This is the News in Brief from the United Nations.
Polar vortex responsible for Texas freeze and warm Arctic temperatures
A “polar vortex” was responsible for the freezing conditions in the US state of Texas last month, UN weather experts have said, before warning of a worrying increase in global carbon dioxide levels.
Spokesperson Clare Nullis from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) told journalists during a regular briefing in Geneva that the United States shivered through its coldest February since 1989, thanks to the natural phenomenon:
“Basically (it’s) to do with the polar vortex, this is an area of low pressure and cold air, surrounding either of the poles. It normally keeps cold air in the Arctic, warmer air in the lower latitudes. It weakened this winter so that meant that the cold air came spinning out of the Artic…warm air by contrast went into parts of the Arctic.”
Ms. Nullis added that no less than 62 all-time daily cold minimum temperature records were broken in the United States from February 11-16, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
February temperatures were also well below the 1991-2020 average over much of the Russian Federation and North America, but they were well above average over parts of the Arctic, and from northwest Africa to southern Europe and China.
The UN agency also cautioned that although February was a relatively cold month, this does not negate the long-term warming trend from climate change.
“Cold records are becoming rarer, in contrast to heat temperature records and heatwaves. We expect this trend to continue,” WMO said in a statement.
Philippines killing of activists must be investigated
To the Philippines now and the UN human rights office, OHCHR, which on Tuesday spoke out against the State-sanctioned killing there of nine activists, during raids by security officers in the middle of the night.
Eight men and one woman were killed in simultaneous counter-insurgency searches in the greater Manila area on Sunday, spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told journalists in Geneva.
There was a “near-total impunity for the use of lethal force by the police and the military”, said Ms. Shamdasani, who highlighted how rights defenders were often accused of being members of the Communist party – a practice known as “red-tagging”:
“Quite often there are posters that are put up publicly, lists that are published with the names of these human rights defenders, calling them Communists, and implying that they are armed members of the Communist party; so these search warrants were obtained in this context, to conduct searches for weapons held as part of the Communist insurgency.”
The victims included labour rights activist Emanuel Asuncion and husband and wife Chai Lemita-Evangelista and Ariel Evangelista, who defended the rights of fishing communities; they were reportedly shot inside their home.
Ms. Shamdasani noted that in December, nine Tumandok indigenous peoples' activists were killed in similar circumstances.
Switzerland ban on headscarves risks further marginalization: UN rights office
To the divisive issue of headcoverings now and the recent vote in Switzerland that narrowly approved banning them.
In response to the initiative, which was opposed by the country’s federal Government, the UN rights office OHCHR warned on Tuesday that the “xenophobic” political initiative by the far-right Swiss People’s Party could further marginalize and exclude wearers from public life.
Citing the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN rights office noted that the freedom to wear what you wish could be restricted to protect public safety or health.
But OHCHR insisted that “vague justifications on how the wearing of face coverings would be a threat to safety, health or the rights of others cannot be considered a legitimate reason for such an invasive restriction of fundamental freedoms”.
The UN rights office also noted that various other European countries were also in favour of similar bans against women’s face coverings, at a time when Muslim women in Europe “are already reporting increased discrimination, stereotyping, hostility, and in some cases even physical violence, because of their clothing”.
Following the vote on headscarves on Sunday – one of a series of measures put to voters throughout Swiss cantons – OHCHR said that in the wake of the campaign “with strong xenophobic undertones, Switzerland is joining the small number of countries where actively discriminating against Muslim women is now sanctioned by law. And this is deeply regrettable.”
Daniel Johnson, UN News.