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Malta retains top spot for ‘Rainbow Europe’ rights, say activists

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A projection showing the Maltese flag by digital artist Duane Laus cover the facade of the Auberge de Castille during the opening of Valletta 2018, European Capital of Culture, in Valletta, Malta, January 20, 2018. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

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LIMASSOL, Cyprus (Reuters) -A new dynamic has emerged in protecting the rights of the LGBTQ+ communities across Europe, but significant difficulties remain and youngsters are particularly vulnerable, activists said on Thursday.

Malta retained its top spot on the “Rainbow Europe” for 2022 for respect of human rights and full equality, while Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia and Armenia were at the bottom of rankings among 49 countries compiled by ILGA-Europe, an umbrella organisation for 600 rights advocacy groups.

Denmark, France, Iceland and Montenegro also rose in the rankings, the report, released on Thursday, said. The United Kingdom slipped for falling behind on its promises for reform, while Bulgaria and Romania were not far off from having the lowest rankings in the EU along with Poland.

“After complete stagnation last year, which was extraordinarily worrying to us, there is a new upward dynamic,” said Evelyne Paradis, executive director of ILGA Europe.

“While you hear us speak of some signs of optimism our call today is one of redoubling efforts to make sure there is renewed mobilisation, one focused on action, not just words,” Paradis

told an annual forum of European government and civil society groups meeting in Cyprus.

Young people were still particularly vulnerable. One report by IGLYO, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI) Youth and Student Organisation, said there had been a “complete standstill” in inclusion efforts in schools.

One in two LGBTQI learners in Europe had experienced bullying at school, while anti-propaganda laws introduced in five European nations made it impossible for learners to receive inclusive content in schools, IGLYO’s Bella FitzPatrick said.

“I think it’s very apt that many of the advances we have achieved in our community over the past 10-15 years really pertain to adults. But much of the backlash is aimed squarely at youth.

“Its really important to remember that in a lot of cases, schools aren’t that different from what they were 20 years ago. They (children) are still being bullied. They are still being beaten up,” FitzPatrick said.

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U.S. Justice Dept requests Jan 6 committee transcripts -panel chair

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A mob of supporters of U.S. President Donald Trump fight with members of law enforcement at a door they broke open as they storm the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. REUTERS/Leah Millis

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice asked the House of Representatives committee investigating last year’s attack on the U.S. Capitol to turn over some transcripts from interviews conducted as part of its probe, the panel’s chairman said on Tuesday.

Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson told reporters that the department had asked for the transcripts but the panel had not agreed to turn them over.

“It’s our work product. It’s the committee’s work product,” Thompson said, when asked about the request, first reported by the New York Times.

“We’re in the midst of our work. If they want to come and talk, just like we’ve had other agencies to come and talk, we’d be happy to talk to them, but we can’t give them access to our work product at this point,” he said.

Thompson said the committee planned to turn over the transcripts when it completed its investigation.

On Jan. 6, 2021, supporters of Donald Trump stormed the Capitol building, after the Republican then-president gave a fiery speech urging them to protest congressional certification of his defeat by Democrat Joe Biden in the November 2020 election.

The committee has conducted hundreds of interviews, including many with close Trump associates and former White House aides, about the Capitol riot and events leading up to it.

It plans to hold public hearings next month.

Earlier on Tuesday, Thompson said the panel had not yet decided to call Trump himself to testify.

The Jan. 6 committee last week sent subpoenas to five House Republicans, including Representative Kevin McCarthy, the party’s leader in the House, demanding that they sit for interviews.

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Pollution killing 9 million people a year, Africa hardest hit – study

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A boy swims in the polluted water of the Makoko community in Lagos, Nigeria March 9, 2020. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja/File Photo

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By Gloria Dickie

(Reuters) – Worsening outdoor air pollution and toxic lead poisoning have kept global deaths from environmental contamination at an estimated 9 million per year since 2015 – countering modest progress made in tackling pollution elsewhere, a team of scientists reported Tuesday.

Air pollution from industry processes along with urbanization drove a 7% increase in pollution-related deaths from 2015 to 2019, according to the scientists’ analysis of data on global mortality and pollution levels.

“We’re sitting in the stew pot and slowly burning,” said Richard Fuller, a study co-author and head of the global nonprofit Pure Earth. But unlike climate change, malaria, or HIV, “we haven’t given (environmental pollution) much focus.”

An earlier version of the work published in 2017 also estimated the death toll from pollution at roughly 9 million per year — or about one of every six deaths worldwide — and the cost to the global economy at up to $4.6 trillion per year. That puts pollution on par with smoking in terms of global deaths. COVID-19, by comparison, has killed about 6.7 million people globally since the pandemic began.

For their most recent study, published in the online journal Lancet Planetary Health, the authors analyzed 2019 data from the Global Burden of Disease, an ongoing study by the University of Washington that assesses overall pollution exposure and calculates mortality risk.

The new analysis looks more specifically at the causes of pollution – separating traditional contaminants such as indoor smoke or sewage from more modern pollutants, like industrial air pollution and toxic chemicals. Here are some of the key takeaways:

WATER AND INDOOR AIR

Deaths from traditional pollutants are declining globally. But they remain a major problem in Africa and some other developing countries. Tainted water and soil and dirty indoor air put Chad, the Central African Republic and Niger as the three countries with the most pollution-related deaths, according to data adjusted for population.

State programs to cut indoor air pollution and improvements in sanitation have helped to curb death tolls in some places. In Ethiopia and Nigeria, these efforts brought related deaths to drop by two-thirds between 2000 and 2019. Meanwhile, the Indian government in 2016 began offering to replace wood-burning stoves with gas stove connections.

MODERN POLLUTANTS

Deaths caused by exposure to modern pollutants such as heavy metals, agrochemicals and fossil fuel emissions are “just skyrocketing”, rising 66% since 2000, said co-author Rachael Kupka, executive director of the New York-based Global Alliance on Health and Pollution.

When it comes to outdoor air pollution, some major capital cities have seen some success, including in Bangkok, China, and Mexico City, the authors said. But in smaller cities, pollution levels continue to climb.

HIGHEST POLLUTION-RELATED DEATHS

The study offered a list of the 10 countries most affected by pollution-related deaths, based on their findings on mortality adjusted for population.

1. Chad; 2. Central African Republic; 3. Niger; 4. Solomon Islands; 5. Somalia; 6. South Africa; 7. North Korea; 8. Lesotho; 9. Bulgaria; 10. Burkina Faso

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N.Korean leader Kim slams officials’ ‘immature’ response amid COVID outbreak

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: People wearing protective face masks walk amid concerns over the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in front of Pyongyang Station in Pyongyang, North Korea April 27, 2020, in this photo released by Kyodo.

SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korean leader Kim Jong Un slammed his country’s response to its first officially confirmed COVID-19 outbreak as “immature,” accusing government officials of inadequacies and inertia as fever cases swept the country, state media reported on Wednesday.

North Korea reported 232,880 more people with fever symptoms, and six more deaths after the country’s first admission of the COVID outbreak last week. It did not say how many people had tested positive for COVID-19.

Presiding over a politburo meeting of the ruling Workers’ Party on Tuesday, Kim said the “immaturity in the state capacity for coping with the crisis” increased the “complexity and hardships” in fighting the pandemic when “time is the life”, according to the KCNA.

Since its first acknowledgement of the COVID-19 outbreak, the North has reported 1.72 million patients with fever symptoms, including 62 deaths as of Tuesday evening.

Amid concerns over the isolated country’s lack of vaccines and adequate medical infrastructure, the KCNA said health officials have developed a COVID-19 treatment guide aimed at preventing drug overdoses and other mistreatments that have led to many of the reported deaths.

The guide includes treatments individualised for different types of patients, but state media did not elaborate on which drugs are involved in the treatment plans.

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