Pope Francis criticizes migrant treatment and rising wealth inequality

Pope Francis criticized rising wealth inequality and the treatment of migrants, saying the world should not ignore those “tossed by the waves of life”.

“Injustice is the perverse root of poverty,” Francis said. “The cry of the poor daily becomes stronger but heard less, drowned out by the din of the rich few, who grow ever fewer and more rich.”

Francis also reiterated his support for migrants saying that people must pay attention to “all those forced to flee their homes and native land for an uncertain future”.

A report this year by Oxfam said 3.7 billion people, or half of the global population, saw no increase in their wealth in 2017, while 82 percent of the wealth generated last year went to the richest one percent of the global population.


Federal Court blocks Trump Administration’s asylum ban

A federal court in San Francisco has temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s new asylum ban, saying it violates existing law and would cause irreparable harm to immigrants.

Earlier this month, President Trump issued a proclamation saying anyone crossing the U.S. southern border without doing so through an official port would be ineligible for asylum. The American Civil Liberties Union, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Center for Constitutional Rights and others quickly filed lawsuits seeking to block the order. The plaintiffs’ complaint alleged the administration violated the Immigration and Nationality Act, or INA, which maintains that if a person makes it to U.S. soil — even if they’ve crossed the border illegally — they are eligible to apply for asylum.

U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar agreed with the complaint in his ruling, issuing a temporary restraining order on the proclamation. “Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” he wrote. It “strains credulity” that an asylum-seeker’s manner of entry into the U.S. can be the sole factor in declaring them ineligible for asylum, he wrote.

“This ban is illegal, will put people’s lives in danger, and raises the alarm about President Trump’s disregard for separation of powers,” ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt, who argued the case, wrote in a statement. “There is no justifiable reason to flatly deny people the right to apply for asylum, and we cannot send them back to danger based on the manner of their entry. Congress has been clear on this point for decades,” his statement continued.

Southern Poverty Law Center lawyer Mary Bauer said she’d “talked to a dozen kids and they’ve all been there any number of weeks,” she said, “and they’ve all been told that if they try to get on the list [to get into the US for an asylum claim], they’ll be taken into custody.”

The allegations from Tijuana make it clear that the asylum ban actually affected unaccompanied children more than anyone — and made asylum literally unavailable to them. And even now, with the ban on hold, these children will have to find a way to cross into the US illegally — over newly mounted concertina wire — if they want a shot at asylum.

The Trump administration intends to keep fighting the asylum ban in hopes of getting the newly ensconced conservative majority on the Supreme Court to uphold it.


New UNESCO report highlights insufficient progress on education for refugee children

Half of the world’s forcibly displaced people are under the age of 18. Yet, many countries exclude them from their national education systems.

Asylum-seeking children in detention in countries such as Australia, Hungary, Indonesia, Malaysia and Mexico, are given limited access to education, if any. Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, Burundian refugees in the United Republic of Tanzania, Karen refugees in Thailand and many Afghan refugees in Pakistan can only get an education in separate, nonformal, community-based or private schools, some of which are not certified.

Lebanon and Jordan, hosts to the largest number of refugees per capita, do not have the resources necessary to build more schools. They have therefore established separate morning and afternoon school shifts for citizen and refugee children.

To provide quality education to all refugees, Germany would need 42,000 new teachers, Turkey 80,000 and Uganda 7,000.

A new UNESCO Report recognizes the considerable investments made by countries such as Rwanda and Iran to ensure that refugees attend school side by side with nationals. Turkey has committed to include all refugees in its national education system by 2020, as have seven countries in East Africa. Uganda has already fulfilled this promise.

 [Read full article]

The US has spent almost 6,000,000,000,000 dollars on wars since 2001

A new report from Brown University is aiming to provide a close estimate of the cost of the overall cost to the US government of its myriad post-9/11 wars and assorted global wars on terror. The estimate is that $5.933 trillion has been spent through fiscal year 2019.

This is, of course, vastly higher than official figures, owing to the Pentagon trying to oversimplify the costs into simply overseas contingency operations. It is only when one considers the cost of medical and disability care for soldiers, and future such costs, along with things like the interest on the extra money borrowed for the wars, that the true cost becomes clear.

That sort of vast expenditure is only the costs and obligations of the wars so far, and with little sign of them ending, they are only going to grow. In particular, a generation of wars is going to further add to the medical costs for veterans’ being consistently deployed abroad.

Starting in late 2001, the US has engaged in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere around the world. Many of those wars have become more or less permanent operations, with no consideration of ending them under any circumstances.


Editor’s note:
If someone spent a million dollars every day since Jesus was born, to date they still wouldn’t have spent a Trillion dollars!
If you could spend $1,000 per second, it would take almost 30 years to spend 1 trillion dollars!
In about half that time, the U.S. has spent 6 trillion dollars on war.

The US has spent more on Afghanistan’s reconstruction than was spent on all Western Europe after World War II

“All the money that has come to this country has gone to the people in power. The poor people didn’t get anything,” said Hajji Akram, a day laborer in Kabul’s Old City who struggles to feed his family on around $4 a day. “The foreigners are not making things better. They should go.”

It’s not just Afghans who feel this way. The United States’ own inspector general for Afghanistan’s reconstruction offered a blistering critique in a speech in Ohio.

John Sopko pointed out that the U.S. has spent $132 billion on Afghanistan’s reconstruction–more than was spent on Western Europe after World War II.

Another $750 billion has been spent on U.S. military operations, and Washington has pledged $4 billion a year for Afghanistan’s security forces.

The result? “Even after 17 years of U.S. and coalition effort and financial largesse, Afghanistan remains one of the poorest, least educated, and most corrupt countries in the world,” Sopko said. “It is also one of the most violent.”

“After the Taliban we were expecting something good, but instead, day by day, it is getting worse,” said Hamidullah Nasrat who sells imported fabrics in Kabul’s main bazaar. “How is it that a superpower like the United States cannot stop the Taliban? It is a question every Afghan is asking.”


Canadian-led movement aims to seize assets from dictators to remedy refugee crisis

A Canadian-led international movement seized with staunching the flow of refugees wants to use an untapped source of cash to address the global crisis: the billions languishing in the frozen bank accounts of dictators and despots.

The proposal will be one of the main recommendations of the World Refugee Council, a self-appointed body of two dozen global political figures, academics and civil-society representatives led by former Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy. “We’ve put forward a proposition that where there are frozen assets they should be unfrozen through a proper legal process and reallocated to help the victims of the crime and corruption and instability that the bad guys create,” said Axworthy. “It’s a morality play. The bad guys have to pay to help their victims.”

The World Bank estimates the pool of cash to be worth $10 billion to $20 billion per year, Axworthy said in an interview.

The council was established last year by a Canadian think-tank, the Centre for International Governance Innovation, to find new ways to deal with the 21st century’s record-setting migration crisis — the 68.5 million displaced people driven from their homes by war, famine and disaster. The United Nations will turn its attention to solving the problem at a special session later this fall, and the council plans to offer its input, using the weight of the last Canadian foreign minister to chair a Security Council meeting. Axworthy says there are fundamental structural flaws in how the world’s institutions are set up to cope with the unprecedented forced migration of people, and a big one is how the bills are paid. The system is based on charity — the benevolent donations of people, countries and businesses — and is not sustainable, Axworthy said.

Axworthy said the courts in several countries can be used to seize funds that have been frozen there. Canada, the United States and Britain have all passed legislation allowing them to impose sanctions on individual human-rights abusers. These “Magnitsky laws” are named after a Russian tax accountant who died in prison after exposing a massive fraud by state officials there.

Irwin Cotler, a former Liberal justice minister and human-rights lawyer who has championed Magnitsky-style legislation, said in a separate interview that these laws can allow to go beyond freezing funds, because once the assets are seized, there’s no point to returning them to their corrupt owners. “What you want to do is have the proceeds put for the public good,” said Cotler, the founder of the Montreal-based Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.

[Read full CBC article]

New report shows the ozone hole is healing

A three decades old international treaty to phase out chemicals that deplete the ozone layer protecting our planet from harmful solar radiation is paying off. According to the 2018 Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion released by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme, the ozone layer is recovering.

This includes the “hole” over Antarctica where the ozone layer is exceptionally thin, which has been gradually shrinking since the early 2000s and is projected to heal by the 2060s. This year, the hole spanned about 9 million square miles, an area slightly smaller than the entire North American continent.

“Generally, it’s good news,” says Paul Newman, co-chair of the new assessment and chief scientist of earth sciences at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Ozone-depleting gases are decreasing and have continued to fall since the mid-1990s. “The projections into the future are pretty positive as long as parties continue to comply with the Montreal Protocol.”

That’s not to say there aren’t any flies in the ointment, Newman says. Certain ozone-depleting substances like chlorofluorocarbon-11 (CFC-11) are decreasing from the atmosphere more slowly than projected. Two independent networks have confirmed an uptick of emissions over eastern Asia since 2012, though their exact origins are still being investigated. That’s troubling because compounds including CFC-11 are banned under the Montreal Protocol and persist in the atmosphere for decades. If someone is releasing them today, they’ll continue to do damage for generations to come.

[Read full Popular Science article]

India suffering “the worst water crisis in its history”

India is suffering “the worst water crisis in its history,” according to a report by a government policy think tank NITI Aayog. Worsening water shortages – for farmers, households, and industry – threaten the lives and incomes of hundreds of millions of Indians, and the economic growth of the country, the report said.

An estimated 163 million people out of India’s population of 1.3 billion – or more than one in 10 – lack access to clean water close to their home, according to a 2018 report by WaterAid, an international water charity.

The port city of Chennai needs 800 million liters of water a day to meet demand for water, according to official data. At the moment, the government can provide only 675 million liters, according to the Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board. Like many Indian cities, Chennai and its suburbs plug that gap by buying water, encouraging residents to dig backyard borewells, or using private wells. Chennai depends on more than 4,000 private water tankers for its everyday water needs.  Each tanker may make up to five trips a day, ferrying water from the outskirts of the city to apartments, hotels, malls, and offices.

“There are neighborhoods that depend on tankers throughout the year with no access to government water pipelines,” said Shekhar Raghavan, director of the charity Rain Centre, which encourages rainwater harvesting and water conservation in urban areas. That, he said, has “given rise to the water mafia, which has total control over who will get how much water in the city.” Tankers identify good groundwater sources in agricultural areas in neighboring districts, pay a small fee to access the water and then sell if for 50 times that cost, Mr. Raghavan said. And what Raghavan called “indiscriminate” – and in many cases unauthorized – extraction of groundwater is creating growing problems as supplies run short.

Raghavan, of the Rain Centre, which has spent two decades looking for alternative and sustainable water for Chennai, said getting water to those who need it will require better rainwater harvesting and storage, and renovation of wells – not just more delivery tankers. “A common sense approach [is] required to avoid day zero,” he said.

Chennai’s highest court has ruled that overuse of rural groundwater is threatening food production and the country’s food security. “The water crisis is worsening and even we are worried about depleting ground water,” admitted Shakespeare Arulanandam, founder of the greater Tamil Nadu packaged drinking water manufacturers association, whose members filed the high court suit. “In the future we can only pray more fervently and hope for good rains to ensure there is enough water to go around. It will be up to the Gods,” he said.

[Thomson Reuters Foundation]

Bill Gates reinventing the toilet

Bill Gates thinks toilets are a serious business, and he’s betting big that a reinvention of this most essential of conveniences can save a half million lives and deliver $200 billion-plus in savings.

The billionaire philanthropist, whose Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation spent $200 million over seven years funding sanitation research, showcased some 20 novel toilet and sludge-processing designs that eliminate harmful pathogens and convert bodily waste into clean water and fertilizer.

The Microsoft Corp. co-founder explained that new approaches for sterilizing human waste may help end almost 500,000 infant deaths and save $233 billion annually in costs linked to diarrhea, cholera and other diseases caused by poor water, sanitation and hygiene.

One approach from the California Institute of Technology that Gates said he finds “super interesting” integrates an electrochemical reactor to break down water and human waste into fertilizer and hydrogen, which can be stored in hydrogen fuel cells as energy.

Without cost-effective alternatives to sewers and waste-treatment facilities, urbanization and population growth will add to the burden. In some cities, more than half the volume of human waste escapes into the environment untreated. Every dollar invested in sanitation yields about $5.50 in global economic returns, according to the World Health Organization.

Gates, who with wife Melinda has given more than $35.8 billion to the foundation since 1994, said he became interested in sanitation about a decade ago.


Children in less wealthy nations often perform better at school – UNICEF

Living in a rich country does not guarantee equal access to quality education, according to a UNICEF report. Children in less wealthy countries often perform better at school despite fewer national resources, the report says.

An Unfair Start: Inequality in Children’s Education in Rich Countries ranks 41 member countries of the European Union and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on the extent of educational inequalities at preschool, primary and secondary school levels. It uses the latest available data to examine the link between children’s achievement and factors such as parents’ occupation, migration background, gender and school characteristics.

In 16 of 29 European countries for which data are available, children from the poorest fifth of households have a lower preschool attendance rate than children from the richest fifth. The patterns persist throughout a child’s schooling.

Among children aged 15 who are doing equally well at school, those with parents in high-status jobs are much more likely to continue into higher education than those with parents in low-status jobs.

In 21 out of 25 countries with substantial levels of immigration children who are first-generation immigrants tend to do less well at school at age 15 than non-migrant children. In 15 countries, second-generation immigrant children also do less well than non-migrant children.

“What our report shows is that countries can offer their children the best of both worlds: They can achieve standards of excellence in education and have relatively low inequality,” said Dr Priscilla Idele, Director of UNICEF Innocenti. “But all rich countries can and must do much more for children from disadvantaged families as they are the most likely to fall behind.”

[Read full UNICEF article]