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It is high time for the UK to take action on Myanmar at the UNSC | United Nations

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Moments before voting in favour of a historic General Assembly resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Myanmar’s Ambassador to the United Nations Kyaw Moe Tun told fellow delegates in New York “Myanmar understands and shares more than others the suffering that the people of Ukraine are encountering.”

For the past 14 months, the people of Myanmar have been under attack from a brutal military government led by deluded strongman Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, whose attempted coup on February 1, 2021, ended a decade of quasi-democracy in the country.

The generals have responded to nationwide civilian resistance to the coup with a systematic campaign of mass killings, torture, sexual violence and abuse. In resistance strongholds, military forces are burning entire towns to the ground and cutting access to food supplies in an attempt to starve people into submission.

For the first time in decades, state capitals and ethnic minority areas are being bombed, reflecting the fact that the generals have lost control on the ground. IDP camps are being targeted for air raids and artillery barrages, while in recent months massacres of unarmed civilians have become a hallmark of the generals’ increasing barbarity. And yet, in contrast to the decisive response by the international system to Putin’s aggression, the response to Min Aung Hlaing’s attack on the Myanmar people has been, at best, one of empty rhetoric.

For this the UN Security Council, the international system’s most powerful body, bears much responsibility. UNSC members took less than 24 hours to table a resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It was a timely and necessary response to the situation. By contrast, no UNSC member has ever tabled a resolution on Myanmar, in spite of decades of atrocities committed against ethnic minorities, including the genocidal “clearance operation” against Rohingya in 2016 and 2017, and more recently against the entire country by the Myanmar military.

Put simply, the UNSC has failed to uphold its legal responsibility under the UN Charter to act for international peace and security. It has failed in its responsibility to protect the people of Myanmar from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

This should be cause for deep unease for the United Kingdom’s government and among its diplomats in New York. As Myanmar’s former colonial occupier, the UK has taken principal responsibility for Myanmar among the Western states in the UN. It is historically the “penholder”, that is, the lead drafter, of resolutions on Myanmar in the GA in New York and Human Rights Council in Geneva. In those forums, the UK has done well. But in the Security Council?

At the Security Council in New York, the UK’s obsession with consensus and fear of failure have rendered it impotent in the face of one of the great humanitarian crises of this century. Its thinking is that it’s better not to present a resolution than to present it and have it vetoed by another permanent member, Russia or China, that shares close ties with the illegal military government and sells it weapons.

The UK has instead focused its efforts on achieving consensus by settling for lesser options, including non-binding statements on Myanmar that amount to little more than fine words. This reasoning crumbles under scrutiny.

Consensus was not an issue to the US and Albania, the co-penholders on Ukraine, when they tabled a UNSC resolution denouncing Russian aggression, even though knowing it would be impossible to pass. Council members’ overwhelming public opposition to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Russia’s forced defence of its actions, including exercising the veto, demonstrated Russia’s growing isolation on the international stage.

Why then does the UK continue to shield the junta’s allies Russia and China from accountability at the Security Council instead of upholding the Council’s legal responsibility to act on behalf of the Myanmar people? Why then does the UK allow the treacherous generals to go about their brutal business unimpeded?

The UK has an opportunity to act at last having assumed the rotating monthly role of UNSC president at the start of April. This is an opportunity for leadership, if the UK is capable of it. Council Presidents are able to set the agenda for the month in many ways, including by indicating when taking office what the priorities will be and what they hope to accomplish.

First, the UK should work with another Council member to convene an Arria Formula, or informal, meeting on Myanmar to enable UNSC members to be briefed on the situation by well-informed civil society and other experts who cannot address formal sessions of the Council.

Second, the Arria Formula meeting should be followed later in the month by an open meeting of the UNSC on Myanmar to enable a formal debate on Myanmar. The UK should propose a resolution on Myanmar in the UNSC and take it to a vote at that meeting. This would make it clear once and for all who sides with the Myanmar people and who sides with Min Aung Hlaing and his murderous generals.

This resolution should demand that Min Aung Hlaing’s illegal military government stop its systematic campaign of violence against civilians. It should call for a comprehensive global arms embargo and targeted economic sanctions against the junta and its businesses, as well as the referral of Myanmar to the International Criminal Court where Min Aung Hlaing and military government leaders should stand trial for their decades of atrocity crimes against the Myanmar people. A Chinese or Russian veto of the resolution may be a likely outcome, but one for which they will face immediate condemnation and long-term consequences.

The UK’s misguided obsession with consensus on Myanmar at the UNSC only serves to embolden Myanmar’s genocidal generals and those member states that seek to profit from chaos. With its April presidency under way, the UK’s principal responsibility is not the protection of China or Russia. It is the protection of the people of Myanmar. It’s not yet too late for the UK to show some courage and exercise some leadership. Almost but not yet too late.

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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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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