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Pope Francis has decried as criminal the existence of hunger in a world which can produce enough food for allBy FRANCES D’EMILIO Associated PressJuly 26, 2021, 6:13 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleROME — Pope Francis on Monday decried as criminal the existence of hunger in a world which can produce enough food for all, building on a warning from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that climate change and conflict are a consequence and driver of poverty and income inequality.Guterres told a meeting in Rome via video message that the world’s food system generates a third of all greenhouse gas emissions. That same system is responsible for as much as 80% of biodiversity loss, he lamented in a video message.The gathering was called to help prepare for a U.N. food systems summit to be held in September in New York.In a written message that was read to meeting participants, Francis said the coronavirus pandemic has “confronted us with the systemic injustices that undermine our unity as a human family.”He said the the world’s poorest people and the planet are crying out because of “the damage we inflict on it through irresponsible use and abuse of the goods God has placed in it.”The pontiff added that while new technologies are developed to increase the capacity to produce food on Earth, people continue to “exploit nature to the point of sterilization, thus expanding not only external deserts but also internal spiritual deserts.“Francis called the “scandal” of hunger a ”crime that violates basic human rights.”Earlier this month, a U.N. report noted that up to 161 million more people faced hunger last year compared to 2019, with much of that widened suffering likely linked to the COVID-19 pandemic.“Poverty, income inequality and the high cost of food continue to keep healthy diets out of the reach of some 3 billion people,” Guterres said. ”Climate change and conflict are both consequences and drivers of this catastrophe.”The summit idea was launched in 2019 months before the coronavirus emerged, but Italian Premier Mario Draghi said the pandemic made existing threats to food security more urgent.Draghi noted in his remarks Monday that the Agricultural Commodity Price Index had jumped by 30% compared to January 2020.The International Fund for Agricultural Development called on decision-makers “to address the failures in food systems” that leave hundreds of millions of people poor and hungry. IFAD is a U.N. agency which aims to help small-scale farming.IFAD appealed for food production which “protects the environment and biodiversity, and where people who produce our food are paid decently for their labor.”In 2020, as many as 811 million people faced hunger, according to the U.N. report earlier this month.The chief economist of the Rome-based U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has said that removing 100 million people from chronic undernourishment would need an additional $14 billion (nearly 12 billion euros) every year until 2030 and nearly triple that amount to achieve the U.N. goal of zero hunger by 2030.
An Italian government minister says many of the climate and energy ministers at a Group of 20 meeting hosted by Italy have agreed to work toward even more ambitious emission-reduction goals than those established in the 2015 Paris accordsBy FRANCES D’EMILIO Associated PressJuly 23, 2021, 8:51 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleROME — Many of the climate and energy ministers at a Group of 20 meeting hosted by Italy agreed Friday to work toward even more ambitious goals for fighting climate change than those established in the 2015 Paris accords, an Italian official said.Italy’s minister of ecological transition, Roberto Cingolani, also said during a news conference that concern over last week’s devastating flooding in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands was palpable during the two days of negotiations in Naples. Germany and the European Union are G-20 members.“All began by offering condolences” to the representatives of the affected countries, Cingolani said. Such natural disasters are “changing consciences,” even on a political level, he said.Climate scientists say the link between extreme weather and global warming is unmistakable, making it clear that urgent action is needed. The G-20 nations collectively account for some 80% of the world’s gross domestic product and some 60% of the planet’s population.At the Naples talks, the United States, the European Union, Japan and Canada made clear they “firmly intend to go faster than the Paris agreement by the (end of) the decade, and below 1.5 degrees,” Cingolani said.World leaders agreed six years ago in Paris to work to keep global temperatures from increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and ideally no more than 1.5 degrees C (2.7 F) by the end of the century. Scientists say both goals will be missed by a wide margin unless drastic steps are taken to reduce emissions.“That half degree could make an enormous difference in terms of glacial melting” and other phenomena linked to climate change, Cingolani said.In any case, Cingolani said, all G-20 members agreed to at least meet the Paris goals. ”There is no country which puts the Paris accords in doubt,” he said.U.S. President Joe Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry, participated in the Naples talks. Earlier in the week, Kerry called on China to join the United States in urgently cutting greenhouse gases.The majority of the countries at the conference also backed a goal of moving faster to reduce the use of coal, the Italian minister said, without naming all of the nations.But during the talks, China, as well as Russia and India, were “more prudent” in embracing more ambitious goals, Cingolani said.“For those countries, it means putting into question an economic model,” he said.Exactly what commitment nations, including those which heavily pollute, are willing to make toward fighting climate change will be also on display at U.N. climate conference taking place in Scotland in November.The national leaders of the G-20 countries will have the opportunity to thrash out the sticking points that emerged in Naples when they meet in Rome at the end of October.
Italy will soon require people to have passes reflecting their health status to access gyms, museums, movie theaters, the inside of restaurants and other venuesBy FRANCES D’EMILIO Associated PressJuly 22, 2021, 7:38 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleROME — With daily COVID-19 cases sharply rising again, Italy will soon require people to have passes reflecting their health status to access gyms, museums, movie theaters, the inside of restaurants and other venues.Premier Mario Draghi’s government approved a decree Thursday ordering the use of the so-called “green” passes starting on Aug. 6. To be eligible for a pass, individuals must prove they have received at least one vaccine dose in the last nine months, recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months or tested negative in the previous 48 hours.The passes will be needed to dine at tables inside restaurants or cafes, to attend sports events, town fairs and conferences, and to enter casinos, bingo parlors and pools, among other activities. according to officials.The certification is needed to “to keep economic activity open″ and will allow people to enjoy entertainment ”with the assurance they won’t be next to contagious people,” Draghi said.”The Italian economy is going well. It’s reviving, and Italy is growing at a rhythm superior to that of other EU nations,” the premier told reporters.Some 40 million people in Italy have already downloaded a “green pass,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza said. He noted that the certification is already required to attend wedding receptions and to visit residents of care homes.More than half of people in Italy older than 12 and thus eligible for COVID-19 vaccines have received two doses, and several million more have received a first dose.But fueled in part by huge street celebrations after Italy’s wins in the recent European soccer championships this month, new daily cases have climbed again. Health experts say the delta variant of the coronavirus is rapidly gaining traction in much of Italy, facilitating transmission.Still, thanks to vaccination, “pressure on hospitals is strongly diminished,” Draghi said. While Italy was reporting nearly 400 virus-related deaths a day four months ago, the number has been far lower lately, with fewer than a dozen deaths recorded on some recent days.“The vaccine campaign permitted the economy to revive,″ Draghi said. ”The first thing I have to say is to invite all Italians to get vaccinated and to do it right away.”
Pope Francis has resumed his traditional Sunday appearance from a Vatican window to greet the faithful two weeks after intestinal surgery that removed a portion of his colonBy FRANCES D’EMILIO Associated PressJuly 18, 2021, 1:34 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleVATICAN CITY — Two weeks after surgery that removed a portion of his colon, Pope Francis on Sunday resumed his weekly appearances from a Vatican window to bless the faithful in St. Peter’s Square.Francis, 84, sounded cheerful but somewhat winded at one point while speaking for 14 minutes.Exactly a week earlier, Francis had delivered the blessing from a hospital balcony and expressed deep gratitude to medical staff caring for him. The pontiff underwent bowel surgery on July 4 to remove a portion of his colon after intestinal narrowing.While not mentioning his own ongoing convalescence, Francis in his remarks stressed the value of taking a break. He recommended “rest, contemplation and compassion. Let’s take advantage of summertime for this.”After giving his blessing, Francis cited some somber current events. He expressed closeness to those “hit by catastrophic floods,” which claimed at least 180 lives, in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. “May the Lord welcome the deceased and comfort the family members,” the pope said.He also lamented violence in South Africa, where more than 200 people died in chaos and violence sparked by the imprisonment of a former president. Francis noted South Africans have already been suffering economic and health difficulties caused by the pandemic. He said he was making a heartfelt appeal for efforts for peace and so that assistance reaches the needy.”May the desire that has guided the people of South Africa to be reborn in harmony among all its children not be forgotten,” Francis said.Among the cheering public in St. Peter’s Square were around 100 Cuban residents of Rome who displayed a banner urging support for protesters in their homeland.“I am near to the dear Cuban people in these difficult moments, especially to the families who are suffering more,” Francis said.He added: ”I pray that the Lord help them to build an ever more just and fraternal society in peace, dialogue and solidarity.”A week earlier, protests began in Cuba against food and medicine shortages and power outages, with some calling for political change in the Caribbean country, which has been governed by the Communist Party for around six decades.Toward the end of his remarks from a window of the Apostolic Palace, adlibbing at times and after interrupting himself once to cough, Francis sounded a bit winded. But he ended with a strong, cheery invitation to the crowd as he always does to pray for him and to “have a good lunch.”The crowd of several hundred clapped loudly. Some held national flags and at least one homemade banner, with a red heart and “I Love You” in Italian written on it.After 10 days in the major Catholic hospital in Rome, Francis returned to his home in Vatican City on July 14.Except for the Sunday noon appointment to offer his blessing to faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square, the pontiff has no other public appearances scheduled for the rest of July. Even before his surgery was announced, the Vatican had said that his weekly general audiences on Wednesdays wouldn’t take place during July. That’s in keeping with past years of his papacy, which allow him a bit of a summer break.Hours before heading to the hospital for surgery, Francis announced that he would visit Hungary and Slovakia in mid-September.
Italian lawmakers have approved renewed funding to train the Libyan coast guardBy FRANCES D’EMILIO Associated PressJuly 15, 2021, 4:02 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleROME — Italian lawmakers approved renewed funding to train the Libyan coast guard as a human rights group released a report Thursday outlining fresh accusations that the coast guard returns the migrants it rescues at sea to horrific detention camps in the North African nation.The training program is under an umbrella of Italian military missions abroad, which members of the Italian Parliament’s lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, discussed ahead of the funding vote.In its scathing report on abuses in Libyan detention camps, Amnesty International called on European nations to suspend their cooperation with Libya on migration and border control.Recently, the Libyan coast guard fired at a migrant boat in the Mediterranean and carried out maneuvers which could have risked overturning the vessel, a scene observed by the crew of a migrant rescue group’s surveillance aircraft.Amnesty International’s report detailed the experiences of 53 refugees and migrants in Libyan detention centers. Most of them were detained following their interception at sea by Libya’s coast guard, which for several years has received training, vessels and equipment from Italy.Successive Italian governments have supported the Libyan coast guard in hopes of curbing people setting out for Europe from northern Africa and who made it to Italian shores by the tens of thousands for several years.Many of the new arrivals are economic migrants found ineligible for asylum by Italian authorities. Most other European Union nations have been largely unresponsive to Italy’s repeated appeals that they take in some of the asylum-seekers, many of whom want to reach jobs or families in northern Europe.Amnesty International said that in the first six months of this year, more than 7,000 people intercepted at sea were forcibly returned to a Libyan camp.“Detainees held there told Amnesty International they faced torture and other ill-treatment, cruel and inhuman detention conditions, extortion and forced labor,” the report said.At another detention facility, in Tripoli, according to the group’s report, “Former detainees there said that guards raped women and some were coerced into sex in exchange for their release or for essentials such as clean water. ”For years now, rights groups and officials at U.N. agencies that work with migrants and refugees have cited survivor testimony about systematic abuse in the camps, including forced labor, beatings, rapes and torture. The abuse often accompanies efforts to extort money from families before migrants are allowed to leave Libya on traffickers’ boats.A majority of Italian lawmakers rejected a proposed resolution from 30 fellow deputies to immediately suspend assistance to the Libya coast guard. Far-left lawmaker Erasmo Palazzotto was one of resolution’s sponsors.In the Libyan-run detention centers, the migrants are “tortured, raped, killed or sold as slaves,” Palazzotto said.Lawmakers from a small centrist party, Italia Viva, declined to vote on the Libyan aid.“It’s indispensable to exert the maximum pressure of Italy in preventing unacceptable, systematic violations of human rights and all that criminal conduct (aimed) at sinking boats of migrants by the Libyan coast guard,”’ Italia Viva member Giuseppina Occhionero was quoted as saying by the Italian news agency LaPresse.Among those approving more aid for the Libyan coast guard was the far-right Brothers of Italy, a party fast-growing in popularity.———Follow AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration
ROME — The United Nations culture agency, which was considering declaring Venice an imperiled world heritage site, on Wednesday hailed Italy’s ban on big cruise ships in the heart of the lagoon city.UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay tweeted that the Italian government’s Tuesday decision to deny access to the mammoth liners as of Aug. 1 is “very good news and an important step that significantly contributes to the safeguarding of this unique heritage site.”Starting next month, ships over a certain size or weight or surpassing specific pollution levels can no longer ply the Giudecca Canal, a major sea artery in Venice, or cruise the waters near St. Mark’s Square, the historic heart of the environmentally fragile city.Until a permanent docking place can be selected and developed for the big cruise ships, the liners will be permitted to pull up in Marghera, an industrial suburb of Venice.UNESCO, which is based in Paris, recommended last month adding Venice to its list of World Heritage in Danger sites.While the Italian government announced the ban with a nervous eye on UNESCO, Venice remains on the agenda of the World Heritage Committee’s meeting later this month in Fuzhou, China, the U.N. agency indicated.For years, protesters hoisting signs proclaiming “No Big Ships” have demonstrated in Venice, sometimes taking to small boats to sail close to the cruise liners, which to people onshoore look like lumbering giants slicing through the city.Perhaps surprisingly, among those praising the Italian government’s move was a cruise industry trade association.“As an industry, we are very positive. We welcome the decision by the government,” Francesco Galietti, Italy director for the Cruise Lines International Association, said.Galietti said the trade group had been advocating for an alternative to the Giudecca Canal for some 10 years and therefore was happy the government has promised to find a permanent alternative docking area for the big cruise ships.“We never wanted to stick to the Giudecca,” he said, discounting activists’ claims of cruise line company resistance.“The negative damage this (publicity) causes to the industry is way bigger than the experience” of individual passengers savoring the thrill of sailing into the canal, Galietti said.As for any logistical problems the ban might pose for imminent cruise itineraries, that wasn’t immediately clear.Galietti said that with tourism struggling to regain steam after the coronavirus pandemic restricted travel, many companies didn’t put Venice on their itineraries.The Italian government, in a Cabinet decree approved Tuesday, allocated funds to compensate those whose tourist-heavy businesses might suffer from the ban, as well as money so Marghera can be temporarily used for docking until a permanent solution is found.It also declared Venice’s Giudecca Canal and waterways near St. Mark’s a “national monument” in urgent need of safeguarding.The Italian Environmental Fund, or FAI, was among the groups that long lobbied for the ban. It received the government’s move with mixed sentiments.“We’re happy for Venice,” FAI President Andrea Carandini, a prominent Italian archaeologist and academic, told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. “But we’re not at all (happy) for the lagoon in its overall context.”He said that to handle such big cruise ships, “it will be necessary to excavate canals. That means more water will enter the lagoon, thus an alteration of a complex system that’s clearly an entire one for Marghera and for Venice.”Meanwhile, a conservation charity in Britain dedicated to Venice’s considerable art works, monuments and buildings took a wait-and-see view of the ban.“At Venice in Peril, we are in principle delighted with this news,” the charity said in a statement. It lamented, though, that on “too many previous occasions vested interests in Venice” and the surrounding Veneto region “have frustrated the good intentions of those who want to clear the lagoon of these hideous floating hotels posing as ships.”Venice is heavily dependent on tourism revenue.
A court in Italy is defending its conviction of two young tourists from California for the 2019 murder of an Italian plainclothes police officer on a Rome streetBy FRANCES D’EMILIO Associated PressJuly 13, 2021, 10:12 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleROME — A court in Italy is defending its conviction of two young tourists from California for the 2019 murder of an unarmed Italian plainclothes police officer on a Rome street, dismissing arguments of self-defense as patently implausible.Lawyers for the defendants on Tuesday were provided copies of the written motivation for the Rome court’s May 5 convictions and life sentences for Finnegan Lee Elder, 21, and Gabriel Natale-Hjorth, 20.Italian courts are required, within 90 days of a verdict, to formally detail in writing why they decided on verdicts and punishment, with their rationale forming the basis of eventual appeals by defense or prosecutors.Lawyers for the defendants were studying the document and didn’t immediately comment on appeal prospects.In a 346-page document signed Monday by presiding trial Judge Marina Finiti, the court rebuffed defense arguments that the defendants didn’t know they were being approached by police officers near their hotel in the early hours of July 26, 2019. It rejected that the victim, Carabinieri Vice Brigadier Mario Cerciello Rega, 35, who had recently returned from his honeymoon, or his plainclothes partner did not identify themselves as police.Cerciello Rega was stabbed 11 times by Elder and the partner, Officer Andrea Varriale, was slightly injured in a scuffle with Natale-Hjorth before the Americans ran back to their hotel.The defendants were convicted of homicide, attempted extortion, resisting a public official and carrying an attack-style knife without just cause.In Italy, an accomplice in an alleged murder can also be charged with murder without materially doing the slaying. Both defendants have started serving life sentences, Italy’s harshest punishment.Elder testified that Cerciello Rega attacked him without cause and was trying to strangle him, so he pulled out a knife he carried for his own protection and stabbed the officer repeatedly to break free.“How can the court not ask itself why Vice Brigadier Cerciello, in service for more than 20 years, about whom all spoke of his professionalism, his dedication to work, his experience on the streets, his humanity, ought to have strangled Elder as the defendant contended?” the court wrote.The court was scathing in its dismissal of key defense arguments, adding: “And if the intention of the two officers was to kill, why would Varriale not have done the same thing with Natale, leaving alive an inconvenient witness?”The officers were following up on a reported extortion attempt allegedly concocted by the Americans after a bid to buy cocaine in a Rome’s Trastevere nightlife district that transpired a few hours before the stabbing.The defendants testified they had paid 80 euros ($96) for the drug but didn’t receive it. In reprisal, the Americans snatched a knapsack belonging to the botched deal’s go-between and demanded money and cocaine in exchange for returning the bag and cellphone it contained.Both Americans testified they thought Cerciello Rega and Varriale were thugs or mobsters who showed up at the arranged rendezvous spot instead of the go-between and acted in self-defense.Varriale testified that both officers went to the rendezvous without their service weapons and that both showed their police badges and told the Americans they were officers.“In the end, the only protection (the unarmed officers) had at the moment was precisely that badge,” the court wrote, noting that Cerciello Rega’s bloodstained wallet was later found.”Vice Brigadier Cerciello can’t offer his version, but his martyred body speaks for him and attests to the murderous fury of Elder,” the court wrote.