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News in the Humanosphere: Air pollution costs global economy trillions, new study shows

Smog blankets distant skyscrapers along Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City, March 17, 2016. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Air pollution costs the world trillions of dollars a year and severely impedes development in many countries, according to the World Bank. In a major study of the economic costs of indoor and outdoor pollution, the bank found that in 2013 – the year from which the latest available estimates date – China lost nearly 10 percent of its GDP, India 7.69 percent and Sri Lanka and Cambodia roughly 8 percent. Rich countries are also losing tens of billions of dollars a year through lost work days and welfare costs from premature deaths. Dirty air was found to cost the U.K. $7.6 billion a year, the U.S. $45 billion and Germany $18 billion. (Guardian

Viva la green revolution…African farmers are set to benefit from tens of billions of dollars pledged by African leaders, development banks, the private sector and international donors at a conference in Nairobi this week. Commitments of more than $30 billion have been made so far at the African Green Revolution Forum, to transform agriculture on the continent over the next decade – said by organizers to be the largest package of financial commitments to Africa’s agriculture sector to date. (TRF

Stat of the day: Just 0.5 percent – $192 million – of the billions of dollars allocated to promote gender equality in poorer countries in 2014 was reported as going to women’s rights organizations. The figure was down from 1.2 percent in 2011. (Guardian

Ambitious arboreal project of the day...Kenya aims to restore trees and vegetation across almost 9 percent of its land mass by 2030, the government said on Thursday, in a bold initiative to combat climate change, poverty and hunger. (Reuters


Leaders of the East African Community (EAC) have postponed the signing of economic partnership agreements with the EU to December. Kenya and Rwanda fear they may lose access to European markets. (DW

The U.K. is to expand its contribution to the United Nations peacekeeping force in South Sudan, raising the planned total from 300 to 400. (Guardian

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in South Sudan said on Thursday it was concerned that members of civil rights groups in the country were being harassed for speaking to U.N. Security Council diplomats who visited this week. (Reuters

South Sudan’s political opposition has dismissed remarks by U.S. officials urging former First Vice President Riek Machar not to return to South Sudan to reclaim his position, saying the opposition leader’s absence is hampering the fragile peace process. (VOA

Gabon opposition leader Jean Ping has lodged a challenge with the country’s Constitutional Court, contesting the result of a presidential vote whose validity has been questioned at home and abroad. (Al Jazeera

President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday set out his vision for a better Nigeria, imagining an incorruptible paradise where drivers do not run red lights and internet scams are a thing of the past. (AFP

South Africa remains in the grip of a drought that has reduced the national cattle herd by 15 percent with no relief in sight, a government task team said on Thursday. (Reuters

More than a dozen rights groups have written to the U.N. Human Rights Council urging an immediate halt to “excessive” use of force by Ethiopian security forces. (AP

Lower harvests of maize, wheat and sugarcane as a result of severe weather in the region are pushing up prices for Zambia’s staple foods, according to the country’s Ministry of Agriculture. (Reuters


More than 70 Syrian aid groups are suspending cooperation with the United Nations, accusing U.N. humanitarian agencies and their partners of being manipulated by the regime, according to a letter released Thursday. (AFP

At least nine civilians, including four children, were killed on Thursday in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition on a residential building north of the Yemeni capital Sanaa, residents said. (Reuters

Libya’s last chemical weapons stocks have arrived safely in Germany after being shipped out of the country, and will now be prepared for destruction, a global watchdog said Thursday. (AFP

An international rights group has criticized the use of landmines by Yemen’s Shiite rebels, saying they have resulted in many civilian casualties. (AP

The Palestinian high court in Ramallah has ruled that municipal elections scheduled for Oct. 8 cannot go ahead after a dispute over party lists and the inability to hold the vote in East Jerusalem, which is annexed by Israel. (Reuters

Washington is willing to cooperate with Moscow to end the Syrian conflict but only if there is first a “true cessation” of hostilities, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday. (AFP


Navy SEALs led an unsuccessful raid last month to free an American university professor and his Australian colleague who are being held by the Taliban, engaging in fierce gun battle with dozens of insurgents at a remote compound in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, U.S. officials said Thursday. (NYT

Singapore said on Thursday it did not know if the Zika virus detected in the country could cause the same birth defects and other disorders linked to an outbreak in Latin America. (Reuters

A Sri Lankan court on Thursday gave permission to police to exhume the remains of a newspaper editor killed seven years ago for a fresh investigation. (AP

Months of flooding have wiped out entire villages and crops in Bangladesh, pushing farmers deeper into a cycle of debt that they can’t escape without more government help. (IRIN

Thailand and Malaysia will discuss plans to build a wall along their shared border, Thai officials said on Thursday, a day before Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak is set to meet his counterpart in Bangkok. (Reuters

The Americas

More than 1,000 women and girls have been apparent victims of sex trafficking in illicit bars in the U.S. that operate largely beyond the reach of law enforcement, according to the anti-slavery group Polaris. (Guardian

President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico is replacing his finance minister, Luis Videgaray, as the country confronts a deteriorating economic situation, increasingly deep debts and the consequences of inviting Republican candidate Donald Trump to Mexico – reportedly at Videgaray’s urging. (Guardian

Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles says he was harassed in a Margarita Island airport for four hours by armed and hooded government supporters. (AP

With months left in office, U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday he was not ready to give up on an eight-year-old promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. (AFP

…and the rest

The prime minister of Armenia on Thursday announced his resignation in order to give way to a coalition government, a widely expected move following a violent standoff at a police station in the nation’s capital. (AP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Bavarian allies sparked anger Thursday by calling for tougher immigration rules that would favor migrants from Europe’s “Christian-occidental cultural sphere.” (AFP


This is the worst crisis in the world that gets the least amount of attention (Global Dispatches Podcast

Poverty Cut by Growth Despite Policy Failure (IPS

Why do US, Iran often face off in Persian Gulf? (AP

What Can Advance Intra-Africa Trade? (New Times

India and China, a New Era of Strategic Partners? (IPS

How Africa Will Remember David Cameron (The Point

Rage Against The Busted Medical Machines (NPR

Obama’s Legacy: Outreach to Asia still a work in progress (AP


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