The fun continues with this year’s Summer Reading Program–Imagine Your Story.
Participants must register at ReadSquared, log reading hours, and complete fun challenges for a chance to win wonderful prizes, which include tablets, art-supply sets, boardgame packs, and a telescope!
This summer’s program ends August 12, so register, log in, and get to reading!
The U.S. Census Bureau has begun emailing households in low-responding areas to encourage them to respond to the 2020 Census.
Millions of emails will be sent through September. These emails supplement a final campaign reminding people to respond to the 2020 Census on their own, as census takers begin asking households to respond to the census.
The messages alert households in low-response areas that time is running out and their response to the 2020 Census is important for their communities. The email messages will invite people to respond online.
Gov. Greg Abbott held a roundtable in North Texas to discuss the state’s approach to flu season amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor was joined by medical experts, state legislators and state agency leaders.
During the roundtable, the leaders focused on the importance of flu vaccines and discussed proactive strategies the state can use to mitigate the spread of both COVID-19 and the flu. The leaders also discussed ways to increase the amount of COVID-19 and flu testing in light of the upcoming flu season, and the need for more personal protective equipment to combat both COVID-19 and the flu.
The governor said a simultaneous, parallel approach to both COVID-19 and the flu will be key in the state’s efforts to protecting public health and reducing the number of active cases and hospitalizations.
The Camp Goodfellow Marine Detachment held their change of command ceremony at the base theater here, despite COVID-19, July 17.
With COVID-19 precautions in place, the Marine Detachment welcomed their incoming commander Lt. Col. Arturo Derryberry, and thanked the outgoing commander, Lt. Col. Earl Patterson, for his hard work and dedication.
Speaking on a panel at the Aspen Security Forum in Aspen, Colorado yesterday, Michael Brown said while the 5-year-old DIU has been successful since former Defense Secretary Ash Carter stood it up in 2015, more needs to be done.
DIU is a DOD organization Carter founded to help the U.S. military make faster use of emerging commercial technologies.
“I feel like we’re just scratching the surface,” Brown said, while adding that DIU has accomplished a lot in five years. “We probably influence about $500 million worth of defense procurement. Big number in absolute terms, but … what defense buys is probably [up to] $400 billion a year. Depending on the year, we’re a small drop in that bucket.”
For the first time, the Bell Fort Worth Alliance Air Show was awarded first place for Best Air Show in the 2020 USA Today 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.
A panel of experts partnered with 10Best editors to pick the initial nominees, and the top 10 winners were determined by popular vote. This is the Alliance Air Show’s third year in a row placing in the top three for this prestigious award.
The air show is a longstanding tradition at Fort Worth Alliance Airport and attracts more than 120,000 people each year. It is one of the longest-running civilian air shows in the nation. Alliance Air Productions, led by director Christina Carey, organizes the show each year.
All Fort Worth ISD returning students must be enrolled online before the school year begins September 8.
When parents enroll online, they will be able to tell the district if they need assistance with online connectivity and a device for their child.
That enrollment process begins with a Snapcode – a distinct identification unique to each child. Parents can now find their child’s Snapcode online. In using the Snapcode lookup tool, parents will need to share:
The City Council on Tuesday appointed an 11-member Redistricting Task Force to advise on redistricting criteria and procedures.
In 2016, Fort Worth voters approved an amendment to the City Charter to increase the number of City Councilmembers from nine to 11 following the completion of the 2020 Census. The Task Force on Race and Culture in December 2018 recommended the goal of ensuring that the City Council reflects the diverse communities that it represents.
Task force members: Place 1: Lorraine Miller, chair. Place 2: Salvador Espino. Place 3: Graham Norris. Place 4: Craig Allen. Place 5: Bert Williams. Place 6: Linda Kennedy. Place 7: Tony DeVito. Place 8: Tracy Scott. Place 9: Kent Bradshaw. Place 10: Bill Schur. Place 11: Teresa Ayala.
Visiting Ohio today, President Trump just signed an executive order to expand “Made in America” production, bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States, and ensure that our citizens have access to the life-saving medicines they need.t
These actionscome at a crucial time “as we fight this battle against the invisible enemy from China,” White House Director of Trade & Manufacturing Policy Peter Navarro says.
Here are a few things the new order will accomplish:
With the signing of the Great American Outdoors Act, President Trump reaffirmed his commitment to increasing access to the natural beauty of America’s public lands. As Joe Biden attacks gun-owners, hunters, and other sportsmen, the Trump Administration is fostering a new generation of outdoorsmen to preserve and protect our country’s natural landscape for years to come. Michael Waddell, host of Bone Collector TV, and Willie Robertson, CEO of Duck and Buck Commander, discussed all this and more on tonight’s ‘Team Trump Online! Triggered’ hosted by Donald Trump Jr.
“President Trump has cemented his place in American history as one of the most impactful conservationists with the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act. This legislation will restore our country’s public lands and preserve our natural heritage for generations to come,” said Donald Trump Jr. “As Joe Biden and the radical left work to ‘cancel’ American hunters and fishermen, President Trump will always stand up for Americans’ access to natural land and the way of life for millions of outdoorsmen and women across the nation.”
“President Trump understands the importance of maintaining America’s culture of self-sufficiency, which is rooted in our access to the great outdoors,” said Michael Waddell, host of Bone Collector TV. “To preserve our shared American heritage as hunters and fishermen, we have to re-elect President Trump in November.”
March Back is a time-honored tradition where new cadets complete their Cadet Basic Training by marching back from Camp Buckner to West Point. With those final steps, which also includes Acceptance Day, they become official members of the U.S. Military Academy Corps of Cadets.
When March Back takes place Monday, even though it will look differently, it will be a deeply introspective experience for Class of 2021 Cadet Leighton McAlpin as flashbacks to her new cadet CBT March Back in August 2017, incorporating all the ups and downs, will flood her mind while the final strides toward graduation await.
“Reflecting on my new cadet March Back experience, I remember all the mix of emotions, the anxiety and happiness, to be done with Cadet Basic Training,” McAlpin said. “Then, it was the uncertainty of what the academic year was going to bring and what was going to happen when I was going to show up to my academic year company. Again, it’s the excitement to be done, but also the anxiety and anticipation for the next year and, really, the next four years.”
Migrant workers are the backbone force in flexible jobs offered by urban sanitation and household services, and the government’s support policy in this regard should treat them and urban residents equally, Premier Li said at the State Council executive meeting on July 29.
Supporting employment and start-ups for migrant workers will contribute to stable employment and more income for farmers, Premier Li said.
As more migrant workers stayed in their hometowns this year, their incomes have somewhat declined, Premier Li said, adding that government at all levels should firmly implement employment support policies to ensure people’s livelihoods.
In a video message delivered to a Peace Memorial Ceremony in Japan on Thursday, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has paid tribute to the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, which devastated the city in 1945.
“Seventy-five years ago, a single nuclear weapon visited unspeakable death and destruction upon this city”, he said in his address. “The effects linger to this day”.
However, he noted that Hiroshima and its people have chosen not to be characterized by calamity, but instead by “resilience, reconciliation and hope”.
The response to Tuesday’s explosion in Beirut requires global support in order to “surmount the devastating impact” of the crisis facing the Lebanese people, the UN Deputy Special Coordinator for the country said on Thursday.
Reiterating the Secretary-General’s commitment to assist Lebanon, Resident Coordinator Najat Rochdi, who also coordinates the UN humanitarian effort in the country, has released $9 million from the Lebanese Humanitarian Fund to help meet immediate needs.
“With the emergence of new challenges due to the latest devastating event, UN in Lebanon and partners are mobilized to provide immediate humanitarian assistance to the Lebanese people in support of the government’s response to this tragedy”, she said.
Saying that she has been deeply moved by the peoples’ solidarity and spontaneous acts of kindness, she spelled out: “We are in this together, and we are committed to support Lebanon in this very difficult time”.
UN emergency relief chief Mark Lowcock will also release additional funding from the Organization’s Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to address immediate needs and help strengthen the capacity of existing hospitals.
his will include expanding and establishing additional Intensive Care Units (ICUs) where needed, and provide trauma kits, ventilators, medical supplies and medicine.
Displaced and traumatized
Almost 80,000 children are among the 300,000 people displaced by the Beirut explosions, according to UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates, with affected families in desperate need of support.
The explosions caused an estimated 140 fatalities, 5,000 injuries and hundreds still missing.
While the number of child casualties is unclear, thousands of children’s lives have been turned upside down, with many traumatized and in shock.
“Over the past 24 hours, UNICEF continued to coordinate closely with authorities and partners on the ground to respond to the urgent needs of families affected, focusing on health, water and the wellbeing of children,” said Violet Speek-Warnery, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Lebanon.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the blast has rendered three hospitals inoperable.
At the same time, two other facilities sustained substantial damage, and the equivalent of 500 hospital beds have been lost.
UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told journalists that in coordination with the Lebanese Ministry of Health, further assessments are underway to “identify available capacity, material needs and operational gaps in the health sector”.
As health organizations start to procure medical equipment and supplies, WHO is helping to cover 1,000 trauma and 1,000 surgical interventions for people suffering from burns and wounds caused by glass and other debris from the blast.
Meanwhile, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), medical facilities in Beirut remain inundated with trauma and burn victims, with many providing treatment on sidewalks and in carparks.
And many intensive care units were already near capacity with COVID-19 patients, and the nation’s outbreak worsens.
OCHA is deploying surge teams to assist with the emergency response, including experts from the UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team, and International Search and Rescue Advisory Group.
While Beirut International Airport remains open for passenger and cargo flights, the port of Beirut – where the explosion took place – is destroyed.
The port was the main lifeline of the country as both an economic hub and the main entry point for many essential medicines and supplies.
“With the Beirut Port inoperable, the UN and its partners are looking to adjust logistic networks to ensure sustained operations”, said Mr. Haq.
He flagged that humanitarian materials would likely be redirected through the Tripoli Port while flagging that because it has a lower capacity than the Beirut Port some supply chains may be adversely affected.
Meanwhile, the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) reported that it continues to assess the damage to one of its Maritime Task Force ships, struck during the blast.
Mission leadership visited both the vessel at the Beirut Port as well as injured peacekeepers from Bangladesh recovering in hospitals, in the capital and in Saida.
“In the aftermath of the explosions, a total of 23 UNIFIL peacekeepers from Bangladesh had been admitted to hospitals, of whom 18 have been discharged. Two peacekeepers remain in critical but stable condition”, said the UN spokesperson.
The UN Mission continues to engage with and offer support to the authorities and people of Lebanon in dealing with the aftermath.
A flight carrying protective masks, ventilators and other essential medical supplies for COVID-19 response, landed in Papua New Guinea on Thursday, marking the start of a humanitarian air service for the Pacific region, Governments and the UN World Food Program (WFP) have announced.
The supplies were transported on behalf of the Pacific Islands Forum, the region’s premier political and economic policy organization.
With commercial air services greatly reduced due to airport closures, and other measures to prevent further spread of the disease, the 18-member bloc has established a platform to facilitate the timely and rapid movement of medical and humanitarian assistance, known as the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19.
Protecting people, supporting health systems
“The humanitarian air service flights are a welcome demonstration that the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway on COVID-19 is doing what leaders intended – protecting citizens and supporting health systems”, said Dame Meg Taylor, Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General.
The Pacific region is comprised of more than 20 countries and territories scattered across an area that represents roughly 15 per cent of the earth’s surface.
Therefore, air and sea transport “is nothing short of a lifeline”, according to Jo Pilgrim, Director of WFP’s Pacific Multi-Country Office, which is located in Fiji.
Impact of COVID-19
Although border closures have helped curb the COVID-19 threat, she said impacts have been significant, particularly as the region relies on tourism revenue.
“It’s also affected international supply chains, especially for air cargo, and this makes it very difficult for Pacific governments and international aid organizations to import goods, especially medical equipment like the personal protective equipment that you need to protect our health workers”, Ms. Pilgrim told UN News.
“Even shipping routes across the Pacific, which are major avenues for the importation of food and fuel, for example, have been affected. Even though they are still running, the services are reduced, and the costs are increasing.”
WFP support to nations
Unlike other WFP operations, the Pacific Office does not work on food aid distribution or food assistance. Instead, it supports governments with emergency preparedness in a region that is highly susceptible to cyclones and other extreme weather events.
During the pandemic, staff have been assisting national authorities in three areas: establishing COVID-19 call centres and tele-health initiatives, conducting remote surveys on food security at the household level, and in logistics.
“A good example for logistics is that with the shut-down of the aviation sector affecting the ability of governments and aid organizations to import goods, we have established the Pacific humanitarian air service which will deliver cargo to those countries where there are no viable commercial options available for the importation of freight by air”, said Ms. Pilgrim.
Filling the gap
The Pacific humanitarian air service will transport medical items, medicines, and equipment on behalf of UN agencies such as UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as the International Federation of the Red Cross.
Flights will also deliver supplies on behalf of countries, coordinated through the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat and the Pacific Humanitarian Pathway for COVID-19.
“Normally, humanitarian air services only move cargo on behalf of humanitarian organizations”, Ms. Pilgrim explained. “But in this particular case in the Pacific, because of the unprecedented circumstances we find ourselves in, where no one can get anything on a plane, we’re also moving medical cargo for the governments.”
Ms. Pilgrim expressed hope that commercial flights will be back in the air soon.
“We don’t want to do anything that would contradict this or that would disincentivize the aviation sector commercially”, she said, “so all the flights that we will operate will be limited as much as possible to those sectors without commercial options.”
The Pacific humanitarian air service is currently funded by Australia and the United States, and the hope is that other donors will step up.
“WFP is a voluntary-funded organization and we rely completely on donations from governments and the private sector, so we can keep flying for as long as we’ve got funds coming in,” said Ms. Pilgrim. “And hopefully we will have enough support from the donor community to allow us to fill the gap in the aviation sector until it’s restored and our services are no longer required.”
U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) today introduced a resolution calling for the immediate release of Trevor Reed, a veteran of the U.S. Marines and student at the University of North Texas, from Russian prison. The resolution calls for release of all political prisoners, condemns politically motivated imprisonment in the Russian Federation, demands that the Russian government respect Trevor Reed’s human rights, and expresses support for the Reed family.
“Trevor Reed has been detained for far too long, for trumped-up charges that current evidence on file does not support,” said Sen. Cornyn. “I cannot imagine what Trevor and his family are going through, and I call on the Russian government to release him and all political prisoners immediately.”
On July 30, Trevor Reed was sentenced to 9 years in a Russian prison following his arrest in August of 2019 while he was in Moscow studying Russian.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), joined a bipartisan group on Wednesday and sent a letter to Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division Makan Delrahim and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Joseph Simons regarding allegations of potentially anticompetitive practices and conduct by online platforms toward content creators and emerging competitors.
The inquiry stemmed from a recent Wall Street Journal report that Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google and YouTube, has designed Google Search to specifically give preference to YouTube and other Google-owned video service providers.
In the letter, they wrote:
“With public venues of all kinds closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, now, more than ever, content creators are dependent upon revenues from streaming and other online sources. Unfortunately, public reporting suggests that some online platforms are using their market dominance to provide preference to their own streaming services, skewing marketplace pricing and competition […]
“There is no public insight into how Google designs its algorithms, which seem to deliver up preferential search results for YouTube and other Google video products ahead of other competitive services. While a company favoring its own products, in and of itself, may not always constitute illegal anticompetitive conduct the Journal further reports that a significant motivation behind this action was to “give YouTube more leverage in business deals with content providers seeking traffic for their videos. Accordingly, we ask that you thoroughly review this situation to determine whether Google’s algorithm is giving preference to YouTube and/or other Google-owned video service providers, and whether such conduct violates the antitrust laws. We also ask that you inquire as to whether Alphabet/Google is using its resulting market dominance to gain leverage in business deals with content providers.”
To deter U.S. adversaries in the 21st century, those adversaries must know that any attack on the United States will result in a very bad day for them, the commander of the U.S. Strategic Command said.
Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard outlined threats the nation faces from Russia, China, Iran and North Korea as he discussed the capabilities and integration the Defense Department needs in its warfighting strategies, plans and operations in a taped speech presented at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium yesterday.
“War is over. And we’re entering a sustainment phase in the war on terror. But we’re now in an era of great competition,” Richard said. “We as a nation in the military need to focus on the threats in front of us. And those threats go all the way down to the gray zone area below traditional conventional armed conflict.”
The nation cannot wait for conventional conflict to break out before it starts thinking about nuclear deterrence, the Stratcom commander said.
“Make sure an adversary doesn’t miscalculate where they believe they can win with a jump in escalation,” he said. “This is why U.S. Strategic Command exists. We are here to deter great power war in this era of great power competition.”
The strategic environment has changed from the Cold War through the war on terror and now into great power competition, Richard said. The United States must ensure that its strategies, plans, capabilities and operations are integrated across all domains and the full spectrum of conflict, he added. “We must hone our capabilities based on the threats we face,” he said.
The fact that the nuclear triad still provides the flexibility to address changing threats in this new era is a testament to its original designers and everyone who has maintained, operated and sustained it over the lifetime of these systems, the admiral said.
“i am laser-focused on modernizing our triad and its supporting infrastructure like nuclear command, control and communications,” he said. And as our adversaries develop these advanced weapon systems, he added, the United States must develop and build capabilities to counter these threats.
Richard said 21st century deterrence is a lot more than “just” nuclear. “It’s deterring multiple adversaries of all domains,” he explained. “Strategic deterrence is the highest-priority mission of the Department of Defense. It is foundational to our national defense and underpins every U.S. military operation around the world.”
That is based on the most fundamental assumption of all U.S. strategies and plans, he said: that strategic deterrence will hold.
“We like to think deterrence will hold in ways we haven’t tested it in before,” he said. “This assumption is going to be tested in new ways. We’re going to need that triad or recapitalize the triad. We’re going to need combat-ready forces, and we’re going to need missile defense.”
Effective missile defense deters adversaries from attacking because they know they have little chance for success and at potential risk, Richard said, adding that the United States has to rethink how it does business.
The nation’s integrated approach to deterrence must continue to improve, the admiral said. Missile defense capabilities are vital to deterrence strategy, he added, and must be integrated and tailored to the threats ahead, the admiral said.
Stratcom is working to integrate planning and execution processes through competition, crisis and conflict, he said. “We want everyone across the department to continuously consider the risk of strategic deterrence failure,” he said. “The progress … and the relationship between government and industry are important to our national defense and integrated strategic deterrence.”
To be successful, DOD must make sure it integrates its efforts in more than its planning and execution, but also with industry and in the whole government, Richard said.
“I ask each of you to work with your counterparts across the department, interagency and industry to find the best solutions for the complicated strategic environment we face. The threats are real,” he emphasized to the audience. “And because of everything you’re working on, we’ll be ready if conflict begins on our watch.”
The University of North Texas Health Science Center (HSC) at Fort Worth’s FitWorth program is partnering with GoFresh to provide boxes of food to hungry families.
The collaboration will supply families with dairy and produce through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program. The boxes include fresh dairy and produce such as milk, butter, eggs, carrots and potatoes. Each box feeds four people.
The locations for the food program will change each week. This week’s distribution site is Daggett Middle School, 1108 Carlock St. Boxes of food will be distributed from 9-11 a.m. August 7 while supplies last.
FitWorth has been distributing up to 1,500 boxes of food per week since July 10. The project continues through Sept. 4.
Food will be distributed in a drive-thru format with limited contact.
“In accordance with Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide order, we ask that masks be worn when picking up food,” said Noah Drew, senior director of external relations at HSC.
FitWorth expects to reach about 54,000 community members through the program, which is part of the university’s ongoing commitment to address local health disparities, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
HSC is also providing nutrition education and sample recipes to help families enjoy the cooking experience and understand the importance of a complete diet.
FitWorth is working with the Fort Worth Independent School District to identify schools that will serve as donation sites. The program is focusing on areas with the greatest need and ZIP codes designated as food deserts.
“We hope this program will alleviate some of the worries food-insecure families are experiencing during this pandemic and during hard economic times,” Drew said.
The locations for the food program will change each week.
LVTRise is hosting a back-to-school drive-thru for school-aged students in the Las Vegas Trail community and the 76116 ZIP code.
Stop by August 15 at 8201 Calmont Ave. Physical exams will be administered from 3-6 p.m. Preregistration is required by calling 817-703-7458. Backpacks and school supplies will be distributed from 4-6 p.m.
Donations of backpacks, lunchboxes, notebooks, pencil boxes, pencils, crayons and other basic school supplies are being sought. Organizers are also accepting school uniforms, tennis shoes and other necessities to equip students in the Las Vegas Trail area. The best time to drop off donations is 8-10 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday.
The Las Vegas Trail Revitalization Project, known as LVTRise, is a partnership of private companies, human service organizations and government agencies aligned to improve the lives of residents in the Las Vegas Trail community, which encompasses 1.7 square miles in west Fort Worth and includes mostly multifamily and single-family residences.
With the Texas economy shaken from effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Comptroller Glenn Hegar reminds shoppers they can save money on clothes and school supplies during the state’s sales tax holiday on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 7-9.
The law exempts sales tax on qualified items — such as clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks — priced below $100, saving shoppers about $8 on every $100 they spend. The date of the sales tax holiday and list of tax-exempt items are set by the Texas Legislature.
“Even though significant uncertainty remains for our public and private schools as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sales tax holiday is a perfect opportunity to save money on school supplies and other tax-free items at a time when many Texans are carefully monitoring their family finances,” Hegar said. “Online shopping is covered, so I encourage all Texans to shop online or practice social distancing when making in-store purchases. We want folks to stay safe while saving money.”
Apparel and school supplies that may be purchased tax-free are listed on the comptroller’s website.
Texas’ sales tax holiday weekend has been an annual event since 1999, allowing Texans to save millions of dollars in state and local sales taxes each year. Last year’s holiday generated an estimated $102.2 million in savings for Texas taxpayers.
Trinity Metro is redesigning its bus network to create A Better Connection and needs your help.
The transit agency is designing a modern, transformative bus network and is launching a survey to learn what customers would like to see. The system redesign, known as A Better Connection, is intended to make substantial improvements by reviewing the entire network and focusing on five key topics that include system priorities, waiting vs. walking and preferences on downtown vs. other destinations. Through an online survey, Trinity Metro will gather information that will directly impact priorities and system changes.
“Gathering this information will help guide our decisions about adding and aligning services by considering the best choices for our bus network,” said Wayne Gensler, vice president and COO of bus and paratransit. “We are working closely with the City of Fort Worth on this initiative and we are hoping to get input from both current riders and future passengers.”
UN-appointed independent human rights experts have called for urgent action in India’s Jammu and Kashmir, amid concerns of ongoing abuses against civilians there.
The appeal comes a year after the Indian Parliament revoked the special status of Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir, which provided partial autonomy and specific protections to its mainly-Muslim citizens.
In a statement, the group of 17 experts said that the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir has been in “free fall”.
International community urged to ‘step up’
“Urgent action is needed”, they said. “If India will not take any genuine and immediate steps to resolve the situation, meet their obligations to investigate historic and recent cases of human rights violations and prevent future violations, then the international community should step up.”
Twelve months ago, they wrote to the Indian authorities to end what they called “the crackdown” on freedom of expression, access to information and peaceful protests over the decision to end the state’s special status.
The experts also expressed concern about alleged arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, to which the Government recently replied, as well as the criminalization of journalists covering the situation and the detention and deteriorating health, of a high-profile human rights lawyer.
“We have yet to receive any reply to three of the four letters,” the experts said.
COVID compounding detentions, restrictions
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the experts also said it was concerning that “many” protesters are still in detention, and that internet restrictions remain.
They added that the closure of the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission last October, was equally disturbing, as it removed one of the few ways that victims of rights violations could seek remedy.
No information had been provided about what would happen to the ongoing cases the commission had been investigating.
These include hundreds of suspected enforced disappearances dating from as far back as 1989, they said, while allegations regarding thousands of unmarked and some mass graves sites, have also not been properly investigated.
In 2011, India also extended an open invitation to Special Rapporteurs to visit, but has several requests pending. “We call on India to schedule pending visits as a matter of urgency, particularly of the experts dealing with torture and disappearances,” they said.
The Special Rapporteurs and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. The experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity
The United Nations is working closely with the authorities in Lebanon to support ongoing response in the aftermath of the massive deadly explosion that rocked Beirut on Tuesday, destroying large swathes of the capital.
More than 130 people were killed in the blast, which ripped through the port and surrounding area, causing countless injuries and leaving thousands homeless. The Government has declared a two-week state of emergency.
Speaking on Wednesday, UN Deputy Spokesperson Farhan Haq told journalists that support for hospitals and trauma response is a top priority.
“The World Health Organization (WHO) is working closely with the Lebanese Ministry of Health to conduct an assessment of hospital facilities in Beirut, their functionality and needs for additional support, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic”, he said.
“Specialists are being dispatched to Beirut at the moment to assist in the emergency response, both from the United Nations and multiple Member States. Experts are en route to support urban search and rescue operations. Teams are also equipped to conduct rapid assessments about the situation on the ground and help coordinate emergency response activities.”
Critical role of Beirut port Beirut’s port is the main port in Lebanon and is critical for both the country and UN activities in Syria, as Mr. Haq explained.
“We expect that the damage to the port will significantly exacerbate the economic and food security situation in Lebanon, which imports about 80-85 per cent of its food”, he said, responding to a journalist’s question.
“Our colleagues at the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) also expect that this will affect our ability to provide aid to Syria because the port in Beirut was one of the ways that we ship in aid, and of course we also use the airports, so we’ll need to find alternate plans.”
Meanwhile, the World Food Program (WFP) is undertaking an assessment of food needs. An assessment of shelter needs is also underway.
WFP said the explosion and the damage to the port will worsen “the grim economic and food security situation in Lebanon”, which was already facing its worst ever economic crisis, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“A recent WFP survey on the impact of the economic crisis and COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent lockdown measures on livelihoods and food security, revealed that food has become a major source of concern with 50 percent of Lebanese saying over the past month they felt worried they would not have enough food to eat”, the agency said on Wednesday.
The UN is looking at all options to find ways to provide financial assistance for the ongoing response efforts.
The Organization has been heartened to see that governments across the world have declared their support for Lebanon, said Mr. Haq, who recalled that the country has been a haven for people fleeing war and persecution.
A home for refugees
Lebanon, which has a population of around six million, has taken in nearly 900,000 Syrians and more than 200,000 Palestinian refugees, as well as more than 18,000 other displaced people from nations such as Iraq and Sudan.
The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, expressed solidarity with the Lebanese people in the aftermath of the massive explosion.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, the agency’s chief, issued a statement saying “our heartfelt condolences go to the families who have lost their dear ones. Our thoughts are with those who are hurt and injured.”
UN staff in Lebanon and their dependents are among those affected by the explosion, with around 100 receiving treatment, according to Mr. Haq. He further reported that two family members of UN staff have died.
‘A state of shock’
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed the impact on its team in Lebanon.
“One of our colleagues lost his spouse, seven of our staff were mildly injured and dozens of colleagues’ homes were damaged”, said Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF Representative for Lebanon, in a statement on Wednesday.
“Most of our staff – as are most people in Lebanon – are in a state of shock.”
UNICEF is coordinating with the Lebanese authorities and partners to respond to needs.
The agency has provided drinking water to staff at the Beirut port while assisting health officials in rescuing medicines and vaccines that remained in a warehouse there. Its partners on the ground are providing psychosocial support to children across the city.
“Yesterday’s catastrophe in Beirut adds to what has already been a terrible crisis for the people of Lebanon compounded by an economic collapse and a surge in COVID-19 cases. The pandemic already meant that hospitals are overwhelmed, and front-line workers are exhausted”, said Ms. Mokuo.
She added that UNICEF will be stepping up efforts to reach families in need over the coming days.