Category Archives: World

Japan city bans smartphones use in motion

Yamato City is prohibiting pedestrians from using smartphones while preambulaing the vicinity public roads, squares and parks, according to a July 1 report from NDTV. It’s first publically announced ban of its kind to be imposed in Japan.

There’s no punishment foreseen in case pedasrians don’t abide by the prohibition. The ban’s supporter so all ages said they hope that the action will help to warn about the dangers of being distracted by phones, according to the report.

The city Council said it hopes people will recognize that “smartphones should not be used while in motion.”

According to the ordinance, pedestrians should stop at a place where they are not obstructing traffic if they want to use their smartphones in public spaces, such as on streets and in parks.

In January, the city conducted a study at two locations, observing a total of about 6,000 pedestrians, and found that roughly 12% of them were using their smartphones while walking. Following the survey, the draft ordinance was submitted to the city’s Council on June 1.

The city has an estimated population of 235 thousand (2017), with more than 100 thousand households.

Image: illustration

Hong Kong: EU expresses «grave concerns»

“The Standing Committee of China’s National People’s Congress adopted the National Security Law in Hong Kong on 30 June and subsequently promulgated it in Hong Kong the same day. The European Union reiterates its grave concerns about this law which was adopted without any meaningful prior consultation of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council and civil society. reads the Declaration of the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell on behalf of the the European Union on the adoption by China’s National People’s Congress of a National Security Legislation on Hong Kong.

“The European Union has a strong stake in the continued stability and prosperity of Hong Kong under the “One Country, Two Systems” principle. It attaches great importance to the preservation of Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy, in line with the Basic Law and with international commitments, as well as to the respect for this principle.

“There are concerns about the conformity of the new law with Hong Kong’s Basic Law and with China’s international commitments. In line with assurances that China gave in the past, the European Union considers it essential that the existing rights and freedoms of Hong Kong residents are fully protected, including freedom of speech, of the press and of publication, as well as freedom of association, of assembly, of procession and of demonstration. The provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights (ICCPR) as enshrined in Hong Kong legislation must continue to be fully applied.

“The European Union is concerned that the law risks seriously undermining the high degree of autonomy of Hong Kong, and having a detrimental effect on the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law. Both of these principles remain essential for the continued stability and prosperity of Hong Kong, and are therefore of vital interest to the European Union and the international community.

“The European Union urges China to avoid any act which undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy in the legal field, including in terms of human rights.

“The European Union is assessing the implications of such a law and will continue to raise its concerns in its dialogue with China. It will continue to follow developments closely, including in the context of the upcoming Legislative Council elections on 6 September, which need to proceed as planned and in an environment conducive to the exercise of democratic rights and freedoms as enshrined in the Basic Law.

Afghanistan: explosion at Helmand market

A car bombing and mortar shells fired at a crowded market in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province on Monday, Juin 29, killed 23 people, including children, a statement from a provincial governor’s office said.

The attack could not be independently confirmed as the Taliban controlled area, is remote and inaccessible to reporters. At present both the Taliban and the Afghan military blamed each other for the killings of the civilians.

The statement from the office of the Helmand province governor, General Mohammad Yasin, did not provide further details and there was no claim of responsibility for the bombing.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, denied the insurgents were involved in the attack. The Taliban claimed the military fired mortars into the market while the military said that on contrary it was a car bomb and mortar shells fired by the insurgents targeted the civilians.

The army said there was no military activity in the area on Juin 29 and that two Taliban fighters were also killed when the car bomb detonated at the marketplace. Animals brought for sale – sheep and goats – were also killed.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned the “brutal and inhumane act.”

“The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan once again calls on the Taliban to refrain from war and violence and to accept the will of the Afghan people, which is the end of the war and the start of negotiations,” Ghani’s statement said.

Kabul explosion killed imam

Kabul bomb explosion inside a mosque killed two people, including the imam, and wounding two others an official of Afghanistan government said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Islamic State (Daesh) has been active in Kabul in recent weeks and has in the past carried out attacks inside mosques in Afghanistan.

Taliban insurgents insist they have never carried out an attack inside of a mosque.

Mullah Mohammad Ayaz Niazi was one of the two people killed in June 2 attack, Arian said. He was seriously wounded in the explosion and died later at a hospital.

Niazi was a well known cleric who was active as Friday prayer leader at the mosque. Next to his religious convictions he carried out duties as Kabul University professor in the Islamic Law department.

Tariq Arian, spokesman for Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry, said the bomb targeted the Wazir Akber Khan Mosque at around 7:25 p.m., when worshippers had gathered for evening prayers. The mosque is located in a high-security diplomatic area near the offices of several international organizations and embassies.

Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, tweeted that the government strongly condemned the attack, saying it “reveals the brutality and inhumanity of those who purposefully perpetrate violence against our Ulema and innocent people.”

Attacks against worshippers have increased in Afghanistan: Last month, an unknown number of attackers stormed a mosque in northern Parwan province, killing 11 and wounding several others.

NATO welcomes Afghan Eid al-Fitr ceasefire

NATO has welcomed the announcement of a three-day cease-fire in Afghanistan during the Muslim celebration of the end of Ramadan – Eid al-Fitr.

“I welcome the statements by the government of Afghanistan & the Taliban on a 3-day ceasefire over Eid. All parties should seize this opportunity for peace, for the benefit of all Afghans,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg wrote on his Twitter micro blog on May 23.

NATO remains committed to Afghanistan’s long-term security,” he underlined.

In a message preceeding the celebrations, the insurgents made the surprise announcement amid escalating conflict and a fragile peace process, directing militants to stay out of areas under the government control, but adding government forces could visit Taliban-controlled areas.

In a similar holiday truce two years ago, there were unprecedented scenes of foes embracing each other and taking selfies.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani welcomed the announcement, explaining that he instructed the military to comply.

“President Ghani today initiated a process to release up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners as a good will gesture in response to the Taliban’s announcement of a ceasefire during Eid,” Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi announced on Twitter.

ESA: understanding of snow

Estimating the amount of seasonal snow is important for understanding the water cycle and Earth’s climate system, but establishing a clear and coherent picture of change has proven difficult. New research from ESA’s Climate Change Initiative has helped to produce the first reliable estimate of snow mass change and has helped to identify different continental trends.

Warming surface temperatures are known to have driven substantial reductions in the extent and duration of northern hemisphere snow cover. Equally important, but much less well understood is snow mass – the amount of water held in the snow pack – and how it has changed over time.

Millions of people rely on snow meltwaters for power, irrigation and drinking water. More accurate snow mass information would not only help to assess the availability of freshwater resources and identify flood risk, but also enable the better assessment of the role seasonal snow plays in the climate system.

In a new paper, published in Nature, researchers from the Finnish Meteorological Institute (FMI) and the Environment and Climate Change Canada, working as part of ESA’s Climate Change Initiative, have reliably estimated the amount of annual snow mass and changes in snow cover in the northern hemisphere between 1980 and 2018. Their research shows that snow mass has remained the same in Eurasia and has decreased in North America, but the extent of snow cover has decreased in both regions.

The combined 39-year snow mass climate data record is based on passive microwave satellite observations combined with ground-based snow depth measurements. This allowed the team to narrow the annual maximum snow mass for the northern hemisphere to 3062 gigatonnes between 1980-2018, with the peak snow mass occurring in March, while previous estimates ranged from 2500-4200 gigatonnes.

The team used this method, which corrects any anomalies in the data, and compared them to estimates from the Global Snow Monitoring for Climate Research, also known as GlobSnow, with three independent estimates of snow mass.

Jouni Pulliainen, the paper’s lead author and Research Professor at FMI, says, “The method can be used to combine different observations and it provides more accurate information about the amount of snow than ever before. The previous considerable uncertainty of 33% in the amount of snow has decreased to 7.4%.”

The research team found little reduction in northern hemisphere snow mass over the four decades of satellite observations when looking at the annual maximum amount of snow at the turn of February-March.

However, the more reliable estimates enabled the team to identify different continental trends. For example, snow mass decreased by 46 gigatonnes per decade across North America. This was not reflected in Eurasia, but high regional variability was observed.

Jouni continues, “In the past, estimates of global and regional snowfall trends have only been indicative. The results show that the amount of rainfall has increased in the northern regions, especially in the northern parts of Asia.”

In northern areas, where rainfall generally turns to snow in winter, the snow mass has remained the same or even increased. In the southern parts, where in winter rainfall comes down as water rather than snow, both the extent of the snow cover and the snow mass have decreased.

Snow mass data have the potential to help scientists analyse and improve the reliability of models used to predict future change, however, previous attempts to estimate the amount of snow mass in northern latitudes are so varied that it is not possible to judge if changes have occurred with sufficient confidence.

Borrell: Afghan people deserve peace

“There are few words that can do justice to the horrors we have witnessed today in Afghanistan. At the same moment an attack was targeting a maternity ward in Kabul, a terrorist detonated his bomb in the middle of a funeral in Nangarhar. Dozens of innocent civilians were killed or injured in these most reprehensible acts of terror” reads the statement by the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell on two attacks targeting civilians in Kabul and Nangarhar.

“To target and kill mothers, newly born babies and nurses, as well as bereaved and mourning families, are acts of evil and show an appalling degree of inhumanity. The attack on the Dasht-e-Barchi hospital maternity ward, run by Médecins Sans Frontières, also seems to have targeted international aid workers. The European Union stands in solidarity with them. These acts constitute clear violations of International Humanitarian Law, for which the perpetrators will have to bear the consequences. Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones and we wish those who were injured a quick recovery.

“The Afghan people deserve peace. For too long has their country been ripped apart by terrorism and violence that no political objective can ever justify. A permanent ceasefire is absolutely vital, and the European Union calls on all stakeholders in Afghanistan and the region to make it a reality.”

COVID19: EU allocates Kyrgyzstan €36M aid

Аs part of the EU’s global response to the coronavirus outbreak in Kyrgyz Republic, a support package of €36 million will assist the gouverment of the Central Asian country in addressing immediate needs in the health sector and in its short- and longer-term socio-economic recovery. The EU top diplomat Josep Borrell discussed the importance of intensified regional cooperation in the fight against the coronavirus, and welcomed the commitment of Central Asian leaders in this respect.

On 7 May, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, held a phone call with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kyrgyz Republic, Chingiz Aidarbekov. They discussed the global response to the coronavirus pandemic and the EU’s support to Kyrgyzstan in that context, as well as the EU-Kyrgyzstan bilateral agenda and broader regional issues.

The high diplomat conveyed the EU’s strong solidarity with Kyrgyzstan in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The High Representative stressed that the EU continued to be a reliable and committed partner for countries around the world, including Kyrgyzstan and the other countries in the region.

High Representative Borrell and Foreign Minister Aidarbekov welcomed progress in EU-Kyrgyzstan relations, which is centred around a broad reform agenda, sustainable development, and shared principles and values, including human rights, as illustrated by the initialling last year of an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.

Josep Borrell welcomed the willingness of Kyrgyzstan to sign the agreement by the end of the year and stressed the importance of developing bilateral relations across all areas, as well as regional cooperation under the EU’s Central Asia Strategy.

COVID19: Uzbekistan receives EU aid

On 4 May, the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell held a phone call with the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan, Abdulaziz Kamilov, to discuss the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, the EU’s support to Uzbekistan in respect of this challenge, the EU-Uzbekistan bilateral agenda, and broader regional issues relating to Central Asia.

The head of the EU diplomacy passed a message of European solidarity with Uzbekistan in the face of the common challenge represented by the coronavirus pandemic. Borrell outlined the measures that the EU has prepared for Uzbekistan and the other countries of Central Asia to assist their efforts to tackle the pandemic and its impact.

As part of the EU’s global response to the coronavirus outbreak, a support package of €36 million will assist Uzbekistan in addressing immediate needs in the health sector and in its short- and long-term socio-economic recovery. The EU High Representative and the Foreign Minister discussed the importance of enhanced regional cooperation to cope with the pandemic and its repercussions.

Borrell also thanked the Foreign Minister for his government’s assistance in facilitating the repatriation of EU citizens from Uzbekistan.

High Representative Borrell and Foreign Minister Kamilov also discussed EU-Uzbekistan relations. They confirmed their ambition to conclude negotiations on an Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement as soon as possible. Borrell expressed the EU’s support for Uzbekistan’s application to become a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Kazakhstan: Nazarbayev daughter dissimssed

Incumbent Kazakhstan President Qasym-Jomart Toqayev, dismissed the daughter of ex-President Nursultan NazarbayevDarigà from her position of a speaker of the Senate, however the reasons for this decision were not revealed publicly. He also thanked her for “active and fruitful work” in her capacity as a speaker in a Tweet on his official micro blog.

Some analysts perceive it as a clash between two prétendants for presidency, indicating the daughter has never hidden her ambition to become the head of the state, de facto inheriting the position from her father.

According to Kazakhstan political scientist Dosym Satpayev, Tokaev’s decree on the termination of powers of speaker Dariga Nazarbayeva is a reflection of the tension within the country’s political elite, which has been observed since last year.

Because the position of the Senate speaker is important. According to the Constitution, this is the second person after the president. Any personnel changes in this post will always be of great interest,” the Satpayev said to Interfax-Kazakhstan.

According to the expert, this reassignment was most likely agreed upon with the first president of Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev. “The most interesting question will be what position Dariga Nazarbayeva will be offered instead of the post of speaker of the Senate,” the political scientist said.

“The second important question is the question of who will take the place of Dariga Nazarbayeva as the speaker of the Senate,” the political analyst underlined, adding that, in his opinion, this personnel reshuffle is very important precisely from the point of view of the balance of power within the elite. He also suggested that the incumbent President might be willing to see a close ally at his post rather than an ambitious competitor.

The daughter of the first president of Kazakhstan Dariga Nazarbayeva should understand that after her father leaves, no formal positions and powers can guarantee her neither power nor security“, expert Nikita Shatalov wrote in June 2019.

The independent analysts say that they expect first President to leave public scene after his 80 birthday celebrations on July 6. Futher modernisation of Central Asian state is expected from President Tokaev, facing the traditional in Kazakh society challenges of endemic corruption and nepothism.

Kazakhstan is the 113 least corrupt nation out of 180 countries, according to the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International.

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