Nairobi, March 13 (Xinhua/UNB) - The rapidly-growing gaming industry should be harnessed to increase awareness of environmental conservation, as it is popular among the youth, a senior official of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said Tuesday.
"There are unprecedented opportunities in video games that are played by an estimated 2.5 billion people globally. A partnership with the gaming industry will therefore help us mobilize the youth to take actions that protect nature," said Susan Gardner, director of ecosystems division at the UNEP.
She made the remarks at a side event of the fourth session of the five-day UN Environment Assembly that runs through March 15 in Nairobi.
A report published by the UNEP indicated that the gaming industry, which is expected to record double digit growth in the next five years, has the potential to unleash huge benefits in the sustainability agenda.
The report said that video games have proved effective at encouraging the youth to campaign against carbon emissions and poaching of wildlife species.
Inger Andersen, director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), said that video games should be harnessed to rally the youth to support a sustainable and green future.
"Video games can help amplify campaigns aimed at promoting sustainable production, waste management and wildlife protection," said Andersen.
London, Mar 13 (AP/UNB) — With just 17 days to go, Britain's departure from the European Union was thrown into chaos and doubt Tuesday as Parliament delivered a crushing double blow to Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit divorce deal and to her authority as leader.
Lawmakers rejected the deal 391-242, ignoring May's entreaties to back the agreement and end the political chaos and economic uncertainty that Brexit has unleashed. It was a narrower outcome than the historic 230-vote margin of defeat for the agreement in January, before May secured changes from the bloc — but not by much.
Top EU officials warned that the defeat had increased the chances of a chaotic "no-deal" British exit, which could mean major disruption for businesses and people in the U.K. and many of the 27 remaining EU countries.
The stinging 149-vote defeat stripped away May's control over the course of Brexit and handed it to Parliament, which is divided about what to do next.
A drawn and hoarse May admitted defeat — again — and confirmed that Parliament will vote Wednesday on whether to leave the EU on March 29 without an agreement. If that is defeated — the likely outcome — lawmakers will vote Thursday on whether to delay Brexit, something that needs to be approved by the EU nations too.
May warned lawmakers that "voting against leaving without a deal and for an extension does not solve the problems we face."
"The EU will want to know what use we mean to make of such an extension. This House will have to answer that question. Does it wish to revoke (Brexit-triggering) Article 50? Does it want to hold a second referendum? Or does it want to leave with a deal but not this deal?
"These are unenviable choices," she said.
The EU, which had warned there would be no more changes or negotiations if Parliament threw out the deal, expressed exasperation at yet another Brexit crisis.
In a statement, the European Commission said the member states "have done all that is possible to reach an agreement."
"If there is a solution to the current impasse, it can only be found in London," it said, adding that "today's vote has significantly increased the likelihood of a 'no-deal' Brexit."
European Parliament Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt tweeted: "Brexit was about taking back control. Instead the UK spiralled out of control."
The defeat came after May and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced changes Monday designed to overcome lawmakers' concerns about provisions designed to ensure the border between EU member Ireland and Britain's Northern Ireland remains open after Brexit.
The mechanism, known as the backstop, is a safeguard that would keep the U.K. in a customs union with the EU until a permanent new trading relationship is in place. Brexit supporters in Britain fear the backstop could be used to bind the country to EU regulations indefinitely.
May said documents to be added to the deal provided "legally binding" assurances that the backstop would be temporary and that Britain would have a way to get out of it if the EU failed to negotiate in good faith. However, the text of the 585-page withdrawal agreement remained unchanged.
May's hopes the concessions would be decisive were dashed when Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said the changes "reduce the risk" Britain could be trapped inside EU regulations — but do not eliminate it.
In a written legal opinion , Cox said the U.K. could still not extract itself from the terms of the divorce deal unilaterally, a key demand of pro-Brexit British politicians. Afterward, hard-core Brexit supporters in May's Conservative Party and the prime minister's allies in Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party both said they could not support the deal.
The DUP, which props up May's minority government, said "sufficient progress has not been achieved" on the key issue of the Irish border.
The European Research Group of pro-Brexit Conservatives, which has dozens of lawmakers as members, said the amendments "do not deliver 'legally binding changes'" to the withdrawal agreement, as the government promised.
Other EU nations had urged British politicians to seize the chance to back the deal and ensure an orderly departure.
Delaying Brexit, the path Britain looks set to take, would need the approval from all 27 remaining EU countries. The EU Commission said it would "expect a credible justification" for the postponement.
Some British lawmakers had warned their Brexit-backing colleagues that rejecting the deal could lead to Britain's departure being postponed indefinitely, because a delay would give momentum to opponents of withdrawal.
"Today is our Hotel California moment. If we don't check out tonight, we may never leave," tweeted Conservative legislator Bob Seely.
The government's defeat will embolden politicians calling for a second referendum on whether to leave the EU or remain, though there is no clear majority in Parliament for that course.
It has also increased the chances that May's fragile government could fall, sparking a snap election.
"The prime minister has run down the clock and the clock has been run out on her," said Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. "It's time that we have a general election and the people can choose who their government should be."
More than two and a half years after the country voted to leave the EU — and with no certainty about when or how it will — many Britons are simply fed up.
In the staunchly pro-Brexit port of Dover in southern England, retiree Mary Simpson said she felt her voice as a "leave" voter had not been heard.
"I am actually considering never voting again, quite honestly, because I am beginning to feel that there is no point in it," she said.
United Nations, March 13 (Xinhua/UNB) - UN medical sources report at least 12 children and 10 women have been killed in Hajjah Governorate in the most recent clashes in northwest Yemen, a UN spokesman said on Tuesday.
"Our humanitarian colleagues there say that scores of civilians have reportedly been killed by strikes on houses in Kushar District in Hajjah Governorate in Yemen in the past few days," said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. "Medical sources report that 22 people were killed, including 12 children and 10 women."
"The Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, condemned these deaths and injuries unequivocally and shared deep condolences with the families of the victims," Dujarric said.
Hajjah is one of the governorates most affected by the crisis in Yemen, he said. More than a million people are hungry and thousands of new cholera cases are being reported across the governorate.
"Conflict in Hajjah has increased sharply over the last six months, which has increased the number of displaced people from 203,000 to about 420,000," Dujarric said.
Hajjah is the governorate north of Hodeidah in the country's extreme northwest with a toe-hold on the Red Sea.
The region of Hodeidah city and its key port has been under a shaky cease-fire as negotiations between the government and Houthi rebels take place over demilitarizing the area to facilitate humanitarian aid for Yemenis.
Caracas, March 13 (Xinhua) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday declared victory over the U.S.-backed opposition after his government succeeded in restoring electricity following a prolonged blackout.
According to the government, the opposition with support from Washington sabotaged the national power grid to incite unrest in a bid to oust Maduro.
"Today ... five days since the attack on electricity was carried out from the United States using cybernetics against the electric system, I can say that victory is in our hands, the victory of restoring the Venezuelan electricity system," Maduro said in an address to the nation.
The government was working to strengthen the electricity service now that power has been restored to a good portion of the country, including by stepping up security at power stations, he said.
Electricity went off in many parts of the country a little before 5 p.m. local time (2100 GMT) Thursday. Schools and government offices were shut down in the aftermath.
The worst blackout in modern Venezuelan history came amid heightened tensions between the ruling socialist party and the right-wing opposition.
Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who declared himself "interim president" on Jan. 23, is under investigation for his alleged role in causing the power outage, Prosecutor General Tarek William Saab said earlier in the day.
United Nations, Mar 13 (AP/UNB) — The head of the U.N. panel monitoring sanctions against North Korea said Tuesday the fact that the only thing Kim Jong Un asked for at the Hanoi summit was to have sanctions lifted shows they are biting — despite his increasingly sophisticated efforts to evade the tough measures.
Hugh Griffiths said in an interview coinciding with the official release of the monitoring panel's latest report that the eight experts' message to the North Korean leader would be: "The Security Council is serious" and its sanctions resolutions "are very explicit."
Sanctions are "clearly the number one problem for chairman Kim in terms of long-term sustainability," Griffiths said, "because you can't spend decades engaging in clandestine and illegal ship-to-ship transfers of coal, or petroleum products."
The U.S. State Department welcomed the U.N. panel's report Tuesday and urged all countries to fully implement U.N. sanctions resolutions, saying they continue to hamper North Korea's "illegal weapons of mass destruction programs."
The sanctions also send the message that North Korea "will be economically and diplomatically isolated until it denuclearizes," the U.S. statement said.
U.S. President Donald Trump walked away from negotiations with Kim at their high-profile meeting in Hanoi, saying then that the North's concessions on its nuclear program weren't enough to warrant sanctions relief.
The last sanctions resolution adopted unanimously by the council in December 2017 was the 10th aimed at North Korea's nuclear and missile programs and sharply lowered the country's import of refined petroleum products such as diesel and kerosene and crude oil.
Then U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said at the time that the new sanctions and previous measures would ban over 90 percent of North Korea's exports reported in 2016. The resolution said revenue from the exports was being used to finance Pyongyang's weapons programs, not to provide food or medical care to over half of North Korea's population in need of assistance.
Griffiths said the December 2017 resolution commits the Security Council to further restricting petroleum exports to North Korea if Kim's government conducts another nuclear test, launches an intercontinental ballistic missile or contributes "to the development of a ballistic missile system capable of such ranges."
"Chairman Kim was sent a very clear signal in that resolution ... and that, I think, is very important," Griffiths said. "It's already decided — to impose further caps" if there are new launches or tests.
Griffiths was asked about U.S.-based websites recently releasing satellite photographs indicating North Korea has restored structures at a long-range rocket launch facility that it dismantled last year at the start of diplomacy with the United States. Other satellite images show increased activities by vehicles at a separate North Korean facility used to manufacture missiles, and rockets for satellite launches.
Griffiths, whose five-year term as the panel's coordinator ends in April, said sanctions have to be viewed not by "these incremental activities observed through satellites" but through North Korea's "fundamental long-term projects."
The most important finding from the new report in terms of sanctions "is that North Korea has been using civilian facilities and civilian infrastructure for assembling and testing their missiles," he said. The report said the country's leaders are dispersing these activities to prevent "decapitation" strikes.
Griffiths said that "it's not so much individual sites where you see activity that's difficult to identify" but rather the "established fact and long-term patterns — and what implication that has for the sanctions regime, and a genuine pivot by North Korea towards a different path."
The Associated Press first reported on the use of civilian facilities when it obtained the report's executive summary in early February, and it reported on this and additional findings from the full report which it obtained Monday.
The report says North Korea's nuclear and missile programs "remain intact."
The country also continues to violate an arms embargo, a ban on importing luxury goods and financial sanctions and it defies sanctions on its exports, including through "a massive increase in illegal ship-to-ship transfers of petroleum products and coal," the report says.
To investigate North Korea's evasion of sanctions, Griffiths said, "you follow the money, and to follow the money the easiest way is to look at ships." He said they are observable by satellite, can be tracked by maritime intelligence, and once they are identified "you can drill down to the brokers and the bank accounts."
He cited the North Korean ship Wise Honest, which was seized by Indonesia off its coast in April 2018 with a coal shipment worth about $3 million that was to be transferred to another ship.
The panel documented the brokers, and how money was moved, including through U.S. and Indonesian banks, and learned that North Korean diplomats facilitated the transfer, Griffiths said.
He urged that the case be watched to see if Indonesia expels the diplomats involved.