With No Sign of Eruption’s End, Ash Blankets La Palma Island

A volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma that has been erupting for six weeks spewed greater quantities of ash from its main mouth Sunday, a day after producing its strongest earthquake to date. Lava flows descending toward the Atlantic Ocean from a volcanic ridge have covered 970 hectares (2,400 acres) of land since the eruption began on Sept. 19, data from the European Union’s satellite monitoring service, showed. On the way down the slope, the molten rock has destroyed more than 2,000 buildings and forced the evacuation of over 7,000 people.  But authorities in the Canary Islands, of which La Palma is part, have reported no injuries caused by contact with lava or from inhaling the toxic gases that often accompany the volcanic activity. Experts said that predicting …

Thousands Protest Results of Georgia’s Local Elections

Thousands of opposition supporters filled the street outside Georgia’s national parliament building Sunday to protest municipal election results that gave the country’s ruling party a near sweep.  Candidates of the Georgian Dream party won 19 of the 20 municipal elections in runoff votes on Saturday, including the mayoral offices in the country’s five largest cities: Tbilisi, Kutaisi, Rustavi, Batumi and Poti.  The opposition alleges fraud. Nika Melia, the head of the main opposition party United National Movement and a mayoral candidate in Tbilisi, claimed that “the victories gained by the opposition in many municipalities were taken away…like they never happened.” An election observer mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the “voting and counting were overall assessed positively despite some procedural issues, particularly during counting.” “The …

G-20 Gets Climate Agreement, But Activists Fear Deal Not Big Enough

Pope Francis called on world leaders Sunday to hear “the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor,” while urging them to develop efficient responses to global warming and give hope to younger generations. The pope made his appeal in Rome, where leaders attended their first in-person G-20 summit since the coronavirus pandemic swept the planet. The politicians, however, struggled to secure a climate breakthrough, a likely harbinger of the difficulties a United Nations climate change summit in Glasgow, Scotland will face in the coming days, some diplomatic observers warn. The Glasgow event, known as COP26, runs from October 31 through November 12. The G-20 leaders from the world’s major economies finally agreed on a communique closely mirroring pledges made in Paris in 2015, namely, to “hold the global …

G-20 Leaders Pledge to End Financing for Overseas Coal Plants 

G-20 leaders meeting in Rome have agreed to work to reach carbon neutrality “by around mid-century” and pledged to end financing for coal plants abroad by the end of this year. The final communique was issued Sunday at the end of a two-day summit, ahead of talks at ahead of a broader U.N. climate change summit, COP26, this week in Glasgow, Scotland. Leaders in Rome addressed efforts to reach the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, in line with a global commitment made in 2015 at the Paris Climate Accord to keep global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and preferably to 1.5 degrees. “We recognize that the impacts of climate change at 1.5°C are much lower than at 2°C. Keeping 1.5°C within …

Biden Meets Erdogan Amid Simmering Tensions

U.S. President Joe Biden is meeting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Rome Sunday amid simmering tensions and strategic disagreements between Washington and Ankara. A senior Biden administration official told reporters in Rome Saturday that the leaders would discuss a range of regional issues, including Syria and Afghanistan, and defense issues including Ankara’s acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile defense system and its request to purchase U.S. F-16 fighter jets. The official said in the Sunday meeting Biden would warn Erdogan that the two countries will need to work to avoid crises such as Ankara’s recent threat to expel the U.S. and nine other countries’ ambassadors who pushed for the release of jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala. “Precipitous action is not going to benefit the …

UK, France Urged to Cool Down Escalating Fishing Spat

Britain and France faced calls Saturday to sort out their post-Brexit spat over fishing rights in the English Channel, which threatens to escalate within days into a damaging French blockade of British boats and trucks. French President Emmanuel Macron warned that the dispute is testing the U.K.’s international credibility, while each country accused the other of being in breach of the post-Brexit trade agreement that Britain’s government signed with the European Union before it left the bloc. As the war of words intensified, Britain said it was “actively considering” launching legal action if France goes through with threats to bar U.K. fishing boats from its ports and slap strict checks on British catches. “If there is a breach of the (Brexit) treaty or we think there is a breach of …

European MPs Meet with Taiwan Envoy Despite China Risks

As Taiwan’s Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Wu made an unprecedented trip to Brussels on Friday, it remained unclear whether Europe will face repercussions from China for displaying closer ties with the self-ruled East Asian island claimed by China. China previously imposed sanctions on EU parliamentarians after the EU sanctioned Chinese officials linked to Xinjiang, a far western Chinese province where millions of ethnic minority Muslims have been detained in internment camps. Now, as Wu’s travels take him to the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Lithuania and Belgium, it is possible China could use the same tactics again, according to Bonnie Glaser, director of the Asia Program at the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. “Beijing could impose sanctions on EU officials who met with Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu. It could also …

G-20 Leaders to Discuss Climate Change

The G-20 heads of state from the world’s major economies will discuss climate change Sunday on day two of their meeting in Rome. Saturday, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi welcomed the heads of state, including U.S. President Joe Biden, to the Italian capital, where they discussed issues of mutual concern, including the pandemic recovery. The G-20 leaders supported a sweeping global tax deal agreed to by 136 finance ministers earlier this month, including a minimum 15% global corporate tax rate for companies with annual revenues of more than $870 million. It still needs to be implemented within each member country’s legal framework. On COVID-19, G-20 health and finance ministers announced the formation of a new panel to improve future pandemic preparedness, proposed by the United States and Indonesia, but did …

To Stargazers: Fireworks Show Called Northern Lights Coming

A fireworks show that has nothing to do with the Fourth of July and everything to do with the cosmos is poised to be visible across the northern United States and Europe just in time for Halloween. On Thursday, the sun launched what is called an “X-class solar flare” that was strong enough to spark a high-frequency radio blackout across parts of South America. The energy from that flare is trailed by a cluster of solar plasma and other material called a coronal mass ejection, or CME for short. That’s heading toward Earth, prompting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to issue a warning about a potentially strong geomagnetic storm. It might sound like something from a science fiction movie. But really, it just means that a good chunk of …

Greece Bids Merkel Bittersweet Farewell

Angela Merkel has completed her final trip as German chancellor to Greece, a country where she was not overly welcome in the past because of the strict austerity measures she backed to keep Greece’s economy afloat. Sticks, stones, gas bombs and heated demonstrations gripped Greece on Merkel’s first visit to Athens in 2012. But now, a decade later, the outgoing chancellor got an almost indifferent public reception, walking freely along streets bare of any public protest or threat for the European politician many people here had dubbed an enemy. Resentment, though, was obvious, and President Katerina Sakellaropoulou tapped into the nation’s mood, bidding Merkel farewell with criticism of the austerity policies she advocated for Greece, recalling the tough times the two countries faced during Greek financial crisis.  There were times …

US, EU Agree to Resolve Trump-Era Steel, Aluminum Tariffs, Sources Say

The United States and European Union are expected this weekend to announce a deal to resolve a dispute over U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs imposed in 2018 by former President Donald Trump, easing a major transatlantic trade irritant, six people familiar with the agreement said. Three of the sources said the agreement, details of which were still being finalized, would allow EU countries to export duty free some 3.3 million tons of steel annually to the United States under a tariff-rate quota system. “An agreement on steel has been reached and will be announced soon,” said one source familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity. U.S. President Joe Biden has sought to mend fences with European allies following Trump’s presidency to more broadly confront China’s state-driven economic practices …

China’s Top Diplomat Visits Serbia, Albania Aiming to Deepen Ties

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made stops in Belgrade, Serbia, and Tirana, Albania, this week, seeking to further the Chinese government’s “17+1” effort to promote trade and investment between Beijing and the countries of Eastern and Central Europe. While Wang was received cordially in both countries, Serbia and Albania have taken somewhat different approaches to economic cooperation with Beijing through China’s Belt and Road initiative, which has funded infrastructure projects throughout the developing world. A stop in Greece on Wednesday and a scheduled stop in Italy on Saturday served as bookends to Wang’s visit to the Balkans. The trip is widely seen as China’s attempt to shore up economic ties in the region, which has traditionally looked more toward the European Union for development assistance. Friendship ‘made of steel’ In Serbia, …

US, Europe Focus on Iran Nuclear Program at G-20

U.S. President Joe Biden will hold talks with European leaders over the Iran nuclear program Saturday afternoon, Rome time, on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Italy, following Tehran’s announcement earlier this week that it is ready to resume negotiations before the end of November.  Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel will seek an agreement on the path to resume negotiations for a return to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the Iran nuclear agreement. The so-called E3+1 format will focus on “shared concerns about the state of Iran’s nuclear program,” the White House said. Former U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the JCPOA deal in 2018. Biden has said the United States will …

G-20 Summit Begins in Rome With Focus on Climate Change, COVID Pandemic

The G-20 Summit hosted by Italy kicked off Saturday in Rome, where leaders from the world’s major economies discussed issues of mutual concern, including pandemic recovery and climate change. The red carpet was rolled out at La Nuvola, Rome’s Convention Center, as Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi welcomed U.S. President Joe Biden and other leaders amid strict COVID-19 protocols. This summit is the leaders’ first face-to-face meeting in two years, following last year’s virtual summit hosted by Saudi Arabia. Notably absent are Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. They will join virtually, citing pandemic concerns at home. Pandemic response and prevention On Friday, G-20 health and finance ministers released a communique committing to bringing the pandemic under control everywhere as soon …

Biden Says Pope Supports His Holy Communion Rights

U.S. President Joe Biden met with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Friday, ahead of his meeting with G-20 leaders. Biden said the pope supported his receiving Holy Communion, while some U.S. bishops want to deny him the sacrament over his stance on abortion. With Anita Powell contributing, White House Bureau Chief Patsy Widakuswara has this report from Rome. …

US, 17 Other Nations Condemn Russia’s ‘Intensifying Harassment’ of Media, Journalists

An 18-member group of nations, including the United States and United Kingdom, has expressed “deep concern” over what it calls the Russian government’s “intensifying harassment of independent journalists and media outlets” in the country. In a statement issued on October 28 under the name of the Media Freedom Coalition, was also signed by Ukraine and North Macedonia, along with Australia, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Slovakia, and Slovenia. The statement said that “media freedom is vital to the effective functioning of free and open societies and is essential to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.” Russian authorities have been accused of increasingly cracking down on independent media outlets, civil society groups, rights activists, and others, using legislations on …

Biden Acknowledges AUKUS Deal Rollout Was ‘Clumsy’

U.S. President Joe Biden launched his whirlwind European diplomatic tour on a conciliatory note, saying Friday that the rollout of a security deal between the United States, Britain and Australia that cut out longtime ally France was “clumsy.” “What happened was, to use an English phrase – what we did was clumsy,” Biden said. “It was not done with a lot of grace,” he acknowledged, next to French President Emanuel Macron in Rome ahead of the G-20 summit. The two spoke to reporters following their meeting which was notably held at Villa Bonaparte, the French Embassy to the Vatican, instead of a neutral venue. The Indo-Pacific AUKUS security deal provides Australia with U.S. nuclear-powered submarines.  But buying U.S. subs meant Canberra cancelled the $65 billion deal it previously made with …

Pope to UN Conference: Don’t Waste Chance to Save the Planet

Pope Francis issued an urgent appeal Friday to world leaders ahead of the U.N. climate conference to take “radical decisions” to protect the environment and prioritize the common good rather than nationalistic interests. Francis delivered the “Thought for the Day” on the British Broadcasting Corp.’s morning radio program ahead of the Oct. 31-Nov. 13 climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland. In the message, Francis urged political leaders not to waste the opportunity created by the upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic to change course and chart a future based on a sense of shared responsibility for a common destiny. “It means giving priority to the common good, and it calls for a change in perspective, a new outlook, in which the dignity of every human being, now and in the future, will …