UNITED NATIONS: Scientist to chart planet's health
On World Environment Day, the United Nations joined forces Tuesday with 1,500 leading scientists and a host of public and private organizations to launch the first major study of the health of planet Earth. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the four-year, $21 million study "is designed to bring the world's best science to bear on the present choices we face in managing the global environment."
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment will examine the state of the world's grasslands, forests, farmlands, oceans and fresh waterways and fill important gaps in the knowledge needed to preserve "the health of our planet," he told a news conference launching the initiative. Timothy Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation, which has provided $4 million to help fund the assessment, said the result will be "the first global report card on our environment" and he predicted it would not be a good one.
Costa Rica: Haiti election timetable approved
The Organization of American States on Tuesday approved President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's offer to hold new, partial elections to resolve Haiti's yearlong political crisis. In a draft resolution carefully couched with provisos, foreign ministers of the 34-nation bloc accepted Aristide's timetable to hold new elections in stages between this year and November 2004.
However, ministers, meeting in San Jose, also warned they want to see good faith on the part of the government. "We expect concrete actions, no more empty promises," U.S. Ambassador Luis Lauredo told the assembly before it passed the resolution to applause.
OAS approval will help persuade international lenders to unblock aid if Haiti progresses toward "an enduring solution to the crisis." The money was frozen after the disputed May 2000 legislative elections.
Afghanistan: Taliban restrict foreigners' habits
Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia on Tuesday ordered foreigners to refrain from drinking alcohol, eating pork, listening to loud music and having inappropriate contact with members of the opposite sex.
Foreigners who disobey these rules will be expelled or jailed between three days and one month, depending on the severity of the offense, said a dispatch from the Taliban's Bakhtar news agency, citing a decision by Information Minister Qudratullah Jamal.
"Foreigners should honor the rules of an Islamic society," the decision stated. "We are prohibiting these things because they can destroy our society." The decision comes just days after the Taliban ordered female foreign aid workers to refrain from driving, saying it violated Afghan traditions. The Taliban took power in most of Afghanistan in 1996, promising to install a pure version of Islam. Under Taliban rule, television and music are banned, men are required to wear beards and most girls are not permitted to attend school.
Angola: Protective eyeglasses distributed for eclipse
Angola will import 6 million pairs of protective glasses ahead of a total eclipse of the sun and will donate 2 million of them to the poor, officials said Tuesday. A total solar eclipse will follow a path across Africa on June 21 and be visible in Angola, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Madagascar.
Pedro Teta, the deputy minister for science and technology, told a news conference that 4 million pairs of protective glasses will be sold for up to $1.50 each beginning next week. The government currently is running a public awareness campaign to warn people that looking directly at the sun can cause blindness.
Dozens of foreign scientists and hundreds of tourists are expected in Angola to watch the eclipse. It will last up to 2 minutes, 34 seconds.