Guterres rebukes fossil fuel industry supporters

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Thursday, 6th June 2024.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres used his World Environment Day address Wednesday to call for a ban on advertising by the fossil fuels industry, and he asked public relations firms and advertising agencies to stop representing fossil fuels.

“I call on these companies to stop acting as enablers to planetary destruction,” Guterres said in a speech on climate action delivered at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. “Fossil fuels are not only poisoning our planet, they’re toxic for your brand,” he said.

Guterres accused oil, gas and coal companies of mounting greenwashing and disinformation campaigns and compared them to the misleading PR campaigns once used by tobacco companies to evade the harm from smoking. “Many governments restrict or prohibit advertising for products that harm human health, like tobacco,” Guterres said. “Some are now doing the same with fossil fuels.”

Newsweek notes Guterres’ speech comes amid mounting evidence of misleading public information efforts by fossil fuel interests. Several investigations and academic studies document how some fossil fuel companies have used their advertising and lobbying campaigns to sow doubt about the science on climate change. In some cases, such as with Exxon Mobil, that included hiding what the companies themselves knew about the harm that would come from burning more oil.

In April, a bicameral congressional investigation concluded that oil and gas companies had engaged in PR campaigns to “confuse and mislead the public” about climate science while moving to ensure the future use of more fossil fuels. “Big Oil’s deception campaign evolved from explicit denial of the basic science underlying climate change to deception, disinformation, and doublespeak,” the investigators found.

‘May 2024 the hottest on record’ – Copernicus

May 2024 was the hottest May ever recorded in the world since scientific records began in the mid-nineteenth century, according to Copernicus, the EU weather service. This is the twelvth month in a row that is the hottest ever recorded in the world. The global average temperature of the last 12 months, from June 2023 to May 2024, was the highest ever recorded, 1.63°C above the pre-industrial average 1850-1900, exceeding the limit of 1.5°C set by Paris Agreement and COP26 in Glasgow.

‘More than one in 4 children in serious food poverty’ – Unicef

More than one in four children under the age of five in the world live in “severe food poverty”, meaning over 180 million children risk serious consequences due to the lack of a nutritious and diversified diet, according to a Unicef ​​report. “Children who consume only two food groups a day, for example rice and a little milk, are 50 per cent more likely to suffer from serious forms of malnutrition”, warns Unicef head Catherine Russell.

Top Qatari and Egyptian mediators meet Hamas

Qatar’s prime minister and Egypt’s director of intelligence met in Doha on Wednesday with senior Hamas officials to discuss the Israeli proposal for a Gaza hostage and ceasefire deal, according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting.

The meeting, less than a week after Hamas received the proposal and President Biden presented it to the world, comes amid concerns Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s public statements could undermine the negotiations. Netanyahu is under significant pressure from both sides of his coalition. While the ultra-nationalist parties threaten to topple the government if the deal goes through, the ultra-Orthodox and centre-right parties are pressing him to push forward and ignore the threats.

Both Qatar and Egypt – two key mediators in the indirect talks between Israel and Hamas – said Hamas’ response to Biden’s speech was positive, but the group still hasn’t given an official response to the proposal.

CIA director Bill Burns arrived in Doha to meet with Qatari and Egyptian mediators, including Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Egyptian intelligence director Abbas Kamel.

A source briefed about the meeting with Hamas officials in Doha said there was no breakthrough yet and the efforts to reach a deal are ongoing. Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’ political bureau, said on Wednesday after the meeting that the group will consider “sincerely and positively” any proposal that is based on ending the war and withdrawing Israeli forces from Gaza.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told NBC on Wednesday that the Israeli hostage deal proposal is still “a live proposal”. “The Israeli government has reconfirmed as recently as today that the proposal is still on the table and it is up to Hamas to accept it,” he said.

Hamas officials and representatives from other Palestinian factions, like the Islamic Jihad, are expected to arrive in Cairo later this week for additional talks. Biden’s top Middle East adviser Brett McGurk arrived in Cairo on Wednesday for talks with Egyptian officials about the hostage and ceasefire deal.

Meanwhile, Israelis said on Telegram that the Israeli Air Force attacked a Hamas compound inside a school of the UN Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the Nuseirat area during the night. They said they “eliminated several terrorists who were planning to carry out terrorist attacks and promote terrorist activities against IDF troops in the immediate future”.

Putin warns Germany on Ukraine using its weapons against Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Germany on Wednesday that the use of its weapons by Ukraine to strike targets inside Russia would mark a “dangerous step”. Germany recently joined the United States in authorising Ukraine to hit some targets on Russian soil with the long-range weapons they are supplying to Kyiv.

The Russian leader said the action by Germany could ruin relations between Berlin and Moscow. Such action by the West will further undermine international security and could lead to “very serious problems”, he said, adding that Moscow could provide long-range weapons to others to strike Western targets.

“That would mark their direct involvement in the war against the Russian Federation, and we reserve the right to act the same way. Nothing will change in terms of Russia-US relations after presidential elections.”

On Wednesday, a Western official and a US senator said Ukraine has used US weapons to strike inside Russia under newly-approved guidance from President Biden. It allows American arms to be used for the limited purpose of defending Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. The official was not authorised to comment publicly on the sensitive matter and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Taking questions from international journalists for the first time since his inauguration last month to a fifth term, Putin also said nothing will change in terms of Russia-US relations regardless of whether Biden or Donald Trump wins the American presidential election in November. “We will work with any president the American people elect,” Putin said, speaking on the sidelines of the St Petersburg International Economic Forum. Putin also said Trump’s felony conviction at his hush money trial last week was the result of “the use of the court system as part of the internal political struggle”.

Asked about Russian military losses, Putin said that no country would reveal that information during hostilities but claimed without providing details that Ukraine’s casualties are five times greater than Russia’s. He also said Ukraine has more than 1,300 Russian troops in captivity, while more than 6,400 Ukrainian soldiers are being held in Russia. The claims could not be independently verified.

Putin said if the United States stopped supplying weapons to Ukraine, “the conflict will end within two to three months”.

4 killed, 20 wounded in Czech train crash

Four people have been killed and more than 20 injured when a passenger train collided with a freight train in the Czech Republic. At least 20 people suffered light injuries and three others were more seriously hurt in the crash that occurred after 11pm on Wednesday in Pardubice, along the country’s main rail corridor from Prague to the east. The passenger train, operated by RegioJet, was travelling overnight from Prague to Kosice in eastern Slovakia, according to the Railway Administration.

Fire Rescue Services said more than 300 passengers were on board. Dozens of police, fire and emergency service units responded to the accident, helping evacuate carriages. Footage after the crash on news website showed at least one carriage off the track, while police showed on X a line of emergency service vehicles and a helicopter. Czech Television quoted a fire brigade spokesperson saying the freight train was carrying calcium carbide, although the first two wagons were empty, so no leak occurred.

Transport Minister Martin Kupka, who travelled with the interior minister to the crash site, told a televised briefing it was too early to speculate on its cause.

Austria closes Danube as deadly floods spread across central Europe

The entire course of the Danube in Austria has been closed after its banks burst in the country’s third-largest city, Linz. The river, which flows over 350 kilometres of Austria, was closed for shipping after heavy rainfall caused floods in both Austria and Germany. The decision to close comes after flooding turned deadly in southern Germany on the weekend, where five people were killed.

Police confirmed that a women’s body was recovered from a car that sank into floodwater in Bavaria. The woman was found in the town of Markt Rettenbach after ignoring barriers blocking a flooded road on Monday and driving off the road into a field. The bodies of four other people who died in the floods were found on Sunday and Monday, three of them in basements. A 22-year-old firefighter was killed during a rescue operation.

The German weather service declared the rainfall, which has hit southern Germany for days, had ended. However, water levels remain at high levels. Markus Söder, the minister president of Bavaria, has announced that the state government will provide those affected with at least €100 million in financial aid. He declared the situation as “serious”. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz travelled to the impacted areas, saying his government “will do everything, including using the possibilities offered by the federal government, to ensure that help can be provided quickly”.

The weather has also impacted nearby Hungary and Poland, which have both predicted heavy rainfall in upcoming days.

Slovak PM Fico eyes return to work after shooting

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is eying a return to work within weeks and has accused political opponents of showing hatred and aggressiveness towards his party. The public comments on Wednesday were Fico’s first since a May 15 assassination attempt.

Fico is recovering at home after being shot four times at close range when he greeted supporters at a government meeting in the central Slovak town of Handlova. The attack left him in serious condition in hospital and needing hours of surgery.

In a video message posted on social media, Fico called his attacker an opposition activist, saying there was no reason to believe the shooting was the act of a “lone lunatic”. He said he felt no hatred toward the attacker and would not seek damages.

“On May 15, a Slovak opposition activist tried to assassinate me in Handlova because of my political views,” Fico said in the video, adding medical staff had prevented the worst. “If everything goes optimally, I could gradually return to work at the turn of June and July.”

Dressed in a button-down shirt with rolled sleeves and filmed from the waist up sitting in a black leather office chair, Fico looked in good health. His attacker, identified by prosecutors as 71-year old Juraj C, was detained on the spot after the attack and charged with attempted premeditated murder.

The incident has highlighted the deep polarisation of politics in the central European country of 5.4 million people. Opposition parties have led protests against Fico’s progressive-nationalist government since it took power last year.

Romanian far-right party investigated over forged signatures

George Simion, the leader of Romania’s far-right party AUR, is reportedly being investigated by prosecutors for allegedly instigating members of the party to forge lists of signatures necessary for submitting the candidacy of Silvestru Șoșoacă, husband of far-right senator Diana Șoșoacă and running as an independent in the European Parliament elections after falling out with his wife. Diana Șoșoacă, elected on AUR lists during the last general elections, was quickly expelled from the party after disagreements with Simion years ago.

Prosecutors did not name George Simion in their news release, but local media sources point toward him. In response to the investigation, the AUR leader wrote on Facebook that the establishment parties want to remove AUR from the electoral lists. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, Simion allegedly “instigated, both directly and through intermediaries, several members of a political party and a series of employees of the Romanian Parliament who perform work activities within the respective political party, to falsify several thousand lists of the 100,000 signatures necessary for an independent candidate to submit a candidacy for the European Parliament elections on June 9, 2024”.

Woman charged with assault after throwing drink at Farage

ITV news reports a 25-year-old woman has been charged with assault by beating and criminal damage after throwing a milkshake over Nigel Farage, the leader of Britain’s Reform Party, during an election campaign event. Farage was launching his bid for a seat in parliament in the town of Clacton-on-Sea, in southeast England, when a woman threw a drink in his face from close range as he left a pub. He appeared unhurt and later laughed off the incident in a video posted on social media. Police said the woman would appear in court on July 2.

Amanda Knox reconvicted in Italy slander case

An Italian court has reconvicted American Amanda Knox of slander and handed her a three-year jail sentence. The verdict was related to the 2007 murder of 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher, a case during which Knox falsely implicated local barman Patrick Lumumba. Knox will not serve any further jail time despite Wednesday’s sentence, as she spent four years in prison in Italy after her own initial conviction in Kercher’s murder trial. She and then-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were initially convicted over the killing in a 2009 trial, which was overturned in 2011. Knox then returned to the US, but she was found guilty again in a 2014 retrial before finally being cleared by Italy’s highest court in 2015. Judges have now upheld her separate 2009 conviction for slander against Lumumba. Knox is set to appeal against the verdict to Italy’s highest court.

Photo: UN

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