United Nations, sep 21 (AP/UNB) — Fresh off the climate strike that took hundreds of thousands of young people out of classrooms and into the streets globally, youth leaders gathered at the United Nations Saturday to demand radical moves to fight climate change.
"We showed that we are united and that we, young people, are unstoppable," Swedish 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg, who started the climate strike movement with her lone protest in front of her country's parliament about a year and a half ago.
More than 700 mostly young activists attended the first of its kind Youth Climate Summit, according to Luis Alfonso de Alba, the U.N. special climate summit envoy.
Friday's strike across six continents and Saturday's youth conference presage a full-on climate conference next week at the U.N. General Assembly, which has placed the issue of climate change at front and center as world leaders gather for the annual meeting.
Activists at Saturday's gathering demanded money for a fund to help poorer nations adapt to a warming world and provide greener energy. They also insisted that the world should wean itself quickly from coal, oil and gas that cause climate change.
"Stop the criminal contaminant behavior of big corporations," said Argentine climate activist Bruno Rodriguez. "Enough is enough. We don't want fossil fuels anymore."
Jayathma Wickramanayake, the U.N. Secretary-General's youth envoy, called climate change "the defining issue of our time. Millions of young people all over the world are already being affected by it."
During Thunberg's short lifetime, for example, the Earth has already warmed 0.6 degrees Fahrenheit (0.34 degrees Celsiuis).
Fiji climate activist Komal Karishma Kumar said global warming is not just taking a toll on the planet but on her generation, especially people from vulnerable places like her Pacific island nation.
"Young people from different parts of the world are living in constant fear and climate anxiety, fearing the future, the uncertainty of a healthy life or a life for their children at all," Kumar said.
She added: "I do not want our future generations to submerge with our sinking islands."
After listening to Thunberg and other youth climate activists, a tie-less Secretary-General Antonio Guterres credited young people with transforming him from a pessimist to an optimist in the fight against global warming.
Guterres said he sees "a change in momentum" going into Monday's Climate Action Summit taking place ahead of the U.N. General Assembly gathering of world leaders that starts Tuesday, telling the youths "you have started this movement."
"I encourage you to keep your initiative. Keep your mobilization and more and more to hold my generation accountable," Guterres said. "My generation has largely failed until now to preserve both justice in the world and to preserve the planet."
Kumar told Guterres that "we will hold you accountable and if you do not, remember we will mobilize to vote you out."
The youth activists brainstormed about what they could do to change the trajectory of an ever-warming planet and how they can help the world adapt to climate's changes. There was talk of hashtags, entrepreneurial ideas and climate art and poetry.
"Be that hummingbird that puts out the forest fire by fetching water with its small beak as all the other animals, including the elephant, told her it was impossible," said Kenyan activist Wanjuhi Njroge.
Pogradec, sep 21 (AP/UNB) — An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.8 struck the west of Albania on Saturday but caused only minor injuries, the country's government said.
Citing the country's Institute of GeoSciences, Energy, Water and Environment, Albania's defense ministry said the quake struck 13 kilometers (8 miles) north of the port city of Durres, at Kepi i Rodonit, at 2:04 p.m. local time (1204 GMT). It said it was mainly felt along Albania's west coast.
An aftershock with a preliminary magnitude of 5.3 sent also residents running out of homes and apartments.
Witnesses in Durres and the capital of Tirana reported damaged homes and apartments and power being temporarily cut.
Health Minister Ogerta Manastirliu said early reports indicated at least 68 people were injured, none seriously. All were treated at hospitals in Durres as well as in the capital Tirana.
Prime Minister Edi Rama canceled a trip to the United Nations annual meeting and returned to Albania to evaluate the damage.
Located along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas, Albania is earthquake-prone and registers seismic activity every few days.
Cairo, sep 21 (AP/UNB) — Rare anti-government protests broke out in several Egyptian cities late Friday calling on President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to step down. The small street demonstrations were quickly dispersed by riot police using batons and tear gas.
Dozens of people were arrested, including at least two journalists, according to the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights. No casualties were reported.
El-Sissi is a former army general who's overseen an unprecedented political crackdown, silencing critics and jailing thousands.
As defense minister, he led the military's overthrow of an elected but divisive Islamist president in 2013, amid mass protests against that president's brief rule.
A subsequent sit-in by Islamists was broken up by Egyptian security forces in an operation that left hundreds dead.
Laws passed later that year effectively outlawed all public protests, although there have been a few scattered flare-ups since.
On Friday night, dozens of protesters gathered in the capital, Cairo, near Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the so-called Arab Spring uprising that toppled longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
"This is a very important development because this was the first such protest against the rule of el-Sissi," said political scientist Mustafa Kamel el-Sayed of Cairo University. He said it "could lead to more protests in the future."
There were also small protests in other cities, including the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. The demonstrations came directly after a soccer game in Cairo between al-Ahly, Egypt's biggest team, and its archrival Zamalek.
The protesters were responding to a call by a self-exiled businessman who has claimed corruption by the military and government without providing evidence.
In viral social media videos posted over the past weeks, Muhammad Ali has alleged his contracting business witnessed the largescale misuse of public funds in the building of luxurious hotels, presidential palaces and a tomb for el-Sissi's mother, who died in 2014.
The allegations came as economic reforms and austerity have squeezed Egypt's lower and middle classes badly.
In a rambling speech on Tuesday, El-Sissi angrily dismissed the corruption allegations as "sheer lies." However, he said he would continue building new presidential residences for the good of Egypt. "I am building a new country," he said.
He portrayed Ali's videos as an attempt to weaken Egypt and undermine the public's trust in the military, and warned Egyptians against protesting or repeating the 2011 uprising.
Egypt has for years been battling a long-running insurgency in North Sinai that is now led by an Islamic State group affiliate. His government also has the backing of the United States and other regional heavyweights like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
Human Rights Watch on Saturday urged Egyptian authorities to protect the right to peaceful protest.
"President al-Sissi's security agencies have time and again used brutal force to crush peaceful protests," said Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at HRW. "The authorities should recognize that the world is watching and take all necessary steps to avoid a repetition of past atrocities."
Egyptian authorities did not immediately comment on the protests. El-Sissi was in New York Saturday to attend the United Nations summit meetings, the state-run MENA news agency reported.
El-Sissi was elected president in 2014, and re-elected last year after all potentially serious challengers were either jailed or pressured to exit the race.
Changes to the country's constitution allowed el-Sissi to remain in power until 2030. The changes, which was adopted earlier this year in a national referendum, also further enshrined the military's role in politics. These moves are seen by critics as another step back toward authoritarianism.
Baghdad, sep 21 (AP/UNB) — The Islamic State group claimed responsibility Saturday for a minibus bombing in Iraq a day earlier, which killed 12 people outside the Shiite holy city of Karbala. The brief claim was carried by the group's Aamaq new agency.
The charred minibus was still on the road near the city on Saturday morning.
The bombing was one of the biggest attacks targeting civilians since the extremist group was declared defeated inside Iraq in 2017. The group's sleeper cells continue to wage an insurgency and carry out sporadic attacks across the country.
In the wake of the bombing, which also wounded five people, Iraqi forces have increased their presence and security measures around Karbala. Iraq's prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, said security forces detained a man suspected of leaving the bomb on the bus. The statement gave no further details about the suspect.
Speaker of Parliament Mohamad al-Halbousi expressed his frustration with the repeated "failures of intelligence agencies" to prevent such attacks. His statement added that security plans should be reviewed and intelligence gathering intensified.
On Saturday, security was tight on the roads entering Karbala, with added checkpoints searching cars.
The explosion occurred as the bus was passing through an Iraqi army checkpoint, about 10 kilometers (6 miles) south of Karbala in the direction of the town of al-Hilla.
The attack took place during a holy period marked by Shiites in Iraq between two important religious events, Ashoura and Arbaeen.
Arbaeen is the annual commemoration marking the end of the 40-day mourning period for the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the Prophet Muhammad's grandson, a central figure in Shiite Islam.
Thirty-one pilgrims were killed and about 100 injured in a stampede in Karbala last week as hundreds of thousands of Shiite Muslims marked Ashoura, one of the most solemn holy days of the year. It was the deadliest stampede in recent history during Ashoura commemorations.
Panguitch, Sep 21 (AP/UNB) — A tour bus crashed on a highway running through the red-rock landscape of southern Utah, killing four people from China and injuring dozens more.
On Friday, the bus from Southern California rolled onto a guard rail, crushing its roof and ramming the rail's vertical posts into the cab, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Nick Street said.
Five passengers remained in critical condition Friday night, and the death toll could rise, he said.
All 31 people on board were hurt. Twelve to 15 were considered in critical condition shortly after the crash, but several of them have since improved, Street said. Not everyone was wearing a seatbelt, as is common in tour buses, he said.
The crash happened near a highway rest stop a few miles from southern Utah's Bryce Canyon National Park, an otherworldly landscape of narrow red-rock spires.
Authorities believe the driver swerved on the way to the park on Friday morning, but when he yanked the steering wheel to put the bus back onto the road the momentum sent the bus into a rollover crash.
The driver, an American citizen, survived and was talking with investigators, Street said. The driver didn't appear intoxicated, but authorities were still investigating his condition as well as any possible mechanical problems, he said.
There was some wind but not strong enough to cause problems, Street said.
The crash left the top of the white bus smashed inward and one side peeling away as the vehicle came to rest mostly off the side of the road against a sign for restrooms.
The National Transportation Safety Board was sending a team to investigate.
The company listed on the bus was America Shengjia Inc. Utah business records indicate it is based in Monterey Park, California. A woman answering the phone there did not have immediate comment.
Injured victims were sent to three hospitals. Intermountain Garfield Memorial Hospital said it received 17 patients, including three in critical condition and 11 in serious condition.
Patients also were taken to Cedar City and St. George hospitals.
Millions of people visit Utah's five national parks every year. Last year, about 87,000 people from China visited the state, making them the fastest-growing group of Utah tourists, according to state data.
More than half of visitors from China travel on tour buses, said Vicki Varela, managing director of Utah Office of Tourism.
The Chinese Embassy tweeted that it was saddened to learn of the crash and that it was sending staff to help the victims.
Bryce Canyon, about 300 miles (480 kilometers) south of Salt Lake City, draws more than 2 million visitors a year.
"You have a group from China who have worked hard to come to the states, got the visa and everything they needed, excited about it, and for a tragedy like this to happen it just makes it all the more tragic," Street said.