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Top of the Morning: Another Boko Haram Attack

Top stories from DAWNS Digest

Another Boko Haram Attack…”A bomb blast targeting a television viewing center for football in northeast Nigeria killed at least 14 people and wounded 12 on Sunday, police and the military said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast in Gavan in the Mubi area of Adamawa state. Islamist militant group Boko Haram, whose struggle for an Islamic state is concentrated in the Northeast, would be the prime suspect.” (Reuters

Iraq Attacks Reach Monthly High…Violence claimed the lives of 799 Iraqis in May, the highest monthly death toll so far this year, the United Nations said Sunday, underlining the daunting challenges the Iraqi government faces as it struggles to contain a surge in sectarian violence…Last year, the death toll climbed to its highest levels since the worst of the sectarian strife in 2006 and 2007, when the country was on the brink of civil war. The United Nations says 8,868 people were killed in 2013. (NYT


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The SG; DSG; Security Council

SG: The SG is in Canada today speaking at the Global Summit in support of Every Woman Every Child. He also met with the Canadian Prime Minister and the President of Tanzania.

DSG: The DSG called on innovators and members of the business community to find sustainable solutions to sanitation issues in an address to the Social Innovation Summit this morning.

Security Council: In a briefing on Syria this morning, Assistant SG for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Kyung-wha Kang said that SC Resolution 2139, passed in February, has failed to end obstructions to delivering medical assistance and relief and that violence and violations of international humanitarian law by all parties continue to burden the country. The Council also extended mandates for UN missions in Abyei, Somalia and Guinea-Bissau.

Morocco: After meeting with officials during her first official visit to Morocco, High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay was encouraged by the willingness to uphold high standards for human rights in the Moroccan constitution and laws.

CAR:  The SG condemned the attacks in CAR and called on the CAR Transitional Authority to help prevent violence throughout the country.

Sustainable Urbanization and Climate Change Challenge: Panelists discussed cities as both a source of the problem and the opportunity for solution in a press conference today. The Mayor of Paris, Mayor of Kingston, Executive Director of UN-Habitat, and VP of ECOSOC discussed embracing a low-carbon way of life, a balanced approach to sustainable production and consumption, and an international consensus about climate change—specifically in cities. They expressed success of the first-ever integration segment resulting in an urban-focused post-2015 agenda likely to be seen at September’s Climate Summit.

UN Peacekeepers Day: In a ceremony honoring International Day of UN Peacekeepers today, the SG awarded the Dah Hammarskjold Medal posthumously to 106 personnel who died in 2013 serving peacekeeping operations.

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Why 2015 is a Make-or-Break Year For the Climate

Ed note. This op-ed by Jeffrey Sachs originally appeared in Project Syndicate and is reprinted with permission. 

MELBOURNE – Humanity has just about run out of time to address climate change. Scientists have pointed out that a rise in temperature of 2º Celsius above pre-industrial levels will put the Earth in dangerous, uncharted territory. Yet we currently are on a path toward an increase of 4º or more this century. The last chance for action has arrived.

That chance lies in Paris in December 2015, when the world’s governments meet for the 21st annual United Nations climate-change meeting. But this time will be different. Either governments will agree to decisive action, as they have promised, or we will look back at 2015 as the year when climate sanity slipped through our fingers.

In 1992, the world’s governments adopted the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, promising to avoid “dangerous anthropogenic [human-induced] interference in the climate system” by reducing the rate of emission of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide. But, though the treaty entered into force in 1994, the rate of emissions of greenhouse gases, including CO2, has actually increased.

In 1992, global combustion of coal, oil, and gas, plus cement production, released 22.6 billion tons of CO2 into the air. In 2012, the most recent year for which comparable data are available, emissions were 34.5 billion tons. Humanity has accelerated, rather than controlled, human-induced climate change.

This is now the greatest moral issue of our time. Global fossil-fuel use gravely threatens the poor, who are the most vulnerable to climate change (though the rich are the main cause), and future generations, who will inherit a planet that has become unlivable in many places, with food supply subject to massive shocks.

We are causing this harm in an age when technological breakthroughs enable the world to shift from dangerous fossil fuels to low-carbon energy sources, such as wind, solar, nuclear, and hydro, and reduce the impact of fossil fuels by using carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. Pope Francis recently put it just right: “Safeguard Creation,” he said. “Because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us! Never forget this!”

Yet, for the many powerful interests, climate change remains a game, with the goal being to delay action for as long as possible. The giant fossil-fuel companies have continued to lobby behind the scenes against the shift to low-carbon energy, and have used their vast wealth to buy media coverage designed to sow confusion. Rupert Murdoch’s media empire in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and elsewhere stands out as playing a particularly cynical and harmful role in spreading anti-scientific propaganda.

Even so, the politics of climate change may be changing for the better – a change reflected in the Pope’s forceful message. Here are six reasons why the stalemate might soon end.

First, the world is waking up to the calamity that we are causing. Though the Murdoch propaganda machine churns out a daily stream of anti-scientific falsehoods, the public also sees prolonged droughts (now in parts of Brazil, California, and Southeast Asia, to name a few places), massive floods (recently in Bosnia and Serbia), and lethal heat waves (in many parts of the world).

Second, the world’s citizens do not want to go down in flames. Public opinion has so far succeeded in blocking the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would accelerate the production of Canada’s oil sands – a shocking prospect, given that neither Canada nor the US yet have committed to a climate plan.

Third, more severe climate shocks may lie ahead. This year could prove to be a major El Niño year, when the waters of the Eastern Pacific warm and create global climate disruptions. A big El Niño now would be even more dangerous than usual, because it would add to the overall rising trend in global temperatures. Indeed, many scientists believe that a big El Niño could make 2015 the hottest year in the Earth’s history.

Fourth, both the US and China, the two largest emitters of CO2, are finally beginning to get serious. President Barack Obama’s administration is trying to stop the construction of new coal-fired power plants, unless they are equipped with CCS technology. China, for its part, has realized that its heavy dependence on coal is causing such devastating pollution and smog that it is leading to massive loss of life, with life expectancy down as much as five years in regions with heavy coal consumption.

Fifth, the Paris negotiations are finally beginning to attract global attention from both the public and world leaders. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for political leaders to attend a special summit in September 2014, 14 months ahead of the Paris meeting, to launch intensive negotiations. The UN expert network that I direct, the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (UN SDSN), will issue a major report in July on how each of the major economies can successfully decarbonize the energy system.

Finally, technological advances in low-carbon energy systems, including photovoltaics, electric vehicles, CCS, and fourth-generation nuclear power with greatly enhanced safety features, all help make the transition to low-cost, low-carbon energy technologically realistic, with huge benefits for human health and planetary safety.

Starting this fall, the UN SDSN will create a platform for all global citizens to participate in the hard work of saving the planet. The SDSN will offer a free, online introductory course to climate change, and then host a global online “negotiation” of a global climate agreement.

We expect that hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of interested citizens worldwide will participate online, showing the way for the politicians. The control of climate change is a moral imperative and a practical necessity – far too important to be left to politicians, Big Oil, and their media propagandists.

Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development, Professor of Health Policy and Management, and Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, is also Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the Millennium Development Goals. 

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Top of the Morning: Measles Infections in USA Reach Record High

Top stories from DAWNS Digest 

Measles Infections in USA Reach Record High… Parents are opting out of vaccines and threatening children everywhere. “The USA now has the most measles cases in 20 years and the most since homegrown outbreaks were eliminated in 2000, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday. The confirmed case count for 2014, as of May 23, was 288 and growing, the CDC says. That number includes 138 cases from Ohio, where the biggest outbreak is ongoing – and where the actual count is 166 as of Thursday, according to the state health department.” (USA Today

New Study issues Big Warning Global Obesity Rates...The Lancet study also finds that obesity in children has risen by 47% since 1980. “Today, 2.1 billion people – nearly 30% of the world’s population – are either obese or overweight, according to a new, first-of-its kind analysis of trend data from 188 countries. The rise in global obesity rates over the last three decades has been substantial and widespread, presenting a major public health epidemic in both the developed and the developing world.” (IHME

The investigative report that brought down Somaly Mam and forced her resignation from the anti-trafficking organization she founded. (NewsWeek

From Mark’s Podcast: What Obama Left Out of his Big Foreign Policy Speech (Global Dispatches Podcast

Image credit CDC

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Map of the Day: Where Obeisity Carries the Highest Burden

The Lancet published a new Gates-backed study examining rates of obesity and overweight worldwide.  The results are not encouraging. While the rate of obesity has slowed down in the developed world since 2006, the developing world is now catching up. It also finds that an astounding 30% of the world is overweight–and 13% of all overweight people in the world live in the USA. In all, the report finds that overweight and obesity cause an estimated 3.9 million deaths worldwide.

Some other key findings, from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation: 

Key findings:

  • More than 50% of the world’s 671 million obese live in 10 countries (ranked beginning with the countries with the most obese people): US, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan, and Indonesia.
  • The US, United Kingdom, and Australia are among the high-income countries with large gains in obesity among men and women.
  • Over the 33-year period of research, the Middle East showed large increases in obesity. Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Kuwait were among the countries with the largest increases in obesity globally.
  • In six countries, all in the Middle East and Oceania – Kuwait, Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia, Libya, Qatar, and Samoa – the prevalence of obesity for women exceeds 50%. In Tonga, both men and women have obesity prevalence over 50%.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, the highest obesity rates (42%) are seen among South African women.


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The toll that these conditions inflict on the health of individuals is substantial: diabetes, heart disease, hypertension are all associated with overweight and obesity. The burden that these conditions takes on health systems can be profound, particularly in the developing world. Being overweight and obese is expensive for the individual and society. It’s an obstacle to personal health and economic development.


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What Obama Left Out of His West Point Speech

President Obama’s commencement address to West Point Graduates this week was billed by the White House as a major foreign policy address. But there were some conspicuous absences from the talk. What was notable about this speech? And how does this fit into Obama’s overall foreign policy legacy? Here to put the talk in context is Matt Duss of the Center for American Progress.  

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Previous episodes

Episode 18: Zalmay Khalizad, former US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN.

Why Libya is Suddenly on the Verge of a Civil War 

Episode 17: Gov Bill Richardson, he frees hostages.

The Foreign Policy Implications of India’s Elections

Episode 16: Carolyn Miles, CEO of Save the Children

What Boko Haram Wants

Episode: 15 Laura Turner Seydel, philanthropist

Episode 14: Douglas Ollivant, Iraq expert

Episode 13: Gary Bass, historian

Episode 12: Mark Montgomery, demographer

Episode 11: Kenneth Roth, Human Rights Watcher

Episode 10: Live from the UN, Volume 2.

Episode 9: Mia Farrow, humanitarian activist and Goodwill Ambassador

Episode 8: Suzanne Nossel, Big Thinker

Episode 7: Live from the UN, Volume 1. 

Episode 6: PJ Crowley, former State Department Spokesperson

Episode 5: Octavia Nasr, reporter

Episode 4: Arsalan Iftikhar, “The Muslim Guy”

Episode 3: Dodge Billingsley, filmmaker.

Episode 2: Laura Seay,  @TexasinAfrica

Episode 1: Heather Hurlburt, national security wonk


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