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A human rights watchdog group has lashed out at the United Nations for appointment of Saudi Arabia as a member of a committee on gender equality, despite Riyadh’s massive discrimination against women.

“Saudi discrimination against women is gross and systematic in law and in practice,” said the executive director of the human rights group UN Watch, Hillel Neuer, in a Sunday statement.

“Why did the UN choose the world’s leading promoter of gender inequality to sit on its gender equality commission,” he said in a statement. “Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief,” he later tweeted.

On Wednesday, the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) elected 13 members, including Saudi Arabia, to four-year terms on the Commission on the Status of Women, which is exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Out of 144 on the Global Gender Gap Index, Saudi Arabia was ranked 141 in 2016. parstoday.com
Kim Jong-un is getting “very paranoid”, the US ambassador to the UN has warned amid growing concerns that Donald Trump’s war of words with North Korea could spark a nuclear attack.

In a round of interviews on Monday morning, Nikki Haley did not rule out a pre-emptive strike by the US on Pyongyang if it tests another nuclear device. Ms Haley also praised China’s involvement in trying to pressure North Korea to cease missile testing.

She also criticised the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, as unstable and paranoid.

Ms Haley told NBC’s Today Show that “we are not going to do something unless he gives us reason to do something” – such as attacking a US military base or using an intercontinental ballistic missile”.

When asked what would happen if North Korea tests another missile or nuclear device, Ms Haley told NBC: “I think then the president steps in and decides what’s going to happen.”

“You can see he’s starting to get very paranoid… and we need to keep the pressure up. yahoo.com
Seven people were arrested for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during protests held in İzmir following a referendum on April 16, the Diken news website reported on Saturday.

According to the report, police detained at least 21 individuals for protesting the referendum results at a park in İzmir’s Bornova district on April 17. Of those, seven were sent to pretrial detention by an İzmir court on charges of “insulting” Erdoğan and several other high-ranking government members.

A constitutional amendment that gives more power to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was approved by a slight majority on April 16, although debates over alleged voting irregularities have yet to ease. The opposition and international observers say as many as 2.5 million voters could have been “manipulated,” effectively changing the result. Hundreds of “No” voters have taken to the streets since then.  turkishminute.com
Gay men in Russia's Chechen Republic are being illegally detained in at least six secret prisons across the region. The Novaya Gazeta newspaper has reported hundreds of men were being detained, tortured and even killed in a government-backed crackdown on the LGBT community. The claims centered on two jails in the Chechen villages of Argun and Tsotsi-Yurt.

Now Novaya Gazeta has claimed that at least four more prisons are illegally holding gay men due to their sexual orientation. The men, who face physical beatings and electric shocks, are only released after their families offer large bribes to the police, the outlet wrote.

The newspaper also claimed that Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov knew about the crackdown, despite his repeated denials that such jails did not exist. In a meeting with Putin, Kadyrov named one of the men which had allegedly been killed due to his sexual orientation, Novaya Gazeta reported. 

The man's identity was known to journalists, but had not been published by the press. The outlet also reported that Magomed Daudov  —  the speaker of the Chechen parliament and a member of Kadyrov's inner circle — had visited one of the prisons where gay men were being held. themoscowtimes.com
Saudi Arabia has been elected to the UN women’s rights commission, prompting outrage from human rights groups. The kingdom is now one of 45 countries sitting on a panel “promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women," according to the UN.

"Every Saudi woman must have a male guardian who makes all critical decisions on her behalf, controlling a woman’s life from her birth until death," said Hillel Neuer, director of UN Watch. "Saudi Arabia also bans women from driving cars. "Electing Saudi Arabia to protect women’s rights is like making an arsonist into the town fire chief," Mr Neuer said. "It’s absurd."

At least five EU states voted in a secret ballot for the Saudis to serve a four-year term on the commission, according to Mr Neuer. 

The vote was greeted warmly by Helen Clark, former administrator of the UN Development Programme and prime minister of New Zealand. Asked about the election of the Saudis to the commission on Twitter, Ms Clark said: “It's important to support those in the country who are working for change for women. Things are changing, but slowly.” independent.co.uk
A transformation is happening in global energy markets that’s worth noting as 2016 comes to an end: Solar power, for the first time, is becoming the cheapest form of new electricity. 

This has happened in isolated projects in the past: an especially competitive auction in the Middle East, for example, resulting in record-cheap solar costs. But now unsubsidized solar is beginning to outcompete coal and natural gas on a larger scale, and notably, new solar projects in emerging markets are costing less to build than wind projects, according to fresh data from Bloomberg New Energy Finance. 

The chart below shows the average cost of new wind and solar from 58 emerging-market economies, including China, India, and Brazil. While solar was bound to fall below wind eventually, given its steeper price declines, few predicted it would happen this soon.

“Solar investment has gone from nothing—literally nothing—like five years ago to quite a lot,” said Ethan Zindler, head of U.S. policy analysis at BNEF. “A huge part of this story is China, which has been rapidly deploying solar” and helping other countries finance their own projects.

This year has seen a remarkable run for solar power. Auctions, where private companies compete for massive contracts to provide electricity, established record after record for cheap solar power. It started with a contract in January to produce electricity for $64 per megawatt-hour in India; then a deal in August pegging $29.10 per megawatt hour in Chile. That’s record-cheap electricity—roughly half the price of competing coal power. 

“Renewables are robustly entering the era of undercutting” fossil fuel prices, BNEF chairman Michael Liebreich said in a note to clients this week.

Those are new contracts, but plenty of projects are reaching completion this year, too. When all the 2016 completions are tallied in coming months, it’s likely that the total amount of solar photovoltaics added globally will exceed that of wind for the first time. The latest BNEF projections call for 70 gigawatts of newly installed solar in 2016 compared with 59 gigawatts of wind.  bloomberg.com
On Tuesday, April 18, representatives of the Organic Consumers Association and our Regeneration International project gathered in The Hague, Netherlands, along with members of other civil society groups, scientists and journalists.

We assembled to hear the opinions of the five judges who presided over the International Monsanto Tribunal. After taking six months to review the testimony of 28 witnesses who testified during the two-day citizens’ tribunal held in The Hague last October, the judges were ready to report on their 53-page Advisory Opinion.

The upshot of the judges’ opinion? Monsanto has engaged in practices that have violated the basic human right to a healthy environment, the right to food, the right to health, and the right of scientists to freely conduct indispensable research.

The judges also called on international lawmakers to hold corporations like Monsanto accountable, to place human rights above the rights of corporations, and to “clearly assert the protection of the environment and establish the crime of ecocide.”

The completion of the Tribunal judges’ work coincides with heightened scrutiny of Monsanto, during a period when the company seeks to complete a merger with Germany-based Bayer. In addition to our organization’s recently filed lawsuit against Monsanto, the St. Louis-based chemical maker is facing more than 800 lawsuits by people who developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma after being exposed to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. As a result of recently-made-public court documents related to those lawsuits, pressure is mounting for Congress to investigate alleged collusion between former EPA officials and Monsanto to bury the truth about the health risks of Roundup. alternet.org
Scientists poring over military and satellite imagery have mapped the unimaginable: a network of rivers, streams, ponds, lakes and even a waterfall, flowing over the ice shelf of a continent with an annual mean temperature of more than -50C.

In 1909 Ernest Shackleton and his fellow explorers on their way to the magnetic South Pole found that they had to cross and recross flowing streams and lakes on the Nansen Ice Shelf.

Now, U.S. scientists report in the journal Nature that they studied photographs taken by military aircraft from 1947 and satellite images from 1973 to identify almost 700 seasonal networks of ponds, channels and braided streams flowing from all sides of the continent, as close as 600km to the South Pole and at altitudes of 1,300 meters.

And they found that such systems carried water for 120km. A second research team reporting a companion study in the same issue of Nature identified one meltwater system with an ocean outflow that ended in a 130-meter wide waterfall, big enough to drain the entire surface melt in a matter of days.

In a world rapidly warming as humans burn ever more fossil fuels, to add ever more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, researchers expect to observe an increase in the volume of meltwater on the south polar surface. Researchers have predicted the melt rates could double by 2050.  ecowatch.com
The U.S. grew from a “backwoods country” to one of “greatest nations the world has ever known” thanks to science — but that pillar of America is eroding, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson warns.

Science deniers “rising to power” now create a “recipe for the complete dismantling of our informed democracy,” Tyson says in a powerful new video that he promises contains “what may be the most important words I have ever spoken.” 

“People have lost the ability to judge what is true and what is not, what is reliable, what is not reliable,” he says in the above video, which he posted to Facebook Wednesday. “That’s not the country I remember growing up in. I don’t remember any other time where people were standing in denial of what science was.”

Many scientists have become frustrated with the Trump administration’s anti-science moves, which has led to them holding the Earth Day March for Science protest Saturday. 

Now, in his new video that’s interspersed with news reports, he warns of the threats that climate change skeptics and those against vaccinations pose. huffingtonpost.com