The Environmental Protection Agency said Monday it will radically weaken fuel efficiency and emissions standards on U.S. automobiles, setting up a clash with states that impose tougher regulations in a bid to curb catastrophic climate change. Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt’s changes will roll back Obama-era rules meant to limit greenhouse gas emissions from tailpipes, including a requirement that U.S. cars average more than 50 miles per gallon by 2025. Pruitt has also signaled that he’ll try to force California and other states to comply with the weakened emissions standards. This comes as Pruitt is increasingly under fire over reports he paid just $50 a night to live in a Capitol Hill condo linked to a prominent Washington lobbyist whose firm represents a roster of fossil fuel companies.
A new study in the journal Nature Geoscience found that warm ocean water is melting Antarctica’s ice sheets from below, contributing to sea level rise. Most of the observed melting is in West Antarctica, where more than 20 percent of the ice sheet has retreated across the sea floor. The study cited satellite data that show more than 10 percent of the continent’s glaciers are in retreat—as opposed to less than 2 percent of glaciers that are growing. If all of Antarctica’s ice melted, worldwide sea levels would rise by about 200 feet.
In Mexico, immigration authorities say they’re planning to disband a caravan of more than a thousand Central Americans who are bound for the U.S.-Mexico border, amid a series of threats by President Trump against the migrants. In an early morning tweet today, Trump wrote, “The big Caravan of People from Honduras, now coming across Mexico and heading to our 'Weak Laws' Border, had better be stopped before it gets there.” Trump’s tweet followed a flurry of threats on Easter Sunday to tear up the North American Free Trade agreement unless Mexico agrees to join his crackdown on immigration. On Monday, Mexico’s National Institute of Immigration told Buzzfeed News it will allow some migrants—including pregnant women and people with disabilities—to remain, while others will be allowed to apply for humanitarian visas. This is Georgina Garibo García, coordinator of the group People Without Borders.
Georgina Garibo García: “Migrants should not be abandoned because of some tweets and political heat. It’s very characteristic of Donald Trump to govern via tweets. These tweets, on many occasions, have created a number of inexplicable problems. I think this is one of those cases, creating a xenophobic, racist wave against the people of Central America and Mexico.”
President Trump has tweeted about immigration 10 times in the past 48 hours, demanding funds for an expanded border wall and declaring the DACA program for young immigrants “dead.” The tweets came after Trump and his senior adviser Stephen Miller spent much of the weekend at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida speaking with Fox News hosts Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity, along with former Fox News executive Bill Shine—all of them hawks on immigration.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports the Justice Department has ordered immigration judges to speed up deportation hearings, and will evaluate their job performance based on how quickly they close cases. The quotas mean that beginning October 1, judges will be expected to complete at least 700 cases a year.
In Oklahoma, tens of thousands of teachers and school staffers rallied at the state Capitol Monday, as they began a strike aimed at winning an increase in pay and more funding for public schools. Oklahoma’s public education budget has been slashed more than any other state since the start of the recession in 2008, and its teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation. Meanwhile, thousands of teachers rallied in Frankfort, Kentucky, on Monday, in a similar protest—demanding a reversal to a provision in a recently passed bill about sewage treatment that gutted their pension benefits. The teachers filled the rotunda of the Kentucky state Capitol, chanting “Fund our schools!”
Protesters: “Fund our schools! Fund our schools! Fund our schools! Fund our schools!”
Eddie Campbell: “We are here today to rally for our schools, to rally for our public servants.”
In Oklahoma, some school districts are only open four days a week because they can’t afford the fifth day, and teachers use that fifth day to work second and third jobs.
On Wall Street, stock prices tumbled Monday amid fears of a growing trade war brought on by President Trump’s imposition of tariffs on aluminum, steel and Chinese products. The Dow Jones index fell by more than 450 points, bringing its losses from a high in January to more than 10 percent, in what economists call a “correction.” Meanwhile, shares of Amazon fell by more than 5 percent after Trump attacked Amazon on Twitter, writing, “Only fools, or worse, are saying that our money losing Post Office makes money with Amazon. THEY LOSE A FORTUNE, and this will be changed.” Trump has targeted Amazon because its owner, centi-billionaire Jeff Bezos, also owns The Washington Post, which Trump has repeatedly accused of publishing “fake news” about his presidency.
Meanwhile, President Trump turned to Twitter Monday to defend Sinclair Broadcast Group, after the right-wing media conglomerate ordered news anchors at scores of its affiliate stations to recite nearly identical “must-read” commentaries warning of the dangers of “fake news” in language that echoed President Trump’s rhetoric. The commentaries reached millions of viewers last month, and drew widespread attention after the website Deadspin published a video showing side-by-side comparisons of the broadcasts from 45 Sinclair-owned stations.
Sinclair news anchors: “The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media. More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories, stories that simply aren’t true, without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think. And this is extremely dangerous to our democracy.”
After the video went viral and drew coverage on TV news networks, President Trump tweeted his support for Sinclair. Trump’s defense came as the Justice Department and the FCC are reviewing Sinclair’s $3.9 billion bid to buy Tribune Media—a deal that would see it add dozens of stations to its more than 170 local TV outlets across the U.S. After headlines, we’ll go to Washington and speak with Mother Jones reporter Andy Kroll about the rise of Sinclair Broadcast Group.
In Syria, armed fighters from the city of Douma in the Damascus suburb of Eastern Ghouta boarded buses bound for one of the last rebel-held enclaves in Syria, under a Russia-brokered evacuation deal that will see them relocated to the country’s northwest. The deal came as the U.N. warned of an “immense” humanitarian crisis in the region, saying 130,000 people have fled Eastern Ghouta in the month and a half since Syria’s government launched its offensive.
In Yemen, back-to-back airstrikes from a Saudi-led military coalition tore through a residential neighborhood in the coastal city of Hudaydah Monday, killing 12 civilians including seven children. This is Mohamed al-Helleisy, who was injured in the attack.
Mohamed al-Helleisy: “We were sitting down, and the planes were flying above us. As soon as I decided to go to sleep, a rocket hit us. I only gained consciousness when the whole building was collapsing on us. I started digging in the rubble and burnt my leg in the process. Then the second rocket hit us.”
More than 15,000 people have died since the Saudi invasion in 2015, while U.S.-backed, Saudi-led airstrikes have devastated Yemen’s health, water and sanitation systems, sparking a massive cholera outbreak, with a million people now suffering from cholera, and pushing millions of Yemenis to the brink of starvation.
In Afghanistan, Afghan military aircraft bombed a religious gathering in the northern province of Kunduz Monday, killing at least 70 people and wounding 30 others. The airstrikes came as about 1,000 people had gathered at a graduation ceremony for students at a madrassa—or religious school. A spokesperson for the Afghan Defense Ministry defended the attack, saying it killed 21 “terrorists.” But eyewitnesses said the assault killed only civilians. This is Abdul Fatah, a relative of one of the airstrike’s victims.
Abdul Fatah: “All those killed were children. Children and civilians have been targeted. No Taliban were among those killed in the incident.”
Egypt has formally declared authoritarian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi the winner of last week’s election with 97 percent of votes. Observers have blasted the election as a “sham” and a “farce.” Turnout was only about 40 percent. Sisi’s government allowed only one other candidate to run—an ardent Sisi supporter—while other candidates were disqualified or arrested. One leading opposition figure, Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, was carjacked and beaten on a Cairo street in January ahead of the election. On Monday, the White House said President Trump called President Sisi to congratulate him on his victory. Human rights groups say that since Sisi came to power in a 2013 coup, his government has arrested 60,000 activists, deployed systematic torture and tried thousands of civilians in military courts, while handing down hundreds of death sentences.
In the Philippines, thousands of residents of Marawi have been allowed to search through the ruins of their former homes, after the government granted them short-term access to the area for the first time since the government declared victory last October in its months-long battle to dislodge ISIS-allied militants. The fighting laid waste to much of the southern city and killed nearly 1,200 people. This is Marawi resident Zaman Amron, speaking from the ruins of her home.
Zaman Amron: “I’m speechless. We’ve lost everything. We lost our furniture, everything. Nothing was spared, not even our pots and pans.”
The Philippines government carried out last year’s assault with the full support of the Trump administration, as the Pentagon provided military training, aerial surveillance and electronic eavesdropping to Philippines forces.
In South Africa, longtime anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died Monday in Johannesburg at the age of 81. Under apartheid, Winnie Mandela was jailed repeatedly by the white minority-led government and survived torture and nearly 500 days in solitary confinement. In 1958, she wedded Nelson Mandela, and the pair remained married for 38 years—even as it appeared Nelson Mandela would never be released from prison following his arrest in 1963. This is Winnie Mandela speaking in 1986.
Winnie Mandela: “We bring up the white man’s children. We could have killed them any day we wanted to.”
Winnie Mandela was known widely by South Africans as the “mother of the nation,” but became a controversial figure in later years. In 2003, she was convicted of dozens of counts of bank fraud and theft, and sentenced to a 5-year jail term. In 2010, she publicly criticized her ex-husband, saying Nelson Mandela’s deal to end apartheid had preserved the economic subjugation of the country’s black majority.
And in Bellevue, Washington, environmental activists joined members of the Puyallup Tribe Monday as they erected a replica of a traditional longhouse at the main entrance of Puget Sound Energy’s headquarters, in a protest against the company’s construction of a liquefied natural gas facility on Puget Sound. A pair of protesters locked themselves to the structure in an attempt to blockade the building. The activists say PSE has nearly completed construction of its $300 million gas plant, even though it hasn’t acquired all the necessary permits. The site is directly adjacent to the Puyallup Tribe’s reservation, and residents say an LNG plant would threaten the safety of their community and would contribute to air pollution and climate change. Among the protesters were Benita Moore and her son Marshall Stafford. Both are Standing Rock Sioux tribal members who grew up in Washington state.
Benita Moore: “Even though the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency gave them a notice of violation for building without permits, they finished the project. I mean, it’s almost finished. So now we’re like, 'No, it's not going to happen.’”
Marshall Stafford: “They are breaking treaty rights, the Medicine Creek Treaty. They’re breaking the Medicine Creek Treaty. They are polluting our waters. And I’m here for my child. My daughter is Maria, the little girl that’s out here running around. And she’s what matters most. I’m doing it for her and her children and her children’s children.”