Public trust on EC on the wane Shujan

first_imgCivil society platform Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) president Hafiz Uddin Khan addresses a press conference at the National Press Club on Wednesday. Photo: UNBMore than 52 per cent of the total 548 candidates, who are vying for mayor and ward councillor posts in the upcoming polls to three city corporations, are businessmen by profession, reports UNB.While addressing a press conference at the National Press Club organised to share the affidavits of candidates contesting in the upcoming city polls, civil society platform Shushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Shujan) said this on Wednesday.Presenting a report, Shujan representative Dilip Kumar Sarkar also said at least 43 per cent of the candidates taking part in the three elections have educational background below the secondary level.Elections to three city corporations in Sylhet, Barishal and Rajshahi are billed for 30 July.Dilip also presented the information of the candidates’ income status, picture of their assets, number of cases against them, their loan status and description and assessment of financial status of all mayoral candidates in the press conference.Local government expert Tofayel Ahmed said the EC did not properly check the information provided by the candidates in their affidavits and he urged that the EC must verify the information appropriately.Shujan said the election commission (EC) has lost the credibility, which was earlier gained through successful holding of polls in Narayanganj, Cumilla and Rangpur cities.The civil rights body said EC could not take any clear step to prevent several incidents of electoral code of conduct violations already taken place centring the upcoming city polls.That’s why, Shujan observed, public trust on EC is eroding.Mentioning the incidents of bomb blast in Rajshahi, filing of cases against the activists of BNP mayoral candidate in Sylhet and arrests of several persons, Shujan said these incidents are making people worried and concerned about the fairness of the election.Dilip Kumar Sarkar said, “Before the national parliament election these city polls are the biggest ones organised by the EC and if the EC fails to arrange elections in a free and fair way, it will give a negative impression about EC among the public.”Presiding over the programme, Shujan president Hafiz Uddin Khan alleged, “EC failed to ensure a level playing field for the each contesting candidates in these cities, which makes us concerned about the fairness of the elections.”last_img read more

Sewage Overflows In Houston Caused By Harvey A Health Concern

first_img Share 00:00 /01:05 X To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code: Gail DelaughterOfficials say sewage overflows, caused by Harvey flood waters, have already been reported in Memorial Villages, West University, Baytown, and Crosby.Bellville resident Bruce Margolis has been volunteering with water rescues, in multiple areas around Houston.“We watch things floating through the water that you can only imagine,” said Margolis.  “The water we’re in, if you can imagine, the sewers back up. We watch these sewers bubble.”And advocacy group Environment Texas fears sewage overflows could eventually total in the millions of gallons; and it says many systems have yet to file reports.At least 12 sewage spills in Houston have been reported to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.And Brian Zabcik, a clean water advocate with Environment Texas, said that’s concerning. “Think of it. It’s your toilet flowing into floodwaters, bay, and bayous.”Even though its diluted, Zabcik says the untreated sewage is a health concern for anyone who wades in the water; due to infectious organisms, intestinal bacteria, and other disease agents that may be present.A Texas A&M analysis of Houston floodwater shows E. coli levels are 125 times higher than what’s considered safe for swimming. Listenlast_img read more

Citizenship Question Controversy Complicating Census 2020 Work Bureau Director Says

first_imgActing U.S. Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin stands in the lobby of the agency’s headquarters in Suitland, Md. The bureau is facing six lawsuits from more than two dozen states and cities, plus other groups, that want a new question about U.S. citizenship removed from the 2020 census.The head of the U.S. Census Bureau says the controversy over a new question about U.S. citizenship on the 2020 census is complicating its preparations to conduct a national head count.For the first time since 1950, the Census Bureau will ask all U.S. households about citizenship status, specifically, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”“Controversy about the content of the census does complicate our messaging,” acting U.S. Census Bureau Director Ron Jarmin says in an exclusive interview with NPR. Jarmin is overseeing the 2020 census, the once-in-a-decade head count of every person living in the U.S. as required by the Constitution.“We need to get responses from everybody whether they like the question or they don’t like the question,” says Jarmin, an economist who has served at the bureau since 1992. “We need to be able to get both sides of this debate to respond to the census.”The interview is Jarmin’s first with a news organization since stepping in last July to lead the bureau, and it comes as preparations for the next national tally in 2020 are already drawing criticism over security and privacy concerns as well as legal action over the citizenship question.The bureau is facing six lawsuits from more than two dozen states and cities, plus other groups and individuals, who want the question removed because of fears that it will discourage noncitizens from participating and harm the accuracy of the census. As NPR has reported, some noncitizens plan to avoid answering the 2020 census because they are scared of sharing their information with the government.Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversees the Census Bureau, approved adding the question to census forms in March. Ross has said the Justice Department needs responses from the question to better enforce the Voting Rights Act’s provisions against racial discrimination. Internal documents the Trump administration recently released as part of the lawsuits are fueling suspicions that the decision to add the question was politically motivated.Jarmin says the lawsuits are creating “uncertainty” for his bureau and that the longer they persist, they increase “potential cost and risk to the program.”Still, Jarmin insists, he is “confident” the bureau can get a “good, complete and accurate census” regardless of the outcome of the lawsuits.These population counts touch the lives of people across the country. Census numbers help determine the balance of political power — they are used to determine how many seats in Congress and how many Electoral College votes each state gets, and they affect how legislative districts are drawn. In financial terms, an estimated $800 billion in federal funds is distributed every year based on the head count.Asked how he would respond to people who say they’re afraid of taking part in the head count, Jarmin defended the security of the census, saying the bureau always has a need to “encourage people to participate in the census regardless of the content of the form.”“Responding to the census is safe and secure, and we only use the data for statistical purposes,” he says, “so fears that we’re going to use the data and to give it to law enforcement agencies and things like that are unfounded. We do not do that.”“Confidentiality is [an] absolutely critical element of the success of our mission and so we take that very seriously,” he says.Federal law prohibits the Census Bureau from releasing any information that would identify individuals. But the bureau can release anonymized information about specific demographic groups living in specific neighborhoodStill, some critics of the citizenship question — including Terri Ann Lowenthal, a former staff director of the House Subcommittee on Census and Population — are worried about whether people will trust the government with their personal information at a time of increased immigration enforcement under the Trump administration.“Regrettably, I think because of the anti-immigrant debate and rhetoric … more and more people are going to be afraid to turn personal information, especially if it’s about citizenship, over to a government agency,” she says. “Even if that agency is simply collecting statistics.”Lowenthal is now a consultant and advises the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which has filed an amicus brief for one of the citizenship question lawsuits. She says it is ultimately up to elected officials, local religious leaders and social service agency heads to “carry the message that it’s both safe and important to their families and the well-being of their communities to participate in the census.”To conduct past head counts, the bureau has received permission to hire noncitizens as temporary census workers for their special language and cultural skills. The Washington Post reported in January that Census Bureau staff were told during a meeting that the agency was not planning to hire noncitizens for 2020.But Jarmin says that some staffers may have “misinterpreted” an explanation about federal hiring laws and that the bureau is “going to be exploring every option.”“We need to get a complete and accurate census,” he says, “and we will do everything we can to ensure that.”The bureau’s preparations for 2020 include keeping a close eye on social media to monitor any misinformation about the head count, which is set to take place at the same time as the 2020 presidential race.Asked if he was worried that there could be a tweet from President Trump that does not match the bureau’s messaging about the 2020 census, Jarmin says, “I’m not too concerned about a tweet from the president in that regard. But I’m concerned about tweets from anybody that somehow, you know, if it gets enough traction, that that is giving the public bad information about the census.”Amid all the uncertainty, another question facing Jarmin is how long he will stay as the Census Bureau’s acting director. During a Senate hearing in May, the commerce secretary said the White House was “processing” a potential successor but did not announce a name.Jarmin says he doesn’t know who that person is or when he might be replaced.Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. Sharelast_img read more

Metro Shutdown Divides DC Maryland Residents

first_imgThe 29-hour shuttering of the Metrorail system on March 16 and March 17 created no shortage anxiety among some of its passengers who were forced to make other travel plans.A sign at the Rosslyn, Va., Metro station notifies riders that the system is closed for emergency inspection Wednesday, March 16, 2016. An unprecedented safety shutdown of the Metro subway system inconvenienced hundreds of thousands of people in and around the nation’s capital on Wednesday. Federal workers telecommuted or took the day off, children missed school and countless others woke up early to take bus after bus, hail pricey taxis or slog through traffic. (AP Photo/Jessica Gresko)At the Addison Road-Seat Pleasant Metro Station on the Blue and Silver Lines on March 15, people chatted at the bus stations about the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority’s system-wide shutdown of its subway system, Metrorail.“This is very frustrating,” said Rose Field, a D.C. government employee. “I just started a new job two weeks ago and I have already been late because of Metrorail. My employer doesn’t want to hear that I am late to work because of Metro.”Fields said she would have to resort to alternative arrangements.“Unfortunately I will have to drive to work,” she said. “I will have to get gas to drive into downtown D.C. and pay $30 to park downtown.”While Metro stations offered free parking on March 16 for those traveling by bus, that didn’t help Fields, who said that catching the series of buses needed to get to downtown Washington “wasn’t worth the time.”Christina Horton said the March 16 shutdown was “a real inconvenience.”“I think the decision to close the Metro train system was horrible,” Horton said. “I will have to travel to Reagan National Airport to get to work and in order to do that, I have to take five buses from here. That means to catch my bus I will have to leave two hours earlier than usual.”Robert and Sylvia Currie might have taken the shutdown with a grain of salt.  As private-industry employees, the couple had agreed to telecommute as soon as the announcement of the shutdown was made March 15. Their anxiety, however, reached a feverish pitch when they realized their five children would still have to attend school.The White House is visible as morning traffic builds along 16th Street Northwest, in Washington, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. The Metro subway system that serves the nation’s capital and its Virginia and Maryland suburbs shut down for a full-day for an emergency safety inspection of its third-rail power cables. Making for unusual commute, as the lack of service is forcing some people on the roads, while others are staying home or teleworking. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)Residents of Ward 7, the Curries said the maneuvering of children between three different public schools, as well as the University of the District of Columbia, became too cumbersome; they abandoned their attempt in mid-travel.“The unfortunate thing about this is that we could have made better arrangements for the children, but Metrorail does not extend into every neighborhood—nor do the buses,” said Robert Currie. “But when the entire world seemed like it was trying to get into the city, even side streets and shortcuts became backed up. Once the alleyways off of East Capital became full, we had to give up.”The Curries were among thousands of District residents whose daily commute requires using the subway or walking through what can be potentially hazardous areas, including new developments built in Ward 8 along the Suitland Parkway.Donya Eckles and her children normally take the Metro to the Anacostia station, after which two members of the family journey up Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and two others connect to service near the Navy Yard station.  From the onset of the shutdown, however, Eckles said she feared other methods of travel would not end well for the kids. “I can laugh about it now, but it was just too hectic with so many people on the roads and when buses did come, they were packed in like sardines. These are small kids and it is just not a good idea to have them out in crowds of frustrated people trying to get to work,” Eckles said.  “My youngest, Tennille, became agitated and needed her asthma inhaler and I knew it was not worth the effort.”A rider enters a Metro train in the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro station Tuesday, March 15, 2016 in Washington. The head of the rail system that serves the nation’s capital and its Virginia and Maryland suburbs says the system will shut down for a full day after a fire near one of the system’s tunnels. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)Riders take more than 700,000 trips on Metro trains every day as a convenient way to get downtown from Maryland, Virginia and the city’s outer neighborhoods. However, the mid-week shutdown has caused many to re-evaluate their commutes and plan alternatives should the system need to be shut down once again for additional repairs.“We had to get into the city from Arlington which made us leave around 2 a.m.,” said Rolmud Asad, a Subway sandwich shop owner. “We knew enough to have at least two people find lodging around the corner at a hotel so we could still open on time, but those two had to do all of the work until the rest came. Some stores did not fare so lucky and had to close for the day.  All around, that is just bad business for the city.”  However, Marlon Ferrell, a resident of Seat Pleasant, Md., said he was comfortable with the decision to shut down the train system.“I will take the bus to work if I have to,” Ferrell said. “If that doesn’t work out, I will stay home.”On March 16, the entrance of the Capitol Heights Station was closed, with a black and gold metal gate in front of it. While the trains were not running, Metro personnel wouldn’t allow people to go into the station even to put more money on their fare cards.Later that day, Metro General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld and D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) announced that the Metro would resume full service on March 17. The issues regarding approximately 600 of the system’s third-rail power cables had apparently been resolved.Wiedefeld’s decision to shut down Metrorail has been criticized primarily because of a lack of notice. Despite the critics, Wiedefeld stands by his decision.“When I say safety is our highest priority, I mean it,” he said. “That sometimes means making tough, unpopular decisions, and this is one of those times. I fully recognize the hardship this will cause.”U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) called for an oversight meeting between her senatorial colleagues from the Washington region, Wiedefeld and other leaders responsible for Metro safety in April. Mikulski has been a strong supporter of Metro on Capitol Hill, though she has been known to criticize its shortcomings, particularly relating to its culture of safety.“The action to shutdown down the Metrorail system was dramatic, drastic and disruptive, but necessary to ensure safety is finally being taken seriously at Metro,” she said.last_img read more