News, July 4th

ASEAN Foreign Ministers offer condolences to Myanmar over jade mine disaster

Foreign Ministers of ASEAN have issued a statement on July 4 offering sympathy and deep condolences to the Government and people of Myanmar over the jade mine landslide in Kachin state that resulted in great fatalities.

ASEAN countries affirmed solidarity with Myanmar and pledged cooperation with and support for the country, the statement said while expressing the belief that Myanmar would quickly overcome the consequence of the disaster.

Caused by the monsoon rains, the jade mine landslide occurred at 8:00am (Myanmar time) on July 2, with all victims being jade scavengers.

The death toll from accident has climbed to at least 160.

Brazil president vetoes law requiring wearing of face masks

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro on Friday watered down a law requiring the wearing of face masks in public places to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus.

The far-right leader used his veto power to remove articles obliging people to wear masks in shops and churches.

Face coverings are already mandatory in several states, such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, but this was the first such law on a national level.

One of the original articles stipulated that masks must be worn in “commercial and industrial establishments, religious temples, teaching premises and also closed places where people are gathering.”

Bolsonaro alleged the article was unconstitutional, saying it could “possibly violate the home” in referring to closed places where businesses and meetings take place.

The Chamber of Deputies insisted this clause referred to places that are “accessible to the public” and not homes, which are protected by the constitution.

Bolsonaro also vetoed articles requiring shops and businesses to provide staff with masks and public authorities to distribute masks to “economically vulnerable people.”

Congress must now study the president’s vetoes and decide whether to maintain or reverse them.

On Tuesday, a judge overturned a court ruling requiring Bolsonaro to wear a face mask in public, deeming it unnecessary given it was already obligatory in the capital Brasilia.

Since the beginning of the virus outbreak, Bolsonaro has minimized the risks of what he initially called “a little flu” and flouted social distancing rules and containment measures, such as wearing a mask in public.

Brazil is the second worst-hit country in the world in the pandemic, with more than 61,000 deaths and 1.5 million cases.

Business sector still far from reaching sustainability goals, UN report shows, 20 years on from landmark summit

A new UN report on the private sector, release by UN Global Compact, shows that progress on bringing about a sustainable future for people and the planet is patchy, and the majority of companies involved in the Compact, are not doing enough to help bring about the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“The scale and pace of change, to date, to deliver SDGs has not been big enough or fast enough”, said Remi Erikson, who led the team that drafted the report, Uniting Business in the Decade of Action, which shows that just 39 per cent of companies surveyed believe they have targets that are sufficiently ambitious to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

“Only 46% of businesses surveyed are embedding the SDGs in their core business”, said Mr. Erikson, the CEO of risk management company, and Global Compact participant, DNV GL. “less than a third of businesses believe their industry is moving fast enough to deliver the SDGs by 2030”.

“Incremental change by individual companies will not deliver the business contribution needed to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)”, said Mr. Erikson. “Companies and the systems they are part of are moving broadly in the same direction, but not in a concerted effort. Achieving the needed change requires a ramping up of ambition among all companies, whether they operate within the energy, healthcare, food, finance, transport, or other systems.

Mr. Erikson told UN News that, although 93 per cent of participants have embedded the Global Compact Ten Principles (on human rights, labor, environment, and anti-corruption) into their policies, not enough is being done to put them into practice. “Policy is not enough to drive change, and we see a marked gap between having policies in place and implementing measures to act on the Principles”.

In addition, whilst the vast majority of participating companies recognize the importance of sustainable development, says Mr. Erikson, they are not doing enough to significantly reduce their negative impact on the environment: whilst science-based targets are considered by many sustainable development professionals as an important indicator of a company’s willingness to reduce its carbon footprint and negative environmental impact, the report reveals that, whilst around a third of companies surveyed are developing a science-based carbon reduction target, only 15 per cent have already set one.

Despite the slow progress, and the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Eriksen insists that he is hopeful that a post-pandemic “new normal” will be an improvement, in terms of building a better future for all.

“I am slightly more optimistic about the future now than I was two months ago as I have seen how businesses have used their experience, creativity and determination to find ways to serve their customers and create new solutions to operate in an unprecedented environment.”

“The events of the past year, from school children protesting the lack of action on the climate, to the fear and economic meltdown caused by the pandemic and, most recently, the calls for justice and equality, have rocked the world. They underline that the Sustainable Development Goals are not just ideals to aspire to, but fundamentals in creating a just society, with equal opportunity for all on a planet that is habitable.”

Responding to the report, Lise Kingo, the former head of the UN Global Compact, highlighted the importance of a step-change in action: “the change we need to see in the Decade of Action will not happen through incremental improvements and adjustments to ‘business-as-usual.’ Now is the time for CEOs to speak up and ensure all companies fully integrate the Ten Principles and raise their SDG Ambition to meet the needs of society and the planet”.

U.S. to mark July 4 amid widespread protests against racism, police brutality

This year’s Independence Day comes against an unusual backdrop. Some 20 protests are scheduled for Saturday and could extend through the night.

The Fourth of July weekend is drawing near in the United States, but this year’s Independence Day comes against an unusual backdrop, marked by protests and unrest that have spanned more than a month over racism and police brutality.

In addition to fireworks displays and flyovers by military aircraft, U.S. media said that the celebrations will be joined by protests prompted by the death of George Floyd, and that some 20 protests are scheduled for Saturday and could extend through the night.

Nationwide protests have been going on against police violence in response to the fatal arrest of Floyd, an African American man who died after a white Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes in May.

Citing recent polls, U.S. news daily the New York Times said Friday that about 15 million to 26 million people in the country have participated in related demonstrations, and the figures “would make the recent protests the largest movement in the country’s history.”

After the Black Lives Matter protests broke out, numerous controversial statues across the country have been targeted. Protesters supporting the statues’ removal have said that the monuments are in memory of figures believed to be symbols of racism.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on social media in late June that he has signed an executive order to protect the country’s monuments.

“Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!” the president said on Twitter.

On June 22, a few days before his announcement, protesters attempted to topple a statue of former U.S. President Andrew Jackson in a park near the White House but were dispersed at night by police using a chemical irritant.

Police and protesters briefly clashed on the day as city officials attempted to clear out tents erected on a street near the White House and the Black Lives Matter Plaza, saying they were creating a potential safety hazard.

In New York City in late June, hundreds of people camped outside the City Hall in Lower Manhattan to demand cuts of police funding.

The “Occupy City Hall” movement is asking the city government to slash 1 billion U.S. dollars off the annual budget of the New York City Police Department, which is often 6 billion dollars.

The movement came as many protesters across the nation have called for the defunding of police forces. It also came at a time when the city was experiencing a spike in gun violence.

Protests have continued to see casualties, with a recent case occurring in the U.S. city of Louisville, Kentucky.

On June 28, one person was killed and another injured in a shooting incident during a protest in the city. Reports of shots fired at Jefferson Square Park came in at night, after which Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department personnel arrived at the site and found two victims suffering gunshot wounds.

Police were performing life-saving measures on the man who later died at the scene. The second victim was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries.

In mid-June, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution strongly condemning the continuing racially discriminatory and violent practices perpetrated by law enforcement agencies against Africans and people of African descent.

The resolution, in particular, condemned police brutality that led to the deaths of Floyd in Minneapolis and other people of African descent.

The resolution came as protests in response to Floyd’s death and police brutality also took place in some other countries.

WHO first got virus outbreak info from its office, not China

China did not come forward on its own to report to the World Health Organization (WHO) that it had a problem in Wuhan following the virus outbreak late last year, according to the updated information the UN health agency posted about how it has handled the COVID-19 crisis so far.

On December 31, 2019, the WHO’s Country Office in China picked up a media statement by the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission from their website on cases of “viral pneumonia” in Wuhan, according to the chronology of events enumerated by the WHO.

On January 1, the WHO requested information on the reported cluster of atypical pneumonia cases in Wuhan from the Chinese authorities.

On January 2, the WHO representative in China wrote to the National Health Commission, offering WHO support and repeating the request for further information on the cluster of cases.

According to the WHO, Chinese officials provided information to it on the cluster of cases of “viral pneumonia of unknown cause” identified in Wuhan only on January 3.

The updated timeline of WHO’s response to Covid-19 posted this week covers events up to June 26.

This timeline supersedes the timeline statement published in April 2020.

US President Donald Trump had earlier accused the WHO of being lenient on China. Trump also suggested that the virus might have originated in a laboratory in China. However, he did not present any evidence to back up the claims.

The UN health body in a media briefing earlier this week said that it would send a team to China next week to prepare to investigate the source of the virus responsible for Covid-19 which has so far killed over 525,000 people worldwide.

Published by jim

Curator of things...

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