Gaza Truce Extended, While Fighting Continues in Iraq

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On Tuesday, an Israeli officials said the talks to ends a month long war between Israel and Islamist militants in Gaza has stalled with no progress so far as the 72 hour ceasefire in the Palestinians enclave held for a second day, Nidal al-Mughrabi and Maayan Lubell reports, Israel: Gaza War Talks See Little Progress. The Israeli officials who declined to be named, said, “The gaps between the sides are big and there is no progress in the negotiations.” Under conditions of anonymity, a Palestinian official told Reuters: “So far we can’t say a breakthrough has been achieved … Twenty-four hours and we shall see whether we have an agreement.” Gaza hospital officials said 1,938 Palestinians mostly civilians have died since July 8 launch of Israel’s military campaign to halt rocket and mortar attacks from the enclave into its own towns. Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians with one being a Thai farm workers, while Gaza has seen thousands of homes destroyed where 1.8 million Palestinians are squeezed into the narrow urbanized enclave drawing international condemnation. The United Nations reports at least 425,000 displaced people in Gaza are in emergency shelters or staying with host families and nearly 12,00 homes have been destroyed or severely damaged by Israeli airstrikes and heavy shelling. A senior Israeli army officer said Israeli wants to build a network of sensors to detect new tunnel building by militants and a re-invasion may be possible to destroy tunnels. In Geneva, the United Nations named an international commission to inquire about the possible human rights violations and war crimes by both sides during the conflict. The commission headed by William Schabas, a Canadian professor of international law, was hailed by Hamas, according to a spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri: “Hamas welcomes the decision to form an investigation committee into the war crimes committed by the occupation (Israel) against Gaza and it urges that it begin work as soon as possible.” However, Israeli’s foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said in a statement the Human Rights Council was biased: “The Human Rights Council long ago turned into the ‘terrorist rights council’ and a kangaroo court, whose ‘investigations’ are pre-determined. If any more proof were needed, the appointment of the chairman of the panel, whose anti-Israel bias and opinions are known to all, proves beyond any doubt that Israel cannot expect justice from this body, whose report has already been written and all that is left is to decide who will sign off on it.”

Fortunately, on Wednesday, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said Israel and Hamas have agreed to extend a temporary ceasefire for five days averting violence and allowing both sides to extend talks and negotiated a substantive deal to end the Gaza War, according to Mohammed Daraghmeh and Tia Goldenberg, Egypt: Israel, Hamas to extend temporary truce. Egyptian mediators had been racing the clock to pin down a long term ceasefire as the temporary truce was set to expire at midnight ans the Israeli military reported five rockets were launched at Israel in the hours leading up to the end of the ceasefire. Azzam al-Ahmad, head of the Palestinian delegation to the Cairo talks, said: “We have agreed on a cease-fire for five days.” He commented that there has been progress made, however, disagreements remain over wording regarding security arrangements, reconstruction efforts for the Gaza Strip and permissible fishing area. The Egyptian proposal tabled Tuesday offered some solutions such as easing the Israeli blockade on Gaza and bringing relieve to the territory, while other areas were left for later negotiation such as Hamas’ demand for a full lifting of the blockaded and Israeli calls for Hamas to disarm. The Palestinian negotiator said he would like to improve the proposal: “We would like to see more cross-border freedom, and also to have the question of a Gaza seaport and airport discussed.” Ismail Haniyeh, top Hamas leader in Gaza, said in a recorded broadcast on Hamas radio Wednesday, “achieving a permanent truce can come only through lifting the blockade on Gaza.” Meanwhile, Israel’s chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, told reporters: “We will continue to defend, continue to operate. We will be ready for any effort, any way, at any time.”

While some peace has been found in the Middle East, the Islamic State continues to gain territory in Iraq adding to its Islamic caliphate straddling parts of Iraq and Syria and reportedly killed at least 500 Yazidis with some buried alive, Sophia Jones reports, Yazidi Refugees Recount Desperate Struggle To Flee Islamist Militants In Iraq. Fortunately, some have escaped certain death from militant forces and others who fled to Mount Sinjar have been rescued by helicopters, while others have reached turkey, Syria or safer parts of Iraq as the death toll climbs each day. For those trapped on the mountain, its another day without adequate food, water, medical attention or shelter. Sitting in the brutally hot weather, refugees exchange horror stories as children stare into space describing the situation with the Islamic State as genocide of their people. Refugees for now are living in makes shift refugee camps in Sipoli, Turkey, in run down homes built by the country’s Housing Development Administration wondering how long they can live on charitable donations from strangers. Yazidis seeking sanctuary in Turkey are dealing with a cash strapped country already facing a refugee crisis as 800,000 registered Syrian refugees and many without permits have come across the border in the past three years to escape civil war in their own country settling in refugee camps, crowded apartments and even bus stations. Like the Syrian refugees, Yazidis are dealing with smugglers charging hefty fees to sneak people without passports and papers across the border. Some were turned away at the border by Turkish guards, refuges say, while others were detained in a school turned detention center for undocumented Yazidis. Some mothers in Sipoli said they had to leave their children behind with family because they did not have a passport and had to wait to somehow get appropriate paperwork or smuggle the child across. Meanwhile, CNN and CBS report a small group of special forces flew into Mount Sinjar in black hawk helicopters and departed after spending 24 hours there assessing the situation on Wednesday, according to Paige Lavender and Angel Ucar, Ground Troops Arrive In Iraq To Assess Plan To Help Save Refugees (UPDATE). Prior to this, the Guardian and ABC News reported a team of U.S. Marines and special forces had landed on Mt. Sinjar to assess the military situation and potential for a civilian evacuation route. According to the New York Times, President Barack Obama’s deputy national security adviser, Ben Rhodes, told reporters Wednesday from Martha’s Vineyard: “There needs to be a lasting solution that gets that population to a safe space where they can receive more permanent assistance.” Rhodes repeated that he president will not be “reintroducing U.S. forces into combat on the ground in Iraq,” but insisted the deployment of troops to aid in the rescue of refugees would be “different than reintroducing U.S. forces in a combat role.”

Ukraine’s Prime Minister Resigns, While Iraq Elects A President and U.N. Probes Israeli Violence

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On Wednesday, the White House speculated that the downing of two fighter jets in Ukraine was part of a pattern to of Russian backed separatists using Russian weapons to pose risk to aircraft and further destabilize the conflict in the former Soviet republic, according to an Associated Press report, U.S.: Downed Ukraine Jets Part Of Russia Influenced Pattern. The two jets were shot down 20 miles away from the Malaysian Airlines crash site meaning that separatist are undeterred by the international outrage of the disaster last week that killed 298 people. White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes on Wednesday explained, “The only aircraft they’re not taking responsibility for is MH-17. But I don’t think anybody believes that. How could anybody believe anything that the separatists or Russia says about this when we see a clear pattern of threatening Ukrainian aircraft in eastern Ukraine?” Rhodes added that the U.S. was weighing tougher sanctions against Russia if they continue to arm the separatists even before the European Union deepens its own sanctions against Russia. The U.S. has sought to coordinated their efforts with the EU on tougher sanctions, however the E.U. has been reluctant to do so since many European leaders fear their strong trade ties with Russia could make their own economies vulnerable to fallout. The U.S. this week has sought to present more specific evidence tying the separatists to the shooting down of the passenger jet MH17 citing intercepts, satellite photos and social media postings by separatists. However, officials have yet to find direct evidence that the missiles used came from Russia or that they were directly involved. Rhodes. “Do we know who pulled the trigger? No, that’s the hardest thing to determine. But when you add up the different pieces of evidence, they’re telling one story here,” Rhodes said.

While many mysteries are yet to be solved regarding MH17, on Thursday, Ukrainian Prime Minster Arseniy Yatsenyuk resigned opening the door for a new elections that would reflect the country’s changed political scene after the ousting of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych in February, according to David McHugh’s article Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk Resigns. Yatsenyuk, supporter of stronger ties with Europe and a key participant in the protests that toppled Yanukovych, made the announcement from the dais of Parliament after two parties pulled out of the governing coalition, McHugh reports. He said Parliament could no longer do their work and pass necessary laws. Poroshenko’s call for political renewal implies that the resignation and new elections may be the result of planning and political maneuvering. Yatsenyuk took over five months ago backed by a coalition of pro-European parties following the ousting of Yanukovych by months of street protests. In addition, the protest began because the former president refused to sign a trade deal with the European Union but grew from their to include wider grievances such as suppression of protestors with riot police, corruption and lack of progress in modernizing the economy. Balazs Jarabik, visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, explains, “I think this is a fully expected and planned development. The president and the government coalition looked for ways to clear the legal way for an early election, as they are under a lot of pressure from Maidan and the public.” The president can dismiss Parliament, which at one time was dominated by Yanukovych supporters in the pro-Russian Party of Regions, if no new government is formed in 30 days. The government faces tensions with Russia who sees Yanukovych’s ouster a coup, seized Ukraine’s Crimea region and cut off gas supplies in a price dispute. The nationalist Svoboda party and the Udar party pulled out of the coalition, who according to Parliament speaker Oleksandr Turchynov was suppose to propose a candidate for temporary prime minister until the parliamentary election could be held.

While Ukraine struggles to keep the government running, Iraq named a new president on Thursday hours after an attack on a prison convoy that killed dozens of people, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Sinan Salaheddin report, Iraq: Kurdish politician Massoum named president. Kurdish politician Fouad Massoum, 76, accepted the position after winning two thirds votes and noting the “huge security, political and economic tasks” facing the government. Last month, the Islamic State extremist group captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and continues to advance plunging the country into the worst crisis since the U.S. withdrew in 2011 and inflamed existing tensions between sectarian and political rivals. Hours before, militants fired at a Taji military base where detainees were facing terrorism charges causing the facility to be evacuated by authorities, according to officials. However, militants attacked the bus with roadside bombs igniting a gun battle that killed 52 prisoners and eight soldiers while wounding seven prisoners and eight soldiers. Massoum is considered a soft spoken moderate and has kept good relations with Sunni and Shiite Arab politicians. The next step for the new president is to select a candidate for prime minster to try to form the new government. Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki’s bloc won the most seats in the April Elect, but his critics want him to step aside accusing him of monopolizing power and alienating the Sunni and Kurdish minorities adding to the tension. However, Al-Maliki vows to remain at his post he has held since 2006. On Thursday, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon arrived in Baghdad. At a press conference with al-Maliki, Ban said Iraq is facing an “existential threat” and could overcome it if it forms a “thoroughly inclusive government.” Dating back to thew 2003 U.S. led invasion, an unofficial agreement said the presidency is held by a Kurd, the prime minister is Shiite and the parliament speaker is Sunni. Al-Mailiki responded: “Despite the fact that we have problems…we are moving at a confident pace to implement the mechanisms of the democratic work.” More than a million Iraqis have been displaced this year with many fleeing the violence, the U.N. said. Ban offered continued U.N. support to the refugees fleeing the violence and condemned the persecution of religious and ethnic minority groups by jihadi militants in Mosul and elsewhere in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Israel continued its ground offensive on Thursday hitting a compound housing a U.N. school in the Gaza Strip killing at least 15 people and wounding dozens seeking shelter from the clashes on the street, Palestinian official said. Kamel al-Kafarne, who was at the school, said the U.N. was putting people on the buses when three tank shell hit, Ibrahim Barzak and Peter Enav report, UN school caught in Gaza cross-fire; 15 killed. Israeli military said it was looking into the incident and said Hamas rockets are possibly to blame but offered no proof. It was the fourth time a U.N. facility has been hit in fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant in Gaza since July 8. According to military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, “We can’t confirm that this is a result of errant fire. In any case, we do not target U.N. facilities.” Lerner said the U.N. and Red Cross were told to evacuate the school three days ago, which is what they were doing at the time the shells hit. The delay came as the U.N. waited for a response from the Israeli military on if a lull in fighting would take place and never heard back, U.N. Refugee Agency Spokesman Chris Gunness explained. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, during a visit to Iraq, said: “Today’s attack underscores the imperative for the killing to stop – and to stop now.” Dozens have been killed in a day of heavy fighting in Gaza raising the death toll to 788 Palestinian, 32 Israeli soldiers and three civilian, two Israeli and one Thai worker. With growing casualties on both sides, the international community has increase diplomatic efforts to broker a ceasefire. State Department spokesman Jen Psaki on Thursday said Thursday’s attack on the U.N. school “underscores the need to end the violence and to achieve a sustainable cease-fire and enduring resolution to the crisis in Gaza as soon as possible. We call on all parties to protect these facilities from the conflict and we have condemn those responsible for hiding weapons in United Nations facilities in Gaza.” British Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond called for Hamas to agree to a humanitarian ceasefire so Israel and Palestinian authority could come together for talks. After a meeting with Hammond, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We started this operation to return peace and quiet to Israel… And we shall return it.”

With the battle continuing and no end in site, the international community has stepped up their efforts to find a resolution amid possible warm crime charges levied against both Hamas and Israel. On Wednesday, the Unite Nations launched an international inquiry into human rights violations and crims committed by Israel during its military offensive in Gaza, according to Stephanie Nebehay and Tom Miles, UN Launches Probe Into Israeli Violations In Gaza. The U.N. Human Rights Council condemned the Israeli assault which it said is full of “disproportionate and indiscriminate attacks” that include aerial bombing of civilian areas, collective punishment, and the killing of more than 650 Palestinians. At the end of the emergency session, requested by the Palestinians, Egypt and Pakistan, the 47 member forum adopted a resolution presented by Palestinians by a vote of 29 states in favor, 1 against (the United States) with 17 abstentions including all nine European Union members. Ibbrahim Khraishi, ambassador of the Palestinian observer mission to the U.N. in Geneva, said: “We came here to try to achieve together with you at least minimum justice for children who are being dismembered, for women whose bodies are lying in the streets, to find some justice for those who are being exterminated.” Israel and its ally the United States reject the probe calling it a one sided and counterproductive amid efforts to reach a ceasefire, according to Nebehay and Miles. Before the vote, Israel ambassador Eviator Manor told the forum: “Why does this Council believe that naming and shaming Israel will get it anywhere? Throughout the entire escalation of events, Israel has always acted with maximum restraint, fully committed to international law in general and the laws of armed conflict. Hamas is the aggressor. Hamas is the one committing war crimes … Open your eyes to reality.” In another article published on AOL, Palestinians In Gaza Denounce Israel For Saying It Warns Civilians Before Strikes, many Palestinian civilian and survivors of Israeli airstrikes caught in the crossfire mock and criticize Israel’s insistence that it tries to avoid killing civilians. Instead, they believe civilians are being targeted as a collective form of punishment with strikes recently hitting hospitals, a center for the disabled, and even a school run by UNRWA, the U.N. agency that aids Palestinian refugees. In many of these strikes like the attack that killed 25 members of four households in southern Gaza, there are few survivors if any at all. In addition, Palestinians said they haven’t received warning when the Israeli military hits vehicles in what are often targeted assassinations, the article reports.

Sacrificing the Future to Subsidize Fossil Fuels

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2013 map courtesy of the Ocean Conservancy website

According to lead researcher Steven Murawski, a professor at the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science in Tampa, the oil found in the bodies of sickened fish from the Gulf Coast region match the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. Murawski and his team of Florida scientist studied the oil’s chemical composition in order to debunk the argument that fish abnormalities were to blame and not oil in coastal runoff and oil from naturally occurring seeps in the Gulf could be to blame,  reports Rueters’ Barbara Liston. In her article, BP Oil Spill Caused Sickness In Fish, Researchers Find, she reports that the findings by the researchers argues that the fish in the study had to have been exposed recently enough in order to identify the chemical signature of the oil in their bodies. However, BP, whose rig caused the spill rejects the findings stating in a email response that it is “not possible to accurately identify the source of oil based on chemical traces found in fish livers or tissue.” In addition, Liston reports that in a statement from BP: “vertebrates such as fish very quickly metabolize and eliminate oil compounds. Once metabolized, the sources of those compounds are no longer discernible after a period of a few days.” The research team included scientists from USF, the Florida Institute of Oceanography and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. The work was published in the current edition of the online journal of Transactions of the American Fisheries Society.

Thousands of claims for damages against BP continue to be process since the April 2010 explosion of the oil and gas producer’s Gulf rig which killed 11 oil workers and spilled millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico for 87 days. In the winter of 2010-2011, fisherman in the area where the blow out well was located have noticed a spike in abnormal looking fish, many with unusual skin lesions. Murawski said his team compared the chemical signatures of oil found in fish livers and flesh to the signatures of the Deepwater well and other oil sources. As Liston reports, Murawski explained, “The closest match was directly to Deepwater Horizon and had a very poor match to these other sources. So what we’ve done is eliminated some of these other potential sources.” In addition, his team also ruled out pathogens and other oceanographic conditions. By 2012, the frequency of fish lesions declined 53 percent.

Even with BP’s blatant disregard for the environment and the years of fall out to come from such an egregious crime, the federal government still spends billions of dollars to subsidize the fossil fuel industry. U.S. today reported back in 2010 after the BP spill that the number of spills from offshore oil rigs and pipelines in the U.S. had quadrupled in the last 10 years and could of served as a warning for the massive leak that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico, according to government data and safety experts. The spills and amount of oil leaked grew worse when production increased, reports USA Today, even after oil companies claimed it was never safer to drill. In Alan Levin’s USA Today article, Oil spills escalated in this decade, the average annual spill increased by more than 17 from 2000 to 2009 and from 2005 to 2009 spilled averaged 22 a year. The company with the most spills from 2000 to 2009 was BP who leased the well that blew out in April 2010, according to data. In addition, the oil giant and its affiliated companies reported 23 spills of 50 barrels or more not including the April 2010 event. Oil firm Shell was next with 21, according to MMS spill reports. Over the past five years, the Obama administration has called for cutting fossil fuels subsidies in the form of tax breaks and other incentives, however, the federal governments has increased the amount of money forfeited through subsidies over that period of time with $18.5 billion last year, according to the environmental group Oil Change International. According to Kate Sheppard, Federal Government Still Spending Billions To Subsidize Fossil Fuels, the total is up from $12.7 billion in 2009 as oil and gas production has increased in the United States. Next year, domestic production will reach the highest since 1972 partly due to the Obama administration’s “all of the above” energy strategy which includes increasing oil and gas production. The Oil Change report includes a variety of subsidies in its accounting i.e. tax breaks, incentives for production on federal lands like royalty fees and tax deductions for clean up costs like the BP Deepwater oil spill. In addition, when states subsidies for oil, gas and coal production are included, the total climbs to $21.6 billion for 2013. In September 2009, Obama and other G20 leaders pledged to phase out fossil fuel subsidies to curb global warming with Obama calling for elimination of subsidies in 2012 and 2013 with the administration’s 2015 budget proposal again calling for major cuts to fossil fuel subsidies. However, Congress has yet to cut these subsidies. The report argues that as long as these incentives stay in place, the federal government is “essentially rewarding companies for accelerating climate change.” Steve Kretzmann, executive director of Oil Change International, explains: “We’re spending more taxpayer dollars every year to fund fossil fuels that we can’t afford to burn, according to climate science. Subsidizing fossil fuels at this point is climate denial.”

While science on a global scale has examined the environmental cost of the global fossil fuel habit, the economic costs have yet to be fully realized. According to the article, Fossil Fuel Subsidies Cost ~$2 Trillion Annually, According To IMF on CleanTechnica’s website published May 1,2014, the IPCC recently reported that CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes contributes around 78 percent of the total increase in greenhouse gas emissions between 1970 and 2010. The combined value of global fossil fuel subsidies are difficult to calculate with recent estimates ranging from $500 billion to $1.9 trillion a year. However, according to the International Monetary Fund, factoring in implicit subsidies from the failure to charge for pollution, climate change and other externalities, the post tax cost is closer to $2 trillion equivalent to 2.9 percent of the global GDP or 8.5 percent of government revenues. In addition, the IMF believes simply removing fossil fuel subsidies could decrease fossil fuel emissions by 13 percent. Experts say by reducing or eliminating subsidies to fossil fuel and properly pricing energy to account for environmental impacts, governments can effectively foster a low carbon transition as global subsidies to renewable energy were $88 billion in 2011. According to the article: “UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) argues that subsidies to fossil fuel producers often support inefficient state-owned energy companies and stifle incentives for greater efficiencies and innovation, while subsidies to consumers often encourage excessive consumption, which has knock-on effects for pollution, human health and greenhouse gas emissions.” UN Under Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, Achim Steiner, had this to add: “Fiscal policies are of particular importance in a green economy transition. Confronted by a fiscally constrained world, government reforms might appear to be a daunting challenge. However, it is important to note that fossil fuel subsidies cost countries precious funds. For example, they divert government resources from pro-poor spending in Africa, where governments spend an estimated 3 per cent of GDP – equivalent to their total health care allocation – on fossil fuel subsidies.” UNEP has undertaken green economy fiscal policies studies in various developing countries including Ghana, Namibia, the Philippines and Turkey and have shown that reforming energy subsidies and prices is possible. In addition, the UNEP believes,”Tax incentives could make investments in clean technologies more attractive, while government funds could reduce the risk profile of capital intensive new technologies.” In Australia, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation has financed $2.5 billion in renewable projects since starting in July 2013, but has not dissuaded the current Abbott government from trying to dismantle it.

According to Tom Revell’s article, a new study published in the journal Climate Change Economics, researchers from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis tried to put a price tag on efforts to limit the global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. David McCollum, the study’s lead author, states, “Many countries say that they’re on board with the a target of 2C global mean temperature stabilization by 2100; some have even made commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. But until now, it hasn’t been very clear how to get to that point, at least from an investment point of view. It’s high time we think about how much capital is needed for new power plants, biofuel refineries, efficient vehicles, and other technologies – and where those dollars need to flow – so that we get the emissions reductions we want. Revell’s article, Much-needed $800bn renewable energy investment can come from fossil fuel subsidies, sums up the study by saying that the hundred of billions of dollars needs to invest in renewable energy and prevent the worst effects of climate change could come from the enormous amount of subsidies given to fossil fuels, approximately $800 billion annually between now and 2050 on top of the $400 billion raised by existing policies increasing existing investments from $200-300 billion annually. According to the International Energy Agency, in 2012 direct fossil fuels subsidies totaled $544 billion which researchers point out could be shifted into supporting renewables and meet the investment gap. The study does not account for potential saving gained by switching from fossil fuels to cleaner energy. The study does warn that the transition needs to happen soon as energy infrastructures have  a lifespan of 30 to 60 years. In April, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that investments in fossil fuels like oil and coal need to drop by $30 billion a year and renewable energy’s share of global production must increase from 17% in 2010 to 50% in 2050. Without aggressive action, scientist estimate global temperatures will rise by 3.7 to 4.8 degree Celsius by 2100 with devastating consequences around the world, Revell reports.

Climate Change Progress Yet to Happen

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Continuing with the Obama administration climate change action plan rolled out only one year ago, the White House will be hosting two roundtable discussion this week on the economic threat climate change poses and how to overcome those risks according to a White House Official. The discussion will focus on the costs of not addressing planet warming emissions, according to the email sent on the 23 of June,2014 and reported by Kate Sheppard of HuffPost. In the article, White House Plans Another Big Climate Push, explains that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and White House leaders will meet with billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson on Wednesday to assess the economic costs of climate change and release the report later this week entitled “Risky Business.”  Steyer, a former hedge fund manager turned environmental activist has decided to pledge $100 million to back candidate who support climate change action through his group, NextGen Climate Change. Lew, White House advisers John Podesta and Valerie Jarrett, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration head Kathryn Sullivan and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate met on Tuesday with insurance industry representatives on climate impacts. Obama will address the issues at the League of Conversation Voters on Wednesday night, while Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell will speak earlier in the day at a League of Conservation Voters sponsored event. Wednesday marks the one year anniversary of Obama’s speech at Georgetown where he unveiled his climate action plan. The administration has made an effort to push new regulations on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and announced initiatives to streamline government climate efforts and make climate data more widely available.

Unfortunately, on Monday June 23 of 2014, the Supreme Court placed limited on Obama plan to deal with power plant and factory emissions of gases blamed for global warming, the Associate Press reports. In the article, Supreme Court Justices Limit Existing EPA Global Warming Rules, the justices explain that the Environmental Protection Agency does not have the authority in some cases to force companies to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions in cases where the company needs a permit to expand facilities or build new ones increasing overall pollution. The decision does not affect EPA proposals for first time national standards for new and existing plants, the Associated Press reports. The most recent proposal aims at 30 percent reduction of greenhouse gases by 2030, but won’t take effect for another two years. The ruling does protect the EPA’s existing authority over facilities that emit pollutants that the agency regulates other than greenhouse gases. Since 2011, the EPA has issued 166 permits through state and federal regulators as of late March including permits for power plants, chemical plants, cement plants, iron and steel plants, fertilizer plants, ceramics plants and ethanol plants. In addition, oil refineries and landfills have also obtained greenhouse gas permits.

Casualties of Reform: The Children of Illegal Immigrants

(Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Immigration reform seems to be the hot topic of the moment as thousands of people including men, women and children flood the country from across the border begging the question: What to do with all these illegal immigrants? Well let us not forget that at one point in this countries past, everyone except the Native Americans came to this country to pursue a better life either through legal means i.e green cards or settled here and never left (some called it illegal). Unfortunately, the issues is not so cut and dry when you look at all aspects of the immigration debate mostly due to the fact that you have those who choose to settle here and those who are born here or don’t remember anything of their past life. As Christopher Sherman and Astrid Galvan state in their article published June 18, 2014, Sights, smells of holding cells for immigrant kids, there has been a surge in minors mostly from South America into the United States and even the President has called the 47,000 unaccompanied children who enter the country illegally an “urgent humanitarian situation.” Unfortunately, President Barack Obama has struggled to get any action from House Republicans as they have no reason to move on legislation to address the millions of immigrants living illegally in the United States. In addition, despite calls from supporters of immigration overhaul, the president has refused to move ahead unilaterally on limited changes he can make on his own.

However as of June 20, 2014, the White House has decided to step up efforts to slow the flow of illegal children into the country by expanding the government’s ability to process and deport people even announcing new funding to boost security in crime plagued Central American countries, reports Reuters’ Mark Felsenthal. The plan would be to increase the ranks of immigration judges, lawyers and asylum officers to quickly decide what happens to people at the border and to return them home. According to the article, White House announces steps to address illegal children in the country, officials also granted $9.6 million in support to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to help them receive and reintegrate people who are sent back. The administation has also pledged $40 million to improve security in Guatemala and $25 million to provide services for youth in El Salvador vunerable to organized crime.

NASCAR Inspired Fashion on Capitol Hill?

Don’t we all secretly wish that it was easier to figure out what motives are behind bills backed by lawmakers as we all know lawmakers works for the private interest groups and lobbyist that backed their campaigns and fund their election, but wouldn’t it be nice to be able to see it without investigating it. Well if one group has their way we may see something similar to what NASCAR drivers wear to show their sponsors appreciation and advertisement. The White House’s “We the People” petition website, on Tuesday, created this cause to force congressional lawmakers to prominently display their financial backers and monetary support from various lobbies, according to Huff Post:

Since most politicians’ campaigns are largely funded by wealthy companies and individuals, it would give voters a better sense of who the candidate they are voting for is actually representing if the company’s logo, or individual’s name, was prominently displayed upon the candidate’s clothing at all public appearances and campaign events. Once elected, the candidate would be required to continue to wear those “sponsor’s” [sic] names during all official duties and visits to constituents. The size of a logo or name would vary with the size of a donation. For example, a $1 million dollar contribution would warrant a patch of about 4″ by 8″ on the chest, while a free meal from a lobbyist would be represented by a quarter-sized button. Individual donations under $1000 are exempt.

While the change to the dress code would break the rules as well as not actually be enforceable, even though it should be, the petition offers a glimpse into the site’s wide range of novel and novelty proposals. Because of the many petition ranging from state by state secession from the union to the Death Star construction, the White House now requires 100,000 signatures instead of 25,000. The “make lawmakers dress like NASCAR drivers” has a long way to go, but some legitimate petitions have met the new requirement. Two petitions, prevent controversial cybersecurity bill from becoming law and protesting the suspension of military’s popular tuition assistance program, have surpassed the 100,000 signatures in recent weeks, but has not discouraged jokers from submitting petitions like calling for the national anthem to be changed to R. Kelly’s 2003 hit “Ignition (Remix).”

North Korea Threatens Pre-Emptive Nuclear Strike Against U.S.

North Korea Threatens Pre-Emptive Nuclear Strike Against U.S..

Are we really surprised by this? On Thursday, North Korea threatened to launch a pre-emptive strike against the U.S. as the U.N. diplomats try to decide whether or not to level new sanctions against Pyongyang for its nuclear testing. An unidentified spokesman for Pyongyang commented that Washington is pushing for war against the North so the North is well within their rights to do this. The North however has not been able to produce a warhead missile capable of reaching the U.S. even though they do have the nuclear fuel. In recent days, such inflammatory rhetoric has become even more common since the possibility of a sanction is more than likely leading to a mass rally in Pyongyang on Thursday to protest the upcoming U.S. South Korean war drills and sanctions. According to the Associated Press, Army Gen. Kang Pyo Yong told the crowd that North Korea is ready to fire long range missiles at Washington.

The U.N. Security Council is considering a fourth round of sanctions against Pyongyang in order to keep tighter reins on its nuclear and ballistic missile programs. The resolution, drafted by the U.S. and China, will be put up for council vote just 48 hours later and will most likely have the support of all 15 council members. The statement made by North Korean foreign Ministry spokesman, according to the North’s Korean Central News Agency, accuses the U.S. of being the prime suspect in slapping the sanctions on North Korea however in the statement the new sanctions will only speed up the timing to fulfill previous vows to act on their enemies. The statement, according to the Associate Press, said North Korea “strongly warns the U.N. Security Council not to make another big blunder like the one in the past when it earned the inveterate grudge of the Korean nation by acting as a war servant for the U.S. in 1950.” North Korea in an effort to counter the resolution being passed threatened to end the cease fire of 1953 that ended the Korean War. If the proposed resolution passes, then according to U.S. U.N. ambassador Susan Rice, the sanctions imposed would be the strongest ever ordered by the United Nations. The final draft of the resolution released Wednesday not only puts sanctions on North Korea but two other individuals, one a corporation and one organization, who are the country’s primary arms dealer and exporter of ballistic missile equipment while the other is a national organization in charge of research and development. The success of these sanction depends on China where most of the companies and banks that North Korea is believed to work with are based.

The United States and other nations are concerned that North Korea’s third test has moved them closer to missiles capable of reaching the U.S., while the international community has condemned the government’s nuclear and missile efforts as a regional security risk and a drain on resources that could be allocated to the destitute. The draft condemns the latest test of violating the council’s resolutions, bans on ballistic missile launches and nuclear tests, and North Korea’s ongoing nuclear activities especially uranium enrichment and demands the country return to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. The proposed resolution would also make it harder for North Korea to move around funds for its illicit activities as well as strengthen existing sanctions and inspect all suspect cargo bound for and from the country. It also will impose travel sanctions on senior diplomats that would require countries to expel agents working for sanctioned North Korean companies. Even with existing and new sanctions and resolutions put in place, North Korea has also found ways to conduct business around these measure so only time will tell whether such measure will work. Let’s wait and see who blinks first.