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Pope warns oil bosses of climate threat

pope warns

The Pope has told oil company bosses that climate change threatens the future of the “human family”. The oil executives had been invited to the Vatican in Rome for an audience with the pontiff. Pope Francis said a radical energy transition is needed to save what he called “our common home”.

The head of BP agreed that the world must find urgent solutions to environmental problems – but said all must play a part. The Pope warned him and other bosses: “Civilisation requires energy, but energy use must not destroy civilisation.” The oil bosses were brought to the Vatican alongside fund managers who invest in their stocks. The companies represented were believed to include Eni, Exxon, Total, Repsol, BP, Sinopec, ConocoPhillips, Equinor, and Chevron.

A small group of demonstrators gathered outside a Vatican gate. One held a sign reading “Dear Oil CEOs – Think of Your Children”. The executives were given a dressing down by the former Irish premier Mary Robinson. She said: “We should all salute the courage the Holy Father has shown on climate change when too many secular leaders have spurned their responsibilities.” Ms Robinson asked the oil bosses: “What could be more cynical than still seeking to exploit fossil fuel reserves when the scientific evidence is abundantly clear that we need to end all combustion of fossil fuels by 2050?”

She said the energy transition would require a massive shift of capital to clean energy and warned: “If some industries fail to adjust to this new word, they will fail to exist.” In a statement, BP said its CEO Bob Dudley was “honoured to participate at the Vatican“.(BBC)…[+]

Brazil Supreme Court rules homophobia a crime

regenbouwvlag

SAO PAULO– The Brazilian Supreme Court ruled yesterday that homophobia should be criminalized under existing legislation until Congress creates a specific law for the subject, weighing in on a topic that has drawn the ire of President Jair Bolsonaro. Eight of 11 justices voted to treat homophobia in the same way as racism under Brazilian law, making it a criminal act.     “Sexual orientation and gender identity are essential to human beings, to the self-determination to decide their own life and seek happiness,” Justice Gilmar Mendes said, according to the court’s Twitter account.

During the court’s deliberations last month, as it became clear that most justices would rule in favor of criminalizing homophobia, Bolsonaro strongly criticized the court. He accused the justices of legislating from the bench and suggested it was time to appoint an evangelical Christian to the Supreme court. Evangelicals and other socially conservative Brazilians helped Bolsonaro win last year’s election as he promised to overturn years of liberal social policies, including more rights for same-sex couples.

Bolsonaro, a Catholic who was baptized by an evangelical pastor on a trip to Israel three years ago, had a history of making homophobic, racist and sexist public remarks before he took office in Jan. 1 He told one interviewer he would rather have a dead son than a gay son.(Reuters)…[+]

Trinidad mother loses second son to killers

trinidad

The moth­er of se­cu­ri­ty of­fi­cer Ri­car­do Dixon, 22, was on Thursday lost for words as she tried to come to terms with los­ing her sec­ond son in six years to vi­o­lence. Dixon left home at 5.20 am to pick up his first day of du­ties at Heller Se­cu­ri­ty Ser­vices but was shot dead mo­ments lat­er.

His moth­er, Camille Taitt, 40, was in a state of shock and dis­be­lief when she saw the body of her son, ful­ly clad in his se­cu­ri­ty uni­form, ly­ing on the road­way at Xeres Road in Carlsen Field. Dixon was shot six times but was able to tell a passer­by what hap­pened to him min­utes be­fore he suc­cumbed to his in­juries at the scene.

Po­lice found five spent .40 cal­i­bre shells on the ground near his body. Dixon was the fa­ther of a one-year-old girl. Speak­ing with the Guardian Me­dia on Thurs­day, Taitt said her son was very ex­cit­ed for his first day as a se­cu­ri­ty guard and was look­ing for­ward to tak­ing up du­ty. “I woke him up at 5 am and walked him to the road and looked at him walk­ing out for a taxi. I nev­er knew what hap­pened to him un­til I saw his body on Face­book”, she said.(Trinidad Guardian)…[+]

US watchdog calls for Trump aide Kellyanne Conway’s removal

conway

A US government oversight agency has said White House aide Kellyanne Conway should be fired for engaging in banned political activities while in office. The Office of Special Counsel said Mrs Conway violated the Hatch Act, which bans federal employees from campaigning for candidates while on the job.

The watchdog cited “numerous occasions” in which she violated the law, calling her a “repeat offender”. The White House dismissed the advice as “deeply flawed” and “unprecedented”. The allegations stem from statements Mrs Conway made on television during the 2017 Alabama special Senate election in which she advocated for and against certain individual candidates. The president, vice-president and some other high level officials are not bound by the 1939 Hatch Act. In a statement announcing the recommendation, the independent Office of Special Counsel (OSC) said that her “violations, if left unpunished, would send a message to all federal employees that they need not abide by the Hatch Act’s restrictions.

“Her actions thus erode the principal foundation of our democratic system – the rule of law.” The agency described one episode in which she appears to shrug off the Hatch Act, saying “if you’re trying to silence me through the Hatch Act, it’s not going to work,” and “let me know when the jail sentence starts”.

It is up to President Donald Trump whether or not to heed the recommendation and fire his former 2016 campaign manager. The office is run by Henry Kern, who the president nominated for the role. The White House rushed to defend Mrs Conway, calling the special counsel’s actions a violation of Mrs Conway’s rights to free speech. “Others, of all political views, have objected to the OSC’s unclear and unevenly applied rules which have a chilling effect on free speech for all federal employees,” said deputy White House press secretary Steven Groves in a statement to US media.(BBC)…[+]

U.S. House panel backs contempt citations for two Trump Cabinet members over census

us house

WASHINGTON– A U.S. House committee voted yesterday in favour of holding two of President Donald Trump’s closest advisers in contempt of Congress for defying congressional subpoenas related to an effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. Census.

By a 24-15 bipartisan vote, the House Oversight Committee recommended the full House of Representatives find Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt. For Barr, the top U.S. law enforcement official, it was the second time a House panel had made such a recommendation against him. Trump earlier in the day asserted executive privilege to keep under wraps documents related to his administration’s push to add a citizenship question to the census, defying a subpoena from the committee, chaired by Democrat Elijah Cummings.

“The president’s assertion does not change the fact that the attorney general and the secretary of commerce are sadly in contempt,” Cummings said during a nearly seven-hour meeting of the Democratic-led investigative panel. A Justice Department spokeswoman said in a statement that the committee was playing “political games” and that the agency had tried for months to accommodate the committee’s demands for documents. Ross called the vote an “empty stunt.”(Reuters)…[+]

US Coast Guard sued on behalf of Jamaican fishermen for alleged detention and abuse

us coast

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today announced that it will be suing the United States Coast Guard on behalf of four Jamaican fishermen who were held for five weeks in 2017 on suspicion of smuggling marijuana.  The Atlantic reported that according to the lawsuit filed today, the men, Robert Dexter Weir, Patrick Wayne Ferguson, Luther Fian Patterson, and David Roderick Williams went missing after setting out for sea from the village of half Moon Bay.

However, their quest for tuna and snapper was supposed to last about two days. Then they disappeared, the lawsuit said. Five weeks later the men re-emerged in Miami, covered in burns and blisters, according to ACLU. The union alleges that the US Coast Guard officers had snatched them off their boat on suspicion of marijuana smuggling, then held them at sea for more than a month, shuffling them among various vessels en route to the US to face trial. The ACLU claims that Coast Guard officers chained the fishermen up on decks exposed to the elements—even while sailing straight through Hurricane Maria—fed them little, and denied them contact with their loved ones.(Jamaica Observer) …[+]

Indian man imprisoned for life after fake plane hijack

india

An Indian businessman has been jailed for life after planting a fake hijacking letter in the toilet of a Jet Airways flight from Delhi to Mumbai. Birju Salla said he had hoped the air carrier would close its Delhi operations and his girlfriend – a Jet Airways air stewardess – would have to move to live with him in Mumbai.

He was also fined 50 million rupees ($720,725; £650,877). Salla is the first person to be tried under India’s new anti-hijacking laws. The legislation carries a minimum sentence of life imprisonment, and a death sentence at its most severe. The businessman confessed to writing and printing the threat note in his Mumbai office before catching the flight in October 2017. It said 12 hijackers and several explosives were onboard, and demanded that the flight be diverted into Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir. Salla was arrested after the plane made an emergency landing in Ahmedabad, 483 miles (778km) from its intended destination. At the time, he was having an extra-marital affair with an air stewardess from Delhi.(BBC)…[+]

Catalan leader defends push for independence on final day of trial

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The former Catalan vice-president Oriol Junqueras has used the last day of landmark proceedings against him and 11 other separatist leaders to defend the failed push for regional independence but also to plead for a political solution to the crisis. The trial, which has lasted four months and heard testimony from 422 witnesses, has examined the events leading up to the unilateral independence referendum on 1 October 2017 and the Catalan parliament’s subsequent declaration of independence.

Nine of the 12 defendants – who include Junqueras; the former speaker of the Catalan parliament Carme Forcadell; and two influential grassroots activists, Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sànchez – are accused of rebellion, which carries a prison sentence of up to 25 years. Other charges include sedition and the misuse of public funds.

Addressing the judges at the supreme court in Madrid on Wednesday afternoon, Junqueras said: “Voting, or defending the republic in parliament, cannot constitute a crime. When it comes to human rights and fundamental freedoms, having the will to talk, to negotiate, to find agreement, should never be a crime.” He said that although he understood the court had a decision to make, the Catalan question required a political, rather than judicial, answer. “I genuinely believe that the best thing for all of us – for Catalonia, for Spain, for everyone – would be to see this issue returned to the sphere of politics – good politics – an area it should never have left,” he said.(TheGuardian)…[+]

CDB calls for embracing the opportunities in agriculture to reduce poverty

cdb

PORT OF SPAIN/ BRIDGETOWN – The Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) presented yesterday a study on the status of agriculture in the Caribbean as part of the 49th Annual Meeting of the Bank’s Board of Governors in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The study highlights the critical role that agriculture plays to end poverty and build economic resilience.

“Growth in agriculture is the most efficient way to lift poor people in rural areas out of poverty,” said Luther St. Ville, CDB Senior Operations Officer (Operations). In the joint publication with the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, entitled “Study on the State of Agriculture in the Caribbean”, CDB shows that the Region has undergone dramatic changes in past decades. Since 2000, the food import bill of CDB’s Borrowing Member Countries (BMCs) has more than doubled from USD2.1 billion to USD4.8 billion. Food imports account for 60% of the food consumed in the Region. On the other hand, food exports of traditional crops dropped from 60% in 1990 to less than 20% in 2018. At the same time, agri-processed food exports increased from about 10-15% to 50%.

The picture is mixed across the Region. While the four BMCs Dominica, Guyana, Haiti, and Suriname are heavily dependent on agriculture, which accounts for 12%-17% of gross domestic product (GDP) and represents 10%-50% of employment, the contribution of agriculture is marginal in 10 BMCs, where the sector accounts for less than 4% of GDP. The study concludes that the agriculture sector needs to overcome a number of challenges if the agri-food system is to become more competitive, inclusive, and sustainable.

Productivity growth in the Caribbean is low. The value per worker has remained stable at less than USD25,000 for the last 30 years. In contrast, the value doubled in Europe and tripled in the United States over the same time period. Natural hazards also play a major role: while 40% of the sector is frequently hit by mild draughts and 10% by severe draughts, less than 5% of the farmers have irrigation…[+]

 

Regional workshop addresses planning for resilience in the Caribbean

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Housing, infrastructure and development planning experts from across the Caribbean have come together to promote a coherent approach to resilience building, considering the specific context of informal settlements in the subregion.

The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) subregional headquarters for the Caribbean, together with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN Habitat), organized the policy dialogue workshop focusing on the implementation of SDG 11 in the Caribbean, “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”, on 11 June 2019.

With over 70 per cent of its populations living in urban areas, the Caribbean population is today increasingly urban. As this population continues to grow, the majority come under a diversity of economic, social, cultural and environmental constraints heightened by climate change impacts. In many Caribbean countries, urban growth has frequently been characterised by the informal nature of human settlements, a demonstration of the inability of urban policies to face urbanization demands. This recent urbanization process has been associated with greater poverty, expansion of informal settlements and inadequate housing, collaborating to widen the urban divide.

Held at the Trinidad Hilton and Conference Centre, the joint ECLAC – UN-Habitat policy dialogue workshop was the key milestone for countries to agree on the priorities and major issues facing local and central governments in the Caribbean relating to resilience and the upgrading of informal settlements within the context of SDG 11…[+]