A landmark federal government report has found the average temperature in the U.S. has risen dramatically since 1980 and that the impacts of climate change are already being felt across the country. The New York Times obtained and published a copy of the report Monday, amid concerns from scientists that the study’s findings may be suppressed, changed or censored by the Trump administration, which has sought to deny the effects and human impacts of climate change. The report was conducted by scientists from 13 federal agencies. It is awaiting the Trump administration’s approval before it can be officially released. It concludes, "Evidence for a changing climate abounds, from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans." It also conclusively states that human activities, particularly the emission of greenhouse gases, are the primary drivers of climate change.
Meanwhile, The Guardian has revealed that workers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture have been instructed not to use the words "climate change" in their reports. A series of emails shows the censorship started immediately after Trump’s inauguration. In a January 24 email, a top official at the USDA unit that oversees farmers’ land conservation wrote to other senior officials, "It has become clear one of the previous administration’s priority is not consistent with that of the incoming administration. Namely, that priority is climate change. Please visit with your staff and make them aware of this shift in perspective within the executive branch."
In more climate news, a new study has revealed more than 6 percent of the world’s GDP is poured into fossil fuel subsidies each year—a staggering amount of money that tops $5 trillion annually. The study was published in the journal World Development.
The Pentagon is considering launching airstrikes in the Philippines against ISIS militants. That’s according to an NBC News report based on two unnamed defense officials, who say the strikes would likely be carried out by unmanned drones. On Monday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on the sidelines of a regional security summit in the Philippines capital Manila.
In Syria, the local journalistic group Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently says up to 18 civilians were killed in U.S.-led coalition bombing and artillery shelling in Raqqa Monday, as the U.S.-backed campaign to seize the city from ISIS continues. The group also reports parts of the National Hospital in Raqqa were destroyed by either the U.S.-led bombing or U.S.-backed Syrian forces. Residents continue to flee the city amid the fighting. Displaced residents say the nearby refugee camps lack sufficient bread and water.
Rukaya: "The camp is OK, but the heat is killing us. The heat is unbelievable. They have given us water and bread, and they give us aid, but it is not enough. Since I arrived, I am yet to receive anything. There is bread and water, and they provide us with one meal a day. That’s all I know. I haven’t been here for long."
Tensions continue rising between the U.S. and North Korea. On Monday, North Korea spoke out against drastic new U.N. sanctions on its primary exports, including coal, iron and seafood, saying the U.S. is trying to drive the Korean Peninsula to the brink of nuclear war. This is Bang Kwang Hyuk, North Korea’s spokesperson at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in the Philippines capital, Manila.
Bang Kwang Hyuk: "Is our nuclear possession a threat to the world, or is it just a threat to the United States? We want to make it clear that the worsening situation on the Korean Peninsula, as well as the nuclear issues, were caused by the United States."
In news from Washington, D.C., recently resurfaced blog posts show Trump’s nominee for the Department of Agriculture’s top scientist, Sam Clovis, calling progressives "race traitors" and "liars" and calling President Obama a socialist supported by "criminal dissidents who were bent on overthrowing the government of the United States." Clovis has also come under fire for lacking the credentials to be the Agriculture Department’s top scientist, given that he has no experience with agricultural research and denies the human impact on climate change.
In Los Angeles, California, longtime U.S. resident and father of four Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez has won an emergency stay of deportation, amid a national campaign demanding he be allowed to stay in the United States. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested him in late February while he was driving his two daughters to school. Immigration advocates fear his arrest signals a shift in ICE’s long-standing policy against conducting enforcement activities at so-called sensitive locations, like schools, churches and hospitals. Speaking from the Adelanto Detention Center in San Bernardino County, Avelica-Gonzalez said, "Every day I wake up knowing that I must be at least half as strong as my children have been in their fight for my freedom. ... I will never give up fighting for my rights, and for the rights of other immigrants." He and his supporters are now demanding he be released from ICE custody and that the Board of Immigration Appeals recognize his right to stay in the country.
Thousands of Yemenis and citizens of the five other majority-Muslim countries covered by Trump’s travel ban are currently stranded in different parts of the world as the State Department refuses to honor the fact that they won a U.S. government immigration lottery earlier this year. Many of the thousands who won the right to apply for a green card through the U.S. Diversity Visa program lottery have already sold their homes and cars, left their jobs, and even relocated to Djibouti, Malaysia and other countries in anticipation of their move to the U.S. Their eligibility to receive green cards under the program will end only three days after the travel ban is slated to expire on September 27, meaning their applications will likely not be processed in time. Former State Department official Stephen Pattison said, "Taking this away from people who have won it is the cruelest possible thing this administration could do. It makes us look petty and cruel as a society."
In Kenya, voters are heading to the polls today in a contested election between current President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. Last week, a senior election official was found murdered and bearing signs of torture—stoking fears of a repeat of the violence after an election 10 years ago which saw about 1,200 people killed and more than a half-million displaced. On Monday night, Kenyan President Kenyatta urged peace regardless of the vote’s outcome.
President Uhuru Kenyatta: "No matter the result of this election, we must stand together as one people. Above all, we must reject intimidation. We must reject violence or any attempt to divide us. We must not disappoint the founders of this nation, and, equally, we must not betray our children."
Meanwhile, in Rwanda, longtime leader Paul Kagame won a re-election in a landslide in an election Friday.
In Russia, two members of the feminist punk group Pussy Riot were briefly arrested and detained by police in the town of Yakutsk after attending a demonstration in support of jailed Ukrainian film director Oleg Sentsov. The two band members, Maria Alyokhina and Olga Borisova, were released after hours in court without charges later on Monday.
In India, nearly 2,000 police attacked an encampment of demonstrators protesting the completion of the massive Sardar Sarovar hydroelectric dam on the Narmada River in central India on Monday. At least 12 people were arrested, including prominent activist Medha Patkar of the National Alliance of People’s Movements, who is on an indefinite hunger strike against the dam. The nearly completed project threatens to submerge the homes and villages of more than 40,000 people. It’s faced decades of resistance led by peasant farmers and adivasis, indigenous people who have lived for thousands of years on the land that would be submerged by the mega project.
In Vancouver, Washington, climate activists blockaded oil trains multiple times on Monday to protest the construction of the proposed Vancouver Energy oil terminal. Two activists were arrested after dozens lay across the train tracks and some chained themselves to flower pots placed on the tracks. The activists said their protest was in solidarity with the activists arrested at Trump’s inauguration, who are now facing decades in prison, as well as with Catholic Workers Ruby Montoya and Jessica Reznicek, who sabotaged the Dakota Access pipeline in Iowa, delaying construction for weeks.
In Puerto Rico, the federally appointed oversight control board has announced it will slash the pensions for the majority of retired workers by up to 25 percent and reduce the workday for all public workers, except police, by up to two days a month, as part of the ongoing austerity measures imposed by the unelected financial board. Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló says he will refuse to implement the latest austerity measures, which are aimed at cutting public spending in order to pay the island’s debt to Wall Street bondholders. But José Carrión, the chair of the Financial Oversight and Management Board, says the reduction of workdays and pensions will be imposed despite the local government’s objections.
José Carrión: "We don’t consider this to be a recommendation. This was an integral element of the certified fiscal plan. As an integral element, it is not a recommendation, as the government alleges. Therefore, we are asserting what we agreed upon, what we have decided."
And in Spokane, Washington, a federal judge has cleared the way for a trial against two military psychologists who helped devise the Bush administration’s interrogation program, which included using torture such as waterboarding. The psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, reaped more than $80 million for designing torture techniques used by the agency. The lawsuit was brought by Suleiman Abdullah Salim and Mohamed Ben Soud, two survivors of the torture program, along with the family of Gul Rahman, who froze to death at a CIA black site in Afghanistan. ACLU attorney Dror Ladin said, "The court’s ruling means that for the first time, individuals responsible for the brutal and unlawful CIA torture program will face meaningful legal accountability for what they did. Our clients have waited a long time for justice." The trial is now scheduled to open on September 5 in Spokane.
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