The National Assembly of Nigeria was closed down Thursday in the wake of an effort to block opposition lawmakers from entering the Nigerian House of Representatives.
The apparent main target was Speaker of the House Aminu Tambuwal, who left the ruling People’s Democratic Party recently to join the opposition All Progressives Congress. Congressman Chris Smith, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations, urges the Nigerian executive branch to respect the democratic process and cease and desist efforts to interfere with the legislative branch.
“Nigeria is the largest democracy in Africa, and as such has been watched closely by other democratic governments in Africa,” Smith said. “If the executive branch of Nigeria successfully thwarts the ability of its legislature to operate, other governments could follow, and democracy in Africa will be placed in grave danger.”
Speaker Tambuwal was able to enter the House chambers only after his colleagues overpowered State Security Service and police officers blocking his entry. At least 15 other House members from his party had to scale a fence erected to block them from entering the building. Several members reportedly were overcome by tear gas used by Nigerian security and police personnel. In the wake of the conflict, Senate President David Mark closed the entire National Assembly.
The National Assembly had been reconvened at the request of President Goodluck Jonathan to consider his request for an extension of the state of emergency in three states in northeastern Nigeria beset by attacks from the terrorist group Boko Haram: Adamawa, Borno and Yobe.
“The horrific way in which these murders were carried out indicates the atmosphere the killers came out of–one soaked in religious hatred. This is the tragic result of decades of anti-Semitic incitement. Terror groups and Middle-Eastern dictatorships deliberately create this atmosphere in order to further their own selfish ends and draw attention away from their own failures and tyranny. They all share in the responsibility for what happened on Tuesday, and our government should be holding Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and all Middle Eastern governments to account for a zero-tolerance policy on anti-Semitism.”
News accounts report that one of the victims, Rabbi Moshe Twersky, has a son who attends school Beth Medrash Govoha in Lakewood, N.J. in Smith’s district.
Rep. Smith has long been a leader in the fight against anti-Semitism. Last Tuesday he held a planning meeting with a group of European officials and activists in the fight against anti-Semitism. The meeting was on the eve of the Berlin + 10 Conference on Anti-Semitism, held by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Smith and others reviewed steps they will take in coming months to ensure that the U.S. and other governments belonging to OSCE work to implement more vigorously the OSCE commitments on fighting anti-Semitism. These include monitoring and prosecuting hate crimes, and Holocaust education and remembrance. In recent years, many of the OSCE member states have ignored their commitments. The commitments date from the 2004 Berlin Conference and Declaration, which became touchstones in the battle against anti-Semitism. From 2002 to 2004 Smith led U.S. and international parliamentarians in a movement to put anti-Semitism on the agenda of the OSCE; this resulted in the Berlin Conference and Declaration.
Organizations on the front lines of the fight to contain Ebola in West Africa came to Capitol Hill today to detail both the hurdles and the progress of the life-and-death efforts to contain the virus and assist the victims of the epidemic before the House global health subcommittee chaired by Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04). Smith introduced legislation on Nov. 14 to authorize U.S. efforts to contain the virus overseas.
Today’s hearing, "Fighting Ebola: A Ground Level View," follows two congressional hearings Smith chaired on the Ebola threat in August and September featuring key government testimony from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. State Department, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), National Institutes for Health and various Health and Human Services Department officials.
But today’s hearing gave voice exclusively to the groups whose workers who are most at risk, including International Medicorps, Africare and Global Communities.
'This hearing is intended to take testimony from non-governmental organizations providing services on the ground currently in the affected countries so we can better determine how proposed actions are being implemented," said Smith , a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Chairman of its Africa and global health subcommittee who authored and introduced H.R. 5710, the Ebola Emergency Response Act. “This bill lays out the steps needed for the U.S. government to effectively help fight the West African Ebola epidemic, especially in Liberia–the worst-hit of the three affected countries. This includes recruiting and training health care personnel, establishing fully functional treatment centers, conducting education campaigns among populations in affected countries and developing diagnostics, treatments and vaccines."
H.R. 5710 confirms U.S. policy in the anti-Ebola fight and provides necessary authorities for the Administration to continue or expand anticipated actions. The bill encourages U.S. collaboration with other donors to mitigate the risk of economic collapse and civil unrest in the three affected countries. Furthermore, the legislation authorizes funding of the International Disaster Assistance account at the higher FY2014 level—an additional $500 million—to effectively support anti-Ebola efforts.
Building upon testimony from other service providers at previous hearings, witness Rabih Torbay, Senior Vice President for International Operations at the International Medical Corps, one of only a small handful of international NGOs treating Ebola patients in West Africa, said his organization operates in Liberia and Sierra Leone—where more than two-thirds of all Ebola cases and over three-quarters of all Ebola-related deaths have been reported. By month's end he anticipates having a total staff of about 800 in Liberia and Sierra Leone, of which 90 percent are African nationals.
"By year's end we expect this number to reach 1,000 working in four Ebola Treatment Units in Liberia and Sierra Leone," Torbay said. "I would like to acknowledge the dedicated and courageous international and African national staff working in our treatment centers. They have come from inside Liberia and outside – including physicians and nurses from many parts of the United States, Europe and Africa. Our staff is comprised of doctors, nurses, technicians, specialists in water, sanitation and hygiene, logisticians, mental health professionals, custodial workers, and members of burial teams.”
Brett Sedgewick is the Technical Advisor for Food Security and Livelihoods at Global Communities, which began combating the spread of Ebola in April by providing community education, protective equipment and hygiene materials to communities through its existing program partnering with USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).
"Our activities aim to combat infection through community engagement and education, safe burial and body management, contact tracing, and ambulance services," Sedgewick said. "Beyond the immediate health effects, we are seeing second tier effects of the outbreak: economic downturn, food insecurity, unemployment, a huge number of orphans and child head of households, and potential instability… Due to the nature of how Ebola is transmitted, at Global Communities we have focused our immediate and greatest efforts on safe burial and body management. Ebola is spread through bodily fluids that increase in their level of contagion as the virus multiplies throughout the body and the patient becomes increasingly ill. Those most at risk for contracting the virus are those caring for the sick, and those handling the dead."
Dr. Darius Mans, Ph.D., President of Africare testified that when the Ebola crisis began earlier this year in West Africa, Africare mobilized more than $2 million in private donations to help break the chain of transmission.
"We have shipped and will continue to ship personal protection equipment and essential health supplies to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia through partnerships with Direct Relief and local aid organizations," said Mans, who told the panel that Africare has trained more than 300 local volunteer community health workers who, in turn, have educated more than 150,000 Liberians about Ebola prevention, detection and care. "One of the big lessons of this crisis is that donors need to move beyond the old vertical program approach of targeting resources to specific disease burdens like malaria and HIV/AIDS and invest in strengthening the public health systems."
To read the testimonies of the witnesses, or to watch video of the hearing, click here.
Smith said that with more than 5,000 reported dead, efforts must be ramped up from what the Administration had been conducting at our previous hearings in August and in September. HR 5710 provides necessary authorities for the Administration to continue or expand anticipated actions to tame the outbreak. The bill encourages U.S. collaboration with other international partners to mitigate the risk of economic collapse and civil unrest in the three affected countries. Furthermore, the legislation authorizes and restores funding of the International Disaster Assistance account at $1.8 billion (up from the previously reduced level of $1.3 billion) to support anti-Ebola efforts.
H.R. 5710 authorizes improved border security and the creation of a secure operating environment for health workers and other responders and the communities they are serving. It authorizes coordination of U.S. efforts with countries in Africa affected by or at risk of being affected by the outbreak with other assisting nations, as well as the private sector, regional and international financial institutions, local, regional, and international organizations, civil society, and nongovernmental organizations that possess experience in emergency relief and infection control.
As Chairman of the Africa and Global Health subcommittee Smith ordered an emergencycongressional hearing in August 2014 featuring Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, as well as the U.S. State Department, and USAID. He held a second hearing on Sept. 17, 2014, featuring the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, USAID, and the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases.
Smith has also held numerous hearings on health threats around the world, including hearings on tropical diseases in June 2013 and another on “Superbugs” in April 2013.
“The AFA has remained steadfast in its commitment to provide access to these necessary evaluations, which assist Americans in forming their healthcare decisions surrounding Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. I have been fortunate to collaborate with members of AFA for many years to help raise awareness about this debilitating disease, and they have made great inroads in both informing the public and providing the needed resources for early detection of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Smith.
“National Memory Screening Day is a wonderful opportunity for individuals with memory concerns to get free and confidential screenings for Alzheimer’s disease and other problems affecting memory,” said Waters. “It is also an opportunity to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and promote the value of memory screening and early detection.”
For over a decade, the AFA has held annual National Memory Screening Days in November during National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. The AFA provides these safe, private screenings in collaboration with local organizations and healthcare professionals. Last year alone, there were 7,500 NMSD sites with over 250,000 individuals participating.
Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States, with a 68 percent increase in deaths caused by Alzheimer’s in the last 10 years. Alzheimer’s disease, a degenerative condition characterized by steadily deteriorating thinking and memory skills, currently has no cure.
Sharing the impact of the disease are the 15 million family members and others who act as caregivers and provide an estimated 17 billion hours of unpaid care—often relinquishing their jobs and other obligations to do so. Economic costs of unpaid care are estimated to exceed $200 billion annually. In New Jersey, an estimated 170,000 Garden State residents suffered from this form of dementia in 2014, and 443,000 caregivers provided unpaid care. In California, nearly 600,000 have Alzheimer’s disease with 1.5 million family members providing care.
National Memory Screening Day is of great potential significance for the millions of Americans who may be unaware that they have Alzheimer’s disease, and have not yet developed a plan of action. On Nov. 18th, local sites are offering free, confidential memory screenings to the public, as well as education about memory concerns, dementia, caregiving and healthy aging. You can find the nearest screening site by entering your zip code here: http://www.afascreenings.org/.
“There is a persistent stigma associated with Alzheimer’s disease that prevents people from talking about it and taking action that could ultimately help improve quality of life,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. “We encourage people to seek early detection of memory issues on National Memory Screening Day by offering free, confidential screenings. A memory screening is much like any other routine health check-up – it’s non-invasive and takes just five to 10 minutes.”
Memory screenings are not used to diagnose illness. Rather, they are an indicator to determine whether a person might benefit from further examination by a qualified physician. These safe and cost-effective interventions can guide individuals to the appropriate resources before long-term complications, hospitalizations or misdiagnoses occur. Those with normal scores also benefit from screenings, as greater knowledge dispels fears, provides a baseline for future screenings, and promotes disease prevention.
“Early detection of Alzheimer’s disease improves treatment and helps individuals and families plan for their future,” said Waters. “I congratulate the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America for organizing the 12th annual National Memory Screening Day.”
“Memory screenings are not only the first step on the path to obtaining an accurate and early diagnosis, they also offer insight into brain health to all who participate,” said Smith. “I highly encourage everyone to take advantage of this opportunity.”
For additional information on Alzheimer’s disease and memory screenings, visit: www.nationalmemoryscreening.org.
Smith and Waters also teamed up with other House members earlier this year to introduce HRes. 489, which calls on the U.S. to both engage in and lead a coordinated, international effort to advance work for the treatment, prevention and, perhaps, even a cure for Alzheimer’s disease as well as other forms of dementia.
Smith co-authored the bipartisan National Alzheimer’s Project Act or NAPA, which passed the House in 2010 and was enacted in 2011 to establish the goal of preventing and successfully treating Alzheimer’s disease by 2025 in the United States.
HRes. 489 calls on the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to enter into negotiations with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop a Global Alzheimer’s and Dementia Action Plan focused on areas such as research, clinical care, supportive services for patients and for caregivers, prevention and health promotion, public awareness and education.
Smith recently chaired a series of hearings in the subcommittee on global health. The effort is the latest in the bipartisan endeavors begun by Smith and then-Congressman, now Senator, Ed Markey (D-MA), who teamed up to write NAPA/HR 4689 in 20101. That bill led to enactment of NAPA (PL 111-375), which established the goal of preventing and successfully treating Alzheimer’s disease by 2025 in the United States. Click here to read the national plan. The plan reflects efforts of the Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care, and Services—also created by NAPA—as well as advocates across the country. It required the development of the national plan to employ and coordinate government and private sector research and improve care and support services. The law also created an advisory committee of private and federal experts to work with the HHS Secretary to comprehensively assess and address Alzheimer’s research, institutional services and home and community-based care.
Representative Eliot L. Engel (D-NY), the leading Democrat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations today announced that they have introduced legislation to improve American efforts to preserve cultural property around the world and cut off one source of funding to ISIL. The Protect and Preserve International Cultural Property Act (H.R. 5703) would take steps to coordinate efforts across government to preserve cultural artifacts where they may be threatened by conflict, instability, or natural disaster.
“Whether art or architecture or archived materials, cultural property plays a vital role in the heritage of peoples all around the world. When these materials are lost because of war or natural disasters, they can never be replaced and parts of those cultures are lost forever,” said Rep. Engel. “Since World War II, the United States has been a leader in protecting cultural property. Today, ISIL and other terrorist organizations have found a lucrative source of revenue in artifacts they traffic out of areas of conflict. America must respond by denying terrorists and criminals the ability to profit from instability by looting the world of its greatest treasures.”
Representative Smith underscored that too many times in world history aggressors have tried to erase the memory and identity of oppressed peoples.
“Our global cultural patrimony has all too often been targeted by extremists who want to wipe out the collective memories of ethnic and religious minorities from lands they seek to control and conquer,” said Rep. Smith. “Just this past July, ISIL destroyed the Tomb of Jonah in Iraq, which was a living link to the biblical prophet Jonah, on the site of the ancient Assyrian capital of Nineveh. The fight to preserve our common cultural heritage, as well as to deny extremists such as ISIL resources from the sale of blood antiquities, is yet another front on the global war against terror.”
The Engel-Smith legislation would create a White House Coordinator for International Cultural Property Protection to coordinate and promote efforts by multiple federal agencies, including diplomatic activities, military activities, law enforcement activities, and the work of the Cultural Antiquities Task Force. It would also impose import restrictions on cultural property unlawfully removed from Syria, protecting the property at risk of loss or destruction at the hands of ISIS/ISIL and other international criminal and terrorist organizations.
The U.S. Armed Forces have long played important roles in protecting cultural property, including through Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) teams, known in the past as the “Monuments Men,” who were the subject of a recent film. The U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield supports implementation of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict.
Cultural property has recently been lost in Egypt due to political instability, in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, in Syria during the civil war, in Iraq and Syria due to ISIS/ISIL, in Mali and Afghanistan from radical Islamist activity, in Haiti from the 2010 earthquake, and as a result of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
2373 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Elected in 1980, Rep. Chris Smith (R-Robbinsville, N.J.) is currently in his 17th term in the U.S. House of Representatives, and serves residents in the Fourth Congressional District of New Jersey. Smith, 60, currently serves as a senior member on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and is chairman of its Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organization Subcommittee. In 2011-2012 he chaired both the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. He also serves as “Special Representative” on Human Trafficking for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and as an executive member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Previously, he served as Chairman of the Veterans Committee (two terms) and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs’ Subcommittee on Human Rights and International Operations and the Subcommittee on Africa.
Smith has long chaired a number of bipartisan congressional caucuses (working groups) including the Pro-life (31 years), Autism (15 years), Alzheimer’s (13 years), Lyme Disease (nineyears), Spina Bifida (nine years), Human Trafficking (nine years), Refugees (nine years), and Combating Anti-Semitism caucuses, and serves on caucuses on Bosnia, Uganda and Vietnam.
According to the independent watchdog organization Govtrack, as of January 2014 Smith ranks fourth among all 435 Members of the House over the last two decades in the number of laws authored.
He is the author of America’s three landmark anti-human trafficking laws including The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000, a comprehensive law designed to prevent modern-day slavery, protect victims, and enhance civil and criminal penalties against traffickers, as well as more than a dozen veterans health, education and homeless benefits laws, and laws to boost embassy security, promote democracy, religious freedom, and health care.
Smith is the author of the $265 million Stem Cell Therapeutic and Research Act of 2005 which established a nationwide program for ethical research and treatment using umbilical cord blood and bone marrow cells. That landmark law was reauthorized in September 2010 for another five years.
In October 2011, Smith’s bill, HR 2005, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) of 2011, was signed into law (Public Law PL112-32), a follow-up to his Autism Statistics, Surveillance, Research, and Epidemiology Act (ASSURE) of 2000.
A lifelong New Jerseyan, Congressman Smith graduated from The College of New Jersey with a degree in business administration. Prior to being elected to Congress, he helped run a small business– his family’s wholesale sporting goods corporation. He is also the former Executive Director of the New Jersey Right to Life Committee.
The congressman is married to his wife of 35 years, Marie, and they have four grown children.
Retweeted by RepChrisSmith