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The situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo is at risk of turning into a humanitarian catastrophe, unless further reinforcements are given to the UN peace-keeping troops so that they can protect civilians, Amnesty International said today.
"We urge the Security Council to send immediate assistance to UN troops in the form of additional troop numbers, air support and other equipment. Only then will they be able to disrupt armed group attacks against civilian populations and enforce the UN arms embargo on the DRC, in line with their existing mandate," said Tawanda Hondora, Deputy Director of the Africa Programme.
The humanitarian and human rights crisis in eastern DRC has escalated dramatically in the past month since the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), under the command of renegade general Laurent Nkunda, launched a fresh offensive early October against government forces and are threatening to overrun the provincial capital, Goma.
Despite a peace accord signed in January 2008, armed conflict has persisted in North Kivu. The fighting involves the regular Congolese army (FARDC) and the CNDP armed group, under the command of Laurent Nkunda, as well as a number of local mayi-mayi militia and the Rwandan Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) armed group.
"The international community must not stand by as the conflict degenerates to levels last seen between 1998 and 2002 in eastern DRC. This resulted in the death of three million people, which must not be allowed to happen again," said Tawanda Hondora.
"World leaders should bring pressure to bear upon the warring parties, especially the CNDP, as well as governments that have influence over them, especially Rwanda, to prevent more civilian casualties."
Ituri has also recently seen a significant resurgence of armed group violence, while in the Haut-Uele district of Orientale province Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) attacks against civilians and abductions of children have steadily intensified throughout 2008.
More than one million people are estimated to have been displaced by this and previous rounds of fighting in the province. Whole communities have been uprooted, with women, children and the elderly bearing the brunt of the fighting.
The United Nations Organization Mission of the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC) is mandated to ensure the protection of civilians, including humanitarian personnel, under imminent threat of physical violence.
Amnesty International urges firm international action to press the governments of the DRC and Rwanda to abide by the commitments made in the Nairobi joint communique in November 2007, particularly to end negative propaganda against each other and to refrain from providing support to armed groups, including the CNDP and the FDLR.
"Deliberate or indiscriminate attacks against civilians and peacekeepers carrying out their duty ofprotecting civilians is a war crime, punishable under international law. Civilians are bearing the brunt, and this cannot go on," said Tawanda Hondora.
In addition, all parties to the conflict must ensure that humanitarian aid agencies are not hindered in their work to provide humanitarian aid to displaced people, including those who are injured.
More than five million people have already died since 1998 in the DRC's protracted conflict.
Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.
At a talk by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, activists said that private security guards and Politico staff "brutalized" the demonstrators in their efforts to remove them.
A coalition of climate activists from CodePink, Climate Defiance, Climate First!, and Stop the Money Pipeline disrupted two talks at the Politico Energy Summit at Washington D.C.'s Schuyler event space Thursday, calling out corporate greenwashing and the Biden administration's approval of destructive fossil fuel projects.
At a talk by Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, protesters rushed the stage chanting, "No MVP, no LNG, Granholm you are killing me." Private security guards and Politico staff "brutalized" the demonstrators, the activists said, choking some, body slamming others, and dragging one woman out by her hair.
"We heard the first eight minutes of the conversation with Granholm," Jay Waxse of Climate Defiance told Common Dreams. "From the beginning she was justifying the need for new pipelines, like the Mountain Valley Pipeline (MVP). Especially with her background in clean energy policy, these fossil fuel projects she and the Biden administration are greenlighting are especially horrible."
\u201cUPDATE: we sparked a peaceful mutiny at a speech by U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm.\n\nThey choked us and body slammed us and put us in grave danger. \n\nBut we will keep coming back. They can brutalize our bodies. They cannot brutalize our ideas.\n\u201d— Climate Defiance (@Climate Defiance) 1684465259
President Joe Biden and his administration have disappointed climate campaigners for failing to uphold a campaign promise not to approve any more oil and gas drilling on federal lands. Despite this pledge, Biden actually approved more drilling during his first two years in office than did former President Donald Trump.
In particular, the activists targeted Granholm over two projects: the Alaska LNG Project and the MVP.
The Department of Energy signed off on the Alaska LNG Project in April, despite the fact that its own environmental impact statement found that the project—which would export as many as 20 million metric tons of fracked gas overseas starting in 2030—would spew 2.7 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions over its lifetime—10 times more than the Biden-approvedWillow project.
"This carbon bomb would lock in billions of tons of pollution and cause severe harm to Alaska's arctic wilderness," Waxse said in a statement. "It's completely unacceptable."
Also in April, Granholm sent a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) affirming the Biden administration's support for the MVP that would carry fossil gas through Virginia and West Virginia.
"We've been treated as a sacrifice zone for so long that I'm absolutely fed up."
"Right now she is giving the thumbs up to the Mountain Valley Pipeline, which is a 300-mile long pipeline that would go through my home state, and we've been treated as a sacrifice zone for so long that I'm absolutely fed up and not willing to just sit by and let things like this slide," Climate Defiance organizer Rylee Haught said in a video interview after the action.
\u201cSpeaking outside the energy summit, activists with @ClimateDefiance discuss their protest today, criticizing Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm\u2019s support for the Mountain Valley Pipeline and the Biden Administration\u2019s approval of oil and gas projects\u201d— Brendan Gutenschwager (@Brendan Gutenschwager) 1684445882
Granholm's talk began at around 4:25 pm ET, Waxse told Common Dreams. The first question Politico asked Granhom was about how she justified her approval of the MVP, but Waxse and Haught said in the video interview that her answer was not satisfying and that Politico did not challenge it.
In general, Haught criticized the way the media has framed the response to the Biden administration's sign off on fossil fuel projects.
Reports will say, "'Biden's ticked off some environmentalists,'" she explained, "when really they should be saying that Biden is currently harming the futures of all of us, not just the environmentalists."
The activists disrupted the talk at 4:34 pm, Waxse told Common Dreams. There were 15 activists in the room, including those filming, before security acted quickly to remove them.
"They ripped us out super quick," Haught said in the video interview, adding that she was so agitated by the response that she threw up in the parking lot afterward.
Climate Defiance documented security's aggression in a Twitter thread.
"The militarized response was unlike anything we've ever seen. A Black man was told 'we can shoot you, like you do each other,' the group wrote. "A woman had her neck mashed to the ground."
\u201cURGENT: we found a picture of the woman who mashed our organizer\u2019s neck into the wood floor. We have reason to believe she may be a \u201cjournalist.\u201d Share widely. We need people to see her face. We need her actions to be known. She needs to be banned from her \u201cprofession.\u201d\u201d— Climate Defiance (@Climate Defiance) 1684505356
Climate Defiance said protesters were carted out by their feet, "one misstep away from a catastrophic injury."
The aggression toward the protesters carried over into racial profiling against other summit attendees.
"Black people who didn't even come as part of our group were summarily turned away. One was assaulted by a private security force—told the event was 'full' as white people in suits were allowed to stream in, unquestioned. Three unaffiliated Black women were kicked out," Climate Defiance tweeted.
The group criticized Politico for the violence of its response, as well as for taking money from utilities TC Energy—the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline—and Southern Company to fund the summit.
German media company Axel Springer—which has been known to compromise journalistic ethics to support right-wing talking points—purchased Politico in 2021, as Foreign Policy reported.
"Cancel you[r] subscription to politico. They hosted the event. They militarized it. They took money from utilities to pay for it," Climate Defiance tweeted.
In addition to the Granholm event, three demonstrators also interrupted a panel at around 1:50 pm ET that included Citibank chief sustainability officer Val Smith, presenting her with a "Greenwashing Award."
"It's hard to find a bank more committed to greenwashing than Citi," Arielle Swernoff, U.S. Banks Campaign Manager at Stop the Money Pipeline, said in a statement. "It has worked so hard to appear to be a climate leader yet is the most egregious example of a climate laggard. By almost every metric, Citi appears at the top of the league when it comes to funding fossil fuels and enabling environmental racism. As a global bank, Citi's greenwashing is playing a major role in stopping action on climate change."
\u201c#BREAKING: We just disrupted @Politico Energy Summit: Congratulations @ValCookSmith for getting @Citibank - a major climate destroyer - on a sustainability panel about climate solutions! #StoptheMoneyPipeline #POLITICOEnergy\u201d— Stop the Money Pipeline (@Stop the Money Pipeline) 1684435587
Citi is the second-greatest funder of fossil fuels in the world, according to Banking on Climate Chaos. While the bank has set emissions reductions targets for 2030 and 2050, it has not detailed how it will work with high-emitting clients to meet them, the Sierra Clubnoted in March.
"I am not asking you to sit here through late nights to vote on these bills that we're dragging out," said state Sen. Megan Hunt as a GOP colleague complained about a missed family event. "I'm asking you to love your family more than you hate mine."
Nebraska state Sen. Megan Hunt on Thursday made her latest appeal to her Republican colleagues to block the passage of a ban on gender-affirming healthcare, while expressing anger over lawmakers' complaints about how long the bill has taken to make its way through the Legislature.
Hunt, who represents the 8th District and announced earlier this month that she was leaving the Democratic Party to become nonpartisan, addressed her fellow lawmakers after a debate that stretched into the night on Tuesday regarding a proposal to attach an abortion ban to the so-called "Let Them Grow Act" (L.B. 574), the ban on transgender healthcare for youths.
The officially nonpartisan unicameral body—in which Republicans hold 32 seats and Democrats hold 16—ultimately voted in favor of attaching the bill, and Speaker John Arch confirmed to NBC News affiliate WOWT that lawmakers could vote on final passage as soon as Friday.
If passed, the legislation would be one of just a few bills to make it through the Legislature this session, compared to dozens that are generally passed by this point in the year. Hunt has joined state Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh (D-6) in a monthslong filibuster to block L.B. 574.
On Thursday, Sen. Lou Ann Linehan (R-39) complained on the Legislature floor that she had missed her grandchild's preschool graduation due to the prolonged debate over the bill.
Hunt, whose son is transgender, expressed empathy for Linehan over her missed family event, but pointed out that remaining in the Legislature to stop the passage of L.B. 574 is a matter of "taking care of my family."
\u201cNE State Sen. Lou Ann Linehan (R) complains filibusters of anti-trans bills made her miss her grandson's preschool graduation.\n\nSen. Megan Hunt (I): \u201cYou won't come off this bill that hurts my [trans] son. You hate him more than you love your own family. That's why you're here."\u201d— Heartland Signal (@Heartland Signal) 1684441711
"If you want to see your grandson graduate from preschool you should do that," she continued. "Instead you are here to drag out this session because you won't come off this bill that hurts my son. You hate him more than you love your own family. And that's why you're here... We don't need you here. We need to you vote 'no' or 'present, not voting' on 574 because there's nothing else in this body that's affecting your family."
Critic and journalist Emily St. James called Hunt's comments "an amazing distillation of this whole phenomenon" of the surge in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, which has now been proposed in all but four states and Washington, D.C. this legislative session. At least 19 states have passed bans and restrictions on gender-affirming healthcare for minors.
"The need to have an out group to endlessly punish is driving people to miss moments in their own lives they'll never get back," said St. James.
The conservatives in the Nebraska Legislature appear to have the votes they need to pass the bill, according to WOWT. The measure would go into effect immediately after Republican Gov. Jim Pillen signs it due to an emergency clause.
"We are an example to the world," wrote one American economist. "An example of what not to do."
Nations around the world are looking on with a mixture of alarm and bafflement as the United States hurtles toward an economy-wrecking default, with the Republican Party refusing to raise the country's globally unique debt limit without massive, harmful spending cuts.
The possibility of a U.S. default—a failure to pay the government's obligations—has already rattled global markets and prompted grave warnings from major institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, which said last week that a default would have "severe repercussions" for a world economy already facing the prospect of a central bank-induced recession.
The Washington Postreported Friday that the finance ministers of G7 nations have privately asked U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for "updates on the status of negotiations between the White House and House Republicans" as officials from the rich countries gather in Hiroshima for their annual summit.
Finance ministers have also voiced their concerns publicly. German finance chief Christian Lindner said last week that he hopes "an adult decision will be made with regard to the development of American government finances and the associated effects on the global economy."
Kazuo Ueda, governor of the Bank of Japan, cautioned that a U.S. default could become a "big problem" that the Federal Reserve "may not be able to counteract."
"The United States is one among the few polities that have adopted and retained debt limits."
The U.S. debt limit, which currently sits at $31.4 trillion, is a "global outlier," the Atlantic Council's Mrugank Bhusari wrote in March, noting that "the United States is one among the few polities that have adopted and retained debt limits."
"Debt limits like the United States'... are not the norm—and they rarely cause major deadlocks in the few countries that have adopted this tool," Bhusari observed. "Like the United States, Denmark also sets its debt limit as a nominal value. But that’s where the similarity ends. The Danish Parliament intentionally sets the ceiling sufficiently high such that it will not be crossed, rendering it no more than a formality."
"Like the United States and Denmark, Kenya also has a nominal debt limit. However, it is under the process of replacing the nominal limit with a limit as a percentage of GDP at 55%," Bhusari continued. "Australia briefly experimented with a debt limit similar to that of the United States, experienced the political infighting that Washington is familiar with, and abolished it soon after."
Citing one Latin America expert, the Post noted Friday that "a debt ceiling like the one that exists in the U.S. stirred debate" in Brazil, where the Lula government is aiming to loosen existing restraints on government spending.
The idea of imposing a strict debt limit "was shot down vehemently, thanks to the U.S. example," the Post reported.
"We are an example to the world," Stephanie Kelton, an American economist, wrote on Twitter. "An example of what not to do."
\u201cWe are an example to the world. An example of what not to do. https://t.co/K4ISWXTgkI\u201d— Stephanie Kelton (@Stephanie Kelton) 1684507808
The international community's reaction to the perilous U.S. debt ceiling standoff comes as President Joe Biden is facing growing pressure from lawmakers at home to end the crisis unilaterally if necessary by invoking the 14th Amendment, which states that "the public debt of the United States... shall not be questioned."
Progressives and legal scholars have long argued that the debt limit, first imposed by Congress in 1917, is unconstitutional and should be abolished—an argument that the National Association of Government Employees makes in a lawsuit filed in federal court 10 days ago.
But as The American Prospect's David Dayen wrote Friday, the plaintiffs "didn’t file a motion for immediate relief," so "the case has sat dormant."