The United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP25, is opening in Madrid, Spain, today. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and 14 other Democratic lawmakers are part of a delegation to the summit. It was supposed to be held in Santiago, Chile, but the Chilean government canceled the conference amid massive protests against economic inequality and austerity. Ahead of the summit’s opening, scientists released a number of reports warning that only drastic and unprecedented reductions in greenhouse gas emissions could avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change. May Boeve, the head of 350.org, said the reports show “the science is screaming.” This is U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres speaking ahead of the conference’s opening today.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “What is still lacking is political will, political will to put a price on carbon, political will to stop subsidies on fossil fuels, political will to stop building coal power plants from 2020 onwards, political will to shift taxation from income to carbon, taxing pollution instead of people. We simply have to stop digging and drilling, and take advantage of the vast possibilities offered by renewable energy and nature-based solutions.”
On Friday, hundreds of thousands of students walked out of schools across the world and took to the streets to demand urgent action to address the climate crisis. On Saturday, thousands of activists also protested at three coal mines in eastern Germany. And in Pakistan, Amnesty International has issued an unprecedented “urgent action” saying Lahore’s 10 million residents are at risk of having their health and human rights violated by hazardous smog that is engulfing Pakistan’s second-largest city. Democracy Now! will be broadcasting live from COP25 in Madrid, Spain, next week.
On Capitol Hill, the House Judiciary Committee will hold its first hearing in the impeachment inquiry on Wednesday. The hearing will feature legal experts testifying about the nature of impeachment and the constitutional standard for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The impeachment hearings center on whether President Trump withheld military aid from Ukraine in order to pressure the Ukrainian president to investigate Trump’s political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter. The White House says neither President Trump nor his lawyer will attend Wednesday’s Judiciary Committee hearing. The White House also tried to slander the impeachment process as unfair, even though the Democrats said inviting Trump and his lawyers to participate was an attempt to afford Trump due process. The House Intelligence Committee will also release its report this week summarizing its investigation.
Three women have accused U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland of forcibly kissing them or exposing himself to them — and then retaliating against them professionally after they rejected his unwanted and nonconsensual sexual advances. All three accounts are from before Sondland, a wealthy Oregon hotel magnate, was named ambassador, a post he received after donating a million dollars to Trump’s inauguration. Trump himself has been accused of rape, sexual assault or sexual harassment by more than 20 women.
Anti-government protests are continuing in Iraq one day after the Iraqi parliament voted to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi following two months of protests against corruption, lack of jobs and basic services, and Iranian influence on Iraq. At least 400 people have been killed in the government’s bloody crackdown against the ongoing protests. Iraq has also ordered eight television broadcasters and four radio stations to close for allegedly violating media licensing rules. Last week, security forces raided the Baghdad office of Dijlah TV. We’ll have more on the protests in Iraq after headlines.
In Malta, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has announced he will resign in mid-January, amid the investigation into the murder of prominent investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who was killed by a car bomb in 2017.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat: “I will write to the president of the Labour Party so that the process for a new leader is set for the 12th January, 2020. On that day, I will resign as leader of the Labour Party. In the days after, I will resign as a prime minister.”
Malta’s richest man, Yorgen Fenech, has been charged with complicity in the journalist’s murder. He has been arrested in a separate money laundering case. The gambling tycoon is linked to Prime Minister Muscat’s former chief of staff. Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder has rocked Malta, where thousands have taken to the streets to demand justice and accountability. She was one of Malta’s most prominent journalists, who investigated corruption at the highest levels. She also reported on the Panama Papers before her death. One of Yorgen Fenech’s companies was listed in the Panama Papers, and Galizia reported on this company, 17 Black, before her murder.
In Egypt, security forces have arrested three more journalists: Solafa Sallam, Hossam El-Sayyad, and Mohamed Salah. Their arrests come after security forces raided the Cairo offices of Egypt’s only independent media outlet, Mada Masr, and arrested its staff members, who have since been released. And in Saudi Arabia, authorities arrested at least seven journalist, bloggers and columnists last month.
In London, residents and officials gathered for a vigil today to mourn the deaths of two former Cambridge students who were killed in a stabbing on London Bridge Friday in what is being called a terror attack. The two victims were 23-year-old Saskia Jones and 25-year-old Jack Merritt. Both had worked at the prison-based education project Learning Together, and they had gathered to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the program at Fishmongers’ Hall when the attack began. This is London Mayor Sadiq Khan speaking at a memorial service today.
Mayor Sadiq Khan: “The best way to defeat this hatred is not by turning on one another, but it’s by focusing on the values that bind us, to take hope from the heroism of ordinary Londoners and our emergency services, who ran towards danger, risking their lives to help people they didn’t even know. And it’s also by drawing inspiration from the lives of Jack and Saskia, who from an early age chose to dedicate themselves to helping others.”
The attacker, Usman Khan, was convicted on terrorism-related charges in 2012 and had been released from prison last year. He was shot and killed by police after a Polish chef fought the attacker, despite being repeatedly stabbed himself, in order to allow other civilians time to escape. The attack has immediately become a major issue in the British elections set for December 12 — 10 days from now. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for longer prison sentences and is trying to blame the Labour Party for laws that allowed Usman Khan to be released from prison. But family members of the attack’s victims say they do not want their deaths politicized. Jack Merritt’s father wrote on Twitter, “My son, Jack, who was killed in this attack, would not wish his death to be used as the pretext for more draconian sentences or for detaining people unnecessarily.” Earlier this year, Jack Merritt spoke to the BBC about his work to help prisoners study law inside the Warren Hill prison in Suffolk.
Jack Merritt: “Our students in prison often have a very first-hand, very real, but also very nuanced idea of how the law works. And also, they have a very good sense of where there is a lack in information, where there is a lack in knowledge, and they really do know which areas of the law could do with clarification. And a lot of the time these are areas that they have seen people go through the prison system not understanding, and they want to do research which will help people.”
President Trump made an unexpected Thanksgiving visit to Afghanistan, where he announced he was reopening peace talks with the Taliban, after Trump abruptly called off the talks in September. In his comments Thursday, Trump also claimed the U.S. was now demanding a ceasefire from the Taliban, a shift in the negotiating position that threw the U.S. strategy into turmoil.
Trump’s visit to Afghanistan came as Afghan officials say a U.S. drone strike killed five people after it struck a car that was rushing a mother to the hospital after she experienced complications from a home birth. The strike killed the 25-year-old mother, Malana, three of her relatives and the car’s driver in southeastern Afghanistan. The United States says it is investigating the reports of civilian casualties; the Pentagon previously claimed the strike in Khost province killed members of the Taliban.
The Supreme Court is slated to hear its first major gun case in nearly a decade. The justices will hear arguments today in a case over a New York City law that prohibited handgun owners from carrying their weapons anywhere other than seven firing ranges inside the city limits. The law has since been changed, and justices will first consider whether the case is moot and should be thrown out because the restrictions have already been reversed.
Twitter has permanently suspended the account of a potential challenger to Minnesota Democratic Congressmember Ilhan Omar, after she called for Omar to be tried for treason and hanged, in a now-deleted tweet. Republican candidate Danielle Stella has been suspended for “repeated violations” of Twitter’s rules. Congressmember Ilhan Omar has repeatedly received death threats, especially since President Trump tweeted about her last spring.
Two 2020 presidential candidates have dropped out of the race: former Pennsylvania Congressmember Joe Sestak and Montana Governor Steve Bullock. Their departure leaves 16 candidates still vying to be the Democratic nominee for the 2020 presidential race.
In New York City, dozens of members of the environmental group Extinction Rebellion were arrested on Black Friday after hundreds of activists peacefully blocked an intersection in Herald Square in Midtown Manhattan protesting Black Friday’s consumerism. The action was part of multiple protests taking place around the globe against the climate crisis and capitalism. In France, dozens of activists protested outside Amazon’s headquarters in Paris, while others formed a blockade at a shopping mall in Paris’s business district. Another protest against Amazon also erupted in Germany. The protests came as Pope Francis condemned the “virus” of consumerism.
Pope Francis: “Dear brothers and sisters, consumerism is a virus that affects the faith at its root, because it makes you believe that life depends only on what you have. When you live for things, things are never enough, greed grows and other people become obstacles in a race and so one ends up feeling threatened and always dissatisfied and angry. The level of hatred rises.”
In Alabama, civil rights leader Rosa Parks was honored this weekend with a new statue in downtown Montgomery. Sixty-four years ago, on December 1, 1955, Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man and move to the back of the bus. Sunday also marked the second annual Rosa Parks Day in Alabama. The Alabama state Legislature approved the holiday last year.