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What You Need To Know From The Recent Findings Of 7 Big Climate Reports




The world is rapidly accelerating toward climate catastrophe, our financial institutions have their foot on the gas and pinning our hopes on Chinese leadership to desperately wrench the steering wheel away from the guardrail looks increasingly foolish.
But, hey! At least a growing percentage of Americans recognize that the federal government should do more about climate change. 
Those are just a few findings contained in seven reports published in the past week examining the climate emergency ahead of next week’s United Nations summit in Madrid. 
The 25th Conference of the Parties was intended to be a forum for countries to up the ante from the 2015 Paris Agreement. They were supposed to come with new, more ambitious pledges to meet the targets and build on the momentum of the four years since the agreement was reached. Instead, the reports out since Nov. 20 illustrate the extent to which the world’s most powerful institutions are still engaged in a game of lethal procrastination that threatens to speed up global ecological collapse and sow chaos throughout human civilization in the decades to come. 
Here’s a quick breakdown of what the reports found: 
1. Global temperatures are on pace to rise as much as 3.2 degrees Celsius by the end of the century ― more than double what scientists project to be a safe range that remotely resembles our world today. 
That came from the United Nations’ latest grim assessment of the so-called emissions gap between the amount of planet-heating gases countries agreed to cut and where the current projections are headed. The Paris Agreement aimed to cap average temperatures at 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels; a U.N. report last year determined that the pact’s more ambitious goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming would likely cost hundreds of millions of lives and about $54 trillion in today’s dollars. Global temperatures are already a little over 1 degree Celsius compared with the period before the advent of industrial fossil-fuel use. 

United Nations

Top greenhouse gas emitters by country.

To keep warming within 1.5 degrees (about 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), the world will need to cut emission 7.6% every year from 2020 to 2030, the report published Monday found. 
“The summary findings are bleak,” the assessment stated. 
2. The top 10 fossil-fuel-producing countries are on track to extract 120% more oil, gas and coal than would be consistent with 1.5 degrees of warming. 

SEI

A chart from the report shows the so-called production gap between the emissions cuts needed to keep global warming in a safe range and the amount of fossil fuel projected to be drilled.

There isn’t just an emissions gap. There’s a production gap, too. That’s what this first-of-its-kind analysis by scientists at six organizations, including the United Nations Environment Programme, found last week. Projections to extract new fossil fuel reserves in China, the United States, Russia, India, Australia, Indonesia, Canada, Germany, Norway and the United Kingdom exceed the limits to keep warming within 2 degrees Celsius by 50%. That figure surges to 120% when modeled for 1.5 degrees Celsius. 
3. The world’s biggest asset managers remain heavily invested in climate-polluting industries ― and do little if anything to convince those companies to change. 
That’s the finding of a sweeping survey by the British think tank InfluenceMap of the 15 largest asset managers that control a combined $37 trillion. Only three big firms ― UBS Asset Management, Allianz and Legal & General ― “strongly and consistently engage with the companies they invest in to align their business models with Paris targets.” The report found $8.2 trillion invested in four top-polluting industries: oil and gas, coal mining, automobiles and electric power. 

InfluenceMap

A chart from InfluenceMap shows which of 15 biggest asset managers control investments aligned with the Paris Agreement’s less ambitious 2-degrees Celsius goal.

“Forceful engagement with the companies in these sectors to hasten their transition to low carbon technologies must occur if the finance sector wishes to align its portfolios with climate goals,” the report stated. “The majority of companies in these sectors are very far from aligning their business models to meet the goals of Paris.”
4. The insurance industry looks stunningly unprepared for the “extremely high” risks of climate change. 

Deloitte

A third of the regulators surveyed did not know how prepared insurers were to respond to potential effects of climate change on their financial stability.

So say insurance regulators in a survey released Monday by the professional services giant Deloitte. As the costs of extreme weather have soared over the past decade, with the number of disasters causing $1 billion or more spiking dramatically since 2010, the 27 regulators surveyed from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners painted a picture of an industry stumbling largely in the dark. One-third of regulators said they did not know how well insurers are prepared to deal with the effects of climate-linked financial instability. Among those who said they were prepared, no more than four respondents in the weighted survey said insurers were “largely or fully prepared.” 
Similarly, one-third of regulators said they did not know whether current insurer risk models were up to the task of capturing and testing climate-related risks. Among those who knew, only two said the models were “very good” and none rated them as excellent.
5. New investments in wind, solar and other renewable energy projects dropped sharply in the developing world last year. Coal, meanwhile, hit a record high. 

Bloomberg New Energy Finance

A Bloomberg New Energy Finance chart shows investments in new solar, wind and other non-hydroelectric power projects dropping from 2017 to 2018.

From 2017 to 2018, investments in new clean-energy infrastructure in 104 emerging markets fell from $169 billion to $133 billion, according to a report published Monday by the research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance. China ― the world’s No. 1 emitter of greenhouse gases ― led the decline, investing $86 billion in renewable energy projects in 2018 compared with $122 billion in 2017. 
Coal surged. The volume of coal-fired power generated and consumed in developing countries climbed to 6,900 terawatt-hours in 2018, up from 6,400 in 2017. 
6. China is building more new coal plants than exist in all of the European Union. 

Global Energy Monitor

From January 2018 to June 2019, countries outside of China decreased their total coal power capacity by 8.1 gigawatts, while China increased its coal capacity by 42.9 gigawatts.

In 2017, China earned worldwide acclaim for canceling plans to build 103 new coal plants. It was a convenient political narrative that drew a stark contrast with the United States, where newly inaugurated President Donald Trump was preparing to withdraw the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter from the Paris climate pact. 
But a Global Energy Monitor report published Nov. 20 found that China has close to 147.7 gigawatts of coal power capacity under construction or likely to be resumed after being suspended. That nearly amounts to the European Union’s entire 150 gigawatts of coal capacity.
7. The vast majority of Americans want the federal government to do more to curb climate change and protect the environment. 

Pew Research Center

New polling from Pew Research Center found majorities of U.S. adults think the federal government is doing too little to curb climate change.

The numbers released Monday by the Pew Research Center illustrate why the issues are taking on such a big role in this election cycle. At 67%, the vast majority of American adults said “the federal government is doing too little to reduce the effects of global climate change.” Another 67% said the same of protecting air quality, and 68% said officials in Washington should do more to “protect water quality of lakes, rivers, and streams.” 
Yet the climate question broke down along partisan lines. Among Democrats and voters who lean Democratic, 90% said the federal government needed to do more to curb the climate crisis. Among Republicans and those who lean Republican, that figure fell to 39%.

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Black Friday 2019 Shoppers Stay Away From Stores, Spend Online, Analysts Say




NEW YORK, Nov 29 (Reuters) – U.S. consumers splurged more than $2 billion online in the first hours of Thanksgiving shopping on Thursday, while crowds were largely thin at retailers on the eve of Black Friday, reflecting the broader trend away from shopping at brick-and-mortar stores.
Early discounts offered this month by chains seeking to extend this year’s shorter holiday season saw a dip in the numbers lining up at stores across the country, according to consultants and analysts making spot checks on the ground.
“We’ve seen many merchants start their promotions pretty much right after the trick-or-treaters have gone to bed,” said Lauren Bitar, head of retail consulting at analytics firm RetailNext.
Sales made prior to Thanksgiving and Black Friday could erode “the spike that we have seen in sales dollars historically,” Bitar said.
The day after Thanksgiving has been America’s biggest shopping day, and this year more than 165 million people are expected to take part over the weekend, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).
While Black Friday still matters, its relevance is fading as the holiday shopping season now begins the week before Halloween and stretches to Christmas Eve with retailers offering deep discounts throughout the season.
The condensed shopping season this year accelerated early promotions and spending. Retailers have six fewer days to make sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day this year.
That has pulled spending into early November — more than half of consumers polled by the NRF in the first week of this month had already begun making purchases. On average, Americans had already completed almost a quarter of their shopping, the most in the history of NRF’s surveys.
Store openings on Thanksgiving evening have also reduced store crowds lining up for doorbuster deals at the crack of dawn on Friday.
While store traffic still remains an important indicator, a lot of shopping during Thanksgiving and Black Friday now happens online. Adobe Analytics, which measures transactions from 80 of the top 100 U.S. online retailers, estimates $7.5 billion in sales for Black Friday online, a growth of over 20.5%year-over-year.
As of 5 p.m. ET on Thanksgiving Day, shoppers had spent $2.1billion online, up 20.2% on a year ago. Companies including Walmart Inc, Target Corp, Costco Wholesale Corp and Best Buy Co Inc have bulked up their online presence, deliveries and fast in-store pickups to attract customers.
At the other end of the divide, specialty apparel retailers Gap Inc, Victoria Secret-owner L Brands Inc and department stores Macy’s Inc and Kohl’s Corp have slumped as they struggle to lure shoppers to malls and away from online giants like Amazon.com Inc.
This year’s holiday season will not only test the resilience of such companies but will be a challenge for most retailers as U.S. President Donald Trump’s trade war with China begins to take its toll on margins.
A pricing analysis conducted for Reuters by retail analytics firm Profitero, which examined online prices from seven large retailers for 21,000 products, found sites including Walmart and Amazon have held prices steady for many popular holiday products despite the pressure from tariffs on Chinese imports.
The National Retail Federation had forecast U.S. holiday retail sales in November and December will increase between 3.8%and 4.2% over 2018, for a total of $727.9 billion to $730.7billion. That compares with an average annual increase of 3.7%over the past five years.

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Teen Whose TikTok Account Was Suspended After Uighur Clip Says She Won’t Be Silenced




A 17-year-old TikTok user from New Jersey whose account was suspended following a viral video she posted decrying China’s human rights abuses says she will continue to share politically charged content on the popular Chinese-owned social media app.
“I’m not scared of TikTok,” Feroza Aziz told the BBC News this week.
After coming under scrutiny for Aziz’s suspension, TikTok apologized to the teen on Wednesday for making an “error” in restricting her account and said it had fully restored her access to the app. The company, owned by Chinese tech conglomerate Bytedance, also stressed TikTok’s commitment to providing a “safe, positive and welcoming environment” for users while also protecting users’ “freedom of creative expression.”
But Aziz says she’s unconvinced by the company’s apology and promises.
“TikTok is trying to cover up this whole mess. I won’t let them get away with this,” she told The Washington Post. 

The kerfuffle over Aziz’s TikTok account began on Saturday when the Afghan-American teen posted a series of clips which, at first glance, appeared to be a beauty tutorial but quickly evolved into an advocacy video urging people to learn more about the plight facing Uighur Muslims.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters on Tuesday that recently leaked Chinese government documents confirmed that “the Chinese Communist Party is committing human rights violations and abuses against” Uighur Muslims and other minority groups “in mass detention.” Beijing has long denied any wrongdoing.
In her TikTok videos, Aziz, who is Muslim, describes how innocent Uighurs are being thrown into “concentration camps” in China’s Xinjiang province. “This is another Holocaust, yet no one is talking about it,” she says.
The videos, which Aziz also posted on her Twitter and Instagram accounts, quickly went viral. The clips have reportedly been viewed millions of times to date across different platforms.
Two days after posting the clips, Aziz revealed that TikTok had suspended her account. 
“China is scared of the truth spreading,” the teen wrote on Twitter.  “Let’s keep scaring them and spread the truth. Save the Muslims.” 
China is scared of the truth spreading. Let’s keep scaring them and spread the truth. Save the Muslims #chineseholocaust #muslim pic.twitter.com/GbreNFWBEc— feroza.x (@x_feroza) November 25, 2019

TikTok pushed back against the suggestion that it had blocked Aziz’s account for political reasons, telling BBC that it “does not moderate content due to political sensitivities” outside of China. As BBC noted, China’s strict censorship rules would apply to Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok.
Eric Han, TikTok’s head of safety in the U.S., later said that Aziz’s account had not been suspended for the Uigher video but for a different clip she’d created using a separate TikTok account which had included a photo of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden.
That second account had been banned, Han said, “in line with TikTok’s policies against content that includes imagery related to terrorist figures.”
Han explained that that since Aziz’s banned account was associated with the same mobile device as the account she used to post the Uighur video, she was locked out of both accounts from her device. But, Han noted, the account which had the Uighur video had remained active and the account’s videos had continued to receive views.  
Han admitted that the viral Uighur videos had been deleted from the app for about 50 minutes on Wednesday morning, but he attributed that deletion to “human moderation error” and said the clips were immediately re-posted after the mistake was discovered.
The teen’s access to her TikTok accounts was also fully reinstated, he said.
Aziz ― who told the Post that the bin Laden image had been used satirically in a tongue-in-cheek video about dating ― said in a tweet on Wednesday night that she was skeptical of TikTok’s explanation. 
“Do I believe they took it away because of a unrelated satirical video that was deleted on a previous deleted account of mine? Right after I finished posting a 3 part video about the Uyghurs? No,” she wrote.
UPDATE: tik tok has issued a public apology and gave me my account back. Do I believe they took it away because of a unrelated satirical video that was deleted on a previous deleted account of mine? Right after I finished posting a 3 part video about the Uyghurs? No. pic.twitter.com/ehUpSJiyy1— feroza.x (@x_feroza) November 27, 2019

A China researcher for Human Rights Watch told BBC that TikTok’s opaque user policies should be scrutinized.
“It is hard for outsiders to know the real reasons for the suspension of Aziz’s account,” Yaqiu Wa told the outlet. “TikTok does not make public the data on the videos it removes or the users it suspends, or the artificial intelligence tools it uses to determine the removals and suspensions.”
“While TikTok has repeatedly stressed that it does not take orders from the Chinese government in terms of what content it promotes or removes outside of China, it has done little to quench the suspicion, given that all Chinese companies are not only accountable to its shareholders, but also to the Chinese Communist Party,” Wa continued.
TikTok said in its statement this week that it plans to release its first transparency report, as well as a more robust version of its community guidelines, “within the next two months.” 
On her part, Aziz says she won’t be deterred by the TikTok suspension and will continue to speak up about China’s abuses against the Uighur community.
“This won’t silence me,” she tweeted Tuesday. 
I am blocked from posting on tik tok for a month. This won’t silence me.— feroza.x (@x_feroza) November 25, 2019

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China Furious As Trump Signs Hong Kong Bills




BEIJING (AP) — China reacted furiously to President Donald Trump’s signing of two bills on Hong Kong human rights and said the U.S. will bear the unspecified consequences.
A foreign ministry statement Thursday repeated heated condemnations of the laws and said China will counteract. It said all the people of Hong Kong and China oppose the move.
It’s still unclear, however, how China will respond exactly.
Trump signed the bills, which were approved by near unanimous consent in the House and Senate, even as he expressed some concerns about complicating the effort to work out a trade deal with China’s President Xi Jinping.
“I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong,” Trump said in a statement. “They are being enacted in the hope that Leaders and Representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all.”
Congress approved the bills last week following months of unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. Before Wednesday’s signing announcement, Trump would only commit to giving the measures a “hard look.”
China’s foreign ministry called the laws a “naked hegemonic action” that seriously interfered in Hong Kong and China’s internal affairs, violated international law and “fundamental norms of international relations.”
“The U.S. side ignored facts, turned black to white, and blatantly gave encouragement to violent criminals who smashed and burned, harmed innocent city residents, trampled on the rule of law and endangered social order,” the statement said.
The laws’ basic intent is to undermine Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability along with the “historical progress of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.”
It called the measures “extremely evil in nature and dangerous in motive.”
“We advise the U.S. not to act incautiously, otherwise China will be required to counteract resolutely and all the consequences created by this will have to be borne by the U.S. side,” the statement said.
The two countries are currently locked in a trade war and have deep differences over China’s claims to the South China Sea and Taiwan, human rights issues and accusations of Chinese industrial espionage.
The first bill Trump signed mandates sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials who carry out human rights abuses and requires an annual review of the favorable trade status that Washington grants Hong Kong.
Another bill prohibits export to Hong Kong police of certain nonlethal munitions, including tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, water cannons, stun guns and tasers.
The munitions bill was passed unanimously, while Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky was the sole House member to oppose the human rights bill.
Trump acknowledged last week that he was weighing the ramifications of signing the bill.
“Look, we have to stand with Hong Kong,” Trump said in an interview on “Fox & Friends.” He continued: “But I’m also standing with President Xi. He’s a friend of mine. He’s an incredible guy.”
Democratic and Republican lawmakers applauded the signing of the bills. Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said it “finally sends a clear and unequivocal message to the people of Hong Kong: We are with you.”
Sen. Jim Risch, an Idaho Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the bills are “an important step forward in holding the Chinese Communist Party accountable for its erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy and its repression of fundamental human rights.”
Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who sponsored the House human rights bill, said Xi “should understand that the U.S. is not kidding about human rights. Beating, torturing and jailing of democracy activists is wrong and this historic legislation lets China know that respecting fundamental human rights is paramount.”
Activists hailed Trump’s action.
“I know that many people in Hong Kong are happy that the U.S. government has passed a new bill,” said Figo Chan, a 23-year-old Hong Kong protester who was honored with the John McCain Prize for Leadership at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada last weekend.
“No one wants to die and no one wants to be hurt,” Chan said. “I hope that citizens of many different countries can in their own way fight for democracy.”

Associated Press writers Aamer Madhani in Washington and Rob Gillies in Toronto contributed to this report.

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Trump Signs Bill Supporting Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protesters




President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed a bipartisan bill that lends support to pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong who have been rallying against China’s government for months, ignoring complaints by Beijing officials that it interferes with a domestic matter.
The legislation would impose sanctions on Chinese officials charged with human rights violations and requires the U.S. to reassess the special trade agreement it has with Hong Kong every year to ensure the city retains a degree of autonomy.
Trump signed the measure, which passed overwhelmingly in the House and Senate, despite warnings from Chinese President Xi Jinping that the country would retaliate against the U.S. if the bill became law. It comes against the backdrop on the two countries continuing to haggle over ending a trade war.
Trump also signed a bill that prohibits exporting to Hong Kong police items that can be used for crowd control, such as teargas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.
“I signed these bills out of respect for President Xi, China, and the people of Hong Kong,” Trump said in a statement. “They are being enacted in the hope that Leaders and Representatives of China and Hong Kong will be able to amicably settle their differences leading to long term peace and prosperity for all.”
Senate Republicans had made clear their strong support for Hong Kong protesters and the legislation in speeches on the chamber’s floor last week. As the legislation headed toward his desk, Trump had avoided expressing whether he stood behind the measures. During an interview with Fox News, he said he supported protesters but also referred to President Xi as “a friend of mine.”
“I stand with Hong Kong. I stand with freedom. I stand with all of the things we want to do.” Trump told “Fox & Friends. “But we’re also in the process of making the largest trade deal in history.”
“I applaud President Trump for signing this critical legislation into law,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) who sponsored the main bill, said in a statement.
“The U.S. now has new and meaningful tools to deter further influence and interference from Beijing into Hong Kong’s internal affairs,” Rubio said. 
Hong Kong protesters celebrated a big win for democracy over the weekend after the city’s residents voted largely in favor of pro-democracy candidates in district council elections.

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Godfrey Gao, Taiwanese-Canadian Supermodel And Actor, Dead At 35




Actor and model Godfrey Gao, who grew up in British Columbia and was an ambassador for Canadian tourism, collapsed and died while shooting a TV show on Wednesday. 
His agency, JetStar Entertainment, confirmed that Gao died in the “early hours of Nov. 27” in a statement posted to Weibo and cited by South China Morning Post and Women’s Wear Daily.
Gao, 35, was filming “Chase Me,” a reality TV show for China’s Zhejiang Television that features competitive sports, in the eastern Chinese city of Ningbo, according to Apple Daily.
“Our beloved Godfrey collapsed while filming on set. Unfortunately following three hours of medical rescue efforts, he left us,” said JetStar’s statement. It added that his family “rushed to the scene.”
Gao was born in Taipei, but he grew up in North Vancouver, B.C., and graduated from Capilano University.
In 2011, he became the first Asian male model for luxury brand Louis Vuitton. A few years later, he appeared in Hollywood movies “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” and “The Jade Pendant,” followed by starring roles in several Chinese and Taiwanese blockbusters.
In 2015, he became an ambassador for the Canadian Tourism Commission, hosting a travel program aimed at drumming up interest among visitors from China.
“I grew up in B.C. It is one of the most beautiful provinces in Canada. Vancouver is so multicultural and that’s one of the things I enjoyed most while growing up in Vancouver, as you get everything from culture to cuisine,” Gao told HuffPost B.C. in 2016.
Watch from 2015: Godfrey Gao returns to Vancouver for Canadian tourism campaign

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Hong Kong Bill Shows Republicans Can Stand Up To Trump — When They Want To




Senate Republicans took to the floor last week and proudly declared their support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. In a big show of solidarity, the Senate then unanimously passed a bill compelling the U.S. to hold China responsible for human rights abuses against the people of Hong Kong.
Republicans enthusiastically pushed the bill through, not knowing whether President Donald Trump, who has hardly said anything in support of the protesters, will sign it into law.
“I would encourage this president, who has seen Chinese behavior for what it is with a clarity that others have lacked, not to shy away from speaking out on Hong Kong himself,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in a floor speech last week.
Trump wouldn’t commit to endorsing the bill and avoided forcefully speaking up for the protesters of Hong Kong during a Fox News interview late last week, however.
“We have to stand with Hong Kong, but I’m also standing with President Xi,” Trump said in the interview, referring to Chinese leader Xi Jinping, whom he also called a “friend of mine.” The Hong Kong legislation comes as Trump is trying to negotiate a trade deal with China, one of his biggest campaign promises.
Top Republicans, meanwhile, indicated they are willing to override Trump even if he vetoes the bill, which the House also passed last month by a near-unanimous vote.  
“There’s overwhelming support for this ― as you know, 100 [votes] in the United States Senate. I would imagine there would be an override of this. I would encourage the president to sign it,” Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said over the weekend.
The way Republicans have handled the Hong Kong matter is strikingly unlike their approach to the recent debate over gun safety legislation. In the wake of the deadly mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the summer, Republicans insisted they needed to hear what measures intended to curb gun violence Trump could support before moving forward with debate in the Senate. 
“Until we get that guidance, we’re in a holding pattern,” McConnell said at a weekly press briefing in September.
“If the president doesn’t support it, then there’s no point. So it’s like, why are we even going through this?” added Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a vocal supporter of the Hong Kong protesters who spoke on behalf of the bill that passed in the Senate last week.
Trump expressed support for the idea of expanding background checks on all gun purchases following the deadly shootings in August, but subsequently backed off after private lobbying from conservatives and the National Rifle Association, the nation’s biggest gun lobby. A bipartisan trio of senators who expressed optimism about discussions with the White House in September about gun legislation now says the administration has gone quiet. The next debate over guns in Washington is, at least according to recent history, likely only to occur after the next horrific mass shooting. 
Republicans have repeatedly shown they’re more willing to challenge Trump on foreign policy ― where they are far more united ― than on divisive domestic issues. All six bills Trump has vetoed so far in his presidency, for example, relate to various topics around the world. But what the Hong Kong episode also shows is that Republicans can stand up to Trump when they’re willing to fight for something they actually believe in.
“Mitch McConnell decides what we vote on in the Senate, and he’s clearly OK bucking Trump when it suits him,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), one of the gun control advocates who participated in talks with the White House, said in a statement. “Some of my Republican colleagues seem to be willing to pass legislation to expand background checks, and who knows what Trump would do if we passed something. More than likely he would sign it. So why the willingness to stand up for people in Hong Kong but not for kids here in America?”

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Top Muslim Group Calls For U.S. Boycott Of 2022 Winter Olympics In Beijing




Emgage, a group dedicated to increasing Muslim American involvement in politics, called on the U.S. Olympic National Committee to boycott the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing over the Chinese government’s mass detention and repression of Uighur Muslims.
“The Olympic Games are a showcase of what is best of humanity and a celebration of our differences,” said Emgage CEO Wa’el Alzayat. “The mass incarceration of Muslim minorities in China and the intentional attempt to erase their identity are anathema to the Olympic spirit. 
“We cannot as Americans participate in good conscience in these Games as long as these concentration camps are operational,” Alzayat added.
Emgage called the Chinese government’s internment and abuses of Uighurs a “campaign of ethnic genocide,” and many Uighur activists and human rights groups have employed similar language to describe the government’s conduct.
China has incarcerated an estimated 1 million Uighurs, or ethnically Turkic Muslims, in the western province of Xinjiang. The Chinese government is forcibly assimilating millions of other residents from the minority of 11 million people in a bid to strip them of their native language and religion.
The Chinese government claims it is trying to root out extremism and offering vocational training to the prisoners, but there are widespread reports of torture and horrific conditions in the prison camps.
What’s more, China’s increasingly deep coffers and influential role in the global economy have helped purchase the silence of majority-Muslim nations like Pakistan.
Emgage’s decision to launch a public pressure campaign is unlikely to sway the U.S. Olympic National Committee, which has historically had no problem collaborating with governments that violate human rights.
It nonetheless reflects the growing confidence of the Muslim American community in the wake of Donald Trump’s election in 2016, as well as the recognition of the Uighurs’ plight by the broader American public. 
Emgage co-hosted one of the United States’ first Muslim-American presidential candidate forums in August. The event was attended by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Housing Secretary Julián Castro.
The organization also released a report in May documenting a 25-percentage-point increase in Muslim American voter participation in key swing states from the 2014 midterm elections to the 2018 races.

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‘Are We Going To Talk About It?’ Australians Wonder When Climate Change Will Come Up




Australia has been on fire for weeks. Millions of acres have been scorched by an unprecedented spate of bushfires that have killed six people and destroyed more than 600 homes. Upwards of 1,000 koalas — one of the country’s iconic creatures — are thought to have been burned alive.
The fires have been affecting millions in the Sydney region for weeks as residents have woken up to skies darkened by smoke blown in from nearby blazes. The region’s Rural Fire Service has issued advisory after advisory warning of the health risks, and the haze has gotten so bad at points the city has recorded the highest levels of air pollution on record.
At the same time, Australian politicians have been working overtime to minimize those linking the early and destructive fire season with climate change. The country’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, has rejected assertions that the government’s decision to back some of the planet’s biggest fossil fuel projects had impacted the fire season, and even moved to punish environmental protesters with jail time for “denying the liberties of Australians.”
“The suggestion that any way shape or form that Australia, accountable for 1.3% of the world’s emissions, that the individual actions of Australia are impacting directly on specific fire events, whether it’s here or anywhere else in the world, that doesn’t bear up to credible scientific evidence either,” Morrison said last week, per The Guardian. “To suggest that … Australia doing something more or less would change the fire outcome this season — I don’t think that stands up to any credible scientific evidence at all.”

China News Service via Getty Images

An injured koala receives treatment after its rescue from a bushfire at the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital on Nov. 19, 2019, in Port Macquarie, Australia. 

ASSOCIATED PRESS

A jogger runs in the morning as smoke haze hangs over the Sydney Opera House in Sydney, on Nov. 21, 2019. 

Scientists, by and large, disagree with Morrison’s assessment and fire officials and environmentalists alike have moved to urge the government to address its lack of climate action. The United Nations has urged countries to dramatically scale back their use of fossil fuel immediately to avert the worst effects of climate change (recent studies have found the world on track to blow past those goals). And while the origin of any natural disaster is complicated, there are clear links between a warming climate and increased bushfire risk.
Earlier this month a group of former fire chiefs declared the latest season the opening of a “new age of unprecedented bushfire danger” and accused Morrison’s government of ignoring climate change because it was inconvenient.
“If we’re not going to talk about it now, when it is happening, when on earth are we going to talk about it?” Phil Koperberg, the first commissioner of the New South Wales Rural Fire Service, told the Australian Broadcasting Company this week.
“Something is clearly changing,” Richard Thornton, the chief executive of the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Center, told The New York Times last week. “And the climate is driving all of that.”
Everyday Australians haven’t shied away from trying to hold their politicians accountable. Alongside images of scorched homes, koalas have become the unwitting icon of this round of blazes. An effort by a local wildlife hospital to raise $25,000 for koalas injured by the fires has blown past that goal by orders of magnitude, garnering nearly $1.7 million.

Students across the country are also planning for a widespread day of climate protest on Friday, in hopes of urging politicians to “treat climate change for what it is — a crisis.”
“Our Government’s inaction on the climate crisis has supercharged bushfires. People are hurting. Communities like ours are being devastated. Summer hasn’t even begun,” Shiann Broderick, the leader of School Strike 4 Climate, the organizer of the protest, said in a statement last week. “But instead of taking real action on the climate crisis, our Government offers ‘thoughts, prayers’ — and more support for coal, oil and gas.”
Despite weeks of effort to contain the spate of fires, there were still 83 burning across the state of New South Wales on Tuesday morning, with thunderstorms on the way that fire officials worried could bring lightning strikes that set off new blazes.
Not exactly what we wanted to see. #NSW has been hit by a number of storms this afternoon, with numerous lightning strikes recorded. Some areas also saw some rain others not as fortunate. More than 80 fires are burning across NSW, 50 are yet to be brought under control. #NSWRFS pic.twitter.com/SyhvB849F0— NSW RFS (@NSWRFS) November 25, 2019

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said last weekend the state government stood “shoulder to shoulder with the communities affected by the recent bushfires, not just today, but in the weeks months and years ahead.” She has pledged more than $32 million for fire recovery and rebuilding efforts.

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Lawmaker Calls For Investigation Of Farm Aid To Brazilian-Owned Meat Company




A Connecticut congresswoman has called for an investigation into why millions of dollars earmarked to help American farmers weather Donald Trump’s trade war with China are going to a U.S. subsidiary of a massive Brazilian meatpacking operation slammed for corruption.
Majority shareholders of the Brazilian company JBS S.A. have admitted to bribing government officials in their own country for years. They’re currently being investigated for possible corruption in America by U.S. officials, according to media reports.
The company’s American subsidiary, JBS USA, has received at least $78 million in government pork contracts funded with farm trade aid paid by U.S. taxpayers — more than any other U.S. pork producer, according to the Midwest Center of Investigative Reporting. JBS S.A. is the largest meat producer in the world.
“Taxpayer dollars should never be used to subsidize corrupt, foreign-owned corporations … engaged in illegal behavior,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) wrote to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue late last week. “I urge you to immediately direct the department’s Inspector General to conduct the necessary investigation.”
DeLauro’s call for a probe comes as the latest analysis of payouts of a planned total of $28 billion to aid farmers amid the trade war reveals — again — that at least half of the money is being disbursed to the largest, wealthiest operations, instead of to smaller farms fighting to survive. Trump, however, has indicated that smaller farms will be “big beneficiaries” of the aid program.
Our great Farmers will recieve another major round of “cash,” compliments of China Tariffs, prior to Thanksgiving. The smaller farms and farmers will be big beneficiaries. In the meantime, and as you may have noticed, China is starting to buy big again. Japan deal DONE. Enjoy!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 17, 2019

The top 10% of operations — the “largest, most profitable industrial-scale farms in the country” – got half of the $14.5 billion in aid paid out from Aug. 19 through October, according to an analysis of data by the Environmental Working Group. The findings were nearly identical for the $8.4 billion paid out from January 2018 through April 2019.
Higher rates per acre this year are also being paid overwhelmingly to Southern farms, an area of the country that heavily supported Trump in the 2016 election, even though farmers there have been harmed less than in other regions, according to a report this month by Democrats on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. The report estimates payments to JBS at $90 million.
Majority owners of the company’s Brazilian parent, Wesley and Joesley Batista, have admitted to massive bribery of government officials in Brazil over years. The U.S. Justice Department is investigating the Batistas for possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a federal anti-bribery law, according to filings in an unrelated court case. U.S. investigators interviewed JBS shareholders late last year as part of that investigation, Reuters reported.
In addition, JBS USA (also known as JBS Swift Beef Co.) was hit with a lawsuit earlier this year accusing the company of violating a federal permit by dumping illegal levels of slaughterhouse waste for years.
DeLauro has also called on the Department of Agriculture to determine if funds used to purchase American operations may have been obtained illegally — such as through bribery of Brazilian officials to obtain loans.
Last month Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also called for a review of the Brazilian company’s purchases of U.S. operations to determine if the business expansion compromised national security. 
They expressed their “concern” in a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that JBS S.A. officials have “admitted” to “criminal conduct to secure loans that were used for investment in the United States.”
JBS could not immediately be reached for comment about DeLauro’s call for an investigation. But a representative said in a statement earlier this year after an uproar over its U.S. farm aid that “all eligible JBS USA pork products” it purchases (then sells to the Department of Agriculture) “come from American livestock raised on American farms by U.S. family farmers, and are processed in American facilities in rural American towns.”
Earlier this year, a USDA statement also defended using trade aid to fund purchases from JBS USA. “Regardless of who the vendor is, the products purchased are grown in the U.S. and benefit U.S. farmers,” the statement said.
Just 10% of eligible farmers received 54% of all trade assistance payments. At a time that the number of mid-sized family farms has been rapidly declining, it’s alarming this administration has provided the means for the largest farms to get even larger. https://t.co/DNKaDXwAwz pic.twitter.com/xNmsAav7Dk— National Farmers Union (@NFUDC) July 30, 2019

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