Few complaints as heat decimates Finland’s mosquitoes

Source: Yle.fi

There are unusually low numbers of mosquitoes throughout Finland this sweltering summer – and likely fewer than usual next year as well.

One of Finland’s hottest summers on record has not been easy on mosquitoes, which have nearly vanished from some areas. Due to the heat, their favoured breeding grounds, shallow ponds, have dried up in areas such as Finnish Lapland – which is usually notorious for mosquito infestations.

Jukka Salmela, who researches mosquitoes at the University of Lapland and is also a curator at the Provincial Museum of Lapland, does not expect any major resurgence of the blood-sucking insects in late summer, either.

Although there is still standing water in places, the number of larvae is much lower than in the spring and early summer.

“Mosquitoes don’t like long periods of hot weather. Then they move around extremely little during the daytime,” says Salmela.

(Read more at Yle.fi)

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Liveblog: Julian Assange in jeopardy

Source: CourageFound.org

Support Assange and WikiLeaks with a donation here.

Julian Assange’s status in the Ecuadorian embassy has been in jeopardy over the past months, particularly since Ecuador’s Lenin Moreno came to power, with Ecuador and the UK believed to be engaged in negotiations to bring his stay to an end. In a recent interview, Moreno said, “Let’s not forget the conditions of his asylum prevent him from speaking about politics or intervening in the politics of other countries. That’s why we cut his communication.”

Isolated without internet access since March, Julian Assange will have been arbitrarily detained by the UK in the Ecuadorian Embassy for six years on 19 June 2018. The UN has condemned his detention; leading intellectuals, academics, and artists around the world have called for an end to his isolation; and the UK refuses to guarantee safety from extradition should he step outside the embassy.

Due to the seriousness of the current situation, Courage will be live blogging daily updates on the situation at the Ecuadorian embassy and support actions planned worldwide. The website Justice4Assange has published a template to encourage NGOs to take a stand for Assange.

Today marks Julian Assange’s 47th birthday. Supporters worldwide have been drawing attention to his plight.

(Read more at CourageFound.org)

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Are we running out of water?

Source: TheGuardian.com

by Fiona Harvey Environment correspondent

As the world’s water needs grow so is concern that we’re rapidly using up supplies. How worried should we be?

Water seems the most renewable of all the Earth’s resources. It falls from the sky as rain, it surrounds us in the oceans that cover nearly three-quarters of the planet’s surface, and in the polar ice caps and mountain glaciers. It is the source of life on Earth and quite possibly beyond – the discovery of traces of water on Mars aroused excitement because it was the first indication that life may have existed there.

Where is the water going?

How do you fit 130 litres of water in a single cup? The answer: fill it with coffee. Growing coffee beans is a thirsty business, as is growing cotton – 10,000 litres of water in a pair of jeans – and 2,500 litres in the average T-shirt. Avocados, almonds – even bottles of water themselves, are all highly water-intensive enterprises. Agriculture uses about 70% of freshwater across the globe.

Regions that export water-intensive crops are effectively exporting their water, in a trade known as “virtual water” or “invisible water”. Agricultural products are the most obvious trades in virtual water, but vast numbers of manufactured goods also require large quantities of water. When countries and regions with water shortages pour their water into exports, on the surface it can look as if they are making a profit, but in the long term their reliance on diminishing water resources will be damaging.

“The concept of virtual water can help countries that lack abundant water resources to meet food needs without using precious water for thirsty agricultural practices,” says Vincent Casey, senior manager at WaterAid. “It doesn’t make sense for Saudi Arabia to use vast quantities of limited water resources for agriculture when food grown elsewhere can be imported.”

The problem is that most of the Earth’s water resources are as inaccessible as if they were on Mars, and those that are accessible are unevenly distributed across the planet. Water is hard to transport over long distances, and our needs are growing, both for food and industry. Everything we do requires water, for drinking, washing, growing food, and for industry, construction and manufacturing. With more than 7.5 billion people on the planet, and the population projected to top 10 billion by 2050, the situation is set to grow more urgent.

Currently, 844 million people – about one in nine of the planet’s population – lack access to clean, affordable water within half an hour of their homes, and every year nearly 300,000 children under five die of diarrhoea, linked to dirty water and poor sanitation. Providing water to those who need it is not only vital to human safety and security, but has huge social and economic benefits too. Children lose out on education and adults on work when they are sick from easily preventable diseases. Girls in developing countries are worst off, as they frequently stop going to school at puberty because of a lack of sanitation, and girls and women travelling miles to fetch water or forced to defecate in the open are vulnerable to violence. Providing affordable water saves lives and reduces the burden on healthcare, as well as freeing up economic resources. Every £1 invested in clean water yields at least £4 in economic returns, according to the charity WaterAid.

(Read more at TheGuardian.com)

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On World Day to Combat Desertification, UN shines spotlight on ‘true value’ of land

Source: United Nations (UN.org)

In a statement marking the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, the head of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) said that everyone needed to recognize the true value of land.

“I would ask you: when you choose what to eat, what to wear or what to drive, think about how your choice impacts the land — for better or for worse,” said Monique Barbut, UNCCD Executive Secretary, in her message for the day, marked on 17 June.

Land-grabbing, unplanned urban sprawl, unsustainable agriculture and over-consumption can yield quick economic gains, but such short-sightedness eventually causes degradation and loss of critical ecosystem services due to unsustainable land use.

(Read more at United Nations (UN.org))

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Finnish President says EU left in the shadow of strongman politics

Source: Yle.fi

In an interview with UK daily Financial Times (paywall) published on Monday, President Sauli Niinistö reflected on the current state of geopolitics, saying that the world has entered an era of strongman politics that has marginalised many small states like Finland.

He named current world leaders such as Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Donald Trump and Chinese premier Xi Jinping as embodiments of “personalised global policy”.

In this age of “peak persons” Niinistö told the paper, “it’s difficult to get a seat at the table because it’s a table for the strong and powerful,” he noted.

FT reported that Niinistö did not hold back from naming Russia as a major point of concern. He borrowed an old Finnish adage to counsel EU leaders to approach discussions with Moscow with a combination of steadfastness and respect.

(Read more at Yle.fi)

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Monetary Policy in the Digital Age

Source: International Monetary Fund (IMF.org)

Crypto assets may one day reduce demand for central bank money

by
Dong He

The global financial crisis and the bailouts of major financial institutions renewed skepticism in some quarters about central banks’ monopoly on the issuance of currency. Such skepticism fueled the creation of Bitcoin and other crypto assets, which challenged the paradigm of state-supported currencies and the dominant role of central banks and conventional institutions in the financial system (He and others, 2016).

Twenty years ago, when the Internet came of age, a group of prominent economists and central bankers wondered whether advances in information technology would render central banks obsolete (King 1999). While those predictions haven’t yet come to pass, the rise of crypto assets has rekindled the debate. These assets may one day serve as alternative means of payment and, possibly, units of account, which would reduce the demand for fiat currencies or central bank money. It’s time to revisit the question, will monetary policy remain effective in a world without central bank money (Woodford 2000)?

For the time being, crypto assets are too volatile and too risky to pose much of a threat to fiat currencies. What is more, they do not enjoy the same degree of trust that citizens have in fiat currencies: they have been afflicted by notorious cases of fraud, security breaches, and operational failures and have been associated with illicit activities.
Addressing deficiencies

But continued technological innovation may be able to address some of these deficiencies. To fend off potential competitive pressure from crypto assets, central banks must continue to carry out effective monetary policies. They can also learn from the properties of crypto assets and the underlying technology and make fiat currencies more attractive for the digital age.

(Read more at International Monetary Fund (IMF.org))

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Press freedom campaigns and unjust prosecutions of journalists’ put spotlight on Turkey’s breach of international obligations

Source: Association of European Journalists (AEJ.org)

Press freedom campaigns and unjust prosecutions of journalists’ put spotlight on Turkey’s breach of international obligations

Reporters Without Borders has challenged the UK prime minister to hold Turkey to its democratic obligations as protests mark President Erdogan’s London visit; AEJ reports and commentaries set out the mountain of evidence showing that Turkey is trampling on press freedom and in systematic violation of the rule of law by jailing journalists and silencing opposition voices…

Latest AEJ reports and commentaries describe the growing mountain of evidence that Turkey is trampling on press freedom and is in systematic violation of the rule of law by jailing journalists and silencing opposition voices. AEJ president Otmar Lahodynsky took part in a European Parliament debate where leading European figures flatly condemned the Turkish government’s outright assault on press freedom and basic standards of justice (see below).

On Tuesday Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published its letter to British prime minister Theresa May on the day she meets President Erdogan amid street protests on his high-profile London visit. In the open letter RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire challenges Ms May to call for the release of over 100 jailed journalists and to hold Turkey accountable for upholding its own laws and international obligations regarding press freedom and the unprecedented stifling of free expression there.

The Reporters Without Borders’ letter says:

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing on behalf of Reporters Without Borders – known internationally as Reporters sans frontieres (RSF) – to urge you to raise press freedom concerns as a matter of urgent priority in your meeting with Turkish President Erdogan on 15 May. Specifically, we ask you to call for the release of Turkey’s many jailed journalists and a stop to the unprecedented crackdown on freedom of expression taking place in the country, which is a source of destabilisation both for Turkey and all of Europe.

I last wrote to you in January 2017 ahead of your visit to Ankara, where you met with President Erdogan. We appreciated the response we later received from Sir Alan Duncan, but were disappointed that you did not specifically mention the plight of the unjustly jailed journalists, or the broader crackdown on freedom of expression in the country. Remaining publicly silent on these worrying issues whilst agreeing new trade deals with President Erdogan sends the wrong signal about the UK’s priorities in its bilateral relations with Turkey.

Now, 15 months after your visit, the freedom of expression situation in Turkey is more dire than ever. Turkey recently dropped to 157th out of 180 countries in Reporters’ Without Borders 2018 World Press Freedom Index, and remains the world’s biggest prison for professional journalists. Under the state of emergency imposed following the failed coup attempt in July 2016, over 100 journalists have been arrested, more than 140 media outlets closed, and at least 889 press cards rescinded…

Read the complete RSF letter to Prime Minister Theresa May:

https://rsf.org/en/news/rsf-urges-theresa-may-call-release-turkeys-jailed-journalists-meeting-president-erdogan

The AEJ’s Otmar Lahodynsky participated in the European Parliament’s event marking World Press Freedom Day, where leading European figures condemned the sweeping assault on media freedom and journalists’ rights in Turkey. Here is his summary of the meeting:

The European Parliament and the European Commission organized a seminar about the sad situation of journalists in Turkey from May 3rd till May 4th in Brussels. Some journalists from Turkey could attend and spoke out freely about the many restrictions of media freedom under the regime of President Erdogan and over 150 colleagues in jail. There was strong criticism about the attitude of the European Court for Human Rights in Strasburg – part of the European Council- which has so far accepted only a few cases of imprisoned journalists in Turkey.

„Turkey distances itself from Turkey even further“, said EP-President Antonio Tajani. „Turkey is doing the opposite of what would be necessary for joining the EU.“

„Despite all appeals the attacks on media go on in a big scale“, said EU-Commissioner Johannes Hahn, who is responsible for enlargement and neighborhood-policy. „It is not at all acceptable that so many journalists, academics and members of parliament are in jail.“ The measures taken after the failed coup from July 15th 2016 are out of proportion. And there will be no visa-free travel for Turkish citizens into the EU if Turkey does not change the law on fighting terrorism.

Read Otmar’s “profil” news magazine article on the Brussels event in German here: https://www.profil.at/ausland/mediengefaengnis-tuerkei-10057280

And on 2 May this article by Otmar Lahodynsky on “Media Freedom Under Threat” appeared in the Austrian newspaper Die Presse: It recounts how press freedom has retreated inside the EU within the past year:

https://diepresse.com/home/meinung/gastkommentar/5416231/Bedrohte-Medienfreiheit

AEJ UK member Firdevs Robinson writes every week about the unfolding events in Turkey on her widely-read “Talk Turkey” blog. Read it here:

http://www.firdevstalkturkey.com/

On 1 May Firdevs wrote about the “Difficulties of court reporting in Turkey”:

The principle of open justice is central to the rule of law, and the media play a vital role by fairly and accurately reporting court proceedings to the public. In Turkey, at a time when confidence in the law seems at an all-time low, the job of the media to act as the eyes and The principle of open justice is central to the rule of law, and the media play a vital role by fairly and accurately reporting court proceedings to the public. In Turkey, at a time when confidence in the law seems at an all-time low, the job of the media to act as the eyes and ears of the public is getting riskier each day…

Read the article in full: http://www.firdevstalkturkey.com/turkeys-world/difficulties-of-court-reporting-in-turkey/

(Read more at Association of European Journalists (AEJ.org))

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AEJ journalists mark World Press Freedom Day across Europe: the intensifying struggle to save independent media

Source: Association of European Journalists (AEJ.org)

AEJ journalists mark World Press Freedom Day across Europe: the intensifying struggle to save independent media.

World Press Freedom Day this year saw anti-media violence during Armenia’s popular uprising against a repressive government; new actions to silence independent journalism in Hungary and Turkey, and multiple protests against the murder of two journalists in the past year in Malta and Slovakia and ‘vicious ties’ between some governments and criminal elements.

A special report from the UNESCO 2018 World Press Freedom Day conference in Accra, Ghana on May 2-3 is published separately on this website:

Out of Africa: the winning ways of the enemies of press freedom: http://www.aej.org/page.asp?p_id=635

ARMENIA: The AEJ and other press freedom organisations have been monitoring frequent cases of police violence against journalists over several years of public protests against the increasingly authoritarian rule of prime minister Serzh Sargsyan. Hetq.am reported 17 cases of unjustified violence during the most recent protests, In an online article the newspaper highlighted past failures by the authorities to ensure that police and plain-clothes attackers of journalists are punished as they must be.

http://hetq.am/eng/news/88428/armenias-human-rights-defender-says-the-work-of-reporters-musty-be-fully-safeguarded.html

The Council of Europe’s Platform on the safety of journalists and protection of journalism carried this Alert about the latest violent attacks on journalists.

Violence Against Reporters During 11 Days of Protests in Armenia https://go.coe.int/ZMC14

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: Members of the AEJ in Bosnia participated in the press conference on May 3 in Sarajevo where the Annual report on ‘Media Freedom in BiH in 2018’ by the BH Journalists Association was presented. The event was supported by the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation. The occasion was reported in full by Media Daily online:

BiH citizens trust media more than politicians

Also on May 3, the BJA organized street campaigns and promotions in several cities by the Youth Press Association (ONA u BiH), who distributed promotional materials.

BULGARIA: This year the Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria marked the World Press Freedom Day (May 3rd) by organizing a series of lively events that focus on the difficulties the journalism faces. And AEJ Bulgaria marked the day with this article about the very high price some journalists are forced to pay for informing the public:

Journalists should not pay the high price of free speech on their own: www.aej-bulgaria.org/eng/p.php?post=2684&c=283

On March 26 AEJ-Bulgaria issued symbolic accreditation badges for 95 Turkish journalists for the EU-Turkey Leader’s Meeting in Varna, Bulgaria, in the frame of Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of EU. There the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met the Presidents of the Council and the Commission Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker and the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Borissov. Journalists mainly from the West European media had worn the symbolic badges and a question about the human rights and freedom of speech in Turkey has been posed during the press conference/. AEJ-Bulgaria’s action was covered by many Bulgarian media. http://www.aej-bulgaria.org/eng/p.php?post=2658&c=290

On April 27th 2018 the International Conference “Children and the Media. Mission: Ethical Reporting” was held, organized by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Association of European Journalists. The conference was officially opened by Maria Jesus Conde, UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria and Irina Nedeva, Chairperson of AEJ-Bulgaria. The two organizations have announced the beginning of long-term cooperation aiming at a more respectful, ethical and inclusive representation of children in the public space. A Guidebook to help journalists and public relations professionals in their work with children was presented and a series of trainings are being developed, based on the Guidebook, targeting journalists, photo reporters and videographers, public relations specialists and students.

Dean Starkman is AEJ- Bulgaria’s special guest in the second week of May holding two public lectures in Sofia. On May 10th at Sofia University Starkman will speak about Brave New World: Global challenges to public interest journalism in the age of Trump and the topic for his lecture on May 11th will be Market Domination in Hungary. Why the Orban Story must be understood as a media story, how his FIDESZ party created a model for illiberal media policy in Europe, and independent investigative reporting’s increasingly important role on the frontiers of the fight for Hungarian democracy.

Dean Starkman is a senior editor with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. He is also a fellow at Center for Media, Data and Society and a visiting lecturer at the School of Public Policy at Central European University, Budapest. He is the author of The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, 2014), an acclaimed analysis of business-press failures prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

HUNGARY: “What kind of media for what kind of society?”

Well known international experts speak out about press freedom and social media

On the eve of World Press Freedom Day, at the end of April 2018, an important conference was held under the title „What kind of media for what kind of society?” in the ancient historical castle of the Karolyi family in Fehervarcsurgo, 85 km south-west from Budapest. Press freedom, media independence, fake news and the impact of social media dominated the presentations of famous experts and journalists. The conference was opened by H. E. Eric Fournier, Ambassador of France in Budapest, who depicted the tragic situation of journalists in Turkey and emphasized the importance of press freedom in democratic societies. Very many distinguished professors, researchers and journalists took up the invitation of the Jozsef Karolyi Foundation and shared their insights about the state of the media in Europe and the struggles to ensure that independent media survive.

Highlights included the presentation of professor Stephan Russ-Mohl (Lugano) about the foundations of open and well-informed societies and its enemies, and an analysis by Professor Marc Lits (Louvain-la-Neuve) who outlined the troubling changes in the political public discourse and the impact of social media. Celestine Bohlen, former correspondent of the New York Times in Moscow, Budapest and Paris, gave her insights into the interconnection between media and message and the massive impact of technology on the content of the news media.

The presentation of Jozsef Martin, professor emeritus of the Eszterhazy Karoly University (Eger, Hungary) and president of the Hungarian Section of AEJ was in tune with the newest press freedom list of 180 countries by Reporters Without Borders, where Hungary is ranking on the not very elegant 73th place – ten years ago the Hungarian ranking was much better in 17th place. That means that Hungary is now ranked below Senegal as well as Poland and Romania. Jozsef Martin depicted the public media as dominated by the direct influence of government, and the process of growing number of media dependent on the government or businessmen and companies close to the government; meanwhile the independent critical media is losing ground and media pluralism is bleeding. Hungarian media people, especially journalists, need a strong inner moral code during their hard work where they constantly have to face with different pressures, said Martin.

The lectures of the two day conference will be published by the end of this year by the Publishing House L’Harmattan and the Jozsef Karolyi Foundation.

MALTA: The AEJ was among the many media and freedom of expression groups which issued this joint statement in October 2017 after the murder of the celebrated Maltest investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia:

“Index on Censorship and 15 other press freedom organisations, including the AEJ, jointly condemn the killing of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and call for an immediate and independent investigation into her death…“ Read the whole item here: http://www.aej.org/page.asp?p_id=603

The AEJ also supported the successful bid for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to appoint a Repporteur charged with overseeing the Maltese investigation into the killing; and took part in a vigil outside the diplomatic mission of Malta in London and other public events and meetings with politicians, experts and members of the Caruana family.

EUObserver published this compelling piece outlining the background of Daphne’s case, saying that the ‘Malta problem’ is a serious problem for the EU: https://euobserver.com/justice/141707

SLOVAKIA: In February the AEJ Slovakian Section published this statement after the cold-blooded murder killing of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee:

http://www.aej.org/page.asp?p_id=625

TURKEY: AEJ Turkey, a member of the G9 Platform which is an umbrella for 10 Turkish journalists’ associations, took a leading role in special events organized both on the Labour Day (May 1) and Press Freedom Day.

On both days G9 Platform member associations acted together to raise their voice in solidarity with jailed journalists, to protest the sale of country’s biggest media group to a pro-government business and the exclusion of opposition voices in mainstream media and state TV in the run-up to a very critical election in June.

On Labour Day, G9 Platform journalists marched behind the banner “Journalism is not a crime” carrying placards protesting the terrible media freedom situation in Turkey. On May 3rd they made a joint statement signed by each G9 Platform member association, starting with AEJ Turkey.

THE AEJ’S WEBSITE: Our website has published many other reports, articles and joint statements of protest concerning attacks on press freedom in the past year, including highlights from the recent Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, on www.aej.org

THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE’S PLATFORM: The AEJ is one of the partner organisations of the Council of Europe’s Platform for the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists on www.coe.int/fom

Subscribe to the Council of Europe’s ‘Safety of Journalists Weekly’ newsletter through this LINK:

http://www.coe.int/en/web/media-freedom/subscribe

(Read more at Association of European Journalists (AEJ.org))

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Data protection reform – Parliament approves new rules fit for the digital era

Source: EuroParl.Europa.eu

New EU data protection rules which aim to give citizens back control of their personal data and create a high, uniform level of data protection across the EU fit for the digital era was given their final approval by MEPs on Thursday. The reform also sets minimum standards on use of data for policing and judicial purposes.

Parliament’s vote ends more than four years of work on a complete overhaul of EU data protection rules. The reform will replace the current data protection directive, dating back to 1995 when the internet was still in its infancy, with a general regulation designed to give citizens more control over their own private information in a digitised world of smartphones, social media, internet banking and global transfers.

“The general data protection regulation makes a high, uniform level of data protection throughout the EU a reality. This is a great success for the European Parliament and a fierce European ‘yes’ to strong consumer rights and competition in the digital age. Citizens will be able to decide for themselves which personal information they want to share”, said Jan Philipp Albrecht (Greens, DE), who steered the legislation through Parliament.

(Read more at EuroParl.Europa.eu)

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President Niinistö: Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un Welcome to Finland for Talks Promoting Peace

Source: Yle.fi

Finnish President Sauli Niinistö said he’s pleased that Finland has been mentioned as a possible meeting ground for the US and North Korean leaders.

Finland would “warmly welcome” US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un for talks promoting peace, Finland’s President Sauli Niinistö said in a television interview on Saturday.

“It’s great that Finland has been mentioned in this context. But it is another matter where the talks will eventually take place. I doubt anyone knows that yet,” Niinistö said.

His comment was in response to speculation from news outlets in the United States that Finland might be one of the meeting places under consideration. Trump himself confirmed on Friday that two or three locations are still in the running, but did not mention them by name.

Finland’s chances might be better than the rest in that preliminary talks on “building confidence and reducing tensions” on the Korean Peninsula already quietly took place at the Königstedt Manor in Vantaa this March. North Korean, South Korean and US representatives were in attendance at the state venue near Helsinki, along with observers from the United Nations and Europe.

(Read more at Yle.fi)

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