News, June 8th

‘Stand strong’ for justice over impunity, Security Council hears

In tackling the myriad global challenges posed by COVID-19, the world must not ignore the perils of endemic hatred and division, and instead, “stand strong” in the face of those who favor impunity over justice, a senior UN judge told the Security Council on Monday.

Carmel Agius, President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, briefed the Council by webcast on caseload developments, paying tribute to the painful memories evoked in marking the 25th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, last year, and that of the Srebrenica genocide against more than 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys in the Former Yugoslavia, in 2020.

The Residual Mechanism took over ongoing cases from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) when they wound down in 2015 after more than two decades of judging the perpetrators of genocide.

“We see every day that these destructive forces are becoming more virulent, and that the purveyors of hate feel emboldened,” Judge Agius said.  “We must combat their version of events and offer our solidarity and support to all those who have suffered.”

Against that backdrop, “remarkable” headway has been made on fugitive-tracking, he said, describing the arrest on 16 May of fugitive Félicien Kabuga as a major breakthrough.  “With Mr. Kabuga and others having evaded capture for over 20 years, fugitive trials were – until now – more of a contingency plan than a primary part of our operations,” he said.

In Bristol, toppling of slave trader’s statue a major moment

In an English port city that once launched slave ships, an empty plinth has become the center of a debate about racism, history, and memory.

For over a century the pedestal in Bristol held the statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader whose wealth helped the city grow. On Sunday, anti-racism demonstrators pulled the 18-foot (5.5 meter) bronze likeness down, dragged it to the nearby harbor and dumped it in the River Avon — sparking both delight and dismay in Britain and beyond.

On Monday the empty base, surrounded by Black Lives Matter placards, drew a stream of activists, office workers and onlookers. Some posed proudly in front of it, others stood in silence, a few argued. Some Bristolians said toppling the statue was historical vandalism. Others welcomed the removal of a stain on their city.

“It should have happened a long time ago,” said Katrina Darke, a family doctor.

Chyna Lee, a 24-year-old recruitment consultant, said that she did not advocate vandalism, but “I’m quite happy it got dumped in the river.”

“There have been petitions and requests to get the statue removed,” she said. “I just think people weren’t listening to anything at all, and everyone is very fed up.”

Images of protesters toppling the statue — one posing with his knee on its neck, evoking the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police — made news around the world. They resonated especially in the United States, where campaigners have sought to remove Confederate memorials.

Colston’s demise also reinvigorated Oxford University campaigners calling for the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a Victorian imperialist in southern Africa who made a fortune from mines and endowed the university’s Rhodes scholarships.

Since Floyd’s death, Black Lives Matter protests have spread across the U.S. and to countries around the globe, including Britain, where more than 200 have been held. Demonstrators in London, Glasgow, Bristol, and other U.K. cities — whose cultural diversity is rooted in Britain’s long-vanished empire — have expressed solidarity with the United States, and also demanded change closer to home.

India’s economy to contract by 3.2 per cent in fiscal year 2020/21:  World Bank

India’s economy will shrink by 3.2 per cent in the current fiscal, the World Bank said on Monday as it joined a chorus of international agencies that are forecasting a contraction in growth rate due to the coronavirus lockdown halting economic activity.

The Washington-based multilateral lender said that the COVID-19 pandemic and the multi-phased lockdown imposed to curb its spread has resulted in a devastating blow to the Indian economy.

In its latest edition of the Global Economic Prospect, the World Bank downgraded its projection of India by a massive negative nine per cent.

However, the Indian economy is expected to bounce back in 2021, the World Bank said.

“In India, growth is estimated to have slowed to 4.2 per cent in the fiscal year 2019/20 (the year ending in March-2020) and output is projected to contract by 3.2 per cent in fiscal year 2020/21, when the impact of COVID-19 will largely materialize.

“Stringent measures to restrict the spread of the virus, which heavily curtail short-term activity, will contribute to the contraction,” it said in the Global Economic Prospect report.

Indian Navy Launches Operation ‘Samudra Setu’ to Repatriate Indian Citizens from Iran

Under ‘Samudra Setu’, Indian Naval Ship Shardul has begun operation to evacuate Indian citizens on 08 June 2020 onwards from the port of Bandar Abbas, Iran to Porbandar, Gujarat. The Indian Mission in Iran has prepared a list of Indian citizens to be evacuated and will facilitate their embarkation after requisite medical screening.

The evacuated personnel would be provided the basic amenities and medical facilities whilst undertaking the sea-passage to Porbandar.

In view of the unique challenges associated with COVID-19 including asymptomatic carriers, stringent protocols are being stipulated during the passage.

After disembarkation at Porbandar, the evacuated personnel will be entrusted to the care of State authorities.

Noteworthy, Indian Navy had launched Operation ‘Samudra Setu’ to repatriate Indian citizens commencing 08 May and evacuated 2874 personnel from Maldives and Sri Lanka to ports of Kochi and Tuticorin.

Singapore Covid-19 cases top 38,000

Singapore reported 386 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday, raising the tally of infections in the republic to 38,296.

The country’s Ministry of Health (MOH) said two of the cases comprise a Singaporean and a Swiss work pass holder, while the remainder are foreign workers residing in dormitories.

In full data released late on Sunday, Singapore classified 1,743 cases as community transmissions, 580 as imported, and 35,587 as foreign workers in dorms.

In total, 24,886 cases of Covid-19, or about 66 per cent of Sunday’s tally of 37,910, have been discharged from hospitals or community isolation facilities.

As of Sunday, there were 295 cases still in hospital, with three patients in critical condition in the intensive care unit.

Meanwhile, 12,704 cases who have mild symptoms, or are clinically well, but still test positive for Covid-19, are isolated and being cared for at community facilities.

Thus far, 25 people have died from complications due to Covid-19 in the city state.

State Department launches new push to free American hostage Morad Tahbaz from Iran

The State Department is launching a new push to free an American hostage being held in an Iranian jail, shortly after Navy veteran Michael White was freed from nearly two years’ imprisonment in the Islamic Republic.

Morad Tahbaz — an Iranian American conservationist who also holds British citizenship — was arrested in January 2018 with eight members of his Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation and handed prison sentences of between four and 10 years for “contact with the enemy U.S. government.” The punishment was part of a crackdown on those with dual citizenship amid tensions with the United States and other western nations.

Tahbaz previously founded the foundation with the goal of studying and protecting the endangered Asiatic cheetah.

Brian Hook, the U.S. special representative for Iran, detailed Tahbaz’s plight in a State Department video posted to Twitter late last week.

“His crime? Trying to save an endangered species from extinction,” Hook said. “Apparently the Iranian regime is unable to distinguish between saving animals from committing espionage.”

He said Tahbaz has been suffering from “serious medical problems” and is at high risk to contract the coronavirus, as thousands of inmates in Iranian jails already have.

“He cannot get the medical supervision he needs while in a prison cell,” Hook added.

Hook noted that the world’s Asiatic cheetahs, of which there are fewer than 50 left, are all located in Iran. He said Tahbaz traveled to the country to document its biodiversity and published a book of photographs in 2017 featuring animals native to the country, writing, “Without help, Iran will lose more species and the world will be a poorer place for it.”

UK and Japan aim for free trade deal this year as negotiations begin

Britain will begin negotiating a post-Brexit trade agreement with Japan on Tuesday (June 9) which the government said both sides hoped would enter into force by the end of this year.

After decades outsourcing its trade policy to the European Union, Britain is embarking on negotiating free trade deals with countries around the world, and last month launched formal negotiations with the United States.

Trade deals typically take years to complete. Britain is also hoping to reach a trade agreement with the EU by the end of the year.

Talks will be held via video conference and will be kicked off by British trade minister Liz Truss and Japanese Minister for Foreign Affairs   Toshimitsu Motegi on Tuesday.

“This deal will provide more opportunities for businesses and individuals across every region and nation of the UK and help boost our economies following the unprecedented economic challenges posed by coronavirus,” Truss said in a statement.

Britain said it aimed to reach a deal which builds on Japan’s existing agreement with the EU, going further by including areas such as digital trade.

Japan was Britain’s fourth-biggest non-EU trading partner in 2019, with total trade between the two countries of GBP31.4 billion, according to government statistics.

Britain hopes ultimately to join the 11-member Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and sees trade talks with Japan as a step towards that end.

Britain said around 100 negotiators would be involved on its side, with talks led by Graham Zebedee, a former British ambassador to the Democratic Republic of Congo and overseen by Britain’s Chief Trade Negotiation Adviser Crawford Falconer.

Women in Pakistan Need Justice, It is Time We Gave Them

A few days ago, vlogger/journalist Cynthia D Richie made some grave allegations. Was I shocked to hear these? Yes and No!

Yes, because she dared to say what probably many women in Pakistan want to say and no, because what she said is so prevalent in our society that it is believable.

In Pakistan making such allegations openly is not easy even if you are an American woman. This lady has been brave, and it is an opportunity for the Women’s Rights activists and organizations to do something concrete about this issue. No Pakistani lady would have dared to do this in public for the fear of family shaming and threats of Hadood ordinance.

We know the topic of sex is a taboo subject in Pakistan. Women often refrain from reporting their experience of rape or sexual harassment. A study carried out by Human Rights Watch says, there is a rape once every two hours and a gang rape every hour in Pakistan. Women’s studies Professor Shahla Haeri reported that rape in Pakistan is “often institutionalized and has at times the explicit approval of the state”. Also reported by Women’s Action Forum that up to 72% of women in custody in Pakistan are physically or sexually abused. At times when cases come up before inquiry committees which do not function to protect and serve.

We have many laws in addition to the constitution of Pakistan section 8 to 28 deals with the fundamental rights of citizens which refer to equal opportunities in all facets without any discrimination, ethnic diversity, and gender. Laws such as “Women Protection Bill” (Criminal Laws Amendment) Act 2006 was passed, and later Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Bill 2009 was signed. All these pro-women laws grant and protect women’s rights theoretically not practically.

The situation of women in Pakistan is lamentable because of non-implementation of pro-women legislation. Unfortunately, sexual harassment and exploitation of women members, co-workers, particularly of junior members still exists in every segment of our society including political parties. Women politicians are vulnerable, and it is a daily battle for them. Cases of sexual harassment are serious issues faced by women across parties and they need to be addressed. Even senior women members seemed to have toed their party line for their own personal interests.

World Bank Economic Analysis Says Tanzania Can Seize Important Opportunities to Mitigate Negative Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Notwithstanding Tanzania’s strong growth performance in 2019, a new World Bank report says its economy will also suffer the effects of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and global economic crisis.

The World Bank’s 14th Tanzania Economic Update (TEU) forecasts economic growth to slow sharply in 2020, to 2.5 percent from the 6.9 percent growth the government reported in 2019, while recognizing significant uncertainty as the pandemic continues to unfold. The report recognizes mitigating steps government has already taken, and this forecast assumes the authorities will take additional health and economic policy measures to mitigate negative impacts. However, there are downside risks for even slower growth if additional policy response is delayed or not well-targeted, or the external environment does not markedly improve this year.

The TEU analyzes the key transmission channels of the global crisis to the Tanzanian economy, including lower export demand, supply chain disruptions for domestic producers and suppressed private consumption. International travel bans and caution against contracting the virus have severely hurt the tourism sector, which had been one of the fastest-growing sectors in the economy. Tourism operators in the country are now forecasting revenue contractions of 80 percent or more this year, and only a mild recovery next year, conditional on how well global demand rebounds.

World Oceans Day 2020:  New IAEA Research Records Dramatic Increase in Microplastic Pollution in Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean

We celebrate World Oceans Day at a time when about 8 million tons of plastic waste are ending up in the oceans each year, damaging ecosystems, and wildlife, according to the UN Environment Program. The major challenge scientists and policy makers face today is a lack of knowledge on the biological impacts of microplastics in marine organisms. To help anticipate and hence better address marine pollution scenarios in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean, scientists from the IAEA and Ecuador have recently completed the first-ever, decade-long study on plastic particle abundance in the coastal waters of Ecuador. The study results form a baseline for future research, including on seafood safety.

The eastern tropical Pacific Ocean is home to some of the world’s unique marine reserves, including the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, the Cocos Island in Costa Rica, and the Coiba National Park in Panama – all included on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites. “The research has revealed that the microplastic pollution in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean is set to continue to increase in the coming decades,” said Peter Swarzenski, Acting Director of the IAEA Environment Laboratories. Plastic particles below 5 mm in length are called microplastics, which are accidentally consumed by marine organisms and make their way to the food chain, as a recent IAEA study has revealed.

The amount of microplastics in the region is expected by 2030 to increase some 3.9 times compared to 2008 levels. By 2050, this quantity could almost double again, rising by 6.4 times compared to 2008 levels, and by 2100, the amount of plastics in the ocean is projected to be more than 10 times higher than in 2008 unless action is taken to change this trajectory.

One of the crucial findings of this study is that the change in the microplastic abundance over time increases systematically and identically at all the sampling sites. This implies that the source of microplastics pollution is likely not local, but regional and maybe even global in scale. As many of the world’s mega-cities are located near coastlines, adjacent coastal waters are often elevated in marine plastics abundance, which in turn may impact local fisheries and seafood safety.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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