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Relentless global warming threatens the potential success of a sweeping set of goals established by the United Nations to tackle inequality, conflict and other ills, officials said on Tuesday.

Climate change imperils food supplies, water and places where people live, endangering the U.N. plan to address these world problems by 2030, according to a report by U.N. officials.

Member nations of the U.N. unanimously adopted 17 global development goals in 2015, setting out a wide-ranging “to-do” list tackling such vexing issues as conflict, hunger, land degradation, gender inequality and climate change.

The latest report, which called climate change “the greatest challenge to sustainable development,” came as diplomatic, business and other officials gathered for a high-level U.N. forum to take stock of the goals’ progress.

“The most urgent area for action is climate change,” said Liu Zhenmin, U.N. Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, in the report.

“The compounded effects will be catastrophic and irreversible,” he said, listing increased extreme weather events, more severe natural disasters and land degradation. “These effects, which will render many parts of the globe uninhabitable, will affect the poor the most.”

Progress has been made on lowering child mortality, boosting immunization rates and global access to electricity, the report said.

Yet extreme poverty, hunger and inequality remain hugely problematic, and more than half of school-age children showed “shockingly low proficiency rates” in reading and math, it said.

Two-thirds of those children were in school.

Human trafficking rates nearly doubled from an average 150 detected victims per country in 2010 to 254 in 2016.

But it was unclear how much of the increase reflected improved reporting systems versus an increase in trafficking, said Francesca Perucci of the U.N.’s statistics division, who worked on the report.

“It’s hard to exactly distinguish the two,” she said at a launch of the report.

But climate change remained paramount.

Greenhouse gases have continued to climb, and “climate change is occurring much faster than anticipated,” the report said.

At this week’s goals summit, 47 countries were expected to present voluntary progress reviews. Almost 100 other countries and four cities including New York have done so.

Earlier U.N. reports said the goals were threatened by the persistence of violence, conflict and lack of private investment. Outside assessments have also cited nationalism, protectionism and insufficient funding.

The cost of implementing the global goals has been estimated at $3 trillion a year.


In the Dutch port city of Rotterdam, nine “water plazas” have been created that soak up excess rainfall while offering people a green space to meet and children to play.

The city is also planting gardens and putting solar panels on a growing area of its nearly 20 square kilometers (8 square miles) of flat roofs.

Paris, meanwhile, is redesigning and opening green schoolyards as cooler places for locals to escape extreme heat, while in New Zealand, Wellington is rolling out neighborhood water supplies to keep the taps on when an earthquake hits.

More than 70 cities that are part of the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) network, set up in 2013, have crafted “resilience strategies” that include about 3,500 activities designed to combat shocks and stresses – everything from floods to an influx of refugees.

The United Nations estimates that by 2050 nearly 70% of the world’s population will live in cities, which are increasingly impacted by extreme weather and sea level rise, while producing about 75% of planet-warming emissions.

Michael Berkowitz, president of 100 Resilient Cities, told a gathering of the network’s cities in Rotterdam on Tuesday that efforts to build resilience had now become established as an approach to improving quality of life in cities.

Those efforts to keep people safe and well in the face of rising climate, economic and social pressures will continue, despite the closure this month of the organization that helped them craft those plans, officials said.

At the end of July, 100RC will shut its offices after the New York-based Rockefeller Foundation said in April it would no longer fund the body, having given about $176 million for its work.

That funding helped pay initial salaries for chief resilience officers in member cities, for example, though about 80% of the cities now have made the role a part of their staff, 100RC officials said.

The Rockefeller Foundation said on Monday it would provide an additional $8 million over 18 months to help 100RC cities and their chief resilience officers transition to a network they will lead themselves.

“Ultimately, we aim to ensure continued collaboration and sharing among cities to address some of their most pressing challenges,” Rockefeller Foundation President Rajiv Shah said in a statement.

Expansion Ahead?

Krishna Mohan Ramachandran, chief resilience officer for the Indian city of Chennai, which has just launched its resilience strategy, said he was relieved it would be able to carry on with planned projects.

Those include conserving scarce water, putting vegetable gardens in schools, and finding less risky but nearby locations for flood-threatened communities, among others.

Rotterdam chief resilience officer Arnoud Molenaar, who led colleagues in lobbying for extra funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, said resilience work had garnered more support and created more value in cities than was often appreciated.

The Rockefeller bridge grant meant the network would now have time to raise more money from donors and others to stand on its own, and expand partnerships with politicians, communities and businesses, Molenaar said.

Elizabeth Yee, who moved from 100RC to The Rockefeller Foundation to manage its climate and resilience work, said there was a “huge” amount of money looking for resilient urban infrastructure projects, but cities often struggled to meet investor requirements.

She said a key to finding funding was to design a bus rapid transit system or a clean power plant, for example, to also create local jobs and make communities more economically secure.

“I am hopeful that we can keep helping cities develop those projects and getting them ready for bigger, broader investment,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of the conference in Rotterdam.

Cities in the 100RC network have so far raised $25 billion from their own budgets, businesses and other sources to put their resilience plans into practice, 100RC’s Berkowitz said.

In a decade’s time, he said, he hoped urban resilience – with its holistic approach to multiple, modern-day stresses – would have become “an absolutely essential part of city government.”

For now, as cities rapidly expand and climate threats grow, much more such work will be needed, he said.

“Even 100 cities is a ridiculously small number of cities, compared to the world’s 10,000 cities,” he said. “We need more effort if we’re going to really win the battle of the 21st century, which is going to be fought in cities.”


The organizers of the beleaguered Woodstock 50 festival said on Tuesday they still hoped to get a permit for the event due to take place next month despite being turned down at a second site.

Authorities in the town of Vernon in upstate New York turned down the organizers’ application to stage the three-day event, marking the 50th anniversary of the famed 1969 “peace and music” festival.

Oneida County Administrator Anthony Picente Jr. told Hollywood trade publication Variety that efforts to stage the festival at Vernon Downs for some 65,000 people at short notice had been “chaotic.” Picente said he thought the chances of it taking place were “highly unlikely.”

However, Woodstock 50 producers said they would appeal.

“With a venue chosen, financing assembled and many of the artists supporting Woodstock’s 50th Anniversary event, the organizers are hopeful that their appeal and reapplication” will prevail, the producers said in a statement.

Tickets have yet to go on sale.

The Aug. 16-19 festival was originally due to take place at the Watkins Glen motor racing venue in upstate New York with a line-up including Jay-Z and Miley Cyrus.

Watkins Glen in June pulled out, throwing the festival into further uncertainty after the original investors withdrew their support, citing problems with permits and arranging security and sanitation.

Woodstock 50 announced in March that more than 80 musical acts, including 1969 festival veterans John Fogerty, Canned Heat and Santana, would take part. Some 100,000 fans, including campers, were originally expected to attend, but that number was later reduced to 60,000.


Sri Lanka’s government announced Tuesday it will reduce ground handling charges for airlines and slash aviation fuel prices and embarkation fees to help the country’s vital tourism industry recover after Easter suicide bombings killed more than 250 people.

Tourism Minister John Amaratunga said the decision will lead to an increase in flights to Sri Lanka and a reduction in ticket prices, which will attract more tourists to the Indian Ocean island nation, famed for its pristine beaches.

Seven suicide bombers from a local Muslim group, National Thowheed Jammath, attacked three churches and three luxury hotels on April 21, killing 258 people, including 45 foreigners mainly from China, India, the U.S. and Britain.
 
Tourist arrivals declined 57% in June from a year earlier, dealing a severe blow to the tourism industry, the country’s third-largest foreign currency earner after remittances from overseas workers and textile and garment exports.

The cuts in charges and fees will be in place for six months, said Johanne Jayaratne, head of the government’s tourism development agency.

About 2.3 million tourists visited Sri Lanka in 2018, when 29 airlines offered 300 flights per week. After the April 21 attacks, 41 fights per week were canceled, amounting to a loss of 8,000 passenger seats. Several airlines have reinstated their normal schedules since then, but others have not.

Dimuthu Tennakoon, chairman of the Board of Airline Representatives, said the government decision will encourage airlines to increase their capacity and offer attractive fares.
 
“That will definitely happen with this reduction because fuel and ground handling contribute a significant percentage of the total cost element of any airline,” he said.

Tourism accounts for 4.9% of Sri Lanka’s GDP. Around half a million Sri Lankans depend directly on tourism and 2 million indirectly.
 
The government currently predicts $3.7 billion in revenue from tourism this year, down from an initial forecast of $5 billion.

 


Greece’s new Cabinet was sworn in Tuesday, two days after conservative party leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis won early elections on pledges to make the country more business-friendly, cut taxes and negotiate an easing of draconian budget conditions agreed as part of the country’s rescue program.

 The new Cabinet relies heavily on experienced politicians who have served in previous governments, but also includes non-politician technocrats considered experts in their fields.
 

FILE – Greece’s newly-elected prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, waves as he walks shortly after his swearing-in ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Athens, July 8, 2019.

Mitsotakis appointed Christos Staikouras to the crucial post of finance minister. Staikouras is an economist and engineer who had served as deputy minister in a previous government.
 
The new foreign minister is Nikos Dendias, who held previous Cabinet positions in the ministries of development, defense and public order.
 
A former public order minister under a previous socialist government, Michalis Chrisohoidis, takes the reins of the ministry once again as one of Mitsotakis’ non-parliamentary appointees.
 
The new appointees headed to their ministries for official handovers after the swearing-in ceremony at the presidential mansion in central Athens.
 
Mitsotakis had barely announced his Cabinet selection Monday evening when Greece’s creditors bluntly rejected his calls to ease bailout conditions. Finance ministers from the 19 European Union countries that use the euro currency, who met in Brussels, insisted key targets must be adhered to.
 
“Commitments are commitments, and if we break them, credibility is the first thing to fall apart. That brings about a lack of confidence and investment,” Eurogroup president Mario Centeno said after the meeting.
 
Greece was dependent for years on successive international bailouts that provided rescue loans from other European Union countries and the International Monetary Fund in return for deep reforms to the country’s economy that included steep tax hikes and major spending cuts.
 
Unemployment and poverty levels soared in the country. Greece’s third and final international bailout ended last year, but the country’s economy is still under strict supervision by its creditors.

       

 


An Ohio soldier reported missing in action in the Korean War and later identified through DNA is returning home.
 
Eighteen-year-old Roger Woods was reported missing in action after fighting in the vicinity of Kochang, Republic of Korea, on July 29, 1950. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said the U.S. Army later issued a “presumptive finding of death” for Pfc. Woods.

Remains found in a grave in South Korea and sent to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii in 1955 were identified last year as Woods.
 
Woods’ coffin arrives Tuesday morning at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport and will travel by procession to Evans Funeral Home in Goshen in Clermont County. Visitation will be held Wednesday.
 
The funeral is set for Thursday, followed by burial at Goshen Cemetery.

 


First lady Melania Trump is visiting West Virginia to learn how a city at the center of the nation’s opioid epidemic is grappling with the crisis.

Trump on Monday participated in a roundtable discussion on opioids with federal, state and local officials in Huntington, West Virginia. Federal statistics show West Virginia has the highest opioid overdose rate in the U.S.

During the roughly hour-long meeting, Trump heard about how police, schools and health care centers in the area are fighting the opioid scourge. Huntington Mayor Steve Williams said it’s a grim task, and added that his city would still have to deal with the epidemic for at least the next 40 years even if all heroin sales were to abruptly stop.


Religious publishers say President Donald Trump’s most recent proposed tariffs on Chinese imports could result in a Bible shortage.

That’s because millions of Bibles are printed in China each year. Stan Jantz, president and CEO of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, says more than half of worldwide Bible production takes place in China. 
 
Critics of a proposed tariff say it would make the Bible more expensive for consumers. It would also hurt the efforts of Christian organizations that give away Bibles as part of their ministry.

The proposed 25% tariff would apply to all books, but critics say it would disproportionately affect Bibles and children’s books. Both tend to have specialized printing requirements that Chinese printers are set up to meet, while many domestic printers are not. 


Elizabeth Warren raised $19.1 million in the second quarter, her campaign said Monday, cementing her status in the top tier of Democratic presidential contenders and a leading voice of the party’s liberal base.

The Massachusetts senator’s second-quarter contributions leave her behind only Pete Buttigieg, the South Bend, Ind., mayor who reported nearly $25 million in donations, and former Vice President Joe Biden, who tallied $21.5 million since his candidacy began in late April.

Perhaps most notably, Warren’s donations exceeded those reported by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, her closest rival, who is also vying for liberal voters and is the only other candidate who has joined her in swearing off high-dollar fundraisers.

Warren’s success underscores the threat she poses to both Sanders and California Sen. Kamala Harris, whose $12 million second-quarter fundraising got a major boost in the final days of last month from her performance in the first Democratic debate. While Sanders appeals to progressives seeking an ambitious Democratic agenda, Warren has staked a claim to his base with her now-trademark policy plans. And as Harris seeks a foothold with black voters as the primary’s lone black female candidate, Warren is making headway of her own with black women.

“To sum it up: We raised more money than any other 100% grassroots-funded campaign,” said Roger Lau, Warren’s campaign manager. “That’s big.”

Warren more than tripled the $6 million she raised in the first three months of 2019 , when she silenced some skeptics of her long-term fundraising viability following her decision to rely on grassroots rather than high-dollar donations. The campaign’s $19.1 million came from more than 384,000 contributors giving more than 683,000 donations.

That’s less than the nearly 1 million individual donations Sanders’ campaign reported, but comparable with the 725,000 online donations that President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign reported during the second quarter.

Warren’s extensive organizing apparatus, particularly in early voting primary states, remains both a formidable asset — and a significant cost — as the campaign prepares to report $19.7 million in cash on hand. Her operation currently counts more than 300 paid staff members, 60% of whom are in the four early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, according to the campaign.

While a staffing footprint of that size is likely to spark questions about Warren’s high spending rate among some of her presidential rivals, her team has already underlined its confidence that the campaign will have enough resources for the long term.

“Overall, the Warren operation has a six-figure number of people who own a piece of the campaign and an eight-figure amount of money to go execute the plan. So, game on,” Warren adviser Joe Rospars tweeted after her first-quarter fundraising tally emerged.

Warren has an energetic output of policy proposals on everything from education to climate change, a signature of her 2020 efforts that has helped her push past a rocky start in the primary. That fast pace isn’t likely to change as the Democratic campaign nears an expected winnowing from about two dozen candidates.

This week alone, Warren is scheduled to hold a town hall in Milwaukee after joining a half-dozen other Democratic presidential hopefuls at a gathering hosted by the League of United Latin American Citizens. She’ll then head to Philadelphia for Netroots Nation, an annual conference for progressive activists.

“In the weeks and months ahead, we’ll keep growing our movement across the country and Elizabeth will keep rolling out new plans to level the playing field for working people,” Lau wrote in an email to supporters.

Warren was already a guaranteed presence in this fall’s Democratic primary debates, which require at least 130,000 donors as well as minimum polling performance according to rules set by the Democratic National Committee. She’ll likely be joined on that stage in the fall by a rival whose showing she praised after last month’s first debate: former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, who reported on Monday that he had met the higher donor threshold needed to qualify.


“We don’t need to eat,” said a young man held in a Libyan detention center five days after the compound was bombed killing more than 50 people and injuring at least 130.  “We didn’t touch the food. We need to be out of Libya.”  
 
The hunger strike in the detention center was on its third day Sunday, according to the protester communicating with VOA via phone and social media. He sent pictures of detainees holding signs like “We are in the grave” and “Save us from the next bomb. We are survivors, but still we are targeted.”

News and additional photographs of the protest came from other detainees communicating with hidden mobile phones.
 
The airstrikes hit the detention center late Tuesday, after international organizations warned both sides of Libya’s ongoing war that civilians were held at that location, which has been targeted before. Amnesty International says there is evidence the detention center is located near weapons’ storage, but Tripoli authorities say there is no legitimate military target in the area.

The morning after airstrikes hit a detention center holding migrants killed more than 50 people and injured at least 130, blood still stains the rubble as officials search for human remains, in Tripoli, Libya, July 3, 2019. (H. Murdock/VOA)

Officials say about 600 people were inside the detention center when the airstrikes hit a nearby garage, and then the center itself. Some survivors reported breaking open the doors of the detention center to escape, others escaped the bombing after guards let them out. Still others reported shots fired in the chaos.  
 
Five days later, migrants were still sleeping outside in the yard on Sunday, according to detainees, with part of the center destroyed and other parts appearing to be about to collapse.

The United Nations announced it would start evacuations over the weekend, but some protesters said moving to another detention center would only prolong the danger.

“If they are taking us to another detention center, we won’t go,” the protester told VOA on the phone. “We want to get out of this country or stay here.”

The migrants say they fled war, violence and abject poverty and risked their lives for the chance at a better life in Europe, before being captured and held in Tripoli. Photographed and transmitted to VOA July 7, 2019, in Tripoli, Libya.

Escalating war
 
To wind up in a Libyan detention center, migrants travel from across sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Asia in hopes of crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe.  
 
Many people die on the trip to Libya alone and nearly 700 people have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea in 2019 trying to cross to Europe, according to the International Organization for Migration.
 
Thousands of survivors remain detained in Libya, hoping to try to cross to Europe and unwilling to return to the wars, violence and dire poverty they fled.  But as the war for Tripoli intensifies, some say Libya is as dangerous as the countries they fled.
 
“Sudan, Libya… they are the same,” said one woman outside the detention center only hours after last week’s bombing.  She had fled war and genocide in Sudan, only to find herself detained, impoverished and terrified in Libya, she said.

After the detention center was bombed, remaining structures appeared unstable and five days later, migrants were still sleeping outdoors. Pictured and transmitted to VOA July 7, 2019, in Tripoli, Libya.

Libyan forces have been battling for the capital since early April, when Khalifa Haftar, the de-facto leader of eastern Libya declared he would reunite the divided country by force and marched on Tripoli in the west. Forces loyal to the Government of National Accord, which runs western Libya, have been defending the city since. Neither side appears to be backing down.
 
Nearly 1,000 people have been killed and 5,000 wounded, according to the World Health Organization, and more than 100,000 have fled their homes.
 
Protesters outside the detention center on Sunday secretly sent out pictures and videos, calling on the international community to rescue them and allow them to apply for asylum in safer countries.
 
“Doctors Without Borders came with medicine, but we don’t want medicine,” said the protester communicating with VOA via phone and social media. “The UNHCR evacuated some people but we don’t want to evacuate to another detention center.  
 
“We want to go to a safe country, or we will stay here.”

An airstrike hits a Tripoli suburb July 7, 2019, as forces loyal to the Government of National Accord in the west battled forces loyal to Khalifa Haftar, the eastern de-facto leader who has vowed to take the Libyan capital by force. (H. Murdock/VOA)