Oil giant ExxonMobil is under criminal investigation over claims it lied to the public and investors about the risks of climate change. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued a subpoena to Exxon demanding the company turn over financial records, emails and other documents. This comes after recent exposés by InsideClimate News and the Los Angeles Times revealed that for decades Exxon concealed its own findings that fossil fuels cause global warming, alter the climate and melt the Arctic ice. Exxon scientists knew about climate change as early as 1977. But beginning in the 1980s, the company openly embraced climate denial and spent millions of dollars funding outside groups that sought to undermine climate science. Bill McKibben of 350.org praised the New York probe, tweeting: "Just a remarkable day. [The] World’s most powerful fossil fuel company may actually be held to account for helping wreck our planet." Legal experts say other oil companies who have promoted climate denial could face similar investigations.
This comes as a new collection of scientific studies on extreme weather events says climate change played a role in at least half of the droughts, floods and storms last year. Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann told The New York Times, "The question is no longer whether there is an influence of climate change on extreme weather events. The debate is simply over the magnitude and extent of that influence."
Meanwhile, a new survey by the Pew Research Center shows people around the world overwhelmingly agree on the need to limit greenhouse gas emissions to address climate change. The survey polled people in 40 different countries. In all but one, the majority of respondents said they support emission limits. This comes as a group of Iowa state legislators have called on visiting presidential candidates to sign onto a pledge calling for a World War II-style mobilization to transition the United States to a clean economy. The pledge urges the United States to end all fossil fuel use by 2025 and for the government to employ tens of millions of Americans in expanding clean energy and agricultural infrastructure. Iowa is considered a key swing state for the 2016 presidential race.
President Obama says it is "a possibility" that a bomb downed a Russian passenger plane in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula over the weekend, killing 224 people aboard. This comes as the BBC reports British investigators believe a bomb was placed in the aircraft’s baggage compartment just before takeoff. An affiliate of the self-proclaimed Islamic State has said it was responsible. Egypt and Russia have rejected this claim, saying there is no evidence to support it. On Thursday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the U.S. has not yet made a determination on the cause of the crash.
Josh Earnest: "There’s obviously an Egyptian-led investigation into this tragic incident that remains ongoing. At this point, the United States has not made our own determination about the cause of the incident. However, we can’t rule anything out, including the possibility of terrorist involvement."
A program intended to help Central American children apply for refugee status has failed to admit a single child into the United States in over 10 months. The Central American Minors program was established last December as a way to let children submit their applications from their home countries so they could avoid the dangerous trek across Central America and Mexico. More than 5,400 children have applied from El Salvador alone. All were seeking to join parents who have legal status in the United States. Bureaucratic red tape has prevented a single child from being approved. We’ll have more on Central American migration with Democracy Now! correspondent Renée Feltz later in the broadcast.
Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced a new plan for people seeking asylum. It involves creating special centers that will fast-track deportation proceedings for people who do not qualify for refugee status. Approximately 800,000 people have arrived in Germany this year, most fleeing violence in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Eritrea and other countries.
In Brazil, at least 17 people have died after a dam burst at a mining waste site, unleashing a deluge of toxic red mud that flooded a village in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais. The dam is jointly owned by two mining giants, Vale of Brazil and BHP Billiton of Australia.
Meanwhile, Brazilian oil workers are on strike in efforts to stop the privatization of state oil company Petrobras. It’s being called the most disruptive strike at the company in 20 years. Simao Zanardi, the leader of the refinery union, spoke out.
Simao Zanardi: "We will remain on strike until the government gives us a sign that it will not accept to negotiate the privatization of Petrobras. We also want them to finish the works at the Abreu e Lima refinery in Pernambuco; at the Comperj, the petro complex of Rio de Janeiro; and the fertilizer factory in Três Lagoas, in Mato Grosso do Sul. These three projects are vital for Petrobras and Brazil to conquer their sovereignty in energy."
In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a police officer who fatally shot an unarmed driver in his back as he lay face down in the snow has been acquitted. In February, Officer Lisa Mearkle tried to pull over David Kassick for allegedly having an expired inspection sticker. She chased him to his sister’s house, where Kassick got out of the car and ran into the backyard. There, the officer repeatedly shocked him with her stun gun while he lay face down on the snowy ground. She then shot him twice in the back. The shooting was caught on camera. On Thursday, a jury found the officer not guilty on charges of manslaughter and third-degree murder.
In New York City, two former London traders have been convicted of more than two dozen counts of criminal fraud and conspiracy for rigging Libor, the interest rate which underpins trillions in global transactions. Former traders Anthony Allen and Anthony Conti could face a decade or more in prison.
In Canada, dozens of people have launched a four-day sit-in at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s home to call for a freeze on tar sands expansion. The protesters are also calling on Canada to transition toward a clean energy economy and to honor government treaties with First Nations. Organizer Clayton Thomas-Muller outlined the demands.
Clayton Thomas-Muller: "Number one, that we freeze the expansion of the Alberta tar sands. And the second ask that we have, of course, is that we unthaw investment into Canada’s renewable energy economy, and that it’s done so in a just transition framework."
Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau was sworn into office this week. Last month, oil giant Shell abandoned its plans to construct a massive new tar sands mine, citing concerns there aren’t enough pipelines to transport the crude oil. The construction of major new pipelines to move Alberta tar sands crude has faced massive resistance, especially by First Nations.