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Planet sending a clear message to act now: UN Environment’s Eric Solheim

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United Nations Environment head Erik Solheim

San Francisco, Sep 12 : The planet is sending a clear message — to act and that too within a short time-frame or lose the ability to turn things around, says United Nations Environment Executive Director Erik Solheim.

“Typhoons and floods are not new, but we are seeing a broader pattern of more severe and more frequent extreme weather events,” Solheim told IANS in an interview here.

His concerns came ahead of the three-day Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS) that began on Wednesday with the participation of 4,000 plus business and political leaders, investors, citizens and government representatives from all over the world in this California city.

“That’s (natural calamities) what the scientists predicted, and it’s what we’re seeing play out now right in front of our eyes. Our planet is sending us a clear message. We have to act, and we’re a short time-frame to do so before we lose the ability to turn things around.”

He was replying to a question on his thoughts for the people of Kerala in India and Osaka in Japan that have been recently affected by floods and a typhoon.

Solheim, who is also attending the summit, which aims to “take ambition to the next level” and persuade the world’s Presidents and Prime Ministers to go further and faster to reduce emissions, said: “The bottom line is that we need to step up the ambition and create a momentum.”

On India playing a leading role in driving down global emissions, he said “absolutely”.

“I think Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has shown incredible leadership in driving the shift to renewables and steering India towards being a greener, cleaner economy. The innovation that we’re seeing, not just in terms of renewables deployment but also the wider shift to a more circular economic model, is really encouraging.”

From India, Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra is one of the Global Climate Action Summit’s Co-Chairs.

In a plenary on September 13, he will provide an update on how many companies that have adopted Science-Based Targets — aligning their pollution reduction plans with the Paris agreement.

Solheim saw business value in companies adopting science-based climate targets.

“We’re seeing more and more examples of businesses wanting to do this, and dozens of global giants on that path.

“For me it’s important for two reasons: Firstly, companies are showing how sustainability can be a core part of business, rather than an on-the-side CSR (corporate social responsibility) exercise. They’re moving beyond PR (public relations),” he said.

“Secondly, the companies doing this are seeing strong support from shareholders and investors. They’re seeing that these targets are also about efficiency and innovation. That makes a business less exposed to environmental risk, which is good for business.”

One recent example he has seen is the company IKEA, which is aiming to be climate positive by 2030 and this requires an 80 per cent cut in emissions, the UN Environment head said: “It’s a sound move as the company will have a head start in making the transition to a low carbon economy.”

“In India I was also really impressed when I visited the Infosys campus in Hyderabad. They have clear targets on waste, cooling, power consumption and overall efficiency, which make them not only commendable from the environmental perspective, but also a compelling investment.”

Favouring electric vehicles that will play a role in decarbonising of the economy, Solheim said: “We have to see the introduction of electric vehicles as part of the wider change we need to see in transport. That includes more public transport or transport-sharing solutions.”

He said the developed countries need to look at the shift not as a constraint or an obligation, but as an opportunity for greater energy security, a more inclusive economy and the lower healthcare burden that comes from tackling the causes of pollution.

“India isn’t making the change because it wants to shoulder the burden of climate action, but because it makes perfect sense from an economic perspective. That’s how more countries need to see it,” he said.

(Vishal Gulati is in San Francisco at the invitation of the Climate Trends to cover the Global Climate Action Summit (GCAS). He can be contacted at [email protected])

Analysis

YouTube testing new video recommendation format: Report

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San Francisco, Jan 16 : Google-owned video sharing platform YouTube is testing a new video recommendation format that displays blue bubbles on the screen with relevant keywords and related topic suggestions, facilitating easier browsing, media reported.

“The screenshots obtained show these blue bubbles just underneath the video player showing more specific video recommendations,” The Verge reported on Tuesday.

The video-sharing platform is currently testing the feature with some users on its main desktop page as well as on the mobile app.

For sometime now users have been complaining that the videos recommended on the side on YouTube’s interface often have little to do with the current video, making recommendations a point of contention for the platform.

“It’s unclear if the videos that populate from the new recommendation bubbles will face similar algorithmic issues that YouTube’s recommendation feed currently suffers,” the report added.

There has not been any word from YouTube as of now on the working of these blue bubbles and whether or not they will roll out the test feature to a bigger group in the coming months.

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Analysis

2002 Gujarat riots: Judge P.B. Desai ignored evidence, says activist Harsh Mander

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Harsh Mander

New Delhi, Jan 9 : Special SIT court judge P.B. Desai “ignored evidence” that former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, who was killed in a mob attack in Ahmedabad’s Gulberg Housing Society during the 2002 riots, did all that was possible within his power to protect Muslims from the “rage of the mob” and instead echoed the position of then Chief Minister Narendra Modi that his killing was only a “reaction” to his “action” of shooting at the mob, says human rights activist Harsh Mander.

He says that “the learned judge”, who retired in December 2017, overlooked statements by surviving witnesses that Jafri made repeated desperate calls to senior police officers and other persons in authority, “including allegedly Chief Minister Modi”, pleading that security forces be sent to “disperse the crowd” and rescue those “against whom the mob had laid a powerful siege”.

Mander, who quit the IAS in Gujarat in the wake of the riots, makes these observations in his just released book, “Partitions of the Heart: Unmaking the Idea of India”, published by Penguin.

The 66-year-old activist, who works with survivors of mass violence and hunger as well as homeless persons and street children, goes on to quote the late journalist Kuldip Nayar to establish that Jafri had desperately telephoned him, “begging him to contact someone in authority to send in the police or the Army to rescue them”.

Mander says Nayar rang up the Union Home Ministry to convey to it the seriousness of the situation. The Home Ministry said it was in touch with the state government and was “watching” the situation. Jafri called again, pleading with Nayar to do something as the mob was threatening to lynch him.

In the chapter titled “Whatever happened in Gulberg Society?”, Mander contends that Jafri did everything within his power to protect “those who believed that his influence would shield them from the rage of the mob”. Mander says Jafri begged the mob to “take his life instead” and in a show of valour went out “to plead and negotiate” with the angry crowd.

“When he realised that no one in authority would come in for their protection, he also did pick up his licensed firearm and shoot at the crowd…,” Mander notes, describing it as the “final vain bid” on behalf of Jafri to protect the Muslims in the line of fire.

The author notes that in describing Jafri’s final resort to firing as an illegitimate action, the judge only echoed the position taken repeatedly by Modi, who had given an interview to a newspaper in which he had said that it was Jafri who had first fired at the mob.

“He forgot to say what a citizen is expected to do when a menacing mob, which has already slaughtered many, approaches him and the police has deliberately not responded to his pleas,” says Mander.

He says that it was as if even when under attack and surrounded by an armed mob warning to slaughter them, “and with acid bombs and burning rags flung at them”, a good Muslim victim should do nothing except plead, and this would ensure their safety.

Ehsan Jafri’s wife Zakia Jafri, according to Mander, was firmly convinced that her husband was killed because of a conspiracy that went right to the top of the state administration, beginning with Modi. The author notes that the court, in its judgement running into more than 1,300 pages, disagreed.

“It did indict 11 people for the murder but they were just foot soldiers,” observed Mander.

He further says that the story the survivors told the judge over prolonged hearings was consistent but Judge Desai was convinced that there was “no conspiracy behind the slaughter” and that the administration did all it could to control it.

“Jafri, by the judge’s reckoning, and that of Modi, was responsible for his own slaughter,” he laments.

Mander also argues in the book that recurring episodes of communal violence in Ahmedabad had altered the city’s demography, dividing it into Hindu and Muslim areas and Gulberg was among the last remaining “Muslim” settlements in the “Hindu” section of the city.

He says that Desai also disregarded the evidence in the conversations secretly taped by Tehelka reporters, mentioning that superior courts, according to Desai himself, have ruled that while a person cannot be convicted exclusively based on the evidence collected in such “sting operations”, such evidence is certainly “admissible as corroborative proof”.

“But he chose to disregard this evidence, not because there was proof that these video recordings were in any way doctored or false but simply because the Special Investigative Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court of India chose to ignore this evidence,” says Mander.

According to Mander, the Tehelka recordings “certainly supported the theory that there was indeed a plan to collect, incite and arm the mob to undertake the gruesome slaughter”.

The SIT was headed by R.K. Raghavan, today Ambassador to Cyprus. Mander contends in the book that just because the investigators did not pursue Tehelka recordings in greater depth, Desai concluded that the “recordings cannot be relied upon as trustworthy of substantial evidence and establish any conspiracy herein”.

In the book, Mander takes stock of whether India has upheld the values it had set out to achieve and offers painful, unsparing insight into the contours of violence. The book is now available both online and in bookstores.

(Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])

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Analysis

Number of suicides highest in Army amongst three services

In the Air Force, the number of suspected suicides was 21 in 2017 and 19 in 2016. For the Navy, these numbers were 5 and 6 for 2017 and 2016, respectively.

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Ajit Doval

New Delhi, Jan 7 : The number of defence personnel committing suicide was highest in the Army amongst the three services in the last three years, data shows.

In 2018 alone, as many as 80 Army personnel are believed to have committed suicide. This number is 16 for Air Force and 08 for the Navy, Minister of State (MoS) for Defence Subhash Bhamre told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply on Monday.

In 2017, the number of Army men who are suspected to have committed suicide was 75, while in 2016 this number was 104.

In the Air Force, the number of suspected suicides was 21 in 2017 and 19 in 2016. For the Navy, these numbers were 5 and 6 for 2017 and 2016, respectively.

In his reply, the Minister said that various steps have been taken by the armed forces to create healthy environment for their officers and other ranks.

“Some of the steps include provision of better facilities such as clothing, food, married accommodation, travel facilities, schooling, recreation etc and periodic welfare meetings, promoting yoga and meditation as a tool for stress management, and training and deployment of psychological counsellors,” the reply read.

It said mental health awareness is provided during pre-induction training.

Besides, institutionalisation of projects “MILAP” and “SAHYOG” by the Army in Northern and Eastern Commands to reduce stress among troops has been done.

A helpline has also been established by the Army and the Air Force to provide professional counselling.

IANS

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