Canada has become the first country to officially announce it is withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Environment Minister Peter Kent made the announcement just one day after a United Nations Climate Change Conference wrapped up in Durban, South Africa.
Peter Kent, Canadian environment minister: “Canada went to Durban in a spirit of goodwill. We went committed to being constructive. We went looking to reach an international climate change agreement that covers all major emitters. As we said from the outset, the Kyoto Protocol does not represent the path forward for Canada. The Durban platform is a way forward that builds on our work at Copenhagen and at Cancún.”
Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions increased by 17 percent between 1990 and 2009 in part due to Canada’s expanding tar sands oil development. Canada has the world’s third largest oil reserves behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.
A longtime human rights advocate has been sworn in as Tunisia’s new president nearly a year after protests topped Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. The new president, Moncef Marzouki, vowed to be faithful to the martyrs and to the objectives of the revolution. Marzouki headed the Tunisian League for the Defense of Human Rights from 1989 until he was forced out of the country in 1994.
More than 1,000 Occupy Wall Street protesters joined together to shut down several West Coast sea ports Monday. Demonstrators temporarily closed shipping terminals in Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon; and Seattle, Washington. The protest marked an effort to cut into the economic profits of major corporations, particularly Goldman Sachs, which owns a large stake in port operator SSA Marine. Protester Justin Nelson explained the motives behind the action.
Justin Nelson, protester: “Well, the idea is that if you find a big company like, in this case, Goldman Sachs, you’ve got to hit them in the pocketbook. So we’re hoping to close down a shift. We’re hoping to back things up a bit. We’re hoping to gum up the works of the system here.”
Across the country, Occupy protesters joined in solidarity demonstrations to support the West Coast port action. In New York City, more than 200 Occupy Wall Street demonstrators marched to the headquarters of Goldman Sachs, then made their way to the World Financial Center. A total of 17 people were arrested, including several members of the Occupy Wall Street media team and independent journalists. Video from the incident shows police officers directly interfering with at least one credentialed New York Times photographer, less than one month after New York City Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly issued a memo explicitly instructing officers not to interfere with the press.
In Houston, Texas, police arrested 20 Occupy protesters outside the city’s port. Over a dozen demonstrators chose to lay in the street, blocking traffic, at which point law enforcement placed a large, red tent over the protesters as they attempted to cut through PVC pipe the activists had reportedly used to link their arms together.
In Baltimore, Maryland, police in full riot gear cleared Occupy protesters from their months-old encampment early this morning. A spokesman for the department said the scene was “extremely peaceful” and added that protesters were being moved to homeless shelters. Roughly 40 people were moved out of the 10-week-old camp. There were no arrests reported.
Eleven anti-nuclear activists were arrested in Brattleboro, Vermont, Monday after attempting to make a citizens’ arrest of the board and officers of Entergy, operator of the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Inside the offices of Entergy, the 11 women briefly did an Occupy-style “mic check” to read the citizens’ arrest warrant. Among those arrested was Frances Crowe, a 92-year-old activist from Northampton, Massachusetts.
Frances Crowe, anti-nuclear activist: “I came here today to deliver a citizen’s arrest on the executives of Entergy, because they are the owners of Vermont Yankee, and we feel that they’re conducting an immoral, illegal operating Vermont Yankee plant that needs to be shut down. It’s very dangerous, and they refueled it. I fear they’re not going to shut it down on the 21st of March. So we feel that we need to keep the pressure on them to shut it down now.”
Monday’s action in Vermont has been described as the first Occupy protest at a nuclear power plant operator.
House and Senate negotiators have agreed to a sweeping $662 billion military spending bill that would allow for indefinite detentions of Americans by the U.S. military. The bill has been widely criticized by several top Obama administration officials, human rights groups and many Tea Party Republicans. According to the Associated Press, the current legislation would deny some suspected terrorists, even U.S. citizens seized within the nation’s borders, of the right to trial and subject them to indefinite detention. President Obama had threatened to veto an earlier version of the bill which would have required all terrorism suspects be held and tried by the military. The military spending bill also imposes tough new sanctions on Iran.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with President Obama at the White House Monday as the U.S. military continues its withdrawal from Iraq. Obama assured Baghdad on Monday the United States would remain a strong partner after the pullout concludes.
President Barack Obama: “Mr. Prime Minister, as we end this war and as Iraq faces its future, the Iraqi people must know that you will not stand alone. You have a strong and enduring partner in the United States of America. And so, today the prime minister and I are reaffirming our common vision of a long-term partnership between our nations. This is in keeping with our strategic framework agreement, and it will be like the close relationships we have with other sovereign nations.”
While the United States is pulling its troops out of Iraq, it will maintain close military ties to Iraq and will operate the largest embassy in the world in Baghdad. The U.S. mission will include up to 16,000 people nationwide, including thousands of private mercenaries. President Obama used Prime Minister Maliki’s visit to notify Congress of the administration’s intent to sell Iraq 18 more F-16 fighter jets. Maliki also spoke of the U.S.-Iraq relationship after the military pullout.
Nouri al-Maliki, Iraqi prime minister: “Anyone who observes the nature of the relationship between the two countries will say that the relationship will not end with the departure of the last American soldier.”
United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay said Monday the death toll in Syria’s nine-month crackdown on anti-government protesters has now passed 5,000. The figure represents a sharp increase over the more than 4,000 that she cited just 10 days ago.
Navi Pillay, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: “It is rather shocking that when I reported to the Security Council on the 18th of August, I reported 2,000 civilians killed, and today I’ve reported that the figure exceeds 5,000… And so, it is based on the evidence and the widespread and systematic nature of the killings, the detentions and the acts of torture that I felt that these acts constituted crimes against humanity, and I recommended that there should be a referral to the International Criminal Court.”
Pillay said the violent crackdown by the government of President Bashar al-Assad could constitute crimes against humanity. Pillay also said than 14,000 people were reportedly in detention.
The U.S. Supreme Court has announced it will hear a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Arizona’s immigration law, Senate Bill 1070. The law requires police to check the immigration status of anyone they detain and suspect is undocumented. The Supreme Court’s ruling will come down ahead of the 2012 election and could impact immigration laws nationwide. The Supreme Court’s decision to intervene in the dispute was a setback for the Obama administration, which sued to challenge the law and urged the justices to reject Arizona’s appeal.
The Wall Street Journal is reporting the number of immigrants arrested over the past year while attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border has plunged to the lowest level in 39 years. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the United States arrested just more than 340,000 migrants along the border in the last fiscal year — down 24 percent from the year before. In 2000, 1.6 million people were detained at the border. Factors contributing to the lower number include a steep decline in the birthrate in Mexico, the poor U.S. economy, and stepped-up U.S. patrols along the border.
In campaign news, a new report from the Tax Policy Center confirms wealthy Americans stand to benefit most from the tax plan offered by Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich. According to the Center, Gingrich’s plan would give the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans a $430,000 tax cut. The wealthiest 0.1 percent of Americans would get a $2.3 million tax reduction. Meanwhile, more than half of the nation’s poorest 20 percent would not see any tax benefit at all under the plan. The Center also estimates Gingrich’s plan would add about $1 trillion to the federal deficit in a single year.
Goldman Sachs has been forced to cancel recent recruiting visits to Harvard and Brown universities after Occupy Wall Street protesters disrupted earlier recruiting efforts. In addition, Goldman Sachs chair and CEO Lloyd Blankfein was scheduled to speak at Barnard College in New York City on Monday, but canceled after students organized a week-long protest against Goldman Sachs. JPMorgan’s campus recruiting efforts have also been disrupted. Last week, 20 student activists at Princeton University interrupted a campus recruiting drive by the investment bank. Meanwhile, students at Yale University recently protested a campus appearance by recruiters from Morgan Stanley.
Physicians for Human Rights is calling on President Obama to act on his promise to investigate the massacre of at least 2,000 suspected Taliban prisoners of war that occurred 10 years ago in Afghanistan. The prisoners were allegedly shot to death or suffocated in sealed metal truck containers at Dasht-e-Leili while being held by the U.S.-backed Afghan Northern Alliance.
In environmental news, a new study by the National Academy of Sciences has confirmed a link between mountaintop removal coal mining and significant degradation of downstream water quality.
Medtronic, the world’s largest maker of medical devices, has agreed to pay $23.5 million to settle allegations that it paid kickbacks to doctors to implant its pacemakers and defibrillators. Medtronic paid doctors a fee ranging from about $1,000 to $2,000 per patient.