Welcome to Friday, where the death toll in Hawaii climbs to 55 as firefighting efforts continue to extinguish the wildfires, West African leaders activate a standby force to put pressure on Niger’s coup leaders and Russia launches its first moon mission in nearly 50 years. For our special Summer Reads edition of Worldcrunch Today, we feature three stories from around the world on the environment.
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• Hawaii wildfires death toll rises: The death toll from the wildfires on Hawaii's Maui island and Big Island has reached 55 and is expected to rise, while as many as 1,000 are still missing or, at least, out of contact, as communication lines are down. During a press conference, Hawaii's governor said 80% of the historic town of Lahaina is “gone.” According to officials, the main blaze along the western coast is now about 80% contained, the Pulehu fire has been 70% contained and the third blaze in Upcountry Maui is still being assessed. U.S. President Joe Biden has declared the fires a major disaster, meaning the federal government will provide rescue and recovery funds. The cause of the blazes has not yet been determined.
• Ukraine update: Ukraine announced a plan to create a “humanitarian corridor” on the Black Sea to release cargo ships stuck in port due to Russia's blockade — a major test of Kyiv's ability to reopen sea lanes after Moscow abandoned the grain export deal last month. A Russian missile hit a civilian building, often used by UN staff, in the city of Zaporizhzhia on Thursday evening, leaving one dead. Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities have ordered the mandatory evacuation of nearly 12,000 civilians from 37 towns and villages in the eastern Kharkiv region, where Russian forces are reportedly making a concerted effort to charge through the front line. In the U.S., President Joe Biden has submitted a request for $24 billion in additional assistance for the government of Ukraine.
• ECOWAS activates standby force in Niger: West African heads of state ordered the activation of its standby force, to increase pressure on Niger’s army officers who deposed the country’s president in a coup last month. The 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), who met in Nigeria’s Abuja on Thursday, said all options are still open, including the “use of force,” although the bloc hopes for a peaceful restoration of democracy.
• Iran partially releases five U.S.-Iranian dual nationals: Iran has released five U.S. dual national citizens into house arrest, U.S. officials said on Friday. Siamak Namazi, Emad Shargi, Morad Tahbaz alongside a fourth man who remained unidentified were let out by Tehran after being jailed under national security laws for years. A fifth American prisoner had already been released, according to U.S. national security. The move follows talks between Iran and the U.S., with the deal including frozen funds in South Korea to be “unblocked and transferred to Qatar,” Reuters reports.
• Ecuador arrests six Colombian suspects over politician murder: Ecuador’s police announced that the six men arrested as suspects in the assassination of anti-corruption presidential candidate Fernando Villavicencio are Colombian. The men were captured hiding in a house in Quito following a shootout with the local forces, which left a seventh suspect dead. President Guillermo Lasso said the killing of Villavicencio, a vocal critic of organized crime, was an attempt to sabotage the presidential election scheduled on August 20, but announced voting would go ahead as planned.
• Russia launches first moon mission since 1976: Russia launched its first mission to the surface of the Moon in 47 years on Friday, in a bid to be the first country on the lunar south pole, which is believed to hold deposits of water. Moscow’s Luna-25 craft is racing against India, which launched its own lander last month.
• Tamil-language movie takes Indian theaters by storm: Indian comedy-action film Jaileris expected to set box office records after earning about $5 million on its release day on Thursday, making it the highest opening for a Tamil-language movie in 2023 so far. Some companies in South India are giving their workers free tickets and a day off to go see the film, which stars celebrated actor Rajinikanth.
A person with a machete in Congo Basin's tropical forest.
The country's "Green Gabon" sustainable development policy has proven a success. The question now is: How can Gabon reap the financial rewards of its preservation efforts? Pan-African newspaper Financial Afrik investigates the country's new challenge: turning that environmental success into a financial one, as well.
Read the full story: Gabon Says It's Time For Rich Polluters To Pay Up
Global Climate Strike in Rome, Italy.
When Andrea Grieco returned to his native Italy, he found a job for a consulting firm on what he'd been told were "sustainability budgets." The work was interesting, with a permanent contract and a good salary. "One day I was asked to work on the green strategy of one of Italy’s largest oil companies," the 31-year-old recalled. "I said I disagreed, but they told me that this was a client they couldn’t do without. So I decided to quit.” Grieco is what we call a "climate quitter," a young person who has chosen to quit his job for reasons related to protecting the planet, as Alice Facchini reports for Italian newspaper Internazionale.
Read the full story: No Green, I'm Gone — Meet The Climate Quitters
Leaders, including Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE’s Minister of Industry and CEO of the National Oil Company, at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue, held this May in Berlin
The controversy has already begun ahead of the next COP climate conference in November. The 28th United Nations Conference on Climate Change will be hosted by the United Arab Emirates, one of the world's largest producers and exporters of oil. Not only will the UAE host, but presiding over the conference will be Sultan Al Jaber, the UAE’s Minister of Industry and CEO of the National Oil Company (ADNOC), as Ángela Sepúlveda writes in Argentine newspaper Clarín.
Read the full story: "Fox Guarding Henhouse" — Fury Over UAE Oil Sultan Heading COP Climate Talks
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