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Trinidad to commemorate first International Yoga Day in a grand manner

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Port-of-Spain: Trinidad and Tobago will join the 193-member UN General Assembly (UNGA) in marking International Yoga Day on Sunday, June 21, at a gala function in the Daaga Auditorium, University of West Indies (UWI), St. Augustine.

Indian High Commissioner Gauri Shankar Gupta told in a press conference at the Trinidad Hilton on Monday that the high commission, the UN offices and the government of Trinidad and Tobago will be organizing a week-long awareness programme commencing on June 15 to commemorate the First International Day of Yoga.

Several local yoga groups are also involved, he said. Some 15 yoga centres here are all participating in this exercise comprising people of different ethnic groups.

“Prominent personalities, including government ministers, are expected to grace the occasion and share their views with the participants. The yoga masters will talk about the benefits of yoga and will demonstrate a number of easy poses,” Gupta said.

The high commissioner said that this celebration is in keeping with a unanimous decision by the UNGA to establish June 21 annually as “International Day of Yoga”.

He said that the declaration follows a call for the adoption of June 21 as International Yoga Day by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his address to the UNGA on September 27 last year.

“Yoga is essentially a spiritual discipline based on Oneness of the universe. It is a profound science that enables us to understand individual and individual consciousness and the art of healthy living. This extremely subtle science is based on harmony between mind, body and soul and man and nature, thus designed to promote unity of thought and action and preservation of Mother Nature leading to harmonious existence, contentment and happiness,” Gupta added.

Modi had told the UNGA that June 21 was the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and has special significance in many parts of the world. This initiative found support from many global leaders and more than 175 countries, including the US, Canada and, Trinidad and Tobago co-sponsored the resolution as it had the highest number of co-sponsors ever for any UNGA resolution of such nature, Gupta noted.

“Yoga remains an invaluable gift of India’s ancient tradition for over 6000 years. It embodies unity of mind and body, thought and action, a holistic approach to health and well-being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature. By changing our lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help us deal with climate change,” Gupta added. (IANS)

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Claiming Bias, U.S.A. And Israel Pull Out Of UNESCO

The U.S. could potentially seek that status during UNESCO Executive Board meetings in April.

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The logo of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) is seen druing a conference at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France, Nov. 4, 2017. VOA

The United States and Israel officially quit of the U.N.’s educational, scientific and cultural agency at the stroke of midnight, the culmination of a process triggered more than a year ago amid concerns that the organization fosters anti-Israel bias.

The withdrawal is mainly procedural yet serves a new blow to UNESCO, co-founded by the U.S. after World War II to foster peace.

The Trump administration filed its notice to withdraw in October 2017 and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu followed suit.

The Paris-based organization has been denounced by its critics as a crucible for anti-Israel bias: blasted for criticizing Israel’s occupation of East Jerusalem, naming ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites and granting full membership to Palestine in 2011.

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UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation. Image Source: www.mid-day.com

The U.S. has demanded “fundamental reform” in the agency that is best known for its World Heritage program to protect cultural sites and traditions. UNESCO also works to improve education for girls, promote understanding of the Holocaust’s horrors, and to defend media freedom.

The withdrawals will not greatly impact UNESCO financially, since it has been dealing with a funding slash ever since 2011 when both Israel and the U.S. stopped paying dues after Palestine was voted in as a member state. Since then officials estimate that the U.S. — which accounted for around 22 percent of the total budget — has accrued $600 million in unpaid dues, which was one of the reasons for President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw. Israel owes an estimated $10 million.

UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay took up her post just after Trump announced the pullout. Azoulay, who has Jewish and Moroccan heritage, has presided over the launch of a Holocaust education website and the U.N.’s first educational guidelines on fighting anti-Semitism — initiatives that might be seen as responding to U.S. and Israeli concerns.

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Migrants wait in line for food at a camp housing hundreds of people who arrived at the U.S. border from Central America with the intention of applying for asylum in the U.S., in Tijuana, Mexico, Dec. 12, 2018. VOA

Officials say that many of the reasons the U.S. cited for withdrawal do not apply anymore, noting that since then, all 12 texts on the Middle East passed at UNESCO have been consensual among Israel and Arab member states.

In April of this year, Israel’s ambassador to UNESCO said the mood was “like a wedding” after member nations signed off on a rare compromise resolution on “Occupied Palestine,” and UNESCO diplomats hailed a possible breakthrough on longstanding Israeli-Arab tensions.

The document was still quite critical of Israel, however, and the efforts weren’t enough to encourage the U.S. and Israel to reconsider their decision to quit.

In recent years, Israel has been infuriated by repeated resolutions that ignore and diminish its historical connection to the Holy Land and that have named ancient Jewish sites as Palestinian heritage sites.

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Israel Flag, Pixabay

The State Department couldn’t comment because of the U.S. government shutdown. Earlier, the department told UNESCO officials the U.S. intends to stay engaged at UNESCO as a non-member “observer state” on “non-politicized” issues, including the protection of World Heritage sites, advocating for press freedoms and promoting scientific collaboration and education.

Also Read: Israel Unanimously Approves Medical Marijuana Exports

The U.S. could potentially seek that status during UNESCO Executive Board meetings in April.

The United States has pulled out of UNESCO before. The Reagan administration did so in 1984 because it viewed the agency as mismanaged, corrupt and used to advance Soviet interests. The U.S. rejoined in 2003. (VOA)