The UN climate talks in Copenhagen have ended in failure as world leaders couldn’t agree to a binding deal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of reaching a global consensus, the US, China, South Africa, Brazil and India met behind closed doors and drafted a non-binding document known as the Copenhagen accord. The agreement seeks to limit global warming to a maximum of a two degree Celsius rise in temperature. But it does not specify targets for cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. President Obama described the non-binding deal as an unprecedented breakthrough. Delegates from around the world denounced the US-led deal as an undemocratic sham that sacrificed the interests of poor countries. Lumumba Stanislaus Di-Aping, the chair of the G-77 group of developing countries, compared the agreement to the Holocaust. Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica described the US-led climate deal as a cover-up. On Friday night, climate protesters rallied in Copenhagen, where they carried torches forming the word “Shame.” Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the site of the talks and chanted “Climate Justice Now.” Watch/Listen/Read Democracy Now!’s Full Coverage of Copenhagen talks
In Australia, twenty-three protesters were arrested Sunday after shutting down the railway line leading to Australia’s biggest coal export facility. Activists from the group Rising Tide Newcastle stopped a coal train and chained themselves to it and the rail tracks to effectively close the train line for six hours.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats have moved a step closer to passing a major healthcare bill. Early this morning the Senate voted 60 to 40 to cut off a Republican filibuster. The votes put the legislation on pace for final passage later this week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid accused Republicans of trying to stall the vote.
Sen. Harry Reid: “This is not about partisanship or about procedure, and everyone knows we’re here at one o’clock in the morning because of my friends on the other side of the aisle. For them to say with a straight face, and I noticed some of them didn’t have that straight face, that we’re here because of us is without any foundation whatsoever, and everyone knows that.”
The early morning vote was the first test of whether Democrats could secure the sixty votes needed to overcome unified Republican opposition. Democrats were assured of victory on Saturday after their last holdout, Senator Ben Nelson, agreed to a compromise ensuring federal funds would not be used to pay for abortions. Unlike the House healthcare bill, the Senate legislation does not call for the creation of a government-run public insurance option.
On Sunday, Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin blasted the Obama White House for showing a lack of support for the public option. Feingold said, “I’ve been fighting all year for a strong public option to compete with the insurance industry and bring healthcare spending down. Unfortunately, the lack of support from the administration made keeping the public option in the bill an uphill struggle.” We’ll have more on the healthcare bill after headlines.
A new study on healthcare lobbying published in the Chicago Tribune found that healthcare companies have spent $635 million on lobbying over the past two years. At least 166 former congressional aides involved in shaping healthcare legislation have registered to lobby for healthcare companies. This includes at least fourteen former aides to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and at least thirteen former aides to Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus, the chair of the Finance Committee.
ABC News is reporting the US military bombed two sites in the Middle Eastern nation of Yemen on Thursday on direct orders from President Obama. The strikes are seen as a major escalation of the Obama administration’s campaign against al-Qaeda. US officials told ABC the target of the strikes was a pair of suspected al-Qaeda training camps. A human rights activist in Yemen said twenty-three children and seventeen women were among the sixty-four people killed. Earlier this month, President Obama hinted that Yemen could soon be attacked.
On Capitol Hill, the Senate has approved a $636 billion military spending bill that continues to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The measure was passed by an 88-to-ten vote. Democratic Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin was joined by nine Republican senators in opposing the bill. The bill includes $80 million to acquire more unmanned “Predator” drones to allow the Obama administration to expand the air war in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In Iran tens of thousands of people turned out today for the funeral of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, one of Iran’s most prominent dissident clerics. Montazeri was a fierce critic of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and called his re-election a fraud. Meanwhile, an Iranian military court has determined at least three Iranian political prisoners were beaten to death by their jailers following June’s presidential election. On Saturday, three Iranian jail officials were charged with murder.
The mother of one of three American hikers detained in an Iranian prison has posted an online video plea for their release. Nora Shourd, the mother of Sarah Shourd, urged Iran’s Supreme Leader to release the three Americans who have been detained since July.
Israeli authorities have arrested a prominent Palestinian activist who has organized protests against the construction of Israel’s separation wall through the West Bank. Jamal Juma has served as the coordinator of the Stop the Wall Campaign since 2002. Another prominent West Bank anti-wall activist named Abdallah Abu Rahma was reportedly taken from his home by masked Israel soldiers earlier this month. A third anti-wall campaigner, Mohammad Othman, has been held by Israel for three months.
Human Rights Watch is calling on the Obama administration and the Senate to step up efforts to ratify the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. One hundred eighty-six nations have ratified the global women’s rights treaty since it was signed thirty years ago this week, on December 18, 1979. Only the United States, Iran, Sudan, Somalia, Palau, Nauru and Tonga have not ratified it.
An investigation by New American Media has found that loans handed out to struggling small businesses as part of President Obama’s stimulus package have largely shut out minority businesses — especially those owned by African Americans and Latinos. Over 91 percent of the special small business loans went to white-owned businesses. Three percent went to Latino-owned businesses, just 1.5 percent to black-owned firms. Overall, white-owned businesses received over $130 million in loans through the program, while Hispanic-owned businesses got $4 million and black-owned businesses less than $2 million. In five states — Alabama, Arkansas, New Hampshire, South Dakota, and Wyoming — every single firm that received a loan was white-owned. In eight other states, including Louisiana and Nevada, all but one loan went to a white-owned firm.