The Trump administration is planning to make it easier for oil and gas companies to pollute the atmosphere with methane gas, one of the most powerful greenhouse gases contributing to the global climate crisis. The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to unveil a new rule today to overturn regulations put in place by President Obama. A top United Nations official on sustainable energy described the Trump administration’s move as “extraordinarily harmful.” Methane has more than 80 times the heat-trapping potential of carbon dioxide.
President Trump is pushing to allow logging in Alaska’s Tongass National Forest, the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest. Trump has ordered Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to exempt the 16.7-million-acre forest from restrictions put in place over two decades ago by President Clinton. The group Earthjustice has described the forest as a major buffer against climate change, stating, “The Tongass stores hundreds of millions, if not over a billion, tons of carbon, keeping the heat-trapping element out of the atmosphere.” Trump’s move to open up logging to the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest comes as wildfires continue to burn in the Amazon in Brazil, as well as near the Congo Basin forest in Africa.
Hurricane Dorian is continuing to gain strength in the Atlantic, threatening the Bahamas and Florida with what could become a Category 3 storm. On Wednesday, the storm slammed into the Virgin Islands but did not directly hit the main island of Puerto Rico. However, parts of the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico remain without power. While Puerto Ricans prepared for the storm on Wednesday, President Trump continued to attack the island, describing it on Twitter as “one of the most corrupt places on earth.” He went on say to describe himself as “the best thing that’s ever happened to Puerto Rico!”
The 16-year-old Swedish climate justice activist Greta Thunberg has arrived in New York City after a 15-day voyage across the Atlantic in a solar-powered 60-foot racing yacht. Thunberg came to the United States to attend upcoming U.N. climate talks in New York in September and Santiago, Chile, in December. Thunberg does not fly due to the heavy carbon footprint of air travel, so she chose to make the journey by boat. After docking in New York, Greta spoke to reporters about the climate crisis.
Greta Thunberg: “I mean, the older generations are the ones who have been causing this problem, and so I don’t think they should be saying to us, 'You should just be a normal kid and do what normal kids do,' because they are the ones who have caused this. And we are just trying to clean up after them.”
We’ll hear from Greta Thunberg, as well as the youth activists who greeted her, and her father, who took across the ocean with her.
In election news, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has dropped out of the presidential race after failing to qualify for the next Democratic debate on September 12, which required candidates to have 130,000 unique donors and at least 2% support in four official polls. Just 10 of the 20 remaining candidates qualified: former Vice President Joe Biden; Senator Cory Booker; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro; Senator Kamala Harris; Senator Amy Klobuchar; former Congressmember. Beto O’Rourke; Senator Bernie Sanders; Senator Elizabeth Warren; and former tech executive Andrew Yang.
Nationwide protests took place in Britain Wednesday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson suspended Parliament, increasing the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit. Parliament will be closed from mid-September to mid-October, meaning lawmakers who oppose a no-deal exit from the European Union would have very limited time to pass legislation supporting any other measures. The U.K. is scheduled to leave the European Union on October 31. Some opponents of Brexit accused Johnson of waging a coup. On Wednesday, thousands of protesters gathered outside the British Parliament to denounce Johnson’s decision. This is protester Marion Sharples.
Marion Sharples: “I just think it’s just incredibly disrespectful that he, that Boris Johnson, that the government think that it can be passed on as normal practice. It’s absolutely a tactic. It’s absolutely a tactic to limit the amount of time that MPs have to debate this, and to push through a no-deal Brexit and take back control.”
Italy is on the verge of forming a new government that could leave the far-right, anti-immigrant leader Matteo Salvini out of power. On Wednesday, two rival political parties — the Five Star Movement and the Democratic Party — reached a deal to form a new coalition government. This comes after Salvini attempted a power grab last week by withdrawing his support for the ruling right-wing populist coalition, leading to the resignation of Italy’s prime minister.
In news from the Mediterranean, an Italian humanitarian boat rescued 100 migrants, including 22 children, on Wednesday off the coast of Libya. The migrants were drifting in a rubber dinghy that was already beginning to deflate. The rescue boat was operated by the charity group Mediterranea Saving Humans. Italy’s outgoing Interior Minister Matteo Salvini recently signed a decree banning the rescue ship from entering Italian waters. The rescue came a day after about 40 migrants died when their boat capsized off the coast of Libya. About 900 migrants have died this year in the Mediterranean en route to Europe.
Fighting is continuing in the Yemeni city of Aden as separatists and government forces battle for control of Yemen’s interim capital. On Wednesday, backers of Yemen’s internationally recognized government claimed to have seized full control of the city, but Al Jazeera reports separatists have since regained control.
On Wednesday, the Taliban announced they were closing in on a deal with the United States under which U.S. troops would finally withdraw from Afghanistan after nearly 18 years of fighting. One security official put the withdrawal timeline at 14 to 24 months, but the chair of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford said it is still too premature to talk about withdrawing U.S. troops.
Gen. Joseph Dunford: “I think it’s premature. I’m not using the 'withdraw' word right now. I’m using — we’re going to make sure that Afghanistan is not a sanctuary, and we’re going to try to have an effort to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan.”
The Chinese military has rotated thousands of new troops into Hong Kong just days ahead of a major pro-democracy march set for Saturday. China has described the troop rotation as routine, but Chinese state media reported the new soldiers had undergone military and legal training specific to Hong Kong. Chinese authorities have denounced the protests in Hong Kong and have repeatedly threatened to use force to quell the protests. Since the 1997 handover from Britain, China has stationed as many as 10,000 troops in Hong Kong.
Indonesian police have reportedly killed six protesters in West Papua amid escalating demonstrations calling for Papuan independence. The Guardian reports police fired live rounds on Wednesday at protesters taking part in a sit-in outside a government building. Indonesia recently deployed 1,200 additional troops to West Papua and cut off internet access to the region.
The Trump administration has announced that some children born to U.S. servicemembers and government employees stationed overseas will no longer automatically receive citizenship. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services released the new guidelines on Wednesday. According to the Trump administration, the rule change will primarily impact the children of naturalized U.S. citizens working for the government or military. The president of the American Foreign Service Association, Eric Rubin, said the rule change was “deeply worrying” and a “disservice to people who have dedicated their lives to serving their country.”
President Trump is continuing his attack on the media, but this week he has a new target: the right-wing news outlet Fox News. In a Twitter message on Wednesday, Trump wrote, “@FoxNews is letting millions of GREAT people down! We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn’t working for us anymore!” Fox has long been criticized for its close ties to the Trump administration. According to Media Matters, 18 current or former Trump administration officials used to work at Fox and at least five Trump administration officials now work at Fox, including former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was hired last week.
A Denver, Colorado woman who was forced to deliver a child alone in a dirty Denver County jail cell without any medical care has filed a lawsuit in U.S. district court. In the suit, Diana Sanchez alleges several nurses and jail staffers knew she had been in labor for hours, but provided no assistance even after she began screaming for help. Disturbing jailhouse video was recently released and confirms Sanchez’s account. The lawsuit charges that the staff “callously made her labor alone for hours, and ultimately give birth alone in a dirty jail cell without any medical care.” The suit was filed against the city of Denver, the county of Denver, Denver Health Medical Center and six individuals.
The computer giant Apple has apologized to its users after acknowledging contractors listened to the commands users gave to the voice assistant Siri on their iPhones and other Apple products. One whistleblower recently told The Guardian they heard Siri users having sex, making drug deals and discussing sensitive medical details. Apple, Google and Microsoft have all faced criticism recently for allowing workers to access the voice recordings of users in an attempt to improve their services.
Human rights defenders continue to call for the release of Nigerian journalist and activist Omoyele Sowore. Sowore, who publishes the online news site Sahara Reporters, was arrested on August 3 after calling for nationwide protests under the banner “Revolution Now.” He ran against President Muhammadu Buhari earlier this year in an election he said “lacked a level playing field.” A coalition of press freedom organizations and human rights groups recently petitioned the United Nations and the African Union, while a group called the African Renaissance Organization sent a petition to the U.S. Department of State asking the U.S. government to apply pressure on President Muhammadu Buhari for Sowore’s release.