Some 165 countries will sign the Paris Climate Agreement at a big ceremony at the United Nations today. This is is the first day that the agreement is open for signing, and never before have some many countries lined up to sign a treaty on its first day. There are a host of activities at the UN. Francois Hollande is speaking and Leonardo DiCaprio is giving a keynote address. All of the official statements will be posted here: http://bit.ly/1T1TscB

Ansar Dine Holding Red Cross Workers Hostage….Islamist group Ansar Dine said Thursday it was holding three Red Cross workers captured in northeastern Mali last weekend and called for the release of a jihadist arrested by French troops for their safe return. Bamako (AFP) – Islamist group Ansar Dine said Thursday it was holding three Red Cross workers captured in northeastern Mali last weekend and called for the release of a jihadist arrested by French troops for their safe return. “We have three people who work for the Red Cross. We want Barkhane (French forces) to free Miyatene Ag Mayaris before we will release them,” Nourredine Ag Mohamed, a senior militant in the group, told AFP. An ICRC spokesman in Bamako had previously confirmed three of its staff were being held by an unknown group that had intercepted them on April 16, while a fourth had been released. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1YJ0veq)

Ambassador Blatter at your service…Former FIFA president Sepp Blatter was asked by Switzerland’s foreign ministry last year to help persuade an African president to leave office. Blatter offered Burundi president Pierre Nkurunziza an ambassador’s role in world soccer as the nation fell into violent turmoil, according to his new book, which was launched on Thursday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1rpwypC)

Africa

The kidnapping of three Red Cross staff and damage to an airstrip by violent protesters in northern Mali have hindered humanitarian operations in a region which has been slowly stabilising, aid agencies said on Thursday. (TRF http://tmsnrt.rs/1T1UkOn)

Two female suicide bombers have killed at least eight people at a camp for people displaced by the jihadist Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria, a community security force member and a customs official said on Thursday. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1rpANRV)

In southern Malawi and Zimbabwe, drought is overwhelming communities, forcing families to rely on meals of leaves and watermelon soup and affecting children most. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1T1zpLa)

After days of suspense and confusion in Juba, opposition leader Riek Machar postponed his arrival in South Sudan’s capital twice this week, drawing criticism from the international community and leaving the populace in doubt over the peace process. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1T1APWi)

Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu has issued a special operational order to the security services to restore law and order in some parts of the capital, Lusaka. (VOA http://bit.ly/23LS34P)

Authorities in Niger have jailed eight senior civil servants for corruption and fraud after over 1,800 workers in the health sector were hired without proper qualifications, a state prosecutor has said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/23LRYhv)

Nearly 40 people were charged in Gambia for arranging a small protest last week that called for free speech and electoral reform, the High Court in the capital Banjul said. (Reuters http://bit.ly/1Qq44A1)

Ethiopian troops were operating in South Sudan on Thursday after crossing the border to rescue about 125 Ethiopian children who were kidnapped during a bloody cattle raid, and top officials from both countries sought to coordinate their efforts. (AP http://yhoo.it/1WI1sF4)

The European Commission wants to find “innovative” financial resources to address the root causes of migration in Africa and elsewhere, the EU executive’s president Jean-Claude Juncker said in a letter to Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1rpwrdJ)

MENA

French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is voicing cautious optimism about the defeat of the Islamic State group, suggesting the possibility that it can be eradicated. (AP http://yhoo.it/1T1zkqY)

The United Nations and Syrian Arab Red Crescent have evacuated 500 people from besieged areas in Syria. (VOA http://bit.ly/1T1zrTx)

Dozens of trucks carrying humanitarian aid set off on Thursday for the town of Rastan in Syria’s Homs province for a delivery to a besieged area where supplies have not been able to enter for months, the Red Crescent said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1WI1sVB)

Asia

More than 100 people are feared dead in India in an early-summer heat wave which forced schools to close and halted outdoor work like construction, government officials said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1rpwoi0)

The Red Cross says nearly a year after a devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, some four million people are still living in temporary shelters under substandard conditions that may pose a threat to their health and well-being. (VOA http://bit.ly/1T1zrml)

Two months after being struck by a powerful cyclone, Fiji needs urgent assistance to plant crops and rebuild homes, the United Nations said, calling for international support to reduce the risks of food shortages and disease. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1Qq41En)

The European Union is maintaining the threat of a seafood import ban on Thailand because the global exporter is still not doing enough to improve its fisheries and labor practices, officials said Thursday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Qq6m2e)

Journalists’ unions in Hong Kong said Thursday they were troubled by the dismissal of a veteran editor of a newspaper that published a report on the Panama Papers document leak revealing offshore business dealings of the rich and powerful, exposing new concerns about press freedoms in the semiautonomous Chinese territory. (AP http://yhoo.it/1Qq6les)

The Americas

Beleaguered Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff will travel to New York in a bid to rally international support against her impeachment, leaving behind a Cabinet paralyzed by political crisis as another minister defected. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/23LS1Kq)

Recession-wracked Venezuela is to ration electricity in 10 of its most populous and industrialized states, including metropolitan Caracas, the socialist government said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1Qq6oXR)

El Salvador has deployed a heavily armed special police force to hunt down gang leaders who have made the Central American nation one of the world’s most violent and deadly places to live, the government said. (VOA http://bit.ly/1Qq6rTn)

Ecuador’s president has introduced new measures to try to pay for rebuilding after Saturday’s earthquake, including a one-off tax on millionaires. (BBC http://bbc.in/1Qq47fb)

A Peruvian potato farmer who was beaten and jailed after protesting against the loss of her land and home to a mining firm is among six winners of the Goldman Prize, one of the world’s richest awards for environmental activists. (VOA http://bit.ly/23LS3ll)

Opinion/Blogs

UN Secretary General Candidate Conversations: Srgjan Kerim is a Macedonian diplomat with the soul of an artist. (Global Dispatches podcast http://bit.ly/1QpDDdM)

Why did the State Department block a heroic Syrian NGO leader from picking up an award at the InterAction forum in DC? (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/1T1TFwm)

Brazil: Crisis could get worse (CNN http://cnn.it/1YIStlM)

Kashmir’s first female chief minister: the start of a new chapter? (Guardian http://bit.ly/1WHU9gG)

HIV Time Bomb Ticks On (IPS http://bit.ly/1T1wvpK)

Why African manufacturing is doing better than you think (ODIhttp://bit.ly/1YIVLoT)

Is Africa Ready for Agenda 2063? (The Herald http://bit.ly/1YIVwKB)

Unnoticed, We Are Close to Destruction of Our Planet (IPS http://bit.ly/1rpoiWo)

We’re still failing to teach children to read, after all these years (Guardian http://bit.ly/1T1zqPe)

Everything that is wrong with “voluntourism” in developing countries (An Africanist Perspective http://bit.ly/1YJ19bC)

From The Hague to Abidjan: Whither Transitional Justice in Côte d’Ivoire? (Reinventing Peace http://bit.ly/1WI5I7x)

EU Aid: where development goes to die (Cherokee Gothic http://bit.ly/1WI5M7n)

The road out of hell (Aid Thoughts http://bit.ly/1Qq8yXi)

 

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