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As National Park Service Turns 100, It Highlights 16 of the Most Stunning Park Images

WASHINGTON—The U.S. Postal Service will begin celebrating the National Park Service’s Aug. 25 centennial just in time for summer vacation letter-writing by issuing a pane of stunning Forever Stamps depicting 16 examples of our national treasures on June 2.
“These stamps celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Parks and depict the beauty and diversity of these national treasures,” said Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan. “They serve as an inspiration for Americans to visit, learn, and to write cherished memories of their trips to these incredible wonders.”
“This set of stamps will take people on a journey to some of the most amazing places in the world,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “We are thrilled that the 16 national park stamps issued in 2016 for the centennial depict the variety of parks that collectively tell the story of our country.”
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The June 2 first-day-of-issue ceremony will take place at New York City’s Javits Center at 11 a.m. as part of World Stamp Show N.Y.-2016. Dedication ceremonies also will take place at or near each of the national parks depicted on the stamps. Individuals are asked to spread the news on social media by using the hashtags #FindYourPark or #NPS100.
World Stamp Show NY-2016 will take place May 28–June 4. Held only once a decade, this mega event is not to be missed by beginners through advanced stamp collectors alike. There will be something for everyone there, no matter what you collect. Stamp collecting is a hobby for a lifetime. No matter what your specialty, you’ll find it at the show.
The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products, and services to fund its operations.
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine
The stamp image depicting the Bass Harbor Head Light was photographed by David Muench. People have been drawn to the rugged coast of Maine throughout history. Awed by its beauty and diversity, early 20th-century visionaries donated the land that became Acadia National Park. The park is home to many plants and animals, and the tallest mountain on the U.S. Atlantic coast. Today visitors come to Acadia to hike granite peaks, bike historic carriage roads, or relax and enjoy the scenery. For more information on Acadia, visit this link.
Arches National Park, Moab, Utah. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Arches National Park, Moab, Utah
The stamp image is a photograph by Tom Till of Moab, Utah, and represents the iconic Delicate Arch. Delicate Arch is just one of more than 2,000 stone arches in a park that contains the greatest density of natural arches in the world. The park is a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures with thousands of natural stone arches, hundreds of soaring pinnacles, massive fins and giant balanced rocks. Visit this link for more information about Arches National Park and this link to download the Arches Visitor Guide.
Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland and Virginia. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland and Virginia
This barrier island is a tale of constant movement and change. Explore sandy beaches, salt marshes, maritime forests and coastal bays. Bands of wild horses freely roam amongst plants and native animals that have adapted to a life of sand, salt and wind. Visit this link for more information about Assateague Island National Seashore.
Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico
The stamp image is a 1935–1936 pastel-on-paper depiction by Helmuth Naumer, Sr. (1907–1990) of the visitor center in Frijoles Canyon. Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged, beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence here going back more than 11,000 years. Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities. Visit this link for information on this national treasure.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
The stamp image is a photograph by Richard McGuire of the interior of the caverns. High ancient sea ledges, deep rocky canyons, flowering cacti, and desert wildlife are all treasures above and below the Chihuahuan Desert ground. Carlsbad Cavern is one of more than 300 limestone caves in a fossil reef laid down by an inland sea 240 million to 280 million years ago. Visit this link for more information.
Everglades National Park, Florida. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Everglades National Park, Florida
The stamp image is a photograph by Paul Marcellini of Miami, Fla. Spanning the south Florida peninsula from Miami to Naples and south to the Florida Keys, Everglades National Park’s 1.5 million acres of sawgrass prairies, tropical hardwood hammocks, pine rocklands, mangrove forests, and marine and estuarine waters provide habitat for a wildlife spectacle like no other. Crocodiles, alligators, manatees, flamingos, herons, and turtles are just a small sampling of wildlife that can be seen here. Visit this link for more information about the park.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska
The stamp image is a photograph by Tom Bean of Flagstaff, Ariz. Covering 3.3 million acres of rugged mountains, dynamic glaciers, temperate forests, wild coastlines, and deep sheltered fjords, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve is a highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage and part of a 25-million acre World Heritage Site—one of the world’s largest international protected areas. From sea to summit, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve offers limitless opportunities for adventure and inspiration. Visit this link for more information.
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The stamp image is a detail of a chromolithograph-on-canvas, “The Grand Canyon of Arizona, from Hermit Rim Road,” by artist Thomas Moran (1837–1926). Unique combinations of geologic color and erosional forms decorate a canyon that is 277 river miles long, up to 18 miles wide and one mile deep. The Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world, overwhelms our senses through its immense size. Visit this link for more information about the park.
Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida and Mississippi. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida and Mississippi
The stamp image is a photograph of a heron, a long-legged water bird with a wingspan that can exceed six feet, by John Funderburk of Hernando, Fla. Whether you visit the seashore for a day or a week there are many activities and places to explore. Each of the seashore’s many areas in Florida and Mississippi offer unique experiences. Visit this link for more information.
Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii
A stunning photograph of the late afternoon sun shining into a heavy rain storm, forming rainbows over the crater at Haleakalā National Park, Maui, Hawaii. Haleakalā National Park vibrates with stories of ancient and modern Hawaiian culture and protects the bond between the land and its people. The park also cares for endangered species, some of which exist nowhere else. Come visit this special place—renew your spirit amid stark volcanic landscapes and sub-tropical rain forest with an unforgettable hike through the backcountry.
The Story Behind the Photo
The photograph is the work of Kevin Ebi, who lives near Seattle, Wash. Following is his narrative of capturing the image:
“When you think of Hawaii, you probably imagine continuous summer, warm water, and hot beaches. But a couple hours after landing on Maui, I was in the freezing cold, pelted by hail, surrounded by thunderclouds. For a few minutes at a time, the sun would briefly break through it, using rainbows as spotlights to illuminate Haleakalā’s volcanic cinder cones.
As a nature photographer, I was in heaven—or at least 10,000 feet closer to it.
Whether it’s because of the explosive growth of photography, or our need to take a break from our always-on, connected lives, our national parks are busier than ever. But for me, they can still be wondrous places of solitude. Such was the case that afternoon I spent chasing Haleakalā’s rainbows.
My day started as a scouting trip. Haleakalā is known for stunning sunrises. Getting that sunrise would require me to arrive at my shooting location while it was still dark. I decided to take a look at the crater during the day in order to determine where I wanted to be the next morning.
But the closer I got to Haleakalā’s summit, the less I could see. The fog got thicker and thicker. Then there was heavy rain. Then the rain turned to hail. I sprinted from the car into the visitor center, hoping to catch a bit of the view through the window. All I could make out was the railing of the viewing platform.
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It quickly became clear that the storm wouldn’t stop. The few visitors in the center sprinted to their cars. I decided to stay put.
Then something amazing happened. The hail turned into a light drizzle. Sunlight poked through a tiny hole in the ominous cloud. And a rainbow dipped into the crater.
I managed to get a few shots before the sun slid back behind the storm clouds and the pelting hail resumed. It was a beautiful scene. Much of Haleakalā’s beauty comes from its rainbow-colored rocks. The rainbow in the sky complemented that nicely.
But I hoped for better placement of the rainbow. In those first images it was off to the side of the crater. I knew that as the sun moved across the sky, weather permitting, rainbows later in the day would land closer to a core group of cinder cones that I found especially attractive. And so I waited.
During the hour and a half I spent on the rim, the storm gave me just six opportunities to photograph rainbows. My favorite image—and the one that is used on the stamp—was taken during the next-to-last ‘window.’ It was also the briefest opportunity. I was able to shoot only a single frame before the rainbow vanished.
Back in the car, with the heat and the de-fogger set on high, I was thankful for the experience even though I was soaked. In all of my work as a photographer, I treasure most the images that show nature at its dynamic finest. Braving an intense hailstorm is just part of the experience—a key part of the experience.
National parks take us into a different world, a world of jaw-dropping scenery and experiences that are dramatically different from our daily lives. This image of Haleakalā is both to me. And it’s why I’m so honored that it will help commemorate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.”
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, Washington, D.C. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, Washington, D.C.
The stamp image—a water lily with a bloom the size of a basketball in Washington, D.C.’s Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens—was photographed by Cindy Dyer of Alexandria, Va., who also provided the images from Kenilworth for the “Water Lilies Forever Stamps” issued last year.
The water lilies are a sample of the hidden treasures tucked away in this time capsule surrounded by urban neighborhoods in our nation’s capital. The original water lilies were planted by a Civil War veteran who bought the 30-acre parcel in the 1880s. The park’s wetlands also provide habitat for many animals including fox, mink, and otter. Visit this link for more information.
Scenery in the Grand Tetons, Albert Bierstadt, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, MABI 2843. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, Vermont
The first national parks were created after the conservation movement highlighted the beauty of America. An iconic Hudson River School of Art painting depicting the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park was part of this movement, and it now appears on one of the 16 stamps released to celebrate the National Park Service’s 100th anniversary.
“This stamp exemplifies how our national park treasures extend beyond stunning vistas, wildlife, flora, and fauna,” said Stephanie Toothman, NPS associate director of cultural resources, partnerships, and science. “Albert Bierstadt’s painting represents the convergence of artistic, literary, and political attention toward America’s scenic beauty in the 19th century, which helped establish conservation as a national value and laid the foundation for the first national parks a century ago.”
The stamp image is a detail of Bierstadt’s (1830–1902) 29-by-43-inch oil-on-canvas painting “Scenery in the Grand Tetons.” The permanent home of the painting is Laurance Rockefeller’s study in the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Mansion.
The Conservation Movement and the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park (NHP)
The fine art collection at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park is one of the gems of the National Park Service and includes 500 nature and landscape paintings, many by artists associated with the Hudson River School. The collection also includes folk art, modern art, portraits, and sculpture.
According to the National Park Service, Rockefeller acquired the painting in the 1960s and added it to the collection of the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller Mansion as “a reminder of his family’s long loyalty to Grand Teton National Park, and the preservation of the mountains, lake, and valley in that spectacularly beautiful and dramatic part of the West.”
The Hudson River School Art Movement
During the 19th century, the artists of a young America searched for a new world view and found it in the very landscapes around them. Inspired by the stunning natural beauty from across the nation, the loose-knit Hudson River School of painters flourished from the mid-1830s to the mid-1870s and gave America its first major school of art.
According to the National Park Service, “Their landscapes sought to recreate the majesty of the natural world and to inspire admiration for its beauty.” Americans who bought their paintings and admired them on the walls of their city homes came to believe that those scenes should be preserved for future generations, not just painted or photographed.
At the same time, the works of authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, and Ralph Waldo Emerson also celebrated the beauty and importance of nature.
Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park
The name of the park honors three individuals and their families who played important roles in American conservation history: George Perkins Marsh (1801–1882), Frederick Billings (1823–1890), and Laurance S. Rockefeller (1910–2004).
The lives and contributions of these three generations of stewardship reflect the wide range of attitudes and ideas in the evolution of the conservation movement in the United States. The site was the boyhood home of G.P. Marsh, one of America’s first conservationists, whose 1864 book, “Man and Nature,” decried the effects of deforestation in Vermont and around the world and provided the intellectual underpinnings of the early conservation movement.
Later, it was the home of Billings, who returned to his native Vermont from California, transformed the property into a progressive farm and country estate, and reforested much of the land around the Mansion. Its most recent owners, Billings’ granddaughter Mary Rockefeller and her husband Laurance Rockefeller, gave the property and its collections to the American people, the latest in a long history of support for National Parks by the Rockefeller family. Rockefeller received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1991 for his contributions to conservation and historic preservation.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Ascending to 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier stands as an icon in the Washington landscape. An active volcano, Mount Rainier is the most glaciated peak in the contiguous United States, spawning six major rivers. Subalpine wildflower meadows ring the icy volcano while ancient forest cloaks Mount Rainier’s lower slopes. Wildlife abounds in the park’s ecosystems. A lifetime of discovery awaits. Visit this link for more information about the park.
Creating the Star Trail Photo
The stamp image is the creation of Matt Dieterich of Pittsburgh, Pa. “This night was one I will never forget,” said Dieterich, who worked at Mount Rainier as an intern with the National Park Service Geoscientist-in-the-Parks to educate the public on dramatic views of the stars and the effect of light pollution near highly populated areas. “After working with visitors at the Mount Rainier astronomy program on June 22, 2015, I noticed there was an aurora, so I drove down to Reflection Lake to capture it.”
“The location was perfect as it contained a view of Mount Rainier and water for reflections,” he continued. “To create this star trails image I took 200 photos in a two-hour window between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. with my Nikon D750 and 24mm lens set at F/1.4 and ISO 5000. Since the Earth is rotating, each 8-sec. exposure shows stars at slightly different locations. When the photos are combined into one image the stars create a circular pattern around the North Star, which is just out of view at the top of the image. The pink aurora spread throughout the background sky. Mountaineers can be seen with their white headlamps climbing Mount Rainier on the right side of the volcano.”
“To capture star trails photos just like this,” he added, “all you need is a digital single lens reflex camera, a wide angle lens, tripod, and shutter release cable. So what are you waiting for? Grab your gear and get out under the stars!”
San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, California. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park, California
The stamp image is a portion of a photograph by Tim Campbell of San Francisco, Calif., of the 1886 square-rigged, three-masted sailing ship Balclutha. Just visible to the right of the deep waterman/salmon packet sailing vessel is the 1907 steam tugboat Hercules.
Located near the Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhood, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park offers the sights, sounds, smells, and stories of Pacific Coast maritime history through five National Historic Landmark vessels berthed here. Visit this link for more information.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
The stamp image is a photograph of the Little Missouri River winding through the Badlands of North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park, taken in July 2013 by Q.T. Luong of San Jose, Calif. Luong captured the image in the North Unit of the park during his 20-year project to photograph 59 national parks.
According to the National Park Service, when Theodore Roosevelt came to Dakota Territory to hunt bison in 1883, he was a “skinny, young, spectacled New Yorker.” He could not have imagined how his adventure in this remote and unfamiliar place would forever alter the course of the nation. The rugged landscape and strenuous life he experienced here would help shape a conservation policy that we still benefit from today.
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Theodore Roosevelt National Park contains several sites of historical significance, each relating to the era of cattle ranching in the late 1800s. Most significant is Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch Site, the main ranch site where he spent the bulk of his time and where many of his conservation ideas grew. Roosevelt’s first ranch home, the Maltease Cross Cabin, is open for viewing at the South Unit Visitor Center.
The Long X Trail was used as a corridor to move cattle into the Northern Great Plains in the 1800s, and it passes through the North Unit of the park. Peaceful Valley Ranch was built in the 1880s and served as a dude ranch from 1918 to the 1930s. The ranch and its owners assisted in the establishment of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Visitors can still ride horses at Peaceful Valley by taking part in a trail ride with the park’s concessionaire. Visit this link for more information.
The Backstory of Luong’s Photograph
Luong was interested in the park’s rugged character and vegetation that set it apart from South Dakota’s Badlands National Park.
“The light of the late afternoon gleaming on the river appeared as a bright ribbon in the landscape,” recounted Luong, who used a telephoto lens to emphasize the section of the river with the reflection.
Luong noted that the park includes three units: the South Unit and the far lesser visited North Unit and Elkhorn Ranch Site.
“The Little Missouri River provides a link between them, reminding me of the fond memories I cherish from the time I spent there.”
Born in Paris, France, Luong trained as a computer scientist. When he came to the United States for what was intended to be a short academic stay, he chose the University of California at Berkeley because of its proximity to Yosemite and his passion for rock-climbing—where he scaled El Capitan several times.
“Upon visiting Yosemite for the first time in 1993, it was love at first sight and it marked the start of my 20-year affair with the national parks. I decided to photograph all of them with a 5 by 7 large format camera, a single-handed, self-financed, monumental project which, as far as I know, had not been completed by anyone before.”
Luong settled in the San Francisco Bay area and started crisscrossing the nation to capture its diverse beauty. By 2002, he had visited 58 national parks. He subsequently left his scientific career to pursue his calling of working as a full-time photographer. In 2009, Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan featured him in the film “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”

Yellowstone National Park, Idaho-Montana-Wyoming. (Copyright© 2016 USPS)
Yellowstone National Park, Idaho-Montana-Wyoming
This stunning photograph of two bison silhouetted in Yellowstone National Park’s winter morning sun was captured by Art Wolfeof Seattle, Wash., who described it as, “perfectly backlit bison standing on a small rise in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley.”
“Rising at dawn and braving the -30 degrees Fahrenheit temperature I was able to catch the first rays of the morning sun,” he explained. “The bitter cold of a long winter’s night had left the animals encased in a mantle of thick frost. I had scouted the area the day before and had seen the herd of bison. They had bedded down there all night and now were standing and trying to shake off the cold as the sun came over the horizon. These are the serendipitous moments I wait for as a photographer. I shot this in the days of film, so I didn’t know until I got back to Seattle and had the film processed if I had been successful or not.”
Wolfe got the February 2000 shot using a Canon EOS-3, EF70-200mm lens set at f/16 for 1/250 sec. using Fujichrome Velvia film.
Yellowstone is the world’s first national park. In Yellowstone, you can marvel at a volcano’s hidden power rising up in colorful hot springs, mud pots, and geysers; explore mountains, forests, and lakes to watch wildlife and witness the drama of the natural world unfold; and discover the history that led to the conservation of our national treasures “for the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” Visit this link for more information.
About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 NPS employees care for America’s 410 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. For more information: NPS.gov, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Startup Communities: Does Location Matter To Start Your Company?

In May 2015, I left everything in Montreal, Quebec, Canada behind and together my co-founder and fiancée Emilie Elice-Label, arrived in San Francisco to set up operations for our company here for the next 6 months.
While living in Montreal, and Paris before that, I’ve been educating myself about Silicon Valley with news articles to learn from other immigrants that made the same jump such as Bastian Lehmann, CEO of Postmates, and many other entrepreneurs. I thought deeply about how much of a difference location can make when building your company. Moving from Paris to Montreal helped me grow because there are more startup-minded people in Montreal, and the city offers easy proximity to New York City.
While in the startup capital of the world, we’ve visited the true Silicon Valley (Palo Alto and Mountain View), and began thinking about the benefits of the area and the importance that location has for companies.
Since we arrived in San Francisco, it is much easier to meet like-minded and useful people, and my expectations of how easy it is to meet people and how helpful people are have been exceeded. We’ve also had the chance to meet startups in our space and it has been fascinating to learn from them. It’s easier for these things to happen since many startups are based here. Emilie, my co-founder has been to many San Francisco events and it emphasizes this feeling even more.
People actually “get” what you’re building: This is what makes our move to the US unavoidable because this isn’t something that we felt in Montreal. In Montreal, most of the people didn’t get what we were building or why. In San Francisco, people get startups. The conversation can jump right into what your startup is about. Conversations like mobile strategy are easy to have, whereas the real estate marketplace conversation in Montreal seemed to center around explaining the instant gratification that only mobile devices can offer.
Sure, you might not be in Silicon Valley and you might not be able to pack your bags and hop on a flight over here for many reasons. That being said, I advise any founder to take risks and move to wherever you feel you’d be at ease to jumpstart your project. But not being in the right location shouldn’t stop you from making progress with your startup from your current location. To wait for any perfect environment, be it location, startup communities, experience, funds or otherwise, is a mistake to be avoided.
I’d love to learn from your experience in the comments.
Image Credit: Flickr/Jeff Gunn

‘Baird you are not welcome in Palestine’: Protesters hurl eggs and shoes at Canada’s foreign minister

AP Photo/Nasser Nasser

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territory — Dozens of Palestinian protesters in Ramallah hurled eggs and shoes at the convoy of Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.

Baird travelled to the West Bank city today to meet with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki.

The protesters held signs reading: “Baird you are not welcome in Palestine.”

Activists from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party had earlier called for a boycott of the minister because of the Canadian government’s perceived pro-Israel stance.

AP Photo/Nasser NasserA Palestinian protester holds a poster with a photo of Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird that reads in Arabic, “You should be ashamed of your biased position towards Israel,” during Baird’s meeting with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki, in front of the Palestinian foreign ministry in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday.

Baird is in the region for four days of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials.

In a statement this morning, he described his meeting with Malki was “cordial and constructive,” and said it included “candid and frank exchanges on areas where we differ in opinion.”

Canada is opposed to the recent Palestinian bid to pursue war crime charges against Israel.

Baird’s statement says he asked Malki to “strongly reconsider the consequences of moving forward with any action that may be counterproductive to a negotiated solution with the State of Israel.”

It was also his first meeting with the Palestinian Authority since the United Nations Security Council blocked a Palestinian motion to set a three-year deadline for the establishment of a Palestinian state on lands occupied by Israel.

Baird has spoken out against the move, as he has with similar Palestinian statehood initiatives at the U.N..

AP Photo/Nasser Nasser

AP Photo/Nasser NasserPalestinian protesters hurl eggs at the vehicle of Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird as he leaves following his meeting with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki, in front of the Palestinian foreign ministry in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday.

The minister later met in Jerusalem with Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and is scheduled to meet with other Israeli politicians.

In a statement, Baird noted his meetings come a year after Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to Israel, and the two signed a declaration outlining co-operation in the diplomatic, trade and development areas.

“Canada and Israel share similar views on the world stage,” said Baird.

“Canada strongly supports Israel’s right to defend itself by itself and its right to live in peace with its neighbours. Canada will fight any efforts internationally to delegitimize the State of Israel, including the disturbing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement.”

AP Photo/Nasser Nasser

AP Photo/Nasser NasserA Palestinian protester carries a banner that reads in Arabic “we refuse to receive this criminal, get out you child killer,” while another protester chants slogans and holds a photo of Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird during Baird’s meeting with Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki, in front of the Palestinian foreign ministry in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday.
ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images

ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty ImagesPolicemen stand guard in front of Palestinian protesters holding placards outside the Foreign Affairs ministry before the meeting between Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki and his Canadian counterpart John Baird on Sunday in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

With files from The Canadian Press

Quebec Values Charter 2.0: Ban against crosses, hijabs would only apply to new public employees

nosvaleurs.gouv.qc.ca

It would no longer be possible for a doctor, nurse or teacher currently on the public payroll to lose their job for wearing a cross or hijab in the workplace in a toned down “values charter” presented Thursday by Bernard Drainville.

But, in the future, new hires would not have such a right and would have to understand the state must not only be secular it must appear to be, Drainville said.

Conceding the original Parti Québécois government’s charter of values tried to change too much too fast, Drainville — a candidate for the party leadership — retreated on several key elements of the original bill he tried to steer into law while minister of democratic institutions in the former government.

He said his new package better respects the body of opinion on the matter.

My objective is to rally a certain number of people who were against the charter

“My objective is to rally a certain number of people who were against the charter,” Drainville told reporters at a news conference. “I want to create a greater consensus.”

“We have to go more gradually. That’s one of the lessons I got in this debate.”

Gone from Drainville’s vision is the possibility under the old charter of someone losing their job for refusing to leave their religious garb at home when they walked into work.

Drainville’s new “values charter 2.0,” instead proposes to grandfather the rights of people who are already employed by institutions that would be affected by the charter.

“I am saying I got the message [from Quebecers]. I understand when you said you did not want to see anyone lose their job.”

The ban would only apply to new employees if and when the charter is adopted — which also assumes the PQ will be back in power in four years.

His efforts to stir up the values pot did not go over well with the Liberal government or other opposition members.

From England, where he is on a trade mission, Premier Philippe Couillard said the PQ has a “strange set of priorities,” in wanting to talk about the charter when the real priority for Quebecers is the economy.

In an interview, Québec solidaire MNA Françoise David ripped Drainville, saying even with his attempt to make the charter easier to swallow, the debate would invariably veer into the ban on religious symbols. And that distracts people from the real issue, which is fighting religious fundamentalism.

Drainville’s idea of applying the ban to new workers also doesn’t make sense and unfairly targets women who overwhelmingly dominate the health and education sectors, she said.

nosvaleurs.gouv.qc.caAn image released by the PQ Quebec government showing “ostentatious” symbols that would be banned under a proposed charter of values.

“What do we do with the young Muslim woman studying today to be a nurse in the future?” David asked. “We are slamming the door on her.”

David’s view on the ban is that Quebec should stick with the old Bouchard-Taylor commission’s formula, which would only ban authority figures such as judges, police officers and prison officials from wearing religious symbols.

But Drainville makes another key concession from the old charter.

While his new ban on religious symbols would still apply to the entire public sector — including judges, police officers, prison agents, health-care workers, doctors, elementary and high school teachers and public daycare workers — he drops CEGEPs, universities and municipalities from the list.

Drainville retreated in those areas — which drew staunch opposition in the old charter — arguing they want to maintain their independence. Now Drainville wants these establishments to create their own internal religious-neutrality policies.

They don’t want democracy. They don’t want equality between men and women. We can’t let them dictate our actions

Under questioning, however, Drainville revealed that an exemption clause from the old bill (Bill 60 incorporated the charter) would stand, allowing certain institutions, such as the Jewish General Hospital, to be exempt from the values charter on religious grounds.

Unlike the day in August 2013 when Drainville presented the original charter, this operation was far more modest and did not include any of the pictograms or teams of experts on hand to answer complex questions.

Sitting alone behind a table at the National Assembly press gallery, Drainville said he has fewer resources at his disposal.

However, other familiar themes of the old bill are back: Drainville wants to amend the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms to include state neutrality and create a framework for religious accommodation, and no person could deliver or receive government services with a covered face.

Drainville faced questions about the timing of his announcement on a religious issue so soon after the tragedy in Paris where 20 people died. He argued he had made a promise to present a new charter in December. Failing to act in the wake of Paris would be like caving in to extremism.

“Any delay amounts to saying the extremists are right,” Drainville said. “They don’t want democracy. They don’t want equality between men and women. We can’t let them dictate our actions.”

He insisted the new charter had little to do with the PQ leadership campaign, in which he’s trailing badly. He said as the minister responsible for the charter in the old Pauline Marois government, he felt he had a responsibility to carry on the work because it’s necessary.

And he dismissed the theory that the old charter, which divided Quebecers and sparked social strife, had anything to do with the PQ’s electoral loss after only 18 months in office.

Comparison of Drainville’s charter proposals

PQ’s original charter

• The ban on ostentatious religious symbols in the workspace was sweeping and applied to the entire public sector including justice, health and education. The bill defined the symbols as “overt and conspicuous,” which meant a tiny crucifix or small ring with the Star of David or earring was fine, but anything big was not.

• The bill provided for a five-year exemption from the ban for CEGEPs, universities, health care and municipalities. In the uproar, many institutions said they would use the exemption.

• Private schools and non-subsidized daycare centres were not covered.

• It would be mandatory to have one’s face uncovered while providing or receiving a state service.

• In the name of religious heritage, the giant crucifix on Mont Royal and other religious symbols in the public space — such as the crucifix over

the speaker’s chair in the blue room of the National Assembly — would remain. Employees would still be allowed office Christmas trees.

• Amend the Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms to entrench religious neutrality of the state and the secular nature of institutions.

Drainville charter

• The big change in the proposal is the so-called grandfather clause. That means that while the plan is still to ban conspicuous religious symbols in the whole public sector, existing workers would have acquired rights and not have to respect the rules.

• Implicit in the new package is that no employee thus could be fired for refusing to comply, which emerged as the real stumbling block for the short-lived PQ government.

• The new ban would thus only apply to new hires. As Drainville stated, working for the government carries with it responsibilities and one of them is to not express, or display, one’s personal convictions.

• Respecting their independence, Drainville said the new ban would not apply to CEGEPs, universities and municipalities. They would, however, be required to adopt their own internal religious neutrality policies.

• Added to the charter would be the creation of an observatory on religious fundamentalism and a 1-800 phone line where people could report honour crimes.

• The National Assembly crucifix could be moved elsewhere in the legislature if MNAs vote to do so.

Belgium anti-terrorist operation results in two dead after shootout and one arrested

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Belgian authorities say two people have been killed and one has been arrested during a shootout in an anti-terrorist operation in the eastern city of Verviers.

Magistrate Eric Van der Sypt told reporters in Brussels on Thursday that the suspects were on the verge of committing a major terrorist attack, and that they immediately opened fire on security forces.

He said at emergency news conference that anti-terrorist raids are under way in the Brussels region and Verviers. He said Belgium’s terror alert level was raised to its second highest level.

“These were extremely well-armed men,” with automatic weapons, Van der Sypt said.

The raid was part of an investigation into extremists returning from Syria.

Witnesses speaking on Belgium’s RTBF radio described a series of explosions followed by rapid fire at the centre of Verviers, near a bakery and in the neighbourhood of the train station. Video posted online of what appeared to be the raid showed a dark view of a building amid blasts, gunshots and sirens, and a fire with smoke billowing up.

Earlier Thursday, Belgian authorities said they are looking into possible links between a man they arrested in the southern city of Charleroi for illegal trade in weapons and Amedy Coulibaly, who prosecutors say killed four people in a Paris kosher market last week.

The man arrested in Belgium “claims that he wanted to buy a car from the wife of Coulibaly,” said federal prosecutor’s spokesman, Eric Van der Sypt. “At this moment this is the only link between what happened in Paris.” Van der Sypt said that “of course, naturally” we are continuing the investigation.

At first the man came to police himself claiming there had been contact with Coulibaly’s common-law wife regarding the car, but he was arrested following a search on his premises when enough indications of illegal weapons trade were found.

Screens put up at scene in #Verviers where police operation took place pic.twitter.com/ZTK9nwFIge

— roeland roovers (@r0eland) January 15, 2015

Van der Sypt stressed there was no established weapons link with the Paris attack at this moment.

Several countries are now involved in the hunt for possible accomplices to Coulibaly and the two other gunmen in the French attacks.