Archive for June 17th, 2008

Aid to immigrants lost in translation

After being bombarded with huge bills for her husband’s ER visit, a Korean woman discovered he was eligible for emergency Medicaid—even though their entire family is undocumented. But the Medicaid form was in English. Unable to complete it, the woman had to make three trips to a Medicaid office in Queens before a 15-year-old Korean boy who happened to be there at the same time was able to help her.

About 40% of the uninsured in New York City are immigrants. Covering them is a complicated and politically contentious issue that is often quietly ignored when health care coverage is debated. New York state already defies federal rules under which immigrants are not eligible for public programs until they’ve been here for five years. The state offers even illegal immigrants access to programs such as emergency Medicaid, AIDS drug assistance and prenatal care.

Despite that, the number of uninsured immigrants remains stubbornly high—a function of language barriers, fear of deportation and the overall of the public-assistance system. “Lots of time is often wasted. There is no uniformity in the directions, and they are often misguided,” says Grace S. Lee, community health educator at the Division of Advocacy at the Public Health and Research Center run by Korean Community Services. Immigrants will likely be among the chief beneficiaries of the state’s push to sign up people who are already eligible for insurance. The state Department of Health is running ads on television and radio in both English and Spanish, and it is increasing staff to work with local social services districts, health plans and community-based organizations to promote outreach.

“There is no one silver bullet,” says Deborah Bachrach, deputy commissioner for the Office of Health Insurance Programs at DOH. “We have a multifaceted campaign to reach families that are eligible for health insurance.”

Source: http://www.crainsnewyork.com

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WALTIC (Writers and Literary Translators’ International Congress), organized by the Swedish Writers’ Union, due end June will host some 1,000 delegates, including writers, literary translators, politicians, representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations.

Approximately 60 writers will attend the seminars. Among the lecturers, there are Charles Bernstein, Mia Couto, Jean-Claude Guedon, Phillip Pullman, Nawal El Saadawi, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Dubravka Ugresic and Alexis Wright. Romanian writer Mircea Cartarescu will attend a debate with Swedish writer Andrzey Tichy, on the relation of society and literature, in the panel, “Society and Literature.”

Filip Florian, one of the most translated young Romanian writers, will attend, on July 2, a discussion on history and memory, beside the writers Frank Westerman (Holland) and Mauro Covacich (Italy), under the title “The Fate of Place.” On the same day – July 2 – Herta Muller will be included in the “Life through Letters” section within a series of interviews with the most prestigious writers of the moment. Hertha Muller will also attend the political program of the Congress. Therefore, on Sunday, June 29, at Kulturhuset, the Romanian writer will analyze the subject of exile with Croat writer Dubravka Ugresic and the Manager of the Romanian Cultural Institute of Stockholm, Dan Shafran. On Tuesday, July 1, at 19.30, Herta Muller will be the guest of the Goethe Institute of Stockholm, where she will read excerpts of her works and will discuss the role of literature concerning aspects such as captivity and liberty, dictatorship and democracy, beside the Spanish writer Rosa Montero. The three Romanian writers to attend WALTIC were introduced to the Swedish readers by articles in local papers and, also, their portraits are included in the photo exhibition “Cato Lein – The Last Polaroid Project – The First Impression of Romania,” opened at the ICR Stockholm residence until August 31.

Source: http://www.nineoclock.ro

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Two-wife Muslim may have to quit Denmark

An Iraqi man living in Denmark has been told that if he doesn’t divorce one of his two wives, he will have to leave the country. The unnamed interpreter worked with Danish forces in Iraq before going to Denmark to escape the horrors of war.

The ultimatum presents the man with a tough choice: whether to break with his religious traditions and stay in Denmark, or keep his family intact and return to an uncertain future in Iraq. Denmark is a member of the US-led coalition in Iraq. As it reduces its troop numbers in the region, some local translators are being offered asylum. But one of them is now walking a legal tightrope because he has two wives.

Danish Iraqi Association Chairman Dr Osama Al-Erhayeim says the interpreter is being put in an impossible situation. “He helped the Danish soldiers, the Danish authorities when they were in Iraq and he’s in a dangerous situation not only now but for years to come. He cannot return to Iraq,” Al-Erhayeim said. Osama represents Denmark’s 250,000 Iraqis. Many came to Scandinavia during and after the two Gulf wars. Hero or criminal, the unnamed interpreter risked his life working alongside the Danish troops and coalition forces in Basra. It was there, in his home country, that he married his two wives as permitted under Islamic Law. But in Denmark, these laws don’t apply and the translator may well find himself in front of a court.

The case is a sensitive one, but as the interpreter’s lawyer says: it will be wife number two that may have to leave. Immigration Lawyer Mayanna Vilon says: “It will be the second wife and it will be like a divorce…it will be her that will have the biggest problems”. Vilon believes Danish law doesn’t cover marriages made outside Denmark. But key Danish Muslims believe the translator will have to put the law of the land before religious tradition. Imam Mustafa Chendid, Copenhagen Islamic Community Head, thinks the translator should divorce one of his wives. I think we have a treaty together to respect the law of this country. I don’t think he should violate the constitution of this country,” he said.

It’s now up to a real court to decide the fate of the translator and his wives in this painfully difficult legal battle.

Source: http://www.russiatoday.ru

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Queen rewards Barnet’s best

A headteacher from Southgate is among eight borough residents to be granted a birthday honour from the Queen. William Samuel Atkinson, who teaches at Phoenix High School in Shepherd’s Bush, was given a knighthood, the highest honour possible. Three residents from the borough received an OBE and five an MBE.

Hammersmith and Fulham councillor Antony Lillis, cabinet member for community and children’s services, congratulated Sir William on his achievement. He said: “Sir William truly is worthy of a knighthood and has been a magnificent servant to the thousands of pupils that he has nurtured since joining Phoenix in 1995.”He is an inspirational figure and I am sure that he will continue to lead Phoenix High School from strength to strength over the coming years.” Receiving OBEs were Muhammad Abdel Haleem, professor of Islamic Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, for services to Arabic culture and literature and inter-faith understanding; Sayyid Yousif Al-Khoei, director of the al-Khoei Foundation, for services to community relations; and Maurice Djanogly, for services to business and the arts.

Included on the MBE list were designer Wale Adeyemi, for services to the fashion industry; playwright Tanika Gupta, for services to drama; Shirley Julianne Rodwell, for voluntary services in the field of appeals and public relations for people with learning disabilities; Diane Scott, for voluntary service to North London Hospice; and Roger William Smith, for services to young people in Barnet and Brent.

New Southgate resident Professor Haleem, who has written scores of books and articles on Islamic cultural issues, believed his honour may have been in recognition of his most recent publication: a modern translation of the Qu’ran, published in 2004 by the Oxford University Press.

He said: “I am absolutely delighted, of course, and very honoured.

“I think the most important publication I have done recently is a new translation of the Qu’ran into English, because it gives quite a different image of the text in its language, style and message.

“Translations are normally written in quite out-of-date language and it was felt by my students that this was not the language they encountered at school and university.

“A number of crucial terms have been misinterpreted, so I gave improved translations of these to get across the true spirit of the Qu’ran.

“It is a very important job because the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, especially Christians and Jews, has been based on a distortion of teachings of the Qu’ran.”

Mrs Rodwell, 74, who lives in Brent Street in Hendon, was awarded an MBE for her role as one of the founders of the Wesminster Society for People with Learning Disabilities.

She founded the charity in 1962 with five mothers, all of who had children with learning disabilities. According to Mrs Rodwell, it has since grown to be one of the leading charities in its field, supporting 15 care homes for disabled children.

She said: “I was absolutely amazed. My name was first put forward six years ago but they only told me that this morning. My first thought was ‘why me?’ I think it was because I’ve been there since the beginning.

“I’d never have won it without all the other people who work with me.”

Sixty-nine-year-old Mrs Scott, from Hendon Lane, won her award for helping to raise over £1 million for the North London Hospice. She believed the key to her success was her focus on the “personal touch”.

She said: “I work about 20 hours a week, and I always make sure that I go to see people personally. I never phone anyone.

“I get involved with writing brochures, holding concerts, getting hold of raffle prizes and awards: anything that might raise money.

“I basically bare my bones to these people. It’s the only way to do it.”

Yousif Al-Khoei, 48, of Church Lane in The Hyde, gained an OBE for his role in promoting community relations, as the director of the al-Khoei Foundation.

The foundation, set up by his father and based in the neighbouring borough of Brent, helps support Muslim women and children in the community and has also encouraged a number of inter-faith initiatives, including a service for victims of the 7/7 bombings of all backgrounds.

He said: “In this day and age there are so many negative stereotypes of Muslims, especially in the mainstream media, so it’s crucial that we work together.

“We encourage integration between communities and want people to feel confident and friendly with their neighbours and society at large.”

Honours lists are published twice a year, at New Year and in mid-June on the date of the Queen’s official birthday. They award people who have made a difference in their field of work or community and enhanced the UK’s reputation in a particular area or activity.

Source: http://www.hendontimes.co.uk

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Sorenson Communications Announces New SVRS Interpreter Education Program Award of Excellence

Sorenson Communications(TM), the nation’s leading provider of Video Relay Services (VRS) for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals who use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate, today announced a new award. The Sorenson VRS(R) (SVRS) Interpreter Education Program (IEP) Award of Excellence will recognize training programs that incorporate VRS tracks into their curriculum and continually improve their programs in response to the broadening communication needs of the deaf community.

Sorenson Communications, the world’s largest employer of sign language interpreters, is implementing the new award to encourage programs to train increasing numbers of high-quality professional interpreters.

The SVRS IEP Award of Excellence will be presented to two IEPs that meet or exceed specific criteria. The winning programs will be awarded $10,000, to be reinvested in curriculum and training materials to strengthen already existing programs. This year’s awards will be announced at the Conference of Interpreter Trainers (CIT) 2008 Conference, to be held in Puerto Rico, Oct. 22 through 25. In addition to the $10,000 awarded to each program, the cost of attendance at CIT will be paid for two faculty members from each winning program. Chris Wakeland, vice president of interpreting for Sorenson Communications, notes, “Our goal is to recognize IEPs that are effectively preparing interpreting students. As a result of this training, the time between graduation and when they enter the workforce is reduced.”

Wakeland adds that with the growing popularity of VRS, the demand for highly trained interpreters has never been greater. “This new award will recognize IEPs that go above and beyond routine training, those that provide extraordinary curriculum, learning and mentoring opportunities for their students.”Wakeland explains that award eligibility criteria have been designed to target (and encourage) such programs from among the approximate 150 IEPs nationwide. Criteria will apply to the graduating class of 2007, which will be judged in seven categories:

— VRS tracks offered

— Supervised practicum opportunities

— Mentorship opportunities

— Accreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Interpreter Education (CCIE) or an initiative to track accreditation

— Proposed use of award funds

— The number of graduates that have either NAD-RID-National Certification tested or have received state quality assurance screening or certification at an advanced or higher level within six months of graduation

— The number of graduates gainfully employed in the field of interpreting by November 1, 2007, following graduation

The original deadline to apply for the SVRS IEP Award of Excellence was August 1, 2008. The deadline has been extended to August 29, 2008. Complete instructions can be accessed at http://www.sorensonvrs.com/IEP.

About Sorenson Communications

Sorenson Communications(TM) (www.sorenson.com) is a provider of industry-leading communications services and products. The company’s offerings include Sorenson Video Relay Service(R) (SVRS), the highest-quality video interpreting service; the Sorenson (VP-100(R) and VP-200(R)) videophones; and Sorenson IP Relay(TM) (SIPRelay), enabling text-to-speech relay communication.

Sorenson Communications, Salt Lake City Diana Lewis, 801-287-9400 diana@sorenson.com Ann Bardsley, 801-287-9400 abardsley@sorenson.com

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The Migration History of Humans: DNA Study Traces Human Origins Across the Continents

DNA furnishes an ever clearer picture of the multimillennial trek from Africa all the way to the tip of South America

Key Concepts

  • Scientists trace the path of human migrations by using bones, artifacts and DNA. Ancient objects, however, are hard to find.
  • DNA from contemporary humans can be compared to determine how long an indigenous population has lived in a region.
  • The latest studies survey swathes of entire genomes and produce maps of human movements across much of the world. They also describe how people’s genes have adapted to changes in diet, climate and disease.

A development company controlled by Osama bin Laden’s half brother revealed last year that it wants to build a bridge that will span the Bab el Mandeb, the outlet of the Red Sea to the Indian Ocean. If this ambitious project is ever realized, the throngs of African pilgrims who traverse one of the longest bridges in the world on a journey to Mecca would pass hundreds of feet above the probable route of the most memorable journey in human history. Fifty or sixty thousand years ago a small band of Africans—a few hundred or even several thousand—crossed the strait in tiny boats, never to return.

The reason they left their homeland in eastern Africa is not completely understood. Perhaps the climate changed, or once abundant shellfish stocks vanished. But some things are fairly certain. Those first trekkers out of Africa brought with them the physical and behavioral traits—the large brains and the capacity for language—that characterize fully modern humans. From their bivouac on the Asian continent in what is now Yemen, they set out on a decamillennial journey that spanned continents and land bridges and reached all the way to Tierra del Fuego, at the bottom of South America.

Source: http://www.sciam.com

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It is good news for the Internet-savvy Assamese fond of his or her language, for there has emerged a worthy cause. Xobdo, a non-profit organisation of volunteers spread across the globe, is inviting others to help develop what it calls the “World’s first and only English-Assamese online dictionary”. Even though the dictionary project (www.xobdo.net) is already on, the team behind it is dreaming big. There is an aim to make it an online access tool to as many languages of Northeast as possible in the near future.

The vision of Xobdo has been stated as, “…to demolish language barrier and thereby fuel mutual understanding and cooperation among the people of the entire North-East India and to bring the languages of the region to the fore-front of the IT age.”

Xobdo is the brainchild of Bikram M Baruah, a petroleum engineer now based in Abu Dhabi. With more volunteers coming together following its launch in 2006, 10,000 words were gathered by December 2007. The target for 2008 is to collate 20,000 words.

According to Buljit Buragohain of Xobdo, the online dictionary seeks to document the languages as they are used today in their original forms. There is no attempt to enforce or express Xobdo’s own viewpoint about any spelling or semantics being right or wrong.

Significantly, it has also been said that Xobdo does not seek to follow any specific dictionary or any glossary or word-list published by any authority or entity; neither does it accept opinions of experts. Rather, it considers the present-day meaning to be the standard as it is evidenced in ‘contemporary use’.

In case of doubts, volunteers opt for a discussion in which the words and their meanings are agreed on. Some of Xobdo’s volunteers, significantly, come with sound background in linguistics studies.

For the information of volunteers, any word to be added in Xobdo must have ‘contemporary use’. In case of a new word coined recently, Xobdo will not add it unless it appears in at least one publication of repute.

Buragohain revealed that anybody could become a member and contribute words to the online dictionary. One can also challenge the spellings or meanings featured in the dictionary. Through discussions with other members of Xobdo a consensus decision has to be taken within a reasonable time frame and the entry has to be updated accordingly.

Next on Xobdo’s agenda is to include words from a variety of NE languages, with the belief that unless that is done, many of the words and their usage would disappear, causing irreparable harm to a culture defined by rich linguistic diversity. Xobdo is particularly keen that volunteers well-acquainted with Boro, Rabha, Karbi and other languages joined its efforts to build in a large corpus of words and their meanings.

Source: http://www.assamtribune.com

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Intervention under legal attack

On the first anniversary of the Little Children are Sacred report, a legal agency representing Aboriginal Territorians says teenagers are being unfairly singled out for prosecution, while the Territory’s director of public prosecutions says some child sex abuse cases are not being prosecuted because of a lack of translators.

The Little Children are Sacred report found child sexual abuse was widespread in the Territory’s Indigenous communities, and was the trigger for the Howard government’s Northern Territory intervention. DPP Richard Coates says a year after the release of the report, there has not been the tidal wave of sex abuse prosecutions some had expected from the government’s response. He says one of the impediments to prosecuting cases involving remote Aboriginal communities is the language barrier, with many many victims speak little or no English.

He says a Northern Territory Supreme Court trial into a case of alleged abuse had to be put off last week because there was no interpreter.”It is going to cause problems in the future, the lack of interpreters, courts not prepared as they were in the past to proceed without an interpreter.”Interpreters are required and there just doesn’t seem to be enough of them to go around.” And a peak legal body representing Indigenous Territorians says the intervention has had the unintended consequence of prosecuting teenagers for having sex with each other.

Helen Wodak from the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency says a year on from the release of the Little Children Are Sacred report, its teenagers who are being targetted. “We expected to see an increase in people being charged for sex offences with children and that’s not what we’ve seen. We’ve seen an increase in teenagers being prosecuted for having sex with other teenagers.”Ms Wodak says the intervention has unevenly targetted Indigenous teenagers, but not other teens who are also having sex.

She says it may be a matter of racial discrimination.

“A fundamental opposition is any prosecution that we see as happening for Aboriginal and not for non-Aboriginal people. One of the issues with respect to the intervention legislation is the suspension of the racial discrimination act and all of its implications.”She says she is concerned pregnant teenagers won’t access health services because they fear the involvement of the courts.

No comment from Rudd

The Prime Minister’s is refusing to comment on the future of the intervention until he sees the results of an official review. Speaking during a stop off in Darwin yesterday, he says a promised 12 month assessment will form the basis of the Government’s future policy making on intervention measures that were initiated under the Howard government. Mr Rudd says statistics about the health checks and increases in police numbers appear to be good news, but he will not be making any judgements yet.

“Let’s be realistic about it and get the data in across the communities and form a seasoned judgement about how this is proceeding. “Where improvements need to occur, we’ll make improvements.”

The review committee will meet this week.

Mr Rudd has also said his Government has not reneged on a commitment to meet regularly with an Indigenous working group to assess the intervention. The Government established a national Indigenous body late last year., and at the time Kevin Rudd said he would visit the Northern Territory every three months for meetings with the group.Mr Rudd says there have been two meetings since his Government came to power and he attended the first. At the most recent meeting he was represented by the Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

“We take our consultations with Indigenous leaders here seriously. We’ve framed our consultative arrangements strongly around the Indigenous leadership of the Northern Territory and they will be integral to the consultative arrangements that we said we would put in place when it comes to the review of the intervention.” He says another meeting is scheduled for July or August, but its not clear whether he will attend.

And a member of the Darwin Aboriginal Rights Coalition who was protesting against the intervention during the Prime Minister’s visit says he has been summonsed to appear in court after asking Mr Rudd to attend a meeting. Mr Suttle spoke to the ABC from the back of a paddy wagon: “Kevin Rudd shook my hand and I gave him a leaflet which was to come to a public event around a community review on the intervention at that time two police officers grabbed me and put me in a paddy wagon.”

His colleague Alyssa Vass says he was manhandled by police, though Territory and federal police have defended their actions saying they were providing close personal protection for the Prime Minister and did not use undue force.

Source: http://www.abc.net.au

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Debt of Honour

Britain’s shabby treatment of Iraqi interpreters shames our name

There are few traits more despicable to Arab culture than ingratitude. For years, the British had a reputation in much of the Middle East for fair play and for honouring their word. Yet it is hard to think of any episode more unfair or mean-spirited than the way that this country has treated those Iraqis who risked their lives, and often suffered ostracism, torture and death to work as interpreters for the British Army. British officials, at first deaf to their pleas for help, then shamed into agreeing to offer limited sanctuary, have treated those to whom our Armed Services owe so much with shabby disdain at every stage. And now that the first group of 18 have arrived in Britain, the insult has been compounded by sending them to litter-strewn flats in a tower block earmarked for demolition, a haunt for drunks and drug addicts (see pages 18-19).

The bitterness of the first arrivals is palpable. Marooned in an alien country, afraid to go out, the Iraqis are homesick, angry and shocked. They feel abandoned and ignored by a government that has been forced, grudgingly, to take them in and is now indifferent to their fate. The worst aspect of this sorry story is not the shaming comparison with other countries, such as Denmark and Australia, which have airlifted all those who worked for them in Iraq directly to their countries with no discrimination, stalling or bureaucracy. Nor is it the absurdity of insisting on asylum applicants having first to go to Jordan or some other third country to await, at their own considerable expense, the tardy arrival from London of an immigration interviewing team.

The worst aspect is the plain hypocrisy of Home Office officials. “Staff across government are working assiduously to ensure those staff eligible for assistance receive it as rapidly and effectively as practicable,” a spokesman said. This is plainly untrue, as our reports from Glasgow and Baghdad have shown. The Home Office appears to be treating these men as though they were part of the immigration “problem”, to be filtered, screened and, if possible, turned back. Let such jobsworths know what these brave Iraqis have endured for Britain’s sake. Abdul, a 71-year-old Iraqi, is the only man still alive of five interpreters who were photographed with Tony Blair in Basra in 2005. Last year his house was ransacked, money and car stolen and son kidnapped. His wife suffered the torture of hearing her son on the phone pleading for mercy and the sound of the four shots that killed him. Other families have suffered similar brutalities.

It is eight months since the Government set up a scheme with the United Nations refugee agency to take in those whose lives were in danger. So far, only three workers and their families have been relocated. If those now waiting needlessly in Jordan knew the conditions awaiting them here, they would probably not come.

Honouring obligations, however awkward or unpopular, should be a part of what was once an ethical foreign policy. Britain admitted thousands of Asians from Uganda when Idi Amin issued his summary expulsion order. They came with nothing but received fair treatment and a place to live. A generation later, many are wealthy, loyal, dynamic citizens who have more than repaid the charity shown them. Is Britain now too petty to offer the same swift sanctuary to these loyal Iraqis?

Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk

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Other nations are showing the way, with compassion and respect

Britain’s response to the plight of Iraqi interpreters is a raw deal when compared with other countries in the same position: Australia, Denmark and the United States. The Australians and Danes top the table, flying interpreters and other staff to their respective countries directly from Iraq.

Britain offers this only to a limited group. The majority of applicants must go via a third country where they are required to apply for refugee status with the United Nations. There is no mandatory length of service for those employed by the Australian forces, in contrast to the British scheme, which requires a continuous 12 months of work during any period since the start of 2005. This immediately excludes hundreds of people who are arguably in as much danger as anyone who meets the clause.

Underlining the cumbersome nature of Britain’s aid, Australia, which announced its scheme only in April, has already started to put the policy into action. Conversely Britain, which announced its programme eight months ago, has so far relocated only three workers and their families. In addition, anyone who gains asylum in Australia has a choice of locations, unlike in Britain, where Iraqis are sent to Glasgow. The Danish Government merely requires an applicant to have his or her security compromised because of an association with Danish forces — not a huge hurdle in a country where many who worked for the coalition are viewed by militias as traitors or spies.

A telephone call or e-mail to the Danish Embassy in Baghdad sets the process in motion, with the applicant interviewed in Iraq and, if accepted, flown to Denmark with his or her family to be resettled. Last year Denmark flew almost 400 people to Copenhagen to apply for asylum. Australia expects to hand out up to 600 visas.

The US, by far the biggest employer of Iraqis, began a programme in 2006 to help interpreters or translators who worked for US forces in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The Bush Administration was criticised for making the system too complicated and restricting it to a maximum of 50 people per financial year. In response, President Bush increased the quota to 500 people for last year and this year but the quota will fall back to 50 in October 2009.

The process requires more paperwork than the Danish or Australian schemes but Washington has just opened its first office in Baghdad for Iraqis seeking asylum. The US also gives help to anyone who has worked for a US media organisation in Iraq. Britain has yet to grant such rights.

Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk

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