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Charity boss urges victims to come forward



Oxfam’s most senior figure is urging victims of abuse to come forward as she promised “justice” and announced an independent commission to “root out” sex offenders.

Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam International’s executive director, offered an apology over a sex and prostitution scandal that she described as “a stain” on the charity.

A series of allegations, first published by The Times a week ago, has seen senior Oxfam workers accused of soliciting prostitutes while overseeing aid operations around the world.

The charity has also come under fire for its initial response after concerns about sexual exploitation were raised years ago, although it has denied covering up allegations in Haiti in 2011.

Posting on Twitter, Ms Byanyima said: “I am inviting anyone who has been a victim of abuse to come forward.

“My message to women who have suffered: I’m fighting this abuse. I’m with you. We are going to do justice.

“Oxfam will be a standard bearer of safety and dignity for all who interact with us.”

:: How Oxfam sexual misconduct scandal unfolded
:: How Oxfam makes and spends its millions

Oxfam is ‘very hurt’, admitted Ms Byanyima

The charity chief has also announced a “high-level independent commission” made up of women’s rights experts, to “look into our culture and our practices and make recommendations to make us stronger at protecting our people”.

“We are going to root out, we are going to create a vetting system that will help us,” she told the BBC.

Ms Byanyima admitted Oxfam has “a problem” but said she “cannot know” how deep the problem of sexual exploitation is within the charity until the independent investigation is complete.

“I know that we have almost 10,000 staff around the world working in more than 90 countries,” she said.

“The majority of those are doing the right thing, are people of values who care about humanity, who are saving lives.

“We do have, I know, a porous system that has brought in people who do not share our values and that’s my challenge.”

Ms Byanyima said Oxfam was “very hurt” but insisted the charity would survive the scandal.

She said: “There is no way this organisation can die. The world needs it.”

A former member of Uganda’s parliament, Ms Byanyima also offered a guarantee British taxpayers’ money and cash from donations would continue to help the world’s poor.

“If you just look at the work Oxfam has been doing in the last four years alone, 90 million people we reach every year, and these are people who are desperate, who need help,” she said.

TIMES STILL roland van hauwermeiren

Oxfam’s shamed ex-Haiti chief Roland van Hauwermeiren hits back at ‘lies’

Alongside the commission, which will be able to access charity records and interview staff around the world, Ms Byanyima announced a series of reforms within Oxfam.

This includes a new global database of accredited referees designed to end the use of forged, dishonest or unreliable references by past or current Oxfam staff.

The charity will not be issuing any references until this is in place.

Oxfam will also double the number of staff within its safeguarding processes and triple annual funding to more than $1m (£700,000).

Announcing the measures, Ms Byanyima said: “What happened in Haiti and afterwards is a stain on Oxfam that will shame us for years, and rightly so.

“In my language ‘Okuruga ahamutima gwangye, mutusaasire’. It means ‘From the bottom of my heart I am asking for forgiveness’.”

On Thursday, Roland van Hauwermeiren, the former Belgian aid worker at the centre of the Oxfam sex scandal, broke his silence to deny allegations he used prostitutes or held sex parties while working for the charity.

On Friday, The Times reported a different aid worker sacked over the Haiti allegations was rehired two months later to work on another relief operation.

Crisis-hit Oxfam is facing a statutory inquiry by the Charity Commission while the Government has threatened to remove the charity’s £31.7m annual funding.

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ISS forced to move to avoid collision with space junk | Science & Tech News



Astronauts aboard the International Space Station had to carry out an “avoidance manoeuvre” to prevent it from being hit by space junk, NASA has said.

Its trajectory was changed to move it further away from the “unknown piece of space debris”, the US space agency wrote in a blog post on Tuesday.

The three crew members – two Russians and an American – relocated to their Soyuz spacecraft attached to the ISS during the operation, so they could evacuate if necessary.

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Experts expected the space junk to pass within “several kilometres” of the ISS, but decided to move it “out of an abundance of caution”.

Russian and US flight controllers worked together to adjust the station’s orbit in an operation which took minutes.

The crew were able to continue with their regular activities after the manoeuvre was complete.

NASA said the crew were not in danger at any time.

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“Maneuver Burn complete. The astronauts are coming out of safe haven,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said on Twitter.

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It is the third time this year the International Space Station (ISS) has had to manoeuvre to avoid space debris, he said.

He tweeted: “In the last 2 weeks, there have been 3 high concern potential conjunctions. Debris is getting worse!”

Astronomer Jonathon McDowell, at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted the unknown object was a part of a 2018 Japanese rocket which broke into 77 pieces last year.

The ISS is orbiting around 260 miles (420km) above the Earth, travelling at a speed of about 17,130mph (27,568km/h).

At this velocity, even a small object has the ability to cause serious damage to the space station.

NASA has said these kinds of manoeuvres occur on a regular basis, with 25 having occurred between 1999 and 2018.

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China emissions pledge could help the world avoid climate catastrophe, says top diplomat | UK News



Catastrophic climate change could be avoided because of China’s promise to be carbon neutral by 2060, the UK’s climate diplomat has told Sky News.

John Murton – who is the UK’s envoy for climate summit COP26 – says although the details need to be examined, he hopes other countries will now follow China’s lead to reduce their emissions.

“It’s a really important thing that China has made this commitment as there’s no way that the world would be able to meet Paris goals of keeping temperature rise to no more than 2C – and as close to 1.5C – if China hadn’t made this sort of commitment,” he said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is pictured in his pre-recorded UN address

China pledges carbon neutrality by 2060

“So in that sense, it’s good news. We need to learn the details but what it does is tell other big emitters that these sorts of reductions are possible.”

Mr Murton said China’s pledge is a “positive thing” for the COP26 conference, which is due to be held in Glasgow next November, as it could persuade other nations to make similar targets.

China is the world’s worst polluter, but in a virtual speech at the United Nations General Assembly, President Xi Jinping said his country would be carbon neutral by 2060 and achieve a peak in carbon dioxide emissions before 2030.

It is the first time China has said it will end its net contribution to climate change.

But it is not just its domestic reliance on fossil fuels that environmentalists say needs to be cleaned up.

John Murton is the UK's climate diplomat
John Murton is the UK’s climate diplomat

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says China spent more than $1tn (£786bn) on foreign infrastructure. Over the last few years, the majority of that is thought to involve fossil fuels.

And it has coal projects in at least 28 countries totalling over $50bn (£39bn), according to global coal finance tracker

Professor Lord Nicholas Stern of the London School of Economics said: “A big majority of their investments in energy infrastructure would be in fossil fuels, coal and oil and gas, but what we must hope now is that given that China has changed its ambitions, upped its ambitions for emissions within China, that it will apply the same logic outside.

“China’s investments internationally should follow the same principles of China’s investments inside China and China has made statements to the effect that they will be – that China’s investments outside China will be sustainable but that is something that will now be tested.”

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Asteroid the size of a bus to hurtle past Earth closer than satellites tomorrow, NASA says | Science & Tech News



An asteroid the size of a bus is set to pass Earth at a distance closer than both the Moon and satellites, according to NASA.

The asteroid, named 2020 SW, will fly past 13,000 miles (22,000 kilometres) above the Earth’s surface.

This distance means it will be closer than both the Moon and satellites – used for GPS, television and weather – that orbit our plan.

An illustration of an asteroid. File pic
After passing, the asteroid will continue its orbit around the sun

The rock was only discovered on 18 September by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona.

It is estimated to be around five to 10 metres (15 to 30ft) wide, making it equivalent to the “size of a small school bus”.

Further observations carried out by astronomers identified a trajectory which ruled out any chance of the asteroid colliding with Earth.

“Although it’s not on an impact trajectory with Earth, if it were, the space rock would almost certainly break up high in the atmosphere, becoming a bright meteor known as a fireball,” the space agency said.

After the asteroid passes at noon, UK time, it will continue its journey around the sun.

This means it will not pass Earth again until 2041, where it will be a greater distance away from the planet.

Although the minor planet’s passing will not be visible to the naked eye, people with 12-inch telescopes should be able to spot it.

The passing will also be streamed in a live video feed broadcast by the Virtual Telescope Project.

Paul Chodas, a director at NASA’s Jet Propulsions Laboratory, said: “There are a large number of tiny asteroids like this one, and several of them approach our planet as close as this several times every year.

“In fact, asteroids of this size impact our atmosphere at an average rate of about once every year or two.”

There are believed to be more than 100 million small asteroids, similar to 2020 SW. However, they are hard to discover until they get very close to Earth.

Larger asteroids, which hold a greater threat if they did collide with Earth, can be detected while further away because they are brighter than small ones.

On 20 August, an asteroid made the closest fly-by of Earth ever recorded. At the time, NASA admitted it had not seen it until after it passed.

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