Declaring that the future of the planet is at stake, more than 150 world leaders assembled outside Paris on Monday to launch an ambitious attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help countries that are struggling to cope with the effects of climate change.
After years of faltering negotiations, the United Nations conference is widely expected to produce a landmark agreement between nations rich and poor. But it remains to be seen whether it will achieve the target of limiting rising global temperatures to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels this century.
The plans submitted by 184 countries ahead of the conference fall short of that goal.
“The future of your people, the future of the people of the world, is in your hands,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told leaders as the talks kicked off at Le Bourget, on the northern edge of Paris. “We cannot afford indecision, half measures or merely gradual approaches. Our goal must be a transformation.”
The high-level meeting began with a moment of silence for victims of recent attacks in France, Lebanon and elsewhere, a wave of violence that threatened to overshadow longer-term concerns about record temperatures, rising sea levels and extreme weather events.
“These tragic events … force us to concentrate on the essentials,” French President Francois Hollande said. “We must leave our children more than a world free from terror. We must leave them a planet that is preserved from catastrophes, a viable planet.”
To be meaningful, he said, the deal reached in Paris must be universal. Developed nations, which for years were the biggest polluters, must help developing ones adopt clean energy technologies and adapt to climate change, he said.
The last major environmental agreement, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, did not require developing nations to reduce their emissions. The United States never signed the deal because it was not approved by the Senate.
In his address to the conference, President Obama acknowledged that taking strong action on the environment has not always been a political winner. But he noted that the U.S. and other global economies have grown even as fossil fuel emissions have leveled off.
“We have proved that strong economic growth and a safer environment no longer have to conflict with one another,” he said. “And that should give us hope.”
Saying the science of global warming was undeniable, the president highlighted steps that his administration has taken to curb emissions, and praised the many other nations that have committed to do the same in the lead-up to the summit, known as COP 21. But he pressed leaders to do more, warning against “cynicism — the notion that we can’t do anything about climate change.”
“Our task here in Paris is to turn these achievements into an enduring framework for human progress. Not a stopgap solution, but a long-term strategy that gives the world confidence in a low-carbon future,” he said. “That’s what we seek in these next two weeks, not simply an agreement to roll back the pollution we put into our skies but an agreement that helps us lift people from poverty without condemning the next generation to a planet that’s beyond its capacity to repair.”
Speaking at a heavily guarded conference center, Obama said the determination of world leaders to act as one in pursuit of a common goal was itself a rebuke to the Islamist extremists who killed 130 people Paris two weeks ago.
“What should give us hope that this is a turning point, that this is the moment we finally determined that we would save our planet, is the fact that our nations share a sense of urgency about this challenge, and a growing realization that it is within our power to do something about it,” he said.
By inviting Obama and other world leaders to the opening days of the summit, organizers hoped to send a clear signal: Paris is not Copenhagen.
A similar effort to reach a binding agreement to address climate change had all but collapsed by the time Obama and his counterparts arrived in the Danish capital near the conclusion of the summit in 2009.
Officials hope the participation of world leaders at the start of this year’s conference, with commitments for action in hand as they arrive, will provide the momentum needed to reach a strong accord, even if it falls short of the 2-degree target at which scientists say most of the worst effects of climate change could be avoided.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who took over as president of the negotiations Monday, reminded participants that they have just “11 short days” to strike a deal.
“Success is not yet assured, but it is within our grasp,” Fabius said. “The eyes of the world are upon us.”
Three Disney World Employees Among 17 Arrested in Florida Child Sex Sting
Three Disney World employees were among the 17 people arrested in a child sex sting operation in Florida, law enforcement officials announced on Wednesday.
In the operation, dubbed “Operation Child Protector,” undercover officers posed as 13- and 14-year-old children on social media and online dating apps between July 27 and Aug. 1.
The undercovers made contact with each of the suspects before proposing they meet at a location in Polk County, where they were busted.
In total, the arrests led to 49 felony and two misdemeanor charges. Those arrested were aged 26 to 47. All were from Central Florida except for one 33-year-old man from California.
“What you see on this board … are deviants. Incredible deviants,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a press conference on Tuesday, motioning to photos of the alleged pervs. “They travel from as far away as Clewiston, Florida. One even came from Los Angeles.”
“Much to their chagrin, instead of meeting with young children, they were met by law enforcement officers who were online undercover posing as children.”
Kenneth Javier Aquino, 26, a lifeguard at Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World, was arrested while still wearing his Disney polo shirt and swimsuit, according to the sheriff’s office.
Aquino engaged in an online conversation on social media with an officer, posing as a 13-year-old girl, authorities said. He then asked the “girl” to send photos, and sent her an explicit video of himself, police said.
Aquino told officers he is a Navy veteran and has a pregnant girlfriend.
Jonathan McGrew, a 34-year-old custodian at Disney World, was nabbed by an undercover officer posing as a 13-year-old girl.
McGrew allegedly told the “girl” that he wanted her to come over and have sex with him and his girlfriend, 29-year-old Savannah Lawrence, who also works as a custodian at tourist mecca.
McGrew sent her explicit videos of him and Lawrence performing sexual acts on each other, authorities said.
A rep for Disney World didn’t immediately return a message.
China Reports First Human Death from Monkey B Virus
China has reported the first human infection and death in the country caused by a rare infectious disease found in primates known as the Monkey B virus.
The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said a 53-year-old veterinary surgeon who worked in a research institute specializing in nonhuman primate breeding in Beijing dissected two monkeys in March and became ill about a month later.
He began experiencing nausea, vomiting, fever and neurological issues, and died in May.
Blood and saliva samples were tested and researchers in April found evidence of the Monkey B virus, also known as the herpes B virus.
Researchers said a male doctor and female nurse who were in close contact with the victim tested negative for the virus.
The Monkey B virus is prevalent among macaque monkeys but infection among humans is extremely rare. Since the virus was identified in 1932, just 50 cases have been reported, with the majority of those in North America. Untreated B virus infections in humans are serious, however, with a fatality rate of about 80 percent.
Symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, and progress to more serious complications such as swelling of the brain and spinal cord.
Laboratory workers and veterinarians in close contact with the animals are most at risk as people typically get infected with the virus if they are bitten or scratched by an infected macaque, or have contact with the monkey’s eyes, nose or mouth.
But the virus is unlikely to mutate in a way that poses a problem to the general population. Just one case of human-to-human transmission of the virus has ever been documented.
U.S. Remembers 9/11 Terrorist Attacks as The Pandemic Changes Tribute Traditions
Americans are commemorating 9/11 with tributes that have been altered by coronavirus precautions and woven into the presidential campaign, drawing both President Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden to pay respects at the same memorial without crossing paths.
In New York, a dispute over coronavirus-safety precautions is leading to split-screen remembrances Friday, one at the Sept. 11 memorial plaza at the World Trade Center and another on a nearby corner. The Pentagon’s observance will be so restricted that not even victims’ families can attend, though small groups can visit the memorial there later in the day.
Trump is speaking at the morning ceremony, the White House said. Biden plans to pay respects there in the afternoon after attending the observance at the 9/11 memorial in New York.
Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence is also due at ground zero — and then at the alternate ceremony a few blocks away.
In short, the anniversary of 9/11 is a complicated occasion in a maelstrom of a year, as the U.S. grapples with a health crisis, searches its soul over racial injustice and prepares to choose a leader to chart a path forward.
Still, 9/11 families say it’s important for the nation to pause and remember the hijacked-plane attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people at the trade center, at the Pentagon and near Shanksville on Sept. 11, 2001, shaping American policy, perceptions of safety and daily life in places from airports to office buildings.
“I know that the heart of America beats on 9/11 and, of course, thinks about that tragic day. I don’t think that people forget,” says Anthoula Katsimatides, who lost her brother John and is now on the board of the National Sept. 11 Memorial & Museum.
Friday will mark Trump’s second time observing the 9/11 anniversary at the Flight 93 memorial, where he made remarks in 2018. Biden spoke at the memorial’s dedication in 2011, when he was vice president.
The ground zero ceremony in New York has a longstanding custom of not allowing politicians to speak, though they can attend. Biden did so as vice president in 2010, and Trump as a candidate in 2016.
Though the candidates will be focused on the commemorations, the political significance of their focus on Shanksville is hard to ignore: Pennsylvania is a must-win state for both. Trump won it by less than a percentage point in 2016.
Around the country, some communities have canceled 9/11 commemorations because of the pandemic, while others are going ahead, sometimes with modifications.
The New York memorial is changing one of its ceremony’s central traditions: having relatives read the names of the dead, often adding poignant tributes.
Thousands of family members are still invited. But they’ll hear a recording of the names from speakers spread around the vast plaza, a plan that memorial leaders felt would avoid close contact at a stage but still allow families to remember their loved ones at the place where they died.
But some victims’ relatives felt the change robbed the observance of its emotional impact. A different 9/11-related group, the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, set up its own, simultaneous ceremony a few blocks away, saying there’s no reason that people can’t recite names while keeping a safe distance.
The two organizations also tussled over the Tribute in Light, a pair of powerful beams that shine into the night sky near the trade center and evoke its fallen twin towers. The 9/11 memorial initially canceled the display, citing virus-safety concerns for the installation crew. After the Tunnel to Towers Foundation vowed to put up the lights instead, the memorial changed course with help from its chairman, former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Tunnel to Towers, meanwhile, arranged to display single beams for the first time at the Shanksville memorial and the Pentagon.
Over the years, the anniversary also has become a day for volunteering. Because of the pandemic, the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance organization is encouraging people this year to make donations or take other actions that can be accomplished at home.
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