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    At least 75 inmates, many of them members of a notorious Brazilian gang, escaped from a Paraguayan prison in a border town on Sunday, according to authorities who said they immediately fired the prison's director. Officials said they discovered a tunnel and found cells filled with as many as 200 bags of earth. “It's not possible that nobody saw anything in all this time,” Justice Minister Cecilia Pérez told the Telefuturo station. “This isn't the work of one day or one night.” Interior Minister Euclides Acevedo said in a statement that the tunnel itself may have been a ruse to cover complicity by prison officials and that many of the inmates may have been allowed to walk out of the prison's main gate. Acevedo said the majority of the escapees belong to the First Capital Command based in Brazil, which borders the city of Pedro Juan Caballero, where the prison is located. The gang was founded in the 1990s inside a Sao Paulo prison and it has extended its influence throughout the country, becoming one of Brazil's largest criminal organizations. In Brazil, Justice Minister Sergio Moro said authorities were trying to prevent the escapees from reentering the country. “If they enter Brazil again, they will only get a one-way ticket to federal prison,” he tweeted. Brazilian authorities said 40 of the escapees were Brazilian, and said they had passed their names and photos to border police. Acevedo said national police had been mobilized to hunt for the escapees. The prison's director and head of security were fired and Pérez said the fight against organized crime isn't only against the Brazilian gang, “but also clearly against all the corruption within our system, which sadly is totally contaminated.”
  • The bridge spanning the Suchiate River between Mexico and Guatemala was open again for business Sunday, but few migrants crossed after a failed attempt by thousands of Central Americans to barge through the previous day. More than 2,000 migrants spent the night in Tecun Uman, on the Guatemalan side of the border, uncertain of their next steps. Many got that far by traveling in caravan for greater safety and, they hoped, success in reaching the United States. Mexico, pressured by the U.S. to halt the northward flow of migrants, is offering those who turn themselves over to authorities temporary jobs in southern Mexico, likely in agriculture or construction. But many of the migrants would rather pass through the country to try to start a new life in the U.S. Volunteers spooned out a hot breakfast of beans, eggs, tortillas and coffee on Sunday to a line of migrants that stretched around the Senor de las Tres Caidas church, a blue and white Spanish colonial-style structure with a bell perched on top that's in the heart of Tecun Uman. “We improvised this shelter because the other one was crowded,” said Alfredo Camarena, vicar of the Catholic church. Camarena estimated that more than 2,000 migrants spent the night in his church, in shelters or on the streets, and that several hundred more would arrive in the coming days. Mexican national guardsmen on Saturday slammed shut a metal fence that reads “Welcome to Mexico” to block the path of thousands of Central American migrants who attempted to push their way across the Rodolfo Robles Bridge. Beyond the fence, on the Mexican side of the border, Mexican troops in riot gear formed a human wall to reinforce the barrier as the crowd pressed forward. Mexican Gen. Vicente Hernández stood beyond the green bars, flanked by guardsmen, with an offer: Turn yourselves over to us, and the Mexican government will find you jobs. “There are opportunities for all,” he promised. Migrants looking for permission to stay in Mexico passed through in groups of 20. As the day wore on, around 300 turned themselves over to Mexican immigration. At a less frequently used border crossing called El Ceibo, nestled among national parks near the city of Tenosique in Mexico's Tabasco state, Guatemala's human rights defender's office reported Sunday that around 300 people opted to turn themselves over to Mexican authorities for processing. Mexico's offer of employment, and not just legal status, represents a new twist in the country's efforts to find humane solutions to the mostly Central American migrants who are fleeing poverty and violence in their home countries. Under threat of trade and other sanctions from the U.S., Mexico has stepped up efforts in recent months to prevent migrants from reaching their desired final destination: the U.S. Over the weekend, Mexican immigration officials deployed drones to look for migrants trying to sneak into the country. The National Guard presence was also heavier than usual. As the latest caravans approached Mexico on Friday, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador suggested that Mexico might be able to accommodate the migrants longer-term. “We have more than 4,000 jobs available there along the southern border, and of course shelters and medical attention — everything — but on offer is work in our country,” he said during a morning press briefing. The offer of jobs to foreigners rankles some in Mexico, a country in which half the population lives in poverty and millions are unemployed. López Obrador was quick to add Friday that “the same goes for our nationals, there's a way for them to have work.” Despite the offer, distrust ran high among the migrants congregating just south of the Mexican border with Guatemala. Some feared they would be swiftly deported if they handed themselves over to Mexican authorities. A few, relying on unfounded rumors swirling among the migrants, said they suspected a more selfish motive behind Mexico's reinforcement of its southern border. “We've heard that the president of the United States has opened the doors and that he even has work for us, and that the Mexicans don't want to let us pass because they want to keep all the work,” said Carlos Alberto Bustillo of Honduras as he bathed in the Suchiate River. The Suchiate has sometimes been a point for standoffs, as migrants group together for strength in numbers, hoping that they can force their way across the bridge, or wade across the river, to avoid immigration checks in Mexico. The water levels of the river have been low enough this weekend to allow those who dare to simply trudge across. National Guardsmen lined the banks to warn against such undertakings, with interactions that resemble a high-stakes game of chicken. Honduran Darlin Mauricio Mejía joined a dozen other migrants for a splash on the banks of the Guatemalan side of the river early Sunday. Playfully, he shouted out to the guardsmen: asking if they could cross into Mexico to grab some mangos to eat. One of the guardsmen responded, curtly: “Let's go to immigration and they'll help you there.” ___ Associated Press writer Sonia Perez D. reported this story in Tecun Uman, Guatemala, and AP writer Maria Verza reported from Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico.
  • Security forces fired tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets in clashes Sunday with hundreds of anti-government protesters outside Lebanon's Parliament, as violence continued to escalate in a week of rioting. At least 114 people were injured in the protests, according to the Red Cross and the Lebanese Civil Defense teams, with 47 taken to hospitals for treatment. Most of the wounds were from rubber bullets, some in the face and upper body, an Associated Press reporter said. Among the injured from rubber bullets were at least two journalists, including one from the local TV station Al-Jadeed news who was struck in the hand. Demonstrators threw rocks and other projectiles and even shot a stream of fire from ignited aerosol cans. Security forces responded with tear gas and water cannons before turning to rubber bullets to try to disperse the crowds. A few protesters tried to climb metal barriers separating them from the riot police. Hundreds more, some chanting “Revolution,” gathered farther down the blocked street that leads to the Parliament in central Beirut. Army troops were deployed to the area briefly, and the violence stopped as protesters cheered the troops. But the army pulled out minutes later, and the clashes resumed with security forces barricaded behind the barriers. By late Sunday night, security forces and army troops were deployed in large formations to the blocked streets. Amid a downpour of rain and the advance of security forces, protesters retreated and the situation calmed in central Beirut. Army patrols briefly roamed the streets to prevent protesters from returning to outside the Parliament. During the rioting, protesters smashed the windows of two stores affiliated with an outgoing minister from the government they had accused of corruption. In one of the stores, a telecommunication company, the protesters smashed the windows and trashed the contents of the store as security alarms blared. Security forces reinforced the metal barriers surrounding the Parliament building earlier in the day, after the worst night of violence since the unrest erupted several months ago. There were nine hours of street battles with security forces Saturday as some protesters tried to scale the barriers. Those clashes left at least 377 people injured, the Red Cross and the Lebanese Civil Defense said. More than 120 were treated in hospitals, including a protester with an eye injury, as well as members of the security forces. Lebanon's Internal Security Forces said 142 of its members were injured, including seven officers, some with serious concussions. Lawyers defending protesters said 43 were arrested Saturday, including two minors. They said 11 were released the same day, and the other 32 were released Sunday, pending investigation. Most of the detainees were beaten while in custody, the lawyers added. The military made a show of force Sunday, with large numbers deployed in downtown Beirut and in southern Lebanon, patrolling ahead of the rallies. Riot police were in the front line guarding the Parliament. The clashes took place amid a rapidly worsening financial crisis and an ongoing impasse over the formation of a new government. Prime Minister Saad Hariri and the rest of the government resigned in late October. Prime Minister-designate Hassan Diab had been expected to announce a new 18-member Cabinet on Sunday after meeting with President Michel Aoun, but there was no announcement after a 90-minute meeting, signaling another delay among the fractious political leaders. The protests, which began in October, took a violent turn last week as popular frustration began to rise. Demonstrators say the political elite has ignored their calls for forming an independent government to tackle the deepening crisis. “We don’t accept the government the way they are forming it. They are using the old method to form the government ... so it’s not acceptable,' said protester Jil Samaha. 'We want a different way of forming a government.” Demonstrators have been rallying against those who have held power since the end of the 1975-90 civil war. They blame politicians for widespread corruption and mismanagement in a country that has accumulated one of the largest debt ratios in the world. Panic and anger have gripped the public as the Lebanese pound, pegged to the dollar for more than two decades, plummeted in value. It lost more than 60% of its value in recent weeks on the black market. The economy has seen no growth and flows of foreign currency dried up in the already heavily indebted country that relies on imports for most basic goods. Protesters targeted commercial banks, which have imposed informal capital controls, limiting the withdrawal of dollars and foreign transfers. Interior Minister Raya El Hassan on Saturday condemned the attacks on security forces and public and private property as 'totally unacceptable.' However, Human Rights Watch described the response by the security forces as “brutal,' and called for an urgent end to a “culture of impunity” for police abuse. “There was no justification for the brutal use of force unleashed by Lebanon’s riot police against largely peaceful demonstrators in downtown Beirut,' said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW. Security forces and the military had prepared for more violence by blocking access to some buildings in central Beirut with razor wire, and closing access to areas that included a popular tourist site. Workers also welded fencing together across roads leading to Parliament. On Beirut’s rain-dampened streets early in the day, shopkeepers, banks and other businesses swept up broken glass and boarded up windows. Workers at one bank took down a large sign to remove any identification to avoid angering protesters, who smashed the windows and the facade of Lebanon's Banking Association headquarters with metal bars on Saturday night. The demonstrators widely blame financial institutions, alongside government corruption, for the crippling economic crisis. Soot and ashes still littered the ground where security forces burned the tents of the protesters who staged a sit-in. ___ Associated Press writers David Rising and Dalal Mawad in Beirut contributed.
  • On the final day of menswear shows in the French capital, Lanvin put on an ode to contrasting styles, while British designers reigned supreme. London designer Craig Green decamped to Paris for his first major show outside of his homeland and British fashion icon Paul Smith showcased his latest designs. Here are some highlights of Sunday's fall-winter 2020-2021 menswear designs. LANVIN STRIKES DISCORD Dramatic jagged lighting panels were used as decor on the Lanvin show venue's Brutalist architecture. In more ways than one, this season was about contrasts. It infused all aspects of the unisex menswear collection: Each ensemble had a striking contrast in color, motif or style. A loose navy jacket sat against a white undergarment and shiny vermilion boots. While, voluminous white sheer sleeves with a historic-feel were twinned with an intentionally-clashing check skirt. A pared down or minimalist mood pervaded the 56 looks — in keeping with the direction the brand has moved as a whole since general changes last year that saw Bruno Sialelli named creative director. The house continues to capitalize on their “come back” after several years of creative turbulence. CRAIG GREEN DEBUTS IN PARIS In his first ever Paris show — and his first calendar show outside of London — British designer Craig Green made a splash. There was much anticipation on the move from his homeland, especially as British Vogue has deemed him one of the most important current London-based designers. Green developed a cutting-edge aesthetic after internships with fashion forward names Walter van Beirendonck and Henrik Vibskov that led to collaborations with Moncler. On Sunday, straps, long banding and geometric padding were dominant features in the designs that seemed fused with the show's bags. Long straps, tassels and abstract paneling came on the collection's rather statement geometric bags in brooding colors such as dark gunmetal, eggshell and silver. A transgressive, even aggressive, feeling appeared at times when the padding on the clothes and bags resembled army flaks. Green is a designer to watch. PAUL SMITH British fashion legend Paul Smith carried out a stylish collection — spanning from traditional statement coats, polka dots to total look denim. Varied themes defined the show. The Smith signature of loosely proportioned suits came in beautifully selected hues of dark pastel red, cadmium blue, copper red and vermilion among others this season. On coats, lapels were sometimes slightly jagged — a small flash of detail on the largely understated and pared-down designs. Total look denim might sound like a simplistic thought, but Smith's masterful use of extra thick fabric gave jackets a nice, armor-like feel.
  • Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, have made their choice: a radical break from palace protocol, constant press intrusion and a lavishly funded lifestyle. In exchange, they get personal freedom — the opportunity to start fresh in Canada without the perquisites and burden of their status as royal highnesses. There's a price for this liberty. Harry and Meghan will no longer be able to officially represent his grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, at events throughout the world. They also have agreed to repay taxpayer funds that were used to renovate their house near Windsor Castle and to pay rent on the property. The contours of this rupture are clear, but the path Harry and Meghan will choose is still to be determined. Some possible options for the now-not-so-royal couple. CHARITY WORK, PRIVATE BUSINESS, THE ARTS The agreement announced by Buckingham Palace and accompanied by a warm note from the queen does not limit the kinds of activities Harry and Meghan can pursue. The agreement does say the couple has “made clear that everything they do will continue to uphold the values of Her Majesty.” Those values are not spelled out, but it suggests the queen would not take a tolerant view if Harry and Meghan tried to cash in on their global fame in a crude way, or published a tell-all book about the royal family. That still leaves a lot of options. They could launch a for-profit business since they are not receiving taxpayer funds. They could follow through on plans to start a major charity to emphasize issues they have focused on, including the empowerment of women, improvement of mental health care and protection of international wildlife. The couple could even move into a new field like TV or movie production. Meghan is also free to resume her acting career, which was going strong when she met Harry nearly four years ago. A PRODUCT LINE, LIKE THAT OF PRINCE CHARLES Prince Charles, Harry's father, started marketing organic food products in 1990 under the name Duchy Originals. The product was clearly linked to Charles but the proceeds go to charity, like the successful salad dressing sold by actor Paul Newman. In 2010, the expanding brand formed a partnership with the upscale Waitrose supermarket chain. The brand has royal cachet but is not seen to be exploitative. Harry and Meghan could try something similar, perhaps coming up with a product tied to wildlife conservation or helping women in developing countries find productive jobs. In a case like that, they could probably market something that capitalized on their fame, provided the money helped support their causes. A LEGAL STATUS IN CANADA The couple intend to spend much of their time in Canada, where Meghan worked for seven years filming the TV series “Suits.” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken warmly about Harry and Meghan but said there are questions to be addressed. It is not clear who would pay for their personal security, or what their immigration and tax status would be. There are other issues as well. Canada is a Commonwealth country where Harry’s grandmother, the queen, is head of state. The country’s leading newspaper, The Globe and Mail, wrote in an editorial six days ago that senior royals were welcome to visit Canada but should not stay. “A royal living in this country does not accord with the longstanding nature of the relationship between Canada and Britain, and Canada and the Crown,” it said, suggesting that Harry’s extended presence would break an “unspoken constitutional taboo.” It’s likely that the couple's subsequent decision to cease all royal duties would salve most of these concerns. NEW RELATIONS WITH MEDIA Meghan enjoyed good relations with the press during her acting career, and breaking free from the Palace media organization will give her much more control over access. She and Harry will be able to pick and choose media opportunities on a strategic basic and won’t have to participate in events covered by the U.K.’s royal reporters. A BREAK FROM THE PUBLIC EYE Both have spoken repeatedly about a desire to have a more normal life as they raise 8-month-old Archie. Given the whirlwind since their wedding in 2018, Harry and Meghan could decide to take time off. Taking a breather might help them carve out the private space they need so that they can literally take a walk in the park with Archie without being trailed by 20 photographers. A RETURN? The new agreement follows a “never say never” model. It does not take away their status, it simply puts the titles “his royal highness” and “her royal highness” on hold with the couple’s agreement not to use them once the new rules take effect this spring. Likewise, the couple is retaining access to the ample house that is their British base. The agreement made public does not address the possibility of a change of heart, but it does say it will be reviewed next year by senior family members. The door seems open for Harry and Meghan to return at some future date despite the recent strain on his relationship with his older brother, Prince William. It’s possible -- irony alert -- that they might miss the spotlight.
  • Dutch police detained four suspects Sunday following a suspected failed attempt to break one or more prisoners out of a prison, authorities said. There were no reports of injuries and police said no prisoners escaped from the prison in the eastern city of Zutphen, close to the German border. According to police, several people attempted to force their way into the prison. Police declined to comment on who they might have been trying to help escape. “It looks like an attempt at an organized breakout,” police said in a statement. Police said they were initially called to the scene late morning following reports of a burning van on the grounds of the prison. Video footage from the scene showed a white van being towed away from the prison gates, which appear to have been scorched by flames.
  • Queen Elizabeth II was all smiles as she made her way to church Sunday after a momentous announcement that Prince Harry and wife Meghan would cut almost all of their ties to the royal family in favor of a more private life. She was greeted by royal supporters as she entered the church near her Sandringham House estate with her son Prince Andrew. Elizabeth, 93, has been managing a family crisis caused by Harry and Meghan's determination to spend most of their time in Canada and to completely alter their relationship with the rest of the royals. In a statement released Saturday evening, she put the best possible face on events by saying: “I want to thank them for all their dedicated work across this country, the Commonwealth and beyond, and am particularly proud of how Meghan has so quickly become one of the family.” Harry and Meghan haven't yet commented on the new relationship expected to begin this spring. His father Prince Charles and brother Prince William have also been silent. Harry and Meghan will stop using their “royal highness” titles and will lose all access to public funds when they stop carrying out official functions. The news has been greeted with dismay in the Sandringham area, where the queen and her family are familiar figures. Royal watcher Rosie Viles, who waited for a glimpse of the queen, said she wasn't shocked by the decision but was upset. “It’s very sad that he feels that he’s got to stand away from royal duties but he’s obviously made that decision and I think part of that might have been to do with his mum, Princess Diana,” she said, referring to the Diana's death in 1997 when she being hounded by the press. “I’m sad but it’s his decision at the end of the day and obviously the queen has sorted it all out.' ___ Gregory Katz reported from London. ___ Follow full AP coverage at https://www.apnews.com/PrinceHarry
  • One of the first people to notice Bernard Preynat's unhealthy obsession for young boys was the supervisor at the seminary where, still a teen, the future priest started training for his career in the church. 'At 14, 15 years old, I became interested in the youngest boys and the supervisor summoned me to tell me that I was abnormal and sick,' the self-confessed child abuser said at his trial in France this past week. “I explained this to the bishop.' And yet, after a two-year church-imposed course of psychotherapy, Preynat was still ordained into the priesthood. This chance, the first of many, to keep him away from children was spurned by the church hierarchy, which instead consistently — and successfully — long kept his abuses under wraps. Now, at Preynat's trial in the city of Lyon, a fuller picture of the damage he wrought on dozens of boys and their families is emerging. Four days of hearings also gave a long-overdue airing to the enabling role played by French church officials. Aware of his abuses, Lyon cardinals told him to stop but didn't report him to police, he said. “Had the church sidelined me earlier, I would have stopped earlier,” the 74-year-old testified. Only last July — about 40 years after parents first wrote to the Lyon diocese to raise alarm about the priest — was Preynat finally defrocked. Preyat told the court that he can't recall exactly how many boys he abused but estimated their number at no fewer than 75. The shocking testimony of Preynat and his victims is dealing another blow to the French Catholic Church as it reckons with sexual abuses that were long covered up. Preynat faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of sexually abusing minors in what is France's biggest clergy sex abuse trial to date. The prosecution asked for a sentence not less than eight years. A verdict is expected March 16. For victims, the trial has reinforced suspicions that had church officials acted far sooner, they might have been spared terrifying boyhood memories of being sexually abused. In court, they recalled how Preynat smelled of cigars and panted as he pressed his belly against them. “This trial shows that supervisors in the hierarchy were aware. We can see there was a lid over the diocese,' said Pierre-Emmanuel Germain-Thill, who says his life was turned upside down by abuse he suffered. “On several occasions, parents denounced him.” Preynat said the psychotherapy the church made him undergo from 1967-1968 as a condition for being able to continue training for the priesthood quickly proved to be a failure. “I thought I was cured after my therapy,' he testified. 'I was disappointed because I started again with the kids. After that, no other member of the church encouraged me to do another one.” His ordination in 1972 gave him both regular access to boys — he ran a scout group — and status to win the trust of unsuspecting parents. Preynat testified that while working as their scout chaplain, he abused up to two boys “almost every weekend” from 1970 to 1990 and as many as four or five a week when he led one-week scout camps. In a related case that reverberated all the way to the Vatican, Lyon Cardinal Philippe Barbarin was convicted in March of covering up for Preynat’s actions. Barbarin tried to resign, but Pope Francis refused to accept it until the appeals process is complete. An appeals court ruling is expected Jan. 30. Preynat testified that Barbarin's predecessors concealed his abuses, too. The first Lyon cardinal to tell him to stop was Alexandre Renard, in 1978, after parents sent a letter to the diocese, he said. But he wasn't removed from his church in the Lyon suburb of Sainte-Foy-les-Lyons and was left free to continue managing the scout group he had started. Renard died in 1983. More complaints from parents led to another summons in 1982 from the Lyon diocese, then led by Cardinal Albert Decourtray. “I was warned by the hierarchy of the impact these acts could have in the media,” Preynat said. Again, he was sent back to work. Another complaint followed in 1985, and was again suppressed, Preynat said. The church finally pulled him away from Lyon and his scout group in 1991, when parents were threatening to go public. Preynat says he swore then to Decourtray that he wouldn't touch any more children, and no other victims have come forward saying he abused them after 1991. But Preynat also testified that the cardinal seemed uninterested in finding out exactly how much damage the priest had done during two decades of abuse. “I told him that it was a long story, the drama of my life,' Preynat said. “He made a movement with his arm so that I wouldn't tell him the facts.” Decourtray died in 1994. After six months on the sidelines living with nuns, Preynat was given another parish in the Lyon countryside where he quietly ministered until 2015. But his abuses weren't forgotten, either by his victims or the church. Preynat said that in 2001 he was summoned again by Lyon's cardinal, then Louis-Marie Bille, who wanted to know whether his abuses were too old to be prosecuted. “I was received for 10 minutes.' Preynat testified. 'He sent me to see a lawyer.' Bille died in 2002, replaced by Barbarin. Aside from church superiors, Preynat said he also systematically spoke about his behavior in the confessional. “I always confessed my faults,” he said. 'Every time the confessor gave me absolution and urged me not to start again. A month later, I'd start again.” ___ AP writer John Leicester in Paris contributed to this report.
  • A Russian group that monitors political repressions said eight people were detained by police Sunday at a march in Moscow commemorating a human rights lawyer and a journalist who were fatally shot 11 years ago. There was no immediate information from the OVD-Info group about charges against those taken into custody who were part of a demonstration of about 1,500 people. The demonstrators were marking the 2009 killing of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and reporter Anastasia Baburova. The two had just left a news conference where Markelov announced that he would seek to overturn the early release from prison of a Russian military officer convicted of raping and murdering a young woman in Chechnya. A Russian nationalist was sentenced to life in prison for the killings.
  • The head of the World Economic Forum says it's “reassuring' that U.S. President Donald Trump and climate activist Greta Thunberg will both return to its annual meeting in Davos this year, noting that concerns about the environment will be a key topic. WEF founder Klaus Schwab sees vast changes in business, society and culture over the 50 years since he created the yearly gathering in the Swiss Alps, which initially was a forum for business leaders but now is a key stop for policymakers and activists as well. Following another year of extreme heat, out-of-control wildfires and melting ice sheets, environmental issues are considered to be the top five long-term risks confronting the global economy, WEF said last week, citing a survey of more than 750 decision-makers. It said catastrophic trends like global warming, climate change and the extinction of animal species would top the agenda at the meeting that begins Tuesday. The forum is shifting its focus of recent years from how technology is transforming lives to the environment and responsible business practices that promote jobs, fight climate change and work for social good along with profit-making. The focus on environment could make for an uncomfortable subject for Trump, whose administration has called for expanded use of carbon-spewing coal, stripped away environmental protections and played down concerns among scientists about man-made climate change. Trump has also moved to take the U.S. out of the landmark 2015 Paris accord to fight climate change. Schwab says Trump is welcome because of his role on the world stage while Thunberg will keep the focus on the environment. Both will speak Tuesday on the opening day. “I think both voices are necessary,' Schwab said Sunday in an interview with The Associated Press. “The environment will play a particularly important role during this meeting.” Schwab pointed to the forum's 160 “lighthouse” projects on inclusion and equality; economic development; technology governance; regional development; corporate leadership and ecology, including a project to plant a trillion trees. “So if Greta comes this year, she will see that we have made substantial progress,” he said, alluding to her debut at the forum last year. Time magazine chose Thunberg as its “Person of the Year” for 2019. Schwab claimed the forum has helped air concerns about the environment since the 1970s, but said public awareness about climate issues has now exploded. “Now we have recognized the urgency, because we know the window to act (on climate change) is closing,” he said, adding he hoped to inject 'this sense of urgency into the meeting.” He said many companies are increasingly seeing the benefits of “ESG” — environmental, social and governance — concerns in their business models. 'Companies recognize ... doing good ... it's a precondition for some long-term survival,' Schwab said. On Friday, Schwab and the chairmen of Bank of America and Dutch nutrition company Royal DSM sent a joint open letter to corporate leaders on hand this year to set “a target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 or sooner” if their companies haven't done so already. The forum chief said nearly all European Union leaders will be on hand this year, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He said the EU has a chance to lay out its vision for the future and turn the corner after three years of haggling over Britain's departure from the bloc, which comes at the end of this month. He also brushed aside critics who have faulted the forum as an overly exclusive vacation for the world's out-of-touch elites. “If I am particularly proud of something during the last 50 years, it is of having created many years ago the community of young leaders,' Schwab said, citing 10,000 young “Global Shapers” in over 400 cities who he said are engaged in issues on the ground. “We try — and I think quite successfully — to integrate the bottom-up, young generation very much.” The Davos gathering has battled a reputation of being a haunt for the rich, powerful and famous over its five decades. Over the years, the forum has hosted celebrities like Hollywood stars Shirley Maclaine and George Clooney, Nobel Peace Prize laureates Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat, and former South African presidents F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Mandela, and business gurus like Davos regular Bill Gates. ___ Masha Macpherson contributed to this report.