Posts tagged with "United Nations"

Pinterest will remove content deemed climate-change misinformation

April 7, 2022

The social media platform, Pinterest, is rolling out new guidelines prohibiting posts that it says contains misinformation about climate change, as it continues to grapple with curbing the spread of false and misleading information, reports The Wall Street Journal. 

The social-media platform, where users post anything, from photos and links to recipes and home-decor ideas, said on Wednesday, April 6, that, going forward, it will remove content from users or advertisers that it deems as misinformation about the existence or impact of climate change.

Specifically, Pinterest is aiming to eliminate content that it says misrepresents scientific data; and false or misleading findings about public-safety emergencies, including natural disasters.

“For years, we’ve been working on our misinformation policy and defining what type of harmful content does not have a place on Pinterest,” said Sarah Bromma, Pinterest’s head of Policy. “Harmful misinformation does not. It is not additive to a positive inspiring experience on the platform.”

Pinterest said it worked with the climate-change experts to develop the policy based on common misinformation themes they’ve seen across media platforms. It will use automated systems and moderators to take action on content that violates the new guidelines, Bromma said. Pinterest will allow users to flag content that will get reviewed as well, she said.

Pinterest, founded in 2010, first focused on photos when it launched. More recently, the company has been pivoting to a focus on video, commerce, and creators. Last year, it was the subject of takeover rumors. PayPal had been in talks to buy the company but ultimately backed off of a potential $40-billion-plus takeover after its shareholders balked.

The policy change at Pinterest follows a report earlier this week by climate experts tapped by the United Nations that found that countries must make major, rapid shifts away from fossil fuels and to renewable energy to meet the goals in the 2015 Paris Agreement.

An earlier report found that greenhouse-gas emissions due to human activity may have irreversibly changed the climate in some ways.

Pinterest joins other tech companies that have taken steps to limit the spread of false information on climate change.

Alphabet’s Google said last October that it would no longer allow digital ads bought on its platform to appear next to online content that denies climate change—a ban that will also apply to YouTubeTwitter launched a program last November that created hubs users can find under various tabs on its messaging platform.

Meta PlatformsFacebook also added new guidelines in November that use fact-checking organizations to determine if climate-change content is false. If it is false, Facebook reduces its distribution so fewer people see it and applies warning labels to the posts.

Research contact: @WSJ

South Korea green-lights plans for flood-resistant ‘floating city’

January 21, 2022

The South Korean city of Busan has approved plans for an ambitious new ocean settlement, with work on the first neighborhood set to begin next year, reports CNN.

.Comprising a series of interconnected platforms, the proposed “floating city” eventually could accommodate 10,000 people, according to its designers, offering coastal areas a drastic solution to the threat posed by rising sea levels.

The Oceanix project—a collaboration among designers, architects, and engineers—unveiled plans for a “flood-proof” city in 2019 and organizers have since been looking for somewhere to build prototypes.

Last month, the group signed an agreement with Busan and UN-Habitat, the United Nations’ urban development agency, to host the first of its floating neighborhoods off South Korea’s coast.

Prefabricated in factories and then towed into position, the proposed platforms will rise and fall with the sea. Each of the five-acre neighborhoods has been designed to house 300 people in buildings up to seven stories high.

Ultimately, these communities could be arranged into larger networks, connected via walkways and bicycle paths. According to Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), the Danish architecture firm leading the design, the neighborhoods could be clustered around a central harbor to form larger 1,650-person villages.

These villages could then, in theory, join to form a wider 10,000-person metropolis—dubbed Oceanix City—complete with everything from restaurants and co-working spaces to urban farms and leisure facilities.

Uninhabited platforms could meanwhile host floating wind turbines and solar panels, or be used to grow bamboo for the construction of new buildings.

BIG’s proposed urban plan accounts for the production of fresh water, too, with on-site treatment plants and systems for collecting and storing rainwater. The architects have also envisaged fleets of electric vehicles—from hydrofoil water taxis to solar-powered ferries— connecting the neighborhoods with other parts of the city and the mainland.

South Korea’s southern coastline, where Busan is located, is considered especially vulnerable to the impact of rising sea levels. Greenpeace Korea last year warned that the city’s famous Haeundae Beach could disappear by 2030, according to local media reports.

And the impact is already being felt: A study in the journal Sustainability found that the city experienced worse flood damage than anywhere else in South Korea in thet en years leading up to 2020.

Oceanix co-founder Itai Madamombe told CNN recently via email that the first prototype neighborhood in Busan will be  complete, with people living in it, by 2025. She added that the project currently is holding discussions with ten other governments about deploying the technology developed in Busan.

Research contact: @CNN

Biden to pledge 500 million more Pfizer vaccine doses for poor nations at U.N. COVID Summit

September 23, 2021

President Joe Biden was expected to announce on  Wednesday, September 22 that the United States will purchase 500 million additional doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer  and BioNTech to donate to developing countries, senior administration officials told The Wall Street Journal.

Biden was scheduled to make the announcement at a virtual COVID-19 summit on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assemblybringing the total U.S. commitment to 1.1 billion doses to be shared overseas.

According to the Journal, the decision comes as Biden is seeking to expand America’s role in helping to accelerate global vaccination efforts in low- and lower-middle-income countries that have struggled with access to shots.

The new batch of Pfizer vaccines will be manufactured in the United States and begin shipping out in January, officials said. The donation doubles an earlier U.S. pledge of 500 million Pfizer doses to developing countries by the end of June 2022.

The donated vaccines are being routed through Covax, an international program backed by the World Health Organization and tasked with supplying vaccines to the world’s poorest nations.

Although the United states has so far offered the largest donation total of any country, some international aid groups have called on the Biden Administration and other wealthy nations to do more to help inoculate the global population. Only 2% of people in low-income countries have received a first dose of the vaccine, according to the University of Oxford’s Our World in Data project, prompting some health experts to warn that more lives could be lost to COVID-19 in 2022 than 2021.

The U.S. previously sent more than 110 million doses overseas, most of which were manufactured by Moderna Inc. and Johnson & Johnson, with recipient countries ranging from wealthy allies such as Canada to developing nations like Haiti.

Biden also planned to use Wednesday’s summit to call on other world leaders to help expand global access to the vaccine and take steps to make testing, therapeutics and personal protective equipment more available around the world, officials said. He intended to further urge leaders to help low- and lower-middle-income nations vaccinate at least 70% of their populations by September next year.

Research contact: @WSJ

Permission to Dance? BTS band members sing their way through United Nations

september 22, 2021

Fully vaccinated South Korean boy band BTS members danced their way through the United Nations in a broadcast on Monday, September 20—promoting global goals tackling poverty, inequality, injustice, and climate change ahead of the annual U.N. gathering of world leaders, Reuters reports.

The seven-member group filmed a music video to its song, “’Permission to Dance,” in the world body’s New York headquarters, dancing through the General Assembly hall and out into the gardens. It was broadcast during an event promoting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

BTS—whose members declared they were all fully vaccinated against COVID-19 —also appeared in person at the event in the General Assembly, introduced by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. They are the U.N.’s Special Presidential Envoys for Future Generations and Culture.

They shared their thoughts and those of young people worldwide on the past two years and the future—expressing their frustration during the pandemic.

“I was saddened to hear that entrance and graduation ceremonies had to be canceled,” said Jeon Jung-Kook, known as Jungkook. “These are moments in life you want to celebrate and missing out on them must have been upsetting. We were heartbroken when our long planned concert tours were canceled.”

They praised the resilience of youth, saying they were not “COVID’s lost generation.”

“I think it’s a stretch to say they’re lost, just because paths they tread can’t be seen by grown-up eyes,” said BTS group leader Kim Nam-Joon, known as RM.

Kim Seok-Jin, known as Jin, added: “Instead of the ‘lost generation’ a more appropriate name would be the ‘welcome generation’ because instead of fearing change, this generation says ‘welcome’ and keeps forging ahead.”

Breaking news: @Reuters

Researchers say wireless earphones could be a source of carcinogenic radiation

March 15, 2019

While most of us have worried at one time or another that our use of smartphones could endanger our health, it turns out that the earphones—specifically, wireless earbuds—could pose a much greater danger, News-Medical.net reports.

Specifically, medical researchers are worried about wireless earbuds, such as the AirPods introduced by Apple in 2016. These wireless earpieces transmit data using a type of electromagnetic frequency (EMF) radiowave via Bluetooth technology. The proximity of this radiation to the brains of the users is cause for concern, they say.

In fact, News-Medical.net notes, a group of 250 experts and researchers have signed a petition to the United Nations and World Health Organization to stop the use of these and other wireless devices.

The petition reads, “Based upon peer-reviewed, published research, we have serious concerns regarding the ubiquitous and increasing exposure to EMF generated by electric and wireless devices.”

It goes on to say that the risk of cancer, neurological disorders, and DNA damage that have been associated with EMF exposure cannot be ignored.

Jerry Phillips, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs agrees with the medical alert. He told the news outlet, “My concern for AirPods,” he says, “is that their placement in the ear canal exposes tissues in the head to relatively high levels of radio-frequency radiation.” Phillips is one of the many scientists who have called for a restriction on use of such devices.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer recently confirmed that these EMF waves could be “possibly carcinogenic” to humans. These waves are similar to UV rays or x-rays—but are not as powerful. They can cause burns at high concentration but are generally of less impact. The debate about whether they are carcinogenic is still ongoing.

The World Health Organization developed guidelines that regulate the amount of EMF the devices are allowed to emit. The petition adds, “The various agencies setting safety standards have failed to impose sufficient guidelines to protect the general public, particularly children who are more vulnerable to the effects of EMF. By not taking action, the WHO is failing to fulfill its role as the preeminent international public health agency.”

The guidelines insist that phones should be kept away from the body when not in use. Sleeping with the phone is not a good practice and usage of headsets or headphones to conduct phone calls is suggested as a good option.

Research contact @AzoNetwork

BBC cameraman assaulted by Trump zealot at El Paso rally

February 13, 2019

As President Donald Trump whipped his base into a lather on Monday night, February 11, at an El Paso, Texas, rally—demanding a wall at the southern border and demeaning the “Fake Media”— the violence that had been simmering for so long among his supporters ratcheted up.

Sporting a red Make America Great Again cap, a man leaped out of the audience, shoving and swearing at BBC cameraman Ron Skeans—whose camera feed splintered and revolved during the short altercation—and tried to strike at other news crews before being wrestled away by a blogger in the crowd.

Skeans told his BBC colleagues that he was blindsided by a “very hard shove” during the rally, adding that he “didn’t know what was going on.”

A spokesperson for BBC told The Guardian in a statement that the cameraman was “violently pushed and shoved by a member of the crowd” while covering the event.

Meanwhile, BBC News Editor Eleanor Montague tweeted, “Just attended my first @realDonaldTrump rally where my colleague BBC cameraman Rob Skeans was attacked by a Trump supporter. The crowd had been whipped up into a frenzy against the media by Trump and other speakers all night #TrumpElPaso

By the next morning, BBC Americas Bureau Chief Paul Danahar tweeted: “I’ve written to @PressSec asking for a full review of security arrangements for the media after last night’s attack on our BBC cameraman at the President’s rally. Access into the media area was unsupervised. No one in law enforcement intervened before, during or after the attack.”

He was disappointed by the response from the White House, which read, “An individual involved in a physical altercation with a news cameraman was removed from last night’s rally. We appreciated the swift action from venue security and law enforcement officers.”—Michael Glassner, Chief Operating Officer, Trump for President Inc.”

I’m afraid this statement from the Trump campaign does nothing to address the security lapses at President Trump’s rally in El Paso last night when our BBC colleague was attacked,” Danahar commented on behalf of the news organization, adding, “There was not swift action to prevent or interrupt the attack by any security agency.

The BBC stated that the incident occurred after Trump “heavily criticized” the press.

At the event, President Trump checked that the media involved were well, responding with a thumbs up, and continuing his speech after the attacker was taken out of the stadium.

The White House had no further comment.

Other reporters had predicted that violence would erupt at a Trump rally, including CNN’s Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta, who tweeted in July, “I’m very worried that the hostility whipped up by Trump and some in conservative media will result in somebody getting hurt. We should not treat our fellow Americans this way. The press is not the enemy.”

According to a report by The New York Times, In August, experts from the United Nations and a human rights body condemned the president’s attacks on the news media and warned that they could incite violence against journalists.

“His attacks are strategic, designed to undermine confidence in reporting and raise doubts about verifiable facts,” David Kaye, the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of expression, and Edison Lanza, who holds the same position at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, said in a statement.

“We are especially concerned that these attacks increase the risk of journalists being targeted with violence,” they said.

Research contact: @pdanahar

Behind Barr: Trump announces choice for attorney general

December 10, 2018

During a week when former President George H.W. Bush’s legacy has been validated and his choices lauded, President Donald Trump confirmed that he will nominate former Attorney General William P. Barr—who served in same role in the Bush administration from 1991 to 1993— to lead the Justice Department again, telling reporters on December 7 that Barr was “my first choice since day one.”

Barr is, perhaps, best known for successfully urging the elder Bush in 2001 to pardon a number of key figures involved in the Iran-Contra scandal, including former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger. He also has been critical of the Mueller investigation—perhaps explaining why Trump is so enamored of this candidate.

According to a December 7 report by The Washington Post, “Barr is likely to face tough questions at his confirmation hearing about how he will handle the ongoing special counsel investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election.”

Assuming that the nomination is confirmed by the Senate, Barr would replace Acting AG Matthew Whittaker, whom Trump elevated to that role after requesting the resignation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions early in November.

That move—which leapfrogged the DOJ professional who actually was next in line for the job, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein—has been widely criticized on the grounds that Whittaker is not qualified; is under investigation, himself; and has said that the president “made the right call” when he fired FBI Director James Comey.

In another round of musical chairs in the administration, Chief of Staff John Kelly was reportedly expected to resign on Friday night, December 7. Kelly had worn out his welcome with the POTUS, who stopped talking to him in recent days in hopes that we would take the hint and depart the White House.

Finally, Trump also has said, according to The Washington Post, that he will nominate Heather Nauert to replace Nikki Haley as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, describing the State Department spokesperson, a relative novice on foreign policy, as “very talented, very smart, very quick.” Haley announced her pending resignation in October.

Research contact: matt.zapotosky@washpost.com

As China continues to ‘go low’ on shipping rates, Trump moves the bar higher

October 22, 2018

President Donald Trump is threatening to intensify the trade war between the United States and China by ordering the U.S. Postal Service to withdraw from a treaty that has set shipping rates among 192 member nations for 144 years.

The Universal Postal Union—established in 1874 and adopted as a body of the United Nations in 1948—has enabled developing countries to pay lower rates when shipping packages internationally; often putting some of the cost of delivering packages on the postal services of wealthier countries.

Indeed, according to an October 17 report by Politico, the policy initially was intended to spur economic growth in poorer countries by connecting them with global markets.

But now that some of those countries—including China—have become exporting giants, the Trump administration hopes to use its withdrawal as leverage to negotiate more favorable terms for historically wealthy countries, like the United States.

Reaction has been mixed. A senior administration official told Politico that  the administration would prefer to stay within the union and that a full withdrawal takes a year to implement. Therefore, he said, he hopes that America can negotiate more favorable terms within that time frame.

“You could have something shipped from Indiana to New York and it would be more expensive than having it shipped from China because of price distortion introduced through the [old] rates,” Professor Rick Geddes, a postal service expert and Director of the Cornell Program in Infrastructure Policy at Cornell University, told NBC News for an October 19 story.

Companies such as Amazon and FedEx have long taken issue with the treaty, the network said—both citing what they believe are unfairly discounted shipping rates for foreign shippers.

However, on the plus side, American manufacturers, believe that withdrawing from the agreement would level what they see as an unfair playing field.

Indeed, Jayme Smaldone, CEO of the New Jersey–based company, Mighty Mug, wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal last February, noting that his firm paid $6.30 to ship by regular mail; but a Chinese company that sold a knock-off version could ship it to the same location from 8,000 miles away for just $1.40.

Jay Timmons, CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, told

NBC News that the administration was making a positive move. “Manufacturers and manufacturing workers in the United States will greatly benefit from a modernized and far more fair arrangement with China,” he said.

American consumers had for years benefited from lower e-commerce prices on sites like Amazon and eBay when buying lower-priced Chinese goods. Without the discount, those sellers could evaporate and U.S. online shoppers would have to pay higher prices.

“Chinese sellers on eBay and other platforms may disappear, or at the very least they will not find it so easy to sell to Americans anymore,” Gary Huang, chairman of the Supply Chain Committee of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghaitold Bloomberg.

He added, “American consumers will have less access to that really cheap stuff.”.

Research contact: @matthewchoi2018

White House says “get out’ to unmarried, same-sex partners of diplomats, UN staff

October 3, 2018

The Trump administration has begun denying visas to some unmarried, same-sex partners of foreign diplomats and employees of the United NationsForeign Policy reported on October 1.

In order to legally remain in the country, those who are already residents must get married by December 3, the State Department has clarified. Otherwise, they will be deported within 30 days.

The U.S. Mission to the U.N. characterized the decision—which foreign diplomats fear will create major hardships for same-sex couples from countries that don’t recognize same-sex marriage—as an effort to bring its international visa practices in line with current U.S. policy, Foreign Policy noted.

In light of the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, the U.S. extends diplomatic visas only to married spouses of U.S. diplomats. Since the June 2015 decision legalizing same-sex marriage, U.S. policy has dictated that diplomatic visas be extended only to married spouses.

In July, the U.S. mission sent out diplomatic notes to the United Nations and representatives for foreign diplomatic missions explaining the new policy, which reversed a 2009 decision by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to grant visas to domestic partners of U.S. and foreign diplomats.

The contents of the diplomatic note were first reported in August by the Washington Blade.

The 2009 policy, however, did not allow a heterosexual domestic partner of a U.S. or foreign diplomat to enter the country on a diplomatic visa. “Same-sex spouses of U.S. diplomats now enjoy the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex spouses,” reads the announcement obtained by Foreign Policy. “Consistent with [State] Department policy, partners accompanying members of permanent missions or seeking to join the same must generally be married in order to be eligible” for a diplomatic visa.

Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the UN, blasted the move as “needlessly cruel and bigoted” on Friday.

“But only 12% of UN member states allow same-sex marriage,” Power noted.

Alfonso Nam, the president of UN Globe, a UN LGBT staff advocacy organization, told Foreign Policy that same-sex couples are at risk of prosecution if they return to a country that criminalizes homosexuality or has not legalized same-sex marriages.

Diplomats would be eligible for “limited exceptions” under the Trump administration’s policy if they can prove that they are from countries that outlaw same-sex partners, according to Foreign Policy.

That exception, however, reportedly does not extend to U.N. officials.

“With this change, the State Department is enforcing parity in the way they recognize opposite-sex partnerships and same-sex partnerships,” UN Globe said in a statement. “It is an unfortunate change in rules, since same-sex couples, unlike opposite-sex couples, have limited choices when it comes to marriage.”

Research contact: @columlynch

UN Human Rights Office condemns U.S. separation of immigrant children and parents

June 7, 2018

The current policy in the United States of separating “extremely young children” from their asylum-seeker or migrant parents along the country’s southern border “always constitutes a child rights violation,” the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), said on June 5.

Since last October, “several hundred” youngsters —including a 12-month-old infant— have been separated from their families while their parents serve out prison sentences for entering the U.S. illegally, or wait in detention while their asylum claims are processed, OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani said at a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland..

She said OHCHR had received information on cases dating from last October; although the policy had begun in January 2017 when the newly inaugurated president, Donald Trump, issued two executive orders related to migration.

The current separation of children “was a direct consequence of that decision,” Shamdasani said, adding that the policy is applied to asylum-seekers and other migrants “in vulnerable situations.” She noted that a class action has been brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of hundreds of parents—mainly from Central and Latin American countries—who have been separated from their children.

Shamdasani noted that there is “nothing normal about detaining children”, and that it “… is never in the best interests of the child and always constitutes a child rights violation”.

And on the legal issue of entering a country “without the right papers”, the UN human rights office spokesperson insisted that it should not be a criminal offence and “does not warrant jailing children”.

Once separated from their parents, Shamdasani said that children are often transferred into the care of the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, and that efforts are made to find them a temporary guardian. When their parents are released, youngsters are reunited with them and deported back to their country of origin. For the majority this means to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where “rampant insecurity and violence” has forced them to flee, she explained.

In a call for an end to the practice, Shamdasani noted that the United States “generally held in high regard” the rights of children.

And although it is the only UN Member State not to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it had signed the international accord and ratified others, which meant that it had legal obligations to children in its car, the OHCHR spokesperson explained.

For its own part, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says 700 children have been separated from their parents since the fiscal year began last October. In making the case for the program early last month, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said, “If you are smuggling a child then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” NBC News reported. Sessions added, “If you don’t like that, then don’t smuggle children over our border.”

Administration officials explained that the goal of the program is 100% prosecution of all who enter the U.S. illegally. When adults are prosecuted and jailed, their children will be separated from them, just as would happen for a U.S. citizen convicted and jailed.

President Trump, himself, has said that the Democrats are to blame, because they will not fund his wall at the southern border.

Based on findings of an Ipsos poll conducted in February, fewer than one in five Democrats (18%) support building a wall or fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, while two-thirds of Republicans (68%) support the measure. A majority of Republicans (63%) also support a movement to end the ability of legal immigrants to bring extended family members to the United States compared to 30% of Democrats and 49% of Independents.

Notably, two-thirds of all Americans (65%) support giving legal status to undocumented or illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children, although partisan differences are still evident. Half of Republicans (51%) support this plan, along with two-thirds of Independents, and 81% of Democrats.

Research contact: @ipsosus