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Unpacking Blinken’s lies on the Gaza ceasefire negotiations

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Blinken 'hopeful' of Gaza ceasefire deal | Arab News

During a Wednesday press conference in Doha, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was less than honest about a United States-proposed Gaza ceasefire deal.

During the course of his opening remarks and the question and answer session, Blinken made several statements that are either transparently untrue or deeply misleading.

First, Blinken insisted that the three-phased ceasefire deal announced by US President Joe Biden on May 31 was an “Israeli proposal” and that Israel fully backs it.

When asked during the question and answer session whether the US was attempting to put pressure on Israel to accept the proposal, Blinken said there was no need to do so because Israel had already accepted it.

But Blinken was being untruthful.

Biden proposed the deal because he is desperate to get out from under his disastrous Gaza policy before the start of the Democratic National Convention, which is scheduled for August.

Biden’s proclamation that it was an “Israeli proposal” simply isn’t true.

In the two weeks since Biden made his announcement, Israeli officials have not come forward and announced their acceptance of the deal.

In fact, they’ve done the opposite.

Over the past two weeks, Israeli officials have made clear that they oppose the Biden draft proposal.

Moreover, Netanyahu and other officials have made clear that Israel intends to continue its war on Gaza, an aim which contradicts the basic terms of Biden’s proposal.

On Monday at the United Nations, Israeli representative Reut Shapir Ben-Naftaly could not have been clearer about Israel’s position.

She said that Israel’s war aims “have not changed” and that the war “will continue … until Hamas military and governing capabilities are dismantled”.

She also said that Israel would not “engage in meaningless and endless negotiations” about a permanent ceasefire.

Israel’s public positions caused a former top Israeli diplomat, Alon Liel, to proclaim that Israel has “definitely not” accepted the “proposal submitted by the Americans”.

Indeed, Israel continues to say it is pursuing the “total victory” it has sought since the start of the war.

Although Israel claims “total victory” involves the elimination of Hamas, a more realistic interpretation is that Israel seeks the complete destruction of Gaza and the forced transfer of Palestinians there to Egypt and/or Jordan.

In any case, what is clear is that Israel has no intention of honouring phase two of Biden’s agreement, which calls for a permanent end to fighting.

Here, the devil is in the details.

The wording in Biden’s proposal gives Israel a way out after phase one.

The Biden proposal stipulates that phase two can only be reached upon Israel’s agreement at the end of phase one.

If Israel doesn’t agree to move to phase two and chooses to end negotiations, then the ceasefire is off.

But, as Israeli officials have made clear, Israel hasn’t agreed even to these very watered down ceasefire terms.

Blinken’s second lie pertains to Hamas and its position on the proposal.

During the press conference, Blinken indicated that the Biden proposal was “virtually identical” to the deal Hamas proposed on May 6.

Blinken went on to blame Hamas for being insincere and “continuing to try to change the terms,” including terms that “Hamas had previously accepted”.

But all of this is also untrue.

First, Hamas’s May 6 proposal was quite different from the Biden proposal. It did not give Israel wiggle room to easily exit the agreement after phase one. Also, and importantly, the Hamas proposal called for an end to Israel’s illegal, suffocating blockade on Gaza.

Blinken said that Hamas had proposed “numerous changes” to Biden’s proposal.

All Hamas did, however, was attempt to move things closer towards its May 6 proposal, which would lead to an actual end to the war.

One significant change that Hamas did introduce – an Israeli troop withdrawal – was necessitated by Israel’s taking over of the Philadelphi Corridor on May 30.

This is an important fact that Blinken conveniently decided to omit.

Third, Blinken said the “whole world” supports the proposal and that Hamas is the only entity to avoid getting behind it.

This is highly misleading.

Over the past several months, the US and Israel have rejected and obstructed several serious ceasefire proposals, all of which have been backed by Hamas and the global community.

After engaging in this obstruction, the US made its very imperfect proposal on May 31.

Countries in the United Nations Security Council voted for it not because it was a great proposal, nor because they thought it was better than previous proposals which they had also voted for.

They voted for this proposal precisely because of US obstructionism. Countries know that this proposal is the only game in town, the only opportunity that the US and Israel will allow for at least a temporary cessation.

Several countries made their reservations known on Monday. Russia, China, Malta and Algeria, among other global actors, have expressed their reservations.

Blinken’s statement that the “entire world” stands behind the Biden proposal is deeply misleading.

Fourth, Blinken blamed Hamas for holding up the ceasefire for 12 days.

During his Wednesday remarks, Blinken mentioned the “12 days” – which is the time elapsed between Biden’s announcement and Hamas’s response – a total of five times.

Each mention was an attempt by Blinken to blame Hamas for the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.

For example, Blinken said, “the reality is as this negotiation is going on, during the 12 days that it took Hamas to respond, the world wasn’t standing still. Gaza wasn’t standing still. People were suffering every single day.”

But Blinken is again being untruthful.

Biden announced the deal on May 31, but, as Sami Al-Arian and other analysts have noted, didn’t present a written, detailed draft to Hamas until much later.

The exact date is unclear, but based on news reports, it appears that as of June 5, Hamas still hadn’t received anything in writing from Biden.

It appears they may have finally received a written draft by June 6.

The group responded on June 11. That would mean a five-day gap, not the 12 that Blinken misleadingly claimed.

Given the apparently significant discrepancies between what Biden announced on May 31 and what he submitted to Hamas in writing, it is not unusual that Hamas needed five days to respond.

In any case, attempting to blame Hamas for Palestinian suffering constitutes another US attempt to shield Israel from blame over its mass killings in Gaza.

That Blinken would lie is not surprising. Indeed, in the context of Israel, the Palestinians, and Gaza, the Biden administration has a history of untruths.

But the sheer amount of lies that Blinken was able to pack into a short press conference is nonetheless astonishing.

Recent diplomatic manoeuvring isn’t likely to end the war on Gaza, but it will serve Biden’s domestic aims.

At the end of all this posturing, Biden will be able to tell US voters that he tried his best to end the war but that Hamas didn’t allow him to.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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Niger court scraps immunity of deposed President Bazoum

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Niger scraps immunity of deposed president Bazoum - Vanguard News

Decision opens door for military government to prosecute democratically elected president for alleged ‘high treason’.

The top court in military-governed Niger has lifted the immunity of the country’s deposed president, Mohamed Bazoum, paving the way for a possible trial nearly a year after he was overthrown by mutinous soldiers.

Abdou Dan Galadima, president of the State Court, the country’s highest legal authority that was created in November by the military government, announced the decision on Friday.

The military authorities had initiated the legal proceedings earlier this year, declaring their intention to eventually prosecute Bazoum for “high treason” and for undermining national security.

Under house arrest with his family, Bazoum is accused of having spoken by telephone with French President Emmanuel Macron and United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a bid to secure Western support during the July 2023 coup.

The court proceedings were postponed twice, with Bazoum’s lawyers complaining of several obstacles to the right of a defence. They have been unable to communicate with him since last October.

Human Rights Watch, an international rights group, has alleged the hearing was marred by serious irregularities, including violations of Bazoum’s rights to present evidence in his defence, to communicate with his legal counsel and to be heard before an independent court.

Late last year, the highest court of West African regional bloc ECOWAS ruled that Bazoum and his family were arbitrarily detained and called for him to be released and restored to office. Niger pulled out of the grouping a month later.

After Friday’s hearing, Ould Salem Mohamed, one of Bazoum’s lawyers, said they took note of the decision and that the defence team would make a statement shortly.

Before Bazoum was forcibly removed from power, Niger was the West’s last major security partner in the Sahel, the vast region south of the Sahara desert that has for years been gripped by deadly violence perpetrated by armed groups.

Bazoum, a former teacher, was elected in 2021 – the country’s first-ever peaceful transfer of power since independence in 1960. Lauded for his democratic credentials, he offered a base for powers like France and the US to launch security campaigns against armed groups affiliated with ISIL (ISIS) and al-Qaeda.

The military government has since booted out France’s military. US troops were also ordered to leave and have officially started their withdrawal.

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Honduras to build 20,000-inmate ‘megaprison’ as part of gang crackdown

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Honduras military takes over prisons, force inmates to sit half ...

President Xiomara Castro says new measures including ‘terrorist’ designations for gang members are in response to public complaints about rising violence.

Authorities in Honduras have announced a series of measures aimed at tackling organised crime, including the construction of a 20,000-capacity “megaprison”, as well as “terrorist” designations and collective trials for members of gangs.

In a late-night televised address to the nation, President Xiomara Castro said on Friday the “plan of solutions against crime” was in response to a “security emergency” and public complaints about increasing violence.

Flanked by members of Honduras’s National Defense and Security Council, Castro said the armed forces and police should be deployed to “urgently execute interventions across parts of the country with the highest incidences of gang crimes, such as murders for hire, drug and firearm trafficking, extortion, kidnapping and money laundering”.

The plan to build the 20,000-inmate “Emergency Reclusion Centre” in the sparsely populated area between the eastern departments of Olancha and Gracias a Dios will massively expand Honduras’s current prison capacity.

The authorities also said the Honduran Congress must reform the penal code so that drug traffickers and members of criminal gangs who commit specific crimes, such as those listed by Castro, are designated as “terrorists” and face collective trials.

Hector Gustavo Sanchez, who heads the national police force, said a list of “intellectual authors, leaders and gang members” was being distributed and that the immediate arrest of those on the list was being ordered.

Operations will also be launched to locate and destroy plantations growing marijuana and coca leaf – the key ingredient in cocaine – as well as centres being used to process illegal drugs.

The new measures echo neighbouring El Salvador, where President Nayib Bukele’s anti-gang campaign has drawn criticism from rights groups but has made him one of the most popular leaders in Latin America.

Honduras declared a state of emergency in December 2022, suspending parts of the constitution as it sought to crack down on a rise in crime it attributed to gangs. Last year, the country’s homicide rate stood at 34 per 100,000 inhabitants, almost six times the global average.

Prominent global human rights group Amnesty International has previously warned that the heavy-handed security measures introduced to tackle gang violence “have triggered a spike in abuses and deaths” and put “everybody in danger”.

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China seeks detention of foreigners in disputed South China Sea

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Clash at Chinese Consulate: Manila Protests Beijing's Sea Detention Order

Philippines files new legal submission before the UN, asserting its own entitlements while challenging China’s claim.

New maritime rules issued by China that allow its coastguard to detain foreigners for trespassing in the disputed South China Sea have taken effect – but their international legitimacy is being questioned by neighbouring countries.

China claims almost the entirety of the South China Sea, brushing aside competing claims from several Southeast Asian countries including the Philippines and a 2016 ruling by an arbitration tribunal in The Hague, which declared that its stance had no legal basis.

The Chinese government has been deploying the country’s coastguard and other boats to patrol the waters it claims as its own, and has turned several reefs into militarised artificial islands. In recent years, Chinese and Philippine vessels have had a series of confrontations in disputed areas that have raised fears of a wider conflict.

From Saturday, China’s coastguard can detain foreigners “suspected of violating management of border entry and exit”, according to the new regulations published online.

Detention is allowed for up to 60 days in “complicated cases”, they say. “Foreign ships that have illegally entered China’s territorial waters and the adjacent waters may be detained.”

Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr last month called the new rules a “very worrisome” escalation. And on Saturday, the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs announced that it has submitted to the United Nations in New York legal filings asserting its own “maritime entitlement” under the UN maritime rules to an extended continental shelf on parts of the South China Sea, which it refers to as the West Philippines Sea.

The Philippines has accused the Chinese coastguard of “barbaric and inhumane behaviour” against Philippine vessels after coastguard vessels used water cannon against Philippine boats multiple times in the contested waters. There have also been collisions that injured Filipino soldiers.

Philippine military chief General Romeo Brawner told reporters on Saturday that authorities in Manila were “discussing a number of steps to be undertaken in order for us to protect our fishermen”.

Philippine fishermen were also told “not to be afraid, but just to go ahead with their normal activities to fish there in our Exclusive Economic Zone”, ignoring Beijing’s new rules, Brawner said.

The Group of Seven (G7) bloc of powerful economies on Friday also criticised what it called “dangerous” incursions by China in the vital waterway, where Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also have overlapping claims in some parts.

Trillions of dollars in ship-borne trade passes through the South China Sea annually, and huge unexploited oil and gas deposits are believed to lie under its seabed, though estimates vary greatly.

The sea is also important as a source of fish for growing populations.

China has defended its new coastguard rules. A foreign ministry spokesman said last month that they were intended to “better uphold order at sea” while the Chinese defence minister warned this month that there were “limits” to Beijing’s restraint in the South China Sea.

China has also been angered in the past by United States and other Western warships sailing through the South China Sea.

The US Navy and others undertake such voyages to assert the freedom of navigation in international waters, but Beijing considers them violations of its sovereignty.

Chinese and US forces have had a series of close encounters in the South China Sea.

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World leaders meet in Switzerland as Ukraine seeks aid amid war with Russia

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Talks for an Elusive Peace in Ukraine Held in Davos

Absence of China in summit raises questions over point of event, which Russia dismissed as ‘futile’.

World leaders are gathering in Switzerland for a summit aimed at pressuring Russia to end its war in Ukraine, but the absence of powerful allies of Moscow such as China is expected to blunt its potential impact.

United States Vice President Kamala Harris and the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan are among those expected to join Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy at the summit starting on Saturday.

India, Turkey and Hungary, which maintain friendlier relations with Russia, are also expected to join.

But China is staying away after Russia was frozen out of proceedings on the grounds it had dismissed the event as “futile” and had expressed no interest in attending.

Without China, Western hopes of isolating Russia have faded, while recent military reverses on the battlefield have put Ukrainian forces on the back foot.

“The summit risks showing the limits of Ukrainian diplomacy,” said Richard Gowan, United Nations director at the International Crisis Group.

“Nonetheless, it is also a chance for Ukraine to remind the world that it is defending the principles of the UN Charter.”

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz called the event an important step towards progress.

“Many questions of peace and security will be discussed, but not the very biggest. That was always the plan,” he said, speaking to Welt TV before travelling to Switzerland. “This is a small plant that needs to be watered, but of course also with the perspective that more can then come out of it.”

For his part, Polish President Andrzej Duda said the summit aimed to bring home to more geographically distant countries the scale of the threat to the world posed by Russia.

Moscow’s demands

On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country would end the war if Ukraine agreed to drop its NATO ambitions and hand over the entirety of four provinces claimed by Moscow – demands Kyiv swiftly rejected as tantamount to surrender.

Ukraine and the US swiftly dismissed Putin’s demands, but his statement apparently reflected growing confidence that Russian forces have the upper hand in the war.

Meanwhile, Scholz said: “Everyone knows that this was proposal wasn’t meant seriously, but had something to do with the peace conference in Switzerland.”

Russia casts what it calls its special military operation in Ukraine as part of a broader struggle with the West, which it says wants to bring Russia to its knees.

Ukraine and the West reject this and accuse Russia of waging an illegal war of conquest.

Switzerland, which took on the summit at the behest of Zelenskyy, wants to pave the way for a future peace process that includes Russia.

About 90 countries and organisations have committed to the two-day gathering due to take place at the Buergenstock, a mountaintop resort in central Switzerland.

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Best’s Commentary: Mexico’s New Catastrophe Bond Issuance Fundamental for Country’s Disaster Risk Management – Caribbean News Global

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MEXICO CITY–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#insurance–A recently issued catastrophe bond by Mexico’s government has raised its level of bond protection against natural disasters to USD 595 million, reflecting an overall increase of 23%, according to the new AM Best report.

The catastrophe bond totaling $175 million was announced on May 15, 2024. In addition, Mexico’s natural catastrophe fund known as Fondo de Desastres Naturales (FONDEN) holds USD 1 billion, which is separate from the catastrophe bond resources.

The Best’s Commentary notes that the expanded catastrophe bond coverage could mitigate economic losses for areas that are more vulnerable to natural disasters.

“Insurers’ risk appetites can be limited by myriad factors, making some risks not insurable,” said Eli Sanchez, director, AM Best. “But with this kind of vehicle, risk can be transferred to the debt markets, showcasing opportunities for the region’s financial markets.”

Risk transfers to Latin America’s debt markets overall are muted but common in Brazil and have reaped benefits in Mexico on several occasions, including Hurricane Otis (2023), Hurricane Patricia (2015) and the Mexico City 2017 earthquake. Additionally, using the debt markets to fill some insurance gaps allows for greater transparency for public finance than self-insured funds, which could be subject to political pressures, according to the report.

To access the full copy of this special report, please visit http://www3.ambest.com/bestweek/purchase.asp?record_code=343649.

AM Best is a global credit rating agency, news publisher and data analytics provider specializing in the insurance industry. Headquartered in the United States, the company does business in over 100 countries with regional offices in London, Amsterdam, Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore and Mexico City. For more information, visit www.ambest.com.

Copyright © 2024 by A.M. Best Rating Services, Inc. and/or its affiliates. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Director, Analytics
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Christopher Sharkey
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Al Slavin
Senior Public Relations Specialist
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Working in ‘hellfire’: Gig workers bear the brunt of India’s heatwave

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Pakistan bears the brunt of global extreme heat illness and mortality ...

New Delhi, India – Every morning before stepping out of his rented accommodation in New Delhi, India, gig worker Aman fills three plastic bottles with water from a small earthen pot and packs them with some leftover food inside a sling bag. To support his family, in 2018 the 26-year-old moved from Bihar to New Delhi to work as a delivery person at a logistics company. And it’s the hottest work he’s ever experienced; he’s never endured such scorching working conditions, he says.

Parts of India are currently engulfed by an extreme heatwave. In the last month, the mercury in Delhi rose to the highest temperature ever recorded: 52.9 degrees Celsius (127.2 degrees Fahrenheit); however, weather officials later issued a statement pushing the maximum temperature lower, in the high 40s (113-120F). In 2021, a report identified India as one of the top five countries in the world with the most exposure to extreme heat.

“When I am driving my two-wheeler during work, the hot air blowing on my body makes it feel like I am sitting outside a furnace,” says Aman, who goes by a single name. Last month, he fainted due to the heat while making a delivery in a remote area of Delhi, he recounts, adding that a shopkeeper came to his aid and poured cold water over his head. “Since that incident, I make sure to carry small water bottles and sprinkle water over my head and face multiple times during the day to remain conscious,” says Aman, his clothes drenched in sweat.

Delivery driver Aman pours water over his head to cool himself after making a delivery [Parthu Venkatesh/Al Jazeera]

According to a recent report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), the rising temperatures in India will reduce daily working hours 5.8 percent by 2030. With 90 percent of workers in the country employed in the informal sector, the loss of labour hours brings significant challenges.

Aman’s family has been worried about his health and safety. However, quitting or switching to another job is not an option. “While driving, I think about what would happen if something unforeseen happens to me due to heat,” he says. “That scares me, but unfortunately, I have no other skills than driving – and a family to look after – so I cannot leave this job at any cost.”

The scorching temperatures affect him mentally, he says, but also economically because they impact his ability to meet his delivery targets. In the winter, his daily earnings were around 750 Indian rupees ($9). That has now dropped to 500 rupees ($6). “It really haunts me how I will take care of my family,” he laments while getting ready to deliver the last parcel of his day, finishing a 10-hour shift.

According to a report by government think-tank NITI Aayog, there are 7.7 million gig workers in India — a number that is expected to grow to 23.5 million by 2029-30.

Outside a small eatery in South Delhi, Sharukh, 25, who works with a food delivery platform Zomato, stands opposite an old, rusted cooler installed by the owner. “Posh restaurants don’t even allow us to stand in front of their outlets while we are there to collect orders,” Sharukh says, adding that delivery people also have to ask for water in the unbearable heat and are made to feel like “untouchables”.

Since the heatwave began, Sharukh has avoided accepting orders from higher-end restaurants, preferring small establishments where “they have the humanity to offer us water and a place to rest while they prepare the order”.

“After all, I am not a machine who can work all day in this unbearable temperature,” he says, disheartened, while waiting to collect the seventh order of his shift. Each day he typically brings home 500 to 650 rupees ($6 to $7.80).

From March to May, there were approximately 25,000 cases of suspected heatstroke and 56 fatalities in India’s severe heatwave. May was the worst month, with 46 heat-related deaths alone, according to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). News outlets including Reuters and The Hindu have reported that heatwave-related deaths could be as high as 80 or even 100.

Last month, while delivering an order, Sharukh experienced extreme pain and cramps in his stomach. Since then, he has been skipping heavy meals to stay light and drinking lemonade from roadside stalls to keep hydrated.

“My health has been badly impacted due to heat this year. After work, I feel exhausted and, at times, have severe headaches,” he says. The high temperatures also impact him at home, where frequent power outages prevent him from getting proper rest, making his condition worse. He says his mother insists that he find a different job, but that’s not an option considering the nation’s high unemployment.

“Also, our companies aren’t doing much for our safety and wellbeing,” Sharukh says, wrapping a gamcha (soft cotton towel soaked in water) around his face before leaving to deliver his next order.

Situations such as prolonged working hours, pressure to meet delivery targets, carrying heavy loads, irregular income and lack of social security like health insurance all negatively impact gig workers’ physical and mental wellbeing, according to a 2024 report by Janpahal, a Delhi-based non-profit.

“Although we all live in similar temperatures, the burden of heat isn’t shared equally,” explains Selomi Garnaik, a campaigner at Greenpeace India. “Heatwaves disproportionately impact outdoor workers, forcing them to endure extreme temperatures and putting their health and safety at grave risk.”

She says that Greenpeace India is demanding the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) declare heatwaves as a national disaster to ensure “effective fund allocation for heatwave adaptation, mitigation and relief”.

“Unfortunately, the heat action plans are reduced to being mere guiding documents; this needs to change,” Garnaik adds. “The heat action plans should prioritise outdoor workers and pay attention to their needs, including reducing working hours during peak heat, providing work absence allowances, and ensuring accessible basic public goods like electricity and water. It’s high time to address this inequity and protect those at the forefront during these challenging times.”

Govinda,27, wraps a white cloth (gamchha) around his face and wears sunglasses to protect himself from heat. Photograph by Parthu Venkatesh.
Delivery driver Govinda Shah wears sunglasses and a white cloth (gamchha) wrapped around his face to protect himself from heat [Parthu Venkatesh/Al Jazeera]

Govinda Shah, 27, who works for Zepto, a grocery delivery platform, says: “The temperature in Delhi is like hellfire … for people like me who earn hand to mouth.” He sits under a tree waiting for his next order outside a housing society in India’s second-largest IT hub, Gurugram, a major satellite city of New Delhi.

He works 10-hour shifts to make ends meet, earning about 600 rupees ($7.20) daily. The excessive heat is both physically and mentally challenging. “I have got rashes, making it painful to walk, and also my clothes stink very unpleasantly, making me feel embarrassed in front of the customer,” Shah says. “Before going to sleep, I pray this heatwave ends soon, or else survival will be difficult.”

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Advocates welcome passage of bill to tackle environmental racism in Canada

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Advocates say Canada’s first environmental justice law will help chart scale of problem, address negative health impact.

Environmental and social justice advocates in Canada have welcomed a new bill that pledges to develop a national strategy to prevent and address the effects of environmental racism.

In a statement on Friday, the Canadian Coalition for Environmental and Climate Justice (CCECJ) said passage of Bill C-226 this week would help communities better understand the scale of the problem and lay out strategies for how to tackle it.

The bill passed a third reading in the Senate on Thursday and is now expected to achieve “royal assent”, the last step in the legislative process.

“We know the stories about where and how environmental racism exists in Canada. The formal data on these realities is incomplete, and therefore, there is a lack of understanding about how real this problem is,” said Ingrid Waldron, CCECJ’s co-founder and co-director.

“Data collection and analysis will be a critical starting point in the strategy required by the Environmental Justice Strategy Act. The consequences of inaction on environmental racism would be ongoing negative impacts on people’s health and wellbeing.”

Environmental racism refers to the disproportionate siting of hazardous projects and polluting industries among populations of colour and Indigenous communities.

Over the past decades, examples in Canada have included mercury poisoning in Grassy Narrows First Nation in northern Ontario, the building of major oil and gas pipelines on unceded, Indigenous lands, and the placement of landfills near historic African-Canadian communities on the east coast.

Advocates have spent years urging the Canadian government to take action on the issue, the effects of which continue to be felt in communities across the country.

Janelle Nahmabin, of Aamjiwnaang First Nation in Ontario, told Al Jazeera in 2021 about how growing up in one of Canada’s most heavily industrialised areas – known as “Chemical Valley” – has affected her and her community.

The pollution residents are exposed to every day has harmed their relationship with the land, she said, which in turn “disconnects Indigenous people from their culture, because the land is a part of our identity”.

In 2020, a United Nations special rapporteur also found a “prevalence of discrimination in Canada’s laws and policies regarding hazardous substances and wastes is clear”.

“There exists a pattern in Canada where marginalized groups, and Indigenous peoples in particular, find themselves on the wrong side of a toxic divide, subject to conditions that would not be acceptable elsewhere in Canada,” the expert said in a report (PDF) to the UN Human Rights Council.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals had promised in their 2021 party platform to pass legislation requiring the environment minister to “examine the link between race, socio-economic status, and exposure to environmental risk”.

Trudeau’s government supported Bill C-226 on environmental racism, with Steven Guilbeault, the minister of environment and climate change, saying in February that “environmental protection should not change depending on who you are or where you live”.

“Decision-making should ensure equal opportunity to all and avoid discriminating underrepresented groups. This national engagement will help us meaningfully and collectively reflect on environmental justice and racism,” Guilbeault said in a statement.

Bill C-226 – put forward by Green Party leader Elizabeth May – requires the minister to “develop a national strategy to promote efforts across Canada to advance environmental justice and to assess, prevent and address environmental racism”.

It also says the minister must work with interested parties, including Indigenous communities, and then submit a report to Canada’s Parliament within two years of the bill’s final passage, laying out the national strategy.

“The passage of Bill C-226 represents a commitment to addressing the long-standing and deeply entrenched issue of environmental racism in Canada,” May of the Green Party said in a statement on Thursday.

“This legislation is a testament to the power of collective action and the importance of ensuring that all voices, especially those of marginalized communities, are heard and respected in our environmental policies.”

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Wikipedia war: Fierce row erupts over Israel’s deadly Nuseirat assault

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Live updates: What's happening on Day 12 of the Israel-Hamas war ...

A fierce “edit war” has broken out on Wikipedia over a page dedicated to a deadly Israeli raid in the Nuseirat refugee camp near Deir el-Balah in central Gaza on the morning of June 8.

The bloody attack – ostensibly to free four Israeli captives held there – killed nearly 300 displaced people and injured more than 700, overwhelming the nearby Al-Aqsa Martyrs Hospital.

Now, the Israeli raid has become the focus of a heated editing dispute on Wikipedia, which has been forced to restrict editing access to the page dedicated to the incident.

This is what we know about the creation of the Wikipedia page and the spiralling online war it has triggered:

Who created the Wikipedia page about Nuseirat and why?

The Israeli raid on Nuseirat grabbed global headlines due to the freeing of the four Israeli captives – Noa Argamani, 25; Almog Meir Jan, 21; Andrey Kozlov, 27; and Shlomi Ziv, 40 – who had been taken by Hamas from a music festival during the October 7 attacks on southern Israel. To explain what happened during the raid and rescue, a Wikipedia editor known only by the username “Galamore” created an article dedicated to the incident.

Wikipedia allows editors to remain anonymous with their names and countries of origin hidden. However, it does not guarantee that an editor’s identity cannot be discovered by means outside its control.

Molly White, an American software engineer and technology researcher, who has been a Wikipedia editor for the past 18 years, editing mostly political pages, told Al Jazeera: “Some argue that anonymity actually helps because, based on a person’s personal identity, you’re not assuming things about them that might be accurate or not. However, she added: “I think it can be challenging if you don’t know much about a person to evaluate biases that they might have, where they’re coming from, their level of expertise”.

After its creation, the article on the Nuseirat raid was edited 627 times by 103 users in just one week. This is an unusually high number of changes made to a single article on Wikipedia. By comparison, the Wikipedia page about the October 7 Hamas attacks has been edited 1,705 times by 368 people over the course of eight months.

As is common practice when an “edit war” breaks out, Wikipedia administrators quickly locked the page, allowing access to only a few select editors. For anyone else trying to access the page to make changes to it, a notice appears stating “only extended confirmed users and administrators can edit it”.

A registered editor becomes an “extended confirmed user” once their account has existed for 30 days and once they have made at least 500 edits.

The article’s creator, Galamore, has been registered as a Wikipedia editor since December 25, 2023, and has made 1,186 edits on different Wikipedia articles, largely those with profiles of Israeli personalities, including the footballer Yehezkel Chazom, the board game designer Ephraim Hertzano and chess master Moshe Aba Blass. According to Wikipedia, making more than 1,000 edits puts an editor in the top 0.1 percent of Wikipedia editors in terms of number of edits.

What is an ‘edit war’?

An edit war happens when two or more editors persistently change each other’s contributions to an article, causing a repetitive cycle of reversions. This is also known as “vandalism” by users of Wikipedia and includes the “deliberately disruptive or malicious editing” of any page. This might include deleting content or changing it so it becomes intentionally biased, libellous, offensive or degrading.

Edit wars are not uncommon on Wikipedia pages. White said: “This actually happens all the time. It’s particularly common with things that happened recently like breaking news topics.”

White said an edit war had broken out on a page she was involved in editing about the January 6 Capital riots in Washington, DC in 2020. “There was a huge, months-long argument over what that article should be titled, whether it should be the January 6 ‘insurrection’ or ‘riots’ or ‘attack’ on the Capitol.”

According to Wikipedia’s neutrality policy, pages should be written from a neutral point of view “without editorial bias”. It operates a set of monitoring tools that can alert it if an edit war appears to have broken out.

Wikipedia users can also add a “dispute tag” to a page, indicating that the neutrality of an article has been called into question. This may trigger a wider discussion among Wikipedia’s staff on how to resolve the contentious topic and placing the page in “protection mode” – restricting editing access to certain editors only – until the issue has been resolved.

How did the row over the Wikipedia article on Nuseirat unfold?

These are some of the key changes that were made to the article in its first 50 hours. All times are GMT:

  • June 8, 11:17: The Wikipedia page titled “Nuseirat operation” is launched by Galamore. The article names the retrieved captives and mentions that Gaza’s Ministry of Health has reported “dozens of people were killed”.
  • June 8, 12:00: Galamore renames the page “2024 Nuseirat rescue operation” and adds: “Following dozens of deaths and injuries among Hamas, the operation was called by Hamas the ‘Nuseirat Massacre’.”
  • June 8, 14:22: An unknown user identified only by an IP address changes this line to “the operation was dubbed the ‘Nuseirat Massacre’”. This user also adds “biased language” as a comment explaining why the edit was made.
  • June 8, 15:40: User “JDiala” changes the article to state that the death toll has reached at least 210 Palestinians and cites “Palestinian health officials” as a source. JDiala registered as an editor on Wikipedia on July 29, 2013, and has made 1,957 edits since. The user’s profile has a Palestinian flag and a quote from Amira Hass, a columnist for the liberal Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
  • June 8, 16:51: A user called “Favonian” adds “protection” to the page to limit edits, citing “contentious topic” as a reason, effectively locking the page.
  • June 8, 17:05: User “Dynamo128” posts on a discussion page linked to the article, writing “to the people who keep deleting my edits, … better to calm down for now.”
  • June 8, 18:54: A second Wikipedia page chronicling the Nuseirat raid is launched by user “Dylanvt”, named “Nuseirat refugee camp massacre” and addresses the Palestinian casualty statistic in the first sentence. This page has garnered 37,029 views, nearly half as many as the first page, which has 78,862.
  • June 9, 02:43: A user named Daniel Case adds “protection” to the second Nuseirat page, also limiting who can edit it.
  • June 9, 04:48: A now-defunct account owned by a user named “Owenglyndur” adds: “Following the operation, Hamas threatened the remaining hostages,” citing The Times of Israel.
  • June 10, 14:16: Dylanvt, the creator of the “Nuseirat refugee camp massacre” page, posts on the discussion page for “2024 Nuseirat rescue operation” that the mention of massive civilian casualties has been removed “from the lead twice. Why? Are the removers disputing this fact?” adding that the Israeli army “is claiming 100-ish casualties per sources. Is that not enough to be ‘massive’?”
  • June 10, 21:24: “Is there any evidence that the [Israeli military] were responsible for civilian casualties? This was in Hamas-controlled territory,” user “KronosAlight” wrote as part of the response to Dylanvt’s discussion.

The article sparked anger among many X users who were particularly upset that upon searching for the keywords “Nuseirat massacre” on Google, only the Wikipedia article that includes the words “rescue operation” in its title showed up on the top results page.

But when these users tried to edit the article themselves, they said they were unable to because Wikipedia had restricted editing access to the page. This sparked more anger.

Why did Wikipedia freeze the Nuseirat page?

While most Wikipedia pages are open to any registered user to edit, an exception is made for certain articles that are locked or “protected” to prevent “disruptive editing on controversial pages”, the Wikipedia homepage explains. When pages are locked, the new settings limit and slow down the number of edits made to the pages.

There are various levels of locking. Both the Nuseirat pages have been “fully locked”, which means only Wikipedia extended confirmed users and administrators may access it.

Editors trying to access either page are currently being redirected to the discussion page.

Have edit wars broken out on Wikipedia before?

  • High-profile politicians connected to legal scandals or other controversies are popular targets for content “vandalism” on Wikipedia. In 2018, for example, the Wikipedia page of Pakistani politician Maryam Nawaz was locked or “protected” after several vandalism attempts. Nawaz is currently serving as the chief minister of Punjab. She is also the daughter of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. She was handed a seven-year jail sentence in a corruption case but then acquitted by an Islamabad court in September 2022.
  • Former United States President George W Bush has one of the most edited Wikipedia pages with 48,105 edits. He ordered the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and many critics disputed his administration’s claimed evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The issue was a topic of contention for many Wikipedia editors.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic Wikipedia page became a hotbed for tens of thousands of edits with some entries covering conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus. The speculation around the virus being born from bats or a lab leak from Wuhan, China, became infectious themselves. Wikipedia was able to address the issue of misinformation about the virus spreading on its platform, however, with projects like Wiki Project Medicine, a community of doctors and scientists,working to correct wrong information.
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BVI signs CIP for additional technical assistance – Caribbean News Global

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By Government of the British Virgin Islands

ROADTOWN, Tortola – Premier Dr Natalio D. Wheatley has signed the British Virgin Islands’ (BVI) second United Nations (UN) Country Implementation Plan (CIP) that expands programming and technical assistance to the Territory from UN agencies serving the Caribbean region.

Among other things, the CIP will help to accelerate achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and implementation of the BVI National Sustainable Development Plan.

The priority areas identified include:

  • Building a conducive business environment and investment climate;
  • Accelerate the economic transition;
  • Support the use of date for policy development and leave no one behind;
  • Universal, quality and shock responsive social protection and services;
  • Expand and strengthen adaptive capacity;
  • Strengthen the policy framework for governance, security and social cohesion; and,
  • Incorporate the SDGs into national planning to drive implementation.

The updated CIP was developed based on the BVI-UN Sustainable Development Forum held on Tortola in June 2023 where the UN system consulted the government of the British Virgin Islands on the support needed to help advance the sustainable development of the islands.

Speaking on the importance of signing the BVI’s second UN CIP, Premier Wheatley. said:

“The new CIP deepens our cooperation with the UN system on programming and technical assistance for the sustainable development of the BVI. The wider range of technical assistance and support available will assist the government with policy development and implementation in the identified priority areas. My administration will remain engaged with the UN as a primary development partner.”

The outgoing resident coordinator for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Didier Trebucq signed the CIP on behalf of the UN system.

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