Thousands Protest British PM’s Move to Suspend Parliament 

Thousands of people across Britain and Northern Ireland protested on Saturday against Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament for about a month before the deadline for the country to leave the European Union. 
 
Johnson has pledged to take Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31 with or without a deal on future relations with the bloc. The move to shut Parliament for around a month in the period before that will hinder efforts by his opponents to stop him. About 2,000 people gathered outside his office in Downing Street, chanting: “Liar Johnson, shame on you!” 
 
A sign read: “#StopTheCoup. Defend our Democracy. Save our future.” 

Nothing abnormal

The government says it is usual for Parliament to be suspended before a new prime minister outlines his policy program in a queen’s speech, now scheduled for Oct. 14. His supporters also say Parliament usually breaks in late September, when the main political parties hold their annual conferences. 
 
But his critics say the suspension, known as a prorogation, is unusually long and describe the move as a thinly veiled attempt to reduce the time that lawmakers will have to debate before Britain leaves the EU at the end of October. 
 
Opposition lawmakers want to prevent the shutdown of Parliament and pass legislation to avoid a no-deal Brexit when they return from summer recess on Tuesday. 
 
Protests were scheduled in other major cities in the four nations of the United Kingdom, comprising England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  

A crowd gathers to protest against British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Aug. 31, 2019.

About 100 people protested outside the city hall in Belfast, the capital of the Northern Ireland, which has become a particular focus in the Brexit negotiations because it has the United Kingdom’s only land border with the European Union. 
 
The “backstop” insurance policy, part of the withdrawal agreement negotiated between the EU and Britain’s former prime minister and which aims to keep the border with Ireland open, has become the main sticking point in negotiations. 
 
Johnson wants the backstop removed, saying it could leave Northern Ireland operating under different regulatory rules than the rest of the United Kingdom. The EU and Ireland say Britain has yet to come up with acceptable alternatives. 

Court case

A court case being heard in Belfast next week aims to block Johnson’s suspension of Parliament on the ground that a no-deal Brexit would breach the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that brought peace to the British-run province of Northern Ireland. 
 
Protesters said the government had failed to consider the importance of the border issue. 
 
“The thing that scares me most is they have no appreciation of what is important for Northern Ireland. We are not on their radar,” said Graham Glendinning, 49, a software worker. “The border means nothing to them and they don’t give two hoots about it.” 


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Trump Tweets, Golfs Amid Hurricane Preparations

After canceling a trip to Poland to stay stateside to oversee the federal government’s response to an approaching hurricane, President Donald Trump took time out to golf and to send a thinly veiled warning to his ousted Oval Office gatekeeper.

The president, on Saturday morning, was flown on Marine One from Camp David in Maryland to his Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia.
 
Camp David has a driving range and a single golf hole with multiple tees, but the president, keeping to his weekend routine when the weather is fair, chose to head to the nearest of his private 18-hole courses.

Before departing the presidential retreat, which he rarely has used, Trump dispatched a blizzard of tweets – at a rate of nearly one per minute over an hour – on his personal @realDonaldTrump account.

Some of his tweets referenced Hurricane Dorian, a Category 4 storm poised to damage the southeastern U.S. coast, with Trump noting it could pose more of a threat to South Carolina and Georgia than the original forecast of landfall in Florida.

Looking like our great South Carolina could get hit MUCH harder than first thought. Georgia and North Carolina also. It’s moving around and very hard to predict, except that it is one of the biggest and strongest (and really wide) that we have seen in decades. Be safe!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 31, 2019

“He’s being briefed every hour” about the hurricane, according to White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.

Amid continuing questions about why Trump postponed his trip to Poland for a hurricane that is not expected to hit any of the United States until after the time the president would have returned from Europe, Grisham said, “Obviously, being here domestically is better. … We’re more nimble and all his agencies are here.” 

After time at his golf course, Trump was to receive another briefing, back at Camp David, about the hurricane.

On Sunday, Trump is scheduled to return to the White House and then visit the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in downtown Washington.

FILE – President Donald Trump’s personal secretary Madeleine Westerhout stands outside the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, April 2, 2018.

A pair of Saturday tweets by Trump focused on the abrupt departure of Oval Office gatekeeper Madeleine Westerhout, who had dished gossip to a group of reporters during an off-the-record dinner and drinking session about the president’s eating habits. She also disparaged daughter Tiffany Trump, claiming the president does not like being photographed with her because he thinks she is overweight.

Book publishers reportedly have been seeking to contact Westerhout after she was not permitted to return on Friday to her job as a personal assistant to the president.

Trump, on Twitter, said Westerhout had signed a confidentially agreement, but “I don’t think there would ever be reason to use it. She called me yesterday to apologize, had a bad night. I fully understood and forgave her! I love Tiffany, doing great!”

While Madeleine Westerhout has a fully enforceable confidentiality agreement, she is a very good person and I don’t think there would ever be reason to use it. She called me yesterday to apologize, had a bad night. I fully understood and forgave her! I love Tiffany, doing great!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 31, 2019

In a subsequent tweet, the president claimed he is “currently suing several people for violating their confidentiality agreements,” including former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman, who was fired after one year as the communications director in the White House Office of Public Liaison.

…Yes, I am currently suing various people for violating their confidentiality agreements. Disgusting and foul mouthed Omarosa is one. I gave her every break, despite the fact that she was despised by everyone, and she went for some cheap money from a book. Numerous others also!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 31, 2019

A number of former federal lawyers and private attorneys rebutted Trump on Twitter, asserting that the non-disclosure agreements are not legally enforceable unless classified information is revealed.

Trump himself is facing some criticism about revealing sensitive U.S. government information after he tweeted on Friday a detailed photograph of a launchpad explosion of an Iranian rocket that was set to put a satellite into space.  

Analysts say the public release of an image with such resolution is unprecedented and was probably taken by a KH-11 American spy satellite known as USA-224.

“We had a photo and I released it, which I have the absolute right to do,” Trump told reporters on Friday.

U.S. presidents are able to declassify information at their discretion – the most prominent example being John Kennedy’s decision in 1962 to make public pictures taken by a U-2 spy plane that revealed Soviets troops were placing missiles in Cuba aimed at the United States.

 


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9 FARC Rebels Killed in Raid by Colombian Military

The Colombian military has killed nine rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces in Colombia (FARC), President Ivan Duque said.

A FARC commander and eight other guerrillas were killed in a bombing raid in southern Colombia on Friday, just days after the group announced it was taking up arms again to ensure their political rights under an historic peace agreement.

Duque said the attack occurred in the municipality of San Vicente del Caguan, located in the province of Caqueta, after he authorized a military operation in rural areas in the southern part of the country.

Duque said Friday’s bombing sends “a clear message” to FARC members to lay down their weapons.

Among those killed was a rebel known by his alias, Gildardo Cucho, a member of a group led by former FARC chief negotiator Luciano Marin, who was trying to recruit potential rebels for a new guerrilla movement.

On Thursday, former FARC commander Ivan Marquez announced in a video that a new offensive would be launched, three years after FARC signed a peace deal with the government, ending five decades of armed conflict in the South American country.

“This is the continuation of the rebel fight in answer to the betrayal of the state,” Marquez, in a 32-minute YouTube video. “We were never beaten or defeated ideologically, so the struggle continues.”

Marquez, a former chief rebel negotiator, appeared alongside some 20 heavily armed guerrillas when he made the announcement, which comes amid severe challenges to the complex peace agreement.

In response to the FARC announcement, Duque said “Colombia takes no threats. Not of any nature.”

Colombia’s peace tribunal also has issued arrest warrants for Marquez and the others who have pledged to take up the insurgency again.

President Duque is offering an $863,000 reward for information leading to the capture of anyone who appeared in the YouTube video, according to Reuters.

Hundreds of former rebels and human rights activists have been murdered since the accord was signed.  That, coupled with delays in funding for economic efforts by former rebels — has exacerbated deep political divisions within the country.

Marquez said the group’s objective is to ensure the installation of a government that will promote peace. Marquez said the group will fight corruption and fracking (the hydraulic fracturing crude oil extraction process) and demand payments from participants in illicit economies and from multinational corporations.

About 7,000 rebels surrendered their weapons to United Nations observers as part of the agreement that was negotiated with the support of the United States, Cuba and Norway. But smaller rebel groups and drug traffickers have filled the void, leaving many citizens frustrated with the slow pace of implementing the agreement.

Security sources estimate the force commanded by Marquez could number 2,200 fighters.

 


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Thousands March in Moscow Protest Defying Authorities

Current Time TV is a Russian-language network led by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA.

MOSCOW — Thousands of Russians defied authorities and marched in central Moscow, ignoring officials’ warnings and pressing demands to let independent candidates run in upcoming city council elections.

Police did not interfere with the August 31 protest, which was markedly smaller than previous ones.

However, camouflaged officers linked arms to keep marchers out of the road when demonstrators arrived at Pushkin Square — a symbolically important public park closer to the Kremlin. A heavy presence of detention buses and water-cannon trucks were visible on nearby side streets.

Neither police nor independent watchdogs reported any arrests or detentions from the action — in contrast to other recent protests in which thousands were detained, sometimes violently.

The August 31 action was the latest in a series of confrontations between liberal activists, and Moscow city authorities — and the Kremlin.

Demonstrators clapped and chanted “Russia Will Be Free!” and “Down With The Tsar!” (in a reference to President Vladimir Putin, who has been in power in Russia for two decades), as they walked along a leafy boulevard just a few kilometers north of the Kremlin.

A leading opposition figure and one of the organizers of the march, Lyubov Sobol, led people chanting “Freedom For Political Prisoners.”

“People of different ages have come out because everyone wants justice. They want Russia to be free and happy and to not drown in lawlessness and mayhem. We demand this and we will not back down,” she told reporters.

At Pushkin Square, the ending point for the march, participants milled around, occasionally yelling political chants. One group entered the crowd carrying a large banner citing the clause in the constitution that gives Russians the right to gather peacefully, and yelled “We Need Another Russia!”

Unofficial estimates put the crowd size in the low thousands.

Protesters also yelled “Let Them Through!” as they marched — a reference to the City Duma elections scheduled for Sept. 8.

The refusal by election officials to register some independent candidates has been the impetus for the protests that have been held weekly since mid-July.

However, they’ve also turned into a major challenge for the Kremlin and a reflection of growing impatience among Russians with President Vladimir Putin.

The weekly protests first erupted in July as election authorities blocked some independent candidates from registering to run on September 8.

The initial rallies drew tens of thousands of people in some of the largest political demonstrations seen in the country since 2012. Some, though not all, were authorized by officials ahead of time.

Police have violently dispersed several of the earlier demonstrations, some of which authorities described as “illegal mass gatherings.” More than 2,000 people have been detained, some preemptively, drawing international condemnation.

 


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Georgian Deputy FM: Russia Exclusively to Blame Over Latest Tensions

This story originated in VOA’s Georgian Service. Nino Dalakishvili contributed reporting from the border checkpoint near Chorchana, Georgia.

WASHINGTON — A senior Georgian official Friday said demands by Russian-backed separatists in occupied South Ossetia that Georgia remove a police observation tower could cause a “serious confrontation” between the breakaway regions and Georgian authorities.

Deputy Foreign Minister Lasha Darsalia, in a telephone interview with VOA, said Moscow is exclusively to blame for the recent escalation in tensions, which follow the Georgian government’s construction in recent weeks of an observation tower inside Georgian-controlled territory near the administrative boundary line between Russian-occupied South Ossetia and the rest of Georgia.

Georgia raised its concerns Friday about the risk of “serious confrontation” after Russian-backed separatists in the occupied region of South Ossetia demanded Thursday night that Georgian authorities remove the observation tower and gave the government until early Friday morning to comply.

Russian military vehicles and personnel are reportedly seen from a birds-eye view near the village of Chorchana, Khashuri municipality, Georgia. (Social media)

Georgian police had quickly erected the tower after observing the “mobilization of military equipment and personnel” by Russia near the village of Chorchana, in Georgian territory, about three kilometers south of territory controlled by the Russian-backed South Ossetian de facto authorities.

Russia has been engaged in a process of “borderization” in the Gori region, where the Russia-Georgia War happened in 2008. The Russian occupation forces have been erecting fences and other barriers to separate land it occupies from the remainder of Georgian territory.

VOA footage shot from the Georgian police observation post Friday morning shows a partially constructed barrier along the edge of Chorchana. The new Russian barrier is the first in the Khashuri region. Georgian police set up the observation tower overlooking the wall construction site to determine whether it crossed into Georgian-controlled land, which would physically expand the footprint of Russian-occupied territory.

Pro-Russian separatists have objected to the police presence, saying the observation tower is right next to a village on South Ossetian territory called Uista, known as Tsnelisi in Georgia.


Georgian Checkpoint video player.
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Georgian Checkpoint

“I hope Georgia … will do everything to resolve the instability they caused by their illegal actions,” the breakaway region’s leader, Anatoly Bibilov, was quoted as saying by Russian agencies. “Resolving this issue by force would be highly undesirable.”

Georgia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Lasha Darsalia says no law has been broken.

“Our position is that this is central government-controlled territory, and the Georgian government is not considering any withdrawal of the police position from the area,” he told VOA’s Georgian Service in an exclusive interview Friday. “At the same time, we all have to work together toward the de-escalation process.”

Russia in ‘full control’

Darsalia also said that, despite the fact that it is de facto authorities of the breakaway region who are protesting the Georgian police presence, is only Moscow that is responsible for the situation on the ground.

“I want to highlight that I really don’t distinguish de facto authorities from the only one [Russia], which has full responsibility for the situation and de-escalation processes there,” he said. “The Russian Federation is the one who exercises full control of these territories. This is important to highlight.”


Chorchana Border Buildup video player.
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Chorchana Border Buildup

He also said the situation on the ground, while still tense, was currently “more calm as compared to this morning.”

The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned Russia’s mobilization of military equipment in the conflict zone and in a tweet called the latest actions “yet another provocation.”

Statement of @MFAgovge.
The Ministry expresses concern about mobilisation of military equipment and personnel by t/occupation forces at t/occupation line, close to village Chorchana. such actions represent yet another provocation https://t.co/64naQNC4Xz

— MFA of Georgia (@MFAgovge) August 29, 2019

Earlier Friday, Kakha Kemoklidze, Georgia’s National Security Council chief of staff, told VOA “this is an average incident that requires a pragmatic, calm approach, and activation of all diplomatic means at our disposal.

“The village of Chorchana — before and after the 2008 Russia-Georgia war — was in territory controlled by the government of Georgia,” he added. “On this territory, the EU monitoring mission, as well as Georgian police mobile patrol units, were conducting operations with varying intensity.” Kemoklidze said the statement by the Russian-backed South Ossetian authorities that “Georgian police have ‘started to appear’ is not newsworthy: Georgian police have always been present here, although there was no permanent observation point.”

Kemoklidze also said he anticipates that “we can resolve this through a dialogue — at least, that is the great desire of the Georgian government.”

On Thursday, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) had said in a statement that “recent developments along the administrative boundary line had negatively impacted the overall security situation.”

Tensions in this region escalated in August 2008, when Russia invaded South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and penetrated deeper into Georgian territory, before agreeing to an EU-brokered cease-fire. Shortly after the invasion, Russia recognized these territories as independent states, as did Syria, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Nauru sometime later.

No other countries recognize the independence of these territories, and instead consider Russia’s ongoing military presence as an “illegal occupation” of 20% of Georgia’s sovereign territory.

The U.S. State Department has issued multiple statements over the preceding two weeks saying that it has been “monitoring reports of military buildup” in the area and calling on Russia to “prevent further escalation.”

We are monitoring reports of military buildup near the administrative boundary line (ABL) of the Russian-occupied Georgian region of South Ossetia. We call on the Russian Federation to utilize all available channels to prevent further escalation of the situation along the ABL. pic.twitter.com/fLXUdX3TSZ

— Morgan Ortagus (@statedeptspox) August 30, 2019


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Twitter CEO Account Hacked, Offensive Tweets Posted

Twitter said Friday the account of chief executive Jack Dorsey had been “compromised” after a series of erratic and offensive messages were posted.

The tweets containing racial slurs and suggestions about a bomb showed up around 2000 GMT on the @jack account of the founder of the short messaging service before being deleted.

Some of the tweets contained the hashtag #ChucklingSquad, which was believed to indicate the identity of the hacker group. The same calling card was left behind during recent hacks of other high-profile social media personalities.

The messages contained racial epithets, and included a retweet of a message supporting Nazi Germany.

“We’re aware that @jack was compromised and (are) investigating what happened,” a Twitter spokesperson said.

Tweets up for 30 minutes

The San Francisco-based firm followed up midafternoon with a Twitter post saying Dorsey’s account was secured and there was “no indication that Twitter’s systems have been compromised.”

It appeared that tweets posted on Dorsey’s account by the hacker were up for about a half-hour before they were removed.

Pinned atop Dorsey’s account was a tweet from early last year saying: “We’re committing Twitter to help increase the collective health, openness, and civility of public conversation, and to hold ourselves publicly accountable towards progress.”

A barrage of comments fired off on the platform questioned why the Twitter co-founder didn’t secure his account with two-factor authentication, and how disturbing a sign it was that the service wasn’t to keep its own chief safe on the platform.

“If you can’t protect Jack, you can’t protect … jack,” one Twitter user quipped.

The Twitter logo is displayed above a trading post on the floor of the NY Stock Exchange, Feb. 8, 2018.

Cleaning up content

The news comes with Dorsey and Twitter moving aggressively to clean up offensive and inappropriate content as part of a focus on “safety.”

“This might be the only way to get rid of racist tweets on this platform,” a Twitter user commented.

British-based security consultant Graham Cluley said the incident highlighted the importance of two-factor authentication, where a user must confirm the account via an external service.

“Everyone should ensure they have 2FA enabled, use unique password, and double check what apps they’ve linked to their accounts,” Cluley tweeted. “Hard to say at moment how he was compromised, but one of those reasons most likely.”

Cloudhopper

Cybersecurity researcher Kevin Beaumont said the account appeared to have been hijacked “via a third party called Cloudhopper, which Twitter acquired about 10 years ago and had access to his account.”

Cloudhopper enables users to send tweets on their phones via SMS.

University of Hartford communications professor Adam Chiara was keen to learn whether the breach resulted from Dorsey’s negligence or a breakdown of security at Twitter.

“While it’s tempting to laugh at the irony of it, the real-world consequences don’t make it funny,” Chiara said of Dorsey’s account being hacked. “Twitter can tell us that they are becoming more diligent with our privacy and security, but actions speak louder than words.”

The incident raised fresh concerns about how social media users, even prominent ones, can have their accounts compromised and used for misinformation, a point highlighted by Canadian member of parliament Michelle Rempel Garner.

“Between bots, trolls and abuse, I’ve been skeptical about @Twitter as a viable platform for some time now,” Rempel Garner wrote. “But the fact it took the platform’s owner (@jack) about 30 min to get his hacked account under control is deeply problematic, and makes me worry as an elected official.”


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Valerie Harper, TV’s ‘Rhoda,’ Dies at 80

Valerie Harper, who scored guffaws and stole hearts as Rhoda Morgenstern on back-to-back hit sitcoms in the 1970s, has died. She was 80. 
 
Longtime family friend Dan Watt confirmed Harper died Friday, adding the family wasn’t immediately releasing any further details.  

Harper was a breakout star playing the lovable sidekick on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” then as the funny leading lady of the spinoff series “Rhoda.” 
 
In March 2013, she revealed that she had been diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. She had battled lung cancer in 2009, and her husband-manager said recently that he’d been advised to place her in hospice. 
 
Harper appeared on Broadway and in feature films, including “Freebie and the Bean” and “Chapter Two.” 


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Trial in 9/11 Case at Guantanamo to Start in Early 2021

A military judge set a date Friday in early 2021 for the start of the long-stalled war crimes trial of five men being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison on charges of planning and aiding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Air Force Col. W. Shane Cohen set the start date in an order setting motion and evidentiary deadlines in a case that has been bogged down in pretrial litigation. The five defendants were arraigned in May 2012.

In setting the Jan. 11, 2021, start, Cohen noted that the trial at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, “will face a host of administrative and logistics challenges.”

The U.S. has charged the five with war crimes that include terrorism, hijacking and nearly 3,000 counts of murder for their alleged roles planning and providing logistical support to the Sept. 11 plot. They could get the death penalty if convicted at the military commission, which combines elements of civilian and military law.

The five defendants include Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, a senior al-Qaida figure who has portrayed himself as the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks and other terrorist plots.

Mohammad and his four co-defendants have been held at Guantanamo since September 2006 after several years in clandestine CIA detention facilities following their capture.


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Tanzanian Journalist’s Lawyer Presses for Trial, Medical Care

Peter Clottey of VOA’s English to Africa service contributed to this report.

A lawyer for Tanzanian investigative journalist Erick Kabendera on Friday asked that he get a speedy trial and medical attention after more than four weeks of incarceration.

Appearing with Kabendera at a hearing in magistrate’s court in Dar es Salaam, attorney Jebra Kambole asked that the journalist’s case be resolved quickly. It was adjourned for the third time until Sept. 12, according to Reuters news service, reportedly because the prosecution’s investigation is continuing.

Kabendera was arrested at his home July 29 over what authorities at the time said were problems with his citizenship. He subsequently was charged with involvement in organized crime, money laundering and tax evasion.

Kabendera is being held at Segerea prison on the city’s outskirts.

Kambole later told VOA, in a phone interview, that he had asked prison authorities to allow the journalist to be taken to a state hospital for treatment of respiratory and leg problems that have developed during his incarceration.

“The last time we sit and talk,” Kambole said, the journalist had experienced faintness and leg numbness. “He cannot walk properly.”

Kabendera has been critical of President John Magufuli’s administration and the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party in stories for The Guardian, The East African and The Times of London.

On Thursday, ahead of the court hearing, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) called for authorities to drop all charges against Kandera.

In a statement, the IFJ cited its concern “that the journalist’s arrest and the confused prosecution based on spurious charges are an attempt to hide what merely is a ruthless retaliation against Kabendera for his reporting.”

After Kabendera’s arrest, the United States and Britain raised concerns about the “steady erosion of due process” in the east African country. Their governments put out a joint statement raising concern about “the irregular handling of the arrest, detention and indictment” of Kabendera.


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Teen Climate Activist Thunberg Leads Rally at UN

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg joined several hundred other young people Friday outside the United Nations to demand action on global warming. 
 
To chants of “Greta! Greta!” the petite 16-year-old climate rock star made her way through a sea of young people, many of whom said they had drawn inspiration from her activism. 
 
She rose to fame last year after she started skipping school on Fridays, leading strikes over the lack of action on climate change. 
 
Greta arrived in New York on Wednesday, ahead of a Sept. 21 Youth Climate Summit at the United Nations, which she will address. Adult leaders will meet two days later to have a climate summit of their own. 
 
She has said she will not fly because air travel leaves too big a carbon footprint, and she put her principles to the test, crossing the Atlantic in a zero-emissions, no-frills sailboat with her father and a small crew. The trip took two weeks and the seas were often rough. 
 
On Friday, she looked tired and perhaps a bit overwhelmed by the large and enthusiastic crowd and the aggressive pack of photographers and reporters. She answered a few questions, but her comments were mostly inaudible because there was no sound system and she is not one to shout her message. But it did not dampen the enthusiasm of the many young people who had come to see her.  

Youths gather Aug. 30, 3019, outside the United Nations in New York to demand action on global warming. (M. Besheer/VOA)

“We came today because we want to support Greta,” 12-year old Tilly told VOA. She had a sturdy grip on the hand of her 8-year old sister, Izzy. Tilly noted that her family recycles.  
 
Olivia, 15, from Long Island, New York, came by commuter train with her friend Defna, also 15, to see Greta. Olivia said her school is very conservative and climate change is not a subject that gets much attention. She wants to change that. 
 
“We want to start being a voice for our school, because we have to, because no one else is,” Olivia said. “We don’t have any clubs about the environment. We don’t have anything. We are trying to start, we have to, because people need to know about it, because they think it’s not as bad as it is.” 
 
This youth movement is angry at world leaders and adults who they think are not taking rising atmospheric temperatures, melting ice caps and greenhouse gas emissions seriously. 
 
“They [adults] have to strike with us, definitely,” Defna said. “And people who do not believe in the issue have to come here and support the kids, because it is our future.” 
 

A speaker addresses young climate activists outside the United Nations in New York, Aug. 30, 2019. The rally preceded a Sept. 21 Youth Climate Summit at the U.N.; adults will meet two days later for a climate summit of their own. (M. Besheer/VOA)

Demonstrators carried signs that warned, “Protect the planet because your life depends on it,” “Our house is on fire,” and messages to the grownups that included, “Act now or we will!” 
 
Greta received an impromptu invitation to meet with the president of the U.N. General Assembly, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés. She took two of the young New York activists with her, Alexandria Villasenor, 14 and Xiye Bastida, 17. 
 
As they entered the U.N. building, Thunberg noted, “There is a lot of air conditioning.” 

‘Tipping point’
 
In her meeting, she spoke of the upcoming summit.  
 
“I think this U.N. summit needs to be some kind of breaking point, tipping point, where people start to realize what is actually going on,” Thunberg said. “And, so we have high expectations in you, too, and all member states to deliver. And we are going to try to do our part to make sure that they have all eyes on them and they have put the pressure on them so they cannot continue to ignore it.” 
 
Espinosa told VOA that she was impressed with Thunberg because of all that she has done and for “her commitment, strength and intelligence.” 
 
She said they discussed how governments, the private sector, citizens and youth all have roles to play to change the tide of global warming.  
 
Also Friday, a Brazilian delegation met with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House, “to thank [him] for his support during the crisis surrounding the fires in the Amazon rainforest.” 
 
The meeting was not previously announced in the president’s daily schedule but was tweeted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro late Thursday.

– Nosso Chanceler @ernestofaraujo e o Deputado Eduardo @BolsonaroSP serão recebidos, nessa sexta-feira, pelo Presidente @realDonaldTrump na Casa Branca em Washington.

— Jair M. Bolsonaro (@jairbolsonaro) August 29, 2019

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Minister of Foreign Affairs Ernesto Araújo downplayed the fires. “It’s basically on average of the last years, and Brazil is already controlling the fires,” he said. 
 
More than 75,000 fires covering the Amazon region have been detected this year, with many of them coming this month. Experts have blamed farmers and ranchers for the fires, accusing them of setting them to clear lands for their operations.  
  
About 60% of the Amazon region is in Brazil. The vast rainforest also extends into Bolivia, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.  
 
At the Group of Seven summit in Biarritz, France, last weekend, French President Emmanuel Macron and Bolsonaro went head to head several times over the Amazon fires issue. 


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