LONDON (Reuters) - Rapid population growth, lack of access to food and water and increased exposure to natural disasters mean more than 1 billion people face being displaced by 2050, according to a new analysis of global ecological threats.

FILE PHOTO: Caked mud is seen before a small patch of water as the region deals with a prolonged drought at a dam near Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, January 18, 2020. Picture taken January 18, 2020. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Compiled by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), a think-tank that produces annual terrorism and peace indexes, the Ecological Threat Register uses data from the United Nations and other sources to assess eight ecological threats and predict which countries and regions are most at risk.

With the world’s population forecast to rise to nearly 10 billion by 2050, intensifying the scramble for resources and fuelling conflict, the research shows as many as 1.2 billion people living in vulnerable areas of sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East may be forced to migrate by 2050.

By comparison, ecological factors and conflict led to the displacement of some 30 million people in 2019, the report said.

“This will have huge social and political impacts, not just in the developing world, but also in the developed, as mass displacement will lead to larger refugee flows to the most developed countries,” said Steve Killelea, IEP’s founder.

The register groups the threats into two broad categories: food insecurity, water scarcity and population growth in one; and natural disasters including floods, droughts, cyclones, rising sea levels and rising temperatures in the other.

The result is an analysis assessing how many threats each of some 150 countries faces and their capacity to withstand them.

While some, such as India and China, are most threatened by water scarcity in the coming decades, others like Pakistan, Iran, Mozambique, Kenya and Madagascar face a toxic combination of threats, as well as a diminishing ability to deal with them.

“These countries are broadly stable now but have high exposure to ecological threats and low and deteriorating ‘positive peace’, which means they are at higher risk of future collapse,” the 90-page analysis found.

Killelea said the world now has 60% less fresh water available than it did 50 years ago, while demand for food is forecast to rise by 50% in the next 30 years, driven in large part by the expansion of the middle class in Asia.

Those factors, combined with natural disasters that are only likely to increase in frequency because of climate change, mean even stable states are vulnerable by 2050.

The IEP said it hoped the register, which may become an annual analysis, would shape aid and development policies, with more emphasis and funding going towards climate-related impacts.

A Wisconsin priest who condemned Catholic Democrats has the support of a Texas bishop.

Father James Altman, pastor of St. James the Less Catholic Church, lashed out at Father James Martin, who participated in the Democratic National Convention. In a 10-minute video posted to YouTube, Altman called the priest a “hyper, confusing spreading heretic” and had harsh words toward Democrats.

“Here is a memo to clueless baptized Catholics out there: You cannot be Catholic and be a Democrat. Period,” Altman said in the video posted Aug. 30. “The party platform absolutely is against everything the Catholic Church teaches, so just quit pretending that you’re Catholic and vote Democrat. Repent of your support of that party and its platform or face the fires of hell.”

Tyler, Texas, Bishop Joseph Strickland tweeted his endorsement of Altman’s statement.

“My shame is that it has taken me so long,” Strickland said Sept. 5 of the video. “Thank You Fr. Altman for your COURAGE.”

Strickland’s tweet has garnered more than 3,800 likes and 1,700 retweets as of Sept. 8.

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden is well-known to be a devout Catholic and grew up practicing the religion at parishes and parochial schools in Pennsylvania and Delaware, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

Martin, a Vatican consultant, said on Twitter last week he overheard priests saying voting for Biden is a “mortal sin.” He rebuked that claim and urged priests to stop using such language.

“It is not a sin to vote for either Mr. Biden or Mr. Trump,” Martin said. “Nor is it a sin to be Democrat or Republican.”

A Pew Research poll last month found white Catholics support President Donald Trump for reelection by a margin of 19 points, but Hispanic Catholics overwhelmingly support Biden, according to the Catholic News Agency.

BANGKOK (AP) — Two soldiers who deserted from Myanmar’s army have testified on video that they were instructed by commanding officers to “shoot all that you see and that you hear” in villages where minority Rohingya Muslims lived, a human rights group said Tuesday.

The comments appear to be the first public confession by soldiers of involvement in army-directed massacres, rape and other crimes against Rohingya in the Buddhist-majority country, and the group Fortify Rights suggested they could provide important evidence for an ongoing investigation by the International Criminal Court.

More than 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape what Myanmar’s military called a clearance campaign following an attack by a Rohingya insurgent group in Rakhine state. Myanmar's government has denied accusations that security forces committed mass rapes and killings and burned thousands of homes.

Fortify Rights, which focuses on Myanmar, said the two army privates fled the country last month and are believed to be in the custody of the International Criminal Court in the Netherlands, which is examining the violence against the Rohingya.

According to Fortify Rights, privates Myo Win Tun, 33, and Zaw Naing Tun, 30, who served in separate light infantry battalions, gave “the names and ranks of 19 direct perpetrators from the Myanmar army, including themselves, as well as six senior commanders ... they claim ordered or contributed to atrocity crimes against Rohingya."

The videos were filmed in July while the soldiers were in the custody of the Arakan Army, an ethnic guerrilla group in Rakhine engaged in an armed conflict with the government, and included subtitled translations into English, the human rights group said. They were posted on Fortify Rights' page on a video-sharing site, where the Associated Press viewed them.

The AP was not able to independently corroborate the soldiers’ accounts or ascertain whether they made their statements under duress.

However, U.N. agencies and human rights organizations have extensively documented atrocities carried out against the Rohingya by Myanmar security forces. The International Court of Justice agreed last year to consider a case alleging that Myanmar committed genocide against the group. The court’s proceedings are likely to continue for years.

Myanmar has long considered Rohingya Muslims to have migrated illegally from Bangladesh, even though their families have lived in Myanmar for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless. They are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.

In separate videos, the two soldiers were shown seated stiffly in military uniforms with a sheet covering the background, as an off-screen male voice asked them questions. The details in the questions, as well as the ready answers about events that occurred about three years earlier, made it evident the content was prepared, if not actually rehearsed. However, the violent acts the men described echoed the vast number of accounts of atrocities collected by U.N. investigators and independent human rights workers from Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

After answering questions about his name, serial number and military units, Myo Win Tun said the commander of the 15th Military Operations Center, whom he named as Col. Than Htike, gave an order to “shoot all you see and all you hear” when raiding Muslim villages. He said in one operation, they killed and buried 30 people: “eight women, seven children and 15 men and elderly.”

He asserted that Col Than Htike ordered his unit to “exterminate all Kalar” — a derogatory name for the Rohingya — and that they shot the men in their foreheads and kicked their bodies into a hole. They also raped the women before killing them and he admitted to carrying out one rape.

He said his unit appropriated mobile phones and laptops, and also seized cattle, an allegation that has been widely reported.

Staring directly at the camera with barely any perceptible movement, Zaw Naing Tun recounted how his unit “wiped out” 20 Rohingya villages.

The soldier said about 80 people in all were killed, including children, adults and the elderly of both sexes. The killings were sanctioned by his battalion commander, Lt. Col Myo Myint Aung, he said.

In one incident, 10 villagers suspected of belonging to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, the Rohingya insurgent group, were captured and tied up, and then shot on the orders of a captain, he said, acknowledging that he was one of the shooters.

Zaw Naing Tun said he was present when a sergeant and a corporal raped three Rohingya women in the course of searching houses, but asserted he did not carry out any rapes.

He acknowledged taking part in looting, saying his unit officer declared “what you take is what you get” ahead of a raid on a market.

“We entered into the market, destroyed locks and doors, and then we took money, gold, clothes, food and mobile phones,” he said.

Fortify Rights said the two deserters arrived at Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh in mid-August and asked Bangladesh authorities for protection. Bangladesh officials then notified the International Criminal Court about their presence, and said they are no longer in Bangladesh, according to Fortify Rights.

Asked about the two soldiers Tuesday, the ICC's Office of the Prosecutor said it does not comment on its ongoing investigations, adding in a statement that it has been “independently and impartially collecting evidence from a variety of sources regarding the alleged atrocity crimes.”

"These confessions demonstrate what we’ve long known, which is that the Myanmar army is a well-functioning national army operating with a specific and centralized command structure,” Fortify Rights chief Matthew Smith said in a statement. “Commanders control, direct, and order their subordinates in all they do. In this case, commanders ordered foot soldiers to commit genocidal acts and exterminate Rohingya, and that’s exactly what they did.”

Under the legal doctrine of command responsibility, higher-ranking officers are held responsible for heinous acts carried out by those serving under them.

That the two men described similar atrocities in separate areas also “may indicate operational consistency between battalions, coordination, and intent to commit genocide,” Fortify Rights said.

It said the video confessions appeared to be credible because their content was consistent with other evidence previously unearthed by the group and other investigators, such as the U.N.-empowered Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.

Fortify Rights urged that the two former soldiers be tried by the ICC and that the court put them in a witness protection program.

“It is reasonable to assume Myo Win Tun and Zaw Naing Tun could plead guilty to the crimes to which they confessed in exchange for becoming ‘insider witnesses’ for future trials. Such a development would significantly advance efforts to hold perpetrators accountable for atrocity crimes against Rohingya,” the group said.

The International Court of Justice is the U.N.’s top court. It settles disputes between nations and does not prosecute individuals. The International Criminal Court, which seeks to hold individuals responsible for crimes, has not issued any public indictments in the investigation it is conducting. Both courts are based in The Hague in the Netherlands.


A university in northwestern Turkey has developed a test for the novel coronavirus that produces results in eight minutes, experts announced on Tuesday.

Mustafa Kemal Sezginturk, a lecturer at Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University's Bioengineering Department, said with the new test kit, faster and more reliable results could be obtained compared to similar tests in the world.

For his part, university Rector Sedat Murat said the most important part of the project was that it was the first of its kind developed not only in Turkey but also in the rest of the world.

"There are only antibody tests in the world. The accuracy rate varies at 63% in PCRs. In other words, there is a margin of error of around 40%, but with this test developed by our professor, a 100% result is obtained in a short time like five to 10 minutes," Murat said.

The test also determines whether one has had COVID-19 earlier, he added.

Sezginturk noted that the team had been conducting research with the university's own resources since mid-March.

"The product of our project has become a kit that produces results in a very short time in eight minutes and gives much more accurate results than the ones currently on the market," he said.

"We're about to complete our work," he said. "In a few weeks, the optimization process we'll conduct on real blood samples will be completed. After that, hopefully, our kit will be ready for use."

Noting that they had begun efforts to start the mass production of the kit, Sezginturk said: "The patent rights of the kit we've developed will have to be obtained first."

"We'll also apply to our country's funding institutions. They had also given very substantial support in this regard," he said, adding that they planned to introduce the project to important funders including development agencies and the Health Ministry.

Turkey's COVID-19 tally on Tuesday rose to 283,270, according to Health Ministry.

The ministry data showed that 6,782 patients had lost their lives, while recoveries reached 253,245.

Across the world, COVID-19 has claimed over 893,000 lives in 188 countries and regions since last December.

More than 27.4 million cases have been reported worldwide, including over 18.3 million patients who have recovered, according to figures compiled by the US-based Johns Hopkins University./aa


Stocks of major US technology companies may end rallies and tumble in 2021 as the economy reopens and the coronavirus pandemic ends, an expert warned Tuesday.

"There is the Teslas, Zooms, Docusigns, then there are the FAANGS,” -- they are that lower, “and then there is rest. At that very top, it got crazy," Wharton's finance professor Jeremy Siegel told CNBC's Squawk Box.

Electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla saw shares jump more than 480% since the start of 2020 to $502 on Sept. 1.

Zoom, the communications company that helped provide video conference services during months of global quarantines, saw its price skyrocket to $478 on the same day for a 600% increase year-to-date.

Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google's parent Alphabet, also known as FAANG, all saw shares climb during the quarantine as investors viewed their stocks as safe bets, and also after the Federal Reserve injected an unprecedented $3 trillion into the US economy to revive the economy.

Since the beginning of September, however, Tesla saw shares tumble 30%, Zoom fell 25% and FAANG followed suit. While some market analysts view the decline as a correction, others think stocks have entered bear market territory.

"Among the Apples and all the rest, they are high and I don't think they are going to outperform in 2021 as the economy reopens and we get out of COVID, but they are not as crazy," said Siegel of the private Ivy League university in Pennslyvania. "The rest of the stocks, given what I see in the market, I feel very comfortable. If you are in the S&P, I wouldn't worry. But if you have all your assets in those high-flyers, I would be very careful right now.”

The S&P 500 reached an all-time high Sept. 2 at 3,588 but has fallen 6.5% since to 3,366 at 12.50 p.m. EDT Tuesday (1650GMT).

The Nasdaq, which include Tesla, Zoom, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google's parent company, Alphabet, reached a record high of 12,074 the same day, but was down nearly 9% since, fluctuating around 11,025 points.

The S&P 500 announced Tuesday three new firms will be added to the index, but left Tesla out despite the company performing four consecutive quarters of profitability, which is a requirement for inclusion to the index./aa


Wars fought by the US have displaced at least 37 million people since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on America, according to report Tuesday from Brown University.

"That is more than those displaced by any war or disaster since the start of the 20th century, except for World War II," said the report titled "Creating Refugees: Displacement Caused by the United States’ Post-9/11 Wars."

It said most refugees have been hosted by Middle Eastern countries, although the US has taken hundreds of thousands.

Top countries include Afghanistan (5.3 million), Iraq (9.2 million), Pakistan (3.7 million), Yemen (4.4 million), Somalia (4.2 million), the Philippines (1.7 million), Libya (1.2 million) and Syria (7.1 million).

Smaller combat operations have forcibly displaced residents in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mali, Niger, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

"[Thirty-seven] million is a very conservative estimate. The total displaced by the U.S. post-9/11wars could be closer to 48–59 million," said the Rhode Island-based school.

After the 9/11 attacks, the US administration of then-President George W. Bush launched a "global war on terror" and the American military has waged continuous wars for almost two decades.

"Between 2010 and 2019, the total number of refugees and internally displaced people (IDP) globally has nearly doubled from 41 million to 79.5 million," it added./aa


Tension escalated inside Zionist’s Ofer prison on Tuesday following the death of a Palestinian detainee a few months before his release.

According to the Palestinian Prisoner Society (PPC), prison guards stormed two sections inside the prison and transferred many detainees to solitary confinement.

It said that detainees were tortured by prison guards and their belongings were damaged.

“The situation is difficult and complicated inside the prison,” PPC head Qadora Fares told Anadolu Agency.

Last week, Palestinian detainee Daoud al-Khatib, 45, died inside the prison’s section 20, a few months before he completes his 18-year sentence.

The PPC said prisoners protested their colleague’s death by knocking the doors, returning meals and chants.

Zionist prison guards fired teargas to disperse the detainees, injuring 26 of them and confiscated their electronic devices, the NGO said.

“The prison administration wants to silence the prisoners who protest against the policies of neglect and repression,” said Qadri Abu Bakr, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO)'s Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs.

“The prison authorities are taking escalatory steps in violation of international law and WHO protocols related to the coronavirus outbreak,” he said.

Abu Bakr said Israeli prison authorities have isolated 14 prisoners since the protests erupted. “Seven of those prisoners will be transferred to solitary confinement as a punishment,” he said.

“The situation inside the prison amounts to a crisis,” he said. “We expect the situation to worsen and the protests may spill over to other jails.”

Around 850 Palestinian prisoners are held at the Ofer prison, where most coronavirus infections were detected.

A total of 24 Palestinian detainees in Israel have tested positive for the COVID-19, the Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs said.

According to the group, 4,500 detainees are currently incarcerated in Zionist prisons including 700 patients, 300 of which are suffering from chronic diseases.


Air pollution remains Europe's top environmental threat to health, with more than 400,000 premature deaths driven by air pollution every year in the EU, a report said Tuesday.

Noise pollution comes second, contributing to 12,000 premature deaths, followed by climate change impacts, notably heatwaves, an assessment on health and environment by the European Environment Agency (EEA) showed.

Low-quality environments contribute to 13% or one in eight deaths, the report said.

The burden of pollution and climate change varies across Europe, with apparent differences between countries in Europe's east and west.

“There is a clear link between the state of the environment and the health of our population,” said Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans, and Fisheries.

"Everyone must understand that by taking care of our planet, we are not only saving ecosystems, but also lives, especially the ones who are the most vulnerable."

The highest fraction of national deaths, at 27%, is attributable to the environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the lowest in Iceland and Norway at 9%.

Air and noise pollution, climate change impacts such as heatwaves and exposure to dangerous chemicals cause ill health in Europe, said the EEA.

"While we see improvements in the environment in Europe and a clear focus in the Green Deal on a sustainable future, the report indicates that strong action is needed to protect the most vulnerable in our society," said Hans Bruyninck, EEA executive director.

The EEA said that improving European citizens' health and well-being is more important than ever, with attention currently focused on addressing the coronavirus pandemic.

"The pandemic provides a stark example of the complex links between the environment, our social systems, and our health," said Bruyninck.

He added that poverty often goes together with living in poor environmental conditions and poor health.

These connections need to be addressed as part of an integrated approach towards a more inclusive and sustainable Europe, said the report.

He said the EU is devoted to getting a resilient and healthier Europe for European citizens and beyond through a new Biodiversity Strategy, the Circular Economic Action Plan, and other initiatives./aa


France's National Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies released Tuesday official data showing the French economy will bounce back in the third quarter, predicting 17% growth after shrinking by 13.8% over the second quarter of the year.

An estimated 25.5 million people make up the workforce in France, out of a total population of 67.06 million, while unemployment stands at 7.1%. During the second quarter of this year, 215,200 job losses were recorded due to the pandemic shutdown and closing of businesses -- 158,200 of those in the private sector and 57,100 in the public.

Although salaried employment fell by 0.9% in the second quarter, notably, temporary employment surged by 23%, with 108,100 jobs added. Ironically, in the first quarter of the year, temporary employment had dropped drastically, by 40.4%.

COVID-19 cases on Tuesday hit 328,980, up by 4,203 over the last 24 hours, with the death toll standing at 30,726, including 25 new fatalities.

Some 326 people remain in intensive care out of 1,898 in hospitals nationwide. There are 562 clusters of infection throughout departments which presently remain under active investigation, up by 58 over the past 24 hours, according to the latest statistics reported by the French Health Ministry.

Worldwide, more than 27.36 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported so far, with the death toll standing at just over 893,300, according to the US-based Johns Hopkins University.

The government has remained extremely cautious over the spread of the virus, imposing the mandatory wearing of masks both indoors and out throughout the capital, with prefects imposing similar measures in other large cities, like Nice, Marseille, Lille, and Strasbourg.

As of Sept. 1, masks became compulsory in offices as well, the exception being those with large distances between desks, solitary professionals, or for those who work outside. The new health protocols were outlined in a paper issued by Labor Minister Elisabeth Borne./aa


South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) contracted 51.0% in the second quarter of 2020, the country’s statistics body announced on Tuesday.

Statistics South Africa attributed the decline in GDP to the impact of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions which were imposed from late March 2020 until June.

“Notably, this was the fourth consecutive decline in quarterly GDP since the second quarter of 2019,” it said.

The manufacturing industry contracted by 74.9% in the second quarter, the statistics agency said, adding: “All ten manufacturing divisions reported negative growth rates in the second quarter.”

It added that the trade, catering and accommodation industries decreased by 67.6% due to decreased economic activity reported in wholesale trade, retail trade, motor trade, catering and accommodation.

Statistics South Africa said most industries were hit hard as only selected essential goods were allowed to be sold during the early stages of the lockdown.

Meanwhile, the mining and quarrying industry decreased by 73.1% contributing to -6.0 percentage points to GDP growth.

“Owing to global lockdown restrictions, demand for mineral products fell, contributing to decreased production in platinum group metals (PGMs), gold, iron ore, chromium ore and coal,” the statistics body said.

The agriculture, forestry and fishing industry was the only positive contributor to GDP growth, with an increase of 15.1% and a contribution of 0.3 of a percentage point to GDP growth. The increase was mainly due to increased production of field crops and horticultural and animal products.

The finance, real estate and business services industry decreased by 28.9% and contributed -5.4 of a percentage point to GDP growth, as transport, storage and communication industry decreased by 67.9%./aa