A one-meter-high tsunami has hit Japan’s northeast coast after a 7.3-magnitude earthquake. The earthquake hit in the same region badly hit by the March 2011 earthquake that set off the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Today’s earthquake was felt as far away as Tokyo.
U.N. climate talks have entered their final hours in Doha, but no deal has been reached on who will pay for dealing with the accelerating impact of climate change. The United States and a number of other wealthy nations refused to make any new pledges on reducing emissions or on delivering climate cash to help the poorest nations adapt. The negotiations have been taking place in the shadow of the devastating typhoon that struck the southern Philippines on Tuesday. More than 500 people have died, hundreds remain missing, and 250,000 have been left homeless. Yeb Saño, commissioner of the Philippines Climate Change Commission, urged negotiators to do more.
Yeb Saño: “We are deeply concerned also, considering the very important backdrop for my delegation, as we confront the impacts of adverse climate change and come to terms with the tragedy back home. As we speak, the death toll is rising. There is widespread devastation. Communication lines are down. Power lines are down. And hundreds are missing. Hundreds are buried behind mud and debris.”
Protests are continuing in Egypt following a speech by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi aimed at quelling widespread anger over his assertion of wide-ranging powers and his ongoing push for a referendum on a new constitution. In a national address Thursday night, Morsi offered to sit down with the opposition following violent clashes that left seven people dead and hundreds wounded.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi: “I call for a full, productive dialogue with all figures and heads of parties, revolutionary youth and senior legal figures to meet this Saturday, December 8, 2012, at 12:30 at the presidential palace in order to reach an agreement that unites the nation, with which we can all exit the constraints of division and conflict and enter into the ease of agreement, if not full consensus.”
Despite offering to engage in dialogue, Morsi refused to cancel his plans for a referendum, saying Egyptian voters will decide the constitution’s fate. Critics have opposed the referendum and say the proposed constitution was drafted without a proper representation of Egyptian society. In response, protesters flooded Cairo’s Tahrir Square to call for Morsi’s departure. Morsi’s speech came hours after opponents attacked the offices of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood party and set its headquarters on fire.
The Obama administration continues to accuse Syria of preparing to use chemical weapons in its bid to defeat rebel forces. Anonymous U.S. officials told NBC News Thursday that the Syrian military has loaded sarin gas onto bombs and is awaiting orders from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to use them. Syria has accused the United States of using the chemical weapons accusations as a pretext for foreign intervention. In Washington, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called any chemical weapons usage a “red line” for the United States.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta: “Without commenting on the specific intelligence that we have with regards to these chemical weapons, I think there is no question that we remain very concerned, very concerned, that as the opposition advances, in particular on Damascus, that the regime might very well consider the use of chemical weapons. The whole world is watching. The whole world is watching very closely. And the president of the United States has made very clear that there will be consequences. There will be consequences if the Assad regime makes a terrible mistake by using these chemical weapons on their own people. I’m not going to speculate or comment on what those potential consequences would be, but I think it’s fair enough to say that their use of those weapons would cross a red line for us.”
Amidst the Obama administration’s increased focus on Syria, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with U.N. Special Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for talks in Ireland Thursday night. The New York Times is reporting Brahimi has begun mounting a diplomatic push for an agreement within Syria that would lead to the ouster of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. After Thursday’s meeting, Brahimi disclosed few details but said the talks were productive.
Lakhdar Brahimi: “I am discussing the situation with all the countries that I call that have influence and interest or both, and definitely this is the case for Russia and the United States. We haven’t taken any sensational decisions, but I think we have agreed that the situation is bad, and we have agreed that we must continue to work together to see how we can find creative ways of bringing this problem under control and hopefully starting to solve it.”
In the latest violence from Syria, the headquarters of Syrian Arab Red Crescent relief group were damaged Thursday in a bombing in Damascus.
A medical aid organization is accusing U.S.-led NATO and Afghan forces of attacking and occupying a clinic in Afghanistan. The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan says NATO and Afghan soldiers raided the group’s Wardak province clinic in October and used it as a jail and command center. During the attack, the invading forces allegedly damaged the clinic’s building and equipment while preventing staffers from carrying out their duties. The Swedish Committee says it has raised the issue with NATO as a potential violation of the Geneva Conventions.
In news from Afghanistan, the country’s head of intelligence, Asadullah Khalid, has survived an assassination attempt in the capital of Kabul. Khalid was reportedly wounded when a suicide bomber struck a heavily guarded compound on Thursday. His appointment as intelligence director drew criticism earlier this year over his alleged links to the torture of detainees.
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has made a return to the Gaza Strip after 45 years in exile. Meshaal arrived in Gaza earlier today, his first time in the Occupied Territories since leaving in 1967 at the age of 11.
Republican lawmakers in Michigan have advanced a pair of anti-union bills aimed at making theirs the 24th so-called “right to work” state in the country. On Thursday, the Michigan House narrowly approved a measure that would ban the mandatory payment of union dues in the private sector. The Michigan State Senate also passed a separate measure curbing union fees. State Republicans have sought to advance the anti-union legislation before Democrats gain five House seats in the new Legislature beginning next month. Speaking on the Michigan Senate floor, Michigan Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmer denounced the Republican effort.
State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer: “You began this two-year session by attacking workers and their families with your emergency manager legislation that raised the ire of people around the state and brought thousands of protesters here to Lansing. And now, for one of your final pieces of business in this legislative calendar, you want to pass 'right to work' legislation that hurts workers and our economy by lowering employee wages, benefits and workplace protections — another bow to big business and wealthy special interests at the cost of our people.”
Thursday’s vote was held over the raucous objections of union supporters who crowded the state Capitol in protest. At least eight demonstrators were arrested. After initially opposing the measures, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder now says he will sign them into law if given final approval.
The Obama administration is reportedly considering legal action to halt Colorado and Washington’s recent ballot initiatives legalizing recreational use of marijuana. Both measures allow for possession of up to one ounce of marijuana, presenting a clash with federal law. According to the New York Times, the White House and Justice Department have held high-level meetings since the ballot measures were approved on Election Day one month ago. Washington’s law went into effect on Thursday at midnight. In Seattle, hundreds of marijuana enthusiasts gathered near the city’s Space Needle tower for a celebratory rally.
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson has reportedly spent more money on his failed effort to defeat President Obama’s re-election than previously disclosed. While Adelson had once vowed to spend up to $100 million of his fortune to defeat Obama and win Republican control of Congress, two Republican fundraisers have told the Huffington Post that Adelson actually spent some $150 million. In addition to Mitt Romney, none of Adelson’s other favored candidates won their election races.
The New York City community activist Jon Kest has died at the age of 57. The head of the Brooklyn-based New York Communities for Change, Kest was a longtime advocate for social justice, including his last campaign to unionize car washers and other low-wage workers. Kest suffered a tragedy just over a month ago when his daughter, Jessie, was killed by a falling tree during Superstorm Sandy. Kest died this week after a bout with cancer. In a statement, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said: “It’s not an exaggeration to say that there have been few efforts to empower poor and working people in New York State in the last 25 years that haven’t borne his imprint. New York has lost a truly selfless champion of social justice.”