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Amid Ukraine war, all things Russia met with scorn, backlash | Russia-Ukraine war News

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Ike Gazaryan says it began with phone calls. Then came the bad online reviews, the cancelled reservations, and the threatening notes.

“Some of these phone calls are pretty disturbing,” said Gazaryan, owner of Pushkin Russian Restaurant in San Diego, California. “They’re yelling, saying, ‘You’re f***king Russian pigs, I hope you die.’”

Gazaryan, who is Armenian, told Al Jazeera that most of his employees are Ukrainian, and the restaurant has hung up Ukrainian flags and donated money in support of Ukraine amid Russia’s devastating military offensive there.

But that has not stopped some members of the public from targeting his restaurant in the weeks since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an all-out invasion of the country. “Russia is the new boogie man,” Gazaryan said in a phone interview this week.

“So anything I guess that has the word ‘Russian’ is going to be a red flag for everybody.”

Public backlash

Western nations have repeatedly blamed Putin for the conflict in Ukraine, dubbing it the Russian president’s “war of choice” even before it began. But Russian forces’ ongoing attacks on Ukrainian cities and towns, which have destroyed homes, damaged hospitals and forced millions to flee, have spurred public anger against Russia as a whole in many places around the world.

While some Russian citizens do support the war and Putin himself, thousands took to the streets across the country to denounce the invasion, while thousands more have since fled Russia fearing forced military conscription. Thousands of anti-war protesters have been detained as Russian authorities crack down on dissenting voices, with Putin on Thursday calling for “a necessary self-purification” to rid Russia of those who do not support the invasion of Ukraine.

But despite opposition to the war amongst many people both in Russia and abroad, several Russian community groups as well as businesses that are even only tangentially Russia-related in the United States, Canada and elsewhere say they have experienced a marked chill – and in cases such as Gazaryan’s, a public backlash, since the invasion began.

In Vancouver, on Canada’s west coast, blue and yellow paint – the colours of the Ukrainian flag – was thrown earlier this month at the door of the local Russian Community Centre. Established in the 1950s, today the centre offers Russian language courses for children and adults, and hosts Russian cultural activities, such as concerts and plays.

“We were in shock,” said Natasha Lozovsky-Burns, a member of the board of directors, who arrived at the centre around 9:30am on March 5 to discover the paint. About 90 children were coming to attend Russian school that morning, she told Al Jazeera, and “the look on their faces and the parents’ faces was just devastating”.

“Eighty percent of our parents are of Ukrainian descent. These poor people who already are in emotional turmoil because they’ve got family and friends in Ukraine who are suffering … they come to the hall, and to see that, it was just a slap in the face because they have nothing to do with what’s happening over there,” Lozovsky-Burns said.

“I think people just need to educate themselves and not make assumptions,” she added. “They see the word ‘Russian’ and they see red.”

‘Not unusual’

With images of death and destruction in Ukraine shocking and angering people around the world, “emotions are running very high”, said Ronald Grigor Suny, a professor of history at the University of Michigan and an expert on Russia.

“People are extraordinarily upset, and they are taking it out in their own indiscriminate way against people who they think are responsible, like anyone who’s Russian,” Suny told Al Jazeera. He said a woman at the university recently was yelled at for speaking Russian on the phone in public, with the aggressor calling her a “commie” – a communist – and telling her to “go back to Russia”.

“Any attacks on Russians, indiscriminately like this – just like attacks on Muslims after 9/11 – are a sign of ignorance, of not understanding the complexities of the situation,” he said, adding though that these types of incidents are “not unusual” in history.

He pointed to how during WWI, people in St Petersburg – then known as Petrograd – attacked the offices of US sewing company Singer, believing it was involved in German espionage, while during the Cold War, serious debate was curtailed and anyone slightly critical of US policy was told to “go back to Russia, whether you’d been to Russia or not”.

More recently, Americans angered over France’s opposition to the US invasion of Iraq briefly renamed French fries “Freedom fries”.

A view of the Russian Tea Room in New York City
Businesses with ‘Russia’ or ‘Russian’ in their names, such as New York’s Russian Tea Room, have publicly denounced the war in an apparent effort to stave off any backlash [File: Mark Lennihan/AP Photo]

Vodka bans, poutine

Amid the war in Ukraine, some US states have banned Russian vodka, while cultural, sporting and other institutions of all kinds have cut ties to their Russian partners.

Restaurants in the Canadian province of Quebec as well as in France that serve poutine – a Quebec dish of fries, cheese curds and gravy – have changed its name or put out statements stressing they are not linked to Putin (the Russian president’s name is spelled “Poutine” in French).

“We have received calls levying insults and even threats,” La Maison de la Poutine, a French restaurant chain, said on Twitter this month. “It therefore seems necessary to recall that La Maison de la Poutine is not linked to the Russian regime and its leader.”

Some US bars also have renamed the Moscow mule cocktail, the Kyiv mule. “It seems to be these things will wear off in a while, that the kind of insane, instant reactions will eventually dissipate, but at the moment it’s quite serious,” Suny said.

That was echoed by Benjamin Freeman, a research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft in Washington, DC, who also told Al Jazeera that “a very strong anti-Russian sentiment” currently prevails in the US.

Negative views of Russia did not start with the current war, however, as international public opinion towards the country has been on a steady decline for years. According to a 2020 Pew Research Center poll, the share of people holding favourable views of Russia in the US, UK and Canada dropped by at least 20 percentage points since surveys began in 2007. Seventy-one percent of people in the US said they had a negative view of Russia, according to that survey. Russia had also been widely criticised amid allegations it interfered in recent US elections.

I think people just need to educate themselves and not make assumptions. They see the word ‘Russian’ and they see red

by Natasha Lozovsky-Burns

But in the context of Ukraine, Freeman cautioned against allowing anti-Russian views among the US public to translate into harsh penalties that will harm the Russian people – or lead to a “political race to do things that are not good foreign policy and that will actually punish the people of Russia, not Putin”.

“We certainly don’t want a modern-day McCarthyism going on,” he added.

‘Scared of the name Vladimir’

In the meantime, the atmosphere has prompted several Russia-related businesses to publicly declare their opposition to the war in Ukraine, in an apparent effort to avoid threats and confrontations.

The storied Russian Tea Room in New York City, for instance, has a message on its website denouncing “Russia’s unprovoked acts of war in the strongest possible terms” and supporting Ukraine.

“For 95 years, the NY institution’s history has been deeply rooted in speaking against communist dictatorship and for democracy,” the note reads. “Just as the original founders, Soviet defectors who were displaced by the revolution, stood against Stalin’s Soviet Union, we stand against Putin and with the people of Ukraine.”

Back in San Diego, Gazaryan at Pushkin Russian Restaurant said while the threatening phone calls have slowed down over the past few days, a sense of anti-Russian hostility continues to hang in the air.

This week, a friend of his who is originally from Uzbekistan told him about an encounter he had with a client while doing appliance repairs, Gazaryan told Al Jazeera. “This is what he wrote me,” Gazaryan recounted.

“‘I just had a customer introduce me as Gary to their kids when I walked inside the house. I was confused, I didn’t think much of it, and I didn’t really want to correct him. Then after I get inside his laundry room, he comes to me and says, ‘Hey I know your name is Vlad, but the kids are scared of the name Vladimir.””

Gazaryan added: “This type of thing [is] happening all over and people in the United States don’t understand that most of the Russians that live here don’t support Putin – they ran away from the regime.”





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In India, waiting for the monsoon | Business and Economy News

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Dhis, India–On a searingly hot May afternoon, in Dhis village in Rajasthan’s Alwar district, Matadin Meena, a 72-year-old farmer, looked up at the sky and sighed. “Everything depends on the rain, and the harvest,” he said, wiping a bead of sweat from his creased forehead. “I want to know how much it will rain in my village, and when. If there is a good monsoon here, and I can sell my crop at a good price, I will build another room in my house.”

In India, monsoon is as much prose as poetry. It excites economists and equity markets as well as artists, writers, musicians. For millions of India’s farmers, like Meena, the summer monsoon, which typically arrives in June and continues till September, is life and livelihood. More than 75 percent of India’s annual rainfall occurs during this period. Monsoon rains are critical for India’s agriculture, the largest employer of workers in the country.

Farmer Meena has seen the monsoon raise and ruin hopes many times in the past five decades. Last year, it rained heavily towards the end of the monsoon when the pearl millet crop had just been harvested, he said. “The entire crop got spoilt.”

The first forecast by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) on the southwest monsoon season rainfall has raised hopes this year. A statement by the government agency which tracks weather developments across India noted that the “Southwest monsoon seasonal (June to September) rainfall over the country as a whole is most likely to be normal (96 to 104 percent of Long Period Average (LPA)” between 1971 and 2020. The likely figure is 99 percent of the LPA.

What attracted a lot of media attention in India this year was the IMD’s new normal LPA of 87cm of rainfall. It is a centimetre less than the 1961-2010 LPA. That may not be much by itself, but it confirms a receding trend. The LPA for 1951-2000 was 89cm.

“There is nothing unusual about the revised definition of what constitutes average rainfall in the country. It is routine revision. Every 10 years, we do it. This is regular international practice,” Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, the director general of IMD, told Al Jazeera.

In the countryside, more than the LPA or the “new normal”, the greater worry is about monsoon variability and how it will play out in different parts of the country.

“Focusing on all-India rainfall can be a distraction because this country is huge, and there are huge variations in rainfall between different parts of the country during the monsoon,” said Roxy Mathew Koll, a climate scientist at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology and a lead author in the latest series of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports.

“If you look at the regional distribution of rainfall, there is a clear decrease since 1950 in different parts of the country. The decline is significant in parts of north and central India. This is due to climate change and global warming, particularly in the Indian Ocean,” Koll added.

The drop in total rainfall comes even as extreme rainfall events are increasing, including a three-fold rise in extreme rainfall events since 1950, as well as more short bursts of intense rainfall combined with longer stretches of dry days during the monsoon season, he added.

This has knock-on effects, starting with problems of water management. “We need modest rainfall spread through a longer period,” said Koll. Instead, there are bouts of heavy rainfall that lead to flooding and leave little time for the water to percolate underground. As the water table falls, more and more bore wells are drilled to pump out whatever water is left, eventually affecting water and food security.

INTERACTIVE_INDIA_EXTREME_WEATHER_MAY25

Crucial forecast for farmers

The IMD rainfall forecast helps farmers make the first critical decision – what crops to grow this season and how to allocate land accordingly.

“We are not weather gods. Accuracy of weather forecasts can never be 100 percent. But the monsoon forecasts are useful. And not only to farmers but also to policymakers in India,” said V Geethalakshmi, an agro-meteorologist and vice-chancellor of Tamil Nadu Agricultural University.

The forecasts enable India’s numerous government-run Agro-Meteorological Field Units to offer advisories to farmers via text messages to help them make weather-sensitive decisions linked to sowing/transplanting crops, scheduling irrigation, timely harvesting of crops, among others, Geethalakshmi said.

And for corporates

In a pandemic-battered economy now grappling with massive supply-chain disruptions in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many are pinning hopes on “normal” rainfall this year.

“As we try to emerge from a difficult period, we want to see the engines firing on all cylinders and rain is an important element in that,” said Harsh Goenka, chairman of RPG Enterprises, a large Indian conglomerate. “India’s rural economy remains a key barometer and I am hopeful it will do well.”

Companies in the consumer-packaged goods sector currently grappling with sluggish demand also seek a good monsoon as 36 percent of the country’s demand for these products comes from rural areas, Abneesh Roy, executive director, Edelweiss Securities, told Al Jazeera.

“The monsoon forecast is very important” especially as consumer sentiment in villages has already taken a knock because of the hike in prices of diesel and fertilisers and packaged goods, Roy pointed out.

‘Rainfall variability’

According to the IMD, there is a 60 percent chance that the monsoon will be normal or above normal, which weather experts say is good. These are called “probability forecasts”.

“Science tells us that the prospect of bountiful monsoon rains (this year) is pretty high because of many factors,” said K J  Ramesh, former director-general of IMD. But, he warned, “We might be seeing rainfall variability.”

A “normal” monsoon does not mean it will be good for every farmer. It is not just the quantum of rainfall that matters but its geographical spread and timeliness. Farmers need just the right amount of rainfall at the right time.

Farmer Matadin Meena on a charpoy in his house in Rajasthan, India
Farmer Meena (pictured) in Dhis village wants to know if the rainfall will be adequate in his village or not [File: Patralekha Chatterjee/Al Jazeera]

Rajasthan’s Alwar district is semi-arid, but 45-year-old farmer Ram Kumar lost money due to excess rainfall that destroyed his pearl millet crop last July. “I lost Rs 60,000 ($774). This year, I hope there won’t be a repeat.” he said.

Kumar follows the monsoon forecasts but wants more “local” information. “I want to know if it will rain, how heavily, when exactly and for how long in Babedi, my village. I want to know if it will rain equally in July, August, September this year. How does it help me to know if there will be a normal monsoon in Alwar, because even within a district, rainfall is not the same everywhere? Even in Babedi, part of the village got heavy rain when the other part was dry.”

Need for local information

This goes to the heart of a current challenge facing rainfall forecasters and policy analysts.

More than 75 per cent of Indian districts, home to more than 638 million people, are now extreme climate event hotspots. The pattern of extreme events such as flood-prone areas becoming drought prone and vice-versa has changed in at least 40 percent of Indian districts.

The IMD is equipped today to provide a range of short to medium to long-term monsoon forecasts. It also provides all-India district rainfall statistics. But it does not offer the kind of granular local information that many farmers are seeking in the face of erratic weather.

But some Indian researchers are starting to fill that gap.

The Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), a New Delhi-based think-tank, for example, is currently researching how monsoon variability is changing in every district in India as part of the granular Climate Risk Atlas that it is developing.

The results are expected in July this year, says Abinash Mohanty, programme lead in the Risks and Adaptation team at CEEW.

Such mapping of hot spots and granular risk assessment is not yet planned at the village level, but district-level monsoon variability data, including excessive rain, can help policymakers assess risks to not only agriculture, but also critical infrastructure like power plants, schools, hospitals and vulnerable populations.

A normal monsoon could still have “episodes of abnormality such as floods, long periods of nil/scanty rains, shift in the rainfall pattern etc,” said Sridhar Balasubramanian of the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Associate Faculty, IDP Climate Studies, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay. “Unfortunately, we cannot do much at this point since weather/climate dynamics is a beast and is yet to be tamed … This is likely to get worse in the coming decades and we still do not have a robust solution.”

As pre-monsoon showers and thunderstorms struck parts of northern India this week, bringing some relief from the corrosive heat, and floods continued to wreak havoc in Assam and India’s North East, farmer Meena of Dhis village waits anxiously to see whether even in a normal monsoon year, there will be too much or too little rain in his village.



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Texas school shooting live news: Biden calls for US action | Gun Violence News

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  • At least 19 children and two adults have been killed after a gunman opens fire in a Texas primary school.
  • The attack took place at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, a small community about 135km (85 miles) west of San Antonio in the southern part of the state.
  • The gunman, identified as 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was shot dead by police.
  • US President Joe Biden tells Americans it is time to take on the gun lobby.

Here are all the latest updates:

Family grieves teacher Eva Mireles who was killed in shooting

Eva Mireles has been named as the teacher who was killed in the shooting.

She was trained in bilingual and special education, and taught children of nine and 10 years old, according to a report from Reuters news agency.

“My beautiful cousin! Such a devastating day for us all! My heart is shattered into a million pieces,” Cristina Arizmendi Mireles wrote on Facebook.

In a short biography posted on the school district’s website, Mireles had written she had “a supportive, fun, and loving family” including her husband, her college graduate daughter, and “three furry friends.”

Her husband, Ruben Ruiz, is a police officer at the school district’s police force, the agency investigating the shootings.

Her aunt, Lydia Martinez Delgado, grieved for her niece in a Facebook post.

“I’m furious that these shootings continue. These children are innocent. Rifles should not be easily available to all. This is my hometown, a small community of less than 20,000. I never imagined this would happen to especially loved ones,” Martinez Delgado said in a statement.


McConnell says ‘horrified and heartbroken’ at Uvalde shooting

The Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has tweeted his shock at the shooting in Uvalde.

He says the entire country “is praying” for all those affected.

He doesn’t mention anything about the need for gun reform.


Attacked acted alone, killed grandmother before heading to school

The gunman’s motive is not yet clear.

It seems Ramos was a local man and killed his grandmother before heading to the school with two military-style rifles he had bought to celebrate his birthday.

“That was the first thing he did on his 18th birthday,” State Senator Roland Gutierrez was reported as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

Ramos had hinted on social media that an attack could be coming, Gutierrez added, noting that “he suggested the kids should watch out.”

The school district’s police chief, Pete Arredondo, said that the attacker acted alone.

A girl (left) and boy (right) hold flowers in the aftermath of the Robb Elementary School shooting
Children stand outside the Ssgt Willie de Leon Civic Center, where students of the Robb Elementary School after a gunman went on a rampage in their school [Marco Bello/Reuters

Another child dies from injuries after Ulvade shooting

It seems the death toll on the shooting has been revised.

News agencies, citing local officials, say at least 19 children were killed as the gunman went from classroom to classroom at the school.

The attacker also killed two adults, one of them confirmed to be a teacher.

The school had about 600 children aged between five and 12 years old.


‘Enough is enough’: Gun control activists demand action

Hollye Dexter, a long-term advocate for gun control, has told Al Jazeera that politicians in Congress who continue to back the gun lobby after so many mass shootings should be held to account, singling out Republicans in particular.

“This should not have happened,” she said. “Enough is enough. We cannot be polite anymore. We’ve got to call these people out for not standing up to the NRA.”


Nancy Pelosi joins call for legislative action after ‘monstrous’ shooting

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says it’s time for Congress to join together to enact gun control legislation after what she described as the “monstrous” shooting in Ulvade.

“Across the nation, Americans are filled with righteous fury in the wake of multiple incomprehensible mass shootings in the span of just days,” Pelosi said in a statement.

“This a crisis of existential proportions – for our children and for every American.  For too long, some in Congress have offered hollow words after these shootings while opposing all efforts to save lives.  It is time for all in Congress to heed the will of the American people and join in enacting the House-passed bipartisan, commonsense, life-saving legislation into law.”

Women console each other after the Ulvade shooting
People react outside the Civic Center following the deadly shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde. Nancy Pelosi said the attack was “monstrous” [Dario Lopez-Mills/AP Photo]

Kamala Harris says it’s time for ‘courage’

Vice President Kamala Harris has called on the US to have the “courage to take action” and prevent a repeat of the mass shooting at Uvalde.


‘Why are we here if not to solve a problem as existential as this?’: Senator Chris Murphy

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy has called on his fellow politicians to take action on guns.

“What are we doing?” the Democrat asked on the floor of the House.

“There are more mass shootings than days of the year. Our kids are leaving in fear every time they set foot in a classroom because they fear they will be next. Why are we here if not to solve a problem as existential as this?”

 


Biden says time to take on the gun lobby

Biden made impassioned comments calling for United States elected representatives to pass ‘common sense’ gun control legislation.

“When in God’s name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby,” he asked. “When in God’s name are we going to do what we know in our gut needs to be done.”

Biden noted that it had been 10 years since he had been to Sandy Hook where 26 people were killed, 20 of them children.

US president Joe Biden addresses the nation with his wife behind him
President Joe Biden pauses as he speaks about the mass shooting at the Robb Elementary School from the Roosevelt Room at the White House as first lady Jill Biden listens [Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP Photo]

‘I’m sick and tired. We must act’: Biden

Biden opens his speech with his voice sounding as if it was about to break, talking of the children who had watched their friends die “as if on a battlefield” and parents who will never see their children again.

“[These] parents will never be the same again,” he said. “To lose a child is like having a piece of your soul ripped out.”

Biden, himself, lost an infant daughter in a car crash and his adult son to cancer.

He says it’s time for the US to take action.

“I’m sick and tired. We have to act. Don’t tell me we cannot have an impact on this carnage.”


Joe Biden begins his address

 


Texas shooting follows record year for attacks in 2021

The latest shooting comes just a week after a white gunman killed 10 Black people in a racist attack on a Buffalo supermarket.

The FBI has said 2021 was the worst year ever for gun attacks.

The Reuters news agency has compiled a list of some of the most serious recent shootings.

New York: April 12 – In one of the most violent attacks in the history of New York’s transit system, 23 people were wounded when a 62-year-old man activated a smoke bomb and opened fire on the subway. He was taken into custody the next day.

Oxford, Michigan: November 30, 2021Four students were killed, and seven other people were wounded after a teenager opened fire at a high school in Oxford, Michigan.

Indianapolis: April 16, 2021 – A former FedEx employee who had been under psychiatric care shot eight people dead and injured several others at an Indiana facility of the shipping company before taking his own life.

Los Angeles: March 31, 2021 – Four people were killed, one of them a child, in a shooting at an office building in suburban Los Angeles before the suspect was taken into custody.

Boulder, Colorado: March 22, 2021 – A mass shooting at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, left 10 people dead, including a police officer.

Atlanta, Georgia: March 16, 2021 – Eight people, including six women of Asian descent, were shot dead in a string of attacks at day spas in and around Atlanta. A male suspect was arrested.


Death toll climbs to 21: Texas Senator Roland Gutierrez

An update on the death toll from the shooting.

Texas state Senator Roland Gutierrez has told CNN that 18 children had been killed, and three adults.

He cited the Texas Rangers state police for the figures.


‘Part of the culture’: Why the US is so attached to guns

Kenneth Williams, a professor at South Texas College of Law, has said it is hard to change gun laws in the US because gun ownership is “part of the culture”.

Williams noted that there are more guns in the country than there are people.


US President Joe Biden to address nation

US President Joe Biden is back in the United States after his visit to South Korea and Japan.

He is due to address the country at 8:15pm (00:15 GMT).

Biden has already ordered flags to be flown at half-mast until sunset every day until May 28 in response to the tragedy.





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North Korea fires three missiles as Biden ends Asia visit | Weapons News

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South Korea says the launches began early on Wednesday morning.

North Korea has fired three ballistic missiles off its east coast, South Korea’s military said, hours after United States President Joe Biden wrapped up his visit to the region.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the first missile was launched at 6am local time (21:00 GMT) on Wednesday, with a second launch 37 minutes later and the third five minutes after that.

The military said it was “maintaining a full readiness posture” and closely cooperating with the US.

South Korea’s new-elected President Yoon Suk-Yeol immediately convened a meeting of the National Security Council.

North Korea has carried out a record number of missile launches this year, including a test of its biggest intercontinental ballistic missiles since 2017.

The US had warned that Pyongyang was poised for more weapons tests as Biden headed to South Korea and Japan, his first visit to the region as president.

Biden left Japan on Tuesday night but had been briefed on the latest launches, the Reuters news agency said.

The US military command in the region said it was aware of “multiple” ballistic missile launches from North Korea and was assessing the situation.

“The missile launches highlights the destabilizing impact of the DPRK’s illicit weapons program,” it said in a statement, referring to North Korea by its official name.



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