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UN Chief Warns Paris Climate Goals Still Not Enough

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres took his global message urging immediate climate action to officials gathered in the United Arab Emirates on Sunday, where production of hydrocarbons remains a key driver of the economy.
 
Guterres is calling on governments to stop building new coal plants by 2020, cut greenhouse emissions by 45% over the next decade and overhauling fossil fuel-driven economies with new technologies like solar and wind. The world, he said, is facing a grave climate emergency.''<br />
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In remarks at a summit in Abu Dhabi, he painted a grim picture of how rapidly climate change is advancing, saying it is outpacing efforts to address it.<br />
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 He lauded the Paris climate accord, but said even if its promises are fully met, the world still faces what he described as a catastrophic three-degree temperature rise by the end of the century.<br />
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Arctic permafrost is melting decades earlier than even worst-case scenarios, he said, threatening to unlock vast amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas.<br />
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It is plain to me that we have no time to lose,” Guterres said. Sadly, it is not yet plain to all the decision makers that run our world.''<br />
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 He spoke at the opulent Emirates Palace, where Abu Dhabi was hosting a preparatory meeting for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in September. Guterres was expected to later take a helicopter ride to view Abu Dhabi's Noor solar power plant.<br />
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When asked, U.N. representatives said the lavish Abu Dhabi summit and his planned helicopter ride would be carbon neutral, meaning their effects would be balanced by efforts like planting trees and sequestering emissions. The U.N. says carbon dioxide emissions account for around 80% of global warming.<br />
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Guterres was in Abu Dhabi fresh off meetings with The Group of 20 leaders in Osaka, Japan. There, he appealed directly to heads of state of the world's main emitters to step up their efforts. The countries of the G-20 represent 80% of world emissions of greenhouse gases, he said.<br />
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At the G-20 meeting, 19 countries expressed their commitment to the Paris agreement, with the only the United States dissenting.<br />
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In 2017, President Donald Trump pledged to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement as soon as 2020, arguing it disadvantages American workers and taxpayers. Trump has also moved steadily to dismantle Obama administration efforts to rein in coal, oil and gas emissions. His position has been that these efforts also hurt the U.S. economy.<br />
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The secretary-general's special envoy for the climate summit, Ambassador Luis Alfonso de Alba, told The Associated Press it was disappointing that the U.S. has pulled out from the accord. However, he said there are many examples of efforts at the local and state level in the United States to combat climate change.<br />
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I think it is very important to have all countries committing to this cause… even more when we are talking about the country of the importance and the size – not only in terms of the economy but also the emissions – of the United States,” he said.
 
Guterres is urging business leaders and politicians to come to the Climate Action Summit later this year with their plans ready to nearly halve greenhouse emissions by 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2050.
 
He suggested taxing major carbon-emitting industries and polluters, ending the subsidization of oil and gas, and halting the building of all new coal plants by next year.
 
We are in a battle for our lives,'' he said.But it is a battle we can win.”

 

 

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Thousands of Protesters Demand Civilian Rule in Sudan

Tens of thousands of protesters rallied across Sudan on Sunday against the ruling generals, calling for a civilian government nearly three months after the army forced out the long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir.

The mass protests, centered in the capital, Khartoum, were the first since a June 3 crackdown when security forces violently broke up a protest camp. In that confrontation, dozens were killed, with protest organizers saying the death toll was at least 128, while authorities claim it was 61, including three security personnel.

Sunday’s demonstrators gathered at several points across Khartoum and in the sister city of Omdurman, then marching to the homes of those killed in previous protests.

The protesters, some of them waving Sudanese flags, chanted “Civilian rule! Civilian rule!” and “Burhan’s council, just fall,” targeting Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, the head of the military council. Security forces fired tear gas at the demonstrators.

Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy head of the military council, said the generals want to reach an “urgent and comprehensive agreement with no exclusion. We in the military council are totally neutral. We are the guardians of the revolution. We do not want to be part of the dispute.”

The European Union and several Western countries have called on the generals to avoid bloodshed.

The June 3 raid followed the collapse of talks on a new government, whether it should be led by a civilian or soldier.

Ethiopia and the African Union have offered a plan for a civilian-majority body, which the generals say could be the basis for new negotiations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ancient Peruvian Water-Harvesting System Could Lessen Modern Water Shortages

Sometimes, modern problems require ancient solutions.  
 
A 1,400-year-old Peruvian water-diverting method could supply up to 40,000 Olympic-size swimming pools’ worth of water to present-day Lima each year, according to new research published in Nature Sustainability.
 
It’s one example of how indigenous methods could supplement existing modern infrastructure in water-scarce countries worldwide. 
 
More than a billion people across the world face water scarcity. Artificial reservoirs store rainwater and runoff for use during drier times, but reservoirs are costly, require years to plan and can still fail to meet water needs. Just last week, the reservoirs in Chennai, India, ran nearly dry, forcing its 4 million residents to rely on government water tankers.  
 

Animation showing monthly rainfall in the tropical Andes. Humid air transports water vapor from the Amazon and is blocked by the Andean mountain barrier, producing extreme differences between the eastern and western slopes. (B. Ochoa-Tocachi, 2019)

Peru’s capital, Lima, depends on water from rivers high in the Andes. It takes only a few days for water to flow down to Lima, so when the dry season begins in the mountains, the water supply rapidly vanishes. The city suffers water deficit of 43 million cubic meters during the dry season, which it alleviates with modern infrastructure such as artificial reservoirs. 
 

Panoramic view of the Andean highlands in the Chillon river basin where Huamantanga is located. The city of Lima would be located downstream in the horizon background. (S. Grainger, Imperial College London, 2015)

Artificial reservoirs aren’t the only solution, however. Over a thousand years ago, indigenous people developed another way of dealing with water shortages. Boris Ochoa-Tocachi, a postdoctoral researcher at Imperial College London and lead author of the study, saw firsthand one of the last remaining pre-Inca water-harvesting systems in the small highland community of Huamantanga, Peru. 

Water diverted, delayed
 
The 1,400-year-old system is designed to increase the water supply during the dry season by diverting and delaying water as it travels down from the mountains. This nature-based “green” infrastructure consists of stone canals that guide water from its source to a network of earthen canals, ponds, springs and rocky hillsides, which encourage water to seep into the ground. It then slowly trickles downhill through the soil and resurfaces in streams near the community.  
 
Ideally, the system should be able to increase the water’s travel time from days to months in order to provide water throughout the dry season, “but there was no evidence at all to quantify what is the water volume that they can harvest from these practices, or really if the practices were actually increasing the yields of these springs that they used during the dry season,” said Ochoa-Tocachi. 
 

A diversion canal as part of the pre-Inca infiltration system during the wet season. Canals like this divert water during the wet season to zones of high permeability. (M. Briceño, CONDESAN, 2012)

To assess the system’s capabilities, the researchers measured how much it slowed the flow of water by injecting a dye tracer high upstream and noting when it resurfaced downstream. The water started to emerge two weeks later and continued flowing for eight months — a huge improvement over the hours or days it would normally take. 
 
“I think probably the most exciting result is that we actually confirmed that this system works,” Ochoa-Tocachi added. “It’s not only trusting that, yeah, we know that there are traditional practices, we know that indigenous knowledge is very useful. I think that we proved that it is still relevant today. It is still a tool that we can use and we can replicate to solve modern problems.” 

Considerable increase in supply
 
The researchers next considered how implementing a scaled-up version of the system could benefit Lima. Combining what they learned from the existing setup in Huamantanga with the physical characteristics of Lima’s surroundings, they estimated that the system could increase Lima’s dry-season water supply by 7.5% on average, and up to 33% at the beginning of the dry season. This amounts to nearly 100 million cubic meters of water per year — the equivalent of 40,000 Olympic-size swimming pools. 
 
Todd Gartner, director of the World Resources Institute Natural Infrastructure for Water project, noted that this study “takes what we often just talk about — that ‘green [infrastructure] is as good as grey’ — and it puts this into practice and does a lot of evaluation and monitoring and puts real numbers behind it.” 
 
Another benefit of the system is the cost. Ochoa-Tocachi estimated that building a series of canals similar to what exists in Huamantanga would cost 10 times less than building a reservoir of the same volume. He also noted that many highland societies elsewhere in the world have developed ways of diverting and delaying water in the past and could implement them today to supplement their more expensive modern counterparts. 
 
“I think there is a lot of potential in revaluing these water-harvesting practices that have a very long history,” Ochoa-Tocachi said. “There are a lot of these practices that still now could be rescued and could be replicated, even though probably the actual mechanics or the actual process is different than the one that we studied. But the concept of using indigenous knowledge for solving modern engineering problems, I think that is probably very valuable today.” 

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White House: Trade Agreement with China Not Close

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said Sunday resumption of trade talks between the U.S. and China “is a very big deal,” but acknowledged there is no immediate prospect for an agreement between the world’s two largest economies.

“The talks will go on for quite some time,” Kudlow told the Fox News Sunday interview show.

He said the countries had reached agreement on 90 percent of a new deal by early May, before talks broke down in what has turned out to be a seven-week stalemate. U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed Saturday on the sidelines of the Group of 20 economic summit in Japan to restart negotiations.

U.S. President Donald Trump attends a bilateral meeting with China’s President Xi Jinping during the G-20 leaders summit in Osaka, Japan, June 29, 2019.

But Kudlow assessed that “the last 10 percent could be the toughest,” with such unresolved issues as cyberattacks, Chinese demands that U.S. companies turn over proprietary technology they use, Chinese government support for its companies and the sale of U.S. technology components to the giant Chinese multinational technology giant Huawei.

Trump agreed in his meeting with Xi to ease sales of some U.S.-made components to Huawei, a policy change that some of Trump’s Republican colleagues in the U.S. disagree with because they contend that Huawei can insert Chinese intelligence eavesdropping chips in their consumer products sold overseas. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida called it a “catastrophic mistake.”

Kudlow said he realizes “there are national security concerns” with sales to Huawei. “We will look at this carefully,” Kudlow said, adding that Trump’s easing of sales of components to Huawei “is not a general amnesty.”

Trump, in a series of Twitter comments, said, “I had a great meeting with President Xi of China yesterday, far better than expected. I agreed not to increase the already existing Tariffs that we charge China while we continue to negotiate. China has agreed that, during the negotiation, they will begin purchasing large amounts of agricultural product from our great Farmers. At the request of our High Tech companies, and President Xi, I agreed to allow Chinese company Huawei to buy product from them which will not impact our National Security.”

I had a great meeting with President Xi of China yesterday, far better than expected. I agreed not to increase the already existing Tariffs that we charge China while we continue to negotiate. China has agreed that, during the negotiation, they will begin purchasing large…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2019

He said the U.S. relationship with China “continues to be a very good one. The quality of the transaction is far more important to me than speed. I am in no hurry, but things look very good! There will be no reduction in the Tariffs currently being charged to China.” 

….again with China as our relationship with them continues to be a very good one. The quality of the transaction is far more important to me than speed. I am in no hurry, but things look very good! There will be no reduction in the Tariffs currently being charged to China.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 29, 2019

China Daily, an English-language daily Beijing often uses to relay messages, agreed with Kudlow’s assessment that a trade agreement is not close.

“Even though Washington agreed to postpone levying additional tariffs on Chinese goods to make way for negotiations, and Trump even hinted at putting off decisions on Huawei until the end of negotiations, things are still very much up in the air,” the Chinese Daily editorial published late Saturday said.

“Agreement on 90 percent of the issues has proved not to be enough, and with the remaining 10 percent where their fundamental differences reside, it is not going to be easy to reach a 100-percent consensus, since at this point, they remain widely apart even on the conceptual level,” the editorial said.

 

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Hong Kong Braces for More Protests on Handover Anniversary

More than 50,000 people rallied in support of the Hong Kong police on Sunday as the semi-autonomous territory braced for another day of protests on the anniversary of the former British colony’s return to China.

 
The crowd filled a park in front of the legislature and chanted “Thank you” to the police, who have been criticized for using tear gas and rubber bullets during clashes with demonstrators that left dozens injured on June 12. Some carried Chinese flags. Police estimated the turnout at 53,000.

A protest march has been called for Monday, the third in three weeks, this one on the 22nd anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong to China on July 1, 1997. Activists have also said they will try to disrupt an annual flag-raising ceremony attended by senior Hong Kong and mainland Chinese officials in the morning.
 
Police have erected tall barriers and shut off access to Golden Bauhinia Square, where the flag-raising will be held, to prevent protesters from massing there overnight.
 
The anniversary always draws protests, but this year’s is expected to be larger than usual because of widespread opposition to a government proposal to allow suspects to be extradited to mainland China to face charges. More than a million people took to the streets in two previous marches in June, organizers estimate.
 
The proposal has awakened broader fears that China is eroding the freedoms and rights that Hong Kong is guaranteed for 50 years after the handover under a one country, two systems'' framework.<br />
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The government has already postponed debate on the extradition bill indefinitely, leaving it to die, but protest leaders want the legislation formally withdrawn and the resignation of Hong Kong's leader, Chief Executive Carrie Lam. They also are demanding an independent inquiry into police actions on June 12.<br />
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Hundreds of people gathered Sunday at the Education University of Hong Kong to hold a moment of silence and lay flowers for a 21-year-old student who fell to her death the previous day in an apparent suicide. Hong Kong media reports said she wrote a message on a wall stating the protesters' demands and asking others to persist.<br />
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It’s reminding us we need to keep going on the process of fighting with the, I wouldn’t say fighting with the government, but we need to keep going on fighting not to have the extradition law,” said student Gabriel Lau.

 

 

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Schumer: ATF Should Investigate Dominican Republic Deaths

The Senate’s top Democrat called on the U.S. government Sunday to step up its efforts to investigate the deaths of Americans who traveled to the Dominican Republic and is asking the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to get involved.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the agency should step in to lend investigative support to the FBI and local law enforcement officials after at least eight Americans died in the Dominican Republic this year. Family members of the tourists have called on authorities to investigate whether there’s any connection between the deaths and have raised the possibility the deaths may have been caused by adulterated alcohol or misused pesticides.

The ATF – the agency primarily investigates firearms-related crimes but is also charged with regulating alcohol and tobacco – is uniquely positioned to provide technical and forensic expertise in the investigation, Schumer said. The agency also has offices in the Caribbean.

“Given that we still have a whole lot of questions and very few answers into just what, if anything, is cause for the recent spate of sicknesses and several deaths of Americans in the Dominican Republic, the feds should double their efforts on helping get to the bottom of things,” Schumer said in a statement to The Associated Press.

An ATF spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Francisco Javier Garcia, the tourism minister in the Dominican Republic, said earlier this month that the deaths are not part of any mysterious wave of fatalities but instead are a statistically normal phenomenon that has been lumped together by the U.S. media. He said autopsies show the tourists died of natural causes.

Five of the autopsies were complete as of last week, while three were undergoing further toxicological analysis with the help from the FBI because of the circumstances of the deaths.

 

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Israeli PM: Palestinians Are Determined to Continue Conflict

Israel’s prime minister says the Palestinians are “determined to continue the conflict at any price.”

Speaking at his weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu was referring to the Palestinian leadership’s rejection of last week’s Mideast peace conference in Bahrain aimed at providing economic assistance.

Netanyahu says while Israel welcomed the U.S.’s $50 billion Palestinian development plan, the Palestinians themselves denounced it and even arrested a Palestinian businessman who participated in it.

Netanyahu says, “This is not how those who want to promote peace act.”

Palestinian forces have since released businessman Saleh Abu Mayala.

The Palestinian Authority accuses the Trump administration of being biased toward Israel and has boycotted it since it recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017. They accuse the U.S. of trying to replace Palestinian statehood with money.

 

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Montagnards’ Deportation Sparks Fears about Safety

Cambodia’s recent deportation of four indigenous Montagnard asylum-seekers back to their home country has raised concerns about the safety of returnees and the plight of the indigenous group in Vietnam.

The Cambodian government deported the four in mid-June after one of them requested to return to Vietnam to be with his family and the others were deemed to be ineligible for asylum status.

But there is concern among rights activists that the Montagnards, a mostly Christian ethnic minority from Vietnam’s Central Highlands, could face harsh treatment upon their return. Rights activists say the mistreatment stems from the indigenous group’s historic alliance with the United States military during the Vietnam War, its fight for land rights and protest against communist rule, and its religious beliefs.

Vietnam’s government “systematically harasses and abuses the rights of those they believed to be leaders in a community or religion,” said Human Rights Watch Asia director Phil Robertson. As the areas they lived in were remote, it was difficult for independent organizations to monitor the situation, he said.

“There’s no doubt that all four will face very serious interrogation by Vietnam authorities when they return,” he said. “These Montagnards are not just at risk of persecution, they are just about certain to face persecution when they return. The only question will be how rough the Vietnam authorities get with them.”

Robertson said the harassment could take the form of restrictions of movement, potential physical abuse, interrogations, and surveillance. It is a concern shared by some refugees.

“l’m feeling very worried about facing pressure threat from the Vietnamese government,” a refugee in Cambodia, who requested anonymity due to security concerns, told VOA.  He had fled Vietnam after he was arrested for having protested religious discrimination and being persecuted on religious grounds. He said he was under constant surveillance in Vietnam before he fled the country. “When I want to go somewhere they follow me,” he said. “So l’m very afraid.”

Hundreds of Montagnards are estimated to have fled to Cambodia since 2015 for alleged religious and political persecution. Since then, some have been sent to other countries, such as the Philippines, while others were deported.

Grace Bui, executive director of Bangkok-based Montagnard Assistance Project, said that losing contact with returnees posed a real risk. “Many Montagnards were sent back from Cambodia and we haven’t heard from many of them,” she said in a message. “For example, one guy who was returned last year tried to contact the U.N. to let them know how the police abused him upon his return. The police took his phone away. Many got beaten up, some were being harassed every day and some went to prison,” she said.  

The Vietnamese government was unavailable for comment.

But Vietnam is not alone in contributing to human rights breaches, Robertson said. With the United Nations refugee organization UNHCR having found third countries that would accept the Montagnards, Cambodia would just have to issue exit permits, he said — something he said Cambodia refused to do due to pressure from Vietnam.

“UNHCR is working with the Cambodian authorities to seek solutions for them. Resettlement under the auspices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees involves the selection and transfer of refugees from a State in which they have sought protection to a third State that has agreed to admit them as refugees with permanent residence status,” said Caroline Gluck, UNHCR senior regional public information officer.

The refugee interviewed by VOA said he is worried about being deported to Vietnam soon. Yet, he hasn’t given up hope that he and the others would be allowed to move to another country after years in limbo.

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