The Guardian 2024-06-11 18:01:54


Hamas accepts a UN security council ceasefire resolution and is ready to negotiate over the details, senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri has told Reuters. US secretary of state Antony Blinken said the statement of support for a UN resolution backing the proposal was a “hopeful sign”, but that word coming from the Palestinian militant group’s leadership in Gaza is what counts.

Conversations on plans for Gaza after the ceasefire would continue on Tuesday afternoon and in the next couple of days, Blinken said. “It’s imperative that we have these plans.”

On his eighth visit to the region since 7 October Blinken spent Monday in Egypt and then travelled to Israel where he has met Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defense minister Yoav Gallant. He has also met with families of those being held hostage in Gaza by Hamas.

The US secretary of state also cautioned that the longer the military campaign in Gaza continues, the more the wider region risks a war.

The UN security council has adopted a resolution calling for Hamas to agree to a three-phase hostage-for-ceasefire proposal outlined by Joe Biden, the first time the body has endorsed a comprehensive peace deal to end the Gaza war.

The plan calls for an initial exchange of elderly, sick or female hostages for Palestinian detainees held by Israel during an initial six-week ceasefire. That would evolve into a permanent end to hostilities and the release of all hostages in a second phase that would be negotiated by the two parties and US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators.

A third phase would involve a major reconstruction effort. The UN has estimated that half of all buildings in Gaza have been destroyed by Israeli bombarment.

However, yesterday Israel’s finance minister, the far-right Bezalel Smotrich, said he would oppose any deal, calling it “collective suicide” and saying that releasing Palestinian detainees would lead to the murder of Jews.

UN security council endorses US-backed hostages-for-ceasefire Gaza deal

Only Russia abstains in vote on plan calling for hostage and prisoner swap in six-week ceasefire leading to wider deal

The UN security council has adopted a resolution calling for Hamas to agree to a three-phase hostage-for-ceasefire proposal outlined by Joe Biden, the first time the body has endorsed a comprehensive peace deal to end the Gaza war.

A Hamas statement said the group welcomed the resolution, though it was not immediately clear if that meant the leadership in Gaza accepted the ceasefire plan.

After the vote, the US president, Joe Biden, wrote on X “The UN Security Council just adopted our resolution calling on Hamas to accept the deal to establish a ceasefire with the release of hostages. Hamas says it wants a ceasefire. This deal is an opportunity to prove they mean it.”

The position of the Israeli government is also ambiguous. It has officially accepted the peace plan but the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has sought to distance himself from it, and his coalition has shifted to the right since the proposal was put forward.

Fourteen council members voted for Monday’s resolution, none against, and only Russia abstained on the US-drafted resolution, which calls for an initial exchange of elderly, sick or women hostages for Palestinian detainees held by Israel in the course of an initial six-week ceasefire.

The ceasefire would evolve into a permanent end to hostilities and the release of all hostages in a second phase that would be negotiated by the two parties and US, Qatari and Egyptian mediators. A third phase would involve the launch of a major reconstruction effort.

The resolution calls on Hamas to accept the agreement and urges both parties “to fully implement its terms without delay and without condition”.

The US has been seeking UN endorsement for the proposal since it was unveiled by Biden on 31 May. It won the support of the Palestinian mission, with a clause saying that an initial six-week ceasefire would be extended as long as talks continued over a second phase.

The resolution said the US, Qatar and Egypt would “work to ensure negotiations keep going until all the agreements are reached and phase two is able to begin”.

A Palestinian presidential spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said the Palestinian Authority leadership would accept any resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza which preserved Palestinian territorial integrity.

Palestinian support for the US resolution made it much harder diplomatically for Russia or China to veto it. Since the start of the Gaza war in October, the security council has struggled to find consensus against a backdrop of deep polarisation. It has agreed on humanitarian resolution involving temporary ceasefires but this is the first time it has embraced a comprehensive peace.

“Over the past eight months this council has often faced divisions and the world has taken notice with understandable frustration,” the US envoy to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said after the vote. “But there’s another side to this story because today we adopted a fourth resolution on this conflict.”

She declared: “Colleagues, today we voted for peace.”

The text stated that Israel had already accepted the ceasefire terms, though that claim is increasingly in question, as the country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has made a string of sceptical comments on it, claiming that the US had only revealed parts of the plan, and insisting that any proposal for a lasting ceasefire without the complete destruction of Hamas’s military and governing capacity is a “non-starter”.

The resignation over the weekend of a centrist minister, Benny Gantz, has left Netanyahu even more dependent on far-right members of his coalition, who adamantly oppose the deal.

Hamas made positive comments when Biden first announced the deal, and said it welcomed the security council vote, but it has yet to give a formal response to the ceasefire proposal. The unusual show of relative unity by a deeply divided security council helps put pressure on both parties to strike an agreement, though both have shown themselves far more influenced by local constituencies and the personal interests of leaders, than by international public opinion.

Prospects for a hostage and ceasefire deal were significantly complicated by an Israeli raid in Gaza on Saturday to rescue four hostages, which killed 274 Palestinians.

One of the late changes made to the US draft resolution was designed to make it more palatable to Israel. It said the security council rejected any attempt to change the demographic or the geographical boundaries of Gaza, but it omits wording from the earlier version which specifically rejected the creation of a buffer zone around the coastal strip.

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In the wake of Emmanuel Macron’s decision to call a snap general election after the far-right National Rally’s win in the European elections on Sunday, French politicians are engaged in what the media has labelled a “national seduction” campaign to form hasty marriages of convenience to fight for seats.

On the left, political leaders announced they had agreed to form a new Popular Front to put up a single candidate in each constituency. The grouping includes socialists, communists and the hard left La France Insoumise, but such alliances have a shaky history in France and it is unclear what role, if any, the leader of La France Insoumise, the hardline Jean-Luc Mélenchon will play. This remains the alliance’s most prickly question.

On the right, the biggest question is which MPs from the conservative historically Gaullist Les Républicains – if any – will ally with the National Rally, which currently does not have enough people to stand in every constituency.

Also on the right, the former prime minister Édouard Philippe in Macron’s centrist government, who has formed his own conservative party called Horizons, has called for a united front against the National Rally.

On the far right, National Rally’s Jordan Bardella has given his first interview since Sunday: “We are ready to govern”, he told French television.

French parties hold emergency talks with possible allies for snap election

Country braces for ‘most consequential’ poll in decades after decision by Macron in response to far-right surge in EU vote

Political parties in France held emergency talks to sound out potential allies on Monday as the country braced for its most consequential legislative election in decades, called by Emmanuel Macron after being roundly defeated by the far right in the European parliamentary elections.

The National Rally (RN) won about 32% of the vote on Sunday, more than double the 15% or so scored by the president’s allies, according to exit polls. The Socialists on 14% came within a whisker of the Macron group.

Macron’s Renaissance party has 169 deputies in the national assembly and the RN 88.

The unexpected and risky decision to hold an election so soon could hand major political power to the far right after years on the sidelines and neuter Macron’s presidency three years before it ends. If the far-right party wins an outright majority, the president would in effect lose control over most French domestic policy.

“This will be the most consequential parliamentary election for France and for the French in the history of the Fifth Republic,” the finance minister, Bruno Le Maire, told RTL radio. “We must fight for France and for the French. We have three weeks to campaign and convince the French.”

Emmanuel Pellerin, a Renaissance party MP, said he and his colleagues were “still in shock”, adding: “Everything points to the RN winning a relative or absolute majority. But that forces the French to think about what is at stake.”

The legislative vote will take place on 30 June, less than a month before the start of the Paris Olympics, with a second round on 7 July. The results are likely to depend on how committed leftwing and centre-right voters are to keeping the far right away from power.

The president’s move caught some far-right leaders off guard. “We didn’t think it would be immediately after the European elections, even if we wanted it to be,” the RN deputy chair, Sébastien Chenu, said on RTL Radio. “Elections are rarely a gift and in this context they aren’t.”

He called for rightwing lawmakers from outside the RN to swell its ranks in its battle to beat Macron, and said the party’s telegenic president, 28-year-old Jordan Bardella, would be its candidate for prime minister.

Bardella’s mentor, Marine Le Pen, who was runner-up in the last two presidential elections, has remained party leader in parliament and is largely expected to run again in 2027.

Bardella, Le Pen and Le Pen’s niece Marion Maréchal – who headed the list of the far-right Reconquête party in the EU elections – met at RN’s headquarters on Monday afternoon to discuss a possible electoral coalition.

Early on Monday evening, Bardella said Marechal had “a constructive approach towards the RN” and said he hoped to forge as large a majority as possible. He said: “I’m perfectly prepared to talk to people who share the ambition of bringing some of our ideas to power.”

The leaders of the very divided French left – the hard-left LFI (France Unbowed), Communists, Socialists and Greens – also held emergency talks after Macron’s announcement.

“We don’t have time to procrastinate,” LFI’s Manon Aubry told reporters. “The objective is to be able to meet again, to build the future and above all to go and win.”

Analysts have said an outright far-right majority is unlikely, partly because voters often use European elections as a low-cost way of delivering a kick to the incumbent government, and things may well turn out differently in a parliamentary election.

Macron’s gamble is being seen as an attempt to make the best of his weak position by reclaiming the initiative and forcing the RN into election mode faster than it would have liked. The president will be aiming to rally centrist and leftist voters at a time when there is widespread shock after a far-right surge across the continent.

A source close to Macron said the president was “going for the win”, adding that the idea was to mobilise the voters who had stayed away on Sunday. “There’s audacity in this decision, risk-taking, which has always been part of our political DNA,” the source said.

But another source close to Macron said: “I knew this option was on the table, but when it becomes reality it’s something else … I didn’t sleep last night.”

Announcing his decision on Sunday night, Macron said he could not pretend nothing had happened in the European elections. “I have decided to give you the choice … therefore I will dissolve the national assembly tonight,” he said. The president acknowledged that the decision was “serious and heavy” but called it “an act of confidence”.

He said he had confidence in “the capacity of the French people to make the best choice for themselves and for future generations”, adding: “This is an essential time for clarification. I have heard your message, your concerns, and I will not leave them unanswered … France needs a clear majority to act in serenity and harmony.”

Not everyone was convinced by the move. Yaël Braun-Pivet, a senior figure within Macron’s party who serves as the speaker of the lower house, appeared to express some doubt on Monday morning, indicating that forming a coalition with other parties in the French parliament could have been a better path.

“The president believed that this path did not exist … I take note of the decision,” she told France 2 TV.

Raphaël Glucksmann, who headed the Socialist party’s list, said Macron had “given in” to Bardella. “This is a very dangerous game to play with democracy and the institutions. I am flabbergasted.”

Another critic, Valérie Pécresse, a senior figure in the conservative Les Républicains party, said: “Dissolving without giving anyone time to organise and without any campaign is playing Russian roulette with the country’s destiny.”

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, said the decision to send France to the polls just weeks before the capital hosts the Olympic Games at the end of July was “extremely troubling”.

But the head of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, attempted to play down such concerns, saying the elections were “a democratic process that won’t disrupt the Games”.

He added: “France is used to holding elections and they will do it once again. There will be a new parliament, a new government, and everybody will support the Olympic Games.”

Reuters and Agence France-Presse contributed to this report

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Four US academics stabbed in park during China visit, say US officials

Group from Cornell College were visiting a temple in Jilin city when they were attacked by a man with a knife, Iowa state representative Adam Zabner says

Four US college instructors teaching in China have been stabbed while visiting a public park, US officials have said.

The tutors from Cornell College in Iowa were at the park in Jilin province, north-eastern China with a faculty member from Beihua University on Monday when the attack occurred, college president Jonathan Brand said in a statement. The private college in Iowa partners with the university near Jilin City.

Details on the extent of the group’s injuries and whether the daytime attack was targeted or random were unclear.

Iowa state representative Adam Zabner told US media that his brother, David Zabner, was one of the group visiting a temple in Beishan park when a man with a knife attacked them. David Zabner “was wounded in the arm during a stabbing attack while visiting a temple in Jilin City, China,” he told Reuters, and was recovering in hospital.

“I spoke to David a few minutes ago, he is recovering from his injuries and doing well. My family is incredibly grateful that David survived this attack,” Adam Zabner added.

A video of people lying on the ground in a park covered in blood were circulating on X on Monday, though no trace of the images could be found on Chinese social media.

Reuters identified the location based on background information in the footage but was not able to confirm when the video was shot.

No statements on the incident have been issued by Chinese authorities or reports found in Chinese media.

The state department said in a statement that it was aware of reports of a stabbing and that it was monitoring the situation.

Iowa governor Kim Reynolds wrote on X that she was in touch with the US state department about the “horrifying” attack, adding “Please pray for their full recovery, safe return, and their families here at home.”

Representative Ashley Hinson of Iowa wrote online: “Horrified that multiple Cornell College faculty members were brutally stabbed in China. My team has been in communication with Cornell College & will do everything in our power to bring these Iowans home safely.”

US Representative Mariannette Jane Miller-Meeks of Iowa said she was trying to reach the US embassy to ensure the victims get good health care and return to the US as soon as possible.

The attack happened as both Beijing and Washington are seeking to maintain people-to-people exchange to prevent bilateral relations from deteriorating.

Chinese president Xi Jinping has unveiled a plan to invite 50,000 young Americans to China in the next five years, but Chinese diplomats say a travel advisory by the US state department has discouraged Americans from going to China.

Citing arbitrary detentions as well as exit bans that could prevent Americans from leaving the country, the state department has a level 3 travel advisory – the second highest warning level – for mainland China, urging Americans to “reconsider travel” there. Some American universities have suspended their China programmes due to the travel advisory.

There are fewer than 900 American exchange students studying in China compared with more than 290,000 Chinese students in the US, according to US data.

With Associated Press and Reuters

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Trump will not be charged for waving around classified papers, judge says

Aileen Cannon ruled ex-president would not be charged for waving classified papers as that conduct was not on trial

The federal judge overseeing Donald Trump’s prosecution on charges of retaining classified documents agreed on Monday to expunge from the indictment a paragraph about an episode where the former president waved around a classified document at his Bedminster club in New Jersey.

The US district judge Aileen Cannon ruled she would strike the paragraph because Trump was not charged with a crime for the conduct it described and would be unfairly prejudicial if a jury later saw it at trial.

Cannon’s ruling is notable because it could indicate how she will rule on future motions by Trump to suppress evidence as he attempts to limit the scope of the evidence prosecutors can introduce against him – and thereby dramatically undercut the case.

The move to strike the paragraph was unusual, legal experts said.

Cannon ruled that the passage should be expunged relying in part on a federal rule that says evidence of “other crimes” cannot be used against a defendant to suggest bad character, without addressing the second part of that rule that allows it in the case that it shows proof of motive.

The prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, had argued that they included the passage precisely because it was allowed under the second part of the rule but Cannon took issue with the fact that Trump had not been charged for the conduct it described.

The passage in question – paragraph 36 – uses vague terms but describes Trump in 2021 waving around a classified map of Afghanistan while criticizing the US withdrawal to his now 2024 presidential campaign chief Susie Wiles, according to sources familiar with the matter.

“In August or September 2021, when he was no longer president, Tump met in his office at The Bedminster Club with a representative of his political action committee (the ‘PAC Representative’). During the meeting, Trump commented that an ongoing military operation was not going well,” the paragraph said.

“Trump showed the PAC Representative a classified map of Country B and told the PAC Representative that he should not be showing the map to the PAC Representative and to not get too close. The PAC Representative did not have a security clearance or any need-to-know classified information about the military operation.”

The move by Cannon came in a broader 14-page decision, where she denied Trump’s request to have the obstruction counts dismissed.

For the most part, Cannon wrote that she was rejecting Trump’s motion because his complaints were factual matters that should be raised as part of his defense arguments at trial and could not form the basis to dismiss an indictment, as opposed to matters of law, which can be adjudicated pre-trial.

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World’s top banks ‘greenwashing their role in destruction of the Amazon’

Institutions alleged to have given billions of dollars to oil and gas companies involved in projects that are harming the rainforests

Five of the world’s biggest banks are “greenwashing” their role in the destruction of the Amazon, according to a report that indicates that their environmental and social guidelines fail to cover more than 70% of the rainforest.

The institutions are alleged to have provided billions of dollars of finance to oil and gas companies involved in projects that are impacting the Amazon, destabilising the climate or impinging on the land and livelihoods of Indigenous peoples.

The banks say they follow ethical policies that help to protect intact forests, biodiversity hotspots, indigenous territories and nature reserves. However, the investigation says it has found geographical and technical limitations on their ability to monitor and achieve these stated goals.

The report was produced by the watchdog organisation Stand.earth and the Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA). The organisations mapped the extent of the environmental and social governance (ESG) commitments of five leading funders of fossil fuel operators in the South American biome. Those banks – Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, Itaú Unibanco, Santander and Bank of America – together account for more than half of the loans to companies in this sector.

The analysis found that on average, 71% of the Amazon is not effectively protected by the five banks’ risk management policies for climate change, biodiversity, forest cover, and Indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ rights.

The gaps ranged significantly from company to company. At one end of the spectrum is JPMorgan Chase, whose biodiversity protections, the report’s authors say, apply only to Unesco world heritage sites that cover just 2% of the Amazon and are, in any case, unlikely to be considered for oil and gas exploration.

On the positive side, the study commended the British bank HSBC, which was once a major funder of destructive projects in the region but has not provided any financing since it adopted a 100% Amazon exclusion policy in December 2022.

“So far, HSBC has been true to their word,” said Angeline Robertson, the lead author of the report. “This shows it can be done and has been done, even by a company that used to have a big stake”

Some banks argue they play a positive role by encouraging extractive industries to adopt more responsible policies. However, according to the authors of the report, while bank loan arrangements involve long-term relationships and potential influence, the majority of financing by the big five comes in the form of syndicated general corporate purpose bonds. These bonds, which are standard practice, are for broadly defined purposes and require little or no follow-up once an agreement is signed. This potentially makes it difficult to apply due diligence guidelines on specific environmental or social concerns.

The Spanish bank Santander – Europe’s largest financier of oil and gas in the Amazon and fourth largest worldwide with almost $1.4bn (£1.1bn) in direct financing between 2009 and 2023 – has one of the most extensive exclusion policies for oil and gas, covering 16% of the Amazon, but the report indicates that 85% of its transactions are in the form of syndicated bonds, which lack transparency and reduce the bank’s liability as a contributor to adverse impacts.

The authors examined 560 transactions involving oil and gas activities by 280 banks over the past 20 years in the Amazon using Stand’s Amazon Banks Database, to determine whether deal structures that bypass ESG exclusions and screens are common.

They found two North American banks, Citibank and JPMorgan Chase, have made the most capital available – $2.43bn and $2.42bn respectively – to companies that operate oil and gas projects in the Amazon. JPMorgan Chase recently withdrew from the Equator Principles Association, which serves as a common baseline for institutions to manage environmental and social risks when financing projects.

The third biggest financier over the past two decades is Itaú Unibanco of Brazil, which, the report claims, does not have any exclusions or screens that apply to oil and gas operations in the region. The database shows it has financed projects by Eneva, Frontera, Geopark, Petrobras, Petroquimica Comodoro Rivadavia and Transportadora de Gas del Perú.

Fifth on the list was Bank of America. Last year, it was the number one financier of oil and gas in the Amazon and extended 99% of transactions in the form of syndicated bonds, the report says, which means these deals would not necessarily have been subjected to enhanced ESG screening.

The report urges banks to adopt a geographic exclusion covering all transactions involving the oil and gas sector in the Amazon. The authors say this is essential because the rainforest is the world’s most important terrestrial carbon sink and home of biodiversity, yet it is degrading towards a point of no return.

“We are literally living in a rainforest on fire, our rivers are either polluted or drying up,” said Fany Kuiru, the general coordinator of COICA. “Our fate is your fate: the Amazon is critical for the future of our planet. The banks try to wash their hands of the blame through vague policies but must be held accountable for the damage their money is causing to Amazonian Indigenous peoples and the biodiversity of the rainforest. Not a single drop of Amazon oil has been extracted with the consent of Indigenous peoples. We demand Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, Itaú Unibanco, Santander and Bank of America to end oil and gas financing.”

Since Stand.earth launched its Exit Amazon Oil and Gas campaign, it says several banks including BNP Paribas, Natixis, ING, and Credit Suisse have promised to end their financing of trade in oil from ports in Ecuador and Peru, which covers much of the fossil fuel trade from the Amazon. HSBC and Barclays have also applied comprehensive geographic exclusion policies.

The authors say they want to work with the remaining funders of Amazon oil and gas to tighten their ESG policies and exclude petroleum projects in the rainforest from their portfolios.

Robertson said the five banks have policies that “seem very token; they appear to be more about risk to reputation than risks of impacts on the ground”. But she stressed this could change. “There are lots of opportunities for banks to respond adequately and to embody environmental risk in their portfolios because that is what the future holds. With climate change and biodiversity loss looming over us, we need banks making better decision for the sake of their clients and their own business interests. This is a reckoning here and a call to responsibility.

“We have tried to give a sense of the adverse effects on the ground. This is an effort not just to reveal banks’ greenwashing but to put voices front and centre of those most affected in the Amazon.”

Some in the financial industry dispute the methodology of the report, saying it was not appropriate to add up multi-year financing, lines of credit, refinancing and indirect financing and then suggest this amount was funnelled to a particular group. They said general corporate purposes loans have long comprised the vast majority of the credit markets and that it would be necessary to ask specific companies whether or how this capital is used.

Several banks said they apply ESG guidelines to general corporate purpose bonds.

Citibank said it had a “comprehensive enterprise security risk management policy, which outlines our expectations for clients and leads us to do enhanced due diligence around activities with elevated risks related to human rights, biodiversity, Indigenous peoples, critical habitats, community conflict and/or environmental justice. We engage directly with clients to evaluate their commitment, capacity, policies, management systems and staffing to manage these specific environmental and social risks.” The company updated its agricultural risk policy in 2022.

JPMorgan Chase said: “We support fundamental principles of human rights, including Indigenous peoples’ rights, across all our lines of business and in each region of the world in which we operate. Our 2023 ESG report reflects our policies and practices regarding environmental and social risks as well as human rights, including restricted activities and sensitive business activities. Client and transaction screening against our restricted activities and sensitive business activities subject to enhanced review includes GCP (general corporate purposes) financing activities. It is not limited to project finance.”

Regarding JPMorgan Chase’s decision to leave the Equator Principles Association, a spokesperson added that EPA membership was “not necessary for us to independently uphold best-in-class environmental and social risk management standards”, and that the company would remain aligned to the organisation’s principles.

Bank of America referred the Guardian to its environmental and social risk policy framework, which notes “enhanced due diligence for transactions in which the majority use of proceeds is attributed to identified activities that may negatively impact an area used by or traditionally claimed by an indigenous community”.

A spokesperson for Santander said: “We understand fully the importance of protecting the Amazon and supporting sustainable development in the region. All financing decision are guided by a strict policy framework approved by our board of directors, and our activities align with all environmental regulations in the region. We are also actively involved in several industry initiatives to protect the region and work proactively with clients, as well as other banks, governments, regulators and other institutions to help improve practices, recognising this is a highly complex challenge that requires a multifaceted, multilateral response.”

Itaú Unibanco had not replied to the Guardian’s request for comment at the time of publication.

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World’s top banks ‘greenwashing their role in destruction of the Amazon’

Institutions alleged to have given billions of dollars to oil and gas companies involved in projects that are harming the rainforests

Five of the world’s biggest banks are “greenwashing” their role in the destruction of the Amazon, according to a report that indicates that their environmental and social guidelines fail to cover more than 70% of the rainforest.

The institutions are alleged to have provided billions of dollars of finance to oil and gas companies involved in projects that are impacting the Amazon, destabilising the climate or impinging on the land and livelihoods of Indigenous peoples.

The banks say they follow ethical policies that help to protect intact forests, biodiversity hotspots, indigenous territories and nature reserves. However, the investigation says it has found geographical and technical limitations on their ability to monitor and achieve these stated goals.

The report was produced by the watchdog organisation Stand.earth and the Coordinating Body of Indigenous Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA). The organisations mapped the extent of the environmental and social governance (ESG) commitments of five leading funders of fossil fuel operators in the South American biome. Those banks – Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, Itaú Unibanco, Santander and Bank of America – together account for more than half of the loans to companies in this sector.

The analysis found that on average, 71% of the Amazon is not effectively protected by the five banks’ risk management policies for climate change, biodiversity, forest cover, and Indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ rights.

The gaps ranged significantly from company to company. At one end of the spectrum is JPMorgan Chase, whose biodiversity protections, the report’s authors say, apply only to Unesco world heritage sites that cover just 2% of the Amazon and are, in any case, unlikely to be considered for oil and gas exploration.

On the positive side, the study commended the British bank HSBC, which was once a major funder of destructive projects in the region but has not provided any financing since it adopted a 100% Amazon exclusion policy in December 2022.

“So far, HSBC has been true to their word,” said Angeline Robertson, the lead author of the report. “This shows it can be done and has been done, even by a company that used to have a big stake”

Some banks argue they play a positive role by encouraging extractive industries to adopt more responsible policies. However, according to the authors of the report, while bank loan arrangements involve long-term relationships and potential influence, the majority of financing by the big five comes in the form of syndicated general corporate purpose bonds. These bonds, which are standard practice, are for broadly defined purposes and require little or no follow-up once an agreement is signed. This potentially makes it difficult to apply due diligence guidelines on specific environmental or social concerns.

The Spanish bank Santander – Europe’s largest financier of oil and gas in the Amazon and fourth largest worldwide with almost $1.4bn (£1.1bn) in direct financing between 2009 and 2023 – has one of the most extensive exclusion policies for oil and gas, covering 16% of the Amazon, but the report indicates that 85% of its transactions are in the form of syndicated bonds, which lack transparency and reduce the bank’s liability as a contributor to adverse impacts.

The authors examined 560 transactions involving oil and gas activities by 280 banks over the past 20 years in the Amazon using Stand’s Amazon Banks Database, to determine whether deal structures that bypass ESG exclusions and screens are common.

They found two North American banks, Citibank and JPMorgan Chase, have made the most capital available – $2.43bn and $2.42bn respectively – to companies that operate oil and gas projects in the Amazon. JPMorgan Chase recently withdrew from the Equator Principles Association, which serves as a common baseline for institutions to manage environmental and social risks when financing projects.

The third biggest financier over the past two decades is Itaú Unibanco of Brazil, which, the report claims, does not have any exclusions or screens that apply to oil and gas operations in the region. The database shows it has financed projects by Eneva, Frontera, Geopark, Petrobras, Petroquimica Comodoro Rivadavia and Transportadora de Gas del Perú.

Fifth on the list was Bank of America. Last year, it was the number one financier of oil and gas in the Amazon and extended 99% of transactions in the form of syndicated bonds, the report says, which means these deals would not necessarily have been subjected to enhanced ESG screening.

The report urges banks to adopt a geographic exclusion covering all transactions involving the oil and gas sector in the Amazon. The authors say this is essential because the rainforest is the world’s most important terrestrial carbon sink and home of biodiversity, yet it is degrading towards a point of no return.

“We are literally living in a rainforest on fire, our rivers are either polluted or drying up,” said Fany Kuiru, the general coordinator of COICA. “Our fate is your fate: the Amazon is critical for the future of our planet. The banks try to wash their hands of the blame through vague policies but must be held accountable for the damage their money is causing to Amazonian Indigenous peoples and the biodiversity of the rainforest. Not a single drop of Amazon oil has been extracted with the consent of Indigenous peoples. We demand Citibank, JPMorgan Chase, Itaú Unibanco, Santander and Bank of America to end oil and gas financing.”

Since Stand.earth launched its Exit Amazon Oil and Gas campaign, it says several banks including BNP Paribas, Natixis, ING, and Credit Suisse have promised to end their financing of trade in oil from ports in Ecuador and Peru, which covers much of the fossil fuel trade from the Amazon. HSBC and Barclays have also applied comprehensive geographic exclusion policies.

The authors say they want to work with the remaining funders of Amazon oil and gas to tighten their ESG policies and exclude petroleum projects in the rainforest from their portfolios.

Robertson said the five banks have policies that “seem very token; they appear to be more about risk to reputation than risks of impacts on the ground”. But she stressed this could change. “There are lots of opportunities for banks to respond adequately and to embody environmental risk in their portfolios because that is what the future holds. With climate change and biodiversity loss looming over us, we need banks making better decision for the sake of their clients and their own business interests. This is a reckoning here and a call to responsibility.

“We have tried to give a sense of the adverse effects on the ground. This is an effort not just to reveal banks’ greenwashing but to put voices front and centre of those most affected in the Amazon.”

Some in the financial industry dispute the methodology of the report, saying it was not appropriate to add up multi-year financing, lines of credit, refinancing and indirect financing and then suggest this amount was funnelled to a particular group. They said general corporate purposes loans have long comprised the vast majority of the credit markets and that it would be necessary to ask specific companies whether or how this capital is used.

Several banks said they apply ESG guidelines to general corporate purpose bonds.

Citibank said it had a “comprehensive enterprise security risk management policy, which outlines our expectations for clients and leads us to do enhanced due diligence around activities with elevated risks related to human rights, biodiversity, Indigenous peoples, critical habitats, community conflict and/or environmental justice. We engage directly with clients to evaluate their commitment, capacity, policies, management systems and staffing to manage these specific environmental and social risks.” The company updated its agricultural risk policy in 2022.

JPMorgan Chase said: “We support fundamental principles of human rights, including Indigenous peoples’ rights, across all our lines of business and in each region of the world in which we operate. Our 2023 ESG report reflects our policies and practices regarding environmental and social risks as well as human rights, including restricted activities and sensitive business activities. Client and transaction screening against our restricted activities and sensitive business activities subject to enhanced review includes GCP (general corporate purposes) financing activities. It is not limited to project finance.”

Regarding JPMorgan Chase’s decision to leave the Equator Principles Association, a spokesperson added that EPA membership was “not necessary for us to independently uphold best-in-class environmental and social risk management standards”, and that the company would remain aligned to the organisation’s principles.

Bank of America referred the Guardian to its environmental and social risk policy framework, which notes “enhanced due diligence for transactions in which the majority use of proceeds is attributed to identified activities that may negatively impact an area used by or traditionally claimed by an indigenous community”.

A spokesperson for Santander said: “We understand fully the importance of protecting the Amazon and supporting sustainable development in the region. All financing decision are guided by a strict policy framework approved by our board of directors, and our activities align with all environmental regulations in the region. We are also actively involved in several industry initiatives to protect the region and work proactively with clients, as well as other banks, governments, regulators and other institutions to help improve practices, recognising this is a highly complex challenge that requires a multifaceted, multilateral response.”

Itaú Unibanco had not replied to the Guardian’s request for comment at the time of publication.

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Kate Connolly is the Guardian’s Berlin correspondent

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, has told the Ukraine Recovery Conference taking place in Berlin that accession talks with Ukraine to join the European Union will start at the end of this month, with Ukraine having fulfilled all the necessary reform requirements to enable it to become a member of the bloc.

Singapore Airlines offers $10,000 compensation to those injured in turbulence flight

The airline has said that anyone who sustained serious injuries on SQ321 last month could be entitled to a larger payment

Singapore Airlines has offered US$10,000 compensation payments to passengers who suffered minor injuries during a flight last month that hit sudden, extreme turbulence.

On Tuesday, the airline announced that it had sent compensation offers to passengers who were on board flight SQ321 from London to Singapore on 20 May, which dropped 54 metres in altitude in less than five seconds while flying over Myanmar.

A 73-year-old British man died during the incident – possibly from a heart attack – and the Boeing 777-300ER diverted to Bangkok for an emergency landing.

Of the 211 passengers and 18 crew onboard, 104 people were injured. As of Monday, 12 passengers remain hospitalised in Bangkok.

The airline said it sent compensation offers of US$10,000 to those who received minor injuries on Monday, and would discuss larger payments for more serious injuries with those passengers.

“For those who sustained more serious injuries from the incident, we have invited them to discuss a compensation offer to meet each of their specific circumstances when they feel well and ready to do so,” the airline said.

“Passengers medically assessed as having sustained serious injuries, requiring long-term medical care, and requesting financial assistance are offered an advance payment of US$25,000 to address their immediate needs. This will be part of the final compensation that these passengers will receive,” it said.

Singapore Airlines will also refund all passengers on the flight, even those who were not injured, as well as offer compensation for delays they are entitled to under the European Union’s or United Kingdom’s regulatory schemes.

Under the Montreal convention, airlines are liable for damages for the injury or death of passengers while on an airplane.

While many passengers sustained minor injuries and continued their travels, 20 were treated in intensive care units in Bangkok hospitals.

Injuries of the most seriously affected passengers included skull, brain and spinal injuries, with at least one passenger subsequently experiencing no sensation from her waist down.

Photographs of the inside of the cabin showed oxygen masks and panels hanging from the ceiling, and the floor covered in food and drinks, with luggage scattered around. Patches of blood stained the cabin carpets. One passenger told Reuters overhead plastic panels had been broken by the impact of people’s heads slamming into them.

The airline noted it provided all passengers with S$1,000 (US$739) each “to meet their immediate expenses upon departure from Bangkok”, and that it had also been covering the medical expenses of the injured passengers, and arranged for their family members and loved ones to fly up to Bangkok where requested.

“The aircraft experienced a rapid change in G [gravitational force] … This likely resulted in the occupants who were not belted up to become airborne,” Singapore’s transport ministry said in a statement on a report by the Transport Safety Investigation Bureau.

“The vertical acceleration changed from negative 1.5G to positive 1.5G within 4 seconds. This likely resulted in the occupants who were airborne to fall back down,” it said, citing information extracted from the flight data and cockpit voice recorders.

AFP contributed additional reporting

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Gary Glitter ordered to pay more than £500,000 to woman he abused

Disgraced paedophile pop star told to pay £508,800 in damages including for lost earnings and future therapy

The disgraced paedophile pop star Gary Glitter has been ordered by a high court judge to pay £508,800 in damages to one of the women he abused.

More details soon …

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Hong Kong is ‘slowly becoming a totalitarian state​’, says UK judge

​L​ord Sumption, who last week quit territory’s top court​, speaks out on ‘paranoid atmosphere’ under Chinese rule

A British judge has described the “paranoid atmosphere” in Hong Kong as he explained his decision to step down from the territory’s top court.

Jonathan Sumption, along with another British judge, Lawrence Collins, last week resigned from Hong Kong’s court of final appeal (CFA).

Their decision came shortly after 14 people were found guilty of conspiracy to commit subversion in the biggest national security trial of pro-democracy activists.

Writing in the Financial Times to explain his decision to step down, Lord Sumption warned that Hong Kong was “slowly becoming a totalitarian state”.

The chief executive of Hong Kong, John Lee, has hit back at Sumption, suggesting the actions of the former British supreme court justice were politically motivated.

“His professional duty is to apply the … law in accordance with legal principles and evidence, whether he likes that law or not, not from his political stance,” Lee said.

A national security law passed in 2020 in response to mass protests in 2019 was “extremely illiberal”, Sumption told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday.

“The real problem, I think, in Hong Kong is the paranoid atmosphere there,” he continued. “This is said to be a response to the 2019 riots, but there were already laws perfectly capable of dealing with those. The object has become increasingly clear of the national security law was to crush peaceful political dissent, not just riots.”

Sumption said China was increasingly intervening in legal decisions in the territory.

“There is the problem that under the basic law, if China doesn’t like the court’s decisions, they can reverse them by what is called an interpretation, although it’s usually just a legislative intervention … It was initially unclear how frequently this would be used, but recent incidents have indicated that the Chinese are determined to use this provision in order to ensure that its opponents lose.”

At the end of May, 14 pro-democracy activists were found guilty of subversion in the largest application of the national security law to date. They included the former lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung and Helena Wong, the journalist turned campaigner Gwyneth Ho and others who joined the mass protests of 2019.

“I think that the picture is getting darker,” Sumption said. “The judgment on the 30 May against the 14 democracy activists was a major indication of the lengths to which some judges are prepared to go to ensure that Beijing’s campaign against those who have supported democracy succeeds.”

Lee, who assumed office as chief executive of Hong Kong in 2022, said in response to Sumption’s article in the FT: “This latest statement indicates that he doesn’t like the political situation in Hong Kong, but this is exactly the area he has told us in 2021 that should not be confused with the rule of law,” Lee said.

“His professional duty is to apply the … law in accordance with legal principles and evidence, whether he likes that law or not, not from his political stance.”

Overseas judges on Hong Kong’s top court have been a fixture of the city’s legal system, which unlike mainland China’s is derived from English common law, since the handover from British to Chinese rule in 1997.

The judges serve in a private capacity and are paid about £40,000 a visit, flying into Hong Kong to sit on certain cases. For decades, they were seen as lending prestige and expertise to a jurisdiction admired across Asia.

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South Korea says it fired ‘warning shots’ after North Korean soldiers crossed border

Incident comes at time of heightened tensions between neighbours, as tit-for-tat actions increase after North Korea sent rubbish-filled balloons into the South

South Korea’s military has said it fired warning shots after North Korean soldiers briefly crossed the border this week, amid rising tensions after Pyongyang sent rubbish-carrying balloons into the South and Seoul retaliated with a loudspeaker propaganda campaign.

“Some North Korean soldiers working within the DMZ on the central front briefly crossed the Military Demarcation Line,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff [JCS] said in a statement on Tuesday, referring to the line of control in the heavily fortified border between the two Koreas.

“After our military issued warning broadcasts and warning shots, they retreated northward,” it said, adding the incident happened 9 June.

“Apart from the immediate retreat of the North Korean soldiers following our warning shots, there were no unusual movements observed”, the JCS said, adding the military was closely monitoring troops near the border.

South Korea’s military has assessed that the North Korean soldiers didn’t appear to have intentionally crossed the border because the site is a wooded area and MDL signs there weren’t clearly visible, JCS spokesperson Lee Sung Joon told reporters.

The mine-strewn DMZ is the world’s most heavily armed border, with hundreds of thousands of troops facing each other – a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean war, which ended with an armistice but not a peace treaty.

Tensions between the two Koreas – which remain technically at war – are at one of their highest points in years.

In recent weeks, North Korea has sent hundreds of balloons laden with cigarette butts, manure and toilet paper south of the border in what it calls retaliation for balloons carrying anti-Pyongyang propaganda sent by activists in the South.

The South Korean government this month fully suspended a 2018 military deal and restarted loudspeaker propaganda broadcasts along the border in response to the balloons, infuriating the North, which warned Seoul was creating “a new crisis”.

South Korea’s military said on Monday it had detected signs the North was installing its own loudspeakers.

North Korea had used loudspeakers along the border since the 1960s, typically broadcasting praise of the Kim family, but suspended their use in 2018 as ties improved.

Experts have warned that the decision to jettison the 2018 deal and restart loudspeaker broadcasts could have serious implications.

Previous propaganda tit-for-tat actions have had real-world consequences for inter-Korean relations.

In 2020, Pyongyang, blaming anti-North leaflets, unilaterally cut off all official military and political communication links with the South and blew up an inter-Korean liaison office on its side of the border.

With Agence France-Presse and Associated Press

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