages in townships in remote areas too – to local orphanages and poor widows.
And it has helped feed people going hungry when drought hit food supplies in rural and urban areas.
It also recruits community members to sell recordings of theatre productions on a commission basis by the roadside.
“We are an association that lives amongst ordinary people, and we care for their needs,” Nyatanga said.
So far, the theatre association has helped more than 340 individuals change their lives for the better, 30 percent of whom were hooked on drugs, he said.
Parents like Linda Masarira, 36, whose 18-year-old son was an addict but has now resumed his secondary-school studies, are grateful for its work.
“It is a miracle – my son is reforming; he is now an upcoming hip-hop star while he is also into theatre and as a result he has… stopped using drugs,” Masarira said.
FAITH AND FOOTBALL
Community religious groups like the Christian Youths Fellowship Association (CYFA) based in Chegutu, a farming town 100 km (62 miles) west of Harare in Mashonaland West Province, have also joined the fight against drugs.
Patrick Imbayago, founder and director of the CYFA, said his group has shown anti-drugs films in urban and rural townships.
“After seeing these kinds of films, few would return to drug abuse because… drug abusers are shown as eventually losing their marbles, going mad,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The CYFA also funds football training for young people. “The more we occupy them with social activities like soccer, the less our youths turn to drug abuse,” said Imbayago.
Reporting by Jeffrey Moyo; editing by Megan Rowling.
Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/
“It’s clear if we want to face climate change, women and girls from all the world should be central actors”
MEXICO CITY, Feb 26 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Cities will be the battleground and women can be effective warriors on the frontlines in the fight against climate change, activists and leaders said on Monday.
Investing in the education and leadership of women and girls will provide a much-needed boost in efforts to slow global warming, said attendees at the Women4Climate conference organised by C40, a global alliance of cities, in Mexico City.
“For thousands of years we’ve been investing in the education of men, in the professional capacities of men, in their rise to positions of leadership and decisions,” Christiana Figueres, former head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), told the group.
“We haven’t done this investment with women,” said Figueres, who now leads “Mission 2020,” a global initiative to lower greenhouse gas emissions.
The Women4Climate conference brought together mayors, business leaders and leaders working to curb climate change. It was the second such conference held since world leaders agreed in Paris in 2015 on a goal of slowing the rise in average global temperatures.
“It is clear the battle will be fought especially in urban areas,” said Patricia Espinosa, the current UNFCCC head.
“It’s clear if we want to face climate change, women and girls from all the world should be central actors,” she said. “We have little time left.”
Extreme weather related to climate change is hitting urban areas, said Salt Lake City, Utah Mayor Jackie Biskupski.
She said the western U.S. city is warming at double the global rate, affecting the snowfall it depends upon for water.
Rome’s Mayor Virginia Raggi said her city planned to ban diesel-fueled cars from its centre, plant thousands of trees and invest in zero-emissions buses.
“Cities can do a lot to make a difference on climate, but just like women, cities can’t be expected to change the world all by themselves,” said Andrea Reimer, a Vancouver, Canada city official.
(Reporting by Sophie Hares, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, resilience, women’s rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit http://news.trust.org/)
The Thomson Reuters Foundation is reporting on resilience as part of its work on zilient.org, an online platform building a global network of people interested in resilience, in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation.