Newsire: Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel: “Child Hunger Must Be Priority in Africa”

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Photo: Graca Machel

Economic growth in Africa has been impressive, but a sad reality remains: However prosperous, the results have had little impact on child nutrition.
Graca Machel, the widow of former South African President and Freedom Fighter Nelson Mandela, said hunger is the “most acute problem facing Africa’s children.”
“Around 60 million children across the continent suffer from it. Not the mildly uncomfortable hunger that comes from skipping the odd meal, but permanent, relentless malnourishment, stunting and wasting,” said H.E. Machel, a child rights campaigner who chairs the Africa Child Policy Forum’s international board.
[Stunting is the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation].
As of two years ago, 28 African nations depended on food aid, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – or FAO.
One of the worst hunger crises of the past 25 years was the famine in East Africa in 2011/12, according to the FAO.
In war-torn Somalia, 260,000 people starved to death, including 133,000 children under the age of five.
Sub-Saharan Africa is also a hotbed of chronic hunger due to extreme poverty, the FAO said.
The organization notes the definition of chronic hunger: people suffer from chronic hunger if their daily energy intake for an extended period of time is below what they would need for a healthy and active life.
The lower limit is an average of 1,800 calories per day.
According to this measure, 226.7 million people are starving in Africa.
The countries most affected by extreme poverty and hunger in Africa are mainly those located south of the Sahara.
One in four people suffers from hunger there – which means that the share of the world’s hungry is highest in sub-Saharan Africa, the FAO said.
In the sub-Saharan region, 40 percent to 50 percent of people live below the poverty line, meaning they have a daily income that is on average below $1.25.
This means that sub-Saharan Africa, along with southern Asia, is one of the poorest regions in the world.
H.E. Machel said it doesn’t have to be this way.
“As African governments decide where to spend their money, they must remember that here is a powerful economic argument for reducing child hunger,” H.E. Machel wrote in an editorial for Financial Times.
“For every dollar invested in reducing stunting, there is a return of about $22 in Chad, $21 in Senegal and $17 in Niger and Uganda,” she said.
The benefits are even higher if the investment is made early in a child’s life, ranging from $85 in Nigeria to $60 in Kenya.
Halving rates of child stunting by 2025 could lead to average annual savings ranging from $3 million in Swaziland to $376 million in Ethiopia, according to FAO.
“Africa’s economic growth over the past two decades has been impressive, but it has had little impact on child hunger,” H.E. Machel said.
“Despite average 2 percent annual Gross Domestic Product growth in Kenya, stunting increased by 2.5 percent. And in Nigeria, 4 percent average annual growth did not lead to any reduction in stunting at all,” she said.
Child hunger is fundamentally a political problem, the offspring of an unholy alliance of political indifference, unaccountable governance and economic mismanagement, H.E. Machel concluded, noting that the continent’s food system is broken.
“Increased food production has not resulted in better diets … supply chains are unfit for serving rapidly expanding urban populations and the rural poor,” H.E. Machel said.
“Agricultural economic growth targets encourage the production of major cereal crops – often for export – instead of more nutritious foods like pulses, fruit and vegetables,” she said.

Newswire: Mass incarceration of women and minorities a new crisis

Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Women inmates in jail
Although the number of people in prisons and jails in America has slightly declined, numbers released on Thursday, April 25, by the Bureau of Justice Statisticsstill show that nearly 1.5 million individuals were in prison by the end of 2017.
The statistics also note that the U.S. continues to lock up more people than any other nation. And, despite a narrowing disparity between incarcerated black and white women, females have emerged as the new face of mass incarceration.
“I don’t think this should be much of a surprise as two of the main for-profit prison companies were founded around the same time,” said Ron Stefanski, whose website prisoninsight.com, works to hold prisons accountable for the treatment of current, former and future inmates.
“When these for-profit companies were created, they found a way to generate revenue off of inmates and this led to a huge influx of prisoners, both male and female,” Stefanski said.
In 2000, black women were incarcerated at six times the rate of white women, but in 2017, black women were imprisoned at less than double the rate of white women, according to the latest information.
The number of white women in prison has increased by more than 40 percent since 2000 while the number of black women incarcerated has fallen by nearly 50 percent.
The most recent report from the Prison Policy Initiative revealed that, looking at the big picture shows that a staggering number of women who are incarcerated are not even convicted with one quarter of the women behind bars having not yet gone to trial.
Sixty-percent of women under the control of local authorities have not been convicted of a crime and adding to the picture of women in local jails, aside from women under local jurisdictions, state and federal agencies pay local jails to house an additional 13,000 women, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.
For example, ICE and the U.S. Marshals, which have fewer dedicated facilities for their detainees, contract with local jails to hold roughly 5,000 women – so the number of women physically held in jails is even higher.
According to the Prison Policy Initiative, avoiding pre-trial incarceration is uniquely challenging for women. The number of un-convicted women stuck in jail is surely not because courts are considering women, who are generally the primary caregivers of children, to be a flight risk, according to the Prison Policy Initiative report.
The far more likely answer is that incarcerated women, who have lower incomes than incarcerated men, have an even harder time affording cash bail. When the typical bail amounts to a full year’s income for women, it’s no wonder that women are stuck in jail awaiting trial, the report’s author said.
Even once convicted, the system funnels women into jails: About a quarter of convicted incarcerated women are held in jails, compared to about 10 percent of all people incarcerated with a conviction.
Also, while stays in jail are generally shorter than in stays in prison, jails make it harder to stay in touch with family than prisons do. Phone calls are more expensive, up to $1.50 per minute, and other forms of communication are more restricted – some jails don’t even allow real letters, limiting mail to postcards.
This is especially troubling given that 80 percent of women in jails are mothers, and most of them are primary caretakers of their children. Thus children are particularly susceptible to the domino effect of burdens placed on incarcerated women, the report’s author said. Black and American Indian women are markedly overrepresented in prisons and jails, according to the report.

Incarcerated women are 53 percent White, 29 percent Black, 14 percent Hispanic, 2.5 percent American Indian and Alaskan Native, 0.9 percent Asian, and 0.4 percent Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander.
“While we are a long way away from having data on intersectional impacts of sexuality and race or ethnicity on women’s likelihood of incarceration, it is clear that Black and lesbian or bisexual women are disproportionately subject to incarceration,” Prison Policy Initiative Author Aleks Kajstura said.

Newswire : On Earth Day, Africa braces for severe drought

Africa is experiencing severe drought

Apr. 22, 2019 (GIN) – Water has no enemy.

That’s the theme of a popular song by famed Nigerian singer and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti who reminds us just how vital water is. If you’re going to wash, he sings, it’s water you’re going to use. If you want to cook soup, cool off in hot weather, give to your children – “na water you go use.”

But what happens when Water has too many friends? What happens to the water? What happens to the friends? What happens when Water makes them enemies of one another? As citizens around the world marked Earth Day, Kole Omotoso, opinion writer for The Guardian, wondered about water.

In a recent dispute, he recalled, fast friends became bitter enemies when Ethiopia announced it was building a dam on the Blue Nile which supplies 85 percent of the waters of the Nile River, the “father of African rivers” and a critical water source for Egypt.

Ethiopia’s proposed “Project X” – renamed the Grand Renaissance Dam – is a massive hydroelectric power station with one of the world’s largest dams. That angers Egypt, which relies heavily on the Nile. Its waters run to the fields and fill Egypt’s reservoirs. They have demanded that Ethiopia cease construction. Some neighbors even discussed methods to sabotage it.

The dam is projected to be operational by December 2020.

As Egypt and Ethiopia settle their differences, red flags are going up in Uganda, Zimbabwe and other parts of the center and south where rains have been delayed and drought has stretched beyond March.

Ugandan Agriculture Minister Christopher Kibanzanga has warned of impending famine in most parts of the country, cautioning traders to start food rationing. In Zimbabwe, water levels in national dams have fallen to 69 percent.

Drought is also predicted for Kenya, Somalia and Somaliland.

Meanwhile, Mozambique may be getting some relief with a loan offer from the International Monetary Fund of $118.2 million for reconstruction needs after Cyclone Idai which caused significant loss of life and infrastructure damage.

In a tweet to mark Earth Day, UN chief Antynio Guterres said it was vital “every day” to “commit to taking better care of our planet. Please do everything in your power to tackle climate change – the defining issue of our time”, he said.

Newswire: Homeless persons cannot be punished for sleeping in absence of alternatives, 9th Circuit decision establishes

National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, NNPA Newswire Contributor

Homeless person sleeping on a city bench

People experiencing unsheltered homelessness in the west coast states of the Ninth Circuit can sleep more safely, without facing criminal punishment for simply trying to survive on the streets. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected an en banc petition by the city of Boise in Martin v. Boise (formerly Bell v. Boise), leaving in place its September 2018 ruling that homeless persons cannot be punished for sleeping outside on public property in the absence of adequate alternatives.

In so holding, the court of appeals permitted the homeless individuals who have received criminal citations under Boise’s policy to proceed with their constitutional claims against the City. The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, which filed the case in 2009 with co-counsel Idaho Legal Aid Services and Latham & Watkins LLP, hails this decision as being essential to encouraging cities to propose constructive alternatives to homelessness.

“Criminally punishing homeless people for sleeping on the street when they have nowhere else to go is inhumane, and we applaud the Court for ruling that it is also unconstitutional,” said Maria Foscarinis, executive director at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “It’s time for Boise to stop trying to hide its homelessness problem with unconstitutional ordinances, and start proposing real solutions.”
The case challenges Boise’s enforcement of its Camping and Disorderly Conduct Ordinances against persons experiencing homelessness who need to sleep in public in the absence of adequate housing or shelter. Last September, a panel of the Ninth Circuit agreed with the central premise in the suit, holding that “as long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter.”

Following that ruling, the city of Boise petitioned the Ninth Circuit to rehear the case en banc. Today, the court rejected that request, thereby affirming that within the western states that make up the Ninth Circuit, “the Eighth Amendment preclude[s] the enforcement of a statute prohibiting sleeping outside against homeless individuals with no access to alternative shelter.”

“This week, the court says that people experiencing homelessness cannot be punished for sleeping or sheltering on the streets in the absence of alternatives,” said Eric Tars, Legal Director at the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. “But our hope is that tomorrow, cities will begin to create those alternatives—getting homeless people into housing is a win-win approach, benefitting both the individuals helped and the communities that no longer have to deal with the negative impacts of people living in public spaces, at lower cost than cycling people through the criminal justice system.”
The case gained national attention in 2015 when the United States Department of Justice filed a Statement of Interest brief in the case, arguing that making it a crime for people who are homeless to sleep in public places unconstitutionally punishes them for being homeless.

“The outcome of Court’s decision will support cities who are addressing real solutions to the complex issues faced by homeless individuals and families rather than just create more barriers and fill more jails with persons who only needed a place to sleep for the night,” said Howard Belodoff, of Idaho Legal Aid Services, Inc. “Boise can be one of those cities—it has the resources, it just needs to apply them correctly.”
Judge Berzon, in her opinion, notes that the decision, while important, is unlikely to impose dire consequences on cities. “The distressing homelessness problem…has grown into a crisis for many reasons, among them the cost of housing, the drying up of affordable care for people with mental illness, and the failure to provide adequate treatment for drug addiction. The crisis continued to burgeon while ordinances forbidding sleeping in public were on the books and sometimes enforced.”
“We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit held that the Constitution ‘prohibits the imposition of criminal penalties for sitting, sleeping, or lying outside on public property for homeless individuals who cannot obtain shelter,’” said Michael Bern, lead pro bono counsel from Latham & Watkins, who argued the case before the Ninth Circuit. “As the Department of Justice recognized earlier in this case, ‘[c]riminalizing public sleeping in cities with insufficient housing and support for homeless individuals does not improve public safety outcomes or reduce the factors that contribute to homelessness.’ With today’s decision, we hope that cities can redirect their efforts to identifying meaningful and constitutional solutions to the problem of homelessness.”
This case is part of a nationwide movement against the criminalization of homelessness, spearheaded by the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and more than 850 groups and individuals who have endorsed the Housing Not Handcuffs Campaign.

Newswire : Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law sues White House Office of Management and Budget for Payday Lending Documents Records

Washington, D.C. – This week, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the White House Office of Management and Budget. The lawsuit seeks the release of public records related to OMB Director Mick Mulvaney’s ties to the payday lending industry after his office failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act request made several months ago.
“Director Mulvaney’s decision to roll back consumer protections for low-income borrowers in America is a prime example of regressive policies that harm consumers across the country, particularly African Americans and other communities of color,” stated Kristen Clarke, President and Executive Director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Clarke continued: “We know that Mr. Mulvaney previously accepted large campaign contributions from key points of contact in the payday lending industry as a member of Congress, and the American people deserve to know if their influence had anything to do with his decision to undermine anti-discrimination enforcement or roll back regulations preventing predatory lending.
The law requires the White House to disclose any records relating to Mulvaney’s communications with industry lobbyists. Through our litigation we are fighting to promote transparency during an era in which CFPB, OMB, and other agencies have increasingly concealed information to keep the public in the dark.”
After taking over the CFPB last year, while also keeping his role at OMB, Mulvaney immediately moved to roll back rules protecting low-income payday loan borrowers. The CFPB had enacted these new rules after years of careful study of the predatory harms of payday lending, including how such loans are targeted to communities of color. The Lawyers’ Committee filed this FOIA request with OMB to determine whether Mulvaney improperly used his White House office to discuss his regulatory actions with industry representatives.

Newswire: Environmental Racism grows as environmental groups turn increasingly white

By Hazel Trice Edney

Environmental Justice and Urban Environmental Justice March

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Clean drinking water. Lead paint abatement programs. Affordable energy bills. These are the day-to-day environmental justice issues that are vital to the health and financial well-being of communities – especially low-income families.
But as environmental battles rage across the country, thousands of African-American children and adults are paying a heavy price with their health as elite environmental organizations are overwhelmingly managed by White leaders who appear to ignore key issues that disproportionately impact low-income communities, where African-Americans and other people of color reside. As the diminishing African-American voices for environmental justice becomes more prevalent, attention appears to be turning away from environmental hazards disparately plaguing urban areas dominated by Black people across the country such as the following:
Cockroach allergens are detected in 85 percent of inner-city homes across the U. S. and 60 to 80 percent “of inner-city children with asthma are sensitized to cockroach based on the skin prick testing,” according to the U.S. Institute of Health.
Approximately 11.2 percent of African-American children who live in urban areas are at risk for lead poisoning caused by lead-based paint, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A Center for American Progress report found that water contamination disparately “plagues low-income areas and communities of color across the nation” and that studies have “documented limited access to clean water in low-income communities of color.”
These atrocities are being shoved aside by misaligned priorities. Instead of making a meaningful impact to health and pocketbooks, some environmental organizations focus on apparent vanity projects that garner media attention and money from well-heeled donors.
Among the best examples is an issue playing out in Minnesota, where national environmental groups – including Greenpeace, 350.org and the Natural Resources Defense Council – are waging a major battle described as “resistance against the oil pipelines.” They also are running major fundraising campaigns off of pipeline protests – even though the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration notes that pipelines are “one of the safest and least costly ways to transport energy products.”
Meanwhile, these organizations are all but ignoring the real issues facing Minnesotans. A report indicated that the state’s urban areas have unsuitable and outdated infrastructure, allowing storm water drainage to become a crisis. Yet another report found that the Twin Cities air pollution kills nearly 2,000 people a year taking its greatest toll on those in poverty, who also disproportionately shoulder the burdens of asthma, unclean drinking water, and lead poisoning.
While the environmental groups are shoving environmental health issues aside, they also are promoting an agenda that will drive energy bills even higher for Minnesotans who are already spending far too much of their hard-earned money on energy costs. Families in Clearwater County spend 45.9 percent of their income on energy bills, while Roseau County families spend 44.5 percent – and virtually every county across the state sees energy bills eating away at more than 30 percent of income.
The story is the same across the country, as Alabama families spend nearly 50 percent of their income on energy and Michigan families spend 30 percent and above.
Some believe that these skewed priorities may be happening in part because of the lack of diversity in the environmental movement. A study by Green 2.0 recently found that the movement is only “getting more white,” as it continues to leave out people of color.
The report indicated that nearly 70 percent of the Environmental Defense Fund’s (EDF) staff was White. It also concluded that “the top 40 environmental foundations have gotten more White across full time staff, senior staff, and board members.”
Green 2.0 is pressing to deal with the racial inclusion issue in order to infuse greater sensitivity into the environmental justice movement. Whitney Tome, executive director of Green 2.0, said in a statement, “Communities of color bring to bear experience and perspective on both problems and pathways to power building. As an organization, we plan to take a more aggressive approach to calling out the environmental movement for their lack of diversity.”
She continued, “For the past five years, we’ve been working to ensure that the environmental movement and its leaders reflect the current U.S. workforce demographics.”
These racial and economic disparities are happening around the country. For example, Louisiana ranks second-worst among U.S. states when examining a wide range of environmental indicators, including water and air quality, energy use and recycling, according to a recent analysis.
While some environmental groups in the area have used their presence to fight issues that impact everyone, such as air quality or safe drinking water, other organizations, with the backing of Greenpeace, are instead focusing on anti-pipeline and anti-energy activism in the state.
The singular focus on one environmental issue while appearing to ignore others implies the presence of environmental racism, a long-used description of the practice of allowing toxics to exist in communities of color.
Meanwhile African-American led organizations are pushing environmental justice agendas, underscoring the importance of such issues in communities of color.
“Clean water is a basic human right,” National Medical Association President Niva Lubin-Johnson, wrote in a commentary posted on Seattlemedium.com last fall. “At the National Medical Association (NMA), we see firsthand how this crisis in clean water creates a variety of healthcare problems for black patients and their families.”
Instead of seeking ways to make energy more elusive and expensive for communities of color, activist groups could use their initiative to aid in the abating of these most fundamental challenges that continue to push headwinds against many Black families and other families of color.
“This is just the beginning,” says Tome of Green 2.0. “Environmental groups are now on notice.”

‘Newswire: Suspicious fires’ fires burn three churches in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana

From CNN and KLFY-TV in Lafayette reports

Three historically Black churches in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana were burned between March 26 and April 4, 2019. State Fire marshals 

and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are investigating the cause of the fires.

The fires destroyed St. Mary Baptist Church in the community of Port Barre, and Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, the parish seat.

   The churches in rural St. Landry Parish -- about 30 miles north of Lafayette -- have burned since March 26 in what officials have described as "suspicious circumstances."

"There is clearly something happening in this community," State Fire Marshal H. Browning said in a statement.

Standing outside the charred remains of the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas — which burned on Tuesday — Pastor Harry Richard said he looked forward to meeting elsewhere with his congregation on Sunday.

"Quite naturally, something like this would shake us up," he told CNN affiliate KLFY. "I'm very concerned but I'm very optimistic because of our faith in God and, no matter what happens, I feel like this is his plan," Richard said. "He's going to bring me through this."

The first fire occurred March 26 at St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre. Greater Union burned on Tuesday and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, also in Opelousas, suffered a fire on Thursday.

"We believe these three fires are suspicious," Browning said. "We are falling short of talking about what caused the fires, falling short of saying they are related, however cognizant that there is a problem and no coincidence that there are three fires."

Officials were also investigating a fourth, smaller fire last Sunday at the predominantly white Vivian United Pentecostal Church in Caddo Parish more than 200 miles north of St. Landry. The blaze was intentionally set
"The three fires in St. Landry Parish contain suspicious elements, but we have not yet classified them," said Ashley Rodrigue, a spokeswoman for the state fire marshal.

Gov. John Bell Edwards this week appealed for the public's help with the investigations. "Our churches are sacred, central parts of our communities and everyone should feel safe in their place of worship, " he said in a statement. "We do not know the cause of these fires in St. Landry and Caddo parishes, but my heart goes out to each of the congregations and all of those who call these churches home."

Law enforcement presence increases at houses of worship

Browning said the remains of the three historically black churches in St. Landry Parish are considered crime scenes.

“Investigating a fire is a very lengthy process,” he said. “It’s one of the most complicated and unconventional crime scenes you’ll ever enter because most of the evidence is burned away.

The FBI and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were assisting in the investigations. “It’s imperative that the citizens of this community be part of our effort to figure out what it is,” Browning said.

St. Landry Parish Sheriff Bobby Guidroz said authorities were "doing everything we can" to protect churches and determine the cause of the fires. Law enforcement presence at houses of worship has increased.

"You got to have a certain degree of anger because there's no reason for this," Deacon Earnest Hines of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas told CNN affiliate WBRZ.

"You know the history of our country. During the civil rights struggle, they had all these incidents that would happen and sometimes that happens again," he said.

Richard told CNN affiliate KATC Greater Union Baptist Church embodied more than 100 years of history. "Our parents, grandparents went here," he said. "Buried in the back there, some of them are."

On Sunday, he told KLFY he planned to preach about God’s grace to his displaced congregation.

This incident of burning Black churches reminds people in Greene County, Alabama of 1995 when five Black churches in rural parts of the county were burned.  

Newswire : Aid slow to come to the rescue of Mozambicans adrift since Idai

Flooding in Mozambique

Mar. 25, 2019 (GIN) – Since Cyclone Idai roared into the Mozambican port city of Beira on Mar. 14, devastating losses are mounting exponentially yet international aid has been slow to reach all survivors.

Severe flooding produced by Idai’s strong winds and heavy rains caused the rivers Pungwe and Buzi to break their banks. In the district of Buzi, thousands clung for their lives on trees and rooftops, as their villages turned into an ocean. Even as the rains have subsided and the waters are receding, the risk of flooding remains, as dams upstream reach full capacity.

At least 656 people have died across three countries, according to local estimates.

Dire shortages of food, water and other necessities were reported by the head of a South African rescue operation. Around 15,000 people are still missing, Land and Environment Minister Celso Correia said just before last weekend.

But delays in the arrival of assistance were fueling anger and desperation, acknowledged Connor Hartnady, rescue operations task force leader for Rescue South Africa.

“There have been three security incidents today, all food related,” he told his team, without giving further details.

The U.N. has made an emergency appeal for $282 million for the next three months to help Mozambique start rebuilding their communities.

But help has been coming in dribs and drabs – especially from those with the most resources. U.S. military personnel, for example, were en route to Mozambique on Monday, over a week after the cyclone hit, to assess damage and plan a relief mission aided by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).

The Pentagon has authorized AFRICOM to expend up to $6.5 million in relief funds to provide logistics support for up to 10 days. The military’s role will be to assist the U.S. Agency for International Development in the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Two Portuguese Airforce C130 transport planes were due to depart Thursday to the region. The first one was taking 35 soldiers, medical personnel and a disaster relief team from the National Republican Guard.

Mozambique is home to thousands of nationals from Portugal. Santos Silva said that 30 of the country’s citizens had not yet been contacted.

U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said funds for cyclone victims are starting to come through, including 29 million dollars from the United Kingdom, but this is far exceeded by the need.

Finally, ExxonMobil, which earned $6 billion in quarterly profits from African oil, is donating $300,000 for disaster relief. “The devastation has been widespread,” the company tweeted, “and this funding will help provide relief during a difficult time. Our thoughts are with everyone affected.”

Newswire : Thousands gather in Nairobi to clean up the Earth

Joyce Msuya, UN Environment Program Director

Mar. 11, 2019 (GIN) – Heads of state, government ministers, business leaders, senior UN officials and grassroots activists are gathering in Nairobi this week for the fourth UN Environment Assembly – the world’s top body on the environment.

This year’s theme is “Innovative Solutions for Environmental Challenges and Sustainable Consumption and Production.”

The assembly is expected to draw the largest gathering in the group’s short history – with attendance almost double the last event in December 2017. Prominent world leaders will attend, including the Presidents of France and Kenya, Emmanuel Macron and Uhuru Kenyatta, and CEOs from major corporations.

Resolutions on the table will address sustainable consumption and production patterns, protection of the marine environment from plastic pollution, food waste, and technological innovation that combats climate change, and reduces resource use and biodiversity loss.

Decisions have a profound impact on the goals of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as paving the way towards the UN Climate Change Summit 2019 and impacting the overall UN agenda.

UN Environment’s Acting Executive Director, Joyce Msuya of Tanzania, appealed to nations to step up and start delivering real change.

“Time is running short. We are past pledging and politicking. We are past commitments with little accountability. What’s at stake is life, and society, as the majority of us know it and enjoy it today,” she wrote in a policy letter.

“It’s clear that we need to transform the way our economies work, and the way we value the things that we consume,” said Msuya. “The goal is to break the link between growth and increased resource use, and end our throwaway culture.”

This year, it is reported that India will be leading two global resolutions at the assembly: one on nitrogen pollution and the other on the use of plastics. It will be a historic event as India has not pushed for such important resolutions at the UN in recent times.

India is the third region to have assessed the environmental implications of nitrogen pollution after the U.S. and the European Union. In 2017, India completed this assessment under the leadership of N. Raghuram, the current chairman of the International Nitrogen Initiative.

Agriculture has been the main source of nitrogen pollution as cereals like rice and wheat use only one-third of the nitrogen applied through fertilizers discharging the rest into the surrounding environment.

Pakistan may raise the issue of Indian air strikes at the assembly calling it ‘eco-terrorism’. The air strikes carried on February 26 have allegedly damaged around 15 pine trees.

The UN Environment’s report highlights five major issues of emerging global concern: synthetic biology, permafrost peatlands, ecological connectivity, the nitrogen fix, and maladaptation to climate change. If not addressed urgently, these issues can accelerate climate change and compromise ecosystem resilience—having detrimental impacts on our economy.

The meeting opened with a statement by organizers on the crash of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET 302. It was a terrible loss for the United Nations, for our member states and for the environmental community.

“The environmental community is in mourning today. Many of those that lost their lives were en-route to provide support and participate in the UN Environment Assembly. We lost UN staff, youth delegates travelling to the Assembly, seasoned scientists, members of academia and other partners.

“We join the Secretary-General in expressing our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all the victims who perished in this tragedy.
“The entire UN Environment Assembly will honor them in our efforts this week.”

Newswire : NBA legend Abdul-Jabbar holds auction to support foundation to help youth

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
When Kareem Abdul-Jabbar left the NBA in 1989 at age 42, no NBA player had ever scored more points, blocked more shots, won more Most Valuable Player Awards, played in more All-Star Games or logged more seasons.
NBA.com reported that Jabbar’s list of personal and team accomplishments is perhaps the most awesome in league history: Rookie of the Year, member of six NBA championship teams, six-time NBA MVP, two-time NBA Finals MVP, 19-time All-Star, two-time scoring champion, and a member of the NBA 35th and 50th Anniversary All-Time Teams.
He also owned eight playoff records and seven All-Star records. No player achieved as much individual and team success as did Abdul-Jabbar.
On Saturday, March 2, Jabbar auctioned off his championship rings, MVP and All-Star trophies and other rare items to benefit Jabbar’s Skyhook Foundation, whose mission per Jabbar, is to “give kids a shot that can’t be blocked.”
“We do this by sending children from economically challenged schools to five days in the Angeles National Forest to experience the wonders of nature and learn the basics about science, technology and engineering, Jabbar told NNPA Newswire in an exclusive interview.
He said the children participate in an “immersive hands-on experience that takes kids out of school for five days and four nights.”
They go from auditory learning to utilizing all of their senses in the great outdoors.
“Our hope is not just to get them out of the city to commune with the outdoors, but to stimulate an interest in the sciences that might lead them to fulfilling careers,” Jabbar said.
He said he decided to sell the items because his foundation has struggled for a number of years and can use the funds.
“I need to keep it working and I have these wonderful mementos of my career and they take up space, need to be insured and you have to take care of them,” Jabbar said.
“I’d rather use these to make sure the foundation gets the funding,” he said.
At auction, Jabbar’s 1971-72 NBA MVP Trophy sold for more than $76,000 while his 1987 NBA Championship went fetched more than $260,000.
When final accounting is performed, the auction should easily net more than $1 million for the foundation.
The funds will keep the foundation afloat, allowing underprivileged children a chance at an education in the STEM field.
“So many young people think they have to be extremely talented like a LeBron James, Stevie Wonder, or Beyoncé. They don’t have realistic ideas on what their potential is and giving them this opportunity is showing them where the best jobs will be in the 21st century,” Jabbar said.
“It gives them a leg up and hopefully [helps them] make connections,” he said.
Foundation officials have discovered recent research that shows that 97 percent of girls and 92 percent of boys give up on science because of peer pressure and what’s hot in popular culture, Jabbar said.
His mission is the change that.
“When it comes to choosing between storing a championship ring or providing kids with an opportunity to change their lives, the choice is pretty simple – sell it. Besides I was there, I lived it,” Jabbar said.
“Instead of gazing at the sparkle of jewels or gold plating and celebrating something I did a long time ago, I’d rather look into the delighted face of a child. Everybody has an ego and I’m no different,” he said, laughing.
“But, I can’t take this stuff with me so it’s better that I share it in a way that enables me to do something really neat and the benefits I think far outweigh anything else.”