News, June 4th

‘Worst ever’ Arctic oil spill has Russia struggling to clean up

MOSCOW: Russia on Thursday intensified efforts to clean up a major fuel spill that environmentalists say is the worst such accident in the Arctic, as investigators made their first arrest.

A diesel reservoir collapsed at a power station outside the northern Siberian city of Norilsk on Friday, releasing 15,000 tons of fuel into a river and 6,000 tons into the soil, according to Russia’s state environmental watchdog.

President Vladimir Putin has ordered a state of emergency to deal with the disaster.

On Wednesday, he furiously criticized the delay in the cleanup response, while Norilsk Nickel, the metals giant that owns the collapsed fuel reservoir through a subsidiary, insists it notified the proper agencies immediately.

Greenpeace Russia said the accident was the “first accident of such a scale in the Arctic” and comparable to the Exxon Valdez disaster off the coast of Alaska in 1989.

Russia’s Investigative Committee said a power station supervisor has been detained and will be charged shortly as it conducts three probes into environmental pollution and safety violations.

No information was given about the possible charges against the employee.

Cuban Foreign Minister:  These are times of solidarity and of understanding health as a right

“We reaffirmed that these are times of solidarity and of understanding health as a right and not a commodity,” Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla posted on his Twitter account, referring to his remarks yesterday, June 3, during a video conference organized by Germany’s Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas with counterparts in Latin America and the Caribbean, to share experiences to better confront the COVID-19 pandemic and discuss how to overcome its consequences together.

During the online debate, in which 28 Foreign Ministers from the 33 countries of the region participated, Cuba’s Foreign Minister condemned the brutal tightening of the U.S. blockade imposed on our nation, a genocidal policy that makes access to medicines and equipment vital for the fight against the new coronavirus more difficult and expensive.

He reiterated Cuba’s full support to the World Health Organization (WHO), recognizing its efforts in the COVID-19 battle, and emphasizing the value of international solidarity and cooperation as the only way to face the current crisis. In this regard, he highlighted the work of 28 brigades of Cuban health professionals supporting 24 nations in combating the pandemic.

Rodriguez denounced the technical problems faced by the Cuban delegation which made participation in the videoconference difficult, given the use of the U.S. digital platform Zoom, to which Cuba has been denied access on equal terms, due to the unfair regulations of the U.S. blockade, a policy that violates our country’s right to intervene in international online forums and the principle of sovereign equality of states mandated by international law.

In another tweet, the Foreign Minister reported the imposition of new unilateral coercive measures by the United States against Cuba in the midst of the pandemic: “I strongly reject the sanctions announced by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo against seven entities in Cuba, designed to affect Cuban families. It is shameful and criminal to tighten the blockade during COVID-19.”

According to information from the U.S. State Department, the Cuban entities sanctioned are: Financiera Cimex S.A. (Fincimex), three hotels, two diving centers and a marine park.

German prisoner identified as main suspect in 2007 disappearance of 3-year-old during a family vacation

BERLIN — On May 3, 2007 during a family holiday in the Algarve region in the South of Portugal, three-year-old Madeleine McCann disappeared. Now, 13 years later, a lead suspect has been identified: a 43-year old German male who authorities have not yet named. The announcement is a step towards unraveling what remains one of Britain’s most famous unsolved crimes.

Prosecutors believe she is dead and German authorities are treating her disappearance as a murder investigation. The girl’s parents, Kate and Gerry have called the news “the biggest lead in the case in 13 years” a spokesperson for the couple, Clarence Mitchell, told Sky News.

“[Madeleine’s parents] are realistic, they simply want to know what happened to their daughter” he added.

The abduction spurred a massive manhunt around Europe. Some notable names, including J.K. Rowling, contributed to a multi-million-pound reward, while soccer star David Beckham publicly appealed to the public for information about her kidnapping. Yet the amount of money spent on the investigation, which until now had produced no lead suspect, had become a topic of debate in the U.K. press. The most recent investigation by Metropolitan Police in London which began in 2011 cost nearly $14 million, BBC reported.

The suspect is currently serving a long sentence in a German prison for sexually abusing children. During a press conference in Braunschweig, Germany, on Wednesday, the region where the suspect last held residence before moving to Portugal, authorities said he was a “sexual predator who had already been convicted of crimes against little girls” and had been sentenced to prison several times on related counts.

Hong Kong passes bill making it a crime to disrespect China’s national anthem

Hong Kong passed a law Thursday making it a crime to disrespect China’s national anthem while pro-democracy activists proceeded to hold a candlelight vigil in Victoria Park to commemorate the 31st anniversary of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square massacre.

Honoring the monumental moment for China’s democracy in 1989 — when hundreds of student-led protesters rallying against the Communist Party were killed as tanks rolled into Tiananmen Square — was banned for the first time this year.

Earlier this week, police said it rejected the organizers’ request for the vigil because it would violate coronavirus social distancing rules that ban gatherings of more than eight people.

Still, crowds of people, most wearing masks, flooded the park to hold a moment of silence at 8:09 p.m. Many chanted “Democracy now” and “Stand for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”

After the vigil ended in Victoria Park, groups of protesters dressed in black carried flags that said, “Liberate Hong Kong, Revolution of our times” as well as “Hong Kong Independence.”

Meanwhile, Tiananmen Square itself was mostly desolate, except for the large police presence and show of armored vehicles guarding the space. Few pedestrians lined up at security checkpoints, where they had to show IDs to be allowed through as part of nationwide mass surveillance to prevent any commemoration of the event.

The new national anthem bill is in part reactionary to anti-government protests last year, but Beijing’s grip over Hong Kong continues to tighten.

Last month, China’s ceremonial parliament voted to bypass Hong Kong’s legislature and enact national security legislation for the semi-autonomous territory. Democracy activists and many legal experts worry that the law could curtail free speech and opposition political activities.

In addition, 15 veteran activists were recently arrested on charges of organizing and taking part in last year’s demonstrations.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted criticism of China and Hong Kong for banning the vigil earlier this week before meeting with a group of Tiananmen Square survivors at the State Department.

Lima leads in first assessment of business climate in 12 Peruvian cities, with opportunities for all to improve

Lima, June 4, 2020 – It is easiest to do business in Lima on average among 12 cities in Peru, reflecting the efficiency of procedures and the quality of systems and processes in the country’s business center, according to the Doing Business in Peru report released today.

Across all cities, the report reveals a range of strengths and weaknesses in the four areas measured: Huaraz has good performance in two areas—starting a business and enforcing contracts. In addition to Lima, Arequipa does well on the ease of starting a business but does poorly on registering property. Trujillo leads the way in facilitating obtaining a construction permit, but lags on business startup and contract enforcement. Resolving disputes at the local courts is easiest in Huancayo; however, there is ample room for the city to improve in the three remaining areas.

“Our analysis highlights opportunities for cities to learn from each other as they seek to make the business environment in Peru more competitive,” said Marianne Fay, World Bank Country Director for Peru. “In light of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, continued reform efforts to reduce bureaucracy and improve the efficiency of public services will be essential to rebuild the private sector and assist the country’s recovery.”

The report provides a comparative analysis of business regulations and their application from the perspective of small- and medium-size enterprises (SMEs), measured across four areas: starting a business, dealing with construction permits, registering property and enforcing contracts, current as of May 2019. The analysis does not cover policies, institutions, and other aspects of the business environment.

New Zealand to mark June 15 as COVID-19 elimination day

New Zealand has planned to mark June 15 as the COVID-19 elimination day after health authorities detected no new coronavirus case for the 13th day in a row on Thursday.

The country, which has won global praises for its COVID-19 management, had reported the last positive case on May 22, reports Efe news.

A health ministry spokesperson told New Zealand Herald that the last community transmission case of a person, whose source of infection was not known, came out of isolation on May 18.

That could be taken as the reference point for the 28-day coronavirus-free period to mark its elimination day, a health ministry spokesperson told Efe news.

That means that the period will finish on June 15.

“Elimination does not mean eradicating the virus permanently from New Zealand. It is being confident that we have eliminated chains of transmission in our community for at least 28 days and can effectively prevent or contain any future imported cases from overseas,” the spokesperson said.

New Zealand has so far confirmed 1,154 COVID-19 cases with 22 deaths.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield told reporters on Thursday that New Zealand was in the position now “that is the envy of many countries internationally and that is due to the hard work and sacrifice of so many Kiwis”.

He, however, stressed the need to maintain precautionary measures as the pandemic is still prevalent remains present exist in other countries.

Bloomfield said the international situation was still serious with June 1 marking the day when most cases were reported in a single day worldwide.

“If we want to stay in a good position here, we can’t act as if it’s all over globally,” he said.

The country announced the highest level of alert due to the pandemic in late April, which included strict restrictions and suspension of all its economic activities.

On June 15, the government is expected to announce the last phase of measures against the pandemic.

While restrictions are expected to be lifted, the country is most likely to keep its borders closed until further notice.

World Environment Day 2020:  How the IAEA Contributes to Soil, Plant and Animal Biodiversity

This year’s World Environment Day celebrates biodiversity – which includes the diversity within species, between species and the capacity of ecosystems to create diversity. Protecting our natural environment at a time when biodiversity is declining faster than ever in human history is a challenge. The IAEA, in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), contributes to soil, plant and animal biodiversity while supporting countries worldwide to reach their strategic objectives towards food security, sustainable agricultural development and ecosystem services with the use of nuclear and related techniques.

Of an estimated 8 million animal and plant species, around one million are threatened with extinction, many within only decades, unless action is taken to reduce the intensity of drivers of biodiversity loss, according to a report published last year by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

Soil degradation and invasive species are important biodiversity loss drivers. Over the last decades, the FAO/IAEA laboratories in Seibersdorf, Austria, have developed and validated a wide range of isotopic and nuclear techniques to improve soil quality and management, mitigate the effects of invasive species on the environment and support the breeding of plants and animals with superior genetic makeup, which can better resist climatic changes and diseases. Through its technical cooperation program and coordinated research projects with partner institutions, the IAEA transfers these techniques to scientists, technicians, and practitioners around the world.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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