COP28 can be a catalyst for climate education in MENA

COP28 can be a catalyst for climate education in MENA
Above, the dry Chiba dam near the city of Korba in northeastern Tunisia on April 4, 2023. Tunisia’s dams are at critical lows following years of drought, exacerbated by pipeline leaks in a decrepit distribution network. (AFP)
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Updated 13 June 2023

COP28 can be a catalyst for climate education in MENA

COP28 can be a catalyst for climate education in MENA
  • Novel solutions needed for multifaceted environmental challenges
  • Ecological, political, economic, social factors require consideration

DUBAI: In the early years of the 21st century, humanity finds itself confronted with an unparalleled environmental predicament: an intensified greenhouse effect fueling global warming and precipitous alterations in the delicate fabric of the climate system. Undeniably, this phenomenon stands as one of the most formidable challenges ever faced by our species. It defies resolution through the mere application of scientific knowledge, linear thinking, or analytical approaches alone.

As the 28th Conference of the Parties, or COP28, approaches, hosted by the UAE, it is important to acknowledge the value of such international platforms in addressing the region’s unique climate challenges and proposing innovative solutions through climate education.

Unlike the localized environmental issues of the past, wherein a single source of pollution caused readily identifiable consequences, today’s global environmental problems encompass a complex amalgamation of interwoven global and local dynamics. This intricate interplay involves ecological, political, economic, and social factors, necessitating novel strategies of learning and thinking to comprehend and address its multifaceted nature.

The recently released report “Advancing Regional Climate Education” by the Fiker Institute brings together the insights of two experts — Dr. Sonia Ben Jaafar, CEO of the Abdulla Al-Ghurair Foundation and Joe Y. Battikh, head of the Energy & Water Knowledge Hub at the International Committee of the Red Cross. Their efforts have resulted in a report that underscores the significance of climate education and offers practical solutions for advancing it.

Amidst this intricate landscape, the importance of climate education emerges as a critical catalyst for change. It is within this context that Ben Jaafar and Battikh’s report sheds light on the current state of climate education in the region, presenting a compelling case for transformative action. With their expertise in educational leadership, sustainability management, and a shared commitment to addressing the unique challenges faced by the Middle East and North Africa, the authors provide valuable insights for change.

They outlined the key elements of their work in an exclusive interview with Arab News recently.

The paradox of collaboration and localization

One of the key implications highlighted in the report is the importance of addressing region-specific issues. Ben Jaafar underscores the spotty nature of these solutions and advocates for a more comprehensive approach.

During the 2023 World Government Summit held in Dubai, stakeholders recognized the imperative of employing both top-down and bottom-up strategies to address the complexities of climate change. Ben Jaafar underlined the paradoxical nature of the situation, wherein fostering cross-border collaboration and knowledge-sharing is crucial, while concurrently respecting and empowering local communities. She emphasized the significance of collaborative efforts in establishing a novel framework that adapts to the present realities while encompassing future scenarios.

“It’s a paradox because we’re asking for these very big pieces and we’re asking for localization. And the only way that we’re going to move forward that was really clear at the summit is if we do that together. So I think that it’s significant because what we need is to work collaboratively while respecting local solutions and the ability for communities to solve their own issues. And that means creating the next kind of whatever this is going to look like in the future. Creating it and also adapting to the realities of right now,” said Ben Jaafar.

Battikh discussed their involvement with the Fiker Institute, an organization dedicated to amplifying the voice of West Asia and North Africa, and further highlighted the importance of regional representation in the fight against climate change.

He drew attention to the existence of multiple entities in close proximity within the region that are working on similar solutions, yet often lack awareness of each other’s efforts. This lack of awareness and communication hampers collaboration and the sharing of knowledge and resources. Moreover, he underscored the prevailing dependence on external catalysts or events from other countries to bring stakeholders together and facilitate collaboration in the region. Battikh emphasized the need to overcome this dependence and establish a self-driven approach to collaboration within the region.

By shedding light on this issue, Battikh effectively underscored the significance of nurturing internal coordination mechanisms and establishing platforms that actively encourage stakeholders to congregate and collectively address the multifaceted challenges posed by climate change. This compels people to recognize the necessity of cultivating a collaborative space where individuals and organizations can convene, exchange ideas, and synergistically work toward discovering solutions. The observed fragmentation within the region, if left unaddressed, not only limits opportunities for fruitful collaborations but also undermines the optimal allocation of resources.

In view of Battikh’s perspective, the forthcoming COP28 assumes a pivotal role in facilitating the realization of this collaborative framework. Battikh said that the event provides a significant platform for deliberating regional issues and proposing context-specific solutions. This aligns seamlessly with the report’s overarching emphasis on the imperative of addressing region-specific challenges in the context of education and training, thereby accentuating the need to incorporate diverse perspectives and insights into the collective endeavor to combat climate change.

Role of education in climate action

The pivotal role of education in addressing climate change is widely recognized as it equips individuals and communities with the necessary knowledge, skills, and behavioral changes needed for climate-resilient sustainable development. Education serves as a catalyst for informed decision-making and proactive engagement in climate action.

An important aspect of education is its potential to empower young people and future generations, enabling them to assume environmental leadership roles within their communities and drive inclusive adaptation efforts. It is through education and training that these individuals gain the expertise and know-how required to address climate challenges effectively.

In the context of climate action, educational institutions play a crucial role in driving scalable and effective adaptation programs. The Abdulla Al-Ghurair Foundation recognizes the significance of incorporating education into collaborative partnerships and supports initiatives that focus on green technologies, solar energy efficiency, and e-mobility in partnership with universities including the American University of Beirut. However, Ben Jaafar emphasized that going beyond the curriculum is essential, urging for the strengthening of research and development partnerships between industry and universities for accelerated progress in solving climate-related challenges.

The Abdulla Al-Ghurair Foundation has made significant investments in youth education, particularly in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — to align future-focused careers with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The report by the World Economic Forum on the potential of the green transition to create 30 million jobs in clean energy efficiency and low emission technologies by 2030 reinforces the link between climate action and socio-economic development. Ben Jaafar highlighted the opportunities for employment generation and addressing pressing issues such as high-water scarcity and unemployment in the region. This highlights the importance of integrating climate education and preparing future generations for the jobs of the future.

Ben Jaafar emphasized the importance of empowering young people to address community needs and solve their own issues by providing them with toolkits and knowledge related to solar power, green energy, and other STEM topics. This comprehensive approach contributes to building a workforce that prioritizes sustainability, he said.

“Nobody is ever going to care about your community, the way you care about your community, and nobody will ever understand the needs as much as you will understand those needs because you’re living in them. So creating a space for these young people to actually learn about solar power, energy, green energy, all these different topics embedded within STEM gives them the toolkits and the knowledge to be able to live in their communities and solve their own issues and solve their own community issues so that they can adapt, so that they can understand it,” Ben Jaafar said.

Ben Jaafar also mentioned the collaboration between the Abdul Aziz Al-Ghurair Refugee Education Fund and the Makani centers, emphasizing their alignment with the UN’s SDGs and their focus on global innovation that addresses local community needs. One example highlighted in the report is the hydroponic rooftop gardens in the Jerash Camp, which provide valuable training opportunities for vulnerable young women and men. This training equips them with the skills to sustain and manage the gardens, creating new income-generating opportunities and addressing agricultural needs within the camp.

“The hydroponic rooftop gardens in the Jerash camp came out of a training session at the Makani center, but I don’t know that somebody in Toronto is going to understand that a hydroponic garden could actually save lives because it can actually produce what they need in that context. So making those kinds of connections to us is very important. And that’s why to me, you know, climate education in the region, for the region, is so incredibly important,” Ben Jaafar said.

“It’s not just about what we’ve done with the scholarships. It’s also what we’ve done with His Excellency’s Refugee Education Fund, you know, making sure that we have learners who have automotive technology for the hybrid technology, hybrid maintenance, things that are small like that, that allows them to have jobs. And we’ve done that through Luminous Technical University in Jordan, for example,” Ben Jaafar said.

“So I think, at least for me, what was important about this paper was to present these examples, and these were only select examples. We have so many more in the region. When the education is there and when the opportunity is there, there are so many intelligent individuals who, if given the space and the opportunity and the knowledge and the skills, they can actually create solutions.

“And that to me was the power of what we’ve been able to do with the foundation and the Refugee Education Fund. It is to be able to enable communities to rise above the challenges that they live in, be they conflict conditions, the refugee conditions or simply impoverished conditions. And I think that those are realities in the region that we just need to face head on,” Ben Jaafar added.

Battikh, supporting the notion that education institutions can contribute to climate-adaptation programs, pointed out the need to focus on curriculum integration, research and training. He mentioned the partnership between the ICRC and Grundfos, a major pump manufacturer, as an example of how collaboration and curriculum development can be mutually beneficial. The partnership involved training sessions for engineers from conflict-affected areas, facilitating knowledge exchange and feedback between academia and industry.

“During the first training session with Grundfos, we had 11 engineers coming from six countries around the world. So we had people from the Philippines, Myanmar, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan. And so they came here and they spent a week within the Grundfos workshop. And it was a two-way kind of conversation. So in a way, we developed the curriculum and we pushed it towards the students, but at the same time, the engineers gave feedback to us in terms of what kind of solutions they need from the ground. I think the fact that they work in specific conflict areas where there’s a specific need, which is different from what the industry is working on, (is) a unique setup for developing these curricula.”

Challenges in climate education and the need for adaptation

Ben Jaafar identified two major challenges hindering the advancement of climate education. The first is the rapid pace of change, requiring the education sector to respond quickly. The second challenge lies in the existing problems within the education sector itself, such as high rates of “learning poverty” and diverse situations across the region. She emphasized the need to view climate education as critical to the future and called for a shift in perception that sees it as an integral part of the curriculum, rather than an optional addition.

“We have serious challenges in education, period, writ large. Leave alone climate education in the region. We have an extremely high rate of learning poverty at 60 percent in the MENA region, which is essentially a 10-year-old kid who cannot read a text. We have extremely diverse situations in the region from those who invest a lot in education, to those who cannot. So being able to kind of look at climate education and say this is not an add-on, this is critical to our future, is one of the challenges that we have, to say that it is not this extra thing,” Ben Jaafar said.

Ben Jaafar referenced, as a viable proposition, the Green Education Partnership, an initiative aimed at providing schools in the UAE with a national framework to bolster climate education and foster youth engagement in environmental action. This partnership seeks to imbue schools with a green ethos by incorporating sustainability principles into their operations, curricula, teacher training programs, and wider systemic capabilities, while also forging connections with local communities. It sets ambitious targets and utilizes the COP28 platform as a catalyst to drive collaboration among various partners, including the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, International Renewable Energy Agency, and the UN Children’s Fund.

She also drew attention to the need for concerted effort from academia, industry and government because their collective endeavors remain vital for realizing the SDGs and addressing the complex challenges posed by climate change. By fostering an ecosystem of collaboration, where knowledge is shared, research is disseminated, and policies are informed by evidence, the region can unlock its full potential in the pursuit of sustainable development.

“If higher education in particular, continues to isolate themselves, where they’re finding solutions and the industry keeps on being protective of their solutions for corporate reasons, we’re not going to move forward. We see this with generative AI and the very recent kind of very public statements regarding what the corporate sector wants in terms of regulation.

“I think that we have to create greater collaboration. We absolutely need to create platforms that are structured for collaboration so that they’re no longer accidental or relational in terms of if I have a professional relationship with a colleague, then they’ll listen, right? It should be more systematic. It should be a strategy that universities and higher education and R&D (research and development) centers should have together with the government, to be able to serve the common purpose,” Ben Jaafar said.

“When I look at common purpose, I look at the Sustainable Development Goals because I believe that was what we agreed on, right? We all agreed on those targets. And so we do have this common framework that we’ve agreed on and universities are coming up with solutions. They’re also training the next generation and the current generation because we do have lifelong learning becoming part of just the normative practices. Governments cannot come up with policies without appropriate research, without appropriate data and evidence. And we absolutely need those different stakeholders to work collaboratively,” Ben Jaafar added.

According to Battikh, one hindrance to effective implementation of climate adaptation solutions is the lack of connection between industries, research and development, and universities. He highlighted the importance of establishing platforms that bring together all stakeholders to integrate solutions, theories, and practical applications.

“Talking about climate adaptation or integrating climate adaptation to the curriculum today is a must because we need to come to the reality and face reality that climate change is here and it’s not going away. We need to adapt to it, especially as a region that will suffer from it. I mean, if you think about it, we’re expecting the decline in rainfall to hit 60 percent if we’re above 4 degrees Celsius. Knowing that our agriculture uses more than 80 percent of the water, there will be a big problem,” Battikh said.

Stressing the need to adopt more efficient agricultural practices and water-management strategies, Battikh pointed to the UAE’s exceptionally high water consumption per capita, and emphasized the importance of teaching current and future generations how to employ resources more efficiently.

“We need to adapt to how to do agriculture in a more efficient way, use our water in a more efficient way. The UAE uses like 570 liters of water per person per day, the highest in the world. On average we’re around 178 liters per day. It’s a reality that we need to teach this generation, next generations on how to adapt to climate change,” Battikh added.

There are discrepancies between countries that promote the SDGs but fail to implement governmental policies that reflect those goals. For instance, in the UAE and the GCC region, high water consumption per capita contrasts with the inadequate pricing of water that fails to reflect its true cost. Policy changes, including increased water tariffs, are imperative, but collaboration between organizations, academia, and industry is equally vital, he said.

Battikh illustrated the impact of climate change by highlighting the major drought experienced by Tunisia this year, and that responded by imposing restrictions on tap-water usage for agricultural purposes, car washes, and other activities until September. He criticized such measures for lacking the depth of a comprehensive policy that fosters adaptation or a viable solution. Merely imposing temporary restrictions does not address the underlying issue or provide long-term adaptation strategies. It is crucial to recognize that this is not an isolated incident, but rather a manifestation of a recurring pattern of diminishing rainfall, he said.

While policy measures are essential, Battikh argued that they should not be merely punitive or incentivizing in nature. Rather, they should be the outcome of collaborative efforts between organizations, academia and industry. The complexity and multifaceted nature of climate change and climate adaptation necessitate a holistic approach that considers diverse perspectives and expertise. There is no singular solution that can be universally applied, and it is imperative to acknowledge that addressing climate change and climate adaptation requires a comprehensive and collaborative effort.

Collaboration and financing

He said another critical aspect that demands attention is the financing of climate adaptation in conflict-affected countries. Historically, climate financing commitments made in previous COPs have largely overlooked countries in conflict. However, COP28 presents an opportunity to rectify this oversight. It was imperative to ensure that a portion of the financing dedicated to climate adaptation reaches conflict-affected nations.

“We need to focus on conflict areas, specifically, if you look at the least-developed or least-ready countries for climate change, 14 out of the 25 countries least ready for climate change are in conflict, which represents almost 60 percent. These countries already lack the capacity to adapt to climate change due to ongoing conflicts. The unique setup we have (with the Energy and Water Knowledge Hub) can address these issues. However, we also need to address how we finance climate adaptation in conflict-affected countries,” Battikh said.

While there may be political considerations regarding the distribution of funds, Battikh said that an effective approach could involve leveraging organizations. “We have a setup like the ICRC that is already building these solutions for climate adaptations for countries already in conflicts. So maybe that could be a party that could address that issue. And the fact that we can do that with Grundfos here, because the UAE, for example, is a hub for multinationals, could be a great setup.

“We work with Grundfos from the water perspective, but for the energy we work with Schneider Electric, which is another multinational, whose regional hub in the Middle East is in Dubai. So it’s a great place where we can kind of bring these private-sector players with academia and address them. And have this place as a platform to address these challenges and use COP28 as a platform, for example, for financing of these solutions as a climate adaptation,” Battikh said.

He added that a significant development that signals progress in climate education is the inclusion of an education pavilion at COP28. This pioneering initiative recognizes the importance of education in driving sustainable change and ensuring that climate education is embedded in formal curricula. The Ministry of Education in the UAE deserves credit for taking this step, Ben Jaafar said, as it brings together academia, schools, and other stakeholders under one roof. Such a platform fosters knowledge exchange, collaboration, and the development of innovative solutions to address climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Also, to strengthen the connection between academia and global climate strategies, the appointment of the head of sustainability for the American University of Sharjah as the Education Partnership Coordinator for COP28, was a significant milestone, Battikh added. This role would facilitate the engagement of universities and schools in the COP28 process, ensuring that education plays a crucial role in shaping national and global climate strategies.

Bringing together their distinct areas of expertise, Ben Jaafar and Battikh have produced a report that addresses the urgent need for tailored, regional climate education. They argue, quite convincingly, that by fostering collaboration, integrating education into the curriculum, and prioritizing adaptation efforts, stakeholders can build a sustainable and resilient future in the face of this century’s most compelling environmental challenge.

Bangladeshis remember Kissinger as ‘accomplice in genocide’

Bangladeshis remember Kissinger as ‘accomplice in genocide’
Updated 19 sec ago

Bangladeshis remember Kissinger as ‘accomplice in genocide’

Bangladeshis remember Kissinger as ‘accomplice in genocide’
  • Up to 3m people were killed in US-supported Pakistani crackdown in Bangladesh
  • Kissinger ‘turned a blind eye’ to it, former Bangladeshi foreign secretary says

DHAKA: Most obituaries that on Nov. 29 bid farewell to Henry Kissinger have omitted reference to his role in the war of independence of Bangladesh, where the prominent US secretary of state will remain seen as an enabler of massacres of civilians.
In 1971, Kissinger advised then President Richard Nixon to side with the Pakistani military dictator Gen. Yahya Khan in his war with Bangladesh, then East Pakistan.
According to the Bangladesh government, the war that eventually led to the nation’s independence came at a cost of 3 million lives, most of them civilians, including intellectuals, whom historians say were deliberately targeted.
The nine-month war also displaced 10 million people, a seventh of Bangladesh’s population at the time, forcing them to flee to neighboring India.
“Bangladesh will remember him as an accomplice and, to some extent, an instigator of the genocide that was committed against Bangladesh in 1971. He was an enemy of Bangladesh,” Touhid Hossain, former foreign secretary of Bangladesh, told Arab News.
Kissinger and the US administration turned a “blind eye to the genocide going on in Bangladesh. It was largely influenced by Kissinger,” Hossain added.
At the time, the state of Pakistan existed as a two-winged artificial entity — West Pakistan, which is today’s Pakistan, and East Pakistan, which is now Bangladesh — split in between by India.
After the 1970 elections yielded a democratic victory for ethnic Bengalis in East Pakistan and their leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was expected to become the prime minister of the whole country, the army generals ruling West Pakistan launched a military crackdown that turned into a mass slaughter of his supporters and of Bengali civilians.
The American support for Pakistan came because of Islamabad’s role as a mediator in the normalization of relations between the US and China.
“They could have done it without supporting the genocide,” Hossain said.
“It’s said that since Pakistan was trying to mediate the US-China relations during that period against the Soviet Union, that’s why from a geopolitical consideration, he turned a blind eye to the other things and went all for Pakistan.”
Kissinger and Nixon repeatedly ignored reports from Archer Blood, the US consul in Dhaka, as Pakistani forces, using US-made weapons, massacred thousands of people in the city.
“Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, both of them were complicit,” Dr. Imtiaz Ahmed, professor of international relations at Dhaka University, told Arab News.
“Blood sent the information about the ongoing genocide here. But he (Kissinger) didn’t pay much attention to that … Their point was not to disturb Yahya Khan as Khan was involved in his negotiating and bringing China into the global arena.”
Bangladesh has yet to hear an apology from the US over the role it played in enabling the killing of its civilians. Ahmed hoped that it would finally at least recognize the historical facts.
“The US didn’t recognize the genocide till today, as Kissinger was alive. Now, that he is no longer there, I think it opens up the possibility of the US recognizing the 1971 genocide as genocide,” he said.
“Kissinger played a complicit role in the genocide that took place in Bangladesh in 1971. There is no doubt about this.”

New US aid for Ukraine by year-end seems increasingly of out reach as GOP ties it to border security

New US aid for Ukraine by year-end seems increasingly of out reach as GOP ties it to border security
Updated 53 min 7 sec ago

New US aid for Ukraine by year-end seems increasingly of out reach as GOP ties it to border security

New US aid for Ukraine by year-end seems increasingly of out reach as GOP ties it to border security
  • Biden is facing the prospect of a cornerstone of his foreign policy — repelling Russian President Vladimir Putin from overtaking Ukraine
  • The new Republican proposal dug in on policy changes that had led Democrats to step back from the negotiations

WASHINGTON: A deal to provide further US assistance to Ukraine by year-end appears to be increasingly out of reach for President Joe Biden.
The impasse is deepening in Congress despite dire warnings from the White House about the consequences of inaction as Republicans insist on pairing the aid with changes to America’s immigration and border policies.
After the Democratic president said this past week he was willing to “make significant compromises on the border,” Republicans quickly revived demands that they had earlier set aside, hardening their positions and attempting to shift the negotiations to the right, according to a person familiar with the talks who was not authorized to publicly discuss them and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The latest proposal, from the lead GOP negotiator, Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma, came during a meeting with a core group of senators before they left Washington on Thursday afternoon. It could force the White House to consider ideas that many Democrats will seriously oppose, throwing new obstacles in the difficult negotiations.
Biden is facing the prospect of a cornerstone of his foreign policy — repelling Russian President Vladimir Putin from overtaking Ukraine — crumbling as US support for funding the war wanes, especially among Republicans. The White House says a failure to approve more aid by year’s end could have catastrophic consequences for Ukraine and its ability to fight.
To preserve US backing, the Biden administration has quietly engaged in Senate talks on border policy in recent weeks, providing assistance to the small group of senators trying to reach a deal and communicating what policy changes it would find acceptable.
The president is trying to satisfy GOP demands to reduce the historic number of migrants arriving at the US-Mexico border while alleviating Democrats’ fears that legal immigration will be choked off with drastic measures.
As talks sputtered to a restart this past week, Democrats warned Republicans that time for a deal was running short. Congress is scheduled to depart Washington in mid-December for a holiday break.
“Republicans need to show they are serious about reaching a compromise, not just throwing on the floor basically Donald Trump’s border policies,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Thursday before Republicans made their counteroffer.
But the new Republican proposal dug in on policy changes that had led Democrats to step back from the negotiations, according to the person familiar with the talks. The GOP offer calls for ending the humanitarian parole program that’s now in place for existing classes of migrants — Ukrainians, Afghans, Cubans, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans and Haitians. That idea had been all but dashed before.
Additionally, those groups of migrants would not be allowed to be paroled again if the terms of their stay expire before their cases are adjudicated in immigration proceedings.
GOP senators proposed monitoring systems such as ankle bracelets for people, including children, who are detained at the border and are awaiting parole. Republicans want to ban people from applying for asylum if they have transited through a different country where they could have sought asylum instead. GOP lawmakers also want to revive executive powers that would allow a president to shut down entries for wide-ranging reasons.
Further, after migrant encounters at the border recently hit historic numbers, the GOP proposal would set new guidelines requiring the border to be essentially shut down if illegal crossings reach a certain limit.
Lankford declined to discuss specifics after the Thursday meeting, but said he was trying to “negotiate in good faith.” He said the historic number of migrants at the border could not be ignored. The sheer number of people arriving at the border has swamped the asylum system, he said, making it impossible for authorities to adequately screen the people they allow in.
“Do you want large numbers of undocumented individuals and unscreened individuals without work permits, without access to the rest of the economy?” Lankford said.
The lead Democratic negotiator, Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, did not quickly respond to the GOP proposal.
Senators had made some progress in the talks before Thursday, finding general agreement on raising the initial standard for migrants to enter the asylum system — part of what’s called the credible fear system. The administration has communicated that it is amenable to that change and that it could agree to expand expedited removal to deport immigrants before they have a hearing with an immigration judge, according to two people briefed on the private negotiations who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Immigration advocates and progressives in Congress have been alarmed by the direction of the talks, especially because they have not featured changes aimed at expanding legal immigration.
Robyn Barnard, director of refugee advocacy with Human Rights First, called the current state of negotiations an “absolute crisis moment.” She warned that broadening the fast-track deportation authority could lead to a mass rounding up of immigrants around the country and compared it to the situation during the Trump administration. “Communities across the country would be living in fear,” she said.
But Republican senators, sensing that Biden, who is campaigning for a second term, wants to address the historic number of people coming to the border, have taken an aggressive stance and tried to draw the president directly into negotiations.
“The White House is going to have to engage particularly if Senate Democrats are unwilling to do what we are suggesting be done,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., at a news conference Thursday.
The White House has so far declined to take a leading role in negotiations. “Democrats have said that they want to compromise. Have that conversation,” said White House press secretary Karine-Jean Pierre.
After every GOP senator this past week voted not to move ahead with legislation that would provide tens of billions of dollars in military and economic assistance for Ukraine, many in the chamber were left in a dour mood. Even those who held out hope for a deal acknowledged it would be difficult to push a package through the Senate at this late stage.
Even if senators reach a deal, the obstacles to passage in the House are considerable. Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Louisiana, has signaled he will fight for sweeping changes to immigration policy that go beyond what is being discussed in the Senate. Also, broad support from House Democrats is far from guaranteed, as progressives and Hispanic lawmakers have raised alarm at curtailing access to asylum.
“Trading Ukrainian lives for the lives of asylum seekers is morally bankrupt and irresponsible,” Rep. Delia Ramirez, D-Illinois, posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, as part of a coordinated campaign by Hispanic Democrats.
The unwieldy nature of the issue left even Lankford, who was one of the few senators optimistic that a deal could be reached this year, acknowledging the difficulty of finding an agreement in the coming days.
“There’s just a whole lot of politics that have been bound up in this,” he said as he departed the Capitol for the week. “Thirty years it hasn’t been resolved because it’s incredibly complicated.”

Pro-Israel groups influencing US law enforcement: Leak

Pro-Israel groups influencing US law enforcement: Leak
Updated 09 December 2023

Pro-Israel groups influencing US law enforcement: Leak

Pro-Israel groups influencing US law enforcement: Leak
  • Ex-FBI agent: ‘Having a foreign country’s security services aligned with the beat cop on American streets is concerning’
  • Leak raises questions about treatment of pro-Palestinian activists, fails to show training or consultation from Muslim groups

LONDON: Pro-Israel pressure groups are influencing law enforcement agencies in the US through training and consultancy programs, leaked police documents show.

The BlueLeaks collection of data, hacked from US law enforcement agencies in 2020, contains files showing that police received training from Israel Defense Forces programs on dealing with Islamist extremism, The Guardian reported.

And the Anti-Defamation League, a US-based Jewish advocacy group, enjoys a close relationship with law enforcement agencies, with the organization hosting training sessions for officers on the “evolving nature of Islamic extremists.”

BlueLeaks shows intelligence that was distributed by federal law enforcement programs, including fusion centers, which share information between local, state and federal agencies.

ADL staff members are revealed by BlueLeaks to have attended fusion center events as registered visitors, advising law enforcement that “we facilitate workshops … on extremism, hate crime and (in Washington D.C. and Israel) counterterrorism.”

The leak has raised questions about the influence of pro-Israel organizations in US law enforcement, and how those ties have affected the treatment of pro-Palestinian activists.

Former FBI undercover agent Mike German told The Guardian that the relationship is damaging the ability of officers to carry out good law enforcement.

“It’s frustrating that we’ve developed this national law enforcement intelligence-sharing network that basically takes disinformation straight from the right-wing social media fever swamps and puts it out under the imprimatur of law enforcement intelligence, so it becomes an amplifier of disinformation rather than a corrective to that disinformation,” he said.

“At a time where there’s much more public sensitivity to foreign influence in domestic affairs, having a foreign country’s security services aligned with the beat cop on the streets of American neighborhoods is concerning.”

Another group that has advised law enforcement, according to the leaks, is LA Clear, which provided “analytical and case support” to drug investigations in California.

However, the group’s BlueLeaks files show that it recorded information relating to conflicts in the Gaza Strip sourced from the IDF.

One such document is a recreation of an IDF PowerPoint presentation titled “Escalation in the Gaza Strip,” bearing the insignia and name of Israel’s Strategic Division.

The Dado Center, a military studies department of the IDF, authored another presentation that was used by LA Clear.

It offers an analysis of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead, the 22-day invasion of Gaza in 2008, and highlights challenges including “legitimacy (external & internal, strategic narrative)” and “media coverage (a controlled information environment).”

Cast Lead resulted in the IDF targeting civilians and carrying out “indiscriminate attacks that failed to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilian objects,” Amnesty International said in a 2009 report.

BlueLeaks also shows LA Clear’s use of a 2011 report issued by the Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, an Israeli research group founded and staffed by former IDF intelligence personnel.

The intelligence documents related to Israel lack any links to LA Clear’s stated mission of targeting US drug networks, raising questions about the presence of IDF-linked intelligence networks in American policing.

The documents fail to show US law enforcement seeking training or consulting from other community groups, including Muslim organizations.

India drugs regulator orders quality checks on cough syrup ingredient

India drugs regulator orders quality checks on cough syrup ingredient
Updated 09 December 2023

India drugs regulator orders quality checks on cough syrup ingredient

India drugs regulator orders quality checks on cough syrup ingredient
  • Syrups made by three Indian firms have been linked to the deaths of dozens of children in Gambia, Uzbekistan and Cameroon in over a year 
  • Drugmakers have denied allegations their products were responsible for the deaths, which have cast a shadow over quality of Indian exports 

NEW DELHI: India’s drugs regulator has ordered that the source and quality of an ingredient used to make cough syrups be checked and verified as a “top priority,” in the wake of the deaths of at least 141 children globally. 

In one of the world’s worst such waves of poisoning, cough syrups made by three Indian manufacturers have been linked to the deaths of dozens of children in Gambia, Uzbekistan and Cameroon since the middle of last year. 

The drugmakers have denied allegations that their products were responsible for the deaths, which have cast a shadow over the quality of exports from India, often dubbed the “world’s pharmacy” due to its supply of life-saving drugs at low prices. 

In a letter this week, India’s Drug Controller General Rajeev Singh Raghuvanshi directed state and regional authorities to carry out inspections and verify the source and quality of propylene glycol (PG) either produced domestically or imported by cough syrup makers. 

He also directed drugs inspectors to submit a supply chain verification report for PG manufacturers and importers 

The direction was issued to rule out “possible quality issues” related to toxins diethylene glycol (DEG) and ethylene glycol (EG) in cough syrups and the diversion of industrial grade PG, Raghuvanshi said in a letter dated Dec. 6 and seen by Reuters. 

PG is a colorless, viscous liquid that does not react with other substances, making it an ideal solvent for syrupy medicines. Reuters has reported that some Indian drugmakers were buying key ingredients from suppliers who were not licensed to sell pharmaceutical-grade products. 

DEG and EG are used as industrial solvents and antifreeze agents and can be fatal when consumed even in small amounts. 

The syrups linked to the deaths of the children were found to contain high levels of DEG or EG in tests done by the World Health Organization and other authorities. 

Raghuvanshi has requested details including the number of cough syrup batches manufactured across India in 2023, the PG used and whether it was tested before use. 

Raghuvanshi also issued an advisory on Dec. 5 asking all drugmakers to purchase and use only pharmaceutical grade ingredients in their products. 

India has introduced mandatory testing for cough syrup exports since June and stepped up scrutiny of drugmakers, finding a string of deficiencies in recent inspections including poor documentation and a lack of self-assessment. 

US, South Korea and Japan urge stronger international push to curb North Korean nuclear program

US, South Korea and Japan urge stronger international push to curb North Korean nuclear program
Updated 09 December 2023

US, South Korea and Japan urge stronger international push to curb North Korean nuclear program

US, South Korea and Japan urge stronger international push to curb North Korean nuclear program
  • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has lately been accelerating the expansion of his nuclear and missile program
  • US and its Asian allies have responded by increasing the visibility of their trilateral security cooperation in the region

SEOUL, South Korea: The national security advisers of the United States, South Korea and Japan called on Saturday for a stronger international push to suppress North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and missiles and its military cooperation with other countries amid concerns about its alleged arms transfers to Russia.
The meeting in Seoul came as tensions on the Korean Peninsula are at their highest in years, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un accelerating the expansion of his nuclear and missile program and flaunting an escalatory nuclear doctrine that authorizes the preemptive use of nuclear weapons.
The United States and its Asian allies have responded by increasing the visibility of their trilateral security cooperation in the region and strengthening their combined military exercises, which Kim condemns as invasion rehearsals.
In a joint news conference after the meeting, Cho said the three security advisers reaffirmed North Korea’s obligations under multiple UN Security Council resolutions that call for its denuclearization and bans any weapons trade with other countries.
“We agreed to strengthen a coordination among the three countries to secure the international community’s strict implementation” of the UN Security Council resolutions, Cho said.
Cho said the three also highly praised South Korea, the US, Japan and Australia announcing their own sanctions on North Korea over its spy satellite launch last month. North Korea argues it the right to launch spy satellites to monitor US and South Korean military activities and enhance the threat of its nuclear-capable missiles.
Washington, Seoul and Tokyo have also expressed concerns about a potential arms alignment between North Korea and Russia. They worry Kim is providing badly needed munitions to help Russian President Vladimir Putin wage war in Ukraine in exchange for Russian technology assistance to upgrade his nuclear-armed military.
Following the meeting, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Washington is working with Seoul and Tokyo to strengthen defense cooperation. He said they also seek to improve response to North Korean missile testing and space launch activities, including a real-time information sharing arrangement on North Korean missile launches that the countries plan to start in December.
Sullivan said the countries will also respond to North Korean cybercrimes, cryptocurrency money laundering and other efforts to bypass US-led international sanctions aimed at choking off funds going to its nuclear weapons and missile program.
“When it comes to the DPRK, we are keeping our eye on the ball, because it continues to represent a threat to international peace and security and regional peace and security,” Sullivan said, using the initials of North Korea’s formal name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
Sullivan held separate bilateral talks Friday with South Korea’s national security office director, Cho Tae-yong, and Japan’s national security secretariat secretary general, Takeo Akiba.
Sullivan also met with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.
At a dinner reception for Sullivan and Akiba on Friday, Yoon said it is critical the three countries continue to build on his August summit with US President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at Camp David, where they vowed to deepen security and economic cooperation.
South Korea’s presidential office said Sullivan expressed support for the South’s recent decision to partially suspend a 2018 inter-Korean military agreement on reducing border tensions, which had established border buffers and no-fly zones, to strengthen front-line surveillance of the North.
At their one-on-one meeting Friday, Cho and Akiba discussed building broader “international solidarity” in dealing with North Korea’s nuclear and missile program. They said it poses a threat “not only to the Korean Peninsula, but also to the regional and international community as a whole,” Seoul said.
The US, South Korean and Japanese national security advisers last held a trilateral meeting in June in Tokyo.
The discussions between the national security advisers in Seoul came after the US, South Korean and Japanese nuclear envoys met in Tokyo for separate talks on North Korea.
The nuclear envoys shared their assessments about North Korea’s recent satellite launch and weapons development and discussed ways to more effectively respond to North Korea’s cyber theft activities and other illicit efforts to evade US-led international sanctions and finance its weapons program, the South Korean and Japanese foreign ministries said.
South Korean intelligence officials have said the Russians likely provided technology support for North Korea’s successful satellite launch in November, which followed two failed launches.
North Korea has said its spy satellite transmitted imagery with space views of key sites in the US and South Korea, including the White House and the Pentagon. But it hasn’t released any of those satellite photos. Many outside experts question whether the North’s satellite is sophisticated enough to send militarily useful high-resolution imagery.
Kim has vowed to launch more satellites, saying his military needs to acquire space-based reconnaissance capabilities.
South Korean intelligence and military officials have said North Korea may have shipped more than a million artillery shells to Russia beginning in August, weeks before Kim traveled to Russia’s Far East for a rare summit with Putin that sparked international concerns about a potential arms deal. Both Moscow and Pyongyang have denied US and South Korean claims about the alleged arms transfers.