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Airstrikes on eastern Ghouta at ‘most intense’ ahead of UN ceasefire vote

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Witnesses say deadly airstrikes on eastern Ghouta in Syria were at their “most intense” on Friday morning, hours before the UN was set to vote on a proposal calling for a temporary ceasefire.

The region continued to come under heavy fire from President Assad’s forces overnight as warplanes pounded the rebel-held enclave near the capital of Damascus, with 417 people, including almost 100 children, thought to have died as a result of “concentrated fire” since Sunday.

Sweden and Kuwait have put forward a draft resolution demanding a 30-day truce to allow for the delivery of aid and medical evacuations as the bombing enters its sixth day, which the UN Security Council will decide on during a meeting at 4pm on Friday.

The situation in eastern Ghouta has 'never been worse'
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The situation in eastern Ghouta has ‘never been worse’

Olog Skoog, the Swedish ambassador, said that in seven years of war in the Middle Eastern country, the situation in eastern Ghouta had “never been worse”, with a witness in the town of Douma describing the latest airstrikes and artillery fire on Friday morning as “the most intense so far”.

Hundreds of people have been pulled from the rubble by the local emergency services in recent days, with the early morning bombardment spread across Douma, Zamalka and Hammouriyeh.

The UN motion is expected to gain the nine votes needed to be passed, but Russia, which has continued to back the Syrian government against the rebels, has the power to veto it.

Strikes on Friday morning were the 'most intense so far'
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Strikes on Friday morning were the ‘most intense so far’

Previous attempts to bring hostilities in Syria to an end, even on a temporary basis, have been thwarted by Russia, having vetoed on possible security council action 11 times.

The US has accused Moscow of bearing “unique responsibility” for the violence in eastern Ghouta, with its amendments to the resolution proposed by Sweden and Kuwait ruling out the possibility of an immediate ceasefire.

Instead, the Russian draft circulated to the security council on Thursday only commits to an end to hostilities “as soon as possible” and condemns the “relentless shelling” of Damascus by the rebels.

Hundreds of people have been rescued from the rubble
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Hundreds of people have been rescued from the rubble

It adds that foreign military forces should only operate in Syria “in coordination with official authorities”, which several council diplomats – speaking on the condition of anonymity – described as unacceptable.

Kelley Currie, the US ambassador for economic and social affairs, told the security council that President Assad was prepared “to bomb or starve” his opponents into submission.

She added that President Assad was relying on Russia to veto the motion so that the siege could continue.

The bombardment on eastern Ghouta – home to 400,000 people – has drawn parallels with attacks on eastern Aleppo, which claimed thousands of civilian lives.

Since 2011 more than 340,000 people have died as a result of conflict in Syria, with millions forced to flee their homes and cities left in ruins.

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<a href='https://www.skysports.com/olympics/live-blog'>Tokyo Olympics Day 6: Quiet start for Team GB on medals front – as world pole vault champ forced out due to COVID</a>

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<a href='https://www.skysports.com/olympics/live-blog'>Tokyo Olympics Day 6: Quiet start for Team GB on medals front – as world pole vault champ forced out due to COVID</a>

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

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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
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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.

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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

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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.
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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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