Experts recommend options for addressing adverse effects of mercury UN agency says

The UNEP Global Mercury Assessment Working Group, which wrapped up a weeklong meeting in Geneva, also recommended that governments reduce risks by cutting or eliminating the production and consumption of mercury by substituting other products and processes. States were also urged to launch talks for a legally-binding treaty, establish a non-binding global programme of action, and strengthen cooperation among countries on information-sharing, risk communication, assessment and related activities.The Working Group also recommended a number of immediate actions to enhance outreach to highly vulnerable groups, such as pregnant women, provide technical and financial support to developing countries and to countries with economies in transition, and support increased research, monitoring and data-collection on the health and environmental aspects of mercury and on environmentally friendly alternatives to the chemical.These recommendations, together with a detailed assessment report, will be forwarded to UNEP’s Governing Council, which meets next February in Nairobi. Based on the Working Group’s scientific and technical advice, the Governing Council may adopt political decisions that will set the course for global action on mercury for years to come.”These recommendations from the scientists and experts are the first essential step on the road to reducing and one day eliminating the environmental and health risks of mercury,” said UNEP Executive Director Klaus Toepfer. “Now it is up to the politicians and policy-makers to decide just where we go from here.” read more

As Security Council holds urgent talks UN officials urge dialogue to resolve

Top United Nations officials on Saturday called for direct dialogue between all concerned amid the growing tensions in the Crimea region of Ukraine, as the Security Council held urgent talks for the second day in a row on the crisis.Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is “gravely concerned” about the deterioration of the situation, spoke by telephone with Russian President Vladimir Putin today.“It is crucial to restore calm and proceed to an immediate de-escalation of the situation. Cool heads must prevail and dialogue must be the only tool in ending this crisis,” Mr. Ban said afterwards, adding that he appealed to Mr. Putin to urgently engage in direct dialogue with the authorities in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev.In a statement issued earlier in the day by his spokesperson, the Secretary-General reiterated his call for the full respect for and preservation of Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.During the Security Council’s discussions, members expressed grave concern about the rapidly deteriorating situation in Ukraine, Ambassador Sylvie Lucas of Luxembourg, which holds the Council presidency for March, told reporters after closed-door talks.Council members also “stressed the need for an urgent de-escalation of the situation, and reiterated their call on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and to refrain from action and rhetoric which might exacerbate the situation,” she added. Ukraine has been witnessing violent unrest for several months and last week saw the removal by Parliament of President Viktor Yanukovych. Tensions have been mounting in recent days in the Crimea region, where additional Russian troops and armoured vehicles have reportedly been deployed.In addition, Russia’s Upper House of Parliament today approved Mr. Putin’s request for Russian forces to be used in Ukraine, ‘pending the normalization of the public and political situation in the country.’In a briefing to an open meeting of the Security Council, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said key sites in Crimea such as airports, communications and public buildings, including the regional parliament, reportedly continue to be blocked by unidentified armed men. There are further reports of armed personnel taking control of regional administration buildings in several cities in the East and South of Ukraine.“The new Crimean Prime Minister, Sergei Aksenov, today released a statement appealing to President Putin ‘to provide assistance in ensuring peace and tranquility on the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea’,” said Mr. Eliasson. In the same statement, Mr. Aksenov announced that he was taking control of security in Crimea ‘on a temporary basis,’ and told all security personnel to declare allegiance to him rather than to the authorities of Kiev.“At this crucial moment it is important to recall the mission of this Organization to always search for peaceful settlements of disputes. This is the essence of the UN Charter and should serve as our primary guide in this serious situation,” the Deputy Secretary-General stressed.The Secretary-General’s Senior Advisor, Robert Serry, today appealed to all sides to refrain from any actions that could further escalate an already tense environment in Crimea. Mr. Serry, who was dispatched to Kiev earlier this week by Mr. Ban, was requested to go to Crimea as part of his fact-finding mission.“I have since been in touch with the authorities of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and have come to the conclusion that a visit to Crimea today is not possible,” Mr. Serry said in a statement. He added that he will now proceed to Geneva, where he will brief the Secretary-General tomorrow on the mission and consult with him on next steps.“In Crimea, I would have conveyed, also on behalf of the Secretary-General, a message for all to calm the situation down and to refrain from any actions that could further escalate an already-tense environment,” said Mr. Serry.He noted that it was clear from yesterday’s Council session that the unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine is not to be called into question. “This is a time for dialogue and to engage with each other constructively,” he stressed. read more

Pro12 report Ulster maintain pace at summit with bonus point in Connacht

first_imgULSTER TIGHTENED THEIR grip on top spot of the RaboDirect Pro12 with an impressive 34-18 win over Connacht in Galway.With five tries on the board, the additional five points ensured that Glasgow Warriors remain four points behind the northern province after they too won out against the Ospreys in Scotstoun20-year-old centre Stuart Olding, Andrew Trimble, Rory Best, Tommy Bowe and Jared Payne all crossed the whitewash for Ulster with Ruan Pienaar adding nine points with the boot.The provinces shared five tries in a frenetic first half played in ideal conditions in The Sportsground.The Westerners got off to a flier in front of their vibrant support, George Naupo finding himself in acres of space from a Kieran Marmion pass after Pienaar was caught defending the open side.But by the 12th minute,  Connacht found themselves 5-12 down as Ulster showed their table-topping class to retake the lead with almost every back getting a hand on the ball thanks to Darren Cave’s break and pass. Trimble and Jared Payne ensured the flow continued to be fast and the Kiwi put Olding on a line in under the posts.Within minutes, Trimble had shown his pace and power to plunder a score in the right hand corner. But the see-saw flipped back against him when he shot up to hit Vainikolo with the ball, but failed to get a hand on the Tongan wing and he made his way to the line.Scoreless12-12 turned to 15-15 after Pienaar and Dan Parks had added their penalty prowess to the spectacle, but eight minutes before the break Best’s try gave the Springbok the platform to stretch the lead out to seven points.15-22 was how it stayed through half-time and only a Miah Nikora penalty had the scoreboard ticking in the 39 minutes between Ulster scores.Half a game without a score looked extremely improbable after a wide open first half. But Mark Anscombe had clearly sent his side out to quieten the game down in the second period and the did just that. Lewis Stevenson’s shadow claims a line-out. ©INPHO/James CrombieThe job was only fully complete with the bonus point and Bowe furthered his Lions case with the 71st minute score three minutes before Payne took Ulster over the 30 mark.The result leaves Leinster need a win away to Zebre to prevent Ulster sealing a home semi-final this weekend. Anscombe’s men finish the regular season at home to the Cardiff Blues on 3 May.Connacht, still with two games left to play under Eric Elwood, remain ninth in the table.Pro12 report: Munster fall to Dragons in WalesBrian O’Driscoll thinks Henry Shefflin is Ireland’s greatest ever athletelast_img read more