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One dead as under-construction Singapore highway collapses

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Fri, 2017-07-14 09:21
ID: 
1500003105860968100

SINGAPORE: One man was killed and 10 others injured in Singapore Friday when a partially-built elevated highway they were working on collapsed, authorities said, a rare construction accident in the city-state.
The worker who died was Chinese, as were three of the injured. The other seven were Bangladeshis, officials said.
About 60 emergency officials rushed to the scene after the pre-dawn accident. Pictures circulating online showed rescuers searching in the early morning gloom among rubble and collapsed scaffolding.
“Eleven workers were working on top of the structure during the accident. One worker was killed and the other ten injured,” said Singapore’s Land Transport Authority, adding those hurt had been sent to hospital.
Officials said all workers at the site had now been accounted for.
The transport authority added it had “begun safety investigations into the cause of the accident in order to see if there are any lapses or gaps we would need to address urgently.”
Construction accidents in Singapore are rare because of the city-state’s stringent safety requirements. Much construction work in affluent Singapore is carried out by migrant workers, who come to the country on short-term work permits.

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ADB warns climate change ‘disastrous’ for Asia

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Fri, 2017-07-14 09:29
ID: 
1500003105880968200

MANILA: A business-as-usual approach to climate change will be “disastrous” for Asia, undoing much of the phenomenal economic growth that has helped it make vast inroads against poverty, the Asian Development Bank said in a report released Friday.
A continued reliance on fossil fuels will see the world’s most populous region face prolonged heat waves, rising sea levels, and changing rainfall patterns that will disrupt the ecosystem, damage livelihoods and possibly even cause wars, it said.
“Unabated climate change threatens to undo many of the development advancements of the last decades, not least by incurring high economic losses,” the report from the Manila-based bank said.
By the end of the century, parts of the continent could see mean temperatures shoot up to eight degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as the global mean temperature rises by half that, it added.
“A business-as-usual scenario will lead to disastrous climate impacts for the people of Asia and the Pacific, especially for poor and vulnerable populations,” it said.
But it said the region could avert disaster by shifting to renewable energy sources.
The 2015 Paris climate accord commits nations to keep global temperatures well below 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.
While a 2 degrees Celsius rise will be difficult to manage, “one can assume that a 4 degrees Celsius increase would lead to humanitarian disasters in many nations and result in unmanageable migration flows or locked-in populations,” the report said.
Asia as a whole would see sea levels rise by 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) within this century, nearly twice the projected increase under the Paris deal, and face more destructive cyclones, it said.
In this scenario, the report said the region’s coral reef systems would collapse from mass bleaching, with severe consequences for fisheries and tourism.
Melting Asian glaciers would cause both floods and water shortages, disrupting agriculture, and increase dependence on rainfall to meet water needs.
The impact of such changes on access to energy and natural resources were all potential powderkegs for conflict, it said.
The study projects additional heat-related deaths of nearly 52,000 elderly people across the region annually by the 2050s, nearly 8,000 extra diarrheal deaths in South Asia, and some 10,000 more malaria and dengue deaths in Asia.
Asia’s global economic links mean that extreme climate events could disrupt supply chains not only in the region but also in the rest of the world, it warned.
Despite stunning economic growth that saw Asian per capita incomes rise 10-fold in the past 25 years, it remains home to the majority of the world’s poor, the ADB said.
This, along with the fact that a large share of its population inhabit low-lying coastlines, has made the world’s largest continent “particularly vulnerable” to climate change.
Myanmar, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Thailand are among the world’s top 10 countries most affected by extreme weather events, it said.
The ADB vowed in 2015 to double its climate finance mitigation investments to $6 billion by 2020, including $2 billion to help countries shift to renewable energy.

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ADB warns climate change ‘disastrous’ for Asia

Author: 
Agence France Presse
Fri, 2017-07-14 09:29
ID: 
1500003105880968200

MANILA: A business-as-usual approach to climate change will be “disastrous” for Asia, undoing much of the phenomenal economic growth that has helped it make vast inroads against poverty, the Asian Development Bank said in a report released Friday.
A continued reliance on fossil fuels will see the world’s most populous region face prolonged heat waves, rising sea levels, and changing rainfall patterns that will disrupt the ecosystem, damage livelihoods and possibly even cause wars, it said.
“Unabated climate change threatens to undo many of the development advancements of the last decades, not least by incurring high economic losses,” the report from the Manila-based bank said.
By the end of the century, parts of the continent could see mean temperatures shoot up to eight degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, as the global mean temperature rises by half that, it added.
“A business-as-usual scenario will lead to disastrous climate impacts for the people of Asia and the Pacific, especially for poor and vulnerable populations,” it said.
But it said the region could avert disaster by shifting to renewable energy sources.
The 2015 Paris climate accord commits nations to keep global temperatures well below 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times.
While a 2 degrees Celsius rise will be difficult to manage, “one can assume that a 4 degrees Celsius increase would lead to humanitarian disasters in many nations and result in unmanageable migration flows or locked-in populations,” the report said.
Asia as a whole would see sea levels rise by 1.4 meters (4.6 feet) within this century, nearly twice the projected increase under the Paris deal, and face more destructive cyclones, it said.
In this scenario, the report said the region’s coral reef systems would collapse from mass bleaching, with severe consequences for fisheries and tourism.
Melting Asian glaciers would cause both floods and water shortages, disrupting agriculture, and increase dependence on rainfall to meet water needs.
The impact of such changes on access to energy and natural resources were all potential powderkegs for conflict, it said.
The study projects additional heat-related deaths of nearly 52,000 elderly people across the region annually by the 2050s, nearly 8,000 extra diarrheal deaths in South Asia, and some 10,000 more malaria and dengue deaths in Asia.
Asia’s global economic links mean that extreme climate events could disrupt supply chains not only in the region but also in the rest of the world, it warned.
Despite stunning economic growth that saw Asian per capita incomes rise 10-fold in the past 25 years, it remains home to the majority of the world’s poor, the ADB said.
This, along with the fact that a large share of its population inhabit low-lying coastlines, has made the world’s largest continent “particularly vulnerable” to climate change.
Myanmar, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Pakistan, and Thailand are among the world’s top 10 countries most affected by extreme weather events, it said.
The ADB vowed in 2015 to double its climate finance mitigation investments to $6 billion by 2020, including $2 billion to help countries shift to renewable energy.

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Inside Philip Morris’ campaign to subvert the global anti-smoking treaty

Author: 
Reuters
Fri, 2017-07-14 09:14
ID: 
1500002464550944200

NEW DELHI/LAUSANNE, Switzerland : A group of cigarette company executives stood in the lobby of a drab convention center near New Delhi last November. They were waiting for credentials to enter the World Health Organization’s global tobacco treaty conference, one designed to curb smoking and combat the influence of the cigarette industry.
Treaty officials didn’t want them there. But still, among those lined up hoping to get in were executives from Japan Tobacco International and British American Tobacco Plc.
There was a big name missing from the group: Philip Morris International Inc. A Philip Morris representative later told Reuters its employees didn’t turn up because the company knew it wasn’t welcome.
In fact, executives from the largest publicly traded tobacco firm had flown in from around the world to New Delhi for the anti-tobacco meeting. Unknown to treaty organizers, they were staying at a hotel an hour from the convention center, working from an operations room there. Philip Morris International would soon be holding secret meetings with delegates from the government of Vietnam and other treaty members.
The object of these clandestine activities: the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, or FCTC, a treaty aimed at reducing smoking globally. Reuters has found that Philip Morris International is running a secretive campaign to block or weaken treaty provisions that save millions of lives by curbing tobacco use.
In an internal document, the company says it supported the enactment of the treaty. But Philip Morris has come to view it as a “regulatory runaway train” driven by “anti-tobacco extremists” – a description contained in the document, a 2014 PowerPoint presentation.
Confidential company documents and interviews with current and former Philip Morris employees reveal an offensive that stretches from the Americas to Africa to Asia, from hardscrabble tobacco fields to the halls of political power, in what may be one of the broadest corporate lobbying efforts in existence.
Details of those plans are laid bare in a cache of Philip Morris documents reviewed by Reuters, one of the largest tobacco industry leaks ever. Reuters is publishing a selection of those papers in a searchable repository, The Philip Morris Files.
Dating from 2009 to 2016, the thousands of pages include e-mails between executives, PowerPoint presentations, planning papers, policy toolkits, national lobbying plans and market analyzes. Taken as a whole, they present a company that has focused its vast global resources on bringing to heel the world’s tobacco control treaty.

Targeting the treaty
Philip Morris works to subvert the treaty on multiple levels. It targets the FCTC conferences where delegates gather to decide on anti-smoking guidelines. It also lobbies at the country level, where the makeup of FCTC delegations is determined and treaty decisions are turned into legislation.
The documents, combined with reporting in 14 countries from Brazil to Uganda to Vietnam, reveal that a goal of Philip Morris is to increase the number of delegates at the treaty conventions who are not from health ministries or involved in public health. That’s happening: A Reuters analysis of delegates to the FCTC’s biennial conference shows a rise since the first convention in 2006 in the number of officials from ministries like trade, finance and agriculture for whom tobacco revenues can be a higher priority than health concerns.
Philip Morris International says there is nothing improper about its executives engaging with government officials. “As a company in a highly regulated industry, speaking with governments is part of our everyday business,” Tony Snyder, vice president of communications, said in a statement in response to Reuters’ findings. “The fact that Reuters has seen internal e-mails discussing our engagement with governments does not make those interactions inappropriate.”
In a series of interviews in Europe and Asia, Philip Morris executive Andrew Cave said company employees are under strict instructions to obey both the company’s own conduct policies and local law in the countries where they operate. Cave, a director of corporate affairs, said that while Philip Morris disagrees with some aspects of the FCTC treaty and consults with delegates offsite during its conferences, ultimately the delegations “make their own decisions.”
“We’re respectful of the fact that this is their week and their event,” said Cave in an interview in New Delhi, as the parties to the treaty met last November. Asked in an earlier interview whether Philip Morris conducts a formal campaign targeting the treaty’s biennial conferences, Cave gave a flat “no.”

Health impact
When the FCTC delegates gather, lives hang in the balance. Decisions taken at the conferences over the past decade, including a ban on smoking in public places, are saving millions of lives, according to researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center.
Between 2007 and 2014, more than 53 million people in 88 countries stopped smoking because those nations imposed stringent anti-smoking measures recommended by the WHO, according to their December 2016 study. Because of the treaty, an estimated 22 million smoking-related deaths will be averted, the researchers found.
According to the WHO, though, tobacco use remains the leading preventable cause of death – and by 2030 will be responsible for eight million deaths a year, up from six million now.
There was jubilation among anti-smoking advocates when the treaty was adopted in 2003. The treaty, which took effect in 2005, made it possible to push for measures that once seemed radical, such as smoke-free bars. About 90 percent of all nations eventually joined. A big holdout is the United States, which signed the treaty but has yet to ratify it.
Since the FCTC came into force, it has persuaded dozens of nations to boost taxes on tobacco products, pass laws banning smoking in public places and increase the size of health warnings on cigarette packs. Treaty members gather every two years to consider new provisions or strengthen old ones at a meeting called the Conference of the Parties, or COP, which first convened in 2006 in Geneva.
But an FCTC report shows that implementation of important sections of the treaty is stalling. There has been no further progress in the implementation of 7 out of 16 “substantive” treaty articles since 2014, according to a report by the FCTC Secretariat in June last year.
A key reason: “The tobacco industry continues to be the most important barrier in implementation of the Convention.”

‘More powerful than ever’

Indeed, the tobacco industry has weathered the tighter regulation. There has been only a slight 1.9 percent decline in global cigarette sales since the treaty took effect in 2005, and more people smoked daily in 2015 than a decade earlier, studies show. The Thomson Reuters Global Tobacco Index, which tracks tobacco stocks, has risen more than 100 percent in the past decade, largely due to price increases.
“Some people think that with tobacco, you’ve won the battle,” said former Finnish Health Minister Pekka Puska, who chaired an FCTC committee last year. “No way,” he said. “The tobacco industry is more powerful than ever.”
With 600 corporate affairs executives, according to a November 2015 internal e-mail, Philip Morris has one of the world’s biggest corporate lobbying arms. That army, and $7 billion-plus in annual net profit, gives Philip Morris the resources to overwhelm the FCTC.
The treaty is overseen by 19 staff at a Secretariat office hosted by the WHO in Geneva. The Secretariat spends on average less than $6 million a year. Even when buttressed by anti-smoking groups, the Secretariat is outgunned. Its budget for this year and last year for supporting the treaty clause on combating tobacco company influence is less than $460,000.
Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, head of the FCTC treaty Secretariat, is the person tasked with preventing the industry from neutering the agreement.
In two interviews at her Geneva office, da Costa e Silva, a medical doctor who holds a PhD in public health and has a dyed pink streak in her hair, explained why the FCTC banned attendance by any member of the public at the 2014 biennial conference in Moscow. The ban came in response to efforts by tobacco executives to use public badges to get inside the venue, she said, adding that industry representatives then started borrowing badges from delegates they knew to gain entry.
“It’s a real war,” said da Costa e Silva.
But she had only a partial picture of the forces ranged against her. She wasn’t aware of the fact that Philip Morris had a large team operating throughout the convention in Moscow, or the details of its activities in New Delhi last November.
“This is so disgusting. These are the forces against which we have to work,” da Costa e Silva said in May after being told about the Philip Morris documents. “I think they want to implode the treaty.”

Tobacco outrage
The idea of a global tobacco treaty had been discussed among health advocates since at least 1979, when a WHO committee suggested the possibility. Gro Harlem Brundtland, a former prime minister of Norway who became director-general of the WHO in 1998, made it happen.
She was aided by outrage over documents that surfaced as part of the landmark 1998 Master Settlement Agreement, in which the four largest US tobacco companies agreed to pay more than $200 billion to 46 US states. The internal communications showed that tobacco executives lied for years about their knowledge of the deadly nature of cigarettes.
A 1989 document revealed one company’s plan to fight threats to the industry. “WHO’s impact and influence is indisputable,” the document said. It went on to contemplate “countermeasures designed to contain/neutralize/re-orient the WHO.”
That company was Philip Morris.
In 2008, Altria Group Inc. split up its Philip Morris business. Philip Morris USA, which remains a subsidiary of Altria, sells Marlboro and other brands in the United States. Philip Morris International was spun off, and handles business abroad. Since the split, Philip Morris International shares have more than doubled and Altria’s have more than tripled.
Philip Morris International’s operational headquarters are in Lausanne, Switzerland, down the street from a patch of Gallo-Roman ruins, in a sleek building with a cafeteria, gym and a patio facing Lake Geneva. From there, the company is working to hobble the treaty.
Internal company communications reveal the scope of Philip Morris’ operation during the 2014 FCTC treaty meeting in Moscow. The company set up a “Coordinating Room” that could seat 42 people, according to the 2014 PowerPoint presentation, titled “Corporate affairs approach and issues.”
Leading the operation was executive Chris Koddermann. Formerly a lawyer and lobbyist in Canada, Koddermann joined Philip Morris in 2010. He is now a director of regulatory affairs in Lausanne. The PowerPoint describes the ideal corporate affairs executive as someone who is able to “play the political game.” Koddermann previously worked for federal and provincial cabinet ministers in Canada, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Reached on his cell phone in March, Koddermann said he wouldn’t be able to meet and that any questions should be directed to Philip Morris International.

Congratulatory email
At the end of the Moscow meeting, on Oct. 18, 2014, Koddermann sent an e-mail congratulating a 33-person Philip Morris team on their success in diluting or blocking measures intended to strengthen tobacco controls and reduce cigarette sales. The gains he touted at the end of the week-long conference were the culmination of a two-year effort, his e-mail said.
The documents shed light on one key objective in Philip Morris’ FCTC campaign: Keep tobacco within the ambit of international trade deals, so that the company has a way to mount legal campaigns against tobacco regulations.
In Moscow, one proposal initially called for carving out tobacco from trade pacts. International trade treaties often include provisions, such as the protection of trademarks, that Philip Morris has used to challenge anti-smoking measures. If tobacco were taken out of the treaties, as suggested by the proposal, Philip Morris could be deprived of many such legal arguments.
An early draft asked parties to support efforts to exclude tobacco from trade pacts and to prevent the industry from “abusing” trade and investment rules. In the end, the proposal was watered down. The final decision only reminded parties of “the possibility to take into account their public health objectives in their negotiation of trade and investment agreements.” There was no mention of excluding tobacco.
Koddermann, in his e-mail to colleagues on the last day of the conference, declared victory, describing the change as “a tremendous outcome.” Overall, the company achieved its “trade related campaign objectives,” including “avoiding a declaration of health over trade” and “avoiding the recognition of the FCTC as an international standard,” he wrote.
The win was significant. A former Philip Morris employee said the company has routinely used trade treaties to challenge tobacco control laws. The aim, he said, was “to scare governments away from doing regulatory changes.” Even though the tobacco industry has lost a series of major legal battles, its suits have served to discourage the implementation of regulations that curb smoking. Those delays can yield years of unimpeded sales.
As the Philip Morris PowerPoint presentation from 2014 put it: “Roadblocks are as important as solutions.”

‘Watered down’
One roadblock was a campaign to stop the 2011 introduction of rules in Australia banning logos and distinctive coloring on cigarette packs. The company’s litigation and arbitration against the measure ultimately were dismissed – but not before five countries filed complaints against Australia on the same subject at the World Trade Organization. The global trade body has yet to announce a decision in the matter.
The attempt to undo Australia’s regulations has had a chilling effect elsewhere. It slowed the introduction of plain-packaging rules in New Zealand. Citing the risk that tobacco companies may “mount legal challenges,” the government announced in 2013 that it was postponing the move and waiting to “see what happens with Australia’s legal cases.” The legislation is now scheduled to go into effect next year.
In his Moscow conference e-mail, Koddermann also expressed pleasure at the fate of a proposal on farmers. Initial language would have recommended that countries restrict support for tobacco growers. The proposal was “significantly watered down,” he wrote. “This is a very positive result.”
Gustavo Bosio, at the time a manager for international trade, chimed in a few days after the conference in an e-mail: “These excellent results are a direct consequence of the remarkable efforts of all PMI regions and markets during the past two years and throughout the intense week in Moscow.”
Philip Morris isn’t alone in seeking to weaken the treaty. Ahead of the 2012 FCTC conference, in Seoul, four cigarette giants – Philip Morris, British American Tobacco (BAT), Japan Tobacco International and Imperial Brands Plc – formed an “informal industry Working Group” to oppose various proposals on tobacco taxation, according to an internal BAT document reviewed by Reuters.
The 45-page paper, whose existence hasn’t been previously reported, noted that the group would coordinate “to the extent that these issues do not raise any anti-competitive concerns.” The paper outlined a global campaign planned by BAT to counter the FCTC, which was “increasingly going beyond” its mandate. And it listed objectives, including a bid to block discussions around the introduction of a minimum 70 percent tax on tobacco.
BAT declined to answer questions about the industry working group. Both Imperial and Japan Tobacco International said they didn’t want to comment on a document from a competitor. Japan Tobacco International said its tax experts met with counterparts from other tobacco companies to discuss treaty guidelines on taxation ahead of the 2012 conference. Philip Morris did not comment on the document.

Wooing delegates
The Philip Morris e-mails and documents don’t explicitly detail how the company pulled off the victories in Moscow. But they provide insight into the importance it places on wooing delegates.
The FCTC traditionally makes decisions by consensus, and so influencing a single national delegation can have an outsized impact. The treaty has a key clause meant to keep the industry from unduly influencing delegations. Article 5.3, as it’s known, says nations should protect their public health policies from tobacco interests. Guidelines that accompany Article 5.3 recommend that countries interact with the industry only when “strictly necessary.”
But the article – a single sentence – contains a loophole Philip Morris has exploited. The sentence ends with the words “in accordance with national law,” opening the door to arguments by pro-tobacco forces that any lobbying that’s legal in a certain country is permissible when interacting with that country’s representatives. They also argue that a sentence in a related document, the guidelines for Article 5.3, allows for such interactions to take place as long as they are conducted transparently.
One of the company’s targets has been Vietnam.
The day the Moscow meeting ended, Koddermann received an e-mail from his colleague Nguyen Thanh Ky, a leading corporate affairs executive for Vietnam. Ky said he had a “debrief lunch” with the Vietnamese delegation and had a good outcome to report: The delegation was in favor of “moderate and reasonable measures” to be implemented over a “practical timeline,” he wrote. He did not specify which measures they discussed.
The Vietnamese delegation spoke up often during the Moscow meeting. A review of notes compiled by tobacco-control groups accredited as observers showed Vietnam’s interjections frequently mirrored Philip Morris’ positions on tobacco-control regulations. Just like the tobacco giant, the Vietnamese said a higher tax on cigarettes would lead to more illicit sales. Like Philip Morris, they said the FCTC should stay out of trade disputes. And like Philip Morris, they opposed proposals to set uniform parameters for the legal liability of tobacco companies.
The FCTC guidelines on taxation did ultimately include a WHO recommendation for a minimum tax of 70 percent – something Philip Morris opposed. But the proposal to give the treaty more sway over trade disputes was weakened, and measures to strengthen the legal liability of cigarette companies were delayed.
Vietnam’s foreign ministry did not respond to questions from Reuters.

Secret rendezvous
As soon as the conference ended, the documents show, Philip Morris turned to the next one: the 2016 meeting in India.
The 2014 PowerPoint presentation outlined the need to identify ways to gather intelligence during the Delhi conference. In a separate 2015 planning document, the company talks about the arrangement of farmer protests in the run-up to the meeting. Such protests did take place – including one in front of WHO offices in New Delhi. Reuters couldn’t determine whether Philip Morris was behind those demonstrations.
While other major tobacco companies also sent people to Delhi in November, Philip Morris was distinguished by its stealth. Executives from the company did not sign in with their tobacco industry colleagues at the FCTC convention center and stayed at a hotel about an hour’s drive away.
The anonymity and distance helped Philip Morris approach delegates covertly. On the second day of the conference, a white Toyota van pulled away from the front of the Hyatt Regency hotel – where Philip Morris had its operations room – and headed for the FCTC treaty venue. The van was carrying Ky, its corporate affairs executive from Vietnam.
Ky’s driver talked his way past police at the barricade outside the conference center, where FCTC-issued credentials were checked, explaining that he was driving “VIPs,” the driver later told Reuters.
A few minutes later, a man in a dark suit walked out of the conference center, passed the van and stopped at a street corner. The van did a U-turn, and a Reuters reporter saw the man in the suit quickly climb in. He was a senior member of Vietnam’s delegation to the FCTC conference: Nguyen Vinh Quoc, a Vietnamese government official.
The driver, Kishore Kumar, said in an interview that he dropped the two men off at a local hotel. Kumar said that on several other occasions that week, he took Ky to pick up people from the Hotel Formule1, a budget lodging where Vietnam’s delegation was staying during the conference.
Ky and Quoc did not respond to requests for comment.
Asked by Reuters about the interaction between Ky and the Vietnam representatives, Philip Morris executive Andrew Cave thumped on the table in a bar at the hotel where company representatives were staying. Reuters should focus, he said, on efforts by the industry to develop so-called reduced-risk products – those that deliver nicotine without the burning of tobacco and which the company says reduce harm.
When pressed about the meetings with Vietnam, Cave thumped the table again: “I’m angry that you’re focusing on that, rather than the real issues that matter to real people.”
In a subsequent e-mail, Cave said: “Representatives from Philip Morris International met with delegates from Vietnam” during the Delhi conference “to discuss policy issues and this complied fully with PMI’s internal procedures and the laws and regulations of Vietnam.”
Delegates, Cave said in separate interviews, are reluctant to meet openly with Philip Morris because they are afraid of being “named and shamed” by anti-smoking groups.

’Slavery ended a long time ago’
Some delegates questioned the extent to which Philip Morris shaped the decisions made at the Moscow conference, saying attendees genuinely disagreed on certain issues. Nuntavarn Vichit-Vadakan, a Thai delegate, oversaw many discussions as the chair of an FCTC committee at the Moscow conference. She said delegates differed over the regulation of e-cigarettes, for instance, and any lobbying the company carried out would not have determined the outcome.
The Philip Morris documents leave questions unanswered. In some cases, the documents show the company hatching plans to change an anti-smoking regulation or to monitor activists, but don’t always make clear to what extent or how the plans were executed, if at all. The 2014 PowerPoint presentation called for “achieving scrutiny” of tobacco control advocates and said a “global project team” had been established for this purpose. It did not list what means would be used.
In some instances, Philip Morris’ lobbying plainly failed. In July 2015, the Ugandan parliament passed sweeping new anti-tobacco laws inspired by the treaty. All that was needed was President Yoweri Museveni’s signature, and the small African nation would become a leader on the continent in implementing a strict interpretation of the FCTC.
Philip Morris sent an executive, a younger white man, to tell the septuagenarian president, who long ago had helped topple dictator Idi Amin, why the tobacco act was a bad idea. Sheila Ndyanabangi, Uganda’s lead health official for tobacco issues who was present at the meeting, described the executive’s approach as lecturing the statesman.
“He said, ‘Ugandan tobacco will be too expensive’ and ‘it will not be competitive,’” Ndyanabangi said. Her account was confirmed by a senior Ugandan government official who was also present.
Museveni stared for a moment at the Philip Morris executive and a representative from a major tobacco buyer who’d come with him. The president then declared: “Slavery ended a long time ago.” There was a long silence in the room, recalled Ndyanabangi. Museveni said Uganda didn’t need tobacco, and the meeting was over. The president signed the bill that September.
Museveni’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

Changing the delegations
Over time, however, the industry’s lobbying has slowed the treaty’s progress. At the biennial conferences, the discussions have changed. In Moscow, for instance, there was a strong focus on trade and taxes. “You could see from the floor that interventions were very, very, very much focusing on the trade aspects, many times even putting trade over health,” the FCTC’s da Costa e Silva said in an interview last year.
The composition of FCTC delegations sent by governments has changed to include more members who aren’t involved in health policy. That’s in line with what Philip Morris and other tobacco companies want: Philip Morris, as well as British American Tobacco, has sought to move the balance of the membership away from public health officials and toward ministries like finance and trade. Such agencies, said the former Philip Morris executive, benefit from tobacco tax revenues and attach less weight to health concerns.
“The health department would just want tobacco to be banned, while for the finance ministry it’s more like how can we leverage or get as much money as we can,” he said.
The object of Philip Morris’ efforts, according to the 2014 PowerPoint on corporate affairs, is to “move tobacco issues away” from health ministries and demonstrate there are broader public interests at play – that “it’s not about tobacco.”
Cave, the Philip Morris corporate affairs executive, confirmed the company tries to persuade governments to change the composition of delegations. Health officials, he said, aren’t equipped to handle the intricacies of issues such as taxation.
“You’re looking at illicit trade, you’re looking at tax regimes, you’re looking at international law,” he said. “Now each of these areas, it’s logical, if you want to really tackle the trade and tobacco smuggling, illicit trade, who would you go to? You wouldn’t go to the health ministry.”
Reuters analyzed the rosters of the almost 3,500 accredited delegation members who have attended the seven FCTC conferences since 2006. The analysis found that there were more than six health delegates for every finance-related delegate in 2006. In Delhi last year, that ratio had fallen to just over three health delegates for every finance delegate. The number of delegates from finance, agriculture and trade fields has risen from a few dozen in 2006 to more than 100 in recent years.
Vietnam’s delegation, for example, has changed markedly. At the first FCTC conference in 2006, none of its four delegates were from finance or trade ministries. By 2014, in Moscow, there were 13 delegates, with at least four from finance-related ministries, including the chief delegate. Vietnam’s foreign ministry did not respond to questions about the delegation.
Da Costa e Silva isn’t opposed to having delegates from trade ministries, but she says their primary focus needs to be on health. And she was concerned by the makeup of the Vietnamese delegation. In a letter to the Vietnamese prime minister in late 2015, she asked that tobacco industry employees be excluded from the delegation. If they weren’t, she wrote, Vietnam might be “unable to play a full part in discussions.”
In 2016, Vietnam brought 11 delegates to the conference, of whom six were from health agencies, including the chief representative.
Some tobacco-control activists who attended the Delhi meeting in November say it was the worst so far in terms of passing new anti-smoking provisions.
Matthew Myers, who heads the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, said multiple countries came prepared to consciously block action. He said he heard delegates making arguments “I haven’t heard in 25 years.”
A Nigerian delegate, for instance, asked to remove a reference to “the tobacco epidemic” from a draft proposal on liability for tobacco-related harm, according to notes taken by anti-smoking groups.
Asked for comment, Christiana Ukoli, head of the delegation in Delhi, said the “Nigerian delegation strongly dissociates itself from statement.”
The Delhi conference ended as it began, with treaty Secretariat officials not knowing where Philip Morris had been or what it had done. The company had flown in a team of executives, used a squad of identical vans to ferry officials in New Delhi, and then left town without a trace.
(Reporting by Aditya Kalra, Paritosh Bansal, Duff Wilson and Tom Lasseter. Additional reporting by Joe Brock in Johannesburg, Ami Miyazaki in Tokyo, Mai Nguyen, My Pham and Minh B. Ho in Hanoi, Elias Biryabarema in Kampala, Enrico Dela Cruz in Manila, Stephen Eisenhammer and Anthony Boadle in Brasilia, Alexis Akwagyiram and Ulf Laessing in Lagos, and Patturaja Murugaboopathy in Bengaluru.)

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Peru judge orders ex-President Humala jailed before trial

Author: 
Reuters
Fri, 2017-07-14 08:47
ID: 
1499997378980791100

LIMA: A Peruvian judge on Thursday ordered the Andean nation’s former President Ollanta Humala and his wife Nadine Heredia to be jailed for up to 18 months while prosecutors prepare formal money laundering charges against them.
Judge Richard Concepcion ruled in favor of a request by prosecutor German Juarez, who argued Humala and Heredia should be jailed before trial to prevent them from fleeing or interfering with his nearly three-year investigation.
“They’re immediate capture internationally is ordered,” Concepcion said after handing down his decision.
Humala and Heredia deny wrongdoing but were on their way to turning themselves into authorities, their lawyers said after the ruling. “They’re not fleeing. They never intended to flee,” said defense attorney Wilfredo Pedraza.
TV images showed a car surrounded by reporters leaving Humala’s house in Lima.
Juarez accuses Humala and Heredia of taking illegally obtained funds from late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Brazilian construction companies Odebrecht SA and OAS SA that were allegedly used in Humala’s campaigns and for personal enrichment.
Concepcion’s ruling against the couple comes a day after former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison for corruption and is a further blow to the political left in the region.
Humala ran an unsuccessful presidential bid in 2006 as an ally of Chavez before winning the 2011 election when he recast himself as a more moderate leftist like Lula.
Juarez said the money from Odebrecht and OAS was the product of corruption and the funds from Venezuela were pilfered from that country’s treasury.
“Here’s a president who rose to the presidency and governed us with an electoral campaign built on illicit money. That’s serious,” Juarez told Concepcion in a hearing on Wednesday that stretched into early Thursday.
The ruling marked the second time that a former Peruvian president has been ordered behind bars since Odebrecht acknowledged in a plea deal with US and Brazilian prosecutors in December that it paid bribes across Latin America over a decade-long period.
Peru’s centrist former President Alejandro Toledo, believed by Peru to be in the United States, has refused to turn himself in since Concepcion ordered him to be jailed for up to 18 months before a graft trial.

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“Nothing to do with us”: London cab drivers distance themselves from pro-Qatar adverts

Author: 
ARAB NEWS
Fri, 2017-07-14 01:25
ID: 
1499974313807102700

London cabbies were bemused Thursday at claims that an ad campaign promoting the end to the blockade of Qatar was supposedly created to show solidarity by taxi drivers.
Speaking to cabbies in South Kensington, outside the Harrods department store and at the busy cab rank at Paddington Station, Arab News was told by drivers that they have “nothing to do with what goes on the sides of the cabs,” and that they pay little attention to “whatever advertising” happens to be splashed across their sides.
None of the cabbies interviewed around the city had heard of the campaign, which according to media reports was organized in solidarity with Qatar.
The London Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) said: “This is not something that the LTDA is able to comment on as the LTDA (does) not control what members have on their taxis.”
The cabs carrying the slogans proved elusive on the streets of the capital today, despite footage of them circulating on social media.
Across London, cabbies said they had not seen any taxis with the Qatar ad, nor did they recognize it, raising questions as to whether it was merely a short-term PR stunt.
In Edgware Road, near Marble Arch, where taxis featuring the Qatar ads were initially snapped for promotional pictures, some local shopkeepers and waiters said they had seen the cabs on launch day, but not since.
On Twitter, the taxi PR stunt provoked an amused reaction, with one Twitterati flagging other ad campaigns as a tongue-in- cheek way of supposedly showing London cabs being in solidarity with a range of companies.

عدد من سائقي الأجرة في #لندن يشاركون في حملة دعم لقطر ويطالبون برفع الحصار عنها.. المزيد مع مراسل #الجزيرة عثمان آي فرح pic.twitter.com/zE0xJBXkPN

— قناة الجزيرة (@AJArabic) July 12, 2017

Taxi advertising is known to be a strong PR tool on London’s streets, with companies ranging from fast food to clothing, banks and airlines all using the medium.
“A taxi can be a powerful PR tool. Whether you’re ferrying VIPs and guests to and from venues or looking to arrive in style at a prestigious event, a branded taxi can help you stand out from the crowd and communicate your message in style!” says the London Taxi Advertising company.

In a report on the Qatari owned news  channel, Al Jazeera Arabic, a reporter recently suggested that London cab drivers have recently called for the lifting of the measures imposed against Qatar.

Last month, an anti-terror quartet of Arab countries (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain) decided to cut off ties with Qatar over its ties to terror groups.

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related_nodes: 
Qatar Airways chief calls American flight attendants ‘grandmothers’, apologizes after rebuke from US competitors
Damning Indictment: CNN leaks show Qatar reneged on GCC commitments
Egypt says Qatar should be kicked out of anti-Daesh coalition

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Trump overheard complimenting Macron’s wife

Author: 
AP
Thu, 2017-07-13 03:00
ID: 
1499971192506717200

PARIS:President Donald Trump was captured complimenting the French president’s wife’s appearance in video posted by the French government’s Facebook account.
The footage shows Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron (eh-mahn-yoo-EHL’ mah-KROHN’) and their wives chatting after their tour of the museums at Les Invalides (lehz ahn-vah-leed).
Trump at one point turns to Brigitte Macron and tells her: “You’re in such good shape.”
He repeats the observation to the French president before turning back to the French first lady, and remarking: “Beautiful.”
Brigitte Macron was her husband’s former high school teacher and their relationship has drawn international attention because of their age difference. Feminist have denounced the comments as sexist, noting that the Macrons’ age difference is identical to that of Donald and Melania Trump.
US President Donald Trump has arrived at Elysee Palace for talks with French President Emmanuel Macron.

WATCH: POTUS to Mrs. Macron: “You’re in such good shape. She’s in such good physical shape. Beautiful.” pic.twitter.com/DvJPF6aT5l

— Yashar Ali (@yashar) July 13, 2017

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200 environmental activists slain in 2016: Watchdog

Author: 
AP, Reuters
Thu, 2017-07-13 14:00
ID: 
1499965525036047400

LONDON: At least 200 land and environmental activists were slain in 2016 protecting forests, rivers and land from mining, logging and agricultural projects, the highest annual number on record, a campaign group said Thursday.
Nearly four people were murdered each week, making it the deadliest year on record. The number of killings is up about 10 percent from 185 in 2015, said the human rights watchdog Global Witness.
In its annual report, the UK-based group said the phenomenon of violence against land rights activists is not only growing but spreading, with murders recorded in 24 countries, compared to 16 nations last year.
India has a threefold increase in such killings, while Latin America remained the deadliest region with some 60 percent of all killings having occurred there, the report said. The deaths were reported in 24 countries compared to 16 in 2015.
Brazil fared worse with 49 deaths followed by Colombia with 37 activists murdered, Honduras 14 and Nicaragua 11. In the Philippines, 28 activists died defending their lands.
“This tide of violence is driven by an intensifying fight for land and natural resources, as mining, logging, hydro-electric and agricultural companies trample on people and the environment in their pursuit of profit,” the report said.
The report also noted a spike in killings in India, which it attributed to increased police repression of peaceful protest and civic activism.
The report found 33 murders were linked to mining — the bloodiest industry — while logging and defending national parks has become riskier with a rise in deaths to 23 from 15.
“The fact that the upward curve of killings has continued … suggests that governments and business continue to prioritize short-term profit over human lives,” Global Witness campaigner Billy Kyte told The Associated Press.
The group’s research suggests that 2017 will be deadlier, Kyte said.
“I think these attacks are getting more brazen,” said Kyte, lamenting what he called “collusion between states and corporate interests in silencing dissent over these destructive industries.”
Global Witness highlighted the vulnerability of park rangers, especially in the Democratic Republic of Congo where nine were killed last year.
While almost 40 percent of those murdered were indigenous, the report said, the wave of violence is not confined solely to developing nations.
“Developed countries are ramping up other methods to suppress activists, notably in the United States, where environmental defenders are being given every reason to protest by the Trump administration,” the report said.
“It is increasingly clear that globally, governments and companies are failing in their duty to protect activists at risk. They are permitting a level of impunity that allows the vast majority of perpetrators to walk free, emboldening would-be assassins.”

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UK PM May shed a ‘little tear’ over election failure

Author: 
Reuters
Thu, 2017-07-13 13:27
ID: 
1499965412416032400

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May said she cried a “little tear” when an exit poll revealed she had failed to win an overall majority in a June 8 snap election.
May told BBC radio she felt “devastated” when the results came in, revealing she had lost her parliamentary majority, despite her call on Britons to give her a strong mandate to negotiate Britain’s exit from the EU.
May said her campaign was not “perfect,” but said she expected that her party would increase its majority.
The prime minister said her husband Philip May told her the result of the exit poll and gave her a hug to console her.
“When the result came through it was complete shock,” May said. “It took a few minutes for it to sink in what it was telling me.”
May faced calls to quit from inside and outside her ruling Conservative Party after losing its majority in an election she did not need to call and which plunged Britain into the worst political instability for decades.
“When it came to the actual result there were a lot of people within the party who had been very close to the campaign who were genuinely shocked by the result as it came through,” she said.
May said she had not considered stepping down and declined to say how much longer she would remain in power.
“I still see there is a lot that we need to do, and as prime minister I want to get on with that job of changing people’s lives for the better,” she said.

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Tourists flee wildfires in Sicily in tense evacuation by sea

Author: 
AP
Thu, 2017-07-13 03:00
ID: 
1499965199365997000

MILAN: Tourists at a resort in Sicily faced wildfires that turned their day at the beach into an emergency evacuation by sea, with many fleeing the flames in just their bathing suits and flip flops.
Wildfires fueled by heat and winds have been blazing across much of southern Italy, forcing the evacuation of some 800 tourists from the Calampiso resort in Vito Lo Capo near Trapani, Sicily.
About 20 people had to leave an island off Puglia and some 50 families were whisked away from Mount Vesuvius south of Naples.
Authorities say the number of blazes — 125 are active in Sicily alone — suggest some are tied to arson and Italy’s environment minister did not rule out Mafia involvement in the blazes in an interview in the Corriere della Sera.
Gian Luca Galletti was quoted by Corriere as saying that there were too many fires on Mount Vesuvius for them to be spontaneous, joining voices who say the Mafia appears to be behind many of the blazes.
“I don’t have proof, but it does not seem to be an isolated action or chance. Three ignition points are too many to be the result of carelessness or combustion,” Galletti said.
Danilo Giannese, one of the evacuees in Sicily, said he and his wife went swimming as usual early Wednesday along with many other guests.
“The situation was a little surreal. We went to swim like every other day. From the early morning, we saw flames and smoke, but it didn’t appear to be worrying and no one said to leave,” he told SKY TG24 on Thursday.
But around noon, the wind shifted and resort guests were told to immediately move their cars to safer ground. They were told to gather on the beach for evacuation because the road to a nearby town was no longer safe.
“There was a lot of tension, especially among the elderly and children, many of whom were crying,” he said. “Thankfully the operation was conducted in an orderly fashion.”
Stella Belliotti said she and her 7-year-old daughter were evacuated wearing just their bathing suits and flip flops, each holding pieces of cloth in their mouths against the smoke.
The vacationers were taken to a nearby town by fishing boats and dinghies.
“To see the resort surrounded by flames from the boat was terrible,” Belliotti was quoted by Corriere as saying. “Now we just want to forget it.”
On Mount Vesuvius, south of Naples, firefighters were working to prevent three blazes from joining up. The news agency ANSA said 20 people were evacuated by sea Wednesday from one of the Tremiti islands off Puglia. The army, meanwhile, has been dispatched to the Vesuvius area to help with prevention and reassure residents.

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