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The May death of 46-year-old George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, and the subsequent protests across the United States and globally, led lawmakers from around the world to social media to discuss race relations, according to a new analysis from the U.S.-based Pew Research Center.  The research shows that almost half of lawmakers who are active on Twitter in four countries — Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — posted messages referencing Floyd’s death and the Black Lives Matter protests. Floyd was African American. “Prior to George Floyd’s killing, very few had used the phrase Black Lives Matter or hashtags related to that movement, only about 4%. And now we see that after George Floyd’s killing, those who are weighing in on these topics shoots up to about half,” said Kat Devlin, a Pew research associate who spoke to VOA via Skype. Black Lives Matter protests were held in London and cities across Britain, as well as Paris, Berlin, Tokyo, Sydney, Auckland and elsewhere.FILE – People look at a statue of a Black Lives Matter protester by British artist Marc Quinn erected in the spot once occupied by the statue of a slave trader in the English city of Bristol, July 15, 2020.Devlin said events in the U.S. sparked renewed debates on domestic race relations in many countries.  “Sixty-nine percent (of legislators) in Australia who were talking about George Floyd or the Black Lives Matter movement also began to talk about Indigenous people in their countries — the same with a majority of the legislators in New Zealand,” Devlin said. Almost two-thirds of all British lawmakers using Twitter posted messages about George Floyd or Black Lives Matter. Around a third posted tweets critical of U.S. President Donald Trump’s handling of the protests. Most tweeted support and solidarity for the protesters. Many used the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag to highlight perceived racial inequality in Britain.  One widely shared June 1 tweet from British Labor Party MP Clive Lewis compared the situation in the United States to that in Britain:  “Any liberal democracy, including our own, where historic wealth accumulation is inextricably linked to racist ideology will be capable of #GeorgeFloyd levels of racial injustice. It’s not an accusation, simply the current reality.”FILE – A protester stands in front of the US embassy during the Black Lives Matter protest rally in London, June 7, 2020.Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, a Black lawyer and political activist based in Britain, told VOA that the debate in the U.S. resonates across the Atlantic.   “The protests in solidarity, for instance, in the United Kingdom — personally, I don’t think that’s just about the U.S. It’s also recognizing that these this systemic racism exists here in the U.K.,” Mos-Shogbamimu said in a Skype interview at the time of the London protests. “And social media platforms have become the wireless platform to communicate this information worldwide, in real time, instantly.” Not all lawmakers’ tweets expressed solidarity with the protests. Twenty percent of British legislators’ posts were critical of the demonstrations in Britain. Five percent of these posts made reference to the coronavirus pandemic, criticizing the large gatherings and accusing authorities of double standards for allowing the protesters to congregate despite social distancing and lockdown measures in force at the time. “Legislators were talking about the coronavirus in respect to the protests, but then also turned that conversation to the fact that non-white groups within the U.K. are suffering worse outcomes,” Devlin noted.  In Australia, Sen. Pauline Hanson of the One Nation Party wrote on Twitter June 8: “ANGER OVER DOUBLE STANDARDS GROWS: Premiers are facing a growing backlash over Covid-19 social-distancing restrictions after allowing tens of thousands of protestors to defy health warnings & attend Black Lives Matter rallies.” Hanson recently shared an article on Twitter that described the Black Lives Matter movement as “neo-Marxist.” In the weeks since Floyd’s death, statues of slave traders have been torn down, colonial histories are being rewritten, and demands for racial equality have become louder, amplified by social media. In the United States, the House of Representatives last month voted to rid the Capitol of Confederate statues. It is not clear if the measure will be brought to a vote in the Senate. Trump has described the destruction of Civil War-era statues and other memorials, including those honoring Christopher Columbus, as an attempt to cleanse the U.S. of its history. 

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A gleaming new bridge in Genoa built after the deadly collapse of a viaduct opened Tuesday, but critics say not enough has been done since the 2018 disaster to overhaul Italy’s crumbling infrastructure.The first cars crossed the sleek steel structure just after 2000 GMT, nearly two years to the day the Morandi highway gave way during heavy rain, hurling dozens of vehicles into the abyss and killing 43 people.The San Giorgio bridge, designed by famed Italian architect Renzo Piano, was inaugurated to much fanfare on Monday.But many of the relatives of the victims declined to attend, saying the ceremony overshadowed the 2018 tragedy.”We’re still there, at the collapsed bridge, with the people we lost under the bridge. We’re stuck in 2018,” Giorgio Robbiano, 43, who lost his brother, sister-in-law and nephew in the disaster, told AFP Tuesday.However he said “the bridge had to be built and we’re happy for the city.”It was also important to show that large works could be successfully finished in time, without complications,” he said.The tragedy shone a spotlight on the country’s decaying roads, bridges and railways.The Morandi’s speedy demolition and replacement has been hailed by many as an example of what Italy could be, should it scrap its infamous red tape.The centre-left coalition government promised during the coronavirus pandemic this year to use major infrastructure projects to reboot the battered economy, as Italy slid towards its worst recession since World War II.It said it would radically simplify bureaucracy to unblock some 62 billion euros of construction work, and promoted the “Genoa model”: a code-word for work done efficiently and quickly under the watch of a special commissioner.The country has at least 50 large infrastructure projects that are stalled, from a high-speed train in Sicily to the widening of a motorway in Tuscany, Italy’s construction lobby ANCE said.’The Wild West’ Projects stutter to a halt or fail to get off the ground due to lengthy legal challenges to tenders, companies going bankrupt, political point scoring or local council spats, including one in Liguria over which town should host the station on a new train line.The funds are there: according to the Cresme research institute, there were some 200 billion euros earmarked for the sector at the end of 2019, ranging from government and EU funds to private contributions.Last month the government approved a “simplification decree” — touted by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte as “the mother of all reforms.”But detractors said it failed to make serious inroads into red tape, and could even prove damaging.Infrastructure executive Angelica Donati said it takes twice as long in Italy to carry out a large-scale infrastructure project than in the rest of Europe, so speeding up the process and improving efficiency and transparency would be much welcomed.But she warned that the new decree crushed competition, by effectively excluding the small and medium enterprises that make up the backbone of Italy from tenders for projects worth over 5.3 million euros.For the next two years, the public administration can rule such projects be treated as an emergency “because of the COVID-related crisis … which would exclude them from all public tender regulations, apart from anti-mafia ones”, she told AFP.A small number of specific companies can be invited to participate individually in the tender — penalizing those who would have made joint venture bids, or are simply excluded.”Using the commissioner structure and throwing out the rule book, saying you have full power to do whatever you want, is not the right way to ensure transparency and protect competition,” Donati said.”The Genoa model is a very bad idea, it’s very dangerous,” and risks turning Italy into “the Wild West”.

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New York City’s health commissioner, Dr. Oxiris Barbot, resigned Tuesday, expressing her “deep disappointment” with the way New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has handled the COVID pandemic and his use of the department’s expertise.In her resignation letter, sent to de Blasio and members of the media, Barbot said, “I leave my post today with deep disappointment that during the most critical public health crisis in our lifetime, that the Health Department’s incomparable disease control expertise was not used to the degree it could have been.”Earlier this year, the New York Times reported de Blasio initially ignored Barbot’s advice about canceling large gatherings and closing businesses. Last month, he stripped control of the city’s COVID-19 contact-tracing program from the health department, and placed the program under Health and Hospitals, the agency that runs the city’s public hospitals.Barbot’s replacement was announced as Dr. Dave Chokshi—a Rhodes Scholar who served at the Louisiana Department of Health during Hurricane Katrina and was the principal health adviser to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs in the Obama administration.At his Tuesday news conference, de Blasio thanked Barbot for her service and the important work she did during the crisis. He told reporters it became clear it was time to move forward and “create a new approach” for how to handle the pandemic.Earlier this year, New York City was the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States, with daily deaths passing 400 per day. But this past month, the city saw the lowest number of hospitalizations since the pandemic began. 
 

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The International Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labor has been universally ratified. The International Labor Organization said this is the first time in its history that all 187 of its member states have ratified an International Labor Convention.An estimated 152 million children are in child labor. Seventy-three-million are involved in hazardous work that the International Labor Organization defines as the worst forms of child labor.International Labor Organization Director-General Guy Ryder attends a news conference after a meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Oct. 1, 2019.ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said the universal ratification of the convention means that children now will benefit from critical legal protection against the worst forms of child labor.“In the past, it has too often been the lot of children to be used to fight in armed conflict, to be sold as slaves, forced into work in the drug trade or in the production of child sexual abuse material or exposed to hazardous substances and long hours,” Ryder said. “In every country, now these practices have been condemned, and clear legal prohibitions against them have been established everywhere.”However, Ryder warns against complacency. He said countries must do more to end impunity for violators and for violations of children’s right to be free from child labor. He said governments must implement and enforce the provisions in the convention.UN Ratifies First Unanimous Treaty on Child Labor The legally binding convention prohibits exploitation of children and forced laborSince the ILO convention was adopted in 1999, the incidence of child labor and its worst forms dropped nearly 40% by 2016. However, progress has slowed in recent years, particularly among children five to 11 years of age, and in some geographical areas.Africa is the region with both the highest absolute number of child laborers and the highest prevalence. Ryder tells VOA the situation in Africa is very worrying.“Just over 72 million African children are in child labor. Of those, 31.5 million in hazardous work,” Ryder said. “The prevalence rate then is nearly 20%. Nearly one in five of all African children are in child labor. … Progress seems to have stalled in Africa, and child labor in absolute terms actually increased in sub-Saharan Africa from 2012 to 2016.”The ILO chief fears years of progress in reducing child labor are at risk of being reversed by COVID-19. He notes the pandemic has caused global unemployment to skyrocket. As more and more people lose their livelihoods and means of survival, he said the danger and temptation to push children back into the labor market will grow.   

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A global treaty sponsored by the U.N. International Labor Organization (ILO) calling for greater protection for children against sexual exploitation, forced labor and armed conflict was signed Tuesday by all member nations in the international forum.
Tonga, an island nation located in the Pacific, approved the treaty this week, making it the first U.N. labor treaty ratified by all 187 members. Ratified treaties are legally binding on all signatory governments.International Labor Organization Director-General Guy Ryder attends a news conference after a meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Oct. 1, 2019.“Universal ratification … is (a) historic first that means that all children now have legal protection against the worst forms of child labor,” ILO Director-General Guy Ryder said.
“It reflects a global commitment that the worst forms of child labor, such as slavery, sexual exploitation, the use of children in armed conflict or other illicit or hazardous work … have no place in our society,” he said in a statement.
According to the ILO, the number of child laborers plummeted to 152 million children in recent years, a sharp decline from its previous peak 20 years ago of 246 million. Most child workers are employed in the agricultural sector, and 73 million are placed in dangerous conditions while working.Children in Worst Forms of Labor Get Legal Protection The universal ratification of a convention provides children with critical legal protection from the worst child laborConcern for this issue has risen in recent months amid the coronavirus pandemic and the strain on global and local economies. According to the Reuters news agency, some experts say the pandemic could reverse up to two decades of activism and progress in reducing child labor.
In June, the United Nations warned that child labor in the 5-11 age group was likely to rise during and after the pandemic as families grapple to make ends meet.
“The business community is both aware of and acting on the need to do business with respect for children’s rights,” said Roberto Suarez Santos, head of the International Organization of Employers (IOE), the world’s largest private sector network.
Ending child labor is one of the U.N.’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, a set of global priorities created in 2015. The organization plans to eradicate the practice by 2025. 

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President Donald Trump’s demand that the U.S. government get a cut from a potential Microsoft purchase of TikTok is the latest unprecedented scenario in an unprecedented situation.  Microsoft is in talks to buy parts of TikTok, a forced sale after Trump threatened to ban the Chinese-owned video app, which claims 100 million U.S. users and hundreds of millions globally. The Trump administration says TikTok is a national-security concern. How a ban would have worked was not clear; that federal authority has never been used before with a consumer app. TikTok denies that it would send U.S. user data to the Chinese government.  Microsoft did not address a potential price when it confirmed the talks. FILE – The logo of the social media video sharing app Tiktok is displayed on a tablet screen in Paris, November 21, 2019Trump said Monday to reporters that the U.S. “should get a very large percentage of that price because we’re making it possible,” adding that “we want and we think we deserve to have a big percentage of that price coming to America, coming to the Treasury.”  Trump sometimes floats ideas or actions that get set aside without follow-through. Appearing on the Fox Business Network on Tuesday, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow appeared to walk back the idea of a payment to the Treasury, saying “I don’t know if that’s a key stipulation.” TikTok under reviewTikTok was under review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, known as CFIUS, a U.S. government group chaired by the Treasury Secretary that studies mergers for national-security reasons, for its acquisition of another video app, Musical.ly, in 2017. The president can approve or disapprove a transaction recommended by the interagency panel. CFIUS collects filing fees, but those top out at $300,000. “I doubt that’s what Trump has in mind,” said Hal Singer, an antitrust expert and managing director at consulting firm Econ One. “Outside of that I can’t think of any means by which the U.S. could basically get its vig on its forced transfer.” A “vig” is slang for interest on a loan, usually in the context of illegal activity, or the fee charged by a bookie for a bet.  There’s no legal precedent in antitrust law for such a payment, said Gene Kimmelman, a senior adviser at the advocacy group Public Knowledge and a former antitrust official at the Department of Justice. “In terms of a foreign company agreeing to sell assets to a U.S. company subject to antitrust review, I can’t see any logical basis under which Treasury or the White House would be negotiating elements of the financial portions of the deal.” While noting that he is not an expert in all areas of U.S. law and the broad authority that the president has, he said the TikTok deal and the White House’s role in it was highly unusual. “Not in my experience have I seen any engagement from the White House in this manner,” he said. “It’s already a unique situation from start to finish with the government intervening to prevent use of a service in the U.S.” There are no “obvious antitrust or other legal bases” for the demand for “what is in effect a payoff to the U.S. government,” said Eswar Prassad, an economist at Cornell University. “The notion of a payment to the U.S. government sets a dangerous precedent of explicit entanglement between national security and economic considerations.” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany sidestepped a question Tuesday about what authority the federal government had to collect a portion of proceeds from the potential sale of TikTok, saying “I’m not going to get ahead of the president on any official action.” Treasury did not reply to questions about what legal precedent Trump is relying on to get a payment for the TikTok deal. Microsoft committed to dealIn a statement Sunday, Microsoft had said that that it was committed to the deal “subject to a complete security review and providing proper economic benefits to the United States, including the United States Treasury.” TikTok has said that it is loved by Americans and “will be here for many years to come.” In a memo ByteDance CEO Zhang Yiming sent Chinese employees Tuesday, a translated version of which ByteDance sent to The Associated Press, he said that he felt the goal of the Trump administration was not the forced sale of TikTok’s U.S. business to an American company through CFIUS, but “a ban or even more.” A representative for Microsoft did not reply to questions about the payment demand Tuesday. TikTok declined to comment beyond its Monday statement.  

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Tropical Storm Isaias is churning up the Mid-Atlantic U.S. after making landfall as a category 1 hurricane Tuesday night in South and North Carolina, triggering flooding and tornadoes.The National Hurricane Center said since Isaias moved inland, the winds decreased but strong gusts continued over coastal North Carolina and the coastal Outer Banks, knocking out power to thousands of homes and businesses. Isaias initially made landfall near Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, with maximum sustained winds of 140 km/h just after 11pm EDT on Monday. Tropical Storm Isaias Approaches Carolinas, Set to Regain Hurricane Strength  Floods forecast as tropical storm drifts up US East CoastThe NHC said early Tuesday that strong winds, heavy rainfall and tornadoes were sweeping over eastern Maryland and the Delmarva Peninsula and predicted they would spread up the Mid-Atlantic coast throughout the day.Isaias was packing sustained winds of 110 km/h with higher gusts and is expected to gradually weaken throughout the day before becoming a post-tropical storm overnight.Heavy rainfall along the East Coast has sparked flash flooding along coastal areas of  North Carolina and the Mid-Atlantic and is expected to continue in the northeastern U.S. states later Tuesday.Tornadoes produced by Isaias killed at least one person and flattened at least 10 homes in a mobile home park in Windsor, North Carolina, according to the Bertie County sheriff’s department.Tropical storm warnings were in effect from the Virginia border north to the state of Maine, in the upper northeast.  President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency in North Carolina to free up funds for federal officials to help towns and cities coordinate disaster relief efforts. Trump made a similar declaration Saturday for Florida, which was spared the full impact of the storm. 

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A top European Union diplomat has called for a delay in the vote to choose the Inter-American Development Bank’s new president, a closely watched election that has sparked controversy over the first-ever U.S. candidate.
In a July 30 letter seen by Reuters, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell cited the coronavirus pandemic and the nomination of President Donald Trump’s hawkish Latin America adviser Mauricio Claver-Carone as reasons to postpone the planned Sept. 12 vote until after March.
“This postponement is more advisable if we consider the submission, without precedent, of a candidacy to preside the Bank by the United States Government,” Borrell wrote in the letter to Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya.
 
Some U.S. lawmakers and former ministers and presidents in Latin America have publicly voiced their opposition to Claver-Carone, although he is favored to win the Sept. 12 election and has support from at least 15 countries.
 
Two Argentine government officials told Reuters the country, which has its own candidate, would favor postponing the IDB election. But with just over 11% of the voting power, they would need the support of other countries to delay the vote.
 
Claver-Carone dismissed the idea that Europe would oppose his candidacy in an interview last week, saying he was already in touch with European leaders about future plans.
 
“Do you think Europe is going to look at the majority of region which has already come out publicly in support of our candidacy and say, ‘Oh, we’re going to go with one country in the region versus the overwhelming majority of the region?’ The optics of that would be horrible,” Claver-Carone said.
 
A senior U.S. administration official told Reuters the EU was not party to the IDB as an entity, and all member states had agreed to the virtual September election.
 
“Any effort by a minority of countries, let alone by non-regional countries, to hijack the election process would be an affront to the region and be challenged,” the official said.
 
Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, also pushed back in a tweet on Sunday: “The region is independent, sovereign and can maturely make its own decisions.”
  

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