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Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today is deeply disappointed and concerned at the U.S. Senate's confirmation of Gina Haspel as CIA director. Haspel, who helped manage the CIA torture program, and who oversaw the waterboarding of detainee Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, has yet to release any information about her precise involvement in the program and its cover-up, and did not adequately address questions on this throughout the confirmation process.
Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today is deeply disappointed and concerned at the U.S. Senate's confirmation of Gina Haspel as CIA director. Haspel, who helped manage the CIA torture program, and who oversaw the waterboarding of detainee Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, has yet to release any information about her precise involvement in the program and its cover-up, and did not adequately address questions on this throughout the confirmation process. Despite the CIA's egregious campaign of secrecy and Haspel's pointed refusal to repudiate torture during and after her hearing, she was confirmed, with among the fewest votes for CIA directors.
Donna McKay, executive director of PHR, called the Senate's approval a critical setback to accountability for the use of torture by the United States and to its commitment to human rights.
"It is unacceptable that the United States' intelligence agency will be led by someone who supervised torture, including waterboarding. As a senior official in that program, Gina Haspel helped the CIA conduct unlawful torture, systematically breaking the lives of detainees, and she helped destroy evidence in order to conceal these acts. Her promotion perpetuates secrecy and impunity for torture. It invites a return to the abuses of the CIA rendition, interrogation, and detention program, and sends a message to the world that the United States has retreated from its commitment to human rights, including the absolute ban on torture.
"What is known about Haspel's role in torture and destruction of evidence, based on the limited public record, should have been more than enough to end her confirmation. The victims of the program she helped oversee will suffer lifelong mental and physical effects. Torture is illegal, immoral, and profoundly harmful - three facts that Haspel has disregarded to date. With Haspel's confirmation, it is more critical than ever for Congress to exercise oversight over the intelligence agencies. In addition, all parts of civil society - including and especially health professionals - should continue to advocate for human rights. If we don't demand responsibility for torture and insist on truth-telling, accountability, and cooperation, we diminish the role that the United States can play in advocating for human rights globally," McKay added.
PHR, joined by other organizations, pushed vigorously for Haspel's nomination and confirmation to be blocked. For more than a decade, PHR and its network of partners have led efforts advocating against torture, documented the devastating long-term health consequences of torture, and called attention to the complicity of some health professionals in the post-9/11 U.S. torture program.
PHR was founded in 1986 on the idea that health professionals, with their specialized skills, ethical duties, and credible voices, are uniquely positioned to investigate the health consequences of human rights violations and work to stop them. PHR mobilizes health professionals to advance health, dignity, and justice and promotes the right to health for all.
"The real 'emergency' here is our declining biodiversity," said one campaigner. "It's time farmers got support for alternatives, not a green light for using toxic chemicals."
Biodiversity defenders have sounded the alarm about the United Kingdom government's Monday decision to provide another so-called "emergency" exception for the use of an outlawed neonicotinoid pesticide lethal to bees.
"Bad news again for bees as the U.K. government allows banned neonicotinoids in our fields against the advice of its own experts," Friends of the Earth campaigner Sandra Bell tweeted. "The real 'emergency' here is our declining biodiversity—it's time farmers got support for alternatives, not a green light for using toxic chemicals."
Despite U.K. guidance affirming that emergency applications should not be granted more than once, the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced for the third straight year that it will permit the use of sugar beet seeds coated with thiamethoxam under certain conditions in England.
"If the government is serious about halting biodiversity loss by 2030, they must support farmers to explore long-term, agroecological solutions that don't threaten our endangered bee population."
Against the recommendation of an independent panel of pesticide experts, the agency approved the use of thiamethoxam just four days after the European Union's highest court ruled that providing emergency derogations for prohibited neonicotinoid-treated seeds is inconsistent with the bloc's laws. The U.K. withdrew from the E.U. in 2020.
DEFRA's emergency authorization for thiamethoxam-coated sugar beet seeds also comes one month after the U.K. government advocated for a stronger global pesticide reduction target at the United Nations COP15 biodiversity summit.
Calling the authorization "yet another shameful episode in a long list of failures to protect the U.K. environment," the British chapter of the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) said that "putting bees and other insects at risk shows just how seriously this government takes the biodiversity crisis."
\u201cFlying in the face of expert recommendation and putting #bees and other #insects at risk shows just how seriously this government takes the #biodiversity crisis. Yet another shameful episode in a long list of failures to protect the UK environment\u201d— PAN UK (@PAN UK) 1674493039
"It's incredibly brazen to allow a banned bee-harming pesticide back into U.K. fields mere weeks after the government talked up the need for global ambition on reducing pesticides at the U.N. biodiversity talks in Montreal," Bell said in a statement issued by the Pesticide Collaboration, a progressive coalition of 83 health and environmental organizations, trade unions, farmer and consumer groups, and academics.
"This is the third consecutive year that the government has gone directly against the advice of its own scientific advisers with potentially devastating consequences for bees and other vital pollinators," said Bell. "The health of us all and the planet depends on their survival. The government must fulfill its duty to protect wildlife and keep pesticides off our crops for good—that means supporting farmers to find nature-friendly ways to control pests."
University of Sussex biology professor Dave Goulson has estimated that a single teaspoon of thiamethoxam—one of three neonicotinoids produced by Bayer, the German biotech corporation that merged with agrochemical giant Monsanto in 2018—is toxic enough to wipe out 1.25 billion bees.
A Greenpeace U.K. petition imploring Thérèse Coffey, a Conservative Party lawmaker serving as secretary of state for environment, food, and rural affairs, to "enforce a total ban on bee-killing pesticides" has garnered nearly one million signatures.
\u201cBREAKING: The government just approved the use of a BANNED bee-killing pesticide AGAIN! \n\nOne teaspoon of the pesticide is enough to kill 1.25 billion bees - it should be kept away from them!\n\u2060\nWho else thinks the government should listen to the science and NOT the sugar lobby?\u201d— Greenpeace UK (@Greenpeace UK) 1674577444
Describing DEFRA's move as "a huge disappointment," the Stand By Bees campaign on Tuesday urged supporters to "continue pushing" and "write to your local MP."
\u201cThis news is a huge disappointment for us. Despite our efforts, we have been unable to prevent this outcome. We must keep up the pressure. Now more than ever, we must #StandByBees. We must continue pushing. \n\nPlease write to your local MP: https://t.co/DgpLTfutVV\u201d— StandByBees (@StandByBees) 1674580286
In 2013, the European Commission banned the use of thiamethoxam and two other hazardous neonicotinoids produced by Monsanto—clothianidin and imidacloprid—on bee-attractive crops including maize, rapeseed, and some cereals. This was followed by a prohibition on all outdoor uses in 2018, which the European Court of Justice upheld in 2021, rejecting an appeal by Bayer.
The Pesticide Collaboration warned Monday that DEFRA's latest authorization for thiamethoxam-coated sugar beet seeds "raises wider concerns over whether the government will maintain existing restrictions on neonicotinoids and other harmful pesticides, or whether they may be overturned as part of a forthcoming bonfire of regulations that protect nature, wildlife, and communities."
At issue is the Retained E.U. Law Bill, which threatens to rescind E.U.-era environmental standards and other measures enacted prior to Brexit.
\u201cOur position on the Retained EU Law Bill \u2b07\ufe0f\n\n"The Pesticide Collaboration remains extremely concerned that if this Bill becomes law, there is a chance that all the EU-derived pesticide regulation with teeth will simply fall away."\n\nhttps://t.co/jw81ZS1gOz\u201d— The Pesticide Collaboration (@The Pesticide Collaboration) 1674470782
"It is inexcusable to see England falling so far behind the E.U. on regulations in place to prevent such a detrimental impact on biodiversity," Soil Association, a U.K.-based research and advocacy group, tweeted Tuesday. "It's not credible to claim an exemption is 'temporary' or 'emergency' when it is used year after year. How many more years will it happen?"
According to Amy Heley of the Pesticide Collaboration: "In previous years, DEFRA insisted that the sugar industry must make progress in finding alternatives, but we are yet to see any outcomes of this. The Pesticide Collaboration is deeply concerned that this emergency derogation is simply another example of the government failing to follow through on their own pledges to improve the environment and protect human health."
As Joan Edwards, director of policy & public affairs at the Wildlife Trusts, noted Monday: "Just last month, the Secretary of State Thérèse Coffey committed the U.K. to halving the environmental impact of damaging pesticides by 2030. However, today she has incompatibly authorized the use of a banned neonicotinoid, one of the world's most environmentally damaging pesticides."
“Only a few days ago, the E.U.'s highest court ruled that E.U. countries should no longer be allowed temporary exemptions for banned, bee-toxic neonicotinoid pesticides," said Edwards. "Yet this government deems it acceptable to allow the use of a toxic pesticide that is extremely harmful to bees and other insects, at a time when populations of our precious pollinators are already in freefall. This is unacceptable."
The Soil Association, meanwhile, argued that "if the government is serious about halting biodiversity loss by 2030, they must support farmers to explore long-term, agroecological solutions that don't threaten our endangered bee population."
"Neonicotinoids simply have no place in a sustainable farming system," the group added.
"We're running a grassroots campaign to take back this seat for hardworking Arizonans, and this fundraising record proves that."
Just over 24 hours after announcing his 2024 U.S. Senate candidacy for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's seat in Arizona, Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego set multiple fundraising records and made clear the vast difference between his approach to public service and that of his opponent.
Gallego announced he has already raised more than $1 million, bringing in more than 27,000 donations since launching his campaign Monday morning.
The congressman broke Sen. Mark Kelly's (D-Ariz.) previous 24-hour fundraising record in the state—doing so in just eight hours—and distinguished his relationship with small donors from Sinema's (I-Ariz.) reliance on Wall Street and corporate PACs for contributions.
The individual donations Gallego has already received in just one day surpass the amount that "Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has received in the last three years," said his campaign.
The early fundraising haul "speaks to the excitement and grassroots support for his candidacy and the momentum behind the campaign to return Sen. Sinema's seat back to the hands of everyday Arizonans," the campaign added.
"I am extremely grateful for the support our campaign has received since entering this race," said Gallego. "We're running a grassroots campaign to take back this seat for hardworking Arizonans, and this fundraising record proves that. While Sen. Sinema collects huge checks from powerful special interests, this campaign is going to be funded by the people, and that's the way it should be."
As the donations poured in, Gallego appeared on MSNBC's "The Last Word" to say he supports reforming the legislative filibuster, which he called a "tool of obstruction" that Sinema supports and has called an "important guardrail for the institution."
He also announced a number of in-person events he plans to hold in the coming weeks across the state, noting that Sinema has been criticized for not holding public town halls with her constituents and instead attending high-dollar fundraisers.
"Arizona: You've been neglected by Washington for far too long," said Gallego, announcing events in Tucson, Navajo Nation, Phoenix, and other cities. "I'm sorry that your senator, Kyrsten Sinema, has let you down. But I'm going to change that."
\u201cTUCSON!! This Saturday at 10am, come out and join us at the Plaza at Hotel Congress for our Tucson launch event! When I say EVERY Arizonan, I mean EVERY Arizonan \u2013 I want to hear from YOU! https://t.co/B2yXW6ainK\u201d— Ruben Gallego (@Ruben Gallego) 1674587592
Last October, the progressive think tank Data for Progress released polling that showed in a hypothetical matchup, Gallego had the support of 62% of Arizona voters, compared to 23% who said they would back Sinema over him.
"Any climate commitment from a bank that is still financing fossil fuel expansion is greenwashing, pure and simple," said a Stop the Money Pipeline campaigner.
Taking aim at Wall Street banks financing the oil, gas, and coal extraction fueling the climate crisis, a coalition of institutional investors on Tuesday announced the filing of climate-related shareholder resolutions in an effort to force "more climate-friendly policies that better align with" the firms' public commitments to combating the planetary emergency.
In the resolutions, members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) and Harrington Investments asked six banks—Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo—to enact policies phasing out fossil fuel finance, disclose plans for aligning their financing with their stated near-term emissions reduction goals, and to set absolute end-of-decade emissions reduction targets for their energy sector financing.
Shareholders also filed climate resolutions at four companies—Chubb, Travelers, The Hartford, and Berkshire Hathaway—that insure fossil fuel projects.
"Each of the major banks has publicly committed to aligning its financing with the goals of the Paris agreement to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, a target widely considered imperative to avoid catastrophic climate impacts and financial losses," ICCR said in a statement. "Scientific consensus shows that new fossil fuel expansion is incompatible with achieving net-zero by 2050, yet these banks continue to invest billions of dollars each year in new fossil fuel development—a fact corroborated by a new Reclaim Finance report released last week."
\u201cBREAKING: @ICCRonline members filed two shareholder proposals for 2023 calling on US banks @jpmorgan @BankofAmerica @Citibank @WellsFargo @GoldmanSachs @MorganStanley to implement more climate-friendly policies & better align with their net zero pledges https://t.co/D000QaI2L6\u201d— ICCR (@ICCR) 1674575085
As Stop the Money Pipeline—a coalition of over 200 groups seeking to hold "financial backers of climate chaos accountable"—noted:
A slate of resolutions calling for policies to phase out financing for fossil fuel expansion was filed by the same investors at U.S. banks in 2022. They received between 9% and 13% support, which was a significant milestone for these first-of-their-kind proposals. This year's fossil fuel financing proposals have been updated to encourage banks to finance clients' low-carbon transition so long as those plans are credible and verified. The previous resolutions were supported by many major institutional investors, including the New York State and New York City Common Retirement Funds.
New in 2023 are the resolutions on absolute emissions reduction targets for energy sector financing filed by the New York City and New York State comptrollers, and the resolutions calling for disclosure of climate transition plans filed by As You Sow. The day before the resolutions were filed, Denmark's largest bank, Danske, announced a phaseout of corporate financing for companies engaged in new coal, oil and, gas development.
"Any climate commitment from a bank that is still financing fossil fuel expansion is greenwashing, pure and simple," Arielle Swernoff, U.S. banks campaign manager at Stop the Money Pipeline, said in a statement. "By supporting these resolutions, shareholders can hold banks accountable to their own climate commitments, effectively manage risk, and protect people and the planet."
\u201cNEW! Investors have filed climate shareholder resolutions at major US and Canadian banks.\n\nOur response \u2b07\ufe0f\nhttps://t.co/NYbLsbCevF\u201d— Stop the Money Pipeline (@Stop the Money Pipeline) 1674580274
Dan Chu, executive director of the Sierra Club Foundation—which led the filing at JPMorgan Chase—lamented that "all major U.S. banks continue to finance billions of dollars for new coal, oil, and gas projects every year. Such financing undermines the banks' net-zero commitments and exposes investors to material risks."
"These shareholder resolutions simply ask banks to align their promises with their actions and to adopt policies to phase out the financing of new fossil fuel development," Chu added.
Referring to a warning from the International Energy Agency, Kate Monahan of Trillium Asset Management—which spearheaded the Bank of America filing—said that "we will not be able to achieve the Paris agreement's goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C if banks continue to finance new fossil fuel exploration and development."
"Bank of America has publicly committed to the Paris agreement but continues to finance fossil fuel expansion with no phaseout plan, exposing itself to accusations of greenwashing and reputational damage," Monahan contended. " By continuing to fund new fossil fuels, Bank of America and others are taking actions with potentially catastrophic consequences."