British Prime Minister Theresa May is holding emergency talks with European leaders today, one day after calling off a key parliamentary vote on Brexit. The United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union on March 29, but many key issues remain unresolved. This comes as the European Union is rejecting calls by May to reopen negotiations on Brexit.
In France, President Emmanuel Macron delivered a national address last night after four weeks of unrest and mass protests throughout the country organized by the movement known as the “yellow vests.” He proposed changes to taxation and minimum wage increases for low-wage earners.
President Emmanuel Macron: “I ask the government and Parliament to do what is necessary so one can live better on his work salary from the beginning of next year. The salary of a minimum wage earner will increase by 100 euros a month starting in 2019, with no extra costs to employers. … For those who get less than 2,000 euros each month, starting 2019, we will cancel the social security tax hike passed this year.”
Macron did not reimpose a tax on the wealthy, which many have called for.
The Trump administration is scheduled to announce today a major rollback of the nation’s clean water regulations. The rule change decreases the number of waterways protected by the U.S. Clean Water Act. Critics warn this could result in expanded oil drilling and mining in once-protected areas and lead to an increase in chemical pollutants, including pesticide runoff. The proposal is the latest in the Trump administration’s efforts to weaken environmental laws after loosening regulations for car emissions, mercury and coal, and opening up previously protected areas for gas and oil drilling.
Over 1,000 climate activists flooded Capitol Hill Monday, demanding congressmembers and likely incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi back a Green New Deal Committee proposed by Congressmember-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. Over 140 people were reportedly arrested as members of the youth climate group Sunrise Movement occupied and lobbied at congressional offices. Twenty-six congressmembers have backed the formation of the Green New Deal Select Committee thus far, including Jim McGovern, the incoming chair of the House Rules Committee, who voiced his support after an exchange with activists yesterday. Pelosi’s office has said it will meet with representatives from Sunrise Movement.
Here at COP24 in Katowice, Poland, indigenous and youth leaders disrupted an event Monday hosted by Trump administration officials promoting fossil fuels and nuclear interests.
Protesters: “Keep it in the ground! Keep it in the ground!”
Vic Barrett: “My name is Vic Barrett. I am here with the SustainUS delegation but also a plaintiff on the Our Children’s Trust lawsuit. And what just happened was the Trump administration and the fossil fuel industry tried to co-opt the space that exists here at COP in order to push their own agenda forward. And so, young people and people that have been in the community here have decided that we needed to interrupt it and call attention to real solutions.”
Protesters: “Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you!”
This comes as The Intercept is reporting that an executive from Shell Oil told participants at a COP side event that Shell helped draft a portion of the 2015 Paris climate agreement dealing with emissions mitigation. He made the remarks at an event for corporate actors, including the fossil fuel industry, saying “the [European Union’s] position is not that different from how Shell sees this.” This morning, activists protested outside an event hosted by Shell. Among those demonstrating were Rita Uwaka and Nnimmo Bassey.
Rita Uwaka: “It’s like hell on Earth. I represent communities in the Niger Delta who are impacted by this big polluter. Having this big polluter coming here as a saint is not only a slap on us as delegates of COP, it’s also a slap on Mother Earth.”
Nnimmo Bassey: “I have many things to tell Shell. I don’t think I can tell them all in one day. Number one is, they have to stop polluting the Niger Delta. Number two, they have to clean up their mess. Number three, they have to get out of the COP.”
Activists here at the climate summit are not allowed to specifically name oil and gas companies in their protests, under threat of having their accreditation taken away by the U.N.
In Morocco, 164 countries have agreed to a nonbinding U.N.-sponsored deal that seeks to better respond to migration at the global level, particularly for refugees and other vulnerable populations. The United States, along with a handful of other countries, rejected the deal. According to U.N. numbers, there have been over 3,300 deaths or disappearances during international migrations so far this year.
In Britain, 15 activists who blocked a charter plane from deporting nationals of Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone in March 2017 have been convicted of terrorism and could face life sentences. Members of the group End Deportations chained themselves to an aircraft, preventing it from taking off from the Stansted Airport near London. The activists became known as the Stansted 15. In an anonymous op-ed published in The Guardian, one of the people who was nearly deported by the charter flight wrote of the news, “there’s no doubt in my mind that these 15 brave people are heroes, not criminals. … Without their actions I would have missed my daughter’s birth, and faced the utter injustice of being deported from this country without having my (now successful) appeal heard.”
In San Diego, over 30 faith leaders were arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border Monday as they held a gathering in support of Central American migrants, calling for an end to their detention and deportation. The group is also calling on Congress to defund Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Customs and Border Protection. Some 400 people came out to the demonstration, organized by the American Friends Service Committee. The group had planned to hold a prayer circle at the border wall before they were stopped by police and Border Patrol.
Nearly 3,000 people died in Yemen in November, making it the deadliest month in the past two years in Yemen, which has been devastated by the U.S.-backed Saudi war. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project said the Saudi coalition intensified attacks ahead of the peace talks that recently began in Sweden. The talks mark the first time the Saudi-backed government and the rebel Houthis are holding direct negotiations. During the talks, the U.N. proposed joint control of the port of Hodeidah, a central issue in the ongoing conflict.
The meeting came as the U.N. and aid groups offered another stark warning of the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Yemen in a new report that says half the population is now “food insecure,” with 5 million people in an “emergency” hunger situation and 65,000 in a “catastrophe” hunger situation—the most severe phase.
Meanwhile in Yemen, protesters gathered in front of U.N. headquarters to protest the closure of the Sana’a airport and the blockade at the port of Hodeidah.
Ibrahim al-Mataa: “We came out today to speak and make the whole world hear the voice of those Yemenis who are suffering from this blockade, the blockade by enemy forces headed by the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia, a blockade that they should end unconditionally.”
The Supreme Court delivered a victory to Planned Parenthood Monday after it rejected appeals by Louisiana and Kansas, who sought to block Medicare funding for the women’s healthcare provider. The decision left in place a ruling by lower courts against the states’ rights to withhold government funding for public health programs. In his first known vote on the Supreme Court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh sided with Planned Parenthood.
Russian gun rights activist Maria Butina has pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiring to act as a foreign agent without registering with the Justice Department. Butina has been jailed since July after being accused of trying to infiltrate the NRA and other right-wing groups. According to the plea deal, Butina “sought to establish unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics. Butina sought to use those unofficial lines of communication for the benefit of the Russia Federation.” Butina is now cooperating with prosecutors. In September, prosecutors admitted they wrongfully accused Butina of trading sex for influence with high-level Republicans, by misinterpreting joking text messages.
Russian human rights activist and Soviet dissident Lyudmila Alexeyeva has died at the age of 91. Alexeyeva co-founded the human rights organization Moscow Helsinki Group and was a typist for an underground publication chronicling human rights abuses by the Soviet government. She was exiled for her work and lived in the U.S. before returning to Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. More recently, she spoke out against Russian President Vladimir Putin, condemning the 2014 annexation of Crimea and Putin’s crackdown on human rights and political opponents. She continued to participate in street protests into her eighties and was arrested in 2010.
And independent journalist and author William Blum died Sunday at the age of 85 at a hospice in Virginia. Early in his career, Blum worked with computers at the U.S. State Department but left after becoming disillusioned with the American war on Vietnam. He co-founded the underground paper, the Washington Free Press. Blum’s books “Killing Hope” and “Rogue State” were widely praised for their detailed history of recent U.S. foreign policy. Blum said of his work, “The thesis in my books and my writing is that anti-American terrorism arises from the behavior of U.S. foreign policy. It is what the U.S. government does which angers people all over the world.”