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At the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, negotiators have backed away from including a call to phase out coal as well as fossil fuel subsidies in the latest draft agreement, which was released today — the final scheduled day of the two-week summit. An earlier draft called for “phasing-out of coal and subsidies for fossil fuels.” The new draft calls for the phaseout of “unabated coal power and of inefficient subsidies for fossil fuels.” The draft also called for wealthy nations to double the amount of money they give to developing countries to deal with the climate crisis. But during Thursday’s high-level session, Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate questioned such pledges from wealthy nations.
Vanessa Nakate: “I have come here to tell you that we don’t believe you. We don’t believe that banks will suddenly put trillions of dollars on the table for climate action, when rich countries have struggled since 2009 to raise $100 billion for the world’s most vulnerable countries.”
In a major development, the governments of Denmark and Costa Rica have launched the Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance — the first high-level diplomatic initiative to phase out fossil fuels. This is Costa Rican environment minister Andrea Meza.
Andrea Meza: “It is also about acknowledging that every dollar that we invest in fossil fuel projects, it is one less dollar for renewables or for the conservation of nature.”
President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping are preparing to hold a virtual summit on Monday. This comes just days after the world’s two largest economies announced a deal to work together to address the climate emergency. Tension has been rising between the two nuclear-armed nations for months over Taiwan and other issues. On Thursday, Xi Jinping warned against a new Cold War beginning in the region. Meanwhile, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party has passed what’s known as a historical resolution elevating Xi Jinping’s status as a leader. Similar resolutions were passed for just two former Chinese leaders: Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping.
The National Institutes of Health is locked in a legal dispute with Moderna over patent rights to its COVID vaccine. The NIH says three government scientists played a major role in developing Moderna’s vaccine but their names were omitted from the patent application. Moderna, which also received $10 billion in government funding, is now fighting efforts to share ownership rights with the government.
In Afghanistan, a blast at a mosque in eastern Nangarhar province has killed at least three people and injured over a dozen others, according to local sources, though the death toll has yet to be confirmed. The explosion is the latest attack during Friday prayers. No group has claimed responsibility for the blast yet. The Islamic State in Khorasan Province, known as ISIS-K, has said it was behind two other recent attacks on mosques that killed over 120 people.
Up to 5,000 Afghans have been fleeing into Iran every day for months as the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan intensifies. The Norwegian Refugee Council estimates up to 300,000 Afghans have entered Iran since August, when the Taliban seized control of Kabul. The World Food Programme has estimated 23 million Afghans face starvation as winter approaches.
The U.N. Refugee Agency is estimating the total number of people forcibly displaced from their homes globally has risen to 84 million due to war, insecurity and the climate emergency. The U.N. says the most impacted countries have been Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Burma.
A top U.N. official in Belarus says the situation at the Belarusian-Polish border is catastrophic as thousands of refugees and asylum seekers — many from the Middle East — are braving freezing cold temperatures with no adequate shelter, food or medical care as they attempt to cross into Poland to enter the European Union.
Mulusew Mamo: “As you can see, the situation is very catastrophic. The next day, it will only get worse, I think. One needs to do something. We have already started providing humanitarian aid by the Red Cross. It is something we will continue doing for a few days. What we don’t want to see is a camp forming here.”
Poland has amassed troops on the border to block entry for the refugees. This comes as Polish and other European leaders are accusing Belarus of trying to destabilize its neighbors. At least eight refugees have died so far.
On Thursday, the president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, threatened to cut off natural gas supplies to Europe if the EU proceeds with plans to issue new sanctions against Belarus. In a sign of support for Belarus, Russia flew two nuclear-capable bomber planes over Belarus on Wednesday and Thursday.
In news from Burma, a military court has sentenced the U.S. journalist Danny Fenster to 11 years in prison. He has been held in jail since May. About 30 other journalists also remain locked up by the military junta, which seized power in a coup in February.
In Sudan, army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan has been sworn in to head a new governing council after he led a coup two weeks ago to oust Sudan’s civilian-led government. The new governing council includes no civilian members from the previous government. Protesters responded to the news by blocking roads and burning tires in the capital Khartoum.
In Mexico, Indigenous communities are demanding the safe return of Irma Galindo Barrios, a Mixteca forest defender in the state of Oaxaca who’s been missing for over two weeks. Galindo Barrios is a leading voice denouncing illegal logging in the region. In 2019, she filed a complaint against illegal loggers to local authorities. Police did nothing. Instead, loggers in the area reportedly hired an armed group to burn her house down, as well as the homes of other Earth defenders in her community. She briefly fled but ultimately returned. Galindo Barrios was last seen alive on October 27.
Solidarity rallies have been held across the occupied West Bank and Gaza to show support for five hunger-striking Palestinians who have been imprisoned by Israel without charge under so-called administrative detention. One of the Palestinians has not eaten for 120 days and is reportedly in severe condition. A sixth prisoner ended his 113-day hunger strike on Thursday after Israel agreed to release him within three months.
The United States, Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are holding five days of joint military exercises for the first time in the Red Sea. This comes just a year after Bahrain and UAE normalized relations with Israel, which has floated the idea of forming a NATO-type alliance to target Iran.
In Kenosha, Wisconsin, testimony has ended in the trial of Kyle Rittenhouse, the white teenage gunman who fatally shot two people and wounded a third during protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake in 2020. Closing statements are set to begin on Monday.
In Georgia, the trial of the three white men who hunted down and shot dead Ahmaud Arbery took an unexpected twist Thursday when a defense attorney claimed the courtroom presence of high-profile Black pastors sitting with the Arbery family could be “intimidating” for the jury — which is almost all white.
Kevin Gough: “Obviously, there’s only so many pastors they can have. And if their pastor’s Al Sharpton right now, that’s fine. But then that’s it. We don’t want any more Black pastors coming in here or other — Jesse Jackson, whoever was in here earlier this week, sitting with the victim’s family, trying to influence a jury in this case.”
In a statement, the Rev. Al Sharpton said the attorney’s comments “underscore the disregard for the value of the human life lost and the grieving of a family in need of spiritual and community support.”
In Los Angeles, Olympic gymnast and gold medalist Sunisa Lee was pepper-sprayed in an anti-Asian attack. Lee says the attack took place as she and a group of friends, also of Asian descent, were waiting for an Uber, when passengers in another car shouted racist slurs at them and one person pepper-sprayed Lee on the arm. Attacks on Asian Americans skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic, with nearly 5,000 incidents reported in the first half of this year. Eighteen-year-old Lee is the first-ever Hmong American to both participate in the Olympics and win a medal.
A federal appeals court has temporarily blocked the release of records of former President Trump’s White House calls and activities related to the January 6 insurrection. House lawmakers are seeking the records as part of their sweeping investigation into Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election. Earlier today, ABC News released audio of Donald Trump defending his supporters who called for hanging his vice president, Mike Pence, on January 6. He made the comment in an interview with Jonathan Karl.
Jonathan Karl: “You heard those chants. That was terrible. I mean, those — you know, the” —
Donald Trump: “He could have — well, the people were very angry.”
Jonathan Karl: “They were saying, 'Hang Mike Pence.'”
Donald Trump: “Because it’s — it’s common sense, Jon. It’s common sense that you’re supposed to protect. How can you — if you know a vote is fraudulent — right?”
Jonathan Karl: “Yeah.”
Donald Trump: “How can you pass on a fraudulent vote to Congress?”
This comes as House Democrats are threatening to seek criminal contempt charges against Trump’s former chief of staff, Mark Meadows, if he refuses to testify today as part of the January 6 probe.
In New York City, 3,000 graduate workers are on strike at Columbia University. The union of teaching and research assistants is demanding a fair wage, better health insurance and proper mechanisms for addressing harassment and discrimination. The student workers say Columbia refuses to negotiate a fair contract even as the school’s assets increased by $3.3 billion over the past year. Columbia has threatened to withhold pay and stipends from the striking workers.