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Billions Still Exposed To Toxic Trans Fat – WHO.

Efforts to eliminate industrially-produced fat have a long way to go with five billion people exposed to toxic fat added to many food products, the UN health agency said Monday.

The World Health Organization called in 2018 for harmful trans fatty acids to be wiped out by 2023.

They are thought to be responsible for around 500,000 premature deaths from coronary heart disease each year.

Although 43 countries with combined populations of 2.8 billion people have now implemented best-practice policies, most of the world remains unprotected, it said.

WHO acknowledged in an annual progress report that the goal was still out of sight.

READ ALSO: UK Ambulance Workers Strike Again As Unions Call For Talks

Industrially-produced trans fat is often used in packaged foods, baked goods, cooking oils and spreads.

“Trans fat has no known benefit, and huge health risks that incur huge costs for health systems,” WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

“By contrast, eliminating trans fat is cost effective and has enormous benefits for health,” he said.

“Put simply, trans fat is a toxic chemical that kills, and should have no place in food. It’s time to get rid of it once and for all.”

The WHO said that nine of the 16 countries with the highest estimated proportion of coronary heart disease deaths caused by trans fat intake were not implementing best-practice policies.

They include Australia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Ecuador, Egypt, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan and South Korea.

Francesco Branca, the WHO’s nutrition and food safety director, told reporters that trans fat elimination policies were in place in 60 countries, covering 3.4 billion people or 43 percent of the world’s population.

Of those countries, 43 are implementing best practice standards.

Best practice means either a mandatory national limit of two grammes of industrially-produced trans fat per 100 grammes of total fat in all foods; or a national ban on the production or use of partially-hydrogenated oils, which are a major source of trans fat.

“WHO and partners call on countries with a high burden such as Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and South Korea to take urgent action,” he said.

“There are some regions of the world which do not believe the problem is there,” he said, insisting that it is “easy for them to take action to prevent these products being dumped onto them.”

Tom Frieden, president of the non-profit organisation Resolve to Save Lives, which partnered with the WHO to produce the report, agreed.

“There’s simply no excuse for any country not taking action to protect their people from this artificial toxic chemical,” said Frieden, a former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


‘Majority’ of EU want tests on passengers from China.


An “overwhelming majority” of the EU’s 27 member countries want passengers coming from China to be systematically tested for Covid before departure, the European Commission said on Tuesday.

The consensus recommendation emerged from a meeting of EU health ministry officials held Tuesday in Brussels. (Watch Video Here)

A crisis meeting to be held Wednesday on the issue will decide what coordinated measures will be applied across the bloc.

The gatherings were called in the wake of China deciding to lift its “zero Covid” policy, which has sparked massive demand for flights to other parts of the world by Chinese citizens and residents who had been grounded for nearly three years.

READ ALSO: Omicron: Travel Restrictions Had No Public Health Benefit, Disrupted Businesses – NCDC DG

The European Union fears a sudden influx of passengers from China could bring Covid variants that may be able to evade current vaccines. (Watch Video Here)

There are also concerns that China’s data on infections is incomplete, partial and insufficient.

“The overwhelming majority of countries are in favour of pre-departure testing,” a commission spokesman said after Tuesday’s meeting.

EU health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said the officials also agreed to recommend stepped-up monitoring of wastewater from flights and at airports to detect traces of Covid, and for member states to boost surveillance.

She emphasised the need for EU “unity” at the meeting to take place on Wednesday. (Watch Video Here)

Several EU countries including France, Spain and Italy have already imposed testing requirements on arrivals from China pending a bloc-wide approach.

Beijing has reacted angrily to the increased restrictions, which are also being applied by the United States, Japan and Australia.

China has only recorded 22 Covid deaths since December and has dramatically narrowed the criteria for classifying such deaths — meaning that Beijing’s own statistics about the unprecedented wave are now widely seen as not reflecting reality. (Watch Video Here)

Data compiled by the World Health Organization, upon which the EU relies, shows no fresh Covid figures from China for over a week.

Earlier Tuesday, the commission said an “offer stands” for the EU to provide Covid vaccines and expertise to China.

A spokesman said Kyriakides had repeated the vaccine offer recently and that any supply of them was dependent on Beijing’s reaction.

Many EU countries have a surplus of mRNA vaccines — especially the one made by BioNTech/Pfizer — that scientific studies have shown to be more effective against severe Covid than the inactivated-virus ones China has developed and uses. (Watch Video Here)




Football legend, Pele dies at 82 after battling colon cancer.


Brazil football legend Pele has died at the age of 82.

He had been battling colon cancer and spent Christmas in hospital, receiving treatment for cardiac and renal dysfunction, before his death was confirmed on December 29. (Watch How He Died Here)

Pele’s daughter Kely Nascimento confirmed the news on Instagram, in a post that said: “Everything we are is thanks to you. We love you infinitely. Rest in peace.”

Widely considered one of the greatest players of all time, Pele is the only man to have won the World Cup on three occasions, as he helped Brazil to success at the 1958, 1962 and 1970 tournaments, also winning the Golden Ball for best player at the latter. (Watch How He Died Here)

At the first of those, the then-17-year-old became the youngest player to appear at a men’s World Cup although his record was subsequently broken by Northern Ireland’s Norman Whiteside.

Pele death: Brazil football legend and winner of three World Cups has died at the age of 82 – latest
Pele: Brazil’s complete footballer who transcended the beautiful game
During a 21-year playing career, he is said to have scored 1,283 goals in 1,363 senior matches for clubs and country, although that number is disputed given it included unofficial friendlies and tour matches. (Watch How He Died Here)

What is indisputable however is that he led his only major Brazilian club, Santos, to six Campeonato Brasileiro Série A titles, two Copa Libertadores crowns, two Intercontinental Cups and one Intercontinental Supercup. He then moved to the USA to play (Watch How He Died Here) for New York Cosmos and helped them win the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 1977, while being named in the NASL all-star team on three occasions during his stay.

Pele battled ill health in recent times – he had a tumour removed from his colon in September 2021 and had since been in and out of hospital for treatment on a regular basis as he continued to fight cancer.

It emerged on 30 November that he had been admitted to the Albert Einstein Hospital with “general swelling” and was undergoing several tests for a more in-depth assessment of his health issues. (Watch How He Died Here)

ESPN Brasil reported that the 82-year-old was having cardiac issues and his medical staff were concerned that his chemotherapy treatment was not having the expected results.

A medical report released on 21 December said Pele’s cancer had worsened. His daughter confirmed the family would spend Christmas in hospital with Pele after it emerged he required treatment for heart and kidney trouble.

Former England striker Gary Lineker tweeted his condolences, saying: “Pele has died. The most divine of footballers and joyous of men. (Watch How He Died Here) He played a game only a few chosen ones have come close to. 3 times he lifted the most coveted gold trophy in that beautiful yellow shirt. He may have left us but he’ll always have footballing immortality. RIP Pele.”

Another ex-Three Lions striker, Geoff Hurst – who scored a hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup final – also paid tribute. He wrote: “I have so many memories of Pele, without doubt the best footballer I ever played against (with Bobby Moore being the best footballer I ever played alongside).

Erik ten Hag confident Man United don’t need attacking reinforcement in January: ‘We have numbers’
Brazil football legend and winner of three World Cups has died at the age of 82
Pele’s family gathers at hospital to spend Christmas with Brazil great
“For me Pele remains the greatest of all time and I was proud to be on the pitch with him. RIP Pele and thank you. (Watch How He Died Here)




‘Travel insanity’: Winter storm leaves US passengers helpless, 3,800 flights canceled


Weather-related flight cancellations and delays that muddled the United States commercial air traffic over the holiday weekend dragged on through Monday, with Southwest Airlines accounting for the bulk of the lingering disruptions a day after Christmas.

More than 3,800 U.S. airline flights were canceled on Monday, including 2,800 operated by Southwest, or nearly 70% of the carrier’s total scheduled for the day, according to the flight tracking service FlightAware. (Watch Video Here)

Delays were reported for more than 7,100 U.S. flight departures and arrivals overall, with several hundred by Southwest.

“Challenges are impacting our customers and employees in a significant way that is unacceptable,” Southwest said in a statement, citing “consecutive days of extreme winter weather.”

The Dallas-based airline, one of the world’s largest low-cost carriers, said it anticipated the disruptions would continue in the days heading into the New Year holiday travel period at the end of this week.

The U.S. Transportation Department said late on Monday it would examine a large number of Southwest Airlines canceled and delayed flights in recent days to determine if they were in the airline’s control, calling them “unacceptable.” (Watch Video Here)

Commercial airline traffic has been upended since last week as an Arctic blast coupled with a massive winter storm dubbed Elliott took shape over the Midwest and swept over much of the U.S. in the lead-up to the Christmas holiday weekend.

The resulting surge in cancellations and delays, coupled with long lines and missing luggage at airports, spoiled wintertime vacation plans for countless U.S. airline customers during one of the busiest travel periods of the year.

Kyle Goeke, 29, said he would be stuck in Seattle for days after Alaska Airlines canceled his flight, scheduled for early Monday, from Seattle to Missoula, Montana. (Watch Video Here)

He had already traveled from Washington, D.C., to Seattle late on Sunday and said he hadn’t slept at all overnight, forced instead to make lodging arrangements in Seattle.

“Luckily, I have a friend here in this city to help me out; many others are just left by themselves,” he told Reuters.

Many would-be passengers took to social media to express frustration and to get a response from airlines.

David Sharp said on Twitter that his Southwest Airlines flight from Denver to St. Louis was canceled, and the next flight was unavailable for another two days. He said he would rent a car and drive to his destination. (Watch Video Here)

Southwest Airlines said on Monday it was facing many travel inquiries from customers and was doing its best to get its network back to normal.

Voice actress Grey DeLisle tweeted to Southwest Airlines: “Flight 1824 from Nashville to Burbank has been canceled due to Elliot and we haven’t received any rebooking! The kids’ daddy has already missed Christmas, and his luggage is lost with medication! The Customer Service line is busy. Help!”

“My brother’s Southwest Airlines flight out of Philly back to El Paso was canceled today and the best they could do was out of Baltimore on Tuesday morning! Nothing anyone could do but so much travel insanity,” wrote another Twitter user named Alex Gervasi.

Local media reported that some luggage was left unclaimed at William P. Hobby Airport in Houston for two days, while many passengers were unable to locate their bags. (Watch Video Here)

Madeline Howard said on Twitter Southwest told her that her luggage was flying to a different airport despite her flight having been canceled.




WHO Chief ‘Very Concerned’ About COVID Situation In China


The head of the World Health Organization on Wednesday said he was “very concerned” about an unprecedented wave of Covid cases in China, as the health body urged Beijing to accelerate vaccination of the most vulnerable.

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“WHO is very concerned over the evolving situation in China, with increasing reports of severe disease” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a weekly news conference, appealing for detailed information on disease severity, hospital admissions and intensive care requirements.

“WHO is supporting China to focus its efforts on vaccinating people at the highest risk across the country, and we continue to offer our support for clinical care and protecting its health system”, he added.

READ ALSO: Gambian Government Says Has Foiled Coup Attempt

Since 2020, China has imposed strict health restrictions as part of a so-called “zero Covid” policy.

But the government ended most of those measures without notice in early December amid growing public exasperation and a significant impact on the economy.

The number of cases has since soared, raising fears of a high mortality rate among the elderly, who are particularly vulnerable.




Chinese authorities said on Tuesday that only those who had directly died of respiratory failure caused by the virus would now be counted under Covid death statistics.

The change in the criteria for recording virus deaths means most are no longer counted, and China said on Wednesday that not a single person had died of Covid-19 the previous day.

WHO emergencies chief Michael Ryan stressed the need for more vaccinations: “We’ve been saying this for weeks that this highly infectious virus was always going to be very hard to stop completely, with just public health and social measures”.

“And most countries have really transitioned to a mixed strategy”.

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“Vaccination is the exit strategy in that sense from the impact of a wave of Omicron”, the prevalent Covid variant


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UN chief calls climate summit in 2023.


Given the threatening climatic changes, U.N. Chief Antonio Guterres on Monday said to convene a “no-nonsense” climate ambition summit in September next year. He urged leaders from government, business, civil society and finance to step up with “new, tangible and credible” action.

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Guterres also said he “will not relent in persuading peace in Ukraine in line with international law and the United Nations Charter.” A key principle of the founding U.N. Charter is respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Speaking at his year-end news conference, Guterres said he is “not optimistic” about the possibility of effective Ukraine peace talks in the immediate future and believes the military confrontation will go on, but added that he “strongly hopes” peace can be reached in Ukraine in 2023.

He also said he will keep pushing for a climate solidarity pact that would require big emitters to reduce emissions this decade and ensure support for those who need it.




Countries are under pressure to ensure emissions are cut in half by 2030 and down to net zero by 2050 – the only path to hold global warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“I will convene a climate ambition summit in September 2023. I call on every leader to step up,” he said.

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“The invitation is open. But the price of entry is non-negotiable U.N. chief calls ‘no-nonsense’ climate summit in 2023 U.N. chief calls ‘no-nonsense’ climate summit in 2023 – credible, serious and new climate action and nature-based solutions that will move the needle forward and respond to the urgency of the climate crisis. It will be a no-nonsense summit,” Guterres said.


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COP27: Inflation, energy security frustrate commitments to climate change.


As global leaders commence discussions on climate change-related issues at this year’s Conference of the Parties (COP27) in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, African leaders and stakeholders are championing a cause for the continuous exploration of fossil fuels to enable countries like Nigeria to finance development projects.

Unlike COP26, where global leaders were mostly unanimous in their decision on carbon emission goals, the fallout from the conflict in Ukraine has tilted the precarious balance of the energy ‘trilemma’ — sustainability, affordability and security, towards the latter.

For many countries globally, tackling inflation remains the greatest concern, considering that high energy prices form a major trigger of spiking prices, leaving many leaders restless. The main sources of global energy are still fossil fuels: oil, natural gas and coal.

With Europe scrambling to line up enough oil, gas and coal for the winter while looking to Africa for supplies, the argument for African stakeholders remains the justification for the continent not to give up its fossil fuels, even when such fuels represent solutions to some of its most pressing needs and even that of Europe.

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Indeed, stakeholders are insisting that Africa will not embrace the world’s timetable for transitioning to renewable fuels at the expense of the continent’s own energy security and economic well-being.

Already, United Nations Climate Change Executive Secretary, Simon Stiell, has said the global body will be holding world leaders and people to account, to make their policies align with the objectives of the Paris Agreement and the Convention.

The UNFCCC official disclosed this while delivering his remarks at the opening plenary of COP 27 in Egypt, yesterday.

Stiell said: “We will be holding people to account, be they presidents, prime ministers or CEOs; accountability is chief to make our policies work, our businesses and actions, either personal or the public must be aligned with the Paris agreements and with the Convention.”

He emphasised that the heart of the implementation of climate pledges lies with everybody everywhere in the world, doing everything they possibly can to address the climate crisis.

“With the Paris Rulebook essentially concluded, thanks to COP26 in Glasgow last year, the litmus test of this and every future COP is how far deliberations are accompanied by action. Everybody, every single day, everywhere in the world, needs to do everything they possibly can to avert the climate crisis,” Stiell said.

He added: “COP27 sets out the direction for a new era of implementation: where outcomes from the formal and informal process truly begin to come together to drive greater climate progress — and accountability for that progress.”

Stiell asked governments to focus on three critical areas at COP27. He explained that the first is a transformational shift to the implementation of the Paris Agreement and putting negotiations into concrete actions.

“The second is cementing progress on the critical workstreams of mitigation, adaptation, finance and loss and damage while stepping up finance notably to tackle the impacts of climate change.”

Stiell said the third focus of governments across the world is to enhance the delivery of the principles of transparency and accountability throughout the UN Climate Change process.

On his part, the Egyptian COP27 President, who doubles as the country’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, said the presidency intends to focus the world’s attention on key elements that address the most fundamental needs of people everywhere, including water security, food security, health and energy security.

He said: “We’re gathering this year at a time when global climate action is at a watershed moment. Multilateralism is being challenged by geopolitics, spiralling prices, and growing financial crises, while several countries battered by the pandemic have barely recovered, and severe and depleting climate change-induced disasters are becoming more frequent.”

The Egyptian minister asserted that the host country made sure that COP27 would provide the optimum setting to align and converge multiple views, as well as facilitate transparent, inclusive and fruitful discussion, to ensure the most positive outcome achievable.

He acknowledged the challenging economic and geopolitical factors, but noted, however, that external circumstances should not be allowed to negatively affect the negotiating process.

The President added that as a COP hosted in Africa, it must consider the needs of the developing countries and ensure climate justice by availing the appropriate finance and other means of implementation. This, he said, was necessary as African countries were the most affected by climate change.

COP27 is also holding against the backdrop of inadequate ambition to curb greenhouse gas emissions. According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), CO2 emissions need to be cut 45 per cent by 2030, compared to 2010 levels to meet the central Paris Agreement goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. This is crucial to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, including more frequent and severe droughts, heatwaves and rainfall.

Essentially, in COP26, countries agreed to deliver stronger commitments this year, including updated national plans with more ambitious targets. However, only 29 out of the 193 countries have submitted their plans against a backdrop of extreme weather events worldwide, an energy crisis propelled by the war in Ukraine and scientific data released by UN agencies that shows emissions are still growing at a record pace, as well as temperatures are on course to rise to dangerous levels by the end of the century.

For instance, the African Energy Chamber (AEC) warned African leaders to push for the continuous exploration of crude oil instead of joining the West on the need to ban fossil fuels.

Chairman of AEC, N.J. Ayuk, said Africa must oppose measures that prevent Africa from making full use of its fossil fuels.

“The world’s wealthy nations’ green agenda ignores Africa – or at least, it dismisses our unique needs, priorities and challenges.

“The green agenda of wealthy nations ignores those of us who point out that natural gas has the potential to bring life-changing prosperity to the continent in the form of jobs, business opportunities, capacity building and monetisation.

“It ignores the sustainable, logical path we’re proposing, which is using our resources, natural gas in particular, to help us meet current needs and to generate revenue that can help pay for our transition to renewables.

“The wealthy nations’ green agenda does not consider how much Africa needs natural gas to bring electricity to the growing number of Africans living without it. They do not understand that we, as Africans, are focused on growing Africa’s energy mix to include fossil fuels and renewables, instead of insisting on an all-or-nothing approach to our energy transition,” he said.

Chief Operating Officer of Aiteo Eastern E&P Co. Ltd, Ewariezi Use, in a chat with The Guardian, in Abuja, said Nigeria and other African countries must intensify efforts in harnessing their hydrocarbon resources.

“Renewable is good but let’s take it to step by step. We need to enjoy the benefits of our hydrocarbons. We will get there. I believe in going green but at what cost to us as a country? We need development, we need infrastructure and the oil sector as one of the major ways we can earn money,” Use said.

He noted that the country must harness its oil reserves and focus on building capacity that would gradually translate into a greener economy.

Speaking shortly after being conferred a fellow of the Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE), Use said the rate at which international oil companies are leaving Nigeria should not create concerns, as ingenious companies as well as Nigerian experts are capable of achieving projected goals in the nation’s oil and gas sector.

He disclosed that the local content laws in the oil sector as well as the Petroleum Industry Act are game changers, which have enabled Nigeria to have a human capacity footprint in all oil-producing countries in the world.

Use, who noted that he has been committed to serving across the different segments of the oil sector, noted that his company believes in the Nigerian dream and the capacity the country has to independently handle its oil sector.

According to him, most of his contemporaries operating, who were trained in Nigeria now operate across different continents even as over 99 per cent of the engineers operating under him are Nigerians.

Useh noted that meeting 70 per cent local content in the oil and gas sector as set by the Federal Government remained a realistic goal.

He disclosed that most of the assets taken over by indigenous companies and operated by Nigerian engineers are performing far better than they were acquired.

UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, warned in a message at the launch of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), titled ‘Provisional State of the Global Climate Report 2022’ at the weekend that: “The last eight years have been the warmest on record, making every heatwave more intense and life-threatening, especially for vulnerable populations. Sea levels are rising at twice the speed of the 1990s – posing an existential threat to low-lying island states and threatening billions of people in coastal regions.

“People and communities everywhere must be protected from the immediate and ever-growing risks of the climate emergency. That is why we are pushing so hard for universal early warning systems within five years. We must answer the planet’s distress signal with action — ambitious, credible climate action,” Guterres said.

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Another report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, said: “Nations must dramatically increase funding and implementation of actions designed to help vulnerable nations and communities adapt to the climate storm.”

The Adaptation Gap Report 2022: Too, Too slow- Climate adaptation failures puts the world at risk, finds that global efforts in adaptation planning, financing and implementation are not keeping pace with the growing risks.

“Adaptation needs in the developing world are set to skyrocket to as much as $340 billion a year by 2030. Yet adaptation support today stands at less than one-tenth of that amount. The most vulnerable people and communities are paying the price. This is unacceptable,” UN Secretary-General said in a statement on the release of the report.

Programme Manager at Power Shift Africa and Lead Negotiator, Fatuma Hussein, said the common draft position, which focuses on the importance of implementation at COP27, called for the delivery and implementation of pledges and initiatives on finance and adaptation, mitigation, technology and capacity building.

Specifically, the Chair of the AGN, Ephraim Shitima, said: “COP27 should be about implementation, delivering on financial pledges and commitments by developed countries and the advancing of the implementation of nationally determined contributions.”

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World’s Longest Passenger Train Winds Through Swiss Alps.


The world’s longest passenger train — an assembly of 100 connected coaches measuring nearly two kilometres — wound through breath-taking scenery in the Swiss Alps Saturday.

The Rhaetian Railway (RhB) announced that it had beat the world record for the longest passenger train, at an event marking the 175th anniversary of Switzerland’s famous railway system.

The 1,910-metre (6,266-foot) train, composed of 25 separable multiple-unit trains, or 100 coaches, travelled through the Alps in the eastern Swiss canton of Graubunden.

“For me, this is just Swiss perfection,” RhB chief Renato Fasciati told the Blick daily’s live feed of the event, as the long, red train snaked slowly through the mountainous landscape.

While there are freight trains that are longer, with some measuring over three kilometres, Saturday’s event featured by far the longest passenger train ever run.


It was several hundred metres longer than a train that held the unofficial previous record, in Belgium in the 1990s, an RhB spokesman told AFP.

With dazzling sunshine reflecting off its shiny, silver roof and with a digital destination sign on the front reading “Alpine Cruise”, the train carried 150 passengers.

World heritage
It took the spectacular, spiralling Albula/Bernina route, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, covering the nearly 25 kilometres from Preda to Alvaneu in less than 45 minutes.

Some 3,000 people who had snapped up coveted tickets, watched the trip on a giant screen set up near Bergun, at the halfway-point in the historic journey.

Others lined the mountain roads and paths, cheering as the giant train slowly snaked between autumn-coloured trees.

It wound through 22 helical tunnels and crossing 48 bridges along the way, including the majestic Landwasser Viaduct, towering 65 metres over the ravine below.

Swiss media broadcast aerial footage showing the train at several levels simultaneously, with its snout exiting one tunnel as carriages further back were sliding through others.

The road up to the various look-out points was closed off to traffic, but many hiked or biked up the mountainside seeking out the best view.

And as the train made its way down one mountainside, a flock of people on bikes tried to follow alongside it on a parallel path.

Holding up the Guinness World Record diploma, Fasciati told reporters that there had been significant challenges to ensure such a long train could travel safely.

The seven train drivers and 21 technicians onboard had to make sure “that all 25 trains do the same, accelerating and breaking” at the same time, and were all “guided by the first… driver,” he said.

Few countries have a rail network as dense as Switzerland, which is famous for its punctual trains.

The wealthy Alpine country saw the departure of its first train service on August 9, 1847, linking Zurich with Baden, 23 kilometres to the northwest — a trip which took 33 minutes.


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IAEA: World, in it’s first global energy crisis.


Tightening markets for liquefied natural gas (LNG) worldwide and major oil producers cutting supply have put the world in the middle of “the first truly global energy crisis,” the head of the International Energy Agency (IEA) said on Tuesday.

Rising imports of LNG to Europe amid the Ukraine crisis and a potential rebound in Chinese appetite for the fuel will tighten the market as only 20 billion cubic meters (bcm) of new LNG capacity will come to market next year, IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said during the Singapore International Energy Week.

At the same time the recent decision by the OPEC and its allies, known as OPEC+, to cut 2 million barrels per day (bpd) of output is a “risky” decision as the IEA sees global oil demand growth of close to 2 million bpd this year, Birol said.

“(It is) especially risky as several economies around the world are on the brink of a recession, if that we are talking about the global recession … I found this decision really unfortunate,” he said.

Soaring global prices across a number of energy sources, including oil, natural gas and coal, are hammering consumers at the same time they are already dealing with rising food and services inflation. The high prices and possibility of rationing are potentially hazardous to European consumers as they prepare to enter the Northern Hemisphere winter.

Europe may make it through this winter, though somewhat battered, if the weather remains mild, Birol said.

“Unless we will have an extremely cold and long winter, unless there will be any surprises in terms of what we have seen, for example NordStream pipeline explosion, Europe should go through this winter with some economic and social bruises,” he added.

For oil, consumption is expected to grow by 1.7 million bpd in 2023 so the world will still need Russian oil to meet demand, Birol said.


G-7 nations have proposed a mechanism that would allow emerging nations to buy Russian oil but at lower prices to cap Moscow’s revenues in the wake of the Ukraine war.

Birol said the scheme still has many details to iron out and will require the buy-in of major oil importing nations.

A U.S. Treasury official told Reuters last week that it is not unreasonable to believe that up to 80% to 90% of Russian oil will continue to flow outside the price cap mechanism if Moscow seeks to flout it.

“I think this is good because the world still needs Russian oil to flow into the market for now. An 80%-90% is good and encouraging level in order to meet the demand,” Birol said.

While there is still a huge volume of strategic oil reserves that can be tapped during a supply disruption, another release is not currently on the agenda, he added.

Renewables growth
The energy crisis could be a turning point for accelerating clean sources and for forming a sustainable and secured energy system, Birol said.

“Energy security is the number one driver (of the energy transition),” said Birol, as countries see energy technologies and renewables as a solution.

The IEA has revised up the forecast of renewable power capacity growth in 2022 to a 20% year-on-year increase from 8% previously, with close to 400 gigawatts of renewable capacity being added this year.

Many countries in Europe and elsewhere are accelerating the installation of renewable capacity by cutting the permitting and licensing processes to replace the Russian gas, Birol said.

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UniBen ranked sixth best in global universities ranking.


The University of Benin (UniBen), Edo, Nigeria has been ranked 6th by the Times Higher Education (THE) in its latest World Universities rankings for Nigeria.

In the rating made available to Newmen on Monday in Benin by the university’s Public Relations Unit, the performance indicators were centred on the four areas of teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.

The rankings were also based on the analyses of over 15 million research publications and survey responses from approximately 40,000 scholars worldwide.

Reacting to the ranking, Dr Benedicta Ehanire, the Public Relations Officer of the institution, said: “This information has been well received by the University of Benin community as it serves as a confidence booster.

‘’The university is at the conclusion stage of securing international accreditation by the Quality Assurance Agency, United Kingdom.

“It is expected that the University of Benin will be the first to be so recognised among Nigerian universities.”

Ehanire added that with these developments, the institution was now positioned to significantly improve in its ranking in the next exercise.




World Bank okays $512M for Türkiye housing, infrastructure.


The World Bank approved $512.2 million in financing for Türkiye to expand access to housing and infrastructure that is resilient to climate and natural hazards, it announced on Wednesday.

In a statement, the World Bank said $338.5 million of the financing will be used for developing new, affordable financing mechanisms to enable households to retrofit or reconstruct their housing to increase resilience to seismic and climate hazards.

The remaining $173.6 million will be used by Iller Bankası to provide financing to municipalities to build more resilient infrastructure.

The project will focus on urban areas in the provinces of Istanbul, Izmir, Kahramanmaraş, Manisa and Tekirdağ, the bank said, adding that an estimated 1 million people will benefit from upgraded infrastructure and 32,000 people will benefit from loans to reconstruct or retrofit their risky housing units.

These provinces are highly vulnerable to seismic and climate hazards and include Türkiye’s largest urban areas where 76% of the country’s 85 million people live and where much of the country’s economic activity is concentrated.

“Türkiye is singularly vulnerable to both natural and climate-related hazards, which exact a heavy toll on people and the country’s economy. With this project, the World Bank is pleased to make an important contribution to safeguard Türkiye’s development progress and underpin its transition to a resilient and climate-proof future,” said Carolina Sanchez-Paramo, the World Bank’s acting country director for Türkiye.

Sitting on multiple active fault lines, Türkiye is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. Earthquakes have caused the greatest human and economic losses in the last 20 years, largely due to damage and collapse of buildings.

Meanwhile, extreme weather events and flooding have increased in frequency and intensity. Last year alone, floods resulted in at least 81 deaths, about 2,500 evacuees and significant damage to more than 450 buildings.

An estimated 6.7 million residential buildings across the country require seismic retrofitting or reconstruction. These structures were built prior to the introduction, in 2000, of modern construction codes for seismic resistance. Most fatalities from earthquakes are attributed to the structural failure of these older residential buildings.

Climate-proofing housing and infrastructure is also critical for Türkiye to sustain its economic growth while meeting its commitments to climate change and environmental sustainability. The building sector in Türkiye accounts for about 12% of the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“Urban transformation against seismic and climate hazards will require significant investments at all levels of government and in the private sector, including households. This project addresses the key challenges of greater affordability of retrofitting or demolishing and reconstructing risk-prone housing and leveraging available resources and mobilizing finance for municipalities to increase investments in resilient infrastructure,” said Zoe Trohanis, one of the World Bank’s project team leaders




Five people die after whale strike causes boat to flip in New Zealand.


Five people were found dead after a small charter boat collided with a whale while the other six people aboard the boat were rescued.

Police said the 8.5-meter (28-foot) boat overturned near the South Island town of Kaikoura. Police said they were continuing to investigate the cause of the accident. Kaikoura Police Sergeant Matt Boyce described it as a devastating and unprecedented event.

“Our thoughts are with everyone involved, including the victims and their families, their local communities, and emergency services personnel,” Boyce said. He said police divers had recovered the bodies of all those who had died. He said all six survivors were assessed to be in stable condition at a local health center, with one transferred to a hospital in the city of Christchurch as a precaution.

Kaikoura Mayor Craig Mackle told The Associated Press (AP) that the water was dead calm at the time of the accident and the assumption was that a whale had surfaced from beneath the boat. He said there were some sperm whales in the area and also some humpback whales traveling through.

He said locals had helped with the rescue efforts throughout the day but the mood in the town was “somber” because the water was so cold and they feared for the outcome of anybody who had fallen overboard. Mackle said he’d thought in the past about the possibility of a boat and whale colliding, given the number of whales that frequent the region.

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“It always plays on your mind that it could happen,” he said, adding that he hadn’t heard about any previous such accidents. Mackle said the boat was a charter vessel typically used for fishing excursions. News agency Stuff reported the passengers belonged to a bird enthusiasts’ group. Police said they were still notifying the relatives of those who died, and couldn’t yet publicly name the victims.

Vanessa Chapman told Stuff she and a group of friends had watched the rescue efforts unfold from Goose Bay, near Kaikōura. She said that when she arrived at a lookout spot, she could see a person sitting atop an overturned boat waving their arms.

She said two rescue helicopters and a third local helicopter were circling before two divers jumped out. She told Stuff that the person atop the boat was rescued and a second person appeared to have been pulled from the water.

Kaikoura is a popular whale-watching destination. The seafloor drops away precipitously from the coast, making for deep waters close to the shore. Several businesses offer boat trips or helicopter rides so tourists can see whales, dolphins, and other sea creatures up close.

Compliance agency Maritime New Zealand said it sent two investigators to the scene and would be conducting a thorough investigation once recovery operations had concluded.

Principal Investigator Tracy Phillips said the agency “offers its heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones of the people who have died.”




Royal ceremony officially proclaims Charles as king.


King Charles III was formally proclaimed as Britain’s monarch Saturday in a ceremony that followed the ancient tradition and broadcast live.

Charles automatically became king when his mother, Queen Elizabeth II, died on Thursday, but the accession ceremony is a key constitutional and ceremonial step in introducing the new monarch to the country.

Scores of senior politicians past and present, including Prime Minister Liz Truss and five of her predecessors, gathered in the ornate state apartments at St. James’s Palace for the meeting of the Accession Council.

They met without Charles, officially confirming his title, King Charles III. The king joined them to make a personal declaration, vowing to follow his mother’s “inspiring example” as he took on the duties of monarch.

“I am deeply aware of this great inheritance and of the duties and heavy responsibilities of sovereignty which have now passed to me,” he said.

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Speaking of his personal grief, he said, “I know how deeply you and the entire nation, and I think I may say the whole world, sympathize with me in this irreparable loss we have all suffered.”

The new king formally approved a series of orders – including one declaring the day of his mother’s funeral a public holiday. The date of the state funeral has not been announced, but it is expected to be around Sept. 19.

This is the first time the accession ceremony has been held since 1952, when Queen Elizabeth II took the throne.

Charles was accompanied at the ceremony by his wife Camilla, the Queen Consort, and his eldest son Prince William. William is now heir to the throne and known by the title Charles long held, Prince of Wales.

After the ceremony, an official will read the proclamation aloud from a balcony at St. James’s Palace. It will also be read out in the medieval City of London and at other locations across the U.K.

Two days after the 96-year-old queen died at Balmoral Castle in Scotland following an unprecedented 70 years on the throne, people still came in their thousands to pay their respects outside Buckingham Palace in London. The scene was repeated at other royal residences across the U.K. and at British embassies around the world.

The monarch set the tone for his reign on Friday, vowing in a televised address to carry on the queen’s “lifelong service,” with his own modernizing stamp.

Charles looked to both the past – noting his mother’s unwavering “dedication and devotion as sovereign” – and the future, seeking to strike a reassuring note of constancy while signaling that his will be a 21st-century monarchy.

He reflected on how the country had changed dramatically during the queen’s reign into a society “of many cultures and many faiths,” and pledged to serve people in Britain and the 14 other countries where he is king “whatever may be your background or beliefs.”

He also tried to overcome a reputation for aloofness in his first hours as monarch, spending time shaking hands with some of the thousands who came to leave flowers and pay tribute to the queen at the gates of Buckingham Palace. He was greeted with shouts of “Well done, Charlie!” and “God save the king!” One woman gave him a kiss on the cheek.

Britain is holding a period of mourning for the queen, with days of carefully choreographed ceremonies marking the death of the only monarch most people have ever known.

In the next few days the queen’s body will be brought from Balmoral, first to Edinburgh and then to London, where she will lie in state before a funeral at Westminster Abbey, expected around Sept. 19.

In his speech, Charles struck a personal note, speaking of his sorrow at the loss of “my darling Mama.”

“Thank you for your love and devotion to our family and to the family of nations you have served so diligently all these years,” he said, ending with a quote from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” – “May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.'”




Summer in full swing as Turkish Black Sea gem packed with Gulf tourists.


Accommodation facilities and resorts on Türkiye’s Black Sea coast are swarmed with tourists from the Gulf nations, in a bounce-back that is recalling pre-pandemic days, injecting a fresh boost for the country’s vital industry.

Skies over Trabzon province on the northeast coast have been dominated by planes bringing in tourists, mostly from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Oman, who are staging a post-pandemic comeback that comes as Türkiye’s ties with Gulf countries return to normal.

Escaping blistering desert summers, Arabs have been over years lured the Trabzon’s green surroundings, mountaintop lake and cool breeze. Türkiye generally counts on its large Mediterranean coast and rich heritage to draw more visitors.

With summer in full swing, visitors from the Gulf countries mainly opt for uplands, spearheaded by Uzungöl, a beautiful lakeside town an hour south of Trabzon. Surrounded by mountains and decorated with the greenest of trees, Uzungöl (Long Lake) is the jewel of the city that has become the most visited destination by tourists from Gulf countries.

The region is experiencing better-than-expected mobility this summer, says Türkiye Travel Agencies Association (TÜRSAB) Eastern Black Sea Region Representative Volkan Kantarcı.

Kantarcı says accommodation facilities are almost fully booked, with arrivals and growing demand strengthening prospects for a year that will top even the figures from 2019, dubbed the best tourism year ever.

While Germans, Russians and British tourists continue to top the list – most of them lured to Türkiye’s cheaper all-inclusive packages – high-spending tourists from Arab countries have also experienced big jumps this year.

“We had reached serious numbers in 2019. The number of foreign tourists had exceeded 600,000, and in the first months of this year, our assessment was that we would exceed the figures of 2019,” Kantarcı said.

“We thought that if we could reach 1 million, it would be very, very good. But especially after Eid al-Adha, there was a really unexpected demand. And the number of planes coming from international routes has increased. This big wave and the wind continue.”

High demand has delayed many bookings to September and October and winter months, he added.

“Both in terms of plane tickets, accommodation facilities and tour reservations, our expectation is that we will experience the best winter ever,” Kantarcı noted.

“Some airlines and tour operators are already making plans for winter. They are making the evaluations to be able to continue flights on certain days of the week. I hope that there will be no disruption, and in the winter months, both our city of Trabzon and other provinces in our region will experience a good tourism intensity.”

Türkiye attracted over 23 million foreign visitors from January through July, surging 128% annually, according to official data, paving the way for $37 billion in tourism revenues sought by the government.

The arrivals have been mainly backed by Russian visitors who opted for Türkiye due to flight restrictions applied by Western countries after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The numbers of German and British visitors also rose strongly.

Tourism revenues are vital to Türkiye’s economy as the government’s economic plan focuses on expanding the current account surplus to tackle high inflation and interest rates.

The government raised its year-end targets last month to 47 million tourists and $37 billion in revenues, up from its earlier targets of 45 million arrivals and $35 billion in income.

The number of foreign visitors soared 94.1% to 24.71 million last year when COVID-19 measures were eased compared to 2020. Tourism revenues doubled to almost $25 billion, but remained well below the level recorded in 2019.

Officials had hoped tourism this year could replicate or exceed the numbers from 2019, when some 52 million visitors brought in $34 billion in revenue.

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Backed by European arrivals, Antalya enjoys best post-COVID days.


Foreign holidaymakers, spearheaded by Europe, continue to pour into Antalya, helping Türkiye’s Mediterranean gem have its most intense summer since the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The southern resort has seen around 8.5 million foreigners arrive so far this year, already nearing the 9 million who arrived throughout the whole of 2021. This figure peaked in 2019, dubbed the best tourism season ever, when arrivals reached 16 million, before the slump caused by the pandemic.

The big rebound this year has been driven by flocks of tourists from Europe, particularly Germany and the United Kingdom, in addition to arrivals from Russia, whose invasion of Ukraine had sparked fears across the vital industry.

This summer season, Antalya is witnessing a boom in demand that has been accumulating following the pandemic, according to Mediterranean Touristic Hoteliers and Investors Association (AKTOB) chair Erkan Yağcı.

Yağcı stressed they expect to approach the peak levels seen in 2019. “When we look from January to today, we have reached 90% to 95% of the 2019 figures during the high season. If it continues in this way, we can get closer to the 2019 figures,” he told Anadolu Agency (AA).

Türkiye itself attracted over 23 million foreign visitors from January through July, surging 128% annually, according to the official data, paving the way for $37 billion in tourism revenues sought by the government.

The arrivals have been mainly backed by Russian visitors who opted for Türkiye due to Western flight restrictions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The numbers of German and British visitors also rose strongly.

“The U.K. is on its way to becoming a source market,” said Yağcı. “The British market has made a significant comeback. This year, we will have hosted nearly 1 million British guests in Antalya. This is extremely important.”

He stressed the country’s efforts to diversify markets, saying that “our main goals are to increase the number of tourists in other markets such as Poland, the Netherlands and Belgium. We are in a period in which our basic strategies set before the pandemic have been revived.”

From January through July, Germans were Türkiye’s top source market with 2.99 million visitors, followed by 2.2 million Russians and 1.8 million Britons, according to the Culture and Tourism Ministry data.

Despite concerns over the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the government raised its year-end targets last month to 47 million tourists and $37 billion in revenues, up from its earlier targets of 45 million arrivals and $35 billion in income.

The current trend has somewhat washed away the panic from the beginning of the season, said Kemer Promotion Foundation head Volkan Yorulmaz. Kemer is one of the most popular districts of Antalya.

Yorulmaz said the 8 million figure was exceeded as of the beginning of August, which he says reaffirms his expectations for 12 million by the year-end.

He highlighted that the summer season has been extended, in part due to market diversification and that they expected a buoyant November. Yorlumaz cited a big jump in markets that to some extent managed to compensate for the loss that stemmed from the Ukraine war.

“There are serious increases in Polish, Czech, Serbian, German and British tourists. This year we have seen that we should not only do tourism based on Ukraine and Russia, and that this can be achieved. It is necessary to continue this.”

Backed by the easing COVID-19 measures, the number of foreign visitors soared 94.1% to 24.71 million last year. Tourism revenues doubled to almost $25 billion but remained well below the level recorded in 2019.

Russians and Ukrainians were the country’s first and third biggest sources of visitors, respectively. Russians accounted for 19% of foreign tourists, with 4.7 million people, while Ukraine was the third-largest at 8.3%, with 2.1 million people.

Officials had hoped tourism this year could replicate or exceed the numbers from 2019, when some 52 million visitors – including about 7 million Russians and 1.6 million Ukrainians – brought in $34 billion in revenue

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Russia’s Lavrov cancels Serbia visit after neighbors shut airspace.


Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s planned visit to Serbia was canceled after countries around the Balkan nation closed their airspace to the plane that would have carried Moscow’s top diplomat to Belgrade on Monday.

The announcement by Serbia and Russia on Monday confirmed earlier reports, with Moscow accusing the West of preventing the trip by blocking the envoy’s plane flight.

Serbia’s neighbors – Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro – had reportedly refused to allow Lavrov’s plane to fly through their airspace to reach Belgrade.

“An unthinkable thing has happened,” Lavrov said during an online news conference Monday. “A sovereign state has been deprived of its right to conduct foreign policies. The international activities of Serbia on the Russian track have been blocked.”

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic earlier Monday met with Russia’s ambassador to Serbia who informed him that Lavrov could not come because the Russian government plane was denied necessary flyover permissions, a statement issued after the meeting said.

Vucic expressed “dissatisfaction” over the “circumstances” that prevented the visit and added that “despite all, Serbia will preserve independence and autonomy in political decision-making.”

Later Monday, Vucic told the state broadcaster RTS that the cancelation of the visit “was not too much of a surprise” and that arrangements faced problems from the start.

“Russia is a traditional friend of Serbia,” Vucic said, describing Serbia’s policies toward Russia as a “rational, sensible and soothing way within Europe, where it is not easy to hear a voice of reason and dialogue.”

While formally still seeking European Union membership, Serbia has maintained friendly ties with Russia despite its invasion of Ukraine, refusing to join Western sanctions against Moscow.

Many in Serbia view the fellow-Slavic nation as a close ally and Moscow has backed Serbia in its effort to retain its claim on Kosovo.

Lavrov blamed NATO countries for engineering the flight ban – Montenegro, Bulgaria and North Macedonia are all members of NATO – noting that the action showed again that the main purpose of the alliance expansion is to try to isolate Russia.

Lavrov still plans to travel for talks Wednesday in Turkey, where he can fly directly over the Black Sea. Turkey has sought to maintain good relations with both Russia and Ukraine while also trying to help international mediation efforts in the war.

The Russian foreign minister said the West has trampled on the principle of a free choice of foreign policy partners.

“From the Western viewpoint, Serbia mustn’t have any choice, any freedom in choosing its partners,” he said. “The West clearly shows that it would use any base means to apply pressure.”

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov deplored what he described as “hostile actions” but said this “won’t significantly hamper the continuation of our country’s contacts with friendly countries like Serbia.”

In Belgrade, Serbia’s pro-Russian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin expressed “deep regret” that a “great and proven” friend of Serbia could not come. Vulin added that “Serbia is proud that it is not part of anti-Russian hysteria, and the countries that are (part of it) will have time to be ashamed.”

Serbia, meanwhile, also is almost fully dependent on Russian gas. Vucic recently talked to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone to arrange a new deal on gas supplies for the next three years.

Analyst Slobodan Stupar described Lavrov’s attempted visit to Belgrade as a “show” that would have been used by Moscow to further vilify the West.

“I believe the Russians invited themselves” to Serbia, Stupar told The Associated Press (AP). “They are terribly isolated … They can now say that Europe and the world are not democratic and won’t allow a simple flyover.”

Stupar said Vucic has placed himself “in between” Russia and the West.

“That is the worst possible position one can imagine,” Stupar said.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is expected in the region later this week




World Cup police brace for huge crowds in Qatar’s capital.


Controlling hundreds of thousands of football fans in Qatar’s capital will be the biggest security challenge of World Cup 2022, FIFA told police chiefs from competing nations on Sunday.

Unlike previous World Cups, where only two teams and their supporters would generally converge on one city at any given time, all the games will take place in and around Doha.

The most geographically compact World Cup therefore represents the tournament’s biggest “challenge”, FIFA security director Helmut Spahn told a security conference for the tournament in Doha.

Qatar has predicted that 1.4 million people will visit during the 28 day tournament, that starts November 21, with “approximately 350,000” attendees in Doha “at the same time”, Spahn noted, speaking on the sidelines of the conference.

“You have to manage that,” he said. “But we can create history and I am pretty sure that we will manage it.”

Major General Abdulaziz Al-Ansari, head of Qatar’s World Cup security operation, also acknowledged that the numbers were the main concern.

“But we are very much confident that we have reviewed this over and over again,” Ansari said. “Of course there are going to be challenges, but the challenge is going to be part of the enjoyment.”

The Gulf state’s police are preparing an intricate system of road closures and extra public transport to move rival groups of football fans around.

The gas-rich nation has spent billions of dollars on seven new stadiums and refurbishing an eighth for the World Cup.

The longest distance between any of the two stadiums is about 70 kilometres (45 miles).

Ansari said police delegations from competing nations would inspect the World Cup stadiums and review transport in Doha over the next two days.

Spahn claimed the threat from “terrorism” had eased since Germany 2006, South Africa 2010, Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018.

In the past “we had terrorist attack threats prior to a World Cup, we had strikes of private security and police, we had problems sometimes with infrastructure at stadiums not being ready. This is not the case here,” Spahn said.

The threat “is low and under control here in Qatar.”

European fans’ groups have been seeking clarity on Qatar’s tournament policy on alcohol consumption, women’s rights and LGBTQ rights.

Ansari said a guide for fans going to Qatar would be released next month




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UN’s Linda Thomas-Greenfield says Global food shortages hit 10th level.


U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Friday that global food shortages due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict have reached the highest level of alarm.

“I can tell you on a scale of one to 10, I’m probably at the 10 level of alarm, because this crisis has exacerbated what is already a serious food insecurity issue,” Thomas-Greenfield said in an interview with the BBC.

Consumer food prices in the U.S. alone made the largest 12-month increase since 1981 in April, when they slid up by 9.4%.

Thomas-Greenfield said that food insecurity was a serious issue before Russia invaded Ukraine in February, but since the conflict the global crisis has severely worsened.

“Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, its blockade of the ports, blocking Ukrainian wheat from getting to the market has exacerbated this situation and made it even more dire and the impact is being felt across the world,” she said.

The ambassador discussed ways to aid food insecurity around the world, saying that “first and foremost, we have to keep the pressure on the Russians to end this unconscionable war against the Ukrainian people and allow Ukraine to go back to a situation where they are contributing to the food market around the world.”

“We encourage countries not to put export restrictions on food coming from their countries,” Thomas-Greenfield added. “The U.S. just gave $44 million to Ukraine, a large portion of that going toward humanitarian assistance.”

However, Thomas-Greenfield emphasized that the ball is in Russia’s court when it comes to ending the hunger crisis.

“The facts are that they are blocking food,” she said of Russia. “There are no sanctions on their agricultural products. They are attacking Ukrainian silos and keeping farmers from planting. So the action is in Russia’s hands to stop this food blockade, to also start to export their own food that they have put restrictions on.”

Thomas-Greenfield added: “But in the meantime, as we keep the pressure on Russia, we will increase our humanitarian funding, our in-kind funding of food, and we’re encouraging others to do the same to keep the food and agricultural markets open.”




Social Media mounting pressure on press freedom: Maria Ressa.


The rise of social media has allowed dangerous propaganda to flourish and left professional journalists facing constant threat of attack, according to Philippine journalist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Maria Ressa.

The situation for media workers around the world at the moment is “bleak”, Ressa told AFP in an interview, saying much of the blame lies with the dramatic shift in the way information is distributed.

Speaking on the sidelines of an event in Geneva on Tuesday to mark World Press Freedom Day, the 58-year-old co-founder of the news website Rappler highlighted how social media had made it far easier to spread propaganda, reject facts and change historical realities.




She pointed to the Philippines, which appears set next week to hand the presidency to Ferdinand Marcos Jr, whose dictator father and namesake presided over massive plunder and human rights abuses in the country.

“He looks set to win, and the only way that is possible is because history shifted in front of our eyes,” Ressa said.

Marcos Jr’s links to his father have made him one of the nation’s most polarising politicians.

But he has benefitted from a deluge of fake and misleading posts on social media platforms targeting a largely young electorate with no memory of the corruption, killings and other abuses committed during the elder Marcos’s 20-year rule.

– Separate realities –
Ressa pointed at how Marcos Jr has refused to participate in debates and to answer questions from traditional journalists, seeming to follow the playbook of populist politicians like Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

“This is the problem with social media: It has allowed propaganda to flourish and literally has allowed public figures like Marcos, like Bolsonaro to ignore (media) checks and balances… and to create their own realities,” Ressa said.

“That’s not a good thing.”

In the face of such challenges, “the mission of journalism is more important today than ever,” Ressa said.

She says social media first enabled split global narratives around Russia’s annexation of Crimea back in 2014.

That dangerous fragmenting of media narratives has obviously worsened dramatically since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, bringing with it fears of looming nuclear attacks and World War III.


In such an environment, access to reliable facts is vital, Ressa said.

“I think this is one of those moments where everything that (journalists) do will matter, because that’s… how close we are to the edge.”

– ‘No guardrails’ –
The dramatic technological shift in the industry has meanwhile left journalists far more vulnerable to attacks and threats.

“There are no guardrails,” Ressa said, pointing to the largely lawless world of social media, often based on algorithms that promote the outrage and hateful debate that drive traffic, and where “troll armies” can easily be unleashed on critics.

“Every time you do a difficult story to try to hold power to account, you have to be ready to get personally attacked.”

Ressa, who shared the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize with Russian journalist Dmitri Muratov, has seen her share of threats, attacks and intimidation.

The vocal critic of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte and his deadly drug wars faces multiple criminal lawsuits, which she says could see her sent to prison for 100 years.

Ressa sees the Nobel win as “vindication”, voicing “relief” that the Nobel Committee had recognised how difficult journalists’ jobs have become and that “risks have increased.”

The win did not, however, lessen her legal woes, she said, adding that the legal complaints against her and Rappler had in fact “accelerated”.

Ressa said it was unfair that the journalists were being “asked to sacrifice so much”, urging governments and the global community to step up and regulate the technologies that have transformed our information society.

“Guardrails have to be put in place so we can do our jobs.”

Until then, journalists “have no choice” but to continue holding the line as best they can in defence of democracy, Ressa said.

“We’re just putting our finger in the dam and hoping that the rest of society kicks in.”




Indonesian gov’t invites Russian and Ukrainian leaders to G20 summit.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been invited to the G20 summit in November, which will also be attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the president of host nation Indonesia said Friday.

“I have invited President Zelenskyy to attend the G20 summit,” said Joko Widodo, suggesting a compromise had been reached following Western pressure to bar Russia from the event in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

Putin confirmed in a phone call with Widodo he will attend the summit, to take place on Bali island, the Indonesian leader said in a livestreamed address.


Russia is a G20 member, while Ukraine is not.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, Indonesia has faced fierce pressure from Western countries, led by the United States, to bar Russia from the summit.

But Jakarta had insisted that, as the host, it must remain impartial, while US President Joe Biden had suggested Ukraine could take part.

Zelensky had announced in a tweet that he was invited to the summit by Indonesia on Wednesday, following a call with Widodo




Children from different countries bake ‘peace bread’ in Istanbul.


A festival in Istanbul brought together children from different countries ahead of Saturday’s National Sovereignty and Children’s Day observed in Turkey. In its 13th edition, the annual International Peace Bread Festival culminated in children baking the titular giant bread, which they then sent to world leaders via mail on Thursday.

The festival was organized by the municipality of Esenler, a district on city’s European side. Ministry of National Education Mahmut Özer joined children and local officials in preparation of the bread made of flour and water that every delegation of participants brought from their countries, plus yeast added by the Turkish delegation. After the bread was cooked in a giant oven, it was cut into slices and placed in envelopes by children from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Romania, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Moldova and Iraq, and students from schools in Esenler. Each part was then mailed to important global figures, from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to U.S. President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The children later performed folk dances as part of the event.

Speaking at the ceremony, Minister Özer said that the event had a “meaningful message” as it combined bread, something deemed sacred by various faiths and peace, with children of the world.




Russia’s central bank signals rate cut, pushes digital ruble.


The Russian central bank Governor Elvira Nabiullina signaled Thursday further interest rate cuts and a push for digital ruble and homegrown credit card system to curb payment issues stemming from Western sanctions over Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

Nabiullina also said Russia is looking at adjustments to its foreign exchange controls to avoid situations where the ruble exchange rate deviates in a shadow market from official levels. As she begins her new five-year stint in charge of monetary policy, Nabiullina will have to deal with a full-scale economic crisis, tackling uncertainty stemming from Western sanctions.

The central bank’s emergency rate hike to 20% in late February helped stabilize the ruble and overcome a spike in inflation, Nabiullina said. The bank then cut the interest rate to 17% on April 8. Its next board meeting is on April 29.

“We will consider the possibility of its further reduction at upcoming meetings,” Nabiullina said, speaking in the lower house of parliament, the Duma. She did not say if a cut was likely at next week’s meeting.

Andrei Kostin, head of Russia’s second-largest lender VTB , also targeted by Western sanctions, said on Thursday he expected the central bank to cut the key rate to 15% this month and to 12%-13% by the end of the year, TASS news agency reported.

Inflation in Russia now stands at 17.6% and is on track to accelerate to 22% this year, while the economy is set to shrink by 9.2% in 2022, according to a poll of economists conducted by the central bank in April.

Nabiullina warned that Russia, which saw its strongest economic growth in 13 years in 2021, at 4.7%, will now undergo structural changes as its access to the global financial system and trade are limited by tough Western sanctions.

“Problems may arise even when there is a production with a high degree of localization when there has already been a fairly high import substitution,” Nabiullina said.

For example, she said, Russia produces its own paper but uses foreign bleaching agents, or urgently needs foreign-made packing materials for foodstuff produced in Russia.

“It all takes time,” she said.

The ruble, which has recovered after plunging to an unprecedented level of 150 to the U.S. dollar following the sanctions, is expected to trade at 85 rubles this year, 90 rubles in 2023 and 96 rubles in 2024. It was trading around the 80 to the dollar mark on Thursday.

The country is facing capital flight while grappling with a possible debt default after the West imposed sanctions on banks, businesses and individuals following what Moscow calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine.


Digital ruble, extending Mir system among priorities
With sanctions cutting off Russia from large parts of the global financial system, Moscow is looking for alternative ways to make key payments both at home and abroad.

Nabiullina said the bank plans for real-world “digital” rouble transactions to be possible next year, and that the digital currency could be used in some international settlements.

“The digital ruble is among the priority projects,” Nabiullina said. “We have fairly quickly created a prototype … now we are holding tests with banks and next year we will gradually have pilot transactions.”




Nabiullina also said Russia aims to extend the number of countries that accept Russia’s Mir banking cards, an alternative to VISA and MasterCard, which have joined other Western firms and suspended their operations in Russia.

Mir and China’s UnionPay are among the few options left for Russians to make payments abroad since Russian banks were isolated from the global financial system as part of the sanctions.

Russia, like many other countries around the world, has been developing digital money over the last couple of years to modernize its financial system, speed up payments and head off the threat of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin gaining influence.

The Bahamas was the first to launch a national digital currency back in 2020, while China is the most advanced among major economies having carried out a mass trial of a digital yuan at the Beijing Winter Olympics this year.

Some central bank experts have also suggested the new technologies mean countries would be able to deal more directly with each other, making them less dependent on Western-dominated payment channels such as the SWIFT system.

Meanwhile, efforts by the West to close possible routes for circumventing sanctions continued on Thursday.

The world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, Binance, said it was deactivating the accounts of Russian nationals and companies based there that hold the equivalent of more than 10,000 euros ($10,900).

Those affected would still be able to withdraw their money, but they will now be banned from making new deposits or trading, a move Binance said was in line with European Union sanctions




Russia-Ukraine war threatening food supplies – Report.


Monica Kariuki is about ready to give up on farming. What is driving her off her 10 acres of land outside Nairobi isn’t bad weather, pests or blight – the traditional agricultural curses – but fertilizer: It costs too much.

Despite thousands of miles separating her from the battlefields of Ukraine, Kariuki and her cabbage, corn and spinach farm are indirect victims of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion. The war has pushed up the price of natural gas, a key ingredient in fertilizer, and has led to severe sanctions against Russia, a major exporter of fertilizer.

Kariuki used to spend 20,000 Kenyan shillings, or about $175, to fertilize her entire farm. Now, she would need to spend five times as much. Continuing to work the land, she said, would yield nothing but losses.

“I cannot continue with the farming business. I am quitting farming to try something else,’’ she said.

Higher fertilizer prices are making the world’s food supply more expensive and less abundant, as farmers skimp on nutrients for their crops and get lower yields. While the ripples will be felt by grocery shoppers in wealthy countries, the squeeze on food supplies will land hardest on families in poorer countries. It could hardly come at a worse time: The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said last week that its world food-price index in March reached the highest level since it started in 1990.

The fertilizer crunch threatens to further limit worldwide food supplies, already constrained by the disruption of crucial grain shipments from Ukraine and Russia. The loss of those affordable supplies of wheat, barley and other grains raises the prospect of food shortages and political instability in Middle Eastern, African and some Asian countries where millions rely on subsidized bread and cheap noodles.

“Food prices will skyrocket because farmers will have to make profit, so what happens to consumers?’’ said Uche Anyanwu, an agricultural expert at the University of Nigeria.

The aid group Action Aid warns that families in the Horn of Africa are already being driven “to the brink of survival.’’

The U.N. says Russia is the world’s No. 1 exporter of nitrogen fertilizer and No. 2 in phosphorus and potassium fertilizers. Its ally Belarus, also contending with Western sanctions, is another major fertilizer producer.

Many developing countries – including Mongolia, Honduras, Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, Mexico and Guatemala – rely on Russia for at least a fifth of their imports.

The conflict also has driven up the already-exorbitant price of natural gas, used to make nitrogen fertilizer. The result: European energy prices so high that some fertilizer companies “have closed their businesses and stopped operating their plants,’’ said David Laborde, a researcher at the International Food Policy Research Institute.

For corn and cabbage farmer Jackson Koeth, 55, of Eldoret in western Kenya, the conflict in Ukraine was distant and puzzling until he had to decide whether to go ahead with the planting season. Fertilizer prices had doubled from last year.

Koeth said he decided to keep planting but only on half the acreage of years past. Yet he doubts he can make a profit with fertilizer so costly.

Greek farmer Dimitris Filis, who grows olives, oranges and lemons, said “you have to search to find’’ ammonia nitrate and that the cost of fertilizing a 10-hectare (25-acre) olive grove has doubled to 560 euros ($310). While selling his wares at an Athens farm market, he said most farmers plan to skip fertilizing their olive and orange groves this year.

“Many people will not use fertilizers at all, and this as a result, lowers the quality of the production and the production itself, and slowly, slowly at one point, they won’t be able to farm their land because there will be no income,’’ Filis said.

In China, the price of potash – potassium-rich salt used as fertilizer – is up 86% from a year earlier. Nitrogen fertilizer prices have climbed 39% and phosphorus fertilizer is up 10%.

In the eastern Chinese city of Tai’an, the manager of a 35-family cooperative that raises wheat and corn said fertilizer prices have jumped 40% since the start of the year.

“We can hardly make any money,” said the manager, who would give only his surname, Zhao.

Terry Farms, which grows produce on 2,100 acres largely in Ventura, California, has seen prices of some fertilizer formulations double; others are up 20%. Shifting fertilizers is risky, vice president William Terry said, because cheaper versions might not give “the crop what it needs as a food source.”

As the growing season approaches in Maine, potato farmers are grappling with a 70% to 100% increase in fertilizer prices from last year, depending on the blend.

“I think it’s going to be a pretty expensive crop, no matter what you’re putting in the ground, from fertilizer to fuel, labor, electrical and everything else,” said Donald Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board.

In Prudentopolis, a town in Brazil’s Parana state, farmer Edimilson Rickli showed off a warehouse that would normally be packed with fertilizer bags but has only enough to last a few more weeks. He’s worried that, with the war in Ukraine showing no sign of letting up, he’ll have to go without fertilizer when he plants wheat, barley and oats next month.

“The question is: Where Brazil is going to buy more fertilizer from?” he said. “We have to find other markets.”

Other countries are hoping to help fill the gaps. Nigeria, for example, opened Africa’s largest fertilizer factory last month, and the $2.5 billion plant has already shipped fertilizer to the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico.

India, meanwhile, is seeking more fertilizer imports from Israel, Oman, Canada and Saudi Arabia to make up for lost shipments from Russia and Belarus.

“If the supply shortage gets worse, we will produce less,” said Kishor Rungta of the nonprofit Fertiliser Association of India. “That’s why we need to look for options to get more fertilizers in the country.”

Agricultural firms are providing support for farmers, especially in Africa where poverty often limits access to vital farm inputs. In Kenya, Apollo Agriculture is helping farmers get fertilizer and access to finance.

“Some farmers are skipping the planting season and others are going into some other ventures such as buying goats to cope,” said Benjamin Njenga, co-founder of the firm. “So these support services go a long way for them.”

Governments are helping, too. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last month that it was issuing $250 million in grants to support U.S. fertilizer production. The Swiss government has released part of its nitrogen fertilizer reserves.

Still, there’s no easy answer to the double whammy of higher fertilizer prices and limited supplies. The next 12 to 18 months, food researcher LaBorde said, “will be difficult.”

The market already was “super, super tight” before the war, said Kathy Mathers of the Fertilizer Institute trade group.

“Unfortunately, in many cases, growers are just happy to get fertilizer at all,’’ she said.


NATO chief says cannot allow security vacuum in ‘High North’.


NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Friday said that the alliance cannot allow a security vacuum in the Arctic amid competition with Russia and China.

“We cannot afford a security vacuum in the High North. It could fuel Russian ambitions, expose NATO and risk miscalculation and misunderstandings,” Stoltenberg said.

“We also see an increased Chinese interest in the region. China has defined itself as a near-Arctic state and aims to build a presence here,” he added.

Stoltenberg was speaking during a visit to the Bardufoss base in northern Norway, where the alliance is conducting large-scale military exercises, dubbed Cold Response.

Moscow had increased military activity in the Arctic in recent years, he told a press conference, modernizing its existing bases and building new ones in a clear sign it intends to be a dominant player in the coveted region.

Russia’s Kola Peninsula, which borders Arctic Norway, is home to the powerful Northern Fleet, with its huge concentration of nuclear weapons and numerous military installations.

“For all these reasons the High North is an area of critical importance for all Allies. This is why NATO has increased its military presence in the North,” said Stoltenberg, whose term of office has been extended for a year because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on NATO’s eastern flank.

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This month’s Cold Response exercise in Norway is designed to test the ability of NATO members – and partners Sweden and Finland – to come to the aid of another member state in difficult climate conditions.

Some 30,000 soldiers are taking part in the air, sea and land exercises, the biggest maneuvers Norway has organized since the end of the Cold War.

Planned long in advance, the exercise has taken on added significance following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Cold Response is an important exercise, not least in light of the meaningless and senseless Russian attack on Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.


“We regret, of course, that Russia declined to observe that exercise, but we regret even more that Russia never invites us to take part in mandatory observation and inspection of their exercises,” he continued.

“You have to remember that the war President (Vladimir) Putin now wages against Ukraine was in the beginning disguised as an exercise … and then suddenly exercise turned into a full-fledged war,” he explained.

In addition to having huge strategic importance, the environmentally fragile Arctic contains substantial reserves of oil, gas and minerals.

And while climate change is reducing its sea ice cover with devastating effect, the ice melt opens up a shipping route between East Asia and Europe that is considerably shorter than the passage via the Suez Canal.


Boris Johnson hits at Xi Jinping over Russia support.


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has confronted China’s President Xi Jinping in almost an hourlong phone conversation over the situation in Ukraine amid concern among Western powers at Beijing’s stance on the conflict, Downing Street said Friday.

The contact came after NATO leaders urged China to “abstain” from supporting Russia’s war effort and to refrain from any actions that would help it circumvent sanctions.

In a terse readout following the 50-minute telephone call, a No 10 spokesperson said they had discussed “a range of issues of mutual interest” including the situation in Ukraine.

“It was a frank and candid conversation lasting almost an hour. They agreed to speak again soon,” the spokesperson said.

In a statement following Thursday’s emergency NATO summit in Brussels, alliance leaders expressed concern about comments by Chinese officials and called on them “to cease amplifying the Kremlin’s false narratives.”

They include Russian claims – strongly denied by the United States – that the U.S. is financing biological weapons laboratories in Ukraine, while China has resisted calls to condemn the invasion.

U.S. President Joe Biden, who spoke last week to Mr. Xi, said he had pointed out that the U.S. and other foreign corporations were already pulling out of Russia because of President Putin’s “barbaric” behavior.

“I made no threats, but I made sure he understood the consequences of him helping Russia,” Mr. Biden told a news conference on Thursday at NATO headquarters.

“I think that China understands that its economic future is much more closely tied to the West than it is to Russia,” he added.

Meanwhile, in the besieged city of Mariupol, authorities said about 300 people died in a Russian airstrike earlier this month on a theatre where hundreds of people were sheltering.

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If confirmed, it is likely to lead to renewed calls for Western powers to step up military support for the Ukrainian forces.

At the same time, there were signs that Vladimir Putin is being forced to rethink his war aims as his forces remain stalled in the face of unexpectedly fierce resistance from the Ukrainians.

The Defense Ministry said that having accomplished the “first phase” of their military operations, Russian forces would concentrate on “liberating” the Donbass region which is part-held by Moscow-backed separatist rebels.

Western officials claimed it was a recognition that Russian forces were overstretched and may have to “pause” operations around Kyiv and other cities while they focus on the east of the country.

“It is clear that Russia is recognizing that it can’t pursue its operations on multiple axes simultaneously,” one official said.

“Therefore it is having to concentrate its force, particularly its logistics supply and its firepower, on a more limited number of approaches,” the official added.

The latest intelligence assessment from the U.K Ministry of Defence said Ukrainians were continuing to push pack against Russian forces advancing on the capital.


“Ukrainian counter-attacks, and Russian forces falling back on overextended supply lines, has allowed Ukraine to reoccupy towns and defensive positions up to 35 kilometers east of Kyiv,” it said.

Western officials said that Russians continued to suffer heavy losses, including a brigade commander deliberately killed by his own troops.

NATO has estimated that in four weeks of fighting, between 7,000 and 15,000 Russian troops have been killed in combat – compared to the 15,000 they lost in 10 years in Afghanistan.

One Western official claimed that of the 115 to 120 battalion tactical groups the Russians had at the start of the operation, 20 were no longer “combat effective.”

“After a month of operations to have somewhere in the region of a sixth, maybe even a fifth, of the forces being no longer effective, that is a pretty remarkable set of statistics,” the official said.