Saturday, 26 September 2009

UN: Pace of climate change quickens

As world leaders meet in New York, a new report from the U.N. says the pace of climate change is surpassing predictions.


The pace of climate change is exceeding the scientific community's worst-case scenarios . That's the grim bottom line from a new UN Environment Program report that says emissions already released into the atmosphere could lead to the loss of ecosystems and a more rapid spread of deserts from Africa to Asia.

The UN report comes as world leaders have been meeting at the UN General Assembly in New York and the G20 in Pittsburgh. One goal is breaking the global deadlock on how rich and developing countries will share the burdens of trying to slow global warming.

Earlier in the week U.S. President Barack Obama said the US is pursuing more aggressive climate policy but that efforts must be collective.

U.S. President Barack Obama saying:

"Those rapidly-growing developing nations that will produce nearly all the growth in global carbon emissions in the decades ahead must do their part as well. Some of these nations have already made great strides with the development and deployment of clean energy. Still, they will need to commit to strong measures at home and agree to stand behind those commitments just as the developed nations must stand behind their own."

And the Group of 20 did agree to phase out subsidies on oil and other fossil fuels over the "medium term", according to its communiqué.

Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, at a news conference following the summit, said the eventual costs for the world will be much higher if nations do not address the threat of climate change.

Some worry though that the lack of a firm timetable and the failure to make progress on financing for poor countries may hinder how much progress can be made at the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen in December

Meanwhile, experts have been meeting at the United Nations desertification conference in Argentina this week where they said land degradation and desert threatens two billion people worldwide.

They warned that unless policy action is taken immediately, freak weather incidents like the huge outback dust storm that blanketed Sydney earlier this week will occur more frequently as the "perfect storm" of climate change gathers momentum.

Manoush Zomorodi, Reuters, New York

Project 10^100 - Vote for the idea you believe will help the most people

It's time to vote!

Last year, Project 10^100 invited the world to submit ideas to help as many people as possible. We received over 154,000 submissions, which we narrowed down to our favorites.

Now, you're invited to view the ideas and vote for the ones you think will help the most people.

Our advisory board will use your votes to identify the best ideas for further consideration, and we've committed $10 million to make up to 5 of them a reality.

Hurry, voting ends October 8, 2009.

Thanks for your help. Please vote! And may those who help the most win.

- The Project 10^100 Team

Google Inc., 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043, USA

Friday, 25 September 2009

Brad Pitt honoured for humanitarism

Brad Pitt prasied for his foundation's help reconstruction of The 9th Ward in New Orleans

At the Clinton Global Initiative in New York on Thursday (September 24), Hollywood superstar Brad Pitt was honoured for his humanitarian work in New Orleans.

Seated next to former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Pitt's and his "Make It Right" foundation were praised for their efforts to rebuild homes in the Louisiana Port City.

Thousands of people in New Orleans' 9th Ward were left homeless by Hurricane Katrina - Pitt's foundation built thirteen houses there.

Each unique house has sustainable, eco-friendly features to minimise costs like heating and cooling.

The average utility bill for the homes is 35 U.S. dollars a month - the aim is to cut that to zero.

Pitt said the model could be applied to communities everywhere.

Brad Pitt, Actor and Founder of "Make It Right", saying:

"If we had not been so blissfully naive to the potential, we would not be experiencing what we are seeing today and that is the unquantifiable joy of families returning home to the 9th Ward and returning home to something that was better than before. Returning home to and setting forth a new paradigm."

The former U.S. president commended the houses as an example for the future.

Bill Clinton, Former President, saying:

"This is a story that can have a happy ending because if we change the way we produce and consume energy, including the way we build and rebuild, we can create more opportunity as has been done here."

Pitt's goal is to have 150 green homes up and ready in New Orleans by 2010.

Doug MacLaurin, Reuters.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Obama deadpans on Letterman

"I was actually black before the election" U.S. President Barack Obama jokes on David Letterman's late-night chat show.

Barack Obama make the remarks in a pre-recorded segment of the "Late Show With David Letterman" when he was asked about former President Jimmy Carter's comment that some of the sharp criticism aimed at the current U.S. president in the healthcare debate seemed to reflect racism.

As well as comedic moments the interview tackled weighty issues, with Obama offering a cautious prognosis on the economy saying, "we are not out of the woods yet."

Obama, whose approval ratings have tumbled amid a rancorous debate on his plan for healthcare reform and accusations by critics that his policies would lead to too much government meddling in the economy, has made a series of appearences on U.S. television shows in recent days, in an effort to explain and promote his policies.

Source: CBS/WORLDWIDE

Denmark Launches Climate Change Web Platform With Google

Involving Global Opinion in the Climate Debate: Denmark Launches Climate Change Web Platform With Google
COPENHAGEN and NEW YORK, September 22 /PRNewswire/ -- The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, on behalf of the Danish government as hosts of the UN Climate Change Conference 2009 (COP15), today announced a new collaboration with the global internet company Google.

The aim of the collaboration is to increase global engagement in climate change in the run-up to and during COP15 in Copenhagen in December.

The collaboration includes a number of online initiatives:

- "Raise your voice" COP15 YouTube channel - http://www.youtube.com/cop15

Denmark will allow users of the online video sharing website YouTube to share their thoughts on climate change and to make their voices be heard at the conference. Through the channel, users can contribute their own opinion and questions, and respond to and view videos by climate change opinion makers. The channel will also allow users to watch videos that go behind the scenes of the conference itself. During COP15, videos will be shown to the leaders of the world gathered at the conference, who will have a chance to record their opinions directly from the conference venue.

- Visualization of climate change on Google Earth - http://www.google.com/cop15

Working with data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the international scientific community, Google has visualized climate change stories on Google Maps and Google Earth. For example, users will be able to view visualizations of greenhouse gas emissions by region, the expected consequences of climate change, as well as narrated virtual tours on mitigation and adaptation aspects.

- Working together for the climate

A number of different organizations are working on outreach efforts in the period leading up to COP15. To unite all these campaigns, users of Denmark's "Raise your voice" COP15 YouTube channel will be able to visit other major campaigns, including the UN's official Seal the Deal initiative, UNICEF's Unite for Climate youth campaign, the Hopenhagen campaign, Prince Charles' Rainforest Project and the Tck Tck Tck campaign.

In addition to the above activities under the collaboration between Denmark and Google, Google is collaborating with CNN to conduct a global, TV-transmitted Townhall debate during COP15. As such, questions submitted to the "Raise your voice" YouTube channel will be broadcast to a worldwide audience.

The collaboration between Denmark and Google will be launched tomorrow, September 22, by the Prime Minister of Denmark, Lars Lokke Rasmussen, during the UN Climate Summit in New York. Video coverage of the event will be made available on the COP15 "Raise your voice" YouTube channel.

On the YouTube channel there will also be "Call to Action" videos from HRH the Crown Prince of Denmark and the Prime Minister of Denmark Lars Lokke Rasmussen.

Web links:

COP15 "Raise your voice" YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/cop15

Google Earth climate change visualization: http://www.google.com/cop15

COP15.dk - climate change news and conference information: http://www.cop15.dk COP15 "Climate Thinkers Blog": http://www.blog.cop15.dk

COP15 on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/cop15

COP15 on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/cop15

For more information, please contact:

Google, Inc.

Niki Fenwick, Senior Manager, Communications & Public Affairs,

nikifenwick@google.com

Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

Klavs A. Holm, Ambassador for Public Diplomacy, tel. +45-25-28-37-37

Louise Brincker, Head of Press, COP15, tel. +45-23-43-41-76

Jakob Faarvang, Team Leader, COP15 Press/Outreach team,

tel. +45-25-26-75-74

Torben Jensen, Head of Section, COP15 Press/Outreach team,

tel. +45-50-86-75-28

SOURCE Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark

Over 100 children detained in Calais Jungle roundup, police chief says

More than 100 children and as many adults were detained in a dawn raid on a makeshift migrants' camp near the entrance of the Channel Tunnel in northern France, the local police chief said.

CALAIS, FRANCE (SEPTEMBER 22, 2009) REUTERS - Children were among those who were detained by French riot police as they closed down a makeshift refugee camp near the entrance to the Channel Tunnel that the government says has become a magnet for criminals and people smugglers.
The children were among approximately 200 people who were detained amid scuffles with members of French pressure groups who had gathered to prevent the so-called Calais Jungle being dismantled.

Protesters cried and accused the police of acting without any dignity. But earlier, Immigration Minister Eric Besson said the move was essential to re-establish the rule of law.

Police took down details of the migrants who were detained and at least one person who appeared lightly injured was carried away, eyewitnesses said.

"The adults have already been placed in detention. We are going to verify their personal situations. Those in a legal situation will obviously be released with a proposition of accomodation. For months now, we have not detained anyone without proposing them some accomodation in Calais or somewhere nearby", said police chief Pierre Debousquet.

The French government announced the closure of the Jungle late last week, vowing to re-establish the rule of law in the patchy scrub of land with makeshift housing that serves as a jumping-off point for hundreds of migrants who smuggle onto Britain-bound lorries every year.

Police begin clearing migrant camp as Immigration Minister defends his decison

French police begin clearing Calais migrant camp as French Immigration Minister Eric Besson says he wants to stop people trafficking there.

CALAIS, FRANCE (SEPTEMBER 22, 2009) REUTERS - French police on Tuesday (September 22) began clearing an improvised camp dubbed "the jungle" where migrants gather near the port of Calais before trying to cross to Britain.
The operation, announced last week, has been heavily criticised by humanitarian groups who say it will do nothing to solve the problem of illegal immigration, but Immigration Minister Eric Besson defended the move.

"I want to dismantle this camp which is a base for people traffickers," he told RTL radio shortly after the operation began.

Besson said people traffickers exploited migrants, charging them 15,000 euros to get to Britain.

"I've seen a number of people describe it as a pleasant humanitarian camp. It is not a humanitarian camp. It is the base camp of the people traffickers," Besson said.

The French minister said the state of law needed to be established in the camp, to the benefit of the migrants themselves who are exploited, but also to the benefit of the inhabitants of Calais and its surrounding area.

He said around 250 people had been in the area on Monday but he was unaware of how many were still there as police moved in.

The makeshift tent city grew up after France closed a large Red Cross centre at nearby Sangatte in 2002 under pressure from Britain, which saw it as a magnet for clandestine immigrants.

Humanitarian groups say the high-profile closure of the "jungle" will merely move the illegal immigrants elsewhere in the area.

Monday, 21 September 2009

EU ministers debate resettlement program for refugees and asylum seekers

European duty to ''welcome those victims of persecution'' and be ''a continent of asylum'' are outlined as EU ministers start debating new resettlement policy.

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM (SEPTEMBER 21, 2009)EBS - EU justice and home affairs ministers debated on Monday (September 21) a new resettlement policy to harmonize EU laws on refugees and asylum seekers.
Resettlement means that refugees who have temporary protection in the country in which they first arrived may move to another country where they can receive permanent protection.

Sweden, who is holding the six-months rotating EU presidency, said the resettlement policy is one its priority though it warned there was ''no quick fix''

''There is no quick fix for that problem I am afraid and we also have to think about that problem in short and long term. However, by offering a resettlement program, we will be able to deal with some of the problems,'' Swedish minister for migration and asylum Tobias Billstroem said as he arrived for the meeting.

Ministers are studying new proposals by the European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union. The Commission said the new resettlement policy will identify common priorities to help the most vulnerable populations and it proposed that member states accepting migrants to be resettled within their border will get 4,000 euros ($5,849) per person resettled.

''The program will not only have an impact on the individual beneficiaries but it will also alleviate the pressure that some third countries that host major refugee population feels today,'' Billstroem said, referring to countries like Syria who is hosting a great number of Iraqi refugees.

The EU Commission also wants to develop cooperation with the United Nations for High Refugees Commissioner (UNHCR), the International Office for Migration (IOM) and non-governmental organisations dealing with immigration and create a greater solidarity between EU member states.

Countries at the border of the European Union like Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Spain or Italy say they are dealing with an increase in the numbers of refugees and asylum seekers. They want other EU nations to show more solidarity and help them resettle migrants outside their own borders and within the European Union.

Jacques Barrot, EU Commission vice-president in charge of immigration, and the UNHCR High Commissioner Antonio Guterres said some values need to be respected when dealing with refugees and asylum seekers.

''There are about ten millions refugees in the world and 750,000 are waiting for resettlement. We therefore have to face those demands which need to be understood in the light of European values, those values which mean it's a duty for Europeans to welcome those who are victims of persecution throughout the world,'' Barrot said.

''We remain confident that Europe is and shall go on being a continent of asylum. It's very important that Europe grants access to European territory for bona-fide asylum seekers and a fair treatment of their claims,'' Guterres said.

Immigration is a hot topic in the EU.

In Italy, the first landing-point in Europe for many migrants from Africa, migrants face detention under legislation passed in July making it a felony to be an illegal immigrant or help one.

In France, the government has vowed to close an illegal migrants' camp in Calais by the end of this week. The camp, known as ''The jungle'' has been the jumping off point for hundreds of asylum seekers bound for the UK.

The European Union is set to issue new immigration policy proposals by the end of October.

Massive crowd turn out for Juanes' Peace Without Borders Concert

Hundreds of thousands of Cubans watch international stars perform in a free Peace Without Borders Concert.

HAVANA, CUBA (SEPTEMBER 20, 2009) REUTERS - Hundreds of thousands of people filled Havana's Revolution Square for a "peace" concert on Sunday (September 20) in which Colombian singer Juanes and other musicians sought to bridge the political divide that has separated Cubans for 50 years.
The concert was shown live on international television, including to viewers in Miami, the heart of the Cuban exile community and center of opposition to Cuba's communist-led government.

Puerto Rican singer Olga Tanon, who kicked off the concert by shouting, "It's time to change."

Juanes, a 17-time Latin Grammy winner who lives in Miami, was joined on stage by 14 artists from six countries, among them Olga Tanon of the U.S. territory Puerto Rico, Miguel Bose of Spain and Jovanotti of Italy. Cuban salsa kings Los Van Van closed it out.

Juanes, who organized his "Peace Without Borders" concert in conjunction with the Cuban government, had insisted the show was not political, but raised eyebrows at the end of the concert when he shouted "one Cuban family" for Cuban unity and "Cuba libre," words that have been a rallying cry in the exile community for years.

They prompted immediate speculation on Spanish-language television in Miami, but drew no response from the Cuban government.

The huge crowd in attendance, which Juanes said numbered more than 1 million, danced and swayed under a blistering sun that caused many to faint during the five-hour event.

A number of Cuban dissidents supported the concert, even though they say the government was using it to project an image of tolerance that does not exist.

One of Cuba's leading anti-government dissidents, Martha Beatriz Roque, told Univision on Sunday that Cuban state security police had warned a number of dissidents and other individuals to stay away from Revolution Square.

"I think it shows much about the desire we Cubans have for union, solidarity and desire to live in peace," said Miriam Leyva, wife of dissident Oscar Espinos.

Juanes has said he organized the concert because he believes U.S. President Barack Obama has "opened the door" to change by easing the 47-year-old U.S. trade embargo and taking other steps to improve U.S.-Cuba relations.

He said he would like to see Cuban leaders respond to his overture by moving away "from some of the anti-democratic practices of the past."

Cuba's government last week chided Obama for not doing more to completely end the U.S. sanctions on Cuba.