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UNHCR News Story: As World Refugee Day gets under way, UNHCR appeals for the displaced
The top floors of New York's iconic Empire State Building were, for the first time, illuminated in UNHCR blue on World Refugee Day.
UNHCR / H. Duffy / June 20 2010
GENEVA, June 20 (UNHCR) – As millions of people around the globe were marking World Refugee Day on Sunday, UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres called on the international community to do more for the forcibly displaced.
High Commissioner made his call during a press conference in Syria – broadcast on a live video link – where he met earlier in the day with President Bashar Assad and other top leaders. Syria hosts about 1 million mainly Iraqi refugees, according to the government.
"I appeal to the international community to do more to host refugees," Guterres said just two days after the UN refugee agency announced that 100,000 Iraqi refugees have been referred for resettlement from the Middle East to third countries since 2007, a major milestone for one of the world's largest refugee populations.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, meanwhile, also made an appeal on behalf of refugees in a special World Refugee Day (WRD) message. "Refugees have been deprived of their homes, but they must not be deprived of their futures," he said, while calling for working with host governments to deliver services and for intensified efforts to resolve conflicts so that refugees can return home.
With "Home," as this year's global theme, UNHCR and its partners, including governments, donors, non-governmental organizations, goodwill ambassadors and refugees themselves, have been taking part over the past week in awareness-raising, cultural, educational, environmental and sport activities, especially football tournaments in this year of the World Cup finals in South Africa.
Special messages from Guterres and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Angelina Jolie, who met Colombian refugees in northern Ecuador last week, have been broadcast around the world. Jolie, Guterres and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton took part in a global live event on Friday linking four countries.
And, following with past tradition, landmarks around the world are being illuminated, including, for the first time, the graceful 79-year-old Empire State Building in New York as well as the Colosseum in Rome and the towering Jet d'Eau fountain in Geneva.
On the day itself, New Zealand was among the first to commemorate World Refugee Day with a ceremony at the Mangere Refugee Reception Centre in Auckland. Minister of Immigration Jonathan Coleman planted a kaui tree, a traditional symbol of good luck. A special booklet about New Zealand's resettlement programme was launched at the event.
The UNHCR office in Papua New Guinea held a public event and a reception in Port Moresby on Sunday evening. The highlight was a powerful drama on refugee experiences entitled, "Our Right is Our Future," but guests could also enjoy a photo exhibition, take in a dance performance by West Papuan refugees, admire drawings by refugee children and buy products made by refugees. Foreign Minister Sam Abal was the guest speaker.
Shanghai Expo 2010 has been the focus of this year's WRD activities in China. To loud applause and a blinding barrage of camera flashes, popular Chinese actress Yao Chen took to a stage at the world's fair on Sunday to tell the Chinese public how refugees living in cities can contribute to their host countries if allowed.
Showing video and photos of a recent trip to the Philippines to meet refugees from Africa and the Middle East, Yao Chen told visitors that her trip dispelled the image most people in China have that refugees only live in camps and are "people with thin faces and fearful eyes." Giuseppe de Vincentis, UNHCR's regional representative, presented Yao Chen with a plaque appointing her a UNHCR honorary patron for the next year.
UNHCR's main event in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur literally stopped traffic at KL Sentral, the largest train station in Southeast Asia. Huge crowds came to watch and take part in the activities, including a simulated refugee experience in a maze-like structure. Visitors faced the same difficult choices as refugees fleeing persecution or violence as they tried to find a way out.
The event included other reality experiences aimed at raising awareness about the life of a refugee. There was also a handicrafts bazaar and cultural performances. Local celebrities and performers lent their support to the event.
But in the Cox's Bazar area of eastern Bangladesh, WRD activities planned Sunday for thousands of refugees from Myanmar in nearby camps were postponed as a mark of respect for dozens of people killed in last week's devastating floods.
In Pakistan, UNHCR marked Sunday with an announcement that the number of Afghan refugees to repatriate voluntarily from Pakistan so far this year has just passed the 70,000 mark.
To the north, in Tajikistan, some 400 refugees and 100 guests attended an awards ceremony in
The Hancock Tower
Builder Faced Bigger Crisis Than Falling Windows
By: Robert Campbell
March 3, 1995
What everyone remembers is the windows.
It was Chicken Little's panic come true: The glass was falling out of the sky.
The glass in question was from the 10,344 windows of the John Hancock Tower. They began to fail almost from the start. The crisis came in a winter gale on the night of Jan. 20, 1973, while the tower was still under construction. Gusts reached 75 miles per hour at the upper floors. Huge panels of glass, each weighing 500 pounds, shattered and dropped like sequins off a dress, smashing into other windows on their way down. In all, at least 65 fell.
Streets and sidewalks were hastily roped off. In the ensuing months, more windows broke. By April more than an acre of the Hancock's surface was covered not with glass but with sheets of plywood, painted black. The Plywood Palace, people called it. Nobody had the slightest idea what was happening.
Today that's all in the past. The 60-story, 790-foot mirror-glass tower, designed by Henry Cobb of the famed firm of I.M. Pei and Partners, is Boston's most visible, most spectacular building. A recent Globe poll of architects and historians rated it the third-best work of architecture in Boston history.
But the story of the Hancock disaster is important because even today very few people know the real facts. It's timely, too, because a crucial anniversary is about to arrive. On March 6, to be precise.
Myths about the Hancock continue to flourish. They're all persuasive but they're all wrong. One myth -- still believed even by former Hancock executives -- is that the windows fell out because the tower was swaying too much in the wind. It's not true -- although, as a matter of fact, the tower was doing exactly that. Another myth is that the glass was sucked out by bizarre wind forces at "hot spots" caused by the sharp angles of the tower's rhomboid shape. Again, not true -- although there were such hot spots, and although the tower's shape did prove to be a critical factor in its problems. Still another myth is that the windows broke because they were stressed when the tower's foundations settled. Again, not true -- yet there really was a terrible problem of settlement.
Pane Speaking ...
MYTH: The windows failed because the tower was swaying too much in the wind.
TRUTH: It certainly was swaying, but the sway wasn't harming any windows.
MYTH: The sharp angles of the tower's rhomboid shape were creating "hot spots," where high wind velocities would damage or suck out the windows.
TRUTH: Wind tunnel tests showed there really were such hot spots -- but theydidn't correlate with the window failures.
MYTH: The tower was settling on its foundations, and that was what was stressing the windows.
TRUTH: Settlement and movement of the earth did occur, damaging nearby buildings and utility lines, but it derived from a failure in the Hancock's excavation and had nothing to do with the windows.
MYTH: Many windows are still falling out.
TRUTH: The manufacture of glass is an imperfect science. A certain tiny percentage of any large order of glass is expected to fail. The Hancock's new windows haven't exceeded that percentage.
There's a reason for all these myths, all this ignorance. Everybody involved in the Hancock drama -- owners, architects, engineers, suppliers, builders -- signed a legal pact to keep secret what really happened. Nobody talked then and nobody talks now. But over the years, through interviews with people who are knowledgeable but not legally constrained, it's been possible to piece together what really happened.
What hardly anyone understands -- and this is the real story of the Hancock -- is that problems with the windows weren't even the biggest disaster to strike this haunted high-rise mirror, which always seems to be reflecting clouds as if it were brooding on its own grim beginnings.
That's why March 6 is a key. It was on that Thursday in 1975, just 20 years ago, that a Swiss engineer named Bruno Thurlimann flew from Zurich across the Atlantic to inform the owners of the Hancock that their building was in danger of falling down.
That's right. Falling down. Like a dead tree in the forest.
What follows is the real story of the most interesting architectural crisis in Boston history. We've divided it into four mini-chapters. Each is the story of a separate disaster. Bruno Thurlimann's announcement, it turns out, doesn't arrive until Chapter Four.
Builders began their work by digging a huge excavation for the Hancock's basement. The sides of this hole in the ground were braced with steel. The steel proved inadequate and the sides caved in, sometimes as much as 3 feet. Because of the cave-in, earth all around the site shifted and settled. Cracks appeared in nearby buildings. Underground utility lines ruptured. In the worst case, an entire transept wing of Trinity Church came within a hair of collapse before the
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