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The UN’s George Floyd Resolution is a Vital Step Toward International Accountability

More than one year after the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, it is clear that international accountability is critical to complement and bolster domestic efforts to dismantle systemic racism in law enforcement in the United States.

Last month, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet released a highly anticipated and historic report detailing the “compounding inequalities” and “stark socioeconomic and political marginalization” that Black people and people of African descent in many countries, including in the U.S., continue to face. The report found that “no State has comprehensively accounted for the past or for the current impact of systemic racism” and called for a “transformative agenda” to uproot systemic racism and address law enforcement violence against Black people and people of African descent.

The report, which references the U.S. more than any other country, calls for “reimagining policing and reforming criminal justice systems that do not keep racial and ethnic minorities safe and which have consistently produced discriminatory outcomes for Africans and people of African descent” and urges states to address racial profiling in law enforcement, the militarization of law enforcement, and the lack of accountability and transparency regarding police violence.

Building on the momentum of the report, Bachelet formally presented her report and agenda for transformative change to the U.N. Human Rights Council last week. There is, she said, “an urgent need to confront the legacies of enslavement, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, colonialism, and successive racially discriminatory policies and systems, and to seek reparatory justice.”

Advocates immediately recognized the groundbreaking nature of this report and the impact it could have — if the U.S. actively responds. In a video statement on behalf of the ACLU, Collette Flannigan, executive director of Mothers Against Police Brutality, commended the U.N. High Commissioner for “listening to the voices of families of victims of police violence and centering the lived painful experiences of people of African descent more broadly” and called on the Biden administration, Congress, and state and local governments to heed the report’s recommendations.

U.N. member states, led by the Africa Group, also saw the need to capitalize on this moment. In a landmark resolution adopted by consensus the Human Rights Council, the U.N. will create an independent expert mechanism to focus on examining and combating systemic racism worldwide, especially in the context of law enforcement.

Up to the last minute, former colonial powers such as the United Kingdom pushed for a weaker resolution, but an unprecedented international coalition of civil society organizations and NGOs — many of which are led by Black women — successfully urged the council to maintain the core elements of the resolution. The pillars of the resolution call for enhanced global accountability for human rights violations by law enforcement against Black people in the U.S. and globally, and an investigation into the impacts of slavery and colonialism on contemporary forms of systemic racism. This is monumental step toward international accountability for systemic racism in law enforcement.

Following the adoption of the resolution, Secretary of State Antony Blinken released a statement pledging the Biden administration’s cooperation with the new expert mechanism, as the ACLU and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights have been demanding.

For years, the ACLU and civil society organizations have urged administrations to extend similar invitations to thematic human rights experts. In 2019, the ACLU, the National Council of Churches, and a diverse civil society coalition called on the Trump administration to extend an invitation to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism. The ACLU also led a coalition effort which called on the Obama administration to invite the U.N. Special Rapporteur on torture to visit U.S. detention facilities and prisons, including Guantanamo Bay.

The Biden administration’s invitation to U.N. independent experts signifies a new chapter of U.S. engagement with its international human rights bodies, particularly on racial justice and equality. We are encouraged by the administration’s promise to cooperate with the new international probe on systemic racism, but the U.S. government must take further action to confront the impacts of slavery and Jim Crow on systemic racism in the U.S.

Specifically, we’re calling on President Biden and Secretary Blinken to firmly and publicly support:

  • The passage of domestic legislation that is strongly aligned with the U.N.’s report, including H.R. 40, to study reparations for slavery;
  • The establishment of a National Human Rights Institution and the appointment of a senior Human Rights Coordinator with a mandate to implement a national plan of action to fulfill international human rights obligations, especially on racial justice; and
  • Transformative and meaningful changes to our public safety and criminal legal systems, including initiatives to divest from police departments and reinvest in the communities most harmed by police violence and over-policing.

The significant actions taken this week by the highest international human rights body signals a turning point in the struggle against racism and racial discrimination worldwide, and the scourge of systemic racism against Black people, particularly in the context of policing. The implementation of the historic U.N. resolution, which is informally but aptly called the “George Floyd Resolution,” coincides with the 20th anniversary of the Durban Conference Against Racism, which must continue to guide the global fight against racism. The resolution’s implementation should be followed by the creation of a U.N. Permanent Forum on People of African Descent, and work specifically to remedy past and current racial injustices through acknowledgment, recognition, reparations, and guarantees for non-repetition of the crimes against humanity of slavery and the trans-Atlantic trade in enslaved Africans. The onus is now on the Biden administration to lead by example in the work to dismantle systemic racism.

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This post originally posted here The European Times News

Millions of people face life-threatening storm surge and heavy winds and rains as Tropical Storm Elsa moves north off the coast toward Florida’s Big Bend area

Elsa is churning off the western coast of Florida with maximum sustained winds of 65 mph as it moves north on a collision course with the Big Bend region, where it is expected to make landfall late Wednesday morning or early in the afternoon.
A Tampa resident covers his windows with hurricane shutters in preparation for Hurricane Elsa Tuesday.
The storm was about 50 miles southwest of Cedar Key Wednesday morning.
Hurricane warnings were in place from the Chassahowitzka River, just to the south of Homosassa, Florida, to the Steinhatchee River.  The hurricane warnings south of the Chassahowitzka River to Egmont Key, Florida, have been replaced by tropical storm warnings.
Bands of heavy rain and strong winds continue to spread inland across southwest and west-central Florida, according to the National Hurricane Center. A tornado watch has been issued for parts of Florida until 8 a.m., according to a tweet from the National Weather Service’s Tampa Bay office.
While the system weakened to a tropical storm early Wednesday after becoming a Category 1 hurricane Tuesday, hurricane warnings remain in place for more than four million people in Florida. More than 12 million people are under a tropical storm warning across three states.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis expanded his state of emergency declaration Tuesday to include a total of 33 counties as local, state and utility resources continue to prepare for the incoming storm.
The Florida National Guard has activated 60 guardsmen to serve at the State Emergency Operations Center and Logistics Readiness Center, according to a release from the Guard. It is prepared to activate additional personnel as needed.
“We are well-equipped with assets including high-wheeled vehicles, helicopters, boats and generators, and are preparing for possible missions to include humanitarian assistance, security operations, search and rescue, aviation, and more,” the guard said in the release.
In Tampa, officials urged residents to stay off the roads as the storm approaches.

Counties and utilities preparing ahead of storm

Both the mayor and emergency coordinator for the city of Tampa posted on social media Tuesday to encourage residents to stay home and be prepared.
“We are prepared here in the city of Tampa but we need you to do your part as well,” Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said in a video posted to Twitter. “Don’t go outside tonight. If you don’t have to, do not go outside. Stay in.”
“We want everybody to be safe in Tampa and we’ll be up all night monitoring the storm so you don’t have to,” she added.
Earlier, Tampa Emergency Coordinator John Antapasis said it was time for residents to get to safety ahead of the expected landfall.
“Now is the time to get back home, get off the streets and stay safe for the rest of tonight,” he said. “You should be making and finalizing your hurricane plans and ensuring that you’re in a safe location while … Elsa makes it’s way through out community.”
Antapasis advised that people who need to be on the road should check the city’s flood map.
Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes also warned people to get ready for the storm during a press conference Tuesday.
“Please finalize your plans and secure your homes and get ready to sort of bunker down and ride out this storm,” Hopes said.
Shelters were opened in at least five counties Tuesday and two counties issued voluntary evacuation orders.
Duke Energy, which serves 1.8 million customers in Florida, according to its website, is preparing for anticipated outages from the storm.
The utility said in a press release Tuesday that it has staged 3,000 utility “crew members, contractors, tree specialists and other personnel” from Pinellas County to north Florida.
Additional line workers and support personnel have also been brought in from the Carolinas, Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio, according to the release.
The University of Florida in Gainesville has canceled classes for Wednesday in anticipation of the storm, the university said in a statement.

Tropical storm warnings and emergency declarations extended

Ahead of Elsa’s landfall in Florida, tropical storm watches and warnings have been issued in Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia.
The warnings extend along the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina.
A tropical storm watch has been issued for the entire coast of North Carolina and up to Chincoteague, Virginia, and for the Chesapeake Bay south of New Point Comfort.
On Tuesday, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp issued a State of Emergency in preparation for the impact of Elsa.
“This storm system has the potential to produce destructive impacts to citizens throughout the central, southern, and coastal regions of the State of Georgia and due to the possibility of downed trees, power lines, and debris, Georgia’s network of roads may be rendered impassable in the affected counties, isolating residences and persons from access to essential public services,” Kemp said.
A State of Emergency has been declared in 91 of Georgia’s 159 counties, according to Kemp’s order. The order will expire Wednesday at midnight unless the governor decides to renew it.

Author: Hollie Silverman, Michael Guy and Rebekah Riess, CNN
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Hurricane Elsa races toward Haiti, could hit Florida; storm threatens to unleash landslides

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Hurricane Elsa raced toward Haiti and the Dominican Republic on Saturday, where it threatened to unleash flooding and landslides before taking aim at Cuba and Florida.

The Category 1 storm was located about 110 miles (175 kilometers) east-southeast of Isla Beata, Dominican Republic and was moving west-northwest at 31 mph (50 kph). It had maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph), with the hurricane expected to become a tropical storm after hitting Cuba, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The long-term forecast track showed it heading toward Florida as a tropical storm by Tuesday morning, but some models would carry it into the Gulf or up the Atlantic Coast.

In Haiti, authorities used social media to alert people about the hurricane and urged them to evacuate if they lived near water or mountain flanks.

“The whole country is threatened by this hurricane,” the Civil Protection Agency said in a statement. “Make every effort to escape before it’s too late.”

WATCH: Big changes made to the hurricane season this year

Haiti is especially vulnerable to floods and landslides because of widespread erosion and deforestation.

People were still buying water and food as the storm approached, with many wary about its immediate and long-term impact in a country struggling with an increase in gang violence and deep political unrest.

“I’m protecting myself the best that I can. Civil protection is not going to do that for me,” said Darlene Jean-Pierre, 35, as she bought six jugs of water along with vegetables and fruit. “I have other worries about the street … I have to worry about gangs fighting. In addition to this, we have a hurricane. I don’t know what kind of catastrophe this is going to cause.”

A hurricane warning was issued for Jamaica and from the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince to Punta Palenque in the Dominican Republic. A hurricane watch was in effect for the Cuban provinces of Camaguey, Granma, Guantanamo, Holguin, Las Tunas, and Santiago de Cuba. Some of those provinces have reported a high number of COVID-19 infections, raising concerns that the storm could force large groups of people to seek shelter together.

“Anticipating is the key word,” said Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, adding that vaccination efforts would continue. “Let’s take care of lives and property.”

In the neighboring Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, authorities opened more than 2,400 shelters as forecasters warned of heavy rains starting Saturday before dawn.

Elsa is forecast to brush past the southernmost point of Hispaniola by Saturday afternoon and then take aim at communities in southern Haiti.

The storm already had ripped off roofs, destroyed crops and downed trees and power lines in the eastern Caribbean on Friday, with damage reported in Barbados, St. Lucia and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which also suffered massive volcanic eruptions that began in April.

At least 43 homes and three police stations were damaged, said St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves.

“We expect that this number will increase as reports keep coming in,” he said. “We have some damage, but it could have been far worse.”

In St. Lucia, the wind damaged a secondary school, pummeling desks, overturning chairs and sending papers flying after blowing off the roof and siding.

Elsa is the first hurricane of the Atlantic season and the earliest fifth-named storm on record. It is forecast to drop 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimeters) of rain with maximum totals of 15 inches (38 centimeters) across portions of southern Hispaniola and Jamaica.


Sanon reported from Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

Copyright © 2021 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.

Author: AP
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MLS looks into alleged racial abuse toward Timbers player

Coach Giovanni Savarese said after the team’s game Friday an opposing player directed a “discriminatory word” at Timbers midfielder Diego Chara.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Editors Note: The video in the player above is from a story that aired in April 2021.

Major League Soccer is investigating allegations of racial abuse directed at Portland Timbers midfielder Diego Chara.

Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said after Portland’s 1-0 loss to Minnesota United Saturday night that a “discriminatory word” had been used by a Loons player toward Chara, who is Black and from Colombia.

“MLS has zero tolerance for abusive and offensive language, and we take these allegations very seriously. An investigation into this matter has already begun. Further information will be provided upon completion of that investigation,” the league said in a statement Sunday.

Minnesota United released a statement saying the team supports the league’s investigation. But it also said the Loons player involved, who was not identified, denied making “any derogatory remarks.”

“MNUFC is built on inclusivity and respect, and does not tolerate discrimination under any circumstance,” the statement said.

Minnesota coach Adrian Heath spoke to the media following the game, but it was before Savarese mentioned the comment directed at Chara.

“We are all in support of Diego Chara. But what happened to him today, the discriminatory word that was said to him, should not have a place anywhere,” Savarese said, visibly angry. “I’m extremely disappointed that it was not taken as serious as it should have been.”

The game was delayed several minutes on the field in the second half, and it was apparent that the Portland players were angry and appealing to game referees. But it was not clear what was said or when it occurred.

The Professional Referee Organization, which manages the officiating crews for Major League Soccer matches, issued a statement explaining that no immediate disciplinary action was made because the referee did not witness or hear the alleged abuse.

“The referee then went a step further to inform captains of both teams that he was aware of the allegation, could not issue a sanction, but would be including the incident in his official match report to initiative further investigation,” PRO said in a statement Sunday. “In this instance, the referee acted appropriately in accordance with the annual diversity and anti-discrimination training protocols, which all PRO match officials are required to participate in each season to effectively identify and respond to discrimination of any kind during competition.”

The incident marred Minnesota’s victory, which extended the team’s undefeated streak to six straight games. It was the Loons’ first win on the road this season.

The match was pushed back for an hour because of a heat wave in the Pacific Northwest. Temperatures were still above 100 degrees when the game kicked off after 8:30 p.m. The high temperature in downtown Portland on Saturday reached a record-breaking 106 degrees.

This post originally appeared on CBS8 – Sports

The Pentagon Inches Toward Letting AI Control Weapons

Last August, several dozen military drones and tank-like robots took to the skies and roads 40 miles south of Seattle. Their mission: Find terrorists suspected of hiding among several buildings.

So many robots were involved in the operation that no human operator could keep a close eye on all of them. So they were given instructions to find—and eliminate—enemy combatants when necessary.

The mission was just an exercise, organized by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, a blue-sky research division of the Pentagon; the robots were armed with nothing more lethal than radio transmitters designed to simulate interactions with both friendly and enemy robots.

The drill was one of several conducted last summer to test how artificial intelligence could help expand the use of automation in military systems, including in scenarios that are too complex and fast-moving for humans to make every critical decision. The demonstrations also reflect a subtle shift in the Pentagon’s thinking about autonomous weapons, as it becomes clearer that machines can outperform humans at parsing complex situations or operating at high speed.

US Army Futures Command General John Murray told an audience at the US Military Academy last month that swarms of robots will force military planners, policymakers, and society to think about whether a person should make every decision about using lethal force in new autonomous systems. “Is it within a human’s ability to pick out which ones have to be engaged,” and then make 100 individual decisions, Murray asked. “Is it even necessary to have a human in the loop?”

Other comments from military commanders suggest interest in giving autonomous weapons systems more agency. At a conference on AI in the Air Force last week, Michael Kanaan, director of operations for the Air Force Artificial Intelligence Accelerator at MIT and a leading voice on AI within the US military, said thinking is evolving. He says AI should perform more identifying and distinguishing potential targets while humans make high-level decisions. “I think that’s where we’re going,” Kanaan says.

At the same event, Lieutenant General Clinton Hinote, deputy chief of staff for strategy, integration, and requirements at the Pentagon, says that whether a person can be removed from the loop of a lethal autonomous system is “one of the most interesting debates that is coming, [and] has not been settled yet.”

This May, a report from the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence (NSCAI), an advisory group created by Congress, recommended, among other things, that the US resist calls for an international ban on the development of autonomous weapons.

Timothy Chung, the DARPA program manager in charge of the swarming project, says last summer’s exercises were designed to explore when a human drone operator should, and should not, make decisions for the autonomous systems. For example, when faced with attacks on several fronts, human control can sometimes get in the way of a mission because people are unable to react quickly enough. “Actually, the systems can do better from not having someone intervene,” Chung says.

The drones and the wheeled robots, each about the size of a large backpack, were given an overall objective, then tapped AI algorithms to devise a plan to achieve it. Some of them surrounded buildings while others carried out surveillance sweeps. A few were destroyed by simulated explosives; some identified beacons representing enemy combatants and chose to attack.

The US and other nations have used autonomy in weapons systems for decades. Some missiles can, for instance, autonomously identify and attack enemies within a given area. But rapid advances in AI algorithms will change how the military uses such systems. Off-the-shelf AI code capable of controlling robots and identifying landmarks and targets, often with high reliability, will make it possible to deploy more systems in a wider range of situations.

But as the drone demonstrations highlight, more widespread use of AI will sometimes make it more difficult to keep a human in the loop. This might prove problematic, because AI technology can harbor biases or behave unpredictably. A vision algorithm trained to recognize a particular uniform might mistakenly target someone wearing similar clothing. Chung says the swarm project presumes that AI algorithms will improve to a point where they can identify enemies with enough reliability to be trusted.

Author: Will Knight
This post originally appeared on Business Latest

Oil slides toward $60 ahead of OPEC+ meeting to boost global supply

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Crude oil prices have weakened on Tuesday as OPEC and its allies are expected to decide how to proceed with the collective production cuts from April onwards. Futures in New York sank below $ 60 a barrel, dropping for a third day.

Both global crude benchmarks Brent and US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) were down more than one percent on Tuesday, trading at $ 62.89 and $ 59.92 per barrel at 08:42 GMT, respectively.

The oil-producing alliance led by Russia and Saudi Arabia will meet on Thursday to decide on easing supply curbs after prices posted their best-ever start to a year. Saudi Arabia has already called on the producers to remain “extremely cautious” even as signs of tightening emerge.

Statistics show the kingdom’s unilateral additional cut in oil production sent the total OPEC output down by 870,000 barrels per day (bpd) in February, the first monthly drop in the alliance’s production since June last year.
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Given the recent rally in oil prices, analysts expect the group to lift production in some form and the Saudis to reverse their unilateral cut. Oil prices have been roaring back after a tumultuous 2020, when Covid-19 crippled demand for the commodity around the world.

“The group will need to be careful; they will want to make sure they do not surprise the market by easing too much. There is a large amount of speculative money in oil at the moment, so they will want to avoid any action that will see them running for the exit,” said ING strategists Warren Patterson and Wenyu Yao.

According to Stephen Innes, chief global market strategist at Axi, this week’s decline in prices may help to strengthen the Saudi stance. “That’s probably something that could sway the OPEC+ increase more back toward the 500,000 barrels per day as opposed to the 1.5 million,” Innes told Bloomberg.
Also on rt.com China continues to be main driver for oil demand in 2021
Investors are “a little bit unsure whether OPEC will continue with the support they provided over the last few months with the supply cuts,” said Daniel Hynes, a senior commodity strategist at Australia & New Zealand Banking Group. If there’s a higher-than-expected increase, that could make things difficult in the short term, given demand is still showing signs of fragility, he noted.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies have to decide how much output is to be restored and at what pace. The current reductions amount to just over seven million barrels a day, or seven percent of global supply. 

According to Goldman Sachs, OPEC+ still has plenty of scope to restore production. The bank estimates there’s a “massive” deficit of two million barrels per day at present. The pace of draws during the recovery will likely outstrip the group’s ability to ramp up, it has warned.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section

Bitcoin surges toward $50,000 amid China’s latest crypto crackdown

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The world’s top cryptocurrency, bitcoin, continued to rally on Tuesday, pushing above $ 49,000 during early trading. The rally comes as the Chinese government plans to ban crypto mining in the country.

The Chinese northern region of Inner Mongolia, the global crypto mining hotspot, is banning cryptocurrency mining. Regional authorities are expected to bar all new projects and to shut down existing activities.

According to the draft plan, revealed by the Inner Mongolia Development and Reform Commission, the mining operations will be halted in April 2021. The ban comes as part of broader measures to cut down consumption of energy by the world’s second biggest economy.

Inner Mongolia, which has become a favorite among the crypto industry players due to its cheap power, aims to hold down energy consumption growth to some 1.9 percent in 2021. The ban involves reassessing such energy-intensive sectors as steel and coal.

The draft plan comes weeks after the National Development and Reform Commission scolded the region for being the only one to fail to control power consumption in 2019.
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Bitcoin mining consumes an estimated 128.84 terawatt-hours per year of energy, according to the Cambridge Bitcoin Electricity Consumption Index. That’s more than the consumption of an entire country, such as that of Argentina or Ukraine.

China alone accounts for nearly 65 percent of global bitcoin mining activities, while Inner Mongolia consumes around eight percent. That’s more than the 7.2 percent consumed by the entire US.

The price of bitcoin surged around 6.8 percent on Tuesday on the news. The world’s biggest and best-known cryptocurrency briefly pushed above $ 50,000 for the first time in six days. It was trading at above $ 49,000 at 09:55 GMT, according to crypto-tracking platform CoinDesk.
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Beijing has supported the development of blockchain technology, which initially bolsters bitcoin. However, the government has been seeking to crack down on digital currencies themselves, amid deep concerns over speculative bubbles, fraud and energy waste.

The country’s regulators barred initial coin offerings, and cracked down on businesses involved in cryptocurrency operations such as exchanges.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT’s business section