WHO Lists Compulsive Video Gaming As Mental Health Problem

Parents suspicious that their children may be addicted to video games now have support from health authorities. The World Health Organization has listed “gaming disorder” as a new mental health problem on its 11th edition of  International Classification of Diseases, released on Monday. But as VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports, not all psychologists agree that compulsive gaming should be on that list.

Norway Tests Tiny Electric Plane, Sees Passenger Flights by 2025

Norway tested a two-seater electric plane on Monday and predicted a start to passenger flights by 2025 if new aviation technologies match a green shift that has made Norwegians the world’s top buyers of electric cars.

Transport Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen and Dag Falk-Petersen, head of state-run Avinor which runs most of Norway’s airports, took a few minutes’ flight around Oslo airport in an Alpha Electro G2 plane, built by Pipistrel in Slovenia.

“This is … a first example that we are moving fast forward” towards greener aviation, Solvik-Olsen told Reuters. “We do have to make sure it is safe – people won’t fly if they don’t trust it.”

He said plane makers such as Boeing and Airbus were developing electric aircraft and that battery prices were tumbling, making it feasible to reach a government goal of making all domestic flights in Norway electric by 2040.

Asked when passenger flights in electric planes could start, Falk-Petersen, the pilot, said: “My best guess is before 2025 … It should all be electrified by 2040.”

The two said the plane, with a takeoff weight of 570 kg (1255 lb), was cramped and buffeted by winds but far quieter than a conventional plane run on fossil fuels.

Norway tops the world league for per capita sales of electric cars such as Teslas, Nissan Leafs or Volkswagen Golfs, backed by incentives such as big tax breaks, free parking and exemptions from road tolls.

In May 2018, 56 percent of all cars sold in Norway were either pure electric or hybrids against 46 percent in the same month of 2017, according to official statistics.

Norway, a mountainous country of five million people where fjords and remote islands mean many short-hop routes of less than 200 kms, would be ideal for electric planes, Solvik-Olsen said. Also, 98 percent of electricity in Norway is generated from clean hydro power.

Some opposition politicians said the government needed to do far more to meet green commitments in the 200-nation Paris climate agreement.

“This is a start … but we have to make jet fuel a lot more expensive,” said Arild Hermstad, a leader of the Green Party.

The first electric planes flew across the English Channel in July 2015, including an Airbus E-Fan. French aviator Louis Bleriot who was first to fly across the Channel, in 1909, in a fossil-fuel powered plane.

Electric planes so far have big problems of weight, with bulky batteries and limited ranges. Both Falk-Petersen and Solvik-Olsen said they had been on strict diets before the flight.

“My wife is happy about it,” Solvik-Olsen said.

As Venezuela’s Health System Crumbles, Pregnant Women Flee to Colombia

Exhausted but relieved, Yariani Flores lay next to her healthy newborn son, along with four other Venezuelan women who just gave birth in a hospital in Colombia’s border city of Cucuta.

Thousands of Venezuelan women have done the same over the past few years, as the health system in their home country has crumbled. They crossed the border, driven by fear that they or their babies could die.

Early in her pregnancy, Flores sought a pre-natal checkup at a municipal hospital in Venezuela’s frontier state of Tachira only to be told that there was little point.

“The doctor said, ‘Don’t bother coming here, I can’t do much for you,'” said Flores, lying in the 12-bed maternity ward at Cucuta’s Erasmo Meoz University Hospital. “She recommended I come to Cucuta and have the birth here.”

Venezuela’s economic crisis has laid waste to its health system. The numbers of babies and women dying during or after childbirth have soared, while medicines and supplies have become increasingly scarce.

“You have to bring everything to the hospital in Venezuela,” said Flores, a 33-year-old mother of five. “There aren’t even any surgical gloves.”

A March survey of 137 hospitals, led by the opposition-dominated Congress, showed that they often lack basic equipment like catheters, as well as incubators and x-ray units.

Venezuelan hospitals are also plagued by water and electricity outages, and only 7 percent of emergency services are fully operative, the survey found.

Infant mortality in the oil-rich nation rose 30 percent last year, according to latest government data. Maternal mortality – dying during pregnancy or within 42 days of giving birth – shot up by 65 percent.

Healthcare Overwhelmed

Venezuela’s economic meltdown, including hyperinflation, is now putting a financial strain on the health system in Cucuta and other Colombian cities.

Nearly 820,000 Venezuelans have left their homeland to live in Colombia during the last 15 months, with arrivals expected to continue, according to Colombian authorities.

Cucuta, the largest city along the porous frontier and separated by a bridge that connects with Venezuela, has borne the brunt of the influx.

At the main hospital alone, Erasmo Meoz, about 14,000 Venezuelan patients have been treated in the past three years, most with no health insurance, said Juan Agustin Ramirez, director of the 500-bed facility.

The hospital has debts of about $6 million accumulated to care for Venezuelans, which the Colombian government has yet to reimburse as it promised last year, Ramirez said.

“This has created a financial crisis … and there comes a time when we collapse,” he said.

Until recently, the hospital treated only a few Venezuelans, mostly for road injuries, Ramirez said.

But now, on any given day, up to one in five patients at the hospital is Venezuelan, and its crowded emergency ward is overwhelmed.

Many are children suffering skin diseases, diarrhea and respiratory problems. Others are women who have high risk pregnancies and arrive malnourished, having had few or no pre-natal checkups.

“It’s a sign that something serious is happening with public health in Venezuela,” Ramirez told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Brother Nation

Ramirez said Colombia has a duty to help Venezuelans.

Colombians often refer to Venezuelans as their “brothers,” as they share close cultural and family ties.

In past decades, it was Venezuela that opened its doors to millions of Colombians fleeing civil war. Many found jobs and cutting-edge medical care in the once prosperous nation, Ramirez said.

“We can’t forget that during all these years of violence in Colombia, four to five million Colombians went to Venezuela where they were given services for free,” Ramirez said. “We have an immense debt with Venezuela.”

In the past year, about 54,500 Venezuelan migrants have received emergency care in public hospitals across Colombia, according to authorities, while nearly 200,000 have been vaccinated, many at border crossings.

But only patients needing emergency care, including pregnant women, get free treatment.

Those with chronic illnesses, like cancer, kidney failure, and HIV/AIDS are turned away because of a lack of resources.

“For those poor people, the situation is catastrophic,” Ramirez said.

Earlier this month, the Organization of American States reiterated its call on Venezuela to allow international aid into the country, to ease what it has described a “humanitarian crisis.”

Many expect the migration to continue following the re-election of Venezuela’s socialist President Nicolas Maduro last month, which the United States called “a sham” and many countries refused to recognize.

“We are not prepared, nor are we going to be prepared, if there’s a bigger exodus of citizens from Venezuela as conditions deteriorate even more,” Ramirez said.


Another casualty of Venezuela’s crisis was laid bare at the hospital’s children’s ward.

A severely underweight four-month-old baby from Venezuela’s Yukpa tribe slept, hooked up to an intravenous tube to help him recover from malnutrition.

About 200 Yukpas have fled hunger in their ancestral lands.

They now live in ragged, makeshift tents just inside Colombia, near the border crossing.

Across town at a shelter run by the Scalabrini International Migration Network, a Catholic organization for migrant aid, pregnant women are given priority while other Venezuelans sleep on cardboard outside, waiting for a bed and a hot meal.

Keila Diaz, 23, who is heavily pregnant with her second child, came to the shelter with her husband in May. When the contractions start, she said, she will head to the hospital.

“I’m afraid to have my baby in Venezuela. Babies die, mothers die giving birth over there,” said Diaz, gently rubbing her bulging belly. “I have a better chance here.”

Right-Wing Italian Interior Minister Wants to Look into ‘Roma Question’

Italy’s new right-wing interior minister Matteo Salvini said his department has to look into “the Roma question” in Italy — a comment the opposition said reminds them of Italian fascism.

Salvini said Monday he wants to take a census of Italy’s Roma population.

“Unfortunately, we will have to keep the Italian Roma because we can’t expel them,” Salvini told Telelombardia television.

Center-left politicians immediately jumped on Salvini’s comments, likening it to ethnic cleansing.

“You can work for security and respect for rules without becoming fascistic,” lawmaker Ettore Rosato tweeted. “The announced census of Roma is vulgar and demagogical.”

But Salvini said he wants to help the Roma, an itinerant ethnic group. He said he wants to know who they are and where they live, and protect Roma children, whose parents he said did not want them to integrate into society.

“We are aiming primarily to care for the children who aren’t allowed to go to school regularly because they prefer to introduce them to a life of crime,” he said.

The interior minister said he has no desire to take fingerprints of the Roma or keep index cards of individuals. He also said he wants to see how European Union funds earmarked to help the Roma are spent.

Many Roma live in camps on the outskirts of Italian cities. They complain of lifelong discrimination, being denied job and educational opportunities.

But officials say many Roma are responsible for petty crimes, such as pickpocketing and theft.

Salvini’s comments about the Roma came a week after Italy refused to let a shipload of migrants dock at an Italian port. Spain gave permission for the ship to dock in its country Sunday.

Intel Tops List of Tech Companies Fighting Forced Labor

Intel topped a list issued on Monday ranking how well technology companies combat the risk of forced labor in their supply chains, overtaking HP and Apple.

Most of the top 40 global technology companies assessed in the study by KnowTheChain, an online resource for business, had made progress since the last report was published in 2016. But the study found there was still room for improvement.

“The sector needs to advance their efforts further down the supply chain in order to truly protect vulnerable workers,” said Kilian Moote, project director of KnowTheChain, in a statement.

Intel, HP and Apple scored the highest on the list, which looked at factors including purchasing practices, monitoring and auditing processes. China-based BOE Technology Group and Taiwan’s Largan Precision came bottom.

Workers who make the components used by technology companies are often migrants vulnerable to exploitative working conditions, the report said. 

About 25 million people globally were estimated to be trapped in forced labor in 2016, according to the International Labor Organization and rights group Walk Free Foundation.

Laborers in technology companies’ supply chains are sometimes charged high recruitment fees to get jobs, trapped in debt servitude, or deprived of their passports or other documents, the report said.

It highlighted a failure to give workers a voice through grievance mechanisms and tackle exploitative recruiting practices as the main areas of concern across the sector.

In recent years modern slavery has increasingly come under the global spotlight, putting ever greater regulatory and consumer pressure on firms to ensure their supply chains are free of forced labor, child labor and other forms of slavery.

From cosmetics and clothes to shrimp and smartphones, supply chains are often complex with multiple layers across various countries — whether in sourcing the raw materials or creating the final product — making it hard to identify exploitation.

Overall, large technology companies fared better than smaller ones, suggesting a strong link between size and capacity to take action, the report said. Amazon, which ranked 20th, was a notable exception, it said.

“Top-ranking brands … are listening to workers in their supply chains and weeding out unscrupulous recruitment processes,” Phil Bloomer, head of the Business & Human Rights Resource Center, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

A spokesman for Amazon said the report drew from old and incomplete information and failed to take into account recently launched anti-slavery commitments and initiatives.

HP said it regularly assessed its supply chain to identify and address any concerns and risks of exploitation.

“We strive to ensure that workers in our supply chain have fair treatment, safe working conditions, and freely chosen employment,” said Annukka Dickens, HP’s director for human rights and supply chain responsibility.

Intel, Apple, BOE Technology and Largan Precision did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

France’s Macron Sets Out Corporate Law Shake-up in Reform Bill

France’s finance minister promised to cut red tape on companies, open up more financing for them and create incentives for employee profit-sharing under a new bill presented on Monday.

The proposed law is part of President Emmanuel Macron’s pro-business reform drive that has already eased labour laws and cut companies’ and entrepreneurs’ taxes.

“The law’s ultimate objective is more growth and the creation of a new French economic growth model,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told reporters.

Le Maire said that by 2025 the overhaul of French corporate law was expected to boost overall gross domestic product by one percent over the long term.

The new law aims to address one long-standing complaint from business owners about a complex system that imposes new charges in multiple stages as companies increase their workforce.

The bill would simplify the system, Le Maire said, by halving the number of those stages to three — bringing in new charges and obligations when a company has 11, 50 and then 250 employees.

It would also make it easier, cheaper and faster to register a company, giving entrepreneurs a single online platform to replace the current round of seven administrative bodies.

Liquidation of insolvent companies will be sped up so business owners can move on and bankruptcy law will give more power to creditors who have a stake in seeing the firm survive, the minister added.

The government aims to boost the more than 220 billion euros French people currently hold in long-term retirement savings, which it hopes will make more funds available to be invested in companies’ capital.

To do that, employees’ voluntary contributions will largely be made tax-deductible for all types of savings products and they will be able to transfer savings from one money manager to another at no cost, potentially boosting competition, according to a statement on the bill.

The government aims to make profit-sharing much more common in small companies by scrapping charges employers currently have to make on payouts to employees.

Largely because of that measure, the new law is expected to cost the government 1.2 billion euros annually, which Le Maire said would be paid for by planned cuts in subsidies to companies.

The law also sets the stage for several large privatizations with the proceeds already earmarked for a new 10 billion euro innovation fund.

It will in particular lift legal restraints on selling down stakes in airport operator ADP and energy group Engie while allowing the national lottery FDA to be privatized.

While some left-wing and far-right politicians have said the sales amounted to selling the family jewels, Macron’s party has a sufficiently large parliamentary majority to pass the bill with little trouble early next year.

Google to Invest $550M in China E-commerce Giant JD.com

Google will invest $550 million in Chinese e-commerce powerhouse JD.com, part of the U.S. internet giant’s efforts to expand its presence in fast-growing Asian markets and battle rivals including Amazon.com.

The two companies described the investment announced on Monday as one piece of a broader partnership that will include the promotion of JD.com products on Google’s shopping service.

This could help JD.com expand beyond its base in China and Southeast Asia and establish a meaningful presence in U.S. and European markets.

JD.com’s U.S.-listed shares rose 1.2 percent to $44.10 on the NASDAQ on Monday.

Company officials said the agreement initially would not involve any major new Google initiatives in China, where the company’s main services are blocked over its refusal to censor search results in line with local laws.

JD.com’s investors include Chinese social media powerhouse Tencent Holdings, the arch-rival of Chinese e-commerce leader Alibaba Group Holding, and Walmart.

The partnership not only lets Google bolster its retail ambitions in China but also allows it to further tighten its relationship with Walmart. Together, the two companies could challenge the dominance of Amazon and Alibaba in key markets around the world, analysts said.

In the past year, Google has been partnered with Walmart on multiple fronts. In August 2017, the two companies joined forces to offer hundreds of thousands of Walmart items on Google’s voice-controlled Google Assistant platform to counter the dominance of Amazon in the voice shopping market.

In March, Reuters reported a new program where Google was teaming up with retailers like Walmart, allowing them to list their products on Google Search, as well as on the Google Express shopping service to better compete with Amazon.

Google is also reportedly pursuing picking up a stake in India’s Flipkart, where Walmart picked up a 77 percent stake for $16 billion.

Google declined to comment on the rumored Flipkart deal.

Stepping Up Investments in ASIA

Google is stepping up its investments across Asia, where a rapidly growing middle class and a lack of infrastructure in retail, finance and other areas have made it a battleground for U.S. and Chinese internet heavyweights. Google recently took a stake in Indonesian ride-hailing firm Go-Jek.

The JD.com investment is being made by the operating unit of Google rather than one of parent company Alphabet’s investment vehicles.

Google will get 27.1 million newly issued JD.com Class A ordinary shares as part of the deal. This will give them less than a 1 percent stake in JD, a spokesman for JD said.

For JD.com, the Google deal shows its determination to build a set of global alliances as it seeks to counter Alibaba, which has been more focused on forging domestic retail tie-ups.

Japan’s SoftBank Group, which is making big internet investments around the globe, is a major investor in Alibaba.

Morningstar analyst Chelsey Tam said the investment will help JD.com expand into developed markets such as the United States and Europe, where it has lesser exposure compared to Google.

“This partnership with Google opens up a broad range of possibilities to offer a superior retail experience to consumers throughout the world,” said Jianwen Liao, JD.com’s chief strategy officer, in a statement.

Company officials said the deal would marry Google’s market reach and strength in analytics with JD.com’s expertise in logistics and inventory management.

The investment may give Google access to more consumer data, which can be used to boost usage of Google Shopping, said Morningstar analyst Ali Mogharabi.

Spain’s Government to Remove Franco’s Remains from Mausoleum

The remains of fascist dictator Francisco Franco could soon be removed from a state-funded mausoleum under a plan by Spain’s new socialist government to transform the monument into a place to remember the civil war rather than glorify the dictatorship.

This would be the latest of a raft of high-profile measures launched by Spain’s new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to cement his power and lure left-wing voters ahead of a general election due by mid-2020.

Sanchez, who toppled his conservative predecessor Mariano Rajoy in a confidence vote last month, controls less than a quarter of the seats in parliament.

“The decision about exhuming Franco’s remains is quite clear,” Oscar Puente, a senior member of the socialist party who is close to Sanchez, told a news conference.

The civil war still casts a shadow over the country nearly eight decades after its end. Lack of accountability for the war has left wounds unhealed, and pressure has grown to turn the site into a memorial honoring those who died on both sides.

Puente said the government’s plans were to transform the state-funded Valley of the Fallen mausoleum into “a place of recognition and memory of all Spaniards.”

The 150-meter cross of the monument, built by prisoners of war, towers over the Guadarrama Sierra, a mountain range just outside Madrid.

Opened by Franco himself in 1959, the Valley houses a Catholic basilica set into a hillside, where the founder of Spain’s fascist Falange party, Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera, is also interred. It has long been a site of pilgrimage for far-right groups in Spain.

The conservative People’s Party has opposed attempts to exhume Franco’s body when they were in power, saying it would only stir up painful memories more than four decades after his death and nearly 80 years after the end of the war.

The Spanish parliament, however, passed a motion last year to remove Franco’s remains as well as those of tens of thousands of other people buried at the mausoleum.

Many of those interred there fought for the losing Republican side and were moved to the monument under Franco’s dictatorship without their families’ permission.

Peace, Economy Pose Challenges for Colombia’s New President

Colombian President-elect Ivan Duque has promised to unite a divided country behind his plans to toughen a peace accord with Marxist rebels and rekindle economic growth, but he will face major challenges when he takes office in August.

The right-wing former senator comfortably won Sunday’s election with 54 percent of votes against leftist rival Gustavo Petro, who garnered 42 percent with his pledge to shake up Colombia’s economic model and tackle inequality.

Both the Colombian peso and local Treasury bonds fell Monday due to external factors, analysts said, though in the medium term, investment flows are expected to increase based on support for Duque’s business-friendly policies.

The peso was down 0.95 percent to 2,923.05 per dollar while the yield on local Treasury bonds, known as TES, coming due in July 2024 rose to 6.17 percent from 6.14 percent Friday.

It was the first presidential election since a 2016 peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), which ended its part in a five-decade conflict that has killed more than 220,000 people and displaced millions.

Duque, 41, pledged in his victory speech to unite the polarized Andean country and tackle corruption, improve security and increase educational opportunities.

“Peace is something all Colombians yearn for, and peace means that we turn the page on the fissures that have divided us,” Duque told cheering crowds at his celebration party Sunday night in Bogota as confetti rained down.

Duque, a protege of hard-line former President Alvaro Uribe, first grabbed attention railing from Congress against the peace deal, which he believes is too easy on former rebel leaders.

Striking a conciliatory tone Sunday, he promised to guarantee justice for victims and the reintegration of rank-and-file rebels into Colombian society.

His aim of revamping the agreement to impose tougher punishment on FARC leaders for war crimes will face considerable opposition from the Constitutional Court and Congress, where most parties favor implementing the existing accord. The FARC has invited Duque to discuss the accord.

“He is going to have a harder time passing reforms to the peace agreement than he would have his supporters believe,” said Sergio Guzman, Colombia lead analyst for consultancy Control Risks, singling out the Constitutional Court, which has already ruled that the deal cannot be changed. The nine-judge court is responsible for deciding whether laws passed by Congress are in line with the constitution.

Duque needs to include politicians from centrist parties in his cabinet if he wants to unite the country, Guzman said. He is likely to reveal the names of some ministers this week.

Duque will face no shortage of security challenges. Crime gangs allied with Mexican drug traffickers, the National Liberation Army (ELN) — the remaining rebel group — as well as FARC dissidents who have refused to demobilize, have moved into territory left behind by the FARC.

Only 19.3 million people, just over half of eligible voters, participated in the election, suggesting some centrists did not like either choice.

‘Safe pair of hands’

Duque has promised to bolster Colombia’s $324 billion economy with tax cuts and support for extractive industries such as oil and coal, the country’s top exports. The government expects the economy to grow 2.7 percent this year.

“With the election of Ivan Duque, the business sector — made up of both local and foreign investment — will see fiscal reforms that will seek a reduction of the tax burden for businesses and the simplification of administrative processes,” said Ciro Meza of law firm Baker McKenzie.

Some economists are concerned that Duque’s proposed tax cuts may worsen the budget deficit and force him to push through unpopular reforms, including a pension overhaul, to preserve Colombia’s investment-grade credit rating.

Ratings agency Fitch said on Monday that Duque’s victory signals a continuation of economic policies but added that a fiscal consolidation and encouraging growth are his government’s key challenges.

While oil has been the main driver for peso movements, the election has added to the currency’s volatility according to Kenneth Lam, a New York-based Latin America foreign exchange strategist at Citigroup.

“Now that we got the [electoral] outcome we expected, oil reverts to be the main driver” for the peso, which has been outperforming other Latin American currencies, he said.

Alberto Carrasquilla, who served as finance minister during Uribe’s first term and was Duque’s economic adviser during the campaign, could reprise the finance minister role, Capital Economics said in a note, and would be “a safe pair of hands.”

Duque has said he will curb ELN attacks on pipelines and invest in state-run oil company Ecopetrol’s refineries to allow exports of more higher-value crude derivatives.

Although Petro, a former M19 rebel, won a majority in only eight provinces and the capital Bogota, the fact that a leftist received 8 million votes, versus 10.3 million for Duque, is historic in traditionally conservative Colombia.

The fractured left has failed for decades to come close to winning Colombia’s presidency, overshadowed by right-wing contenders who promised security. Yet the FARC deal has shifted priorities for many of Colombia’s more than 50 million people.

Voters are interested in tackling inequality, corruption and inadequate social services, which could create opportunities for the left.

“If Duque is not able to get moving on his promises and see concrete results, and if he doesn’t look for reconciliation, the left could win in 2022,” said Andres Pardo, head of investment holding company Corficolombiana.

UN Rights Chief: Rise of Extreme Nationalism Threat to Global Peace

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warns the rise of extreme nationalism is threatening global peace and security. Zeid spoke at the opening of the U.N. Human Rights Council’s three-week session in Geneva.

Delegates attending the U.N. Human Rights Council’s 38th session gave Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein a standing ovation as he finished his last speech before he leaves his post at the end of August.

The end of his mandate seemingly freed the rights chief to be even more outspoken than usual.

Zeid particularly deplored the rise of extreme nationalism promoted by what he described as self-serving, callous leaders.

“Only by pursuing the opposite to nationalism – only when states all work for each other, for everyone, for all people, for the human rights of all people – can peace be attainable…. For only by speaking out can we begin to combat the growing menace of chauvinistic nationalism that stalks our future.”  

Zeid expressed deep concern about recently adopted migration policies by the United States in which children are forcibly separated from parents who cross into the U.S. illegally. He said the policies punish children for their parents’ actions.

“The American Association of Pediatrics has called this cruel practice government-sanctioned child abuse, which may cause irreparable harm, with lifelong consequences. The thought that any state would seek to deter parents by inflicting such abuse on children is unconscionable,” Zeid said.

The high commissioner condemned human rights abuses by the governments of Syria, Myanmar, Venezuela and Nicaragua, and singled out the human rights situations of several African countries, including Burundi, Cameroon, Egypt, and Rwanda.

He expressed deep concern about South Sudan, where a pattern of rapes and killings by government forces in Unity State has been taking place since April.

“Human rights officers have documented the rape of children as young as four years old, and numerous cases of women, elderly people and others being hanged or burned alive in what appears to be a deliberate scorched-earth policy.”  

Zeid also criticized Israeli violations in the occupied Palestinian territories. The United States reportedly is planning to quit the council because of what it sees as bias against Israel.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who also addressed the session, agreed with this U.S. assessment.

“We share the view that a dedicated agenda item focused solely on Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories is disproportionate and damaging to the cause of peace and unless things change, we shall move next year to vote against all resolutions introduced under Item 7,” Johnson said.

Agenda Item 7 is a permanent fixture on the council’s agenda, dealing with Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Johnson then switched to the main focus of his speech, which was to urge all countries to promote girls’ education as the best way of achieving sustainable development.

He called it a disgrace that 130 million girls worldwide do not get an education and denounced fanatics who fight to stop girls from going to school.

“A group of numbskulls called Boko Haram, who raid schools, abduct children, inflict any atrocity in order to deny girls an education.… When I visited Borno State last year, I met girls who had been told they would be shot if they dared learn to read as the Taliban shot Malala,” he said.  

Johnson was referring to the attempted assassination in 2012 of Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai, who had been advocating for the rights of girls to have an education.