Category - News

Peaceful Paris climate gathering descends into clashes with police

Anti-capitalists take over climate protest to rail against ban on marches imposed after terror attacks on city.

The Guardian, By Karl Mathiesen, November 29

A day of celebration and hope in Paris disintegrated into rioting and clashes with police on Sunday, after anti-capitalists and anarchists hijacked a peaceful event organised by climate activists earlier in the day.

About 200 protesters, some wearing masks, fought with police on a street leading to la place de la République, which has become a gathering place for Parisians since the terror attacks on 13 November that killed 130 people. Witnesses said floral and other tributes were trampled in the melee.

About 100 protesters were arrested and the gathering was cleared by police using batons and teargas.

Earlier on Sunday, there had been a carnival atmosphere in the square before the climate summit due to begin on the city’s outskirts on Monday. Thousands of shoes, including a pair belonging to Pope Francis, had been symbolically laid in the square to represent a climate march that was cancelled by authorities after the terror attacks.

The Guardian Live Blog: Global climate march 2015: hundreds of thousands march around the world – as it happened

France bows to Obama and backs down on climate ‘treaty’

FT, By Anne-Sylvaine Chassany & Pilita Clark, November 28

Paris / London – France has offered a key concession to the US on the eve of historic climate talks in Paris, saying a new global climate accord will not be called a “treaty” and might not contain legally binding emissions reduction targets.

In a significant climbdown, Laurent Fabius, French foreign minister, said signatories to the planned deal would still be legally required to meet many of its terms but most likely not the carbon-cutting goals underpinning the agreement.

“The accord needs to be legally binding. It’s not just literature,” Mr Fabius told the Financial Times. “But it will probably have a dual nature. Some of the clauses will be legally binding.”
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Thousands displaced, women raped in military offensive in Myanmar – rights groups

Thomson Reuters Foundation, By Alisa Tang, November 27

Bangkok – A Myanmar military offensive against ethnic rebels in the country’s east has uprooted more than 10,000 people, rights groups said, accusing the army of bombing schools and Buddhist temples, firing on civilians and raping women.

Since Oct. 6, the army has shelled six villages, shot and injured three people, and fired on 17 villagers who are now missing, according to activists in Shan state.

The Shan Human Rights Foundation has documented eight cases of sexual violence since April 2015, including a 32-year-old woman gang-raped by 10 soldiers on Nov. 5 while her husband was tied up under their farm hut in Ke See township.

“We are very concerned that there has been no public condemnation by the international community about these war crimes and these attacks on civilians,” rights activist Charm Tong told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Isolation of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: Part I

Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions, By James Hansen, November 27

Earlier this year I received a message from a long-time reader of my Communications, who was persuaded of the urgency of the climate problem. As a significant supporter of the Democratic Party, he had the opportunity to meet President Obama, and he was preparing a specific question: would the President be willing to “meet with Jim Hansen”, who, the supporter asserted, understood the problem as well as anyone and has “some viable ways to fix the problem”?

Obama’s response: he had already read my stuff (presumably meaning my book), but would be interested in talking if it were about policy (presumably meaning that he was already convinced about the reality of the science). My response to the supporter was that we should check whether the offer was real after my long-overdue “Ice Melt” paper was submitted for publication.

This summer, after submitting the paper, my supporter tried valiantly, but dolefully reported that he could not get through, the President was too well protected. Not so easily deterred, I reported the matter to Obama’s Science Adviser, John Holdren, and sent him my Ice Melt paper. Holdren responded that it was a valuable paper, but he ignored my request to meet the President.

The Guardian: Naomi Klein: Now Marches Are Banned at the Paris Climate Conference – What’s at Stake

‘Mind-Blowing Abuse of Power’: Walmart Spied on Workers With FBI, Lockheed Martin’s Help

Common Dreams, By Nadia Prupis, November 25

Retail giant Walmart enlisted the help of a private military contractor and the FBI to spy on workers pushing for a $15 hourly wage and organizing Black Friday protests in 2012 and 2013, newly released documents (pdf) reveal.

“We are fighting for all workers to be paid a fair wage and enough hours to put food on the table and provide for our families,” said Mary Pat Tifft, a Wisconsin Walmart employee of 27 years. “To think that Walmart found us such a threat that they would hire a defense contractor and engage the FBI is a mind-blowing abuse of power.”

A document made public Tuesday by worker organization OUR Walmart reveals company testimony to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) in January stating that Walmart had enlisted the help of arms manufacturer Lockheed Martin and the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force to monitor workers who were organizing for higher wages and the right to unionize. OUR Walmart workers said they were illegally fired and disciplined for taking part in the “Ride for Respect” strike during Walmart’s shareholder meeting in June of 2013.

But the surveillance had long been in progress. Walmart executives mobilized the so-called “Delta” emergency response team in 2012 when they first got wind of plans for a nationwide Black Friday worker strike. As Bloomberg explained in an investigative piece published Tuesday, “the stakes were enormous.” In addition to the NLRB testimony, the new reporting states, “The details of Walmart’s efforts during the first year it confronted OUR Walmart are described in more than 1,000 pages of e-mails, reports, playbooks, charts, and graphs.”

‘More Questions Than Answers’: MSF Not Buying Pentagon Probe into Hospital Attack

What about the hour-long attempts to stop the bombing? Why is this damning report being released the day before Thanksgiving? And what does this say about the competency of the U.S. military?

Common Dreams, By Lauren McCauley, November 25

Doctors Without Borders is challenging the Pentagon over the findings of internal probes into the bombing of a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz on October 3, saying the military’s conclusions offer “more questions than answers” and that claims of “human error” simply don’t correspond to the available facts.

The pair of investigations, which trickled out by way of the mainstream media, reduced the attack on the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital to series of human errors and technical glitches. The findings claim to show that despite the medical charity’s documented efforts to alert commanders to the onslaught, those signals did not reportedly reach the trigger team until it was “too late,” resulting in the deaths of at least 31 civilians and injuring 28 more.

Among observers—including the head of MSF—the findings have raised some eyebrows as well as questions such as: What about the hour-long attempts to stop the bombing? How does this compare to MSF’s own investigation? Why are these damning reports being released the day before Thanksgiving? And what does this say about the competency of the U.S. military?

Law enforcement took more stuff from people than burglars did last year

Washington Post, By Christopher Ingraham, November 23

Here’s an interesting factoid about contemporary policing: In 2014, for the first time ever, law enforcement officers took more property from American citizens than burglars did. Martin Armstrong pointed this out at his blog, Armstrong Economics, last week.

Officers can take cash and property from people without convicting or even charging them with a crime — yes, really! — through the highly controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Last year, according to the Institute for Justice, the Treasury and Justice departments deposited more than $5 billion into their respective asset forfeiture funds. That same year, the FBI reports that burglary losses topped out at $3.5 billion.

Armstrong claims that “the police are now taking more assets than the criminals,” but this isn’t exactly right: The FBI also tracks property losses from larceny and theft, in addition to plain ol’ burglary. If you add up all the property stolen in 2014, from burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft and other means, you arrive at roughly $12.3 billion, according to the FBI. That’s more than double the federal asset forfeiture haul.

Amazon trees are found to be at risk

AP, By Seth Borenstein, November 22

Washington – A first-of-its-kind examination of the Amazon’s trees found that as many as half the species may be threatened with extinction or heading that way because of massive deforestation. Among the more than 5,000 tree species in deep trouble: the ones that produce Brazil nuts and mahogany.

An international team of 158 scientists found that depending on the degree to which deforestation comes under control in the next 35 years, between 36 and 57 percent of the 16,000 tree species in the tropical rainforest area would be considered threatened. The study is published in Friday’s edition of Science Advances.

The range rests on whether cutting down the region’s forest continues at the rate of the late 20th and early 21st centuries or slows to lesser levels proposed in 2006, study authors said. If deforestation continues at the same pace, nearly 8,700 tree types are in trouble, but the number of species at risk could be as low as 5,500 if nations are able to cut back as planned, said study coauthor Nigel Pitman, from the Field Museum in Chicago.

Paris attacks: State of emergency could restrict public demonstrations during Paris climate talks, By Peter Burton, November 17

What impact will the attacks have on the Paris Climate Change Conference scheduled to begin in 12 days?

While already complicated, the talks will now take place within a state of emergency that is threatening to limit public participation.

Events in Paris continue to unfold at a dizzying pace. But in the coming days we will learn a lot by paying attention to how parties use (and abuse) the language of freedom and liberty.

Twitter Has Censored Gory Images of the Paris Attacks

French authorities reportedly asked the company to block certain content.

Mother Jones, By Josh Harkinson, November 17

Over the past three days, Twitter has been preventing its users in France from viewing certain images and keywords related to the Paris attacks. The censorship, first reported today by the French newspaper Le Monde, applies to a keyword used by supporters of the Islamic State, tweets advocating terrorism, and, more controversially, graphic photographs taken inside the Bataclan after the terrorist attacks there left dozens dead.

On Sunday, France’s National Police used its Twitter account to ask social media users not to contribute to “the spread of photos of crime scenes,” out of “respect for victims and their families.” It encouraged Twitter users to send links to photos from the Bataclan massacre to PHAROS, a government website that compiles reports of illegal online activity.

On the same day, French law enforcement officials sent a request directly to Twitter, demanding the removal of certain tweets, according to Lumen, a Harvard University database of government takedown requests. The reasons the authorities gave for the request were a “serious attack on human dignity (images of cadavers)” and “secrecy of the investigation.”


“France has become nothing short of a nightmare when it comes to free speech,” says Jonathan Turley, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University. “The French government has aggressively rolled back free speech protections for years. I never thought I would see the day when France would become the leader in censorship and the criminalization of speech, however, it has become precisely that.”