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UN General Assembly kicks off with leaders raising alarm on climate change, refugees crisis

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UN General Assembly kicks off with leaders raising alarm on climate change, refugees crisis

The first day of the United Nations General Assembly meeting kicked off in downtown Manhattan Tuesday, bringing in speakers from around the world to discuss the globe’s most pressing challenges. 

Leaders spoke of the many global crises presently faced, including the climate crisis, rampant inequality, Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, and geopolitical instability. 

Here are some highlights of the leaders who spoke on Day 1:

President Joe Biden talking at the UN. (Fox News)

UN SECRETARY-GENERAL

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UN Secretary-General António Guterres evoked the recent floods in Libya which – according to estimates from government officials and aid agencies – caused between 4,000 and 11,000 deaths. Guterres echoed the conclusions of scientists who have said that climate change made the devastating storm 50% more intense. 

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at United Nations headquarters.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“In the face of all these challenges and more, compromise has become a dirty word. Our world needs statesmanship, not gamesmanship and gridlock. As I told the G20, it is time for a global compromise. Politics is compromise. Diplomacy is compromise,” he said. “Effective leadership is compromise. Leaders have a special responsibility to achieve compromise in building a common future of peace and prosperity for our common good.”

PRESIDENT OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Dennis Francis, the president of this year’s U.N. General Assembly, said a common, global approach is needed now more than ever as the global faces geopolitical conflicts, climate change, debt, energy and food crises, as well as poverty and famine. 

President of the General Assembly Dennis Francis

President of the General Assembly Dennis Francis addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at United Nations headquarters.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“This year our imperative is clear: to unite the nations, to be united in conviction of common purpose and in solidarity of action,” Francis said. 

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BRAZIL

Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva proclaimed that “Brazil is back,” drawing a distinction with his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro, who showed little interest in geopolitics or diplomacy during his four years in office. 

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at United Nations headquarters.   (AP)

“Brazil is reencountering itself, the region, the world and multilateralism,” Lula said. “As I never tire of saying, Brazil is back. Our country is back to give our due contribution to face the world’s primary challenges.” 

Last year, the left-wing president narrowly won the election before Bolsonaro supporters stormed the capital in protest.  

UNITED STATES

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U.S. President Joe Biden made his case before the General Assembly that the world must stand united behind Ukraine as it battles Russian aggression. 

President Biden speaking to the world leaders.

President Biden address the UN in reforming the World Trade Organization. (Fox News)

“I ask you this: If we abandon the core principles of the United States to appease an aggressor, can any member state in this body feel confident that they are protected?” Biden said in his address. “If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure?

COLOMBIA

Columbian President Gustavo Petro painted a dark picture if the nations of the world do not address climate change. 

With grandiose language, Petro said the past year was one that “humanity lost” as it “advanced the times of extinction.” 

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Colombian President Gustavo Petro Urrego

Colombian President Gustavo Petro Urrego addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at United Nations headquarters.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

He warned that the climate crisis has exacerbated the refugee crisis, warning that in the next half-century, climate refugees could reach 3 billion. 

JORDAN

Jordan’s King Abdullah touched on the refugee crisis, saying his country does not have the ability to host, nor care for more Syrian refugees. 

Jordanian King Abdullah

Jordanian King Abdullah addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“Syrian refugees’ future is in their country, not in host countries,” he said. “But until they are able to return, we must all do right by them.” 

EMIR OF QATAR SAYS SPORTS CAN PLAY A ROLE IN ‘BUILDING BRIDGES’ BETWEEN PEOPLES

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POLAND

Polish President Andrzej Duda likened the Russian invasion of Ukraine to the World War II occupation and partition of his own country by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. He urged the world to hold Moscow accountable for its “barbaric actions.” 

Polish President Andrzej Duda

Polish President Andrzej Duda addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at United Nations headquarters.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“Poland lost its independence, was wiped (off) the map of the world, and subjected to an extremely brutal occupation. This is precisely why we understand the tragedy of Ukraine better than any other country,” Duda said.

CUBA

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel took aim at the U.S., calling its foreign policy with some countries – including his own – “unilateral” and “coercive.” His speech was noticeably absent, any mention of Russia, which supports the island nation.  

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Díaz-Canel said U.S. sanctions “today also affect Venezuela, Nicaragua and, before and after, they have been the prelude to invasions and (the) overthrow of uncomfortable governments in the Middle East.” 

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at United Nations headquarters.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“We reject the coercive and unilateral measures imposed on countries like Zimbabwe, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Korea and Iran, among many other countries whose people suffer the negative impact of these,” he said. 

His comments come days after he and Brazilian President Lula reignited ties between the countries at the G77 summit in Havana, with the former lamenting the U.S. embargo of Cuba. 

TURKEY

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called for peace in the Caucasus region amid renewed fighting in a war-torn Nagorno-Karabakh region. 

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President of Türkiye Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 19: President of Türkiye Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at the United Nations headquarters on September 19, 2023 in New York City.  (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

“In order to make use of this opportunity we attach importance to the normalization of our relations with Armenia,” Erdogan said. “From the outset we always supported diplomacy between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Unfortunately, we see that Armenia cannot make use of this historic opportunity.”

PORTUGAL

Portugues President Marcelo de Sousa stressed the need for more action and less talk on global inequality, climate change, and reforming international institutions in the wake of the war in Ukraine. 

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“Year after year, we promise. It’s time to fulfill,” he said, warning that without reform: “there is no multilateralism possible, there is no lasting cooperation, there is no peace, all over the world.” 

QATAR

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Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, said Tuesday that sports can play a role in uniting different peoples and cultures across the world.

At the United Nations General Assembly, Sheikh Tamim touted the “tremendous potentials and opportunities” that belong to his small Arab country, which hosted the soccer World Cup last fall. 

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 19: Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani speaks during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at the United Nations headquarters on September 19, 2023, in New York City.  (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

“During the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, there was an opportunity for interaction between peoples, and it was an opportunity for the world to see our people as they are and to learn about our culture and values,” Sheikh Tamim said, calling Qatar a “global destination and nexus between East and West.” 

SOUTH AFRICA

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa acknowledged the over-representation of men in the room, asking: “Where are the women of the world?” 

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AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) (AP)

In his speech, he stressed the need to empower women and have them participate equally in decision-making. Fifty percent of cabinet members in South Africa are women, and Ramaphosa said he was accompanied by an all-female delegation to the United Nations.

TURKMENISTAN

President of Turkmenistan Serdar Berdimuhamedow called for multilateralism, as the world faces “very serious challenges out of multiple regions.” 

Turkmenistan President Serdar Berdimuhamedov

Turkmenistan President Serdar Berdimuhamedov addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at United Nations headquarters.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“All of them, despite their difference in appearance, influence the course of interstate relations, [to] a greater or lesser extent,” he said. 

UKRAINE

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Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of “weaponizing” everything from food and energy to abducted children in its war against his country. 

He warned world leaders that the same thing could happen to them. 

Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy

Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at United Nations headquarters.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“When hatred is weaponized against one nation, it never stops there,” he said at the U.N. General Assembly’s annual top-level meeting. “The goal of the present war against Ukraine is to turn our land, our people, our lives, our resources into weapons against you — against the international rules-based order.”

GUATEMALA

In his last speech to the United Nations, Guateleman President Alejandro Giammattei promised he would step down come January 14, after appealing the electoral victoria of his opponent Bernardo Arévalo.

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Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei Falla

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei Falla addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at United Nations headquarters.  (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

“Different from the lack of truth that we have heard today on this podium, I will hand over power to whoever was elected by the sovereign majority will of the people of Guatemala on January 14, when my constitutional mandate is fulfilled,” Giammattei said, criticizing “international organizations” for carrying out an “unnecessary” intervention” in Guatemalan elections. 

HUNGARY

Hungarian President Katalin Novák spoke of the need to support Ukraine, as well as strengthening families, and the importance of parental freedom. 

Hungarian President Katalin Novak

Hungarian President Katalin Novak addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 19, 2023.  (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

SWITZERLAND

Swiss President Alain Berset said: “In the context of armed conflicts, the lack of access to basic services claims many more lives than confrontations because it depends on inequalities.” 

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Swiss President Alain Berset

Swiss President Alain Berset addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 19, 2023.  (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

SLOVENIA

Slovenian President Nataša Pirc Musar warned that “business as usual is not working if it’s failing us all.” 

Slovenian President Natasa Pirc Musar

Slovenian President Natasa Pirc Musar addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 19, 2023.  (ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

“Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time. The catastrophic floods that hit Slovenia in August are just one more event among the many, many events around the world that prove the point. I trust that we will be able to overcome the consequences of the floods.” 

UZBEKISTAN

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev spoke out against forced child labor.

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“Our experience shows that it is possible to put an end to this,” he said. 

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 19, 2023.  (ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Mirziyoyev highlighted the need to expand education and create jobs, saying such things were instrumental in eradicating poverty. 

BOLIVIA 

Bolivian President Luis Arce spoke out forcefully against capitalism which, he argued, exacerbated global inequality. He also spoke of the “suffering” of the Palestinian people and criticized sanctions as ultimately hurting civilians. 

Bolivian President Luis Alberto Arce Catacora

Bolivian President Luis Alberto Arce Catacora addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 19, 2023. (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

He lamented that “peacekeeping” has become more unattainable amid increases in wartime spending. 

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KAZAKHSTAN 

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev proposed nuclear disarmament, noting that his country gave up its arsenal some 30 years ago. At the time, Kazakhstan had the fourth-largest number of nuclear weapons. 

Kazakhstan's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev

Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

IRAN 

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi took shots at the West, saying certain nations “are attempting to incite conflicts in different regions employing a cold war mentality.” 

Reading from the Koran, Raisi said Iran “has played a significant role in defeating the global arrogance.” 

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Iran president Raisi

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi holds up the Holy Quran as he addresses the 78th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City, U.S., September 19, 2023.  (REUTERS/Mike Segar)

His appearance at the UN General Assembly meeting brought mass protests, with demonstrators denouncing his appearance. Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan left the meeting in protest. 

ALGERIA

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune homed in on the plight of the Palestinians. He called upon the UN to grant Palestine permanent member status. 

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune UN

Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

ISRAEL’S AMBASSADOR TO UN DETAINED AFTER LEAVING GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO PROTEST IRANIAN PRESIDENT’S SPEECH

ARGENTINA

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President Alberto Fernández referenced the recent flare-up in Azerbaijan, where military forces have started to take control of the contested Nagorno Karabakh region. 

President Alberto Fernández of Argentina

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 19: President Alberto Fernández of Argentina addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at U.N. headquarters on September 19, 2023, in New York City.  (Adam Gray/Getty Images)

“The international community cannot remain indifferent to this reality,” he said. “It must act preventively to avoid new ethnic, racial, religious, or political persecution.” 

EL SALVADOR

El Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele touted his country’s success in tackling its gang problem. 

Nayib Bukele, President of El Salvador

Nayib Bukele, President of El Salvador, addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

“El Salvador went from being literally the most dangerous country in the world, to being the safest in Latin America,” he said. 

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KYRGYZSTAN

Kyrgyz President Sadyr Zhaparov said the world was “at a turning point” and that the “negative” changes in the world order were becoming apparent. 

Kyrgyzstan's President, Sadyr Zhaparov at the UN general assembly

Kyrgyzstan’s President, Sadyr Zhaparov, addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

“Geopolitical tensions are moving to the fact that the world is moving towards fragmentation, into regional, sub-regional, financial blocs and systems,” he said. “It is also obvious that the governments of various countries will be compelled or forced to make economic, technological, and geopolitical choices.” 

PARAGUAY

Paraguayan President Santiago Peña Palacios warned that multilateralism faces “very visible challenges in terms of efficacy and legitimacy.”  

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Paraguay's President Santiago Peña at the UN general assembly

Paraguay’s President Santiago Peña addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

“In a world of so much wealth, levels of poverty and inequality continue to be stubbornly high,” he said, adding that current institutions were ill-equipped to tackle the migration crisis, climate change, and transnational climate.  

PERU 

Peruvian President Dina Ercilia Boluarte Zegarra touted her humble upbringing that led her to become the first female president of Peru. 

She said her administration has managed to restore order after an unsuccessful self-coup attempt by her predecessor in December. 

Peruvian President Dina Boluarte addresses the UN general assembly

Peruvian President Dina Boluarte addresses the 78th United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York City on September 19, 2023. (ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

“Eradicating poverty is the greatest challenge facing the world and constitutes an essential prerequisite for sustainable development,” she said. “This is the main objective of my government and it is why we are committed to the implementation of the sustainable development goals of the 2030 agenda.” 

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MOZAMBIQUE

Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi said the world continues to be faced “with interconnected crises that undermine” the Assembly’s sustainability goals. 

Mozambican President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi at the 78th general assembly

Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, President of Mozambique, addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

“Indeed the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters rising from climate change, and armed conflicts including terrorism [and] violent extremism causes millions of people to continue living in poverty without adequate food and without access to education and health services,” he said. 

PANAMA

Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen reiterated his country’s commitment to the 2030 agenda and its 17 sustainability goals. He said his government was pursuing measures to tackle poverty. 

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Laurentino Cortizo, President of Panama at the UN general assembly

Laurentino Cortizo, President of Panama, addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

He noted his country’s particular vulnerability amid rising sea levels from climate change. 

NIGERIA 

President Bola Tinubu lamented that “many proclamations have been made, yet our troubles remain close at hand.” 

He railed against “exploitation” from abroad, saying such practices have exacted a heavy toll on Africa’s ability “to progress.” 

Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President of Nigeria addresses the general assembly

Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President of Nigeria, addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

“If this year’s theme is to mean anything at all, it must mean something special, particularly to Africa,” he said. 

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URUGUAY 

Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou said the nations of the well-being of the nations of the world were “intrinsically linked to the common good.” 

“We need to be aware of this, accept it, and act as a result,” he said. 

He ended his speech by urging nations to condemn Russia’s war against Ukraine and stand with the Ukrainian people. 

Uruguay President Luis Lacalle Pou at the general assembly

Uruguay President Luis Lacalle Pou addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

CZECHIA 

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Czech President Petr Pavel denounced Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, recounting his experience touring war-ravaged areas. 

Czechia's President Petr Pavel at UN general assembly

Czechia’s President Petr Pavel addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

“Russia must unconditionally withdraw all troops from the entire territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders. Russia’s leaders must be held accountable for the crime of aggression against its neighbor,” he said. 

PALAU

Palauan President Surangel Whipps, Jr. said his nation was struggling under the twin issues of climate change and the high cost of imported food. 

Surangel Whipps Jr. at the general assembly

Palau President Surangel Whipps Jr. addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

“Like other [Small Island Developing States] Palau is working to build a diverse and resilient economy,” as he recounted his nation’s struggles with a downturn in the economy, heavily reliant on tourism. 

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SENEGAL

Senegalese President Macky Sall said that since the General Assembly’s last session, “the state of the world has not improved.” 

“For millions of people, daily life is one of fear, violence, poverty, and inequalities,” Sall said, noting the social and economic impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Macky Sall, President of Senegal at the UN general assembly

Macky Sall, President of Senegal, addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

“Climate change has reached an unprecedented level. The tragedy of illicit migration reminds us of the need to implement the global compact for safe, orderly, and regular migration.” 

GERMANY

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Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz invoked his own country’s divisive history and eventual reunification to underscore the importance of collaboration. 

Germany Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the general assembly

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 19: Chancellor Olaf Scholz of the Federal Republic of Germany addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at U.N. headquarters on September 19, 2023 in New York City.  (Adam Gray/Getty Images)

“In a world in which we are increasingly dependent on each other, a policy for peace must not stop at our own doorstep.” 

JAPAN 

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the world stands at a “historical inflection point.” 

Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at un general assembly

Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023, at U.N. headquarters. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

He said the global community should respond to “please of vulnerable people seeking help and work towards a world filled with cooperation and not division and confrontation.”

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“This is my message to all the leaders of the member states,” he said. 

Fox News Digital’s Chris Pandolfo and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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World

What to know about the Secret Service's Counter Sniper Team

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What to know about the Secret Service's Counter Sniper Team

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. Secret Service sniper killed the would-be assassin of former President Donald Trump in a split-second decision, taking out the man perched on an adjacent rooftop.

Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle has publicly praised the sniper’s quick work on Saturday. But the Counter Sniper Team is now subject to a review by the Office of the Inspector General, which aims to determine how well the team is “prepared to respond to threats at events.”

The Secret Service was already subject to a more general probe from the Inspector General as well as congressional subpoenas regarding the shooting at the Trump campaign rally, in what has become the most intense scrutiny the agency has faced since President Ronald Reagan was shot in 1981.

Here’s what to know about the agency’s elite sniper group.

Sniper team is ‘very elite and difficult to get into’

The Counter Sniper Team was established in 1971. It provides intelligence and observations of potential threats from far away in an effort to protect U.S. presidents, vice presidents, first ladies and others, according to a 2020 report by the Government Accountability Office on federal tactical teams.

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Those who join the team have already worked for the Secret Service for at least two years, according to the agency’s website. They must undergo 11 weeks of counter sniper selection and basic training, along with a color vision test. Counter snipers must have excellent eyesight and hearing.

“It’s very sought after, it’s very elite and difficult to get into,” Pete Piraino, who spent 23 years with the Secret Service, including five years in the presidential protective division, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

They typically work in pairs

The counter snipers are on the look out for threats from far away, even beyond the established security perimeter, said Piraino, who is now vice provost for academics and a criminal justice professor at Tiffin University in Ohio. They often work outdoors, focusing on rooftops and the windows of surrounding buildings.

They typically work in teams of two — one serves as a spotter while the other trains their rifle’s sight on the same area.

“They’re trained to scan an area, remember what they see and come back to scan it again and see if there’s any change,” Piraino said. “It’s not just a matter of picking up their binoculars and looking around. They are trained very thoroughly and specifically with rangefinders and their equipment.”

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If they don’t qualify, they don’t work

The counter snipers, code named “Hercules,” can respond to a threat from a distance with their .300 Winchester Magnum rifles, according to Ronald Kessler’s 2009 book, “In the President’s Secret Service.” And they have to prove they can do so on a monthly basis.

What to know about the 2024 Election

“Counter-Snipers are required to qualify shooting out to a thousand yards each month,” Kessler wrote. “If they don’t qualify, they don’t travel or work.”

The snipers shoot with a rifle called a JAR, said Paul Eckloff, a retired Secret Service agent who served on details protecting three different presidents during his 23-year career.

“You’ve never heard of it because the Secret Service makes them,” Eckloff said.

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It stands for “just another rifle” and they’re built specifically for each counter sniper by the Secret Service’s armorer to take into account things like the length of the shooter’s arms, wrists and trigger finger.

Eckloff wouldn’t disclose how many counter sniper teams there are but noted that it’s a finite resource and they could always use more.

What happened?

Police learned of a suspicious character outside the fairgrounds in Butler, Pennsylvania, before Trump took the stage. Minutes into his speech, shots were fired.

A counter sniper shot and killed Thomas Matthew Crooks in the seconds after he opened fire from a rooftop some 150 yards (135 meters) from the stage. Secret Service agents threw themselves on top of the former president before hustling him off stage.

Stephen Colo, who retired from the Secret Service in 2003 as an assistant director, told The AP on Sunday that presidential candidates and former presidents don’t typically get the same level of protection as the sitting president.

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Colo said he was surprised that the agency had staffed the event with a counter sniper team because there are not many of those highly trained operatives and they are usually reserved for the president.

Kessler told the AP that the Counter Sniper Team should not be the focus of all of the scrutiny and investigations. He said the Secret Service members working closer to Trump should have called off the speech and moved him to safety as soon as they heard reports of a suspicious person in the crowd and then on a nearby rooftop.

“They should have just evacuated as soon as there was any hint of danger,” Kessler said.

Trump was not seriously injured and two days later he arrived in Milwaukee, with his right ear bandaged, to the adulation of his supporters at the Republican National Convention.

The shooting had more serious ramifications for others at the rally. Former fire chief Corey Comperatore was shot and killed and two other people were wounded.

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Cheatle, the Secret Service director, told ABC News on Tuesday that the sniper who shot Crooks made a “split-second decision.”

“They have the ability to make that decision on their own. If they see that it’s a threat and they did that in that instance,” she said.

“And I applaud the fact that they made that decision and didn’t have to check with anybody and thankfully neutralized the threat.”

___

Finley reported from Norfolk, Virginia.

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South Korea's top court issues landmark ruling recognizing some rights for same-sex couples

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South Korea's top court issues landmark ruling recognizing some rights for same-sex couples
  • South Korea’s Supreme Court ruled that the state health insurance agency’s refusal to provide spousal insurance coverage for gay couples violated the constitutional principle of equality in a landmark verdict.
  • The legal battle began when a gay couple, So Seong-wook and Kim Yong-min, sued the state insurance agency after it revoked So’s registration as a dependent of Kim.
  • Critics say South Korea still has a long way to go compared with other developed countries. South Korea does not legally recognize same-sex marriages.

South Korea’s top court ruled Thursday that same-sex couples are eligible to receive the same health insurance benefits as heterosexual couples, a landmark verdict hailed by human rights groups.

The Supreme Court said it ruled that the state health insurance agency’s refusal to provide spousal insurance coverage for gay couples was an act of discrimination that violates the constitutional principle of equality.

Thursday’s ruling is final and cannot be appealed.

FORMER CIA ANALYST CHARGED FOR ACTING AS SECRET AGENT FOR SOUTH KOREAN INTEL IN EXCHANGE FOR GIFTS

“Today’s ruling is a historic victory for equality and human rights in South Korea,” Amnesty International said in a statement. “The court has taken a significant step towards dismantling systemic discrimination and ensuring inclusivity for all.”

A legal battle between a gay couple, So Seong-wook and Kim Yong-min, and the National Health Insurance Service began after the insurance agency revoked So’s registration as a dependent of Kim, prompting So to file an administrative suit.

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Gay couple So Seong-wook, left, and Kim Yong Min, right, leave the Supreme Court building in Seoul, South Korea, on July 18, 2024. (Suh Dae-yeon/Yonhap via AP)

In 2022, the Seoul Administrative Court ruled in favor of the insurance agency. But in February 2023, the Seoul High Court overturned the earlier verdict, saying that denying So’s spousal coverage rights without reasonable grounds was discriminatory because such benefits are given to heterosexual spouses.

Public views on gender issues in South Korea have gradually changed in recent years, but critics say the Asian country still has a long way to go compared with other developed countries. South Korea doesn’t legally recognize same-sex marriages.

“While this decision is a major milestone, the case itself is a sobering reminder of the lengthy judicial processes that same-sex couples must endure to secure basic rights that should be universally guaranteed,” Amnesty International said.

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So and Kim welcomed the ruling.

“When I listened to the verdict, I was so moved that I couldn’t hold back my tears,” So told reporters outside the court. He said he hopes the ruling will lead to South Korea legally accepting same-sex marriages.

Kim said he is “very happy” because he thinks the court recognized his love for So.

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Trump to take RNC stage for first speech since assassination attempt

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Trump to take RNC stage for first speech since assassination attempt

Former United States President Donald Trump is set to take the stage at the Republican National Convention (RNC), where he will deliver a speech as the party’s standard bearer just five days after surviving an assassination attempt.

The address on Thursday night will cap a convention that has largely been a reminder of how Trump’s brand of populist, pugilistic politics has transformed the Republican Party.

But surrogates have said Trump will embrace a more unifying message in the wake of Saturday’s attack, in which he was grazed in the ear by a gunman’s bullet.

Trump has said he rewrote his speech after surviving the incident at a Pennsylvania campaign rally. His family and close allies have maintained the president has been profoundly changed as Trump and his supporters at the RNC have repeatedly referred to the near-miss as an act of God.

“I think you may see a bit of a different version of Donald Trump tonight, perhaps a bit softer version than maybe some of the people at home have seen in the past,” Republican National Committee co-chair and Trump’s daughter-in-law Lara Trump told CBS News on Thursday.

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“I don’t think you can go through what he went through on Saturday, really a near-death experience, and not come out on the other side impacted,” she said.

Donald Trump Jr echoed the sentiment.

“He’s going to be tough when he has to be. We’ve seen that. He’s never gonna change,” the former president’s eldest son said at an event for the Axios news site. “But I think there will be something. I think these are momentous occasions that change people permanently.”

Political observers have questioned what a more unifying message from Trump will actually look like and to whom it will apply.

While Trump told the Washington Examiner this week that the attack is a “chance to bring the whole country, even the whole world, together”, he and his supporters have also mixed their message with one of defiance.

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Trump’s recently announced running mate, Senator JD Vance, said shortly after the shooting that the rhetoric from President Joe Biden’s campaign had led to the assassination attempt although he has since veered away from the claim.

Attendees at the RNC have seized on Trump’s yelled appeal in the moment after the attack with “fight, fight, fight” becoming a rallying cry. Wearing a bandage over an ear like Trump has become a symbol of solidarity.

In a continuation of the theme, Trump will also be introduced by Ultimate Fighting Championship President and CEO Dana White and former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan on Thursday.

Reporting from the convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Al Jazeera’s Patty Culhane said the party’s platform, which has been heavily influenced by Trump, has yet to reflect the promised change in tone.

“He is expected to say he’s going to unify the country, but the platform – what the party says they’re going to run on – is deeply divisive,” she said.

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It includes promises to expel millions of undocumented immigrants, reinstate travel bans on some Muslim majority countries, close the federal Department of Education and cut funding to schools depending on how they teach about race and gender.

The party’s platform also pledges to “hold accountable those who have misused the power of government to unjustly prosecute their political opponents”, which appears to be a reference to Trump’s conviction in a New York court in May on charges related to hush money payments made to an adult film star as well his two other criminal trials related to efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, which Trump lost to Biden.

Democrats divided

Thursday’s speech comes after a string of political victories for Trump in recent weeks.

On Monday, a judge in Florida threw out a federal case related to his hiding and hoarding of classified documents after he left the White House. That came after the Supreme Court ruled that US presidents enjoy broader immunity from prosecution than previously defined.

Democrats have also become increasingly divided over the viability of Biden’s candidacy after a weak debate performance last month.

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On Thursday, US media reported that several top Democrats, including former President Barack Obama and former Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, have put pressure on Biden to reconsider his run.

That news came just hours after the White House announced Biden had tested positive for COVID-19 while campaigning in Las Vegas on Wednesday.

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