A new study is warning the heating of the planet is threatening a temperature rise of up to 6 degrees Celcius by the end of the century. The Global Carbon Project says a continued increase in carbon dioxide emissions means the planet could see up to triple the maximum 2-degree target set by the United Nations in 2010. The warning follows the news global emissions of greenhouses gases hit an all-time record last year. In a statement, the lead scientist with the Global Carbon Project says the goal of avoiding devastating temperature rises can only be achieved through "an immediate, large and sustained global mitigation effort."
Both the White House and Congressional Republican say ongoing talks over averting the so-called fiscal cliff are at a stalemate. Speaking on Friday at toy factory in Philadelphia, President Obama accused Republicans of being "Scrooges" for their refusal to accept higher taxes on the wealthiest Americans.
President Obama: "If Congress does nothing, every family in America will see their income taxes automatically go up on January 1st. Every — every family, everybody here, you’ll see your taxes go up on January 1st. I mean, I’m assuming that doesn’t sound too good to you. That’s sort of like the lump of coal you get for Christmas. That’s a Scrooge Christmas. It’s not acceptable to me, and I don’t think it’s acceptable to you, for just a handful of Republicans in Congress to hold middle-class tax cuts hostage simply because they don’t want tax rates on upper-income folks to go up."
Responding to Obama in Washington, House Speaker John Boehner said increasing taxes on the wealthy would curb the nation’s economic recovery.
John Boehner: "No, there’s a stalemate. Let’s not kid ourselves. Increasing tax rates draws money away from our economy that needs to be invested in our economy to put the American people back to work. It’s the wrong approach. We’re willing to put revenues on the table, but revenues that come from closing loopholes, getting rid of special interest deductions, and not raising rates."
Speaking meanwhile on NBC’s Meet the Press, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said he’s confident Republicans will ultimately cave in their fight to preserve tax cuts for the wealthy.
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner: "The only thing standing in the way of that [a deal] would be a refusal by Republicans to accept that rates are going to go — have to go up on the wealthiest Americans. And I don’t really see them doing that. If the Republicans don’t like those ideas and they want to do it differently, they want to go beyond that, then they have to tell us what makes sense to them, and then we can take a look at it, but what we can’t do is try to figure out what makes sense for them."
Israel has retaliated against the United Nations’ Palestinian statehood vote by seizing additional Palestinian funds and announcing a new round of settlement construction in the occupied West Bank. One day after the U.N. General Assembly’s historic decision to grant Palestine the status of a "non-member observer state," Israel responded by authorizing 3,000 new homes in Jewish-only settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. At a cabinet meeting on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel will continue to build on Palestinian land wherever it wants.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: "Today we are building, and we will continue to build in Jerusalem and in all areas that are on the state of Israel’s map of strategic interests."
In addition to the new settlement homes, Israel also moved ahead with a plan to complete a Jerusalem settlement that will entrench its splitting of the West Bank in half, further eroding any remote chance of a viable Palestinian state. Israel says the area known as "E1" — which connects Israeli land with the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim — will see further development, cutting off the northern West Bank from the south as well as from East Jerusalem. Hagit Ofran of the Israeli group Peace Now said the completion of E1 would mark a death knell for a two-state solution.
Hagit Ofran: "The construction in E1 is at the heart of the potential Palestinian state. If Israel is to build in E1, there is no possible agreement on a two-state solution, because a Palestinian state will be cut between the south and the north of the state, and it won’t be a viable state."
The new construction comes in a record year for Israeli settlement building. According to Peace Now, Israel has authorized more settlements in 2012 than in any year over the past decade. Israel followed up the announcement of new settlements by seizing over $120 million in tax revenues collected for the Palestinian Authority. Returning to the West Bank on Sunday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas criticized Israel and celebrated the U.N. vote as a victory for the Palestinian cause.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas: "Yes, now we have a state. Congratulations to all of you brave Palestinians. You alone have accomplished this achievement and alone have won this victory."
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for one of the boldest attacks on the U.S. military in Afghanistan so far this year. On Sunday, militants struck a U.S. base in eastern Afghanistan with car bombs, setting off a gun battle that left four Afghan guards, four Afghan civilians and all nine of the attackers dead. Up to 10 NATO servicemembers were also wounded.
Syrian forces continue to bomb areas around the capital of Damascus in a bid to thwart the advance of rebel fighters. The Syrian army has used warplanes and ground operations in attempting to secure a perimeter around Damascus and prevent the rebels’ entry. Meanwhile, in Homs, at least 12 people were killed and dozens more wounded on Sunday in a double-car bombing. In a briefing to the U.N. General Assembly, U.N.-Arab League special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi called on the Security Council to authorize peacekeepers in Syria.
Lakhdar Brahimi: "Any peace process must include necessarily a binding agreement on the cessation of all forms of violence. As I said earlier, there is no trust between the parties, and for fighting to stop, a strong, well-planned observation system must be put in place. Such observation can best be organized through a large, robust peacekeeping force, and naturally that cannot be envisaged without a Security Council resolution."
Egypt’s top court has suspended its work following heavy protests by supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. The Supreme Constitutional Court had been slated to rule on whether to dissolve the upper house of Egypt’s parliament as well as an Islamist panel drafting a new constitution. But large crowds greeted the judges on Sunday, forcing them to cancel the meeting. Egypt has been thrown into renewed conflict since Morsi granted himself sweeping powers last week. In a further rebuke of Morsi from the judiciary, the group representing Egypt’s judges has said it will refuse to oversee a referendum on a new constitution slated for later this month.
The Pentagon has confirmed plans to deploy hundreds of additional spies overseas as part of an effort to expand its intelligence operations worldwide. The Washington Post reports the Defense Intelligence Agency hopes to use the covert operatives as part of an overall force of some 1,600 officials around the world. The proposed expansion would ultimately result in what the Pentagon aims to be an espionage network rivaling the CIA in size. It would also likely result in an increased number of deadly air strikes and other covert actions that would otherwise be subjected to congressional oversight.
The trial of accused U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning has been delayed about a month. The military judge overseeing Manning’s pretrial hearing for allegedly leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks said Sunday that his trial will be pushed back to mid-March. Manning has recently testified in his case for the first time, in addition to witnesses who have said he was held in unusually harsh conditions.
A Qatari poet sentenced last week to life in prison for his writing is planning to appeal his case in court. Mohammad al-Ajami was accused of insulting Qatar’s emir and inciting the overthrow of the regime. He wrote a poem inspired by the Tunisian uprising that read, in part, "We are all Tunisia, in the face of the repressive elite." Al-Ajami has been held largely in solitary confinement since his arrest one year ago.