Asylum applications in industrialized nations rose by 10 percent in the first half of 2009 compared to the same period last year, according to the UNHCR. A total of 185,000 asylum claims were filed in the six months of this year across 38 European countries, the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and South Korea. Iraq remains the top country of origin of the asylum applicants (13,200 claims) for the fourth consecutive year. Afghans (12,000 claims) and Somalis (11,000 claims) are the second and third largest groups as security conditions continue to deteriorate in large parts of their home countries. The other main countries of origin are China, Serbia (including Kosovo), Russian, Nigeria, Mexico, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.

Carbon emissions by industrialized nations increased one percent in 2007, a "worrying" rise ahead of a crunch climate summit in Copenhagen in December, the UN climate agency said Oct. 21. Emissions in 2007 by 40 industrialized countries with reporting obligations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) were around four percent below 1990 levels, the Bonn-based UN Climate Change Secretariat said. But over the period 2000-2007, they rose three percent. "The continuing growth of emissions from industrialized countries remains worrying, despite the expectation of a momentary dip brought about by the global recession," UN climate chief Yvo de Boer said, as cited by AFP. "So the numbers for 2007 underscore, once again, the urgent need to seal a comprehensive, fair and effective climate change deal in Copenhagen in December," he added.

India and China, both major polluters and crucial players in fighting global warming, agreed Oct. 21 to stand together on climate change issues at Copenhagen. Developing countries argue that the industrial world produced most of the harmful gases in recent decades and should bear the costs of fixing the problem. India and China have agreed to work on slowing the growth of greenhouse gas emissions, but resist making those limits binding and subject to international monitoring. "There is no difference between the Indian and Chinese negotiating positions, and we are discussing further what the two countries should be doing for a successful outcome at Copenhagen," Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh said, as cited by the Press Trust of India.

Lebanon's election Oct. 15 to the UN Security Council for the first time in 57 years stems from its progress toward political stability and brings a moderate Arab voice to the panel, diplomats said. "It is a symbol that Lebanon has overcome the civil war and is rebuilding its institutions and its presence abroad," French Ambassador Gerard Araud said, as cited by Bloomberg. "Lebanon has always been a bridge between the West and East… .." Lebanon will replace Libya, whose leader last month urged that the Security Council be abolished and power shifted to the General Assembly as the representative of Arab nations in the body's debates. Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Gabon and Nigeria also were elected by the UN General Assembly to two-year terms. Their candidacies were uncontested within their regional groups. The new members will take seats on Jan. 1 vacated by Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia, Libya and Vietnam.

Inmates at a prison in Uruguay can spend years in "tin cans" – small metal boxes where temperatures rise to 140 degrees F (60 degrees C), while women and children were among prisoners in Nigeria confined to a "torture room." Those were among the abuses chronicled in a report released Oct. 20 by Manfred Nowak, an Austrian human rights lawyer and UN special rapporteur on torture and other forms of cruel and inhuman treatment and punishment. Nowak said he focused on "forgotten prisons" and the treatment of children in the dozens of countries he visited. Nowak said women and children in Lagos, Nigeria, were among the more than 100 detainees confined to the "torture room" of the Criminal Investigation Department, where torture methods included the firing of gunshots into legs.

Smashing a Guinness World Record, more than 173 million people around the world joined forces with the United Nations to call on global leaders to stamp out poverty and take action to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by their deadline of 2015. Over 3,000 events were held in more than 120 countries in the fourth year of the "Stand Up, Take Action, End Poverty Now!" campaign over the weekend. Nearly 60 million more people took part in the festivities this year compared to 2008. "We know that if we take a stand - if we act - we can end poverty in our lifetimes," said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was joined by 1,500 schoolchildren at the UN International School (UNIS) in New York on Oct. 16 in calling for an end to hunger, which currently afflicts 1 billion people worldwide.

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