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President Obama has joined the Copenhagen climate summit talks, but with no new proposals to break the deadlock many have blamed in large part on his administration. Just over an hour ago, President Obama addressed the plenary with a call on world leaders to act “boldly and decisively.” But he offered no change to the US offer to reduce emissions by just four percent of 1990 levels, despite authoritative scientific calls for a 25 to 40 percent reduction. Obama also reiterated the US pledge of $10 billion for an annual climate fund which poorer nations have dismissed as insufficient.
The summit was shaken up Thursday after confidential UN documents showed the currently proposed emissions cuts would increase global temperatures by an average three degrees Celsius. The disclosure contradicts promises from world leaders to cap increases at two degrees. The new figure is double the 1.5 degrees called for by developing countries, which would require limiting C02 emissions at 350 parts per million. Jade Lindgaard of the French news website Mediapart broke the story yesterday on Democracy Now!
Jade Lindgaard: “A very interesting leak today from the UNFCCC secretariat showing that the targets of reduction emissions that countries now, today, are putting on the table, these targets do not allow to stay below two degree rise in temperature. And they even say that it could lead us to a rise of three degree in temperature, which is, as we know, catastrophic if that ever happens.”
Civil society delegates remain barred from the talks on the summit’s final day. Thousands have had their access revoked since Wednesday. In a statement, Dorothy Guerrero of Focus on the Global South said, “The people of the global south are particularly being silenced. [But] with or without the negotiations, an inclusive movement that brings together the aspirations of communities [from] both the north and the south is growing to find just and equitable solutions to the climate crisis.”
Activist groups, meanwhile, are accusing Danish police of an elaborate spying and detention operation to undermine their protests over the summit’s two weeks. Court hearings for two jailed organizers have revealed police used wiretaps to monitor activists’ phone calls. Protesters say undercover agents posed as demonstrators to infiltrate crowds and make arrests. Three Climate Justice Action spokespeople involved with Wednesday’s Reclaim Power action at the Bella Center meanwhile have been charged following their arrests earlier this week. Tadzio Mueller has been charged with incitement, while two others have been charged with violence against police officers and disorderly conduct. Mueller has been jailed for the last four days. Footage has emerged of scores of detained activists following the police raid on the autonomous community of Christiania earlier this week. The Denmark Indymedia video shows the activists chanting inside their jail cells.
On the eve of the summit’s final day, two activists with the group Greenpeace interrupted a state dinner for over a hundred world leaders at the Danish Royal Palace. Dressed in formal evening wear, the couple unfurled banners reading “Politicians Talk, Leaders Act.” The action came one day after two activists briefly interrupted the summit plenary chanting slogans for climate justice.
Climate justice actions meanwhile continue in the United States. On Thursday, the environmental group Greenpeace gathered at the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington. Unfurling a banner resembling yellow police tape, Greenpeace activists declared the Chamber’s headquarters a “climate crimes scene.”
Activist: “This is the Greenpeace Climate Crimes Unit! We are declaring the US Chamber of Commerce a climate crimes scene. The US Chamber of Commerce and other dirty industry lobbyists have taken the future of our planet hostage. They are undercutting America’s efforts to stop runaway climate change, and as a result, world leaders are not reaching a deal in Copenhagen. We demand that the industry lobbyists cease and desist.”
Also in Washington, over a dozen youth activists held a sit-in at the State Department. Organizers say they held the action in solidarity with Thursday’s youth sit-in inside the Bella Center protesting the exclusion of civil society delegates and calling for a fair, binding deal.
In Pakistan, at least sixteen people have been killed in a US drone attack. The bombing struck a tribal area in North Waziristan.
In Afghanistan, the US has launched a major combat operation in the Uzbeen Valley. Five US Special Forces have reportedly been wounded in the early stages of the attack. The new assault comes as the US has begun sending the first wave of the 30,000 additional troops ordered by President Obama earlier this month. On Thursday, the first Marine battalion deployed under the escalation left Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Battalion member Lance Corporal Joseph Jones was asked about his mission.
Lance Corporal Joseph Jones: “This is what we do: kick down doors, and we look for people and shoot at people. This is what we do. This is what I signed up to do. I don’t know about everyone else.”
The US ambassador to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, meanwhile has given new indications the US expects to remain beyond its 2011 time line. Speaking before an Afghan audience Thursday, Eikenberry said, “This is not a deadline despite what some people in the United States and Afghanistan have said… [It’s] entirely based on the conditions that exist at that time.”
The Pentagon has acknowledged militants in Iraq and Afghanistan have used internet software to hack into live video feeds of US drones. The intercepts could have helped militants evade drone attacks. Pentagon officials said they’ve long known unencrypted feeds were vulnerable for hacking, but didn’t think militants would take advantage.
Newly released figures show the ratio of Pentagon contractors to military personnel is at an all-time high. The Senate Contract Oversight Subcommittee revealed Thursday contractors now comprise 69 percent of total Pentagon employees. The number of private contractors in Afghanistan grew 40 percent between June and September. The number of armed contractors doubled in size to more than 10,000.
The Western Sahara independence activist Aminatou Haidar has returned home after a more than month-long hunger strike that brought her close to death. Haidar began her hunger strike after Moroccan officials barred her from returning to Western Sahara unless she recognize Moroccan sovereignty over her homeland. On Thursday, Morocco relented under a deal brokered with France and Spain. Haidar was released from intensive care and flown to the Western Sahara city of Laayoune earlier today. Haidar called her return “a triumph for international law, for human rights, for international justice and for the cause” of Western Sahara.
In Israel and the Occupied Territories, new allegations have surfaced on US collaboration with the Palestinian Authority in repressing opposition groups. The Guardian of London reports Palestinian security forces have allegedly tortured Hamas supporters with the support of the CIA. Anonymous Western diplomats say the CIA appears to be supervising the Palestinian security forces’ activities. The US-PA cooperation emerged out of the Oslo accords in the early 1990s. In 2006, the Bush administration and the Palestinian Authority tried to overthrow the Hamas-led government after Hamas won Palestinian national elections.
A House subcommittee has announced a probe into a ruling that will give the banking giant Citigroup billions in new tax breaks that could be worth more than the bailout money Citigroup is paying back. Last Friday, the Treasury Department quietly changed a longstanding law so Citigroup could keep $38 billion in tax breaks that would decline in value when the government sells its $25 billion stake. Companies can pay less taxes to account for prior losses, but not when they’re sold to new ownership, as the Treasury plans to do. Announcing the probe under the House Oversight Domestic Policy Subcommittee, Congress member Dennis Kucinich called the Citigroup ruling an “outrage” and a “farce.”
The Senate Banking Committee has approved the nomination of Federal Reserve chair Ben Bernanke for a second term. Bernanke’s reappointment has come under opposition over his role in crafting policies that led to the nation’s financial meltdown and the subsequent bailout of Wall Street firms. Senator Jeff Merkley was one of seven Banking Committee members to vote against Bernanke’s nomination.
Sen. Jeff Merkley: “Dr. Bernanke’s approach helped set our economic house on fire. That fire has destroyed the jobs, the healthcare, the retirement savings of millions of Americans, working families. I think we need to look for leadership that will be adept at rebuilding our economic house.”
Bernanke’s confirmation will now go before a full Senate vote.
The Obama administration has announced it will stop jailing asylum seekers who have a credible fear of prosecution in their home countries. Under the new rules, asylum seekers will have to prove they are at threat and show they are not dangerous or a flight risk. Mary Meg McCarthy of the National Immigrant Justice Center called the move a “significant step,” but added, “Additional changes are necessary to ensure our country is fulfilling its human rights obligations to offer protection to those fleeing danger.”
In Mexico, new figures have been released showing more than 5,000 Mexican migrants have died trying to reach the United States since 1994. Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission says an average three migrants lost their lives every two days in the US-Mexico border region in 2007 and 2008.
And in Oregon, an environmental activist has been released after nine-and-a-half years in prison. Jeff Luers was originally sentenced to twenty-three years for setting three SUVs on fire at a car dealership. No one was hurt in the fire. Luers has said he committed the act to raise awareness about global warming. The sentence was later overturned and reduced last year. In a statement, Luers said, “Without a doubt, this experience has changed me. What hasn’t changed is my commitment to environmental and social justice.”