Category Archives: Entertainment

UN Chief Calls for Cease-Fire in Libya

UNITED NATIONS U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an end to the fighting that erupted last week between Libyan political rivals for control of the capital, Tripoli.

It’s still time to stop. It’s still time for a cease-fire to take place, for a cessation of hostilities to take place and to avoid the worst, which would be a dramatic bloody battle for Tripoli, Guterres told reporters late Wednesday after he met behind closed doors with the 15-nation U.N. Security Council for more than two hours.

It is still time to recognize there is no military solution. Only political solutions can apply to situations like the one in Libya, he said.

Guterres visited Libya last week. Just hours after he departed the country, forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Haftar advanced from their positions in the east on Tripoli, which is controlled by the U.N.-backed Presidential Council and Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj. Guterres met with both men during his mission.

It is obvious that my appeal for an offensive not to take place and for the hostilities to stop was not heard, the U.N. chief said. But I think that when one looks at the situation today, it is clear that we have a very dangerous situation, and it is clear that we absolutely need to stop it.

National conference canceled

The fighting has scuttled U.N. plans for a national conference Sunday to bring the warring parties together. The U.N. said Tuesday that it is postponing it, as violence is overshadowing the political process.

On Wednesday, fighting centered on the suburbs south of the capital, with thousands of civilians fleeing their homes for safety. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says more than 5,800 people have been displaced in this latest round of violence.

Residents in the city report Haftar’s warplanes were buzzing neighborhoods and firing at them. Fighting was also reported at what had been the country’s international airport.

The U.N. has expressed concern at the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas and called on the parties to abide by international law and to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals.

Fears for region

U.N. officials fear the violence in Libya could destabilize the entire Middle East by sending more refugees fleeing to Europe across the dangerous Mediterranean, disrupting oil production, and allowing terrorist groups such as Islamic State to take advantage of the chaos.

South Africa’s U.N. ambassador, Jerry Matjila, told reporters after the meeting that the Security Council is united in supporting the U.N. chief and his special envoy, Ghassan Salame, to get the parties back to the negotiating table.

Matjila also expressed concern about how the worsening situation could reverberate on the African continent.

Fears for Africans

Also, our concern is Africans, about what might happen in the Sahel if the issue is not resolved, he said. We are also concerned about migrants who are trapped in some cities in Libya, and we need to give those migrants at least a corridor to go out to safety.

There are thousands of African migrants who have tried to transit through Libya across the Mediterranean to Europe. Many are in overcrowded detention centers in Libya.

Libya has been in political and economic chaos since longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown and killed in 2011.

Source: Voice of America

UN Chief Calls for Cease-Fire in Libya

UNITED NATIONS U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for an end to the fighting that erupted last week between Libyan political rivals for control of the capital, Tripoli.

It’s still time to stop. It’s still time for a cease-fire to take place, for a cessation of hostilities to take place and to avoid the worst, which would be a dramatic bloody battle for Tripoli, Guterres told reporters late Wednesday after he met behind closed doors with the 15-nation U.N. Security Council for more than two hours.

It is still time to recognize there is no military solution. Only political solutions can apply to situations like the one in Libya, he said.

Guterres visited Libya last week. Just hours after he departed the country, forces loyal to Gen. Khalifa Haftar advanced from their positions in the east on Tripoli, which is controlled by the U.N.-backed Presidential Council and Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj. Guterres met with both men during his mission.

It is obvious that my appeal for an offensive not to take place and for the hostilities to stop was not heard, the U.N. chief said. But I think that when one looks at the situation today, it is clear that we have a very dangerous situation, and it is clear that we absolutely need to stop it.

National conference canceled

The fighting has scuttled U.N. plans for a national conference Sunday to bring the warring parties together. The U.N. said Tuesday that it is postponing it, as violence is overshadowing the political process.

On Wednesday, fighting centered on the suburbs south of the capital, with thousands of civilians fleeing their homes for safety. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says more than 5,800 people have been displaced in this latest round of violence.

Residents in the city report Haftar’s warplanes were buzzing neighborhoods and firing at them. Fighting was also reported at what had been the country’s international airport.

The U.N. has expressed concern at the use of explosive weapons in densely populated areas and called on the parties to abide by international law and to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure, including schools and hospitals.

Fears for region

U.N. officials fear the violence in Libya could destabilize the entire Middle East by sending more refugees fleeing to Europe across the dangerous Mediterranean, disrupting oil production, and allowing terrorist groups such as Islamic State to take advantage of the chaos.

South Africa’s U.N. ambassador, Jerry Matjila, told reporters after the meeting that the Security Council is united in supporting the U.N. chief and his special envoy, Ghassan Salame, to get the parties back to the negotiating table.

Matjila also expressed concern about how the worsening situation could reverberate on the African continent.

Fears for Africans

Also, our concern is Africans, about what might happen in the Sahel if the issue is not resolved, he said. We are also concerned about migrants who are trapped in some cities in Libya, and we need to give those migrants at least a corridor to go out to safety.

There are thousands of African migrants who have tried to transit through Libya across the Mediterranean to Europe. Many are in overcrowded detention centers in Libya.

Libya has been in political and economic chaos since longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi was overthrown and killed in 2011.

Source: Voice of America

Hungary: ‘Porgy and Bess’ Cast Asked to Be African American

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY The Hungarian State Opera has asked the nearly all-white cast for its production of “Porgy and Bess” to self-identify as African American.

The Hungarian performers were asked to sign a statement declaring that “African-American origin and identity is an inseparable part of my identity” and made being in “Porgy and Bess” “a special joy,” Hungary’s index.hu news site reported.

Hungarian broadcaster ATV reported Tuesday that 15 of 28 cast members signed the statement. One man in the State Opera production is from Guinea-Bissau in west Africa and another’s father is from there.

The State Opera’s casting of the seminal folk opera set in the American south ran into trouble with George and Ira Gershwin’s estates. The brothers and collaborator DuBose Heyward created “Porgy and Bess” for black performers, and the Gershwin estates say only black performers may appear in it now.

The Hungarian show “is not permitted in its current form and contradicts the work’s staging requirements,” a statement from the rights holders says on the opera’s website. Asking cast members to identify as African American appears to be the opera’s way around the dispute.

‘No public registry of skin color’

Opera director Szilvester Okovacs told ATV that since Hungary doesn’t record the race of individuals, he preferred to ask the cast.

“There is no public registry of skin color in Hungary … and I can’t really say about the cast if it meets or not the requirement, so I’d rather ask them,” Okovacs said.

The State Opera’s “Porgy and Bess” premiered in January 2018 and is performed in English, with Hungarian and English subtitles. Seven more performances are planned in 2019.

It moves the setting from Charleston, South Carolina, to a refugee camp in an airplane hangar. A commentary for the classicalhive.com website said it was “not ‘Porgy and Bess.”‘

“It is their own narrative set to the music of ‘Porgy and Bess.’ Which is a mess and misses the point completely,” the website said.

Source: Voice of America

UN: Arab States Face Water Emergency, Urgent Action Needed

CAIRO Arab states are facing a water supply emergency, with per capita resources expected to fall by 50 percent by 2050, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said Thursday.

The Middle East and North Africa have suffered more than any other region from water scarcity and desertification, problems being complicated by climate change, FAO director-general Jose Graziano da Silva told a meeting of Arab states in Cairo.

In response, they needed to modernize irrigation techniques and coordinate water management strategies as a matter of urgency.

The per capita share of fresh water availability in the region is just 10 percent of the world average, according to the FAO. Agriculture consumes more than 85 percent of available resources.

“This is really an emergency problem now,” Graziano da Silva told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the conference.

The meeting, attended by around 20 states, was the first of its kind at which ministers of both water and agriculture were present, an effort to improve coordination between different branches of government that have often failed to work together.

“It’s unbelievable that this region does not have good governance on water management and land management,” Graziano da Silva told Reuters.

“[In Egypt], they have 32 ministers. Most probably of those 32 ministers, 30 ministers deal with water � water is a problem for them. And they don’t have ways to coordinate very efficiently.”

Egypt says it has already started working to improve ministerial coordination, for example by reducing rice cultivation to conserve water.

Graziano da Silva said he visited agricultural areas in Egypt’s Nile Delta where farmers were still employing inundation techniques used for centuries to irrigate their land.

“This is a waste of water. We need to move urgently to drip irrigation and other techniques that save water,” he added.

Water scarcity was also displacing rural populations and increasing the region’s dependence on cheap, highly processed food imports that were contributing to rising rates of obesity, he told the conference.

Source: Voice of America

Red Cross: Health, Aid Workers Face Unabated Attacks

UNITED NATIONS Health and humanitarian workers in war zones are facing unabated and increasing attacks “and the impact on civilians is nothing but catastrophic,” the president of the International Committee of the Red Cross said Monday.

Peter Maurer told an informal Security Council meeting that three years after the council adopted a landmark resolution urging all countries to take action to prevent violence and threats against medical and aid workers, “the evidence of meaningful change on the ground is scarce.”

“The taboo that warring parties would not attack aid workers has been trashed,” he said. “We need strong leadership, political will and determined action to restore this taboo.”

Maurer said health services in conflict “must be protected in a neutral humanitarian space and not be part of military strategies to defeat the adversary.” And he said “rhetoric and practices which exclude adversaries � for example those labeled ‘terrorists’ � from basic health services must stop,” and “public health regulations must not be tainted by political and military considerations.”

U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the council that when he started working on these issues over 30 years ago “there was a broadly shared assumption that in most circumstances warring parties would not attack aid workers.”

In the last years, however, he said, “humanitarian and medical workers have systematically become targets of attack.”

Last year, Lowcock said, 317 attacks against aid workers resulted in 113 deaths, according to the aid worker security database. And 388 attacks against health personnel or facilities resulted in more than 300 deaths, according to the World Health Organization, he said.

The undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs called for better equipment and vehicles to improve security especially for local staff, saying about “94 percent of aid workers who were wounded, killed or abducted in 2018 were nationals of the country in which they were working.”

Lowcock said cooperation between civilian and military authorities is also important, explaining that this has enabled U.N. humanitarian staff to run the world’s biggest relief operation for between 8 million and 10 million people in Yemen in the last 12 months.

Trust is essential, he added, but it can only be sustained if governments don’t politicize assistance or criminalize engagement or aid to particular groups.

Time for action

David Miliband, president of the International Rescue Committee, told the council that with increasing attacks on aid and health workers, it’s time for action.

He called for an immediate and independent investigation of every aid worker’s death and urged governments to bring perpetrators to justice.

Miliband asked the council a series of questions including: “Will you block attempts to criminalize our ability to engage with armed actors in the name of counterterror restrictions? … Will you seek and speak the truth no matter how powerful the state, how sensitive the topic, or how uncomfortable the question?”

Miliband said IRC staff are waiting for action in Syria where they face increasing attacks, in Congo “where we are working to control an Ebola outbreak amid relentless arson attacks against treatment centers,” and in Yemen, “where Houthi [rebels’] land mines and [Saudi-led] coalition airstrikes mean humanitarians risk their lives with every movement.”

Source: Voice of America