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UN Syria envoy says Ghouta could become ‘second Aleppo’



Escalating violence in the besieged Syrian enclave of eastern Ghouta could turn into a repeat of the battle for Aleppo, UN Syria envoy has warned.

At least 98 people died following intense Syrian government shelling and airstrikes on rebel-held suburbs of Damascus.

Monday was the deadliest day in the Syrian capital since 2015, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Retaliatory shells raining down on Tuesday killed at least one more person, a monitoring group and paramedics said.

Twenty children and 15 women are believed to be among those killed in the last 36 hours.

When asked for comment on the escalating battle, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura said: “This has a risk of becoming a second Aleppo, and we have learned, I hope, lessons from that.”

Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city, endured months of conflict between rebels and government forces in 2016.

It has become a symbol of the Syrian civil war and its brutality, with hundreds of thousands of people forced to flee and aid agencies calling the world’s attention to the humanitarian crisis.

:: Aleppo under siege: A timeline
:: Meltdown of humanity’ in Aleppo as Assad troops close in

Smoke rises from buildings following government bombardment on the outskirts of the capital Damascus
The areas around Damascus have been subjected to weeks-long bombardment

The UN children’s agency, UNICEF, condemned the killings in Ghouta, issuing a blank statement under a headline saying: “Do those inflicting the suffering still have words to justify their barbaric acts?”

UNICEF said: “We no longer have the words to describe children’s suffering and our outrage.”

Monday’s bombardment saw the use of war planes, helicopter gunships, missiles and artillery.

The targeted suburbs across an area known as eastern Ghouta have been subjected to weeks-long bombardment that has killed and wounded hundreds of people.

syria damascus ghouta
Hundreds of people have been injured

Opposition activists say Syrian government forces have brought in more reinforcements in recent days, suggesting a major assault is imminent to recapture Ghouta – the last main rebel stronghold in Damascus.

The opposition-linked Syrian Civil Defence, also known as White Helmets, said the shelling and airstrikes killed 98 people, including one of its members, and some people are still trapped under rubble.

The Observatory and the White Helmets both said rebels continued to hit Ghouta with mortar shells on Tuesday.

A spokesperson from Syria Relief, a Save the Children partner, says the situation is “really awful”.

“The planes haven’t stopped for a second throughout the entire night.

Syrian civilians look at the rubble following government bombing on the outskirts of the capital Damascus
Ghouta is the last main rebel stronghold in Damascus

“Children have never experienced this much fear. All night you could hear crying, scared children. Their mothers are living in horror, they didn’t get any sleep last night. Ghouta yesterday was full of darkness, there wasn’t a bulb on, there was no light anywhere.

“The people are calling on the UN and other organisations to intervene. We don’t want anything at all except for the shelling and bombardment to stop.”

Meanwhile, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkish troops involved in an offensive to drive out Syrian Kurdish militiamen from a Syrian enclave will soon begin a siege of the city of Afrin.

Mr Erdogan said on Tuesday that the month-long offensive into the northwestern enclave of Afrin has so far been progressing slowly but will commence at a “more rapid rate” in the coming days.

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New Zealand is best placed to survive a global collapse of society, study suggests | World News



New Zealand is the country most likely to survive a collapse of global civilisation, researchers have said.

A study has suggested a combination of ecological destruction, limited resources and population growth could trigger a worldwide breakdown “within few decades”, with climate change making things worse.

A “very likely” collapse would be characterised by the disintegration of supply chains, international agreements and global financial structures, according to researchers at the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University.

Wind turbines at Whitelee Windfarm in East Renfrewshire
Researchers said the UK could increase its use of wind turbines to secure its future

They said problems could spread quickly because of how connected and economically dependant countries are on one another.

Five countries were identified as best placed to maintain civilisation within their own borders: New Zealand, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia.

All of them are islands or island continents which have fewer extremes in temperatures and varied amounts of rainfall due to their proximity to oceans.

Researchers said this makes them most likely to have relatively stable conditions in the future, despite the effects of climate change – which is expected to hit subtropics and tropics the hardest.

New Zealand’s ability to produce geothermal and hydroelectric energy, its abundant agricultural land and its low population would allow it to survive relatively unscathed.

Although the UK has generally fertile soils and varied agricultural output, it does not have as much agricultural land available because of its population density, raising questions about future self-sufficiency.

Britain’s reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear energy was considered to be a risk as power sources could be “rendered at least partly inoperable” if global supply chains collapse.

:: Subscribe to ClimateCast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or Spreaker.

Researchers said this could be mitigated by the nation’s manufacturing capabilities.

Meeting the large population’s energy demands through renewables alone would require very extensive infrastructure, they said, but the UK could increase its resilience by harnessing more energy from wind and water bodies like lagoons or barrages in the Severn Estuary.

Professor Aled Jones, Director of the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University, said “significant changes are possible in the coming years and decades”.

He said: “The impact of climate change, including increased frequency and intensity of drought and flooding, extreme temperatures, and greater population movement, could dictate the severity of these changes.”

Researchers identified pandemics as another risk to societal stability, citing the United Nations’ warning that future pandemics could be even more severe than COVID-19.

Twenty countries were analysed in the report.

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Boris Johnson urges world leaders to dig deep to boost children’s education across globe | Politics News



Boris Johnson is urging world leaders to dip into their pockets to boost children’s education across the globe and help avoid a “legacy of wasted talent” as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

The prime minister will host a summit in London on Thursday with the aim of fundraising among governments, business and charities for the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

The GPE aims to raise $5bn (£3.6bn) over the next five years in order to get 175 million more children into education around the world.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta at Chequers, the country house of the serving Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, in Buckinghamshire. Picture date: Wednesday July 28, 2021.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta will close Thursday’s summit

Ahead of the Summit, Mr Johnson said: “We have a fight on our hands to ensure COVID-19 does not scupper the life chances of millions of children, leaving a lasting legacy of wasted talent.

“Too many children around the world – girls in particular – were already out of school before the pandemic.

“Enabling them to learn and reach their full potential is the single greatest thing we can do to recover from this crisis and build better, greener and fairer societies.

“Today I am urging governments, businesses and philanthropists to invest in the future by fully funding the transformative work of the Global Partnership for Education.”

Girls are feared to be particularly at risk of never returning to school once they have left, with 132 million girls around the world already estimated to be out of school even before the impact of the COVID pandemic.

Thursday’s summit is being jointly hosted with Kenya and will be opened by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and his Kenyan counterpart, Raychelle Omamo.

The prime minister and Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, who held bilateral talks at Chequers on Wednesday, will close the summit, along with Australia’s former prime minister Julia Gillard, who is the GPE’s chair.

World leaders, businesses, UN agencies, charities and youth leaders will join the summit both virtually and in person.

The UK last month pledged £430m to the GPE at the G7 Summit in Cornwall.

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Pedro Castillo: Left-wing rural teacher becomes Peru’s president, promising a new constitution | World News



A man who was until recently a teacher in a rural part of Peru has been sworn in as the country’s new president.

Pedro Castillo, representing a left-wing party, stunned voters and political observers by emerging from a group of 18 candidates and advancing to the run-off, finishing in first place.

His slogan, “no more poor in a rich country”, attracted support from the impoverished and those living in rural areas.

Pedro Castillo
Pedro Castillo has never held political office before

Mr Castillo, 51, has never held political office before, defeating right-wing career politician Keiko Fujimori by just 44,000 votes.

He is promising a new constitution, and to rule for “my peasant sisters and brothers”.

The son of illiterate peasants, he led a teachers’ strike in 2017. He is his country’s first president of peasant origin.

Mr Castillo is married with two children. Video of his wife, filmed at the weekend, shows her sweeping the floor at their house in the Andes and tending to some animals. Their home is in the country’s third-poorest district.

Peru is the second largest copper exporter in the world, but its economy has been crushed by the coronavirus pandemic. Economic gains made over the last decade have been eliminated.

Private companies are fearful that Mr Castillo will hike taxes on mining to fund health and education reforms.

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Pedro Castillo’s family leave behind rural life

But on the day of his inauguration, he said there was “not the remotest” plan to nationalise industry.

He will be seeking a “new pact” with private investors, however.

In a speech shortly after being sworn in, he said he wanted the state-owned bank to compete with private lenders but that he would maintain economic “order and predictability”.

He faces a divided Congress, meaning his political abilities will be tested from the start.

Pedro Castillo receives the presidential sash from the president of the Congress, Maria del Carmen Alva
Mr Castillo receives the presidential sash

Claudia Navas, an analyst with the global firm Control Risks, said his government begins amid “considerable uncertainty”.

She added: “We still do not have clear his main lines of policy. However, we foresee that possibly, due to the characteristics of the Peruvian political system and the current general political and economic situation of the country, that Castillo will maintain a more pragmatic position than he announced during the campaign.

“The key is to build those consensuses and add strength to the proposals on how he is going to achieve them.”

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