Rome, Sep 12 (AP/UNB) — The number of hungry people in the world is growing again, in large part due to climate change that is wreaking havoc on crop production in much of the developing world, the United Nations said Tuesday
Major U.N. agencies said in an annual report Tuesday that the number of hungry people facing chronic food deprivation increased to 821 million in 2017 from 804 million in 2016, reversing recent downward trends. South America and Africa showed the worst increase.
"This message today should frighten the world," said David Beasley, head of the World Food Program.
Beasley, a Trump administration nominee, acknowledged that climate change as well as conflict were fueling the rise in malnutrition globally.
"Climate impact is real," he said, though he demurred when asked whether the cause was man-made.
Analysis in the report found that climate variability — extreme droughts and floods — are already undermining production of wheat, rice and maize in tropical and temperate regions, and that the trend is expected to worsen as temperatures increase and become more extreme.
With hunger on the rise for the past three years, the report called for policies to target groups most vulnerable to malnutrition, including infants, children, adolescent girls and women. It called for greater efforts to promote policies that help communities adapt to climate change and build resilience.
Beasley said if the world is failing today with a population at 7.5 billion and all the wealth and technology that is available, "wait until people 30 years from now — when we have 10 billion people, when people in London, in Washington, D.C., and Chicago and Paris — when they don't have enough to eat."
At the same time as hunger is increasing globally, rates of adult obesity are on the rise, most significantly in North America. Both undernutrition and obesity can exist in the same household, the report said, since poor access to affordable, nutritious food can increase risks for obesity.
Svetlana Axelrod, assistant director general for the World Health Organization, said breastfeeding can help early on to prevent obesity. The report found that rates of exclusive breastfeeding are 1.5 times higher in Africa and Asia than in North America, where only a quarter of infants under 6 months are exclusively fed by breast milk.
"Women should breastfeed as long as they can," she said.
Earlier this year, the U.S. faced criticism for opposing a WHO resolution to encourage breastfeeding, with critics accusing the Trump administration of embracing the interests of infant formula manufacturers. President Donald Trump said the administration opposed the resolution because it called for limits on promoting infant formula, not because it objected to breastfeeding.
Dhaka, Sep 11 (UNB) — The Trump administration is considering sanctions against Chinese senior officials and companies to punish Beijing’s detention of hundreds of thousands of ethnic Uighurs and other minority Muslims in large internment camps, according to current and former American officials.
The economic penalties would be one of the first times the Trump administration has taken action against China because of human rights violations. United States officials are also seeking to limit American sales of surveillance technology that Chinese security agencies and companies are using to monitor Uighurs throughout northwest China, reports The New York Times.
Discussions to rebuke China for its treatment of its minority Muslims have been underway for months among officials at the White House and the Treasury and State Departments. But they gained urgency two weeks ago, after members of Congress asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to impose sanctions on seven Chinese officials.
Until now, President Trump has largely resisted punishing China for its human rights record, or even accusing it of widespread violations. If approved, the penalties would fuel an already bitter standoff with Beijing over trade and pressure on North Korea’s nuclear program.
Last month, a United Nations panel confronted Chinese diplomats in Geneva over the detentions. The camps for Chinese Muslims have been the target of growing international criticism and investigative reports, including by The New York Times.
Human rights advocates and legal scholars say the mass detentions in the northwest region of Xinjiang are the worst collective human rights abuse in China in decades. Since taking power in 2012, President Xi Jinping has steered China on a hard authoritarian course, which includes increased repression of large ethnic groups in western China, notably the Uighurs and Tibetans.
On Sunday, Human Rights Watch released a detailed report that concluded that the violations were of a “scope and scale not seen in China since the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution.” The report, based on interviews with 58 former residents of Xinjiang, recommended that other nations impose targeted sanctions on Chinese officials, withhold visas and control exports of technology that could be used for abuses.
Any new American sanctions would be announced by the Treasury Department after governmentwide consultations, including with Congress.
Chinese Muslims in the camps are forced to attend daily classes, denounce aspects of Islam, study mainstream Chinese culture and pledge loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party. Some detainees who have been released have described torture by security officers.
Chinese officials have labeled the process “transformation through education” or “counter-extremism education.” But they have not acknowledged that large groups of Muslims are being detained.
The discussions over the mass detentions in Xinjiang highlight American efforts on issues that diverge from the president’s priorities. Mr. Trump has rarely made statements criticizing foreign governments for human rights abuses or anti-liberal policies, and in fact has praised authoritarian leaders, including Mr. Xi.
The Trump administration has confronted China over economic issues — the two countries are in the middle of a prolonged trade war — but has said little about rampant abuses by its security forces.
“The scale of it — it’s massive,” Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, said of the Muslim detention centers in an interview. “It involves not only intimidating people on political speech, but also a desire to strip people of their identity — ethnic identity, religious identity — on a scale that I’m not sure we’ve seen in the modern era.”
Ethnic Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking group that is mostly Sunni Muslim. With a population of around 11 million, Uighurs are the largest ethnic group in Xinjiang. Some of the desert oasis towns and villages that they consider their homeland are being emptied out as security officers force many Uighurs into large detention centers for weeks or months.
Gulchehra Hoja, a Uighur-American journalist who works for Radio Free Asia, which is financed by the United States government, said at a congressional hearing in July that two dozen of her family members in Xinjiang were missing, including her brother.
“I hope and pray for my family to be let go and released,” Ms. Hoja said. “But I know even if that happens, they will still live under constant threat.”
A Chinese law student in Canada, Shawn Zhang, has compiled satellite images that show the scale of some of the detention centers.
In their demand last month, Mr. Rubio and other lawmakers urged officials at the State and Treasury Departments to impose sanctions on Chinese companies that have profited from building the camps or the regionwide surveillance system, which includes the collection of biometric and DNA data. They singled out Hikvision and Dahua Technology for the surveillance.
Mr. Rubio said the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, of which he is a chairman, will also ask the Commerce Department to prevent American companies from selling technology to China that could contribute to the surveillance and tracking.
For many years, Chinese officials have talked about the need to suppress what they call terrorism, separatism and religious extremism in Xinjiang. In 2009, ethnic violence began soaring in the region. Security forces carried out mass repression in response, but large-scale construction of the camps, which now hold as many as one million people, did not begin until the arrival of Chen Quanguo, who became party chief of Xinjiang in August 2016, after a stint in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
The congressional demand, outlined in an Aug. 28 letter, singles out Mr. Chen among the seven Chinese officials who would be sanctioned.
In Washington, officials grappling with the plight of the Uighurs and other Chinese Muslims are doing so in the shadow of the mass murders, rapes and forced displacement of Rohingya Muslims by Burmese military forces that began in Myanmar in August 2017. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to neighboring Bangladesh and live in squalid camps.
Some American officials see the actions of the Chinese government as another form of the genocide that occurred in Myanmar, according to people with knowledge of the continuing discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they have not been authorized to talk publicly about the issue.
Sam Brownback, the State Department’s ambassador at large for international religious freedom and former governor of Kansas, supports taking a hard line against the Chinese government on the issue of Xinjiang, they said. Mr. Brownback declined to be interviewed.
In April, Laura Stone, an acting deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, told reporters on a visit to Beijing that the United States could impose sanctions on Chinese officials involved in the Xinjiang abuses under the Global Magnitsky Act. The law allows the American government to impose sanctions on specific foreign officials who are gross violators of human rights.
That same month, Heather Nauert, the chief spokeswoman for the State Department, called on China to release all those “unlawfully detained”after meeting in Washington with Ms. Hoja and five other ethnic Uighur journalists who work in the United States for Radio Free Asia. The journalists shared details of the mass detentions and of harassment of their own family members in the region.
The issue of the Uighurs was raised in July at the first international minister-level forum on global religious freedom, over which Mr. Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence presided. Ahead of it, Mr. Pompeo wrote an op-ed that listed the Uighurs among several groups suffering religious persecution. “These episodes and others like them are abhorrent,” he wrote.
In a statement to The Times, the State Department said officials “are deeply troubled by the Chinese government’s worsening crackdown” on Muslims.
“Credible reports indicate that individuals sent by Chinese authorities to detention centers since April 2017 number at least in the hundreds of thousands, and possibly millions,” the statement said.
The Trump administration has used an executive order tied to the Magnitsky Act once to impose sanctions on a Chinese official. In December, the White House announced sanctions against Gao Yan, who was a district police chief in Beijing when a human-rights activist died in detention.
Dhaka, Sep 11 (Dhaka) - Russia has launched its biggest military exercise since the Cold War, involving about 300,000 service personnel, in eastern Siberia.
China is sending 3,200 troops to take part in "Vostok-2018", with many Chinese armoured vehicles and aircraft. Mongolia is also sending some units, reports BBC.
The last Russian exercise of similar scale was in 1981, during the Cold War, but Vostok-2018 involves more troops.
The week-long manoeuvres come at a time of heightened Nato-Russia tensions.
As the exercises began, Russian President Vladimir Putin met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at a forum in the eastern city of Vladivostok and told him "we have a trusting relationship in the sphere of politics, security and defence".
Relations between Russia and Nato - a 29-member defence alliance dominated by the US - have worsened since Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the drills were justified given "aggressive and unfriendly" attitudes towards Russia.
Kabul, Sep 11 (AP/UNB) — A suicide bomber detonated his explosives-filled vest among a group of people protesting a local police commander in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, killing 32 and wounding about 130, a provincial official said.
Attahullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor said the all 32 people killed in the attack were innocent civilians gathered for a protest. A number of wounded people are in critical condition, he said.
"Around four hundred people gathered for the protest and the bomber detonated his vest full of explosive among the crowd," said Capt. Qais Saifi, an official at Nangarhar province police headquarters.
Gen. Ghulam Sanayee Stanikzai, police chief of Nangarhar province, said people from Achin district had come to the Momandara district to block the main highway between the capital Jalalabad and the Torkham border with Pakistan.
Stanikzai said locals had gathered to complain about a local police commander and the suicide bomber targeted them. It was unclear whether the attacker knew the nature of the protest.
Also in Nangarhar, at least one person was killed and four others wounded in a series of additional bomb blasts near different schools, said Khogyani.
Khogyani said the first bomb detonated near a school in the provincial capital Jalalabad. That blast was later followed by two others in Behsud district, also near two schools.
A 14-year-old student was killed and four others wounded in the first attack, he said.
Afghan president Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned the suicide attack against the demonstrators as well as the bomb blasts near schools in Nangarhar. A statement released Tuesday from Ghani's office quoted him as saying that "attacks on civilian facilities, mosques, women, children, are all crimes against humanity."
Taliban insurgents in a statement posted on their website denied any involvement in the attack.
No any other group immediately claimed responsibility for any of the attacks, but both Taliban insurgents and the Islamic State group are active in eastern Afghanistan, especially in Nangarhar province.
Addis Ababa, Sep 11 (AP/UNB) — Taking the next step in their dramatic diplomatic thaw, the leaders of Ethiopia and Eritrea on Tuesday officially opened the border where a bloody war divided them for decades, with emotional residents embracing after years of separation.
Ethiopia's reformist new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and longtime Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki "marked the radical transformation of the Ethio-Eritrea border into a frontier of peace & friendship," Abiy's chief of staff Fitsum Arega said in a Twitter post.
The leaders visited the Bure Front with members of their militaries to mark the Ethiopian new year and later did the same at the Serha-Zalambesa crossing, Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Meskel said on Twitter.
Photos showed Abiy in camouflage walking alongside Isaias in olive drab, while a ribbon stretched across one border post bristled with military personnel carrying not guns but cameras. Hundreds of civilians waved the countries' flags. People of the countries' Tigray region, who share close cultural ties, danced while flag-draped camels wandered by.
The former bitter rivals have made a stunning reconciliation since Abiy weeks after taking office in April announced that Ethiopia would fully embrace a peace deal that ended a 1998-2000 border war that killed tens of thousands. At the time, he said the countries would celebrate the Ethiopian new year together: "We want our brothers and sisters to come here and visit us as soon as possible."
Embassies have reopened, telephone lines have been restored and commercial flights between the capitals have resumed as some long-separated families have held tearful reunions. Landlocked Ethiopia, one of Africa's fastest-growing economies, and Eritrea, one of the world's most closed-off nations, also plan development cooperation around Eritrea's Red Sea ports in particular.
Reports on social media on Monday indicated that mine-clearing activities were underway in one border area, signaling that an opening was planned. The United Nations has called the border one of the world's most heavily mined.
It was not clear if the countries would withdraw troops from the border.
Abiy on Monday told a new year's eve concert crowd of thousands in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, that "as of today, Ethiopian and Eritrean people will prosper together and march in unison. ... The last five months have brought hope and reconciliation."
The Ethiopian new year has roots in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and is related to the Julian calendar. Eritrea has used the Gregorian calendar since it gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993.
The reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea has been warmly welcomed by the international community and has led to a series of further thaws in the fragile Horn of Africa region, with Eritrea resuming diplomatic ties with both turbulent Somalia and the small but strategic port and military nation of Djibouti.
Observers now wonder whether the thaw will inspire Eritrea's leader, who has led since independence without elections, to embrace reforms and loosen a strict military conscription system that has led the small country to become one of the largest sources of migrants fleeing toward Europe, Israel and elsewhere.