'No place for hate': Satya Nadella backs Black Americans, as he did Indian Muslims

Agencies
June 2, 2020

Washington, Jun 2: There is no place for hate and racism in the society, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has said, asserting that empathy and shared understanding are a start, but more needs to be done. Nadella’s remarks come in the wake of the custodial death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man who was pinned to the ground in Minneapolis on May 25 by a white police officer who kneeled on his neck as he gasped for breath.

“There is no place for hate and racism in our society. Empathy and shared understanding are a start, but we must do more,” Nadella said in a tweet on Monday.

“I stand with the Black and African American community and we are committed to building on this work in our company and in our communities,” Nadella said.

A day earlier, Google CEO Sunder Pichai expressed solidarity with the African-American community.

“Today on US Google & YouTube homepages we share our support for racial equality in solidarity with the Black community and in memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery & others who don’t have a voice,” Pichai wrote on Twitter on Sunday.

“For those feeling grief, anger, sadness & fear, you are not alone,” Pichai said, sharing a screenshot of the Google search home page which said, “We stand in support of racial equality, and all those who search for it.”

Nadella’s Microsoft also said they will be using the platform to amplify voices from the Black and African American community at the company.

Nadella had also spoken out a few months ago about the discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act passed in his native country. Talking to BuzzFeed’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, in Manhattan, Nadella said what’s happening in the country is “sad.”

“I think what is happening is sad. I feel, and in fact quite frankly, now being informed (and) shaped by the two amazing American things that I’ve observed which is both, it’s technology reaching me where I was growing up and its immigration policy and even a story like mine being possible in a country like this.

“I think, it’s just bad, if anything, I would love to see a Bangladeshi immigrant who comes to India and creates the next unicorn in India or becomes the CEO of Infosys. That should be the aspiration. If I had to sort of mirror what happened to me in the US, I hope that’s what happens in India,” Microsoft’s India-born CEO was quoted as saying by BuzzFeed.

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Agencies
June 23,2021

Kabul, June 23: The Taliban has captured Afghanistan’s main border crossing with Tajikistan, an Afghan provincial official and army officer said on Tuesday, with some security forces abandoning their posts and fleeing across the frontier.

The seizure of Shir Khan Bandar, in the far north of Afghanistan about 50km (30 miles) from Kunduz city, is the most significant gain for the Taliban since it stepped up operations on May 1 when the US began the final stages of its troop withdrawal.

“Unfortunately this morning and after an hour of fighting the Taliban captured Shir Khan port and the town and all the border check posts with Tajikistan,” said Kunduz provincial council member Khaliddin Hakmi.

An army officer told the AFP news agency: “We were forced to leave all check posts … and some of our soldiers crossed the border into Tajikistan.

“By the morning, they (Taliban fighters) were everywhere, hundreds of them,” he said on condition of anonymity.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the fighters had seized the border crossing across the Pyanj River.

“Our Mujahideen are in full control of Shir Khan Bandar and all the border crossings with Tajikistan in Kunduz,” he told AFP.

UN warning

The attack comes as the UN special envoy on Afghanistan warned that Taliban fighters have taken more than 50 of 370 districts in the country since May and that increased conflict “means increased insecurity for many other countries, near and far”.

“Those districts that have been taken surround provincial capitals, suggesting that the Taliban are positioning themselves to try and take these capitals once foreign forces are fully withdrawn,” the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons told the UN Security Council.

Fierce fighting between the Taliban and Afghan government forces has taken place on the outskirts of three provincial capitals in the northern provinces of Faryab, Balkh and Kunduz provinces in recent days, officials said.

Taliban gains and the steady withdrawal of the remaining 2,500-3,500 US troops and 7,000 NATO forces have lent an urgency to efforts to find a negotiated end to Afghanistan’s protracted conflict.

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June 23,2021

United Nations, June 23: Searing, unrelenting heat scorches large swathes of the Earth, killing millions who have no means to escape. Shade is useless, and shallow bodies of water are warmer than the blood coursing through people's veins.

This is a scene from a new sci-fi novel, but the suffocating horror it describes may be closer to science than fiction, according to a draft UN report that warns of dire consequences for billions if global warming continues unchecked.

Earlier climate models suggested it would take nearly another century of unabated carbon pollution to spawn heatwaves exceeding the absolute limit of human tolerance.

But updated projections warn of unprecedented killer heatwaves on the near horizon, according to a 4,000-page Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, seen exclusively by AFP before its scheduled release in February 2022.

The chilling report by the UN's climate science advisory panel paints a grim -- and deadly -- picture for a warming planet.

If the world warms by 1.5 degrees Celsius -- 0.4 degrees above today's level -- 14 per cent of the population will be exposed to severe heatwaves at least once every five years, "a significant increase in heatwave magnitude", the report says.

Going up half a degree would add another 1.7 billion people.

Worst hit will be burgeoning megacities in the developing world that generate additional heat of their own, from Karachi to Kinshasa, Manila to Mumbai, Lagos to Manaus.

It's not just thermometer readings that make a difference -- heat becomes more deadly when combined with high humidity.

It is easier, in other words, to survive a high temperature day if the air is bone-dry than it is to survive a lower temperature day with very high humidity.

That steam-bath mix has its own yardstick, known as wet-bulb temperature.
Experts say that healthy human adults cannot survive if wet-bulb temperatures (TW) exceed 35 degrees Celsius, even in the shade with an unlimited supply of drinking water.

"When wet-bulb temperatures are extremely high, there is so much moisture in the air that sweating becomes ineffective at removing the body's excess heat," said Colin Raymond, lead author of a recent study on heatwaves in the Gulf.

"At some point, perhaps after six or more hours, this will lead to organ failure and death in the absence of access to artificial cooling."

We've already seen the impact of deadly, humid heat at far lower thresholds, especially among the elderly and infirm.

Two heatwaves in India and Pakistan that hit 30 degrees Celsius TW in 2015 left more than 4,000 people dead.

And the 2003 heatwave that killed more than 50,000 people in western Europe registered wet-bulb temperatures only in the high 20s.

Blistering heatwaves across the northern hemisphere in 2019 -- the second warmest year on record for the planet -- also caused a large number of excess deaths, but wet-bulb data is still lacking.

Research from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) reports just over 300,000 heat-related deaths worldwide from all causes in 2019.

Some 37 per cent of heat-related deaths -- just over 100,000 -- can be blamed on global warming, according to researchers led by Antonio Gasparrini at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

In half-a-dozen countries -- Brazil, Peru, Colombia, the Philippines, Kuwait and Guatemala -- the per centage was 60 per cent or more.

Most of these deaths were probably caused by heat stroke, heart attacks and dehydration from heavy sweating, and many could likely have been prevented.

Dangerous spikes above 27 degrees Celsius TW have already more than doubled since 1979, according to Raymond's findings.

His study predicts wet-bulb temperatures will "regularly exceed" 35 degrees Celsius TW at some locations in the next several decades if the planet warms 2.5 degrees above preindustrial levels.

Human activity has driven global temperatures up 1.1 degrees Celsius so far.

The 2015 Paris Agreement calls for capping the increase at "well below" two degrees Celsius, and 1.5 degrees if possible.

Even if those targets are met, hundreds of millions of city dwellers in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as South and Southeast Asia, will likely be afflicted by at least 30 deadly heat days every year by 2080, the IPCC report says.

"In these regions, the population of cities is growing dramatically and the threat of deadly heat is looming," said Steffen Lohrey, lead author of a study, still under peer review, cited in the report.

His calculations, Lohrey added, do not even take into account the so-called urban heat island effect, which adds 1.5 degrees Celsius on average during heatwaves compared to surrounding areas.

Heat-absorbing tarmac and buildings, exhaust from air conditioning, and the sheer density of urban living all contribute to this increase in cities.

Sub-Saharan Africa is especially vulnerable to lethal heatwaves, in large part because it is least prepared to cope with them.

"Both real-world observations and climate modelling show sub-Saharan Africa as a hotspot for heatwave activity," said Luke Harrington, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford's Environmental Change Institute.

In central China and central Asia, meanwhile, "extreme wet-bulb temperatures are expected to approach and possibly exceed physiological thresholds for human adaptability", the IPCC warns.

The Mediterranean is also vulnerable to deadly incursions of hot weather.

"In Europe, up to 200 million people will be at high risk of heat stress by mid-century if the world warms up to two degrees Celsius until 2100," the report says.

Crucial to mortality rates is the ability of the population to adapt, explains Jeff Stanaway, a researcher at IHME.

"There is a greater sensitivity to heat in western Europe than in North America," he told AFP.

"That's because in North America everyone has air conditioning and well-insulated, modern buildings. It's just a difference in infrastructure."

But as with so many climate change impacts, the effects of heatwaves are not felt evenly by all.

In some developing countries, economic development is not keeping up with the cost of cooling the population, exposing a race between warming and the capacity to adapt to it.

One researcher has dubbed this the "global cooling gap".

A study of adaptation techniques in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi found that many people don't use the air conditioners in their bedrooms because they cost too much to run. Some wrap themselves in wet sheets before they go to sleep instead.

Ultimately, high heat will destroy more lives indirectly rather than by reaching levels at which the body simply shuts down, the IPCC report suggests.

Higher temperatures will spread disease vectors, reduce crop yields and nutrient values, slash labour productivity and make outdoor manual labour a life-threatening activity.

Experts say the worst impacts could be avoided if global warming is capped as close to 1.5 degrees Celsius as possible, in line with the Paris Agreement.

But even then, with temperatures rising twice the global average in many regions, some severe impacts are baked in.

"Today's children will witness more days with extreme heat when manual labour outside is physiologically impossible," the IPCC report warns. 
 

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News Network
June 23,2021

Russia on Wednesday fired warning shots at a British Navy destroyer in the Black Sea after it violated the country's territorial waters, the Russian defence ministry said in a statement to news agencies.

The HMS Defender "was given a preliminary warning that weapons would be used if the state borders of the Russian Federation were violated. It did not react to the warning," the ministry said as quoted by the Interfax news agency.

According to the ministry, the incident took place off the coast of Cape Fiolent on Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014.

The defence ministry added that "a border patrol ship fired warning shots" and then a Su-24 aircraft dropped four bombs along the destroyer's path.

The ministry said the ship left Russian waters after the shots were fired.

After the incident, Russia's defence ministry summoned Britain's military attache, Interfax reported.

The Royal Navy said earlier in June that the HMS Defender had "peeled away" from its strike group conducting NATO operations in the Mediterranean to carry out "her own set of missions" in the Black Sea.

Incidents involving aircraft or ships are not uncommon at Russia's borders, especially during heightened tensions with the West, but rarely result in open fire.

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