[INVNT GROUP]™ Bets Big on Live; Enhances Live Brand Storytelling Capabilities with Newly Formed ITP LIVE, in the Strategic Acquisitions of InSync Production Services, Thunder Audio and Morpheus Lights.

New York, Dec. 29, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — [INVNT GROUP] THE GLOBAL BRANDSTORY PROJECT announces the strategic acquisitions of four historied live event production companies: ITP LIVE, InSync Production Services, Thunder Audio, and Morpheus Lights.

Led by President and CEO, Scott Cullather, [INVNT GROUP] represents a growing portfolio of complementary disciplines designed to help forward thinking brands everywhere, impact the audiences that matter anywhere.

"This deal is a key pillar of our integrated vertical growth strategy as [INVNT GROUP] THE GLOBAL BRANDSTORY PROJECT. The dedicated search for these four companies has been in development for over 18 months. We sought leaders in the technical and production aspects of the live events industry, who were delivering premier production services to legacy brands and many of the world's biggest peforming artists. These acquisitions will expand our innovation capabilities, allowing INVNT, our live events business, to offer our customers the ultimate in live events and experiential activations."

Scott Cullather, President and CEO, [INVNT GROUP]

[INVNT GROUP] consists of modern brand strategy firm, Folk Hero; creative–led culture consultancy, Meaning; branded content studio and content marketing agency HEV'; collegiate events and experiences, INVNT Higher Education, the original global live brand storytelling agency, INVNT and now ITP LIVE consisting of: InSync Production Services, Thunder Audio and Morpheus Lights.

For more than twenty–five years, these production companies have supported the design and execution of experiential and live entertainment programs for many of the largest corporations, trade associations, sports franchises, governmental agencies (including the White House), and some of the most successful artists in the world: Bruce Springsteen, Snoop Dog, Lady Gaga, Lionel Richie, Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Metallica, Post Malone, Tyler Perry and more.

The companies will continue to operate under their current names and will service their existing roster of clients, seek new clients, and providing services to synergistic INVNT opportunities and projects.

"Historically, producing live events has often required a great deal of outsourcing on virtually every project. Through these strategic acquisitions we will have end–to–end control over every aspect of our live events – especially quality and cost, continuing to deliver world–class service and at the very best value. The merging of resources and networks also gives us geographical spread across North America. Our anticipation is to continue growing these resources in other territories around the world. This is only the beginning."

Kristina McCoobery, COO [INVNT GROUP] and CEO INVNT

Rooted in experiential marketing, [INVNT GROUP]'s expansion comes as part of a strategic, yet natural evolution. This business partnership creates a unique offering in the market, and enhances the group's abilities to fulfill creative, technological, and strategic designs in dynamic new ways.

"When [INVNT GROUP] approached us about the idea of coming together and amplifying our resources, I was instantly drawn to the group's commitment to impactful storytelling. Their award–winning work aligns with our vision of the newly formed ITP LIVE, that includes Insync Production Services, Thunder Audio and Morpheus Lights,. We're excited by the incredible synergies created through our partnership and welcome a new chapter in designing the best events on the planet."

Pat Hand, CEO, ITP LIVE

This transaction was structured by Wolf Karbe, CFO of [INVNT GROUP] and represented by Evergreen Advisors Capital and Center Rock Advisors. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

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About [INVNT GROUP]

[INVNT GROUP] was established in 2020, as an evolution of the founding global live brand storytelling agency INVNT in 2008, with a vision to provide consistent, meaningful, well–articulated BrandStory across all platforms. With offices in New York, Sydney, London, Singapore, San Francisco, Sydney, Stockholm, Detroit, and Washington D.C.; headed by President and CEO, Scott Cullather, [INVNT GROUP], THE GLOBAL BRANDSTORY PROJECT represents a growing portfolio of complementary disciplines designed to help forward–thinking organizations everywhere, impact the audiences that matter, anywhere. The GROUP consists of modern brand strategy firm, Folk Hero; creative–led culture consultancy, Meaning; branded content studio and content marketing agency HEV', INVNT Higher Ed; events for colleges and universities, and the original live brand storytelling agency, INVNT. For more information about [INVNT GROUP], visit: www.invntgroup.com.

About INVNT

Founded in 2008 by Scott Cullather and Kristina McCoobery, INVNT uses the craft of live brand storytelling to create and produce live experiences that excite and unite physical and virtual audiences, globally. The company's "challenge everything' positioning statement helps clients including General Motors, PepsiCo, Merck, Microsoft, Pfizer, and Samsung share their stories with every audience that matters. INVNT's offices are strategically located in New York, London, Sydney, Detroit, San Francisco, Washington D.C., Stockholm and Singapore. For more information about INVNT, visit: www.invnt.com.

About ITP LIVE

ITP Live "" Ideas. Technology. People. was Founded by Pat Hand (CEO) and Paul Mullen (COO) who collectively have over 60 years of experience in event design and production management. Pat Hand, former CEO, PRG Mid–Atlantic and Paul Mullen former President and CEO, Greyhound Exposition Services have created, managed, and integrated world class companies and were forerunners of providing end to end, turnkey production solutions. Their strategy spans from concept through execution with a true 360 production approach. Pat and Paul will oversee management for InSync, Thunder Audio and Morpheus Lights, to ensure smooth integration and growth while fully maximizing production synergies with INVNT creating significant cost savings while ensuring best in class production support services. For more information about ITP LIVE, visit: www.itplive.com

About INSYNC PRODUCTION SERVICES

An iconic show production company, founded over 25 years ago in Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world, powering the Indy 500, Super Bowl and supporting clients that include L'Oreal, Dell Computers, Nissan, Verizon and Wells Fargo. Built around the broadcast video landscape, a creative leader leveraging LED technology. For more information about Insync Production Services, visit: www.insyncproductionservices.com.

About THUNDER AUDIO

Thunder Audio, a family owned business for over 42 years, has amplified some of the largest musical artists in the world including: Billy Joel, Post Malone, Elton John, Lionel Ritchie, Metallica, Diana Ross, and Earth Wind and Fire. Thunder Audio design and produce dynamic audio services for live experiences of all varieties and scales. Thunder Audio has always been a part of supporting touring, music festivals, corporate events, broadcast, sporting and governmental events. Providing the finest technology with premier manufacturers in the industry. For more information about Thunder Audio, visit: www.thunderaudioinc.com.

About MORPHEUS LIGHTS

Morpheus Lights has staked a global claim in the art and science of performance illumination in live events. For over 25 years, the company has counted on top–tier technology partners like AYRTON, Martin/Harmon, and Clay Paky to support lighting design and execution on tours and performances for Bruce Springsteen, Ringo Starr, and Lady Gaga. The company uses an eco–conscious approach to all projects, constantly researching for the most environmentally friendly products. For more information about Morpheus Lights, visit: www.morpheuslights.com.

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JETEX TRIUMPHS AT WORLD TRAVEL AWARDS

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 28, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Jetex has received three prestigious recognitions at the World Travel Awards Grand Final:

" World's Leading Private Jet Experience;

" World's Leading FBO Brand; and

" World's Leading Private Jet Terminal for Jetex Paris.

Jetex, an award–winning global leader in executive aviation, triumphed at the 28th annual World Travel Awards. Established in 1993, World Travel Awards acknowledge, reward and celebrate excellence across all sectors of the tourism industry. Today, they are recognized globally as the ultimate hallmark of quality, with winners setting the benchmark to which all others aspire. The voting process is online and engages qualified executives working within travel and tourism and the consumer travel buyer.

Jetex private terminals were voted the world's number one, which isn't the first time they won the top accolade since the first Jetex FBO opened in 2009. Paris Le Bourget is the busiest private jet airport in Europe and Jetex Paris has set a gold standard for the highest levels of comfort and efficiency both for passengers and crews. In August, it enjoyed global media limelight when hundreds of football fans cheered the arrival of Lionel Messi at Jetex Paris to join Paris Saint–Germain. Today, it has been voted the World's Leading Private Jet Terminal.

In 2021, Jetex has further improved the entire travel journey to let travelers enjoy a safer and more seamless experience across all 34 international locations. It all contributed to Jetex being recognized for having implemented the World's Leading Private Jet Experience, from departure to arrival. From the superior comfort of luxurious lounges and exceptional hospitality to the highest levels of aircraft handing expertise and on–time performance, Jetex FBOs around the globe continue leading the industry.

"At Jetex, we strive to enhance our products and guest experience to ensure we are delivering the industry's highest standards and leading the way when it comes to innovation. We are honored that these awards have been voted for by travel and tourism professionals and consumers worldwide, and on behalf of the entire Jetex family, we extend our sincerest thanks to our partners and passengers worldwide," said Adel Mardini, Founder and CEO of Jetex.

Graham Cooke, Founder, World Travel Awards, commented: "Jetex represents the very best of the private aviation universe and I congratulate them on these achievements. It plays a leading role in spearheading the executive aviation sector, facilitating seamless cross–border travel during the most trying times."

Best known for the dramatic transformation of the FBO model, Jetex works closely with leading designers to create bright and airy terminals with luxury amenities ranging from entertainment lounges to lush outdoor gardens and state–of–the–art flight support centers. The company witnessed a substantial increase in private jet movements this year across its entire network and continued to benefit from the momentum to reinforce its brand recognition and awareness, which has now been cemented as the World's Leading FBO Brand.

– END –

About Jetex:

An award–winning global leader in executive aviation, Jetex is recognized for delivering flexible, best–in–class trip support solutions to customers worldwide. Jetex provides exceptional private terminals (FBOs), aircraft fueling, ground handling and global trip planning. The company caters to both owners and operators of business jets for corporate, commercial and personal air travel. To find out more about Jetex, visit www.jetex.com and follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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JETEX CHRISTMAS IN THE SKY

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Dec. 27, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — For the wealthiest of the wealthy, only the most extravagant and expensive gifts are acceptable during the holiday giving season. This inspired Jetex to design the ultimate "Christmas in the Sky' private jet experience, priced USD 27,000 for up to 10 passengers.

Jetex, an award–winning global leader in executive aviation, invites the lucky few to celebrate style, taste and disposable income with one brilliant idea: a glamorous Christmas onboard a private jet soaring high in the festive skies.

The magical journey will commence with the passengers picked–up by a chauffeur limousine from their residence or hotel and driven in style to Dubai's iconic Jetex VIP Terminal. Upon arrival, they will be welcomed by not one, but 28 spectacular Christmas trees lined up in front of the terminal dressed in more than 15,000 lights as well as Jetex ambassadors who will take care of seamless departure formalities.

This season, the flagship Jetex terminal is a festive wonderland in its own right: from exquisite decorations and live musicians to carefully selected Dom Prignon vintages paired with caviar and gourmet refreshments to delight the senses. Kids will be welcomed by Santa Klaus who will look after them and let them discover the magnificently decorated Christmas trees and Insta–worthy entertainment facilities of the world's most luxurious private jet terminal. As soon as the passengers are in the mood to board, they will be driven to their private aircraft in timeless elegance in one of the Jetex Rolls–Royces.

The special flight will take two hours and the crew will select the most optimal altitude and cruising speed to ensure passengers enjoy sensational window views, including Dubai's world–famous skyline, iconic landmarks, Arabian Gulf and the rolling dunes of the desert.

To take experience personalization further, a Jetex in–flight culinary expert will contact passengers in advance to discuss their dining preferences and design a bespoke menu which will complement many delectable festive treats offered onboard.

Once back on the ground, passengers will be invited to enjoy the rest of the evening in one of the lounges with elegant service and amenities at their leisure, as well as receive signature Jetex Christmas presents.

Adel Mardini, Founder & CEO of Jetex, commented: "Once again, Jetex redefines private jet travel experience as we celebrate the season of togetherness. "Christmas in the Sky' is the epitome of luxury and festive celebrations above the clouds. Dubai is a city of superlatives and this extraordinary package is taking it to new heights. It is a perfect gift, an excellent way to discover the world of private aviation, and to create a treasured memory to cherish for years to come."

By inviting passengers to share a delightful holiday–themed pursuit among friends and family, Jetex provides a safe, relaxed, and joyful haven of kinship and good cheer.

"Christmas in the Sky" private jet package is priced from USD 27,000 (AED 100,000) for up to 10 passengers and will be available between 24 December 2021 and 7 January 2022.

For reservations, please contact Jetex Premier Experience at experience@jetex.com.

– END –

About Jetex:

An award–winning global leader in executive aviation, Jetex is recognized for delivering flexible, best–in–class trip support solutions to customers worldwide. Jetex provides exceptional private terminals (FBOs), aircraft fueling, ground handling and global trip planning. The company caters to both owners and operators of business jets for corporate, commercial and personal air travel. To find out more about Jetex, visit www.jetex.com and follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

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FDA Authorizes Marketing of 22nd Century Group’s VLN® as a Modified Risk Tobacco Product

  • VLN Is World's First and Only Combustible Cigarette to Receive FDA MRTP Designation
  • FDA Adds Evidence–Based, Headline Claim "Helps You Smoke Less" to Company's Requested Claims
  • VLN 95% Reduced Nicotine Content Cigarettes to Launch in the U.S. Within 90 Days
  • VLN to Launch Outside the U.S. in First Quarter 2022

BUFFALO, N.Y., Dec. 23, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — 22nd Century Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: XXII), a leading agricultural biotechnology company focused on tobacco harm reduction, reduced nicotine tobacco, and improving health and wellness through modern plant science, announced today that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the marketing of the Company's VLN King and VLN Menthol King reduced nicotine content cigarettes as modified risk tobacco products (MRTPs). In doing so, the Agency found that VLN "" which smokes, tastes, and smells like a conventional cigarette but contains 95% less nicotine than conventional, highly addictive cigarettes "" "help reduce exposure to, and consumption of, nicotine for smokers who use them."

"Today's decision to authorize VLN 's MRTP application places the FDA and 22nd Century together at the vanguard of transforming the tobacco industry. With 60% of adult smokers in our U.S. market research telling us they are likely to try VLN , this is a complete game–changer for 22nd Century, the tobacco industry, public health, and adult smokers looking to change their relationship with nicotine "" the addictive chemical found in all tobacco products. This is the first, and most likely will be the only, combustible cigarette to ever carry the FDA's MRTP designation. The FDA's decision to require the additional headline claim "Helps You Smoke Less' alongside our requested headline claim of '95% Less Nicotine' gives adult smokers a crystal–clear reason to replace their conventional and highly addictive cigarettes with VLN ," said James A. Mish, chief executive officer at 22nd Century Group.

"Our mission is to find ways to stop tobacco–related disease and death. We know that three out of four adult smokers want to quit and the data on these products show they can help addicted adult smokers transition away from highly addictive combusted cigarettes," said Mitch Zeller, J.D., director of the FDA's Center for Tobacco Products. "Having options like these products authorized today, which contain less nicotine and are reasonably likely to reduce nicotine dependence, may help adult smokers. If adult smokers were less addicted to combusted cigarettes, they would likely smoke less and may be exposed to fewer harmful chemicals that cause tobacco–related disease and death."

"Having secured this FDA marketing order, we are fully prepared to launch VLN with select retail and marketing partners in our pilot markets in the U.S. within the next 90 days and in the first of several global markets by the end of the first quarter of 2022. We are also in discussions with additional retail trade, marketing, and strategic partners to scale VLN sales in the U.S. and internationally, including through potential licensing of our technology to facilitate the broader industry transition to RNC products. We will provide additional details on strategic partners and the rollout of VLN in the coming months," said Mish.

The FDA authorized the marketing of VLN with the following MRTP claims:

  • "Helps you smoke less."
  • "95% less nicotine."
  • "Helps reduce your nicotine consumption."
  • "…Greatly reduces your nicotine consumption."

The FDA's decision to authorize the Company's MRTP claims and to require the additional claim of "Helps You Smoke Less" on every VLN pack and in every VLN advertisement where any of the other authorized claims are also used was based on an extensive body of science consisting of dozens of independent scientific and clinical studies using 22nd Century's reduced nicotine content (RNC) tobacco cigarettes. These studies, which were funded largely by the FDA, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and other U.S. federal government agencies, as well as studies funded by 22nd Century, show that smokers who use RNC cigarettes "" even those with no intention of quitting at the beginning of the studies "" reduce their nicotine exposure and dependence, smoke fewer cigarettes per day, increase their number of smoke–free days, and double their quit attempts "" all with minimal or no evidence of nicotine withdrawal symptoms or compensatory smoking.

In its announcement of its decision today, FDA explained, "The data also showed it is reasonably likely that using these products reduces nicotine dependence, which is anticipated to lead to long–term reductions in exposure to the smoking–related toxicants associated with morbidity and mortality by reducing smoking. Published studies have shown that significantly reducing the number of cigarettes smoked per day is associated with lower risk of lung cancer and death, with greater reductions in cigarettes per day resulting in less risk. Additionally, as required for authorization, the FDA found that the applications supported consumer understanding of the claims that VLN cigarettes contain much lower levels of nicotine than other cigarettes."

VLN is also the first and only combustible cigarette to come to market that complies with the FDA's proposed nicotine cap for conventional cigarettes in its Comprehensive Plan for Tobacco and Nicotine Regulation as well as New Zealand's recently proposed reduced nicotine content mandate.

"We believe today's announcement by the FDA is a clear indication that the FDA is moving forward with its Plan to address the incredible harms caused by smoking. This plan includes the authorization of less toxic tobacco products such as e–cigarettes and other non–combustible products along with a nicotine cap of 0.5 mg of nicotine per gram of tobacco in combustible tobacco products. This level of nicotine content, which the FDA has described as being 'minimally or non–addictive,' has already been achieved by 22nd Century in its VLN products," said Mish.

The FDA reiterated in its announcement today that it is "committed to moving forward with the rulemaking process to ban menthol as a characterizing flavor in cigarettes and all characterizing flavors in cigars and remains on track to issue proposed rules in the spring of 2022" and that both VLN King and VLN Menthol King cigarettes "could help addicted cigarette smokers reduce their nicotine consumption and the number of cigarettes they smoke per day."

"As the FDA also looks to ban menthol in highly addictive cigarettes, we fully expect the FDA will allow our VLN Menthol cigarettes, which offer little appeal for youth and former smokers because of their reduced nicotine content, to be allowed by the FDA to remain on the market to provide an off–ramp for adult smokers of menthol cigarettes," added Mish.

The FDA's decision further builds on research projecting that an industry product standard to lower nicotine content in cigarettes to minimally or non–addictive levels would significantly change the trajectory of cigarette addiction, which is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the U.S. Approximately five million adult smokers would quit within just one year of implementation, more than 33 million people would avoid becoming regular smokers, and more than eight million premature deaths from tobacco could be avoided. With almost half a million Americans dying from smoking and more than $300 billion spent per year on smoking–related diseases, there is a clear and urgent need for substantial change in the tobacco industry.

22nd Century is ready to supply the market with RNC tobacco and finished products such as VLN to enable both 22nd Century and other manufacturers to comply with the proposed nicotine caps in the U.S., New Zealand and other countries as they embrace this innovative and highly effective approach to tobacco harm reduction first proposed by the WHO in 2015. 22nd Century's plant–based technology and products are superior to costly extraction and similar de–nicotinization technologies because those technologies typically use chemicals that strip out not just nicotine but also flavor and aroma compounds, resulting in a product that has been found unacceptable to smokers because it delivers no smoking satisfaction. In contrast, 22nd Century's reduced nicotine tobacco naturally grows with very low levels of nicotine resulting in products that smoke, taste and smell like conventional cigarettes but contain 95% less nicotine than conventional, highly addictive cigarettes. This is critical to creating an acceptable solution and "off–ramp" for current smokers looking to change their relationship with nicotine.

22nd Century remains committed to licensing its technology and products to every manufacturer to enable industry wide compliance with the proposed nicotine caps.

About 22nd Century Group, Inc.
22nd Century Group, Inc. (Nasdaq: XXII) is a leading agricultural biotechnology company focused on tobacco harm reduction, reduced nicotine tobacco and improving health and wellness through plant science. With dozens of patents allowing it to control nicotine biosynthesis in the tobacco plant, the Company has developed proprietary reduced nicotine content (RNC) tobacco plants and cigarettes, which have become the cornerstone of the FDA's Comprehensive Plan to address the widespread death and disease caused by smoking. In tobacco, hemp/cannabis, and hop plants, 22nd Century uses modern plant breeding technologies, including genetic engineering, gene–editing, and molecular breeding to deliver solutions for the life science and consumer products industries by creating new, proprietary plants with optimized alkaloid and flavonoid profiles as well as improved yields and valuable agronomic traits.

Learn more at xxiicentury.com, on Twitter @_xxiicentury, and on LinkedIn.

Learn more about VLN at tryvln.com.

Cautionary Note Regarding Forward–Looking Statements
Except for historical information, all of the statements, expectations, and assumptions contained in this press release are forward–looking statements. Forward–looking statements typically contain terms such as "anticipate," "believe," "consider," "continue," "could," "estimate," "expect," "explore," "foresee," "goal," "guidance," "intend," "likely," "may," "plan," "potential," "predict," "preliminary," "probable," "project," "promising," "seek," "should," "will," "would," and similar expressions. Actual results might differ materially from those explicit or implicit in forward–looking statements. Important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially are set forth in "Risk Factors" in the Company's Annual Report on Form 10–K filed on March 11, 2021. All information provided in this release is as of the date hereof, and the Company assumes no obligation to and does not intend to update these forward–looking statements, except as required by law.

Investor Relations & Media Contact:
Mei Kuo
Director, Communications & Investor Relations
22nd Century Group, Inc.
(716) 300–1221
mkuo@xxiicentury.com

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at https://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/f2454099–23c6–4b74–a46b–28fbb97124d5


Interview with Siddharth Chatterjee, UN Resident Coordinator in China, on the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics

Siddharth Chatterjee (pictured) during the interview. Credit: Guanxin He/Beijing Daily

By IPS Correspondent
BEIJING, Dec 23 2021 – The interview was originally conducted by Beijing Daily.

Beijing Daily: The world is paying attention to whether the Beijing Winter Olympic Games can be successfully held 6 months after the Tokyo Olympics in the face of COVID-19. How do you evaluate the preparations for the Beijing Winter Olympics? What is the key to the success of the Beijing Winter Olym-pics? What kind of signal will the successful hosting of the Beijing Winter Olympics send to the world?

Siddharth Chatterjee: Let me start by echoing the UN General Assembly Resolution 76/13 on “Building a peaceful and better world through sport and the Olympic ideal”. It expresses the expectation that “the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 will be a meaningful opportunity to harness the power of sport to advance the world by fostering an atmosphere of peace, development, resilience, tolerance and understanding, and welcoming all the delegations of National Olympic and Paralympic Committees to participate in the Games.”

At a time when the world is battling against the COVID-19 pandemic, solidari-ty and friendship among nations have never been more important. Let me take this opportunity to commend Mr. Thomas Bach the President of the In-ternational Olympic Committee for his courageous and inspirational leadership. He has said, “Solidarity is not just about respecting each other, but also helping each other and being part of a community,”.

The IOC, the Beijing Organising Committee along with the Government of China have made it clear that preparations for the games are in its final stag-es and are being carried out in a safe and orderly manner, and I support the adherence to all relevant public health measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It will also be critical for all Member States to observe the Olympic Truce, and ensure the safe passage, access and participation of athletes, officials and all other personnel taking part in the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Beijing Daily: The Winter Olympic Games will begin soon. Have you been doing any work related to the Winter Olympic Games recently? What will you do during the Winter Olympics? How does the success of the Winter Olympic Games or Olympics relate to the goals and objectives of the United Nations in your mind?

Siddharth Chatterjee: I am delighted my boss the UN Secretary-General António Guterres has accepted an invitation from the International Olympic Committee to attend the Beijing Winter Games. I echo his wise words, when he said that “the Olympic spirit brings out humanity’s best: Teamwork and solidarity. Talent. Tolerance.”

The UN has long recognized the contribution of sport for development and peace, and collaboration between the IOC and the UN has played a central role in spreading the acceptance of sport as a means to promote mutual un-derstanding, friendship, tolerance, non-discrimination, and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The 2008 Paralympic Games in Beijing are a prime example of how the games can affect a society. Winning the right to host the 2008 Games trig-gered action by the Government to improve the lives of people with disabilities and protect their rights as equal members of society. New legislation on ac-cessibility was passed and, in the seven years leading up to the Games, Chi-na spent more than US$ 150 million on making 14,000 facilities accessible throughout the country.

It was during the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games, that we also saw a key partnership between UN entities in China, including UN Volunteers and the UN Development Programme and key Chinese volunteer organizations, increasing the impact and elevating the spirit of volunteerism throughout Chi-na.

For the Beijing Winter Games, the UN Volunteers programme along with the UN Development Programme will take part in an innovative project to promote sustainable urban development through volunteer service.

Nelson Mandela once said: “Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.” The UN family in China is ready to show its support and play its part to ensuring the success of these upcoming games.

Siddharth Chatterjee (pictured) practicing yoga in his office during lunch break.

Beijing Daily: This year marks the 50th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China’s restoration of its lawful seat in the United Nations. How do you evaluate China’s influence on the UN and the world over the past 50 years, especially in recent years?

Siddharth Chatterjee: China was one of the architects of the United Nations and was the first signatory of the UN Charter in San Francisco in 1945.

But it was only in October 1971, with the Chinese delegation led by Mr. Qiao Guanhua, that China’s representation at the UN resumed. Since that time, the UN has had the great privilege of witnessing and supporting China in achieving one of the greatest periods of socio-economic progress in world history.

Now, on the 50th anniversary of China in the UN, I am honored to serve as the UN Resident Coordinator, a post I took earlier this year.

While I am a recent arrival to China, only just beginning to understand its rich tapestry of over 5,000 years of civilization, the UN in China has had the privi-lege to shape and witness the profound economic and social transformations that have occurred since reform and opening-up.

As we commemorate a half-century of cooperation, a question naturally emerges: Which way now for the UN and China?

This is a weighty question, as China and the world are at a critical juncture. Tentatively emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, but with many countries still struggling terribly. Staring down the threats of climate change, with rec-ord-setting heat, fires, storms, and other disasters. Counting down the years in this “Decade of Action” to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

China’s standard-setting leadership in past decades gives me confidence that we can achieve even greater things in the years to come.

Today, China is the second-largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping budg-et and has sent more peacekeepers to UN missions than any other perma-nent member of the Security Council. China also played a vital role in shaping the consensus needed for the SDGs and the Paris Agreement.

It is now time for the UN and China to reimagine, innovate, reinvigorate, and continue in our cooperation, dedicating ourselves anew to creating lasting prosperity for the people of China and all the world.

Beijing Daily: Are you a fan of winter sports? Or what sports do you like (not necessarily winter sports)? Do you feel Chinese people love sports?

Siddharth Chatterjee: I regret to say that I have no skills in any winter sports. I grew up in a place, where we had two seasons. Hot and very hot.

However. I am an avid practitioner of yoga and running in all seasons. As a frequent runner, I also must attest to the improvements in air quality now en-joyed by Beijing residents.

Siddharth Chatterjee (pictured left) displaying the flag of the UN following a team fun run in the streets of Beijing.

The prevention of noncommunicable disease and keeping one’s body and mind sharp are just two of the many reasons that motivate my interest in sport, also emphasized by the Healthy China 2030 initiative.

Traditional Chinese culture has long regarded physical fitness as an important characteristic, as seen in the long historical association with the martial arts. In the streets and public parks of China we see these elements to this day, along with more contemporary sports such as basketball.

I think back to a mere 13 years ago where the eyes of the world turned to Beijing for the Summer Olympics and Paralympics. What we all saw was not only a proud moment for the people of China, but China asserting itself as an enthusiastic sporting nation, leading the medal tally that year.

This year we saw athletes such as Su Bingtian – who set a new Asian record in the men’s 100-meter dash earlier this year at the Tokyo Olympics and he’s often referred to as the disrupter and game-changer for Chinese runners; Yang Qian, a third-year undergraduate young girl studying economics and management at Tsinghua University who also won the very first gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics – take this spirit forwards and I am confident that the ath-letes and people of China will put their love for sports on full display during next year’s games.

However, I must also add a word of caution. China is also seeing a surge of non-communicable diseases, like obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.

Almost 10% of all adults in China – about 110 million people – currently live with diabetes. Without urgent action to reduce lifestyle risk factors like un-healthy diet and lack of physical activity, that number is expected to increase to 150 million by 2040 – with major health, social and economic consequenc-es.

As the UN we will work closely with the Government of China to achieve its vision of a Healthy China by 2030. I will surely lead by example.

 


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Severe Water Stress, Absolute Scarcity for 2 to 4 Billion Humans by 2025

Up to four billion people – over half the population of the planet – are already facing severe water stress for at least one month of the year while half a billion suffer from permanent water stress.

Up to four billion people – over half the population of the planet – are already facing severe water stress for at least one month of the year, while half a billion suffer from permanent water stress. Credit: Jeffrey Moyo/IPS

By Baher Kamal
MADRID, Dec 23 2021 – Now it comes to the scary water crises, as it is estimated that, globally, over two billion people live in countries that experience high water stress.

On this, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) also reports that ”other estimates are even more pessimistic, with up to four billion people – over half the population of the planet – already facing severe water stress for at least one month of the year while half a billion suffer from permanent water stress.”

About 71% of the world’s irrigated area and 47% of major cities are to experience at least periodic water shortages. If this trend continues, the scarcity and associated water quality problems will lead to competition and conflicts among water users

This means that about 71% of the world’s irrigated area and 47% of major cities are to experience at least periodic water shortages. If this trend continues, the scarcity and associated water quality problems will lead to competition and conflicts among water users, it adds.

 

Climate crisis aggravates the risk

“Climate change will increase the odds of worsening drought and water scarcity in many parts of the world. Drought ranks among the most damaging of all natural hazards. While droughts affect every climate zone, drylands are particularly susceptible to drought and its impacts.”

Currently, most countries, regions and communities use reactive and crisis-driven approaches to manage drought risk. To address this issue, healthy land is a natural storage for fresh water. If it is degraded, it cannot perform that function. Managing land better and massively scaling up land rehabilitation are essential for building drought resilience and water security, explains UNCCD.

“Land restoration is the cheapest and most effective solution to improved water storage, mitigating impacts of drought and addressing biodiversity loss.”

 

Not enough rain? Too much rain?

Meanwhile, the UN Convention to Combat Desertification explains that communities all over the world have suffered some of the most brutal effects of drought and flooding this year.

“Flash floods in Western Europe, Eastern and Central Asia and Southern Africa. And catastrophic drought in Australia, southern Africa, southern Asia, much of Latin America, Western North America and Siberia are cases in point. The impacts extend well beyond the individual events.”

For example, the rise in food insecurity in the Southern African region and unprecedented wildfires in North America, Europe and Central Asia.

 

What is going on?

This is much more than bad weather in some cases, and is increasingly so, adds the UN Convention.

“Extreme events, including both droughts and floods are on the rise. With more land projected to get drier and more and more people living in drylands in the future, the discussions centred on the shift more than 60 countries are making from “reactive” response to droughts and floods to “proactive” planning and risk management designed to build resilience.”

 

Production systems, so constrained

For its part, the report The State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture warns that production systems where the land and water resources supporting agricultural production are constrained to a point where their capacity to meet current and future needs is seriously jeopardised.

Constraints may be further exacerbated by unsustainable agricultural practices, social and economic pressures and the impact of climate change.

Land and water resources are central to agriculture and rural development and are intrinsically linked to global challenges of food insecurity and poverty, climate change adaptation and mitigation, as well as degradation and depletion of natural resources that affect the livelihoods of millions of rural people across the world, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s report.

 

Food demand to surge

Current projections cited in the report indicate that the world population will increase from 6.9 billion people today to 9.1 billion in 2050. In addition, economic progress, notably in the emerging countries, translates into increased demand for food and diversified diets.

World food demand will surge as a result, and it is projected that food production will increase by 70% in the world and by 100% in developing countries.

“Yet both land and water resources, the basis of our food production, are finite and already under heavy stress, and future agricultural production will need to be more productive and more sustainable at the same time.”

 

Increased competition for land and water

And there are warning signs. Rates of growth in agricultural production have been slowing, and are only half the 3 percent annual rate of growth seen in developing countries in the past, says the report.

In 2007 and 2008, any complacency was jolted by food price shocks, as grain prices soared. Since then, the growing competition for land and water is now thrown into stark relief as sovereign and commercial investors begin to acquire tracts of farmland in developing countries. Production of feedstock stability of land and water resources.

“Deeper structural problems have also become apparent in the natural resource base. Water scarcity is growing. Salinisation and pollution of water courses and bodies, and degradation of water-related ecosystems are rising.”

 

Waters are shrinking

In many large rivers, only 5% of former water volumes remain in-stream, and some rivers such as the Huang He no longer reach the sea year-round.

Large lakes and inland seas have shrunk, and half the wetlands of Europe and North America no longer exist. Runoff from eroding soils is filling reservoirs, reducing hydropower and water supply, it explains.

 

Groundwater, over-pumped

Groundwater is being pumped intensively and aquifers are becoming increasingly polluted and salinised in some coastal areas.

Large parts of all continents are experiencing high rates of ecosystem impairment, particularly reduced soil quality, biodiversity loss, and harm to amenity and cultural heritage values, the report continues.

 

Agriculture, a major contributor to greenhouse emissions

Agriculture is now a major contributor to greenhouse gases, accounting for 13.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions (IPCC, 2007). At the same time, climate change brings an increase in risk and unpredictability for farmers – from warming and related aridity, from shifts in rainfall patterns, and from the growing incidence of extreme weather events.

“Poor farmers in low-income countries are the most vulnerable and the least able to adapt to these changes.”

 

Also aquaculture

The steady increase in inland aquaculture also contributes to the competition for land and water resources: the average annual per capita supply of food fish from aquaculture for human consumption has increased at an average rate of 6.6 percent per year between 1970 and 2008, leading to increasing demand in feed, water and land for the construction of fish ponds.

The deteriorating trends in the capacities of ecosystems to provide vital goods and services are already affecting the production potential of important food-producing zones, according to FAO.

“If these continue, impacts on food security will be greatest in developing countries, where both water and soil nutrients are least abundant.”

“On present trends, a series of major land and water systems and the food outputs they produce are at risk.”

 

The Impact of Air Pollution on Child Health

Air pollution is a global public health crisis and air pollution levels in India are among the highest in the world, posing a heavy threat to the country’s health and economy

A view of India Gate, a war memorial located in New Delhi, covered by a thick layer of smog. Credit: Malav Goswami/IPS

By External Source
Dec 23 2021 – Air pollution is a global public health crisis, and air pollution levels in India are among the highest in the world, posing a heavy threat to the country’s health and economy. According to the 2019 World Air Quality Report, India is home to 21 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world. In these cities, air quality can be as much as 10 times over the safe limits of air pollution recommended by the WHO.

Why is air pollution such a significant issue?

Loss of life

According to the State of Global Air 2020 report, air pollution was the fourth leading risk factor for early death worldwide in 2019, and is estimated to have caused 1.7 million premature deaths in India in that year. The burden of disease due to air pollution is higher in low- and middle-income countries, causing about 91 percent of premature deaths.

Economic losses

While the hazardous impact of air pollution on health is well recognised, its negative economic impact is less investigated. Lost output from premature deaths and morbidity attributable to air pollution accounted for economic losses of USD 28.8 billion and 8 billion respectively in 2019. In India, economic losses from air pollution were equivalent to 1.36 percent of the country’s GDP.

Why are children at higher risk?

According to a WHO report, every day around 93 percent of the world’s children under the age of 15 years breathe air so polluted that it puts their health and development in serious danger. Children are at greater risk than adults from the many adverse health effects of air pollution owing to a combination of behavioural, environmental, and physiological factors. Some key reasons for this higher risk include:

  1. Children are more susceptible because their lungs, brain, and immune system are still developing and their respiratory tract is more permeable.
  2. Children breathe more air per kilogram of body weight, so their exposure to air pollution is much greater than adults. The consequences of their exposure—through inhalation, ingestion, or in utero—can lead to illness and other lifetime health burdens.

 

What are the effects of air pollution on children’s health and development?

Air pollution is one of the leading threats to child health, globally accounting for almost one in 10 deaths in children under five years of age. Around 8.8 percent of deaths in children under the age of five in India in 2017 can be attributed to air pollution, according to a Lancet study. Some of the effects on children’s health and development include:

1. Serious respiratory illnesses

Air pollution causes more than 50 percent of acute lower respiratory infections in children under five years of age in low- and middle-income countries. It can lead to asthma, childhood cancers, chronic diseases, poor lung function, pneumonia, and other types of acute lower respiratory infection.

This study from Delhi observed a statistically significant positive association between air pollution (PM10 level) and the prevalence of lower respiratory tract symptoms. These symptoms were more prevalent in girls than in boys. Every third child in Delhi has impaired lungs due to the high level of pollutants that are present in the city’s air.

2.  Premature births, infant deaths, and a negative impact on child growth 

Pregnant women exposed to polluted air are more likely to give birth prematurely and have small, low birth-weight children. A recent study from India revealed a negative impact of exposure to air pollution during the first trimester of pregnancy on child growth indicators.

Air pollution contributed to nearly 5,00,000 infant deaths worldwide in 2019. In India, a fifth of neonatal deaths from all causes can be attributed to air pollution.

This Lancet study indicates a plausible link between air pollution and stunting in children.

3. Negative impacts on children’s neurodevelopment

Prolonged exposure to polluted air negatively impacts neurodevelopment in children. According to the WHO, new research has shown an association between prenatal exposure to high levels of air pollution and developmental delay at age three, as well as psychological and behavioural problems later on, including symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety, and depression. Air pollution affects children’s learning process by exacerbating respiratory illnesses, fatigue, school absenteeism, and attention problems.

 

What is the way forward?

India has taken the following steps at the central and state levels to control pollution and improve air quality:

1. National Clean Air Programme

Government of India’s National Clean Air Programme is a powerful step in acknowledging and resolving the problem of deteriorating air quality. It is a national-level strategy to tackle the country’s air pollution challenge, calling for a 20–30 percent reduction in particulate matter pollution by 2024.

2. Performance-based funds transfers to cities

In 2020, the central government allocated approximately USD 1.7 billion to fight air pollution in 42 Indian cities that have a population of more than one million. This is conditional on these cities reducing their air pollution levels by 15 percent every year. It is the world’s first performance-based fiscal transfer funding programme for air quality management in cities.

3. Coordinated action to improve air quality

Parliament approved a law in August 2021 to establish the Commission of Air Quality Management for better coordination, research, identification, and resolution of problems related to air quality in the National Capital Region and adjoining areas.

However, much more needs to be done. The air pollution challenge in India is inherently multisectoral. Policies and investments supporting cleaner transport, power generation and industry; energy-efficient homes, and better municipal waste management will reduce key sources of outdoor air pollution. Experiences in tackling air pollution in cities suggest three possible ways forward:

  1. Disseminating information about the problem and health risks.
  2. Providing incentives to cities/states and other stakeholders for tackling air pollution.
  3. Building institutions that support air quality management. This requires sufficient funding and a sustained focus on capacity building.

The right combination of political will, appropriate implementation, and a strong compliance mechanism from both government and the private sector are required to move forward. Given Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent announcement that India aims to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2070, the time to act is now.

 

The author of this opinion editorial, Dr Vinod Kumar Anand, is a technical adviser for maternal, newborn, and child health (MNCH) at Save the Children India.

This story was originally published by India Development Review (IDR)

FXCM November Single Share & Stock Baskets Report

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Dec. 23, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — FXCM Group, LLC ("FXCM Group' or "FXCM'), the leading international provider of online foreign exchange trading, CFD trading, cryptocurrencies and related services, is today releasing its data of most popular instruments for the month of November in its Single Share CFD and proprietary Stock Basket product lines.

FXCM offers fractional single share trading with no commission fees* on leading companies from the US, UK, France, Germany, Hong Kong and Australia. FXCM's stock basket products combine the shares of multiple companies from one sector into a single tradeable instrument. The company currently boasts a portfolio of 16 stock baskets. The list of companies and weightings is available on FXCM's stock basket website (https://www.fxcm.com/za/stock–baskets/)

There was little change to the FXCM's top ten during November, with only PayPal making way for Chinese ADR JD.com. Tesla maintained top spot, while Facebook's delayed ticker change did not detract from trader interest as it pushed its way into second spot, recording its highest volume of the last 12 months.

In a month that saw the launch of two new FXCM Stock Baskets, Uranium and Crypto stocks, it was the two Ecommerce baskets that saw the biggest boost ahead of the festive season. China Ecommerce and US Ecommerce jumped to second and fourth place respectively, trailing behind FAANG which has maintained top spot since June. However, with many Chinese companies threatening delistings from the US, it will be interesting to see what the future entails for the components of the both the China Ecommerce basket and the 5th rank China Technology basket as we approach the new year.

Volume Rank Monthly Rank Change Company Symbol
1 Tesla Inc TSLA.us
2 '2 Facebook (Meta Platforms Inc) FB.us
3 "1 Apple Inc AAPL.us
4 '3 Boeing Company BA.us
5 '1 Tencent Holdings Ltd TENC.hk
6 "3 Amazon.com Inc AMZN.us
7 '3 Alphabet Inc GOOG.us
8 "3 Alibaba Group Holding Ltd ADR BABA.us
9 NVIDIA Corporation NVDA.us
10 New to top 10 JD.com JD.us

Volume Rank Monthly Rank Change Sector Symbol
1 Big US Tech FAANG
2 '2 China Ecommerce CHN.ECOMM
3 '4 Airlines AIRLINES
4 '6 US E–Commerce US.ECOMM
5 "–2 China Tech CHN.TECH
6 '5 ESports & Gaming ESPORTS
7 '2 Big China Tech (HKD Basket) ATMX
8 "–2 Cannabis CANNABIS
9 "7 Biotechnology BIOTECH
10 "5 US Banks US.BANKS

Past Performance and popularity is not an indicator of future results.
Rank is derived from FXCM Client Volume

*FXCM can be compensated in several ways, which includes but are not limited to adding a mark–up to the spreads it receives from its liquidity providers, adding a mark–up to rollover, etc. Commission–based pricing is applicable to Active Trader account types.

About FXCM:

FXCM is a leading provider of online foreign exchange (FX) trading, CFD trading, and related services. Founded in 1999, the company's mission is to provide global traders with access to the world's largest and most liquid market by offering innovative trading tools, hiring excellent trading educators, meeting strict financial standards and striving for the best online trading experience in the market. Clients have the advantage of mobile trading, one–click order execution and trading from real–time charts. In addition, FXCM offers educational courses on FX trading and provides trading tools, proprietary data and premium resources. FXCM Pro provides retail brokers, small hedge funds and emerging market banks access to wholesale execution and liquidity, while providing high and medium frequency funds access to prime brokerage services via FXCM Prime. FXCM is a Leucadia Company.

Forex Capital Markets Limited: FCA registration number 217689 (www.fxcm.com/uk)

CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage.

67% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs with this provider.

You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

FXCM EU LTD: CySEC license number 392/20 (www.fxcm.com/eu)

CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage.

Between 74–89% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs.

You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

FXCM Australia Pty. Limited: AFSL 309763. Losses can exceed your deposited funds. The products may not be suitable for all investors. Please ensure that you fully understand the risks involved. If you decide to trade products offered by FXCM AU, you must read and understand the Financial Services Guide, Product Disclosure Statement, Target Market Determination and Terms of Business on www.fxcm.com/au.

FXCM South Africa (PTY) Ltd: FSP No 46534 (www.fxcm.com/za). Our service includes products that are traded on margin and carry a risk of losses in excess of your deposited funds. The products may not be suitable for all investors. Please ensure that you fully understand the risks involved.

FXCM Markets Limited: Losses can exceed deposited funds. (www.fxcm.com/markets).

Media contact:
Chatsworth Communications
+44 (0) 20 7440 9780
fxcm@chatsworthcommunications.com


2021: A Grim Year for Planet Earth

By Farhana Haque Rahman
ROME, Dec 23 2021 – Between the COVID-19 pandemic and the deadly manifestations of the climate crisis, there were few places to hide for most of us in 2021.

Ageing billionaires riding booming stock markets could take their first flights into space in their own rockets, but for the rest of Planet Earth’s 8 billion people with their feet on the ground it was a year of placing hope in the hands of scientists and our political leaders to turn the tide.

Farhana Haque Rahman

Our review of 2021, as seen through the eyes of IPS reporters and contributors around the world, must begin as a year ago by paying our respects to those who lost their lives early, while also extending our gratitude to the often anonymous individuals fighting to make things better.

In 2020 the world mourned the officially reported deaths of some 1.8 million people from COVID-19, but as we approach the end of 2021 the death toll has risen to over 5.3 million. However, the true figure measured by “excess mortality” could be several million higher, according to the World Health Organization.

Scientists made extraordinary breakthroughs in quickly developing vaccines that have shown considerable efficacy in fighting the virus. Health systems in wealthier countries, including China, were equally efficient in dispensing them. Over 8.1 billion vaccines have been administered – more than the world’s population.

Yet while some countries had double jabbed over 70 percent of their citizens and were pushing boosters, less than 8 percent of Africa’s 1.3 billion people had been vaccinated at all. The disparity is as startling as it is complex in its origins and causes. But it is clear that poorer countries and sectors are suffering disproportionately through rising poverty and inequality as years of development gains are wiped out.

The ramifications are enormous, and women and girls are bearing the brunt of the problems. Girls in poorer countries are dropping out of school and early marriage is increasing. UN Women’s latest Measuring the Shadow Pandemic report said all types of violence against women and girls has intensified since the outbreak of COVID-19. UNICEF called the pandemic the biggest crisis for children in its 75-year history, with 100 million falling into poverty.

The failure of better-off and powerful countries to look beyond their national interests is not new and has deep roots. Prioritising the profits of western pharmaceutical companies by opposing the intellectual property waiver at the WTO or hoarding vaccines are just the latest manifestations.

Seen in this light, the hopes attached to the COP26 Glasgow Climate Summit were never going to be fully realised even though the planet’s build-up to the pandemic-delayed event left no doubts in 2021 in terms of floods, droughts, heatwaves and wildfires.

Greenland’s highest summit experienced rain for the first time in at least over 140 years. Its ice sheet lost some 166 billion tonnes over 12 months, making it the 25th year in a row where it has lost more ice than it gained.

Parts of Canada and the US experienced a record-breaking “heat dome”. Sicily recorded Europe’s highest temperature. Germany suffered massive floods. Wildfires ripped through Mediterranean countries and the Dixie fire was California’s biggest recorded single blaze. China took months’ worth of rain in the space of hours. Sub-tropical South America endured a second year of drought.

“Extreme events are the new norm,” said World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, describing COP26 as “a make-or-break opportunity to put us back on track” in reducing greenhouse gas concentrations to stem the rise in global temperatures. It is likely that 2015 to 2021 will be the seven warmest years on record.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) also sounded alarm bells, warning leaders about to meet in Glasgow that “humanity has reached a tipping point” in tackling escalating climate and biodiversity emergencies.

So was the Glasgow summit “blah blah blah”, in the words of activist Greta Thunberg, or a bold step towards limiting global warming to below 2C as claimed by some? It was hard to tell. “The reality is more nuanced,” concluded Carbon Brief, a specialist website, in its extensive analysis.

It reported progress towards flattening the curve of future emissions through climate policies and falling clean energy costs but said the world was still “far from on track” to meet Paris Agreement goals of limiting warming to 1.5C or “well below” 2C.

It was the first COP summit to explicitly target action against fossil fuels, calling for a “phasedown of unabated coal” and “phase-out” of “inefficient” fossil-fuel subsidies.

But in a blow to less developed countries most vulnerable to climate change, the summit text, under pressure from the US and Europe, omitted reference to a specific finance facility, promising “dialogue” instead.

Separately however, the NDC Partnership, which helps countries deliver on their Nationally Determined Contributions to cut emissions, says it is ready to mobilise hundreds of millions of dollars.

Receiving less publicity was the mention in the final text of agroecology, an element of nature-based solutions that will be on the agenda of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda next June.

Overall, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the COP26 texts as “not enough” and a “compromise” reflecting the state of political will in the world.

2021 was full of bad news but billionaires, big pharmaceutical and high-tech firms, as well as autocrats, did well on the whole.
Forbes’ annual list of the world’s wealthiest reported a rise of 660 dollar billionaires to an unprecedented 2,755. Among the new elite were 210 from China and Hong Kong.

Among autocrats, China’s Xi Jinping, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Iran’s hardliners consolidated control at home and flexed their muscles on the international stage. Myanmar’s military took back power, while the Taliban seized back Afghanistan. Donald Trump’s last desperate attempts to stay in power failed however, with the mob assault on the US Capitol, while US global authority further diminished.

Multiple crises also provided fertile ground for human traffickers dealing in modern slavery and forced labour. Global suffering has vastly increased vulnerabilities to trafficking. For every 100 victims trafficked globally, 50 are women and 20 are girls.

Press freedom, as ever, was both vigorously defended in 2021 while taking a hammering in many countries, notably in Asia.

On December 8 Philippine journalist Jesus Malabanan became the latest reporter to lose his life, shot in the head outside his home in an apparent extrajudicial killing. He was the 22nd journalist killed in the Philippines since Rodrigo Duterte became president in 2016.

Malabanan’s killing came just as fellow Philippine journalist Maria Ressa arrived in Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Russian journalist Dmitri Muratov. The Nobel Committee said the two laureates represent the “courageous fight for freedom of expression” at a time when democracy and press freedom are facing multiple threats.

Such threats make it even more vitally important that IPS Inter Press Service continues to give a voice to the voiceless and fosters evidence-based reporting of development news with a strong sense of social responsibility. In this IPS plays a unique role among news outlets, with women making up 70 percent of reporters and editors, and we are indebted to their efforts.

Just as countries battle to control the pandemic, IPS continues its extensive coverage of issues and places that might otherwise be neglected.

For example IPS reported on how the Sasakawa Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) Initiative, a strategic alliance that links the WHO, Sasakawa Health Foundation, and The Nippon Foundation for achieving a leprosy-free world, has highlighted concerns over leprosy resurgence, particularly in Comoros in East Africa.

With Africa acutely aware of the need to establish food sustainability and security for its rapidly growing population, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has enhanced its Youth in Agribusiness initiatives empowering youth as actors in agriculture through training, research, employment, and entrepreneurship.

In southeast Asia the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT is partnering with WMO and DeRisk Southeast Asia to develop targeted weather forecasts to work around threats of drought and extreme rains, including provision of specially designed insurance to protect their livelihoods.

But rising sea levels and extreme events mean that the 22 Pacific Island Countries and Territories, which contribute less than 0.03 percent of the world’s greenhouse emissions, need climate finance for food security now. Their ability to respond to climate change is supported by the UN Green Climate Fund through the Pacific Community (SPC).

As we approach 2022 – in the race between vaccines and new COVID variants, with devastating tornadoes striking central US, and the threat of war looming over Ukraine — IPS and its partners pledge to keep covering the places, issues and projects that still matter but risk being left in the dark.

Farhana Haque Rahman is Senior Vice President of IPS Inter Press Service and Executive Director IPS Noram; a journalist and communications expert, she is a former senior official of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

 


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America Faces a Fateful Crossroad in 2022

US President Joe Biden presiding over a virtual Summit for Democracy on December 9-10. Credit: Voice of America (VoA)

By Alon Ben-Meir
NEW YORK, Dec 23 2021 – When my assistant handed me copy expressing my greetings and good wishes for 2022 for approval, I paused, thinking, “is that all I can say, just hope for a better, brighter new year?”

How much happier and sunnier can next year be, when we still suffer from the deep scars and bleeding wounds from the social and political malaise that 2021 left behind? We must act now. There is no time to spare because the losses will be of such a magnitude beyond our ability to comprehend.

Politicizing the pandemic

The pandemic is the most challenging crisis facing our nation in more than a century, and remains one of the fundamental human rights issues of our time. Nearly 800,000 Americans have died from the pandemic, yet only 60 percent of our fellow Americans have been vaccinated.

How sad and disheartening that we politicized a deadly virus, as Republicans are three times more likely than Democrats to refuse vaccination. Two of the most populous states, Florida and Texas, not only are refusing to institute vaccine or masking mandates, but are banning local municipalities from instituting their own mandates.

Is it any wonder then that their death tolls are the highest in the country?

To refuse vaccination is to benefit from the precaution of those who have been vaccinated without making any contribution to our collective immunity. By the spring of 2022 more than one million of our fellow Americans will have died from the virus and many Republican leaders still have the crude audacity to oppose mandatory vaccination.

It is time to recognize that each and every one of us has a moral obligation to be vaccinated and contribute to the realization of herd immunity.

Moreover, the refusal of so many Americans to be vaccinated is allowing one variant after another to arise and inflict ever more pain and hardship. Our immunity to disease is a collective resource, and none are safe until we all are.

The pandemic is apolitical and colorblind, and 2022 will be merciless and agonizingly harsh unless we rise and act as one. Vaccination should not be a choice but a requirement as long as the unvaccinated can infect others. We do not have the luxury of time.

Democracy under assault

Our democracy is under ominous assault. Republicans are tearing it down brick by brick. One state after another passes discriminatory laws and absurd rules, gerrymanders to secure electoral control, and refuses to accept the result of free and fair elections.

We are still reeling from the violent storming of the Capitol to prevent the peaceful transfer of power and accommodate a morally deranged so-called leader, whose lust for power is surpassed only by his contempt for the laws of the land.

They were ready to sacrifice the freedom and liberty for which countless Americans have died, only to bask in his authoritarian design. What does that say about America’s future, when a multitude of Republicans want to seize power at whatever cost, willingly following such a blind, unhinged, bigoted narcissist who is openly tearing our democratic institutions apart?

Our democracy is facing an unprecedented danger. We must strengthen voting rights, prevent the appointment of partisans to subvert the election, fight political corruption at every level, and make political power decreasingly dependent on money. The election of Biden gave us hope in preserving our democracy and attending to the political and social malaise that swept the nation. But maintaining the House and Senate for the Democrats in 2022 will be do or die; otherwise, Biden’s agenda will be shattered, and authoritarianism will creep in, leading to the collapse of the American institution.

We must rise in unison, hold accountable the traitors behind the insurrection on January 6, and preserve and protect America’s 240-year-old democracy that served as a beacon of hope and freedom to the global community.

Climate change denial

Climate change will not happen sometime in the future. It is happening now. We live it—the unprecedented storms, hurricanes, deadly tornadoes, and fires consuming hundreds of millions of trees every year. Sea levels are rising, beaches are shrinking, and island states are slowly submerging in front of our eyes.

Thousands of species still unknown to man are vanishing in the Amazon. Coral reefs are dying at a horrifying rate, with over 30 percent at risk of being lost within the next few decades. To be sure, climate change is an existential threat facing our planet.

The reasons for this unfolding tragedy are clear enough. Coral mining, overfishing, blast fishing, pollution, the burning of fossil fuels, and animal farming and transportation are among the major contributing factors.

Climate change continues to spark massive migration; millions have been forced to flee their homes, which have become inhospitable due to flooding, fires, and other disasters fueled by the changing environment.

And yet, we still have a multitude of climate change deniers who dismiss the indisputable scientific evidence and refuse to acknowledge what is in front of their own eyes. I applaud Biden’s commitment to address the perils of climate change and call on every public and private institution to play their part in combating climate change.

Next year will be even worse unless the country comes together. We must act now to avert the catastrophic impact of climate change before it is too late.

Unfathomable child abuse

It is hard to comprehend; in America, over 13 million children go to school hungry and one in five live in food insecure households. Black and Hispanic children disproportionately suffer from poverty.

How is it fathomable that the richest country on earth disgracefully falls in child poverty between Mexico and Lithuania? One in 11 children, nearly 6.5 million nationwide, live in extreme poverty, compounded by the fact that this age is a time of rapid brain development.

Even more damning is the trafficking of children which occurs in every state. Most trafficking victims in the US are citizens; those forced into sex work are not just runaways or abandoned youth, they are children from urban and rural areas, and of every class and race.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received over 17,000 reports of potential child sex trafficking in 2020 alone. Of the over 26,500 children reported runaways in that year, one in six were “likely victims of child sex trafficking.”

Sadly, as I write these painful words another child was just trafficked for sexual purposes. And 2022 will be just the same; it will not heal these tragic wounds unless we rise up and put an end to this unimaginable travesty in America today.

Women’s rights under assault

To this day, after decades of so-called equality, women are still discriminated against in this country. In 2020, women earned 84 percent of what men earned; it would take an extra 42 days of work for women to earn what men did in 2020.

Women of color fare even worse, and face higher unemployment than white women—nearly 9 percent for Black women and 8.5 percent for Latina women, versus 5.2 percent for white women.

And who are these men who act as judges and jurors to deny women a central component of their bodily autonomy, to pass laws that prohibit abortion? What right do they have to decide what women can or cannot do with their bodies? This is just another abhorrent manifestation of infringement on women’s inherent rights.

The presumption undergirding abortion bans is that women who become unintentionally pregnant do not comprehend the consequential weight of their actions. Those who oppose abortion rights often assume that restrictions on abortion will not adversely affect women’s healthcare, when in fact it puts women’s health at risk.

A true democracy cannot exist without gender equality. Despite our best wishes for 2022, the plight of women will not change unless we focus on this gender gap, and act decisively and level the field when it comes to women’s rights.

The scourge of guns

The scourge from which Americans suffer greatly is the pervasiveness of guns. This year upward of 40,000 Americans were killed by a firearm. Just imagine, as of 2018, Americans possess 120.5 firearms for every 100 residents—translate that to 400 million guns in the United States, enough to provide 8 firearms to every soldier in the world.

Nearly five million children live in a home where a firearm is loaded and unlocked, and women are five times more likely to be murdered by an abusive partner when the abuser has access to a gun. But there is no outrage. We shout and scream about the need for gun control laws. Gun advocates and the NRA say cynically, guns don’t kill people. But guns do kill people when there is easy access to a gun.

How many more school shootings must we endure? How many innocent children must die in vain? When will we wake up from this nightmarish, uniquely American reality? Tragically, as many if not more people will be killed by a gun in 2022, and all of our best wishes for the new year will not save any lives.

We must legislate gun control now, before another 40,000 innocent persons are shot to death. Their blood is on the hands of every lawmaker that refuses to support sensible gun control laws, as one more person killed by a gun is one too many. We must engage in massive and continuing peaceful demonstration and civil disobedience until lawmakers come to their senses and enact gun control law.

Racial and ethnic discrimination

The racial wage gap is the same as it was in the 1950s, with Black workers receiving 22 percent less in salary than whites. Even where racial discrimination should not occur, in medical treatment, doctors regularly prescribe fewer pain medications for Black patients, believing that they feel less pain than whites.

Blacks are incarcerated at more than five times the rate of whites; while they are 13 percent of the total US population, they constitute 40 percent of the total male prison population. Roughly one out of every three Black boys and one of every six Latino boys born today will go to prison in his lifetime, while for white boys it is approximately one in seventeen.

The average white family’s net worth is more than ten times greater than a Black family.

The pandemic has affected Americans disproportionately by race and ethnicity. American Indian, Alaska Native, Hispanic, and Latinos are 1.6 times more likely to contract COVID than white Americans and over twice as likely to die from the disease.

And when it comes to the right to vote, leave it to the Republicans to enact any archaic rule or law to reduce the number of people of color exercising their right, as they deem them illegitimate voters in white America.

This continuing and willful discrimination is destroying our social cohesiveness and the values that that we hold so high. Discrimination will not end in 2022, but we must begin to address this scourge, which fundamentally erodes the social fabric of our society.

Contempt for immigrants

This is a country of immigrants, who made America great—enriching our cultural diversity, contributing momentously to our scientific endeavors, and enhancing every walk of life. They farmed the land, built houses and roads, and made the land of plenty richer and better.

What happened under Trump’s tenure is beyond contempt—children separated from their parents, held in cages unfit for domestic animals, and asylum seekers removed by brutal force. All migrants are entitled to dignity and respect for their human rights. Though we all want to believe that Trump’s treatment of immigrants was an aberration, to this day we still do not have a sound immigration policy.

Not when at least 650 immigrants died this year, attempting to cross the US-Mexico border. Not when smugglers are forcing immigrants from Mexico and Central America to live in camps and work on farms in the state, an illegal enterprise akin to modern-day slavery. Not when some died, and others were repeatedly raped.

Sadly, what was once the spring of American pride, our treatment of immigrants became the source of disgrace and shame. As 2022 rolls around, no amount of wishful thinking will change this sad reality. We need a comprehensive immigration policy to bolster once again the pillars of America’s unique enterprise.

Media under attack

Although America still largely enjoys freedom of the press, the media is under serious threat. Trump’s attacks on the media were routine, calling them the “enemy of the people” and coining the phrase “Fake News,” as he viewed the media as a threat to his authoritarian design.

Unregulated social media contributes significantly to the dissemination of misinformation and promotion of violence, and major news stations such as Fox News spread lies and conspiracy theories galore.

Police continue to target journalists, such as freelance photojournalist Jeremy Portje, who was arrested and charged with two misdemeanors and a felony last month while documenting a homeless encampment in Sausalito, CA. At a Portland, OR protest, independent photojournalist Grace Morgan said she was shoved by a police officer with his gun.

Following last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, where journalists were handcuffed, shoved, and shot at with less-lethal ammunition, at least 110 journalists were arrested or criminally charged in relation to their reporting.

Around 300 journalists were assaulted in 2020, and there were more than 930 total incidents in 79 cities. Next year will not be a banner year for American journalists unless we use our own tools and fight with the might of our pens, allowing no one to tamper with our freedom to unveil the corrupt politicians who feel menaced by the press.

After all is said and done, my faith in America will never wane. The challenges in 2022 may well be insurmountable, but then again, we have overcome so many adversities before, and can do it again and emerge ever stronger, as long as we put America’s national interests above any political partisan agenda. America’s star will never fade away, and we will always rise to the call of the hour. This is the America that I know.

And so, with pride and a deep sense of gratification I wish a happy new year to all, and may God bless America.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a retired professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University (NYU). He taught courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies for over 20 years.

 


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