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World Leaders Pledge Amazon Help as Trump Sends Mixed Signals About China at G7 Summit

Aug 26, 2019

The G7 summit has entered its last day in Biarritz, France, as member countries have agreed to an immediate $20 million fund to help fight raging wildfires in the Amazon. They also said they were launching a global initiative to protect the Amazon rainforest. President Trump was absent as G7 leaders met for a climate change session today, but French President Emmanuel Macron said the U.S. supported the measure.

Trade was also high on the agenda at the G7 as the U.S. sent confused signals about its ongoing tariff war with China. Today Trump told reporters that “China called and they want to make a deal”; however, questions are being raised about the supposed call, and Trump officials have refused to give further details. This comes after Trump appeared to express doubts about his decision to raise tariffs against China, telling reporters Sunday, “I have second thoughts about everything.” Hours after he made the comments, the White House claimed Trump’s statements were “misinterpreted” and that he actually meant he wanted to ramp up tariffs even further. On Friday, Trump unleashed a series of tweets saying he would raise existing tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods to 30%, and he would tax an additional $300 billion worth of Chinese imports at 15% rather than the planned 10%. This followed China’s announcement it would retaliate against upcoming U.S. tariffs by raising taxes on American products. Trump also demanded Friday U.S. companies stop doing business with China and said he would pull US companies from China.

Meanwhile, Trump touted a trade deal with Japan as he met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The deal includes an agreement for Japan to buy large amounts of corn from U.S. farmers. The two countries said they hoped to sign the deal next month, but Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said more work remains before it can be finalized.

At the summit, Trump also expressed his desire to bring Russia back into the Group of 7 — formerly the Group of 8 — after it was kicked out for annexing Crimea in 2014. European officials, including European Council President Donald Tusk, rejected the idea, saying that next year “it would be better to invite Ukraine.” Trump also said his Miami resort would be a great location for the next G7 summit.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Zarif Makes Surprise Appearance at G7 to Hold Talks with European Officials

Aug 26, 2019

One of the biggest surprises of the weekend’s G7 summit came when Iran’s top diplomat, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, arrived amid mounting tensions between the U.S. and Iran. Zarif tweeted a photo of himself in a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron and wrote, “Iran’s active diplomacy in pursuit of constructive engagement continues. Met @EmmanuelMacron on sidelines of #G7Biarritz after extensive talks with [French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian] and Finance Min. followed by a joint briefing for UK/Germany. Road ahead is difficult. But worth trying.” Trump today claimed Emmanuel Macron asked for his approval before inviting Zarif, but reports say Trump was blindsided by his presence at the summit.

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Protesters Call Out G7 Leaders over Corporate Ties, Climate Inaction and Inequality

Aug 26, 2019

Protesters rallied outside the G7 summit in Biarritz and in other French cities, denouncing the leaders of the world’s richest countries for their role in the climate crisis and economic and gender inequality, among other things. This is Aurélie Trouvé from the group Alternatives G7.

Aurélie Trouvé: “We’re not speaking to the G7, to the seven leaders. We consider this G7 to be illegitimate. We are appealing to the population to say that there is hope, that we can and we must build alternatives to the policies of these seven leaders who are at the service of the rich and of multinationals. Whether it be Trump, Macron, Trudeau, Merkel or the others, they all have the same policies in service of the rich and multinationals. We’re opposing them with values of solidarity, with answers to the environmental crisis and respect of human rights and the end of relationships of domination.”

Wildfires Continue to Consume Amazon as Public Outrage Grows

Aug 26, 2019

Amid growing international outrage over the massive wildfires ravaging the Amazon, the Brazilian military has started fighting the blazes, with military planes dropping thousands of gallons of water onto the rainforest. Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro ordered military operations in seven states to combat the fires on Sunday, facing criticism from world leaders that his government was not doing enough to combat the fires, which are rapidly destroying the world’s largest rainforest and paving the way for a climate catastrophe.

The fires are also devastating large swaths of land in Bolivia, where President Evo Morales said Sunday he would accept international aid to fight the blazes, that have doubled in size since Thursday.
The Amazon produces 20% of the oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere and is often referred to as the “lungs of the planet.” Protesters across Brazil and the world took to the streets over the weekend to protest Bolsonaro, who has worked to deregulate and open up the Amazon for agribusiness, logging and mining since he came into office in January. Thousands rallied in São Paulo.

Bruna Brasil: “The Amazon is a heritage for the world’s health. It’s unacceptable, what is happening in our country today. And today people are out on the street for the removal of a government from a place it should not be at, destroying our country, destroying our riches, killing the First Peoples of this land.”

Police Deploy Water Cannons, Fire a Live Warning Shot at Hong Kong Protesters

Aug 26, 2019

Political unrest continues in Hong Kong as pro-democracy protesters took to the streets for the 12th straight week. On Sunday, police drew their guns for the first time since the uprising started, and fired a warning shot above a crowd of demonstrators. Police also used water cannons for the first time and fired tear gas and plastic bullets as they clashed with protesters in the Tsuen Wan district. Authorities say 36 people were arrested Sunday, including a 12-year-old, and 29 people were arrested Saturday.

Sunday’s violence followed several large-scale peaceful demonstrations over the weekend, including the formation of human chains across miles of Hong Kong streets Friday. The action was inspired by the “Baltic Way” protest 30 years earlier, when around 2 million people from three Baltic countries held hands to call for an end to Soviet rule.

Earlier this week, Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam vowed to “start a platform for dialogue,” but officials have so far not responded to any of the protesters’ demands for democratic reforms or to withdraw the proposed extradition bill to China, which triggered the popular protest movement. On Saturday, a senior Hong Kong official warned that China’s military could intervene if civil unrest persisted.

Attacks in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq Add to Mounting Tensions in Middle East

Aug 26, 2019

Attacks in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq targeting Iranian-backed forces over the weekend are escalating tensions across the Middle East. The attacks were blamed on Israel, though Israel only confirmed that it was responsible for an overnight air raid Saturday in Syria, which they said was an attack on an Iranian-operated base which was preparing to launch a drone assault on Israel. On Sunday, two drones crashed in Beirut, leading Hezbollah leaders to vow retaliation if any further strikes occur.

EU Countries Say They Will Relocate Migrants Stranded on Ship After 2-Week Standoff

Aug 26, 2019

More than 350 migrants stranded on a rescue ship in the Mediterranean Sea disembarked in Malta Friday, after six European countries agreed to accept them. The Ocean Viking, which is run by French charities Doctors Without Borders and SOS Méditerranée, had been in a tense standoff for two weeks as it remained in international waters after being denied permission to dock in Italy or Malta. Most of the passengers on the Ocean Viking were from Sudan and had been rescued in four separate missions. The ship was carrying around 100 children, most of them unaccompanied. The migrants will now be relocated to Germany, France, Romania, Ireland, Portugal and Luxembourg.

200,000 Rohingya Refugees March for “Genocide Day” 2 Years After Expulsion from Burma

Aug 26, 2019

In Bangladesh, an estimated 200,000 Rohingya refugees took part in a “Genocide Day” rally Sunday, marking the second anniversary of their flight from Burma after a brutal military crackdown. Rohingya refugees demanded Burma grant them citizenship and a guarantee of safety as they marched in the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. Two years ago, over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Burma’s Rakhine State. This is Mohammad Salim, one of the approximately 1 million Rohingya refugees now living in Bangladesh.

Mohammad Salim: “They burned our houses, took away our cattle, seized our lands. If they return our lands, homes and also give us citizenship, then we will go back; otherwise, we will not go.”

Reports: Trump Suggested Using Nukes to Stop Hurricanes

Aug 26, 2019

President Trump is denying he suggested using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes, after Axios reported he raised the question multiple times at meetings with national security officials. According to a source present at one such meeting, Trump said, “They start forming off the coast of Africa, as they’re moving across the Atlantic, we drop a bomb inside the eye of the hurricane and it disrupts it. Why can’t we do that?” The idea of nuking hurricanes has been around since at least the Eisenhower era, despite scientists confirming it would not work. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has published a fact sheet entitled “Tropical Cyclone Myths Page” in which it debunks the idea.

Former Republican Congressmember Joe Walsh Announces 2020 Run Against Trump

Aug 26, 2019

Former Illinois Congressmember Joe Walsh announced he is challenging President Trump for the Republican nomination in 2020. Walsh won his congressional seat as a “tea party” candidate in 2010 but served just one term before losing in the next election to Democrat Tammy Duckworth. He was a vocal supporter of candidate Trump in 2016 but said in an interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Sunday, “I helped create Trump,” but that he now thinks “[Trump] is erratic, he’s cruel, he stokes bigotry.”

He also apologized for past racist comments about President Obama. In 2017, he tweeted, “We LOWERED the bar for Obama. He was held to a lower standard cuz he was black,” and later said Obama was elected because he was black. He also promoted birtherism and made anti-Muslim comments about Obama — even though Obama is not Muslim. Joe Walsh is the second Republican to announce he is challenging Trump, after former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld declared his candidacy in April.

DNC Kills Effort for 2020 Climate Debate

Aug 26, 2019

The Democratic National Committee rejected a resolution that would have allowed candidates to participate in a debate focused on the climate crisis. A coalition of activist groups, including Sunrise Movement and Greenpeace USA, said in a statement, “[DNC Chair] Tom Perez decided it wasn’t politically expedient to have Democrats discuss their solutions for our climate crisis on the same national stage as one another. Our entire future is at stake, but Tom Perez just swept aside the climate crisis for someone else to solve. That isn’t leadership.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Goes Through Radiation Treatment for Pancreatic Cancer

Aug 26, 2019

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has gone through three weeks of radiation treatment for a cancerous pancreatic tumor, the court announced Friday. Justice Ginsburg’s doctors said the disease did not appear to have spread beyond the pancreas, and the justice does not require further treatment for now. Ruth Bader Ginsburg continued to work, as well as attend many cultural events, during her outpatient treatment in New York at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. The 86-year-old justice is now a four-time cancer survivor. She had surgery for lung cancer in December and previously survived pancreatic cancer in 2009. The Supreme Court’s new term opens in early October.

Billionaire Conservative Donor David Koch, Who Funded Climate Change Denial and Anti-Labor Efforts, Dies

Aug 26, 2019

Billionaire conservative donor David Koch died Friday at the age of 79 from prostate cancer. David Koch, who was worth some $42 billion, and his brother Charles Koch inherited their fortune from their father and his oil and gas ventures. In addition to oil refineries and pipelines, Koch Industries also owns many major U.S. companies. The pair poured massive amounts of money into funding climate change denial through conservative think tanks and politicians. The Koch brothers founded the political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity in 2004, which is credited with turning the tea party into a full-fledged political movement. The Kochs also backed “right-to-work” efforts, which aim to weaken labor rights and quash union membership. The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer was on Democracy Now! in 2016 to talk about her book “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.”

Jane Mayer: “The Kochs have built kind of an assembly line to manufacture political change. And it includes think tanks, which produce papers. It includes advocacy groups, that advocate for policies. And it includes giving money to candidates. And you put those three together, and they’ve pushed against doing anything about climate change on all those three fronts at once. So you get papers that look like they’re real scientific opinions doubting that climate change is real, you get advocacy groups saying we can’t afford to do anything about it, and you get candidates who have to sign a pledge that — their largest political group is Americans for Prosperity. They have a pledge that says that if you want to get money from their donors, you have to sign a pledge saying that, if elected, you will do nothing about climate change that requires spending any money on the problem.”

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