Foreign agencies warned officials of terrorist threat four months ago
Sri Lankan authorities were told by foreign security agencies more than four months ago that a network of violent Islamic extremists was active in the country and likely to commit terrorist attacks, regional and western officials have said, The Guardian reports.
The revelation that officials may have known last year about the threat posed by those responsible for the Easter Sunday bombings that killed more than 350 people will fuel outrage at what now appears to be multiple and systematic intelligence failings.
On Wednesday, President Maithripala Sirisena demanded the resignation of senior officials who failed to pass on three separate formal warnings sent by Indian agencies in the three weeks before the attack.
The sources said these formal warnings followed months of informal conversations between Indian investigators and their Sri Lankan counterparts in which details of the network, including the identities of its leader and members, were passed on.
Sirisena has already called for a massive security overhaul after the failure to prevent one of the most deadly terrorist attacks of recent years.
Sarath Fonseka, a Sri Lankan field marshall and politician, told parliament the attack appeared to have been “seven or eight months in the making” and exposed a “monumental lapse in intelligence gathering”.
“In any other country, the entire government would have had to resign for making a mess of things like this, but it won’t happen here,” he said. “Security has become a joke.”
The Indian information was gathered from a huge haul of data seized during raids on suspected Islamic State sympathisers in November, as well as their subsequent interrogation.
Large number of phones, discs and USB keys collected in the raids revealed links between detainees and Mohammed Zahran Hashim, the suspected leader of the Sri Lankan terrorist network responsible for the bombings, security officials told the Guardian.
A surveillance operation then revealed the radical cleric, who was already known to Sri Lankan security services, repeatedly contacted known Isis activists in Bangladesh. According to some reports, Hashim was also in touch with militants in eastern Afghanistan linked to Isis.
Indian officials increased their informal warnings to the Sri Lankans after explosives were found on a remote farm at a national park in north-west Sri Lanka. Hashimi’s network was linked to the cache. They were not aware at that time of any plot to target churches or hotels, the sources said.
It is not clear why Delhi waited until April to issue a formal communication about the threat.
On Wednesday, the death toll from the attacks on three churches and three luxury hotels in and around the capital, Colombo, rose to 359, with 500 injured.
Despite the scale of the ongoing security operation, Sri Lanka’s prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, said several suspects armed with explosives had yet to be found.
He said there were more explosives and militants “out there”, and confirmed reports there had been a failed attack against a fourth major hotel, and that the Indian embassy was also a possible target.
One of the suspects was identified on Wednesday as Abdul Lathief Jameel Mohamed, after Sri Lanka’s defence minister said a suspect had studied in the UK and Australia. British counter-terrorism investigators said they believed Mohamed attended a university in south-east England from 2006-07, and they were searching for any associates or signs of extremist activity during his time in the UK.
Eighteen suspects were arrested overnight, bringing the total number detained to more than 60.
Up to nine people directly linked to the attack could still be at large, sources involved in the investigation said. Officials said authorities expected to make further arrests in the coming days.
The exact role of Isis in the attacks is yet to be established. It is possible the group’s involvement reorientated Hashim’s network away from bombs directed at destroying major Buddhist monuments and towards targets more closely associated with its global jihadist ideology.
Hashimi could be seen in a video released by Isis on Tuesday after it claimed responsibility. Dressed in a black tunic and headscarf and carrying a rifle, the cleric is seen leading a group of men, said to be Sunday’s attackers, in a pledge of allegiance to the leader of Isis, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Western and south Asian officials said Hashmi had started a group of extremists in a small village in eastern Sri Lanka, attracting disaffected young men. The middle-aged cleric travelled overseas about two years ago, possibly to the Maldives, which has become a hub of Islamist activism in recent years. Security agencies followed Hashim’s online extremist activism closely and were concerned he could develop links to either al-Qaida or Isis.
Islamic State’s Amaq news agency also published a statement saying its “fighters” were responsible and listed the names of the suicide bombers.
The funerals of those killed in the blasts continued in Negombo and Colombo on Wednesday, as a social media ban and state of emergency remained in place across the country.
Around 220 million people descended on sleepy Prayagraj (formerly Allahabad) for the 50-day Hindu festival. The cleanup could take months
As the sun sets over the Ganges, Vikas Kumar drives his garbage truck through the streets of Prayagraj, a historic Indian city of 1.1 million that was until last year known as Allahabad. “All this stuff people have been eating, drinking and throwing away,” he says, gesturing at piles of food waste, discarded water bottles and mud-spattered flowers. “It will take three or four months to clear”, according to The Guardian.
As Kumar and his team collect garbage, scores of workers are dismantling the vast “pop-up city” they helped build – a temporary megalopolis two-thirds the size of Manhattan, containing more than 4,000 tents erected to house pilgrims, organisers, cultural programmes and shrines.
The temporary infrastructure organisers needed to lay down ahead of time was extensive: 185 miles of temporary metal roads, nearly two dozen pontoon bridges, 120,000 toilets and more than 100 police stations or posts.
Contracts were awarded to private companies to erect different sections of the pop-up tent city, and it was built and is being dismantled by labourers from far beyond Prayagraj.
One worker at a communal tent that housed 250 people a night says, as he and his co-workers pack up and reload their trucks, that they came from Mumbai – a roughly 860 mile (1,400km) journey – to set up and run the facility. They will take back everything they brought with them – including beds, chairs, electrical wiring and steel frames to hold up the tents.
As the Kumbh Mela’s temporary infrastructure pours out of Prayagraj, what happens to all the people? This year, more than 10 million participated in the final day of the festival alone. With such a massive crowd, disaster is always a threat, as when 36 people died in a stampede at the city’s main railway station on one of the busiest days of the 2013 event.
Many people came from villages across India, often making 10- or 12-hour journeys by train, road or on foot for a few minutes bathing at Sangam, the confluence of the Yamuna and Ganges rivers, where the water is believed to cleanse sins and release bathers from the cycle of rebirth.
As those pilgrims remaining in the city embark on their return trips, there is a feeling of anarchy in the streets. People pile on to the backs of trucks, filling them to the brim and spilling out over their edges. Others roam lost in the city, trying to locate the train station or find their cars.
Many would see this chaos as ordinary for a mega-event in India, and officials speak proudly of their performance. “This time we made the entrances and exits totally separate,” says Inspector Rajinder Kumar, who oversaw more than 3,000 police officers at the railway station on the festival’s final day. “That criss-cross movement was stopped and unauthorised entrances were blocked.”
Sanitation and the cleanliness of the city’s rivers was another key focus. In 2013 pollution levels in Sangam increased significantly after just the first day of the event, when 8 million people took holy dips. This year, extra water from barrages and dams upstream was released into the Ganges ahead of the start of the pilgrimage, to ensure a constant flow and avoid the stagnation that could lead to disease. Organisers say the efforts to keep the rivers clean are ongoing through the cleanup.
Dilip Trigunayak, one of the most senior officials at this year’s Kumbh, says that, as of mid-March, pollution levels in the water have remained within state Pollution Control Board limits.
Many locals say they have never before seen the water this clean. “It’s absolutely, unbelievably clean,” says Anil Agarwal, a lifelong resident of Prayagraj who ran a tent-city facility for pilgrims during the event. “If Sangam was dirty, all the filth would have come and collected at the shore. There’s been a big shift.”
For the prime minister, Narendra Modi, whose Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) was heavily involved in the Kumbh Mela, such reviews are helpful with a general election just weeks away. Modi and the BJP are supported by many of the Kumbh pilgrims, who see him as a strong leader who gets things done. A clean and well-run festival fits nicely into that narrative.
Critics, though, say that given much of the temporary city was erected on a part of Prayagraj’s riverbed, which is currently dry, the remaining rubbish could be washed into the river if it is not cleared before the tide changes this summer.
“It’s very ephemeral,” says the environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman. “An intervention made to ease things for a little while. We’re used to substandard being normal, so when things improve marginally, by cleaning up water in one particular stretch, we are quite happy with that. It’s like cleaning up the beach before the governor visits.”
There are other signs that for all the talk of a “clean Kumbh”, the societal mindset changes required to achieve the government’s broader nationwide sanitation campaign are still far from complete.
Workers hired to clean toilets complain of the filth left behind and say some pilgrims steal their equipment. “They drove us crazy. We used to tie our hoses up but people would just open them and steal them,” says a toilet cleaner named Rahul.
Just down the street, Kumar, the garbage truck driver, empties a packet of chewing tobacco into his mouth and tosses the wrapper on the ground. Old habits clearly die hard, even for those leading the cleanup effort.
“You’re right, I shouldn’t have done that,” he says when challenged. “But we’ll pick it up later.”
19 confirmed dead; 70 others injured treated at hospitals after fire in commercial area of capital
A huge fire has torn through a 19-storey commercial building in Dhaka, with many office workers feared trapped in the latest major inferno to hit the Bangladesh capital, AFP, Agencies report.
People were seen shouting for help from windows, video footage from the scene showed, while at least six people jumped out of the burning tower, according to report.
Helicopters dropped water on the burning building from above while hundreds of panicked onlookers crowded the streets in the upmarket commercial district of Banani.
Scores of firefighters were backed by navy and air force experts, authorities said.
Shoikot Rahman ran to safety after hearing colleagues raise the alarm, narrowly escaping the smoke and flames engulfing the building. “When I heard a fire broke out in the building, I quickly rushed out of the building,” he told AFP. “Many of my colleagues are still trapped in the office.”
Meanwhile, nineteen persons were confirmed deead while seventy others were injured in the incident.
One of the deceased was identified as Abdullah Al Faruk, 35, while identity of another victim could not be known immediately.
Faruk, who suffered 95 per cent burns in the fire, succumbed to his injuries at Dhaka Medical College Hospital around 4:20pm, Dr Samanta Lal Sen, chief coordinator of National Institute of Burn and Plastic Surgery of the DMCH, told reporters.
The other victim, aged around 30 years, died after he was taken to Kurmitola General Hospital where the many other injured victims are being taken, according to an on-duty medical officer of the hospital.
There was no official word on how many people were trapped inside.
A massive blaze in Dhaka’s old quarter last month killed at least 70 people and injured 50 others.
US President Donald Trump holds up a signed Proclamation on the Golan Heights alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House. US President Donald Trump signed a proclamation recognising Israeli sovereignty over the disputed Golan Heights, a border area seized from Syria in 1967.
The Posts and Telecommunications Division on Thursday approved a proposal of Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) for appointing administrators for mobile operators Grameenphone (GP) and Robi, UNB reports.
Posts, Telecommunications Division Minister Mustafa Jabbar told UNB over cell phone that BTRC had sent a proposal for appointing administrators or receivers which has been approved.
The further details will be available at BTRC, he said.
Earlier on September 18, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said that the disputes of GP and Robi with BTRC over outstanding dues will be resolved within two or three weeks through discussions.
GP has Tk 12,579.95 crore in dues to the government, including Tk 4,085.95 crore to the National Board of Revenue (NBR), while Robi has Tk 867.23 crore to the government, including Tk 197.21 crore to the NBR alone, as per a BTRC audit.
GP and Robi filed two cases against BTRC with the Dhaka Civil Court on August 26 and August 25 respectively for its alleged faulty audit reports exaggerating the dues of the operators.
On September 5, BTRC issued show-causes notices to GP and Robi seeking explanation as to why their 2G and 3G licences should not be revoked for failure to pay dues.
Earlier, BTRC stopped issuing fresh NOCs (no objection certificates) to GP and Robi over the row about dues to the government.
However, it backtracked from the decision later.
A website is celebrating the upcoming release of Disney+ by offering a “dream job” opportunity for five fans looking to make $1,000 by watching 30 movies in 30 days, UPI reports.
Reviews.org said the five selected applicants will each receive $1,000, a year’s subscription to the new streaming service and a selection of Disney-related movie watching supplies, including a blanket, cups and a Pixar popcorn popper.
The $1,000 will be deposited directly into the winners’ bank accounts.
“It’s up to you if you keep ’em there or cash out the $1,000 in coins, then dive into them a la Scrooge McDuck,” the web site states.
Applications, which are being accepted through Nov. 7, consist of answering a list of questions on the contest website and making a video review of a Disney movie.
Federation International de Football Association (FIFA) president Gianni Infantino on Thursday assured that his organisation will continue to support for promotion of football in Bangladesh, BSS reports.
“We’ll continue our support and cooperation for the development of soccer in Bangladesh,” he said.
The FIFA president’s assurance came when he paid a courtesy call on prime minister Sheikh Hasina at her office in Dhaka this morning.
After the meeting, PM’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim briefed reporters.
Highly appreciating recent performance of Bangladesh football team, Infantino said Bangladesh’s soccer is improving remarkably at recent times.
The press secretary said Bangladesh-India World Cup Football qualifying match held in Kolkata on Tuesday came up for discussion.
The FIFA president said there are many things to learn from football, especially discipline.
He praised various steps of the Bangladesh government for development of soccer in the country.
Infantino suggested Bangladesh Football Federation to regularly maintain contact with the FIFA.
Pointing out that football is a popular game in the country, the prime minister recalled that her grandfather and father used to play soccer.
Sheikh Hasina said her brother Sheikh Kamal founded Bangladesh’s leading sporting club Abahoni Krira Chakra.
Elaborating her government’s initiatives for development of sports and games in the country, the prime minister said steps have been taken to establish 492 mini stadiums across the country.
Sheikh Hasina said competitions are being arranged at the primary school level to create new players in the country.
“We’re encouraging the boys and girls in participating in popular games like football,” she said.
PM’s private industry and investment adviser Salman F Rahman, state minister for youth and sports Zahid Ahsan Russel, BFF president Kazi Salahuddin, senior vice-president Abdus Salam Murshedy and vice-president Kazi Nabil Ahmed were present at the meeting, among others.
Actor Sonakshi Sinha has come to her Rowdy Rathore (2012) co-star Akshay Kumar’s rescue, HT reports. A statement by Akshay has been dug up from a seven-year old interview of the actor, where he was defending Sonakshi from being body shamed. The comment was “..Sonakshi is a wonderful actress who has her own style of acting. She has an absolutely different figure – a typical, Indian figure and not size zero. Khaate peete gharane ki lagti hai. I am a pure Punjabi. I like heroines who are hari bhari. Chusa hua aam na lage..” On social media, this old statement has come up again from nowhere, and is being called ‘misogynistic’ and ‘objectification’ of a woman.
We got in touch with Sonakshi about this, and she said “trolls have nothing better to do in life”.
Excerpts from the chat:
An old comment of Akshay, who has been your co-star in many films, has been termed ‘misogynistic’, and people have been calling it out on social media. Your take on this.
Firstly, let me start by saying that trolls really have nothing better to do in life, so this is what they resort to. People have to understand that I was heavily body shamed at the start of my career, in spite of having lost 30 kilos, and what Akshay said was probably in response to something on the same lines. They also have to understand that I have a great friendship and working equation with him, so he was talking about a friend and not a random person. If anything, he was being a gentleman and defending me with no intention of “objectifying” anyone. And if I, the person being referred to, has absolutely no problem with what was said, I don’t think anyone else should either. People need to start utilising their time better rather than digging up stupid things and making an issue of it.
Nothing ever goes off the internet. Once something is posted, it is there forever. Do you feel celebrities have a harder time now due to social media, owing to how old articles and comments can be misconstrued and can go viral, therefore harming a celeb’s image?
Absolutely! Once it’s out there, it’s out there. And everyone has an opinion on everything. As celebrities, I think being responsible with what you say or post online is a better bet.
You had revealed once that even when you had lost 30 kgs “people still found words to say about my shape”. How do you deal with such negative comments?
I have a superpower to block out negativity. I concentrate on the positive things life has given me like my work, my family and friends. I have realised life is too short and I work too hard to fret over such things!
Parents, take note. Researchers have found that heavier babies are more likely to suffer childhood food allergies or eczema, IANS reports.
For the study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the research team carried out a systematic review assessing past studies in humans.
After screening more than 15,000 studies, they identified 42 that included data on more than two million allergy sufferers.
“We analysed the associations between birth weight, corrected for gestational age, and the incidence of allergic diseases in children and adults,” said Kathy Gatford from the University of Adelaide in Australia.
“For each kilogram increase in birth weight there was a 44 per cent increase in the risk that a child had food allergies or a 17 per cent increase in the risk that they had eczema,” Gatford said.
According to the researchers, they analysed studies that included over 2.1 million people affected by allergic dermatitis, commonly known as eczema, nearly 70,000 people affected by food allergies and over 100,000 people with allergic rhinitis or hay fever.
Most of the studies were in children from developed countries and most were European.
“Allergic diseases including eczema, hay fever, food allergies, anaphylaxis and asthma are estimated to affect 30-40 per cent of the world’s population,” Gatford said..
“It is increasingly clear that genetics alone do not explain risks of developing allergies, and that environmental exposures before and around birth can programme individuals to increased or decreased risk of allergies,” Gatford added.
Most of the allergies in these studies were assessed in young children.
Bye bye to bunny hops: when US astronauts next touch down on the Moon, expect them to walk almost as they do on Earth, thanks to a new generation of spacesuits offering key advantages over those of the Apollo-era, AFP reports.
Prototypes of the Orion Crew Survival Suit that will be worn on the journey and the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU) for the lunar surface were unveiled at NASA’s Washington headquarters Tuesday ahead of the agency’s planned return to the Moon by 2024.
Standing in front of a giant US flag, spacesuit engineer Kristine Davis wore a pressurized red, blue and white xEMU suit, showing off a vastly improved range of motion thanks to bearings systems on the waist, arms, and legs.
They are also extendable and therefore one-size-fits-all, meaning there won’t be a repeat of an embarrassing flub in March that caused the first all-female spacewalk to be aborted when a second medium-sized suit wasn’t available.
“If we remember the Apollo generation, we remember Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, they bunny hopped on the surface of the Moon,” NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine told a hall filled with students and interns at the space agency.
“Now we’re going to be able to walk on the surface of the Moon, which is very different from the suits of the past.”
Another key innovation is the xEMU’s unlimited capacity to absorb carbon dioxide, a byproduct of respiration that is also poisonous in high quantities.
It achieves this through a system that both absorbs and then removes the gas into the vacuum of space, unlike current systems that merely absorb it until its reaches a saturation point.
The crew survival suit, meanwhile, is designed to provide full life support for up to six days — a scenario that could be required, for example, if a meteorite punches a hole in the spacecraft’s hull.
Under the Artemis mission, NASA plans to land on the Moon’s South Pole in order to exploit its water ice, discovered in 2009, both for life support purposes and to split into hydrogen and oxygen for use as rocket propellant.
The agency views its return to the Moon as a proving ground for an onward mission to Mars in the 2030s.
Country’s premier bourse, Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) edged down further today maintaining the trend of previous day following a gloomy appetite of investors, BSS reports.
The broad index, DSEX closed in red at 4770.99 points on Thursday with a loss of 10.63 points or 0.22 percent.
Besides, the two selective indices, DSE30 also declined by 6.44 points while the Shariah index, DSES decreased by 5.71 points to stand at 1679.02 points and 1094.03 points respectively.
As a result, today 162 issues witnessed price correction and turnover decreased by 4%.
On the DSE trading floor, a total number of 100,510 trades were executed in today’s trading session with a trading volume of 100.55 million securities.
Losers took a strong lead over the gainers as out of 350 issues traded, 145 securities gained price while 162 declined and 43 remained unchanged.
Sector wise performance exposed that jute (5.6%), general insurance (2.2%) and mutual fund (1.9%) sectors experienced highest price appreciation while ceramic (-3.3%), telecom (-3.0%) and textile (-1.8%) sectors experienced highest price correction in today’s session.
Investors’ interest was mostly on general insurance, engineering and pharma sectors, as these sectors dominate turnover distribution. National Tubes Contributed 5.78% to the total turnover.
The top 10 gainers were Golden Harvest, CAPM IBBL Islamic Mutual Fund, Islami Insurance, CAPM BDBL Mutual Fund, Mercantile Insurance, LR Global Bangladesh Mutual Fund One, SEML LEC Mutual Fund, ICB Agrani 1, Phoenix Finance and Silco Pharma.
National Tubes topped the turnover chart followed by Monno Stafflers, Square Pharma, Sonarbangla Insurance, BSC, GP, Beacon Pharma, Paramount, Wata Chemical and Monno Ceramics.
The top 10 losers were Meghna Condensed Milk, Mozaffar Hossain Spinning, ML Dying, Al-haj Tex, Zeal Bangla Sugar Mills, Standard Ceramics, Emerald Oil, Monno Stafflers, RN Spinning and Sonargaon Tex.
On the other hand, the port city bourse, Chittagong Stock Exchange (CSE) also registered a downbeat maintaining the same of previous days. CSCX and CASPI decreased by 28.26 points and 47.45 points to stand at 8816.90 points and 14507.69 points respectively.
At CSE, a total of 8,541,065 shares and mutual fund of 255 companies were traded, of which 93 issues advanced while 134 declined and 28 issues remained unchanged.
New research reveals that mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses that live inside cells and give them energy, work more like a Tesla battery pack than the kind of battery that you put in a flashlight, according to MNT.
Apart from red blood cells, all cells in the human body contain one or more mitochondria, and some contain thousands. These internal cell structures, or organelles, use oxygen to make chemical units of energy for the cell.
Mitochondria are unusual in that they have two membranes: a smooth one on the outside and a wrinkled, folded one on the inside.
Scientists call the folds of a mitochondrion’s internal membrane cristae. Until recently, they believed that the purpose of the folding was to increase the surface area for producing energy.
However, the authors of a recent EMBO Journal study paper dispel this idea.
Instead, they propose that the cristae are more like independent batteries working together in an array, similar to the Tesla battery packs that power electric cars.
An array of autonomous batteries
The researchers came to this conclusion after visualizing energy production inside mitochondria with the help of high resolution microscopy.
“What the images told us was that each of these cristae is electrically independent, functioning as an autonomous battery,” says senior study author Dr. Orian S. Shirihai, a professor of medicine in endocrinology and pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles.
“One crista,” he adds, “can get damaged and stop functioning while the others maintain their membrane potential.”
For a long time, scientists believed that each mitochondrion comprised a single bioenergetic unit. The authors refer to typical previous experiments, the results of which led investigators to conclude that “the entire organelle functions as one electrochemical unit.”
Indeed, what Dr. Shirihai could see with traditional microscopy appeared to confirm this. Observing cells functioning well with a few very long mitochondria did not suggest the idea of lots of small batteries.
“Nobody had looked at this before because we were so locked into this way of thinking; the assumption was that one mitochondrion meant one battery,” he explains.
Unprecedented high resolution imaging
However, conversations with engineers who design electric vehicles made Dr. Shirihai aware of the advantages of arrays of lots of small batteries instead of one big one.
“[I]f something happens to one [battery] cell,” he notes, “the system can keep working, and multiple small batteries can provide a very high current when you need it.”
Depending on the model, Tesla electric vehicles can have up to 7,000 small battery cells. These take the form of a grid that allows the vehicle to charge quickly and cool efficiently. Such an arrangement also delivers a lot of power for acceleration.
To take a closer look inside mitochondria, the team “developed a novel approach for imaging the [inner mitochondrial membrane] at high spatiotemporal resolution in living cells.” Scientists had never before seen such a high resolution.
With the newly optimized high resolution microscopy, the team could visualize voltage distribution and energy production inside the mitochondria.
Protein clusters act like electrical insulators
The researchers saw how protein clusters between the cristae acted as electrical insulators. They already knew that without the protein clusters, mitochondria break down more easily. In fact, the team also saw how mitochondria lacking the protein clusters behaved more like one big battery cell.
The authors suggest that these study findings increase the understanding of not only how mitochondria work but also how the organelles contribute to disease, aging, and even medical complications.
Experts have linked a number of medical complications — such as ischemia‐reperfusion injury — to the severe disruption of cristae in mitochondria.
Dr. Shirihai muses: “The battery experts I had originally talked to were very excited to hear that they were right.”
Scientists believe that mitochondria evolved from an ancient collaboration that came about when cells with nuclei engulfed oxygen-dependent simple cells that lacked a nucleus. In return for protection, the internalized cell, or organelle, provides its host with energy. “It turns out that mitochondria and Teslas, with their many small batteries, are a case of convergent evolution.” Dr. Orian S. Shirihai
Jamie Wilson, foreign news editor, and Simon Jeffery, deputy foreign editor
The climate crisis is a story that reaches every corner of the world and on the international news desk our team of correspondents report on it from around the globe.
For many readers, it is something they experience to varying degrees of intensity at first hand – a hotter summer, an earlier spring, floods in autumn – but by linking up those experiences, we are able to show how interconnected this crisis is.
In the past few months we have covered stories ranging from the record-breaking European heatwave, where temperatures of over 45C were recorded in France for the first time, a heatwave and drought in India, where thousands abandoned their homes, and the unprecedented Arctic wildfiresthat could be seen from space.Advertisement
Such events are not just “weather”, however, and we follow their impact: the buckling European road and rail infrastructure not suitable for the new climate era, the desperate search for water in Chennai and the Greenland residents traumatised by the climate emergency as life becomes more precarious and social problems such as alcoholism intensify.
In Italy, the Planpincieux glacier in the Mont Blanc massif is changing so rapidly that avalanches and debris falls have led to deaths and evacuations, leaving residents in the town ofCourmayeur fearing how much longer it will hold.
Our reporters have also travelled to where governments and individuals are making it worse. Latin American correspondent Tom Philips took a 2,000km journey through the Amazon to see the new age of wrecking ushered in by Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, where the environmental agency is being dismantled and gold seekers and soy farmers anticipate an economic boom from deforestation.
There are also those attempting to make it better. On 1 September 2018 we published an interview from Stockholm with a 15-year-old who just two weeks earlier, after Sweden’s hottest ever summer, had gone on strike from school in protest at the lack of action by politicians on the climate crisis. Now much better known, thanks in part to articles like this, Greta Thunberg’s solo protest has since become a global movement.
Climate can also lie at the root of other stories. Failed harvests and rising food prices can often be the final straw that triggers political upheaval, in recent years notably the Arab spring, but we are now seeing in real time how the climate emergency is affecting migration patterns. As Donald Trump attempted to close the US border to Central American migrants, in some cases separating children from their parents, we spoke to those in Guatemala who after a decade of intense droughts and late rains have seen crops fail and wages fall one too many times. “I have to find a way to travel north, or else my children will suffer even more,” subsistence farmer Esteban Gutiérrez told reporter Nina Lakhani.
Julia Finch, business editor
Business and economics are right at the centre of the climate emergency. Companies are among the biggest polluters in the world – and are key to meeting the Paris agreement’s target of limiting global warming to 1.5C.
From giant fossil fuel companies to agricultural and food businesses, retailers, airlines and car manufacturers – all must make big changes, for the sake of the planet, the global economy and their own future sustainability, providing goods and services and employment.
These are huge questions, and Guardian readers know there are no easy answers. So we will nurture the debate on what a sustainable economy looks like.
Our economics writers are questioning whether traditional capitalism, which aims for perpetual growth, can ever deal with the huge challenges of climate emergency, or whether a new slow-capitalism or green growth – which does not pursue profit at all costs – must come.
We are reporting on the changes being made by corporate executives – and alerting readers to those who fall short.
Writing in the Guardian earlier this year, the governors of the Bank of England and Bank of France – Mark Carney and François Villeroy de Galhau – underlined the importance of change. “If some companies and industries fail to adjust to this new world, they will fail to exist,” they said.
Without action, the climate emergency poses the risk of huge losses for insurance companies as a result of catastrophic weather-related events. Last year’s Californian wildfires, for instance – the worst in the state’s history – cost insurers more than $12bn.
Banks that have lent vast sums to fossil fuel companies could be left with mammoth losses if those investments decline in value and become “stranded assets”. The Bank of England has warned that as much as $20tn of assets could be wiped out by climate change if the problem is not addressed.
Many companies are making changes. Global businesses including Nestle and L’Oreal have committed to reducing their carbon emissions to zero. We will track and report on their progress.
We are reporting on climate crisis initiatives, and our journalists will ask if they go far enough. Last week we reported that British Airways is to offset all emissions from domestic flights from next year, and questioned whether offsetting can ever be the answer.
Our reporters will expose companies that are not walking the talk. Last month Amazon announced a series of initiatives, from putting 100,000 electric vans on the road to handle its deliveries to reforestation projects. But, as our reporters also revealed recently, Amazon has also recently introduced plastic packaging that cannot be recycled in the UK.Advertisement
Most corporate bosses know they have to make changes. But progress is nowhere near fast enough. Oil companies are still seeking new oilfields. Giant new coalmines – like Indian billionaire Gautam Adani’s Carmichael coalmine in Queensland – are still being developed. Airbus recently predicted that the number of aircraft in the sky would double in the next 20 years.
Investment groups that manage pension funds around the world can exert pressure on companies to clean up their businesses. Legal & General, Europe’s second biggest fund manager, admitted earlier this year: “The effects of climate change will soon be irreversible. This will affect economies, politics and, as a result, our clients’ assets all around the world. We all need to move faster.”
However, not every investment group is using its muscle – and we are calling them out. BlackRock, the world’s biggest investment manager, with $6tn under its management, says climate change is a big risk to the value of its investments. But it remains at the heart of fossil fuel investing and, as we reported, its chief executive, Larry Fink, still insists that BlackRock’s job is to make a profit for investors. He added: “Our personal views on environmental or social issues don’t matter.”
They do matter, and our reporters are now treating the climate crisis as the default setting for how they approach business reporting.
Jess Cartner-Morley, associate editor (Fashion)
Fashion is about the zeitgeist, and climate change is the most
important issue of our age. And we know that our readers really *do* care. (Sorry, Melania.) So more than ever before, we want to put sustainability front and centre of our fashion coverage.
We aren’t perfect and we don’t pretend to have all the answers. We
will continue to listen to a wide range of voices – our readers
paramount amongst those – to guide us. But we do know that we want to talk about sustainability how we have always talked about fashion – in a way that includes everyone in the conversation, whatever their age, budget, gender or background.
We have always championed ethical fashion brands, but now we want to go further. The future of our planet isn’t a niche interest. We aim to continue creating fashion content that is accessible and appealing, desirable and democratic – but now with sustainability as a fundamental metric. We want to inspire our audience to enjoy fashion while being mindful of the impact on the planet.
What does that look like? We try wherever we can to include vintage
pieces in shoots and gift guides. When we report from London fashion weekwe talk to the Extinction Rebellion activists outside the shows, as well as having backstage chats with the designers. We championed Secondhand September and a year ago we updated my column in Weekend magazine so that you now see me wearing old clothes from my own wardrobe, and vintage pieces, alongside new clothes. This party season we will be reporting the best places to rent your dress, or source it pre-worn, rather than buy it.Advertisement
None of this means compromising on bringing you compelling, gorgeous, original fashion content. We are passionate about the latest fashion – and about the future of our planet, too.
Tim Lusher, editor of Feast
There’s an obvious connection between food and the climate emergency. Look at the deforestation of the Amazon to provide grazing for cattle and soy to feed it. But wherever cows are raised, they generate atmosphere-heating methane. As the global human population grows, it’s clear that we need to think about how to feed it, how to use land and what impact our choices have.
Meat eating and animal farming have seized the headlines and the public’s focus. There are many reasons why veganism – or at least flexitarianism – is growing fast and sustainability is one of them.
As well as covering the environmental impact of food production, we’re thinking about what we publish in lifestyle terms. The Guardian’s archive contains nearly 10,000 recipes, of which 19% use meat of some kind, but that figure is down to 15% for articles created in 2018 and 2019. We aim to run recipes that use only sustainable fish (we follow the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide in the UK and associates in the US and Australia). Food is complicated though and it’s not all about meat. Almonds and avocados use a huge amount of water. Generally, it feels an era to be mindful – we have a zero waste column and readers love its inventive, resourceful, frugal ideas.
It’s important to talk about all this but what people eat is always going to be a highly personal decision. In many countries where we have the luxury of food options, we are in anxious, uncertain, divided times. Food is joyful. It brings people together – families, friends, communities and strangers – and reminds us both of our uniqueness and of what we have in common. It’s also a time when it’s difficult to know who to believe and to trust. I hope people can be sure of the Guardian.