Headlines: December 6, 2018
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The Global Carbon Project released its annual report on greenhouse gas emissions and the news is not good. After several years of very small increases, the rate of carbon use jumped from 2017 to 2018 by 2.7 percent. The figures were announced during the on-going COP24 climate meeting in Katowice, Poland where delegates from around the world are discussing the implementation of the Paris Accord – a climate accord that President Donald Trump has pulled the US out of. According to the Guardian newspaper, “The rise is due to the growing number of cars on the roads and a renaissance of coal use and means the world remains on the track to catastrophic global warming.” Additionally, “Almost all countries are contributing to the rise, with emissions in China up 4.7%, in the US by 2.5% and in India by 6.3% in 2018. The EU’s emissions are near flat, but this follows a decade of strong falls.”
Meanwhile, residents of Paradise, California were allowed to return to what were once their homes on Wednesday. Authorities deemed it safe enough a month after the state’s most ferocious and deadly blaze burned down the small retirement community in hours. Those who chose to return had to wear hazmat suits and gloves as the fire likely released heavy metals and other toxins that are still present. It was the first time that many saw the state of their town and their homes. Survivors of the Camp Fire returned to what’s left of their homes in Paradise, California. The fire killed at least 85 people. Eleven are still missing. The unusual fire is linked to climate-driven warming.
In other news, a bi-partisan group of Senators have introduced a bill to denounce Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for his role in ordering the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said in a statement, “This resolution — without equivocation — definitively states that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia was complicit in the murder of Mr. Khashoggi and has been a wrecking ball to the region jeopardizing our national security interests on multiple fronts.” According to Vox, “The resolution also takes issue with Saudi Arabia’s other actions in the region, such as human rights abuses related to its war in Yemen, the diplomatic and economic blockade against Qatar, and the imprisonment of political dissidents.” A total of six Senators brought the resolution including Republicans Marco Rubio and Todd Young, and Democrats Dianne Feinstein, Ed Markey, and Chris Coons.
The Washington Post reported that within weeks of Trump’s election in 2016, the Saudi Arabian government rented hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of hotel rooms at the Trump Hotel in Washington DC. The rooms were part of a controversial program offering US military veterans free trips to nation’s capitol in exchange for them lobbying lawmakers against certain laws that the Saudis opposed. The Post interviewed some of the veterans who participated in the trips and discovered they were unaware of being used by the Saudi government. Trump is under investigation by the Attorneys General of D.C. and Maryland for violations of the emoluments clause of the US Constitution that prohibits receiving gifts from foreign governments.
Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort, who has been in the cross hairs of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into election wrong doing, is facing charges by New York prosecutors over his foreign government lobbying. The Special Counsel’s team referred the cases to New York as they fell outside the investigation’s purview. The Associated Press, which spoke to sources familiar with the cases, reports that, “in a flurry of new activity, Justice Department prosecutors in the last several weeks have begun interviewing witnesses and contacting lawyers to schedule additional questioning related to the Podesta Group and Mercury Public Affairs.” Manafort has ties to both firms. AP also explained that, “The investigation reflects how Mueller… has shined a light on high-dollar lobbying practices that have helped foreign governments find powerful allies and advocates in Washington. It’s a practice that has spanned both parties and enriched countless former government officials, who have leveraged their connections to influence American politics.”
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that House Democrats, who will be in the majority next year, plan to use their authority to send the transcripts of testimony by some of Trump’s aides to the Special Counsel, “so they can be reviewed for evidence and possible falsehoods.” The aides in question are, “Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, son Donald Trump Jr, former advisers Roger Stone and Corey Lewandowski, personal aide Rhona Graff and former personal aides Hope Hicks and Keith Schiller.”
In other news, the Chinese telecom firm Huawei is in the news once more, as Canadian authorities arrested 46-year old Meng Wanzhou, the company’s Chief Financial Officer, and the daughter of its founder. Her arrest is apparently related to a violation of sanctions and she now faces extradition to the US. Ms. Meng’s arrest throws into question the recently announced trade truce between the Trump Administration and the Chinese government. According to Reuters, “U.S. authorities have been investigating Huawei, the world’s largest telecoms equipment maker, since at least 2016 for allegedly shipping U.S.-origin products to Iran and other countries in violation of U.S. export and sanctions laws.”
The Global Terrorism Index was released on Wednesday and spells bad news for Afghanistan – the site of the US’s longest official war. Afghanistan now leads Iraq and tops the list of nations for deadly terrorist attacks. A quarter of all deaths related to terrorist attacks took place in Afghanistan last year. The Taliban and the Islamic State are both named as responsible for the surge in attacks.
The UK government has made public, secret Facebook data as part of its on-going investigation into how the social media company proliferates fake news and enables election interference. A committee of the UK Parliament released the trove of documents showing how the corporation uses Facebook account-holders’ data to drive competition between app developers. According to AP, “company executives discussed how they were keeping the company’s collection and exploitation of user data from its users. That included quietly collecting the call records and text messages of users of phones that run on Google’s Android operating system without asking their permission.” US Senator Ron Wyden, responding to the release of data said, “These kinds of schemes are exactly why companies must be required to disclose exactly how they are collecting and sharing our data, with stiff penalties for companies that lie about it.”
And finally in France, although President Emmanuel Macron recently retreated from his proposed fuel tax increase in the face of aggressive protests, the country is still bracing for new clashes this weekend. Activists have expanded their demands to further tax cuts and greater government aid.