News, June 19th

Bank of England apologizes for past links to slavery

The Bank of England has apologized for the links some of its past governors had with slavery, as a global anti-racism movement sparked by the death of George Floyd forces many British institutions to confront uncomfortable truths about their pasts.

The central bank called the trade in human beings “an unacceptable part of English history,” and pledged not to display any images of former leaders who had any involvement.

“The bank has commenced a thorough review of its collection of images of former governors and directors, to ensure none with any such involvement in the slave trade remain on display anywhere in the bank,’’ the institution said in statement.

The decision comes after two British companies on Thursday promised to financially support projects assisting minorities after being called out for past roles in the slave trade.

Insurance giant Lloyd’s of London and pub chain Greene King made the pledges after media highlighted their inclusion on a University College London database of individuals and companies with ties to the slave trade.

Launched in 2013, the database shows how deeply the tentacles of slavery are woven into modern British society.

It lists thousands of people who received compensation for loss of their “possessions” when slave ownership was outlawed by Britain in 1833. It reveals that many businesses, buildings, and art collections that still exist today were funded by the proceeds of the slave trade and highlights the fact that many 19th-century Britons benefited from slave ownership.

Those listed on the database include governors and directors of the Bank of England and executives in companies that are still active.

About 46,000 people were paid a total of 20 million pounds — the equivalent of 40 percent of all annual government spending at the time — after the freeing of slaves in British colonies in the Caribbean, Mauritius, and southern Africa. The loan the government took out to cover the compensation was so large that it was not repaid in full until 2015.

Compensation for slave-owners was opposed by some abolitionists, who argued it was immoral, but it was approved as the political price of getting the 1833 abolition bill passed.

Memorials to people who profited from the slave trade have become the focus of campaigns in several countries as racial equality protests spread around the world in the wake of Floyd’s May 25 death in Minneapolis.

Earlier this month, protesters in the English city of Bristol hauled down a statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader and philanthropist, and dumped it in the city’s harbor.

Oxford University’s Oriel College has recommended the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a Victorian imperialist in southern Africa who made a fortune from mines and endowed Oxford’s Rhodes scholarships for international students.

Blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients safe to use: Study

Researchers in the US have found that COVID-19 patients who received transfusions of blood plasma from people who recovered found the treatment was safe.

The study of 20,000 hospitalized patients with COVID-19, published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings, suggests that giving blood plasma to people early in the disease may be beneficial.

“Our efforts to understand convalescent plasma continue. We’re optimistic but must remain objective as we assess increasing amounts of data,” said study lead author Michael Joyner from the Mayo Clinic in the US.

The safety report assessed the seven days following transfusion for hospitalized patients between April 3 and June 11 who were deemed at risk of progressing to a severe or life-threatening condition.

The findings showed that Seven-day mortality rates declined to 8.6 % compared to 12 per cent in a previous safety study of the first 5,000 transfused patients. Serious adverse events continued to be less than one per cent. This expanded safety report reveals a decline in mortality which appears contemporary with the more rapid availability of plasma for use, but the authors caution that this alone does not provide any evidence on the effectiveness of convalescent plasma for treating COVID-19.

Given the accelerating use of the therapy, research is now broadening its focus to determine indicators of efficacy. At this time, convalescent plasma therapy is the only antibody-based therapy for COVID-19. The researchers said that while the mortality rate has decreased, the patients in the latter part of this study were less critically ill.

They also said the decrease may be in part due to improved medical care based on increased knowledge during the pandemic and that more of the patients received the plasma earlier in their hospital treatment.

The research team noted that there was no system in place for delivering convalescent plasma in March and now there is sufficient donation to meet most of the demand. Also, as donors came forward more rapidly, it was more likely their plasma contained neutralizing antibodies, they wrote.

As of Friday morning, the overall number of global Covid-19 cases has topped to over 8.4 million, while the deaths have surged to more than 453,000. With 2,189,128 cases and 118,421 deaths, the US continues with the world’s highest number of Covid-19 infections and fatalities, according to the Johns Hopkins University.

Colgate mulls changes to ‘Black Person Toothpaste’

Colgate said on Friday it would make further changes to a top-selling Chinese toothpaste whose logo once employed blackface and whose name still translates to “Black Person Toothpaste.”

The move is the latest in the growing wave of companies overhauling marketing of household products with racial stereotypes in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed African American man, at the hands of police.

The incident has led to mass nationwide protests for racial justice in the United States and some other countries.

The popular Chinese toothpaste brand “Darlie,” which was called “Darkie” until 1989, is owned jointly by Colgate-Palmolive and Hawley & Hazel of Hong Kong and also sells well in other Asian markets.

“For more than 35 years, we have been working together to evolve the brand, including substantial changes to the name, logo and packaging,” the company said in a statement.

“We are currently working with our partner to review and further evolve all aspects of the brand, including the brand name.”

Colgate-Palmolive bought a 50 per cent stake in Hawley & Hazel in 1985 and overhauled the brand four years later, changing the name and removing the image of a man painted in blackface wearing a top hat, an offensive racist trope.

Reuben Mark, who was Colgate-Palmolive’s chief executive at the time, described the logo as “just plain wrong,” but said the changes needed to be implemented in a way “that is least damaging to the economic interests of our partners,” according to a 1989 New York Times story.

The current logo still contains a man in a top hat, but he is meant to be racially ambiguous.

Other companies have been moving quickly to purge offensive brands or their remnants from their product lines.

On Wednesday, PepsiCo said it would end entirely the Aunt Jemima pancake syrup and batter adorned with the face of a black woman, while Mars said it will “evolve” the Uncle Ben’s brand of rice dishes that uses a black man as its logo.

Both brands have featured images long criticized as racial stereotypes and slave imagery.

Four of RCFD’s longtime members retire to avoid department layoffs

Four Rapid City Fire Department firefighters retired Friday as a result of budget concerns and to help prevent possible layoffs in the department.

Capt. Joe Tjaden, Training Section Chief Matt Culberson, Battalion Chief Tim Daly, and Fire Chief Rod Seals have a combined 111 years of experience under their belts, according to a RCFD press release.

“Each one of these individuals leaves a legacy of excellence,” said Lt. Jim Bussell, public information officer for the RCFD, in an email to the Journal. “They were among the most highly trained, well-rounded firefighters in the business. They care deeply about people. They care deeply about their peers and the community they serve. They have served faithfully and with great dedication. Their impact on our organization is profound.”

According to the release, Tjaden started his career with the RCFD in 1998 and became a paramedic in 2000. Eleven years later, he was promoted to captain.

He also serves as a Structural Protection Specialist with the Rocky Mountain Area Type 2 Incident Management Team-Blue and was assigned to lead the Rapid City/Pennington County Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Team (Hazmat) at Station 6.

Tjaden will continue to serve as the Fire Chief at the Rapid Valley Volunteer Fire Department, where he is served since 1994.

Bussell told the Journal Friday that Lt. Trapper Lappe was promoted to fill Tjaden’s position as Station 6 captain.

“Joe’s dedication to the fire service and his dedication to education and training is unsurpassed,” Bussell said in the press release. “Ask almost any firefighter in the Black Hills and they’ll likely say that they have benefited from Joe’s knowledge, tutelage, and experience in one way or another.”

Culberson started his career in 1990 and was promoted to lieutenant in September 2000 at the Rapid City Regional Airport’s Fire Station 8. He also has expertise in hazardous materials.

According to the release, Culberson helped bring Target Solutions to the RCFD and helped develop the Fire Training Specialist and EMS Training Specialist positions.

Daly began his service at the RCFD in 1986, although his EMS experience dates back to 1979 when he began working for the Rapid City/Pennington County Ambulance Service.

Although he retired from RCFD, he will continue to work with the United States Forest Service where he’s worked since 2003 and will continue as Operation Section Chief trainee with the Rocky Mountain Area Type 1 Incident Management Team, according to the release.

Seals, who announced his retirement in May, has held rank at every level in the department, the release states, including interim fire chief in 2017.

According to the release, he established an employee-led mental health initiative and developed a training facility.

In Seals’ retirement letter he issued to Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender, he cited the “forecasted budget ‘crisis’” as his reason for retirement.

He noted that he’s the highest-paid city employee eligible for retirement, and “not doing so would be hypocritical on my part, especially when given orders to encourage those that can retire to do so in order to lessen our payroll expenses.”

Seals is the 18th fire chief in RCFD history.

“It should be noted that these four outstanding and devoted individuals have chosen to retire at this time as a way to continue to serve the citizens of our community,” Bussell said in the release. “Their decision to retire helps stave off potential future layoffs as a result of budget concerns.”

Bussell said the department has looked for ways to reduce spending as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of which has been retirements. The other has been through operational budget cuts done by Allender and the Rapid City Council.

“Each member of our department is better for having had the opportunity to work with these four individuals,” Bussell said. “Their impact cannot be measured. We wish them a happy and fulfilling retirement. They will be missed.”

Allender appointed Jason Culberson as interim fire chief Friday.

Bussell told the Journal Friday that at shift change Saturday, the department will be down by 14 personnel. He said the position of training section chief will not be filled at this time, but Fire Operations Division Chief Nick Carlson will temporarily perform those duties.

He also said Seals announced Friday that Capt. Brian Povandra was promoted to fill the B-Shift Battalion Chief position, leaving the A-Shift Captain spot open to be filled later.

Bussell said training section lieutenants have been returned to the operations division to make sure operations positions are filled. Bussell said he was assigned to the Mobile Medic and is performing public information officer duties on an as-needed basis.

Haiti needs a strong COVID-19 response to maintain national stability

The UN Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH) and 19 UN agencies there have been working together to support a country in the throes of a pandemic that could challenge the nation’s delicate balance of stability, security and development, the head of the Mission told the Security Council on Friday.

Against the backdrop of longstanding fragility, exacerbated by 18 months of a protracted political, economic, social and institutional crisis, the pandemic is “stretching this country’s already fragile health system and testing its meager social safety net”, Special Representative and head of BINUH, Helen La Lime, said via videoconference (VTC).

“A country of more than 11 million inhabitants, Haiti currently only has the capacity to treat a few hundred patients at a time”, she continued, also drawing attention to “suboptimal coordination within the State” and “inadequate funding of the national response plan”.

Ms. La Lime also maintained that if the public health and socioeconomic dimensions of the pandemic are not addressed urgently, they risk further aggravating the humanitarian and socioeconomic situation, threatening significant human suffering and large population outflows – significantly impacting the whole region.

Despite the pandemic, over the past four months, BINUH and the UN Country Team have been assisting Haitian authorities and institutions in progressing towards stability and sustainable development.

“Along with its partners, it has advised the Haitian National Police in the successful resolution of long-standing labor disputes within its ranks, and it has assisted judicial actors in devising a virtual hearings system that will allow courts to continue functioning despite the current impossibility for them to physically convene”, she told the 15-member body.

Though seemingly small in scope, she believes that these advances have contributed to a cohesive police presence, that maintains order, and a judicial system that is able to guarantee victims’ rights in accessing justice. 

“Unfortunately,”, Ms. La Lime acknowledged, “we continue to operate in a context where the upholding of the principle of accountability remains a key challenge”.

In the throes of the pandemic, a resurgence in gang activity is exacerbating the already volatile situation and compounding the plight of the most vulnerable.

“The past weeks have seen a marked increase in the frequency and intensity of clashes between rival armed gangs that are vying to control greater swathes of territory in the most populous neighborhoods of the Port-au-Prince metropolitan area, likely in an effort to exert influence on the outcome of elections in those constituencies”, the UN envoy explained.

She upheld that the “vicious circle of mistrust, recrimination, and ultimately violence”, is again starting to define Haitian politics, at a time when the entire society should be unified in responding to the pandemic, and working toward lasting foundations on which to build a successful future for the nation.

It is becoming increasingly evident that Constitutional reform is needed to break the circle and create conditions for institutional stability, good governance, and the rule of law, which she called “three essential characteristics for the country to thrive”.

“Such reform can only be successful as a result of a nationally-owned process that combines strong leadership with genuine efforts by all”, she stressed.

In closing, the Special Representative said that BINUH will continue to encourage authorities to “amplify the fight against impunity and the promotion of human rights”.

“Through a sound use of the panoply of tools at its disposal, the UN system in Haiti will continue to support the expansion of multiple aspects of the response to COVID-19, accompany the country on the path of crucial institutional and economic reform, and provide assistance to ensure the timely holding of free, fair, and transparent elections, in an appeased climate”, she concluded.

IMF Executive Board Approves US$148 Million Disbursement to Guinea to address the COVID-19 Pandemic

On June 19, 2020, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a disbursement of SDR 107.1 million (about US$148 million) to Guinea under the Rapid Credit Facility (RCF). This, together with debt relief received on April 13 under the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust (CCRT), will help the country address urgent balance of payments and fiscal financing needs stemming from the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigation measures. IMF financing will also contribute to catalyzing donors’ financial support.

Guinea is being severely affected by the COVID‑19 pandemic. Worsening global conditions and a rapidly spreading local outbreak have deteriorated Guinea’s short-term growth prospects and hindered mining exports and tax revenues.

The disbursement under the RCF will provide needed financing for the implementation of the authorities’ response plan to address the COVID-19 health emergency and mitigate its severe impact. Key measures will focus on scaling-up health spending, protecting the most vulnerable from the impact of the crisis, and supporting the private sector. The authorities are taking steps to ensure transparency and accountability in the use of resources to address the COVID-19 crisis.

Following the Executive Board’s discussion on Guinea, Mr. Mitsuhiro Furusawa, Acting Chair and Deputy Managing Director, issued the following statement: “Guinea has been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Worsening global conditions and a rapidly spreading local outbreak have further weakened the short-term outlook. The pandemic and mitigation measures have given rise to urgent balance of payments and fiscal financing needs. The disbursement under the Rapid Credit Facility will provide timely support to address these needs and should help catalyze donors’ financial assistance.

“The authorities have adopted a comprehensive plan to respond to the emergency and mitigate the impact of the crisis. Key measures focus on scaling-up health spending, protecting the most vulnerable and supporting the private sector. Non-priority spending will be contained to free resources for the emergency response. The authorities are also implementing measures to ensure the appropriate use and monitoring of emergency resources.

“Using external buffers while allowing greater exchange rate flexibility will contribute to responding to the shock while preserving an adequate level of reserves. The central bank will continue to limit its interventions in the foreign exchange market and implement a rule-based intervention strategy. Monetary policy will be oriented towards preserving liquidity in the banking sector while containing inflation. To this end, limiting central bank budget financing will be important.

“Beyond addressing immediate needs stemming from the crisis, preserving medium-term fiscal and debt sustainability is key. For this, the authorities will target a lower-than-previously-planned primary fiscal deficit path once the crisis subsides. Ensuring debt transparency and moving forward with reforms to strengthen debt management will also be critical.’’

International nuclear watchdog puts pressure on Iran to cooperate, ‘immediately comply’ with safeguards

The United Nations international nuclear watchdog announced Friday that it has “serious concern[s]” regarding Iran’s inability to comply with contractual safeguard obligations.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) passed a resolution Friday, calling on Iran to allow international inspectors to visit the sites of two nuclear facilities and provide full cooperation in accordance with IAEA agreements.

“Iran has so far shown no intention of curtailing the ongoing expansion of its nuclear program and for months has refused to provide the answers and access required for the IAEA to conduct its critical verification work,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Friday.

The resolution marks the first time France, Germany and the United Kingdom have voiced support alongside the United States after President Trump pulled out of the Iranian Nuclear Deal in 2018.

The IAEA, under its new director general, Rafael Grossi, also said that Iran needs to address questions regarding fully and clearly “possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear related activities.”

The resolution put forward France, Germany and the United Kingdom passed 25-2, with seven abstentions. China and Russia were the only two countries who voted against the resolution that called for cooperation from Iran.

Iran rejected the resolution and said it will fully partake in inspections and safeguard obligations through the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the Iran Nuclear Deal.

“Iran strongly deplores the move by the E3 [France, Germany and the United Kingdom] to follow such a path that has nothing to do with the technical facts on the ground but is the result of biased, non-professional and political agenda,” the Iranian Ambassador to the IAEA Kazem Gharibabadi said Friday, according to the Tehran Times.

China, an ally of Iran, submitted a five-page letter to the IAEA in support of the Islamic Republic and stressed that repercussions from the new resolution could the destroy “the entire global non-proliferation regime,” according to a report by Bloomberg.

China further accused the U.S. of “bullying” Iran and suggested that China’s strained relationship with the Western countries is contributing to the increasingly tense relationships with Iran.

Iran has allowed 33 inspections of its nuclear facilities, but denied access to two facilities, according to the director general.

“This is the first time in history in which an IAEA Member State has denied access it is obligated to provide under its Additional Protocol agreement with the Agency,” IAEA Ambassador Jackie Wolcott said in statement Friday.

“Nothing less than full implementation of Iran’s safeguards obligations is acceptable,” Wolcott added.

Pompeo reiterated that Iran is legally obligated to grant access to the IAEA and address any and all questions regarding their nuclear program.

“If Iran fails to cooperate, the international community must be prepared to take further action,” Pompeo said Friday.

Vietnam calls for people-centered solutions to refugee issue

Ambassador Dang Dinh Quy, head of the Vietnam Mission to the United Nations (UN), has called on the international community to focus on people-centered solutions, and share the burden and responsibility to ensure the success of the repatriation and reintegration process for refugees.

During an online meeting of the UN Security Council (UNSC) to hear a report of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on June 18, the Vietnamese diplomat emphasized a holistic approach to the refugee issue, saying that preventing and settling conflicts, promoting economic development, and enhancing peace and security are sustainable solutions.

He urged parties involved to join efforts to achieve long-term ceasefires and create a favorable environment towards political solutions to conflicts.

Quy highlighted the humane significance of resolving the refugee problem, calling for promoting cooperation and dialogues among relevant countries to ensure the success of the process of repatriation and reintegration for refugees.

He applauded the Global Compact on Refugees and the Global Refugee Forum with more than 800 commitments made.

He also affirmed Vietnam’s commitment and efforts to join hands with the international community in supporting the settlement of the refugee situation in the world and in implementing the Global Compact on Refugees.

World Bank Provides Bangladesh Over $1 billion to Create Quality Jobs and Respond to COVID 19 Pandemic

The World Bank today approved $1.05 billion for three projects to help Bangladesh create quality jobs and accelerate economic recovery from the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic as well as build resilience to future crises.

“This is an extraordinary response to an unprecedented crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic has deeply jeopardized many of Bangladesh’s remarkable achievements in poverty reduction and shared prosperity, including livelihoods of its population,” said Mercy Tembon, World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh and Bhutan. “These projects will help the people and the economy bounce back by creating more and better jobs and promoting direct private investment in specialized economic zones while enhancing the foundations for a digital economy.”

The $500 million Private Investment and Digital Entrepreneurship (PRIDE) Project will promote and attract about $2 billion direct private investments and strengthen social and environmental standards in selected public and private economic zones and software technology parks. It will also create 150,000 jobs, of which a percentage will be dedicated to women–about 40 percent in software parks and 20 percent in Economic Zones.

It will also develop the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar II in Mirsarai-Feni, including road networks with stormwater drainage, solar-powered streetlights, climate-resilient water, sanitation, and power network. The project will also establish Dhaka’s first digital entrepreneurship hub in the Janata Software Technology Park and turn it into a green building. By attracting domestic and foreign private investment, including in the IT and ITES sectors, the project will help the economy to rebound from the impacts of COVID 19.

The $295 million Enhancing Digital Government and Economy (EDGE) Project will establish an integrated, cloud-computing digital platform for all government agencies and improve cyber-security, which will result in savings of $200 million in the public sector’s IT investments. Further, it will build resiliency during future crises, whereby the platform will enable the government to operate virtually and deliver critical public services to citizens and businesses.

The project will create 100,000 jobs, with a special focus on women, train 100,000 youth in digital and disruptive technologies, and establish a digital leadership academy and centers of excellence. It will also help raise the revenues of IT firms by $300 million and promote local IT firms in international markets. To reduce vulnerabilities from the pandemic and prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the project will help digitalize small and medium enterprises and strategic industries.

The $250 million Second Programmatic Jobs Development Policy Credit will create fiscal space to support the government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, while helping recovery and building resiliency of the economy, of workers and of vulnerable populations to future shocks.

The financing will help Bangladesh to create large-scale jobs for citizens, including women, youth, and migrant workers. The project —second in a programmatic series of three—supports reforms to modernize the trade and investment regime, build a stronger system of expanded safety nets and labor protections, and help vulnerable population access better jobs, especially during crises.

The World Bank is among the first development partners to support Bangladesh following its independence. Bangladesh currently has one of the largest IDA programs totaling over $13 billion. Since independence, the World Bank has committed more than $31 billion in grants, interest-free, and concessional credits to the country.

The World Bank Group, one of the largest sources of funding and knowledge for developing countries, is taking broad, fast action to help developing countries strengthen their pandemic response. We are supporting public health interventions, working to ensure the flow of critical supplies and equipment, and helping the private sector continue to operate and sustain jobs. We will be deploying up to $160 billion in financial support over 15 months to help more than 100 countries protect the poor and vulnerable, support businesses, and bolster economic recovery.  This includes $50 billion of new IDA resources through grants and highly concessional loans.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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