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HeadlinesMay 18, 2023

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U.N. Warns Global Heating Is Poised to Set Records and May Exceed 1.5°C Within Five Years

May 18, 2023

The United Nations is warning the next five years are likely to be the warmest on record, with far-reaching repercussions for health, food security, water management and the environment. The U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization said Wednesday that heat-trapping greenhouse gases and a naturally occurring El Niño event will combine to make it 98% certain that at least one of the next five years will top 2016 as the hottest year on record. And the agency said there's a two-in-three chance that average global surface temperatures will reach 1.5°C above preindustrial levels for at least one of the next five years. That exceeds the maximum temperature rise set by the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015. This is Petteri Taalas, head of the World Meteorological Organization.

Petteri Taalas: “There’s no return back to the good old days, because we already have such a high concentration of carbon dioxide, and also, of course, we have also increased methane concentration in the atmosphere. And the best that we can do is to phase out this negative trend.”

Eight Killed as Torrential Rains Bring Massive Flooding to Northern Italy

May 18, 2023

In northern Italy, at least eight people were killed and thousands more forced to evacuate as torrential rains caused rivers to burst their banks, flooding farmlands and leaving tens of thousands without electricity. Some parts of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region received half their average annual rainfall in 36 hours.

Burma’s Government-in-Exile Says Death Toll from Cyclone Mocha Has Topped 400

May 18, 2023

Burma’s government-in-exile says the death toll from Cyclone Mocha has topped 400, with many more missing and unaccounted for. The storm made landfall Sunday with the strength of a Category 5 hurricane — one of the most powerful cyclones to hit the region. Burma’s National Unity Government on Wednesday accused the ruling military junta of blocking aid agencies from accessing the hard-hit Rakhine state, following reports that soldiers attacked Rohingya Muslims just before the storm’s arrival.

Climate Activists at Africa Energies Summit in London Demand End to Fossil Fuel Projects

May 18, 2023

In London, climate activists rallied outside the Africa Energies Summit Wednesday demanding fossil fuel companies, including Shell and Total, drop their support for oil and gas projects in Africa. Protesters say the 900-mile East African Crude Oil Pipeline through Uganda and Tanzania would be the largest, longest pipeline of its kind in the world, emitting 53 million tons of carbon per year, displacing 100,000 people and threatening protected wildlife and water resources. This is Rhiannon Osborne of the People’s Health Movement.

Rhiannon Osborne: “TotalEnergies and other fossil fuel monsters present at this conference are leaving thousands without livelihoods and homes, fueling war, exacerbating the climate crisis and pushing the country deeper into poverty and crippling debt. This summit must not be normalized.”

U.N. Appeals for $3 Billion in Emergency Aid to Sudan as Humanitarian Disaster Spirals

May 18, 2023

The United Nations says it needs $3 billion in aid, as it warns of a spiraling humanitarian disaster in Sudan after more than one month of fighting between the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

Ramesh Rajasingham: “The conflict that erupted on the 15th of April last month in Sudan has killed hundreds of people, injured more than 5,000 people, and millions more have been confined to their homes, unable to access basic services and essential healthcare. And nearly a million people have been displaced, many across to neighboring countries. Today, 25 million people, more than half the population of Sudan, need humanitarian aid and protection.”

At least three pro-democracy activists were arrested by Sudanese security forces Tuesday as activists say humanitarian aid is being weaponized to gain power amid a dire need for essentials among the population. West Darfur and the capital Khartoum remain the epicenters of fighting. There have been mounting reports of rape and sexual violence, with refugees and internally displaced women and girls particularly vulnerable. There have also been nearly 200 reports of disappearances since the conflict broke out.

Accusations of Voting Issues in Turkey as Erdoğan’s Rival Appeals to Nationalists Ahead of Runoff

May 18, 2023

In Turkey, opposition parties have filed complaints over alleged voting irregularities in Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections, when incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan outperformed expectations and claimed nearly 50% of the vote. This follows reports that the Turkish government arrested elected officials and civil society leaders from Spain who traveled to a Kurdish-majority city in eastern Turkey to monitor the vote. The election is heading to a runoff on May 28. On Wednesday, Erdoğan’s opponent, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, stoked anti-immigrant sentiment in an appeal to Turkish nationalists.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu: “I am addressing everybody out there. We did not find this homeland on the street. We will not abandon our homeland to this mentality that allowed 10 million irregular migrants to come live among us.”


Florida Signs Draconian Anti-Trans Laws, as Texas GOP Advances Bill to Ban Trans Healthcare

May 18, 2023

In Texas, Republican lawmakers have passed a bill banning gender-affirming care for transgender children. It will also require patients already on transition medications to wean off of those treatments. It now heads to the desk of Texas’s right-wing Governor Greg Abbott. The Texas state House on Wednesday also advanced a bill banning trans college athletes from school sports competitions.

Meanwhile, Republicans in Florida stepped up their attacks on transgender rights Wednesday, as Governor Ron DeSantis signed a slew of extreme measures into law. They include a ban on transgender people using public restrooms that align with their gender identity, and a ban on gender-affirming care for children and most adults, with criminal penalties for providers who violate the ban. State courts now have the power to separate trans children from their families if they support transition care. Other legislation bans minors attending events hosted by drag performers, and bars transgender and nonbinary students and school staff from sharing their preferred pronouns.

In other Florida news, publisher Penguin Random House and PEN America are suing the Escambia County School District for banning books on race and LGBTQ issues, citing a violation of the First Amendment.

SC House Passes Another 6-Week Abortion Ban; U.S. Appeals Court Hears Arguments in Abortion Pill Case

May 18, 2023

The South Carolina House of Representatives passed a six-week abortion ban. The bill now goes to the Senate. Earlier this year, the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down a previous six-week ban, but Republicans hope the new effort will be successful as the Supreme Court’s lone woman justice has since retired and was replaced with a right-wing male judge.

Meanwhile, a federal appeals court appears likely to restrict access to the abortion pill mifepristone, the most commonly used abortion method in the U.S. The three conservative judges on the panel, who were appointed by former Presidents Donald Trump and George W. Bush, grilled the Justice Department and drugmaker Danco Laboratories over the medication’s approval by the FDA over two decades ago, and more recent efforts to expand patient access. This is Justice Department attorney Sarah Harrington being questioned by Judge James Ho.

Sarah Harrington: “The district court’s order is an unprecedented and unjustified attack on FDA’s scientific expertise. This court should vacate the order because plaintiffs are unlikely to prevail on any of their claims, and because the balance of equities tips decidedly against preliminary relief.”

Judge James Ho: “I hate to cut you off so early, but you’ve said 'unprecedented.' We had a challenge to the FDA just yesterday.”

Sarah Harrington: “You had a challenge to the FDA, yes, but I don’t think there’s ever been any court that has vacated FDA’s determination that a drug is safe to be on the market.”

The Intercept reports U.S. Marshals spied on abortion protesters following the repeal of Roe v. Wade, using AI software from the social media monitoring company Dataminr, which is an “official partner” of Twitter.

Montana Becomes First State to Ban TikTok, as Rights Groups Warn of Censorship and Sinophobia

May 18, 2023

Montana’s Republican governor has signed legislation banning TikTok, making Montana the first U.S. state to outlaw the popular social media app. The new law forbids app stores like those operated by Apple and Google from making TikTok available for download in Montana, with fines of $10,000 a day for violators. Civil liberties groups have promised a legal challenge. Keegan Medrano of the ACLU of Montana said in a statement, “With this ban, Governor Gianforte and the Montana legislature have trampled on the free speech of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who use the app to express themselves, gather information, and run their small business, in the name of anti-Chinese sentiment.” In March, the Biden administration threatened to ban TikTok unless its Chinese owners agree to sell their stake in the company.

Deutsche Bank Agrees to $75M Settlement for Epstein Survivors as JPMorgan Chase Faces Lawsuit

May 18, 2023

Deutsche Bank has agreed to pay $75 million to survivors of sexual abuse by deceased financier and convicted sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. The settlement comes as part of a class-action lawsuit against the bank for helping finance Epstein’s crimes.

In related news, the U.S. Virgin Islands has subpoenaed billionaire Elon Musk as part of its lawsuit against JPMorgan Chase over the bank’s enabling of Epstein’s human trafficking empire in the Virgin Islands, where Epstein owned two islands. The suit does not state any wrongdoing by Musk but seeks more information on any role Epstein may have played in managing Musk’s finances.

Ecuadorian President Dissolves National Assembly to Avoid Impeachment

May 18, 2023

Ecuador’s conservative President Guillermo Lasso has dissolved the opposition-led National Assembly, blocking efforts by lawmakers to impeach him amid accusations of corruption and embezzlement in a scheme involving a state-owned oil transportation company. The constitutional power, which had never been used in Ecuador before, allows Lasso to rule by decree until new elections can be held. Lasso made the move a day after Ecuador’s National Assembly held its first hearing, where Lasso addressed lawmakers and denied involvement in the scheme, which opponents of Lasso say cost Ecuador millions in losses.


Argentines Call Out Skyrocketing Prices and Austerity as Inflation Hits 109%

May 18, 2023

In Argentina, thousands of people marched through the streets of Buenos Aires Wednesday protesting soaring inflation and demanding an end to austerity measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund as part of a $44 billion bailout. Last month, Argentina’s government reported the peso’s annual inflation rate soared to 109%, in a country where 40% of the population lives below the poverty line. This is lawmaker Gabriel Solano.

Gabriel Solano: “Inflation is high. This adds up to the fact that the government sends less money to the soup kitchens. You have an explosive combination: There’s no work, jobs are precarious, and not even soup kitchens have the basics.”

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