Trump Names Montana Congressman for Secretary of the Interior
President-elect donald Trump has offered the position of Secretary of the Interior to Montana Representative Ryan Zinke. Initially it had been reported that Cathy McMorris Rodgers would get the post. Zinke is far more pro-conservation than McMorris Rodgers and has defied his party on several occasions when Republicans favored the privatization of public land. He has been a supporter of fossil fuel extraction, such as oil drilling and coal mining. As such, it is expected that he would support reversing Obama’s bans on new coal mining leases and on oil drilling in the Arctic.
Ohio Passes Abortion Ban After 20-Weeks Pregnancy, Possibly Violating Constitution
Ohio passed a complete ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. As such, the ban could be considered unconstitutional because the Supreme Court’s Roe v Wade decision allows abortions until fetal viability outside the womb, which is usually between 24 and 28 weeks of pregnancy. Republican Governor john Kasich, who signed the bill into law, vetoed another law at the same time that would have banned abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is usually around 12 weeks of pregnancy. Often women are not even aware of being pregnant during the first 12 weeks. Abortion rights activists speculated that the simultaneous passage of the harsher anti-abortion law was merely a strategy in order to get the milder 20-week law passed. 99 percent of all abortions are performed in the first 21 weeks of pregnancy. However, later term abortions are usually conducted to protect the life of the mother and by poorer women.
Green Party’s Jill Stein Ends Recount Efforts in Three States
Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein announced that she will abandon efforts to recount votes in the states of Michigan and Pennsylvania. Wisconsin, which is the third state where she initiated such an effort, concluded a recount and added 131 votes to Donald Trump’s winning total in that state. Stein said that the recount had to be abandoned because the legal challenges made it impossible to proceed. She also said, referring to the voting systems in the different states, “The recount has shone a light on that mess, and has really lifted up the call for a voting system we can trust.” Trump won Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania by a mere 75,000 votes. Exit polls showed that Hillary Clinton should have won these states easily, but judges would not take this into consideration when they ruled on whether the recounts could proceed.
EPA Reverses Position, Says Fracking Can Contaminate Drinking Water
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new report in which it reverses a long-standing position and states that hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” does pollute ground water. Originally the EPA said that there was no evidence for this claim, which environmentalists had long made. The fracking process injects a wide variety of undisclosed liquid chemicals via high pressure into the ground in order to fracture shale formations that then release natural gas and oil. Currently fracking is mostly unregulated and in the where it is regulated lightly is only on public lands, which represents only 10 percent of all fracking wells. Last September president-elect Donald Trump told energy executives that “The shale energy revolution will unleash massive wealth for America.” and that he would abolish all regulations on fracking.
Azerbaijan Signs 5 Billion Dollar Arms Deal with Israel
Azerbaijan announced that it will violate an arms embargo by purchasing $5 billion worth of weapons from Israel. Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev made the announcement during a visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) imposed an embargo to prevent violations of human rights in the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh. Israeli weapons have already been spotted in Nagorno-Karabakh used by the Azerbaijan military. Nagorno-Karabakh is an enclave in Azerbaijan with its own government and a distinct ethnic Armenian population. The population of Nagorno-Karabakh has attempted to join Armenia since 1988, and repeated attacks from Azerbaijani have sought to deter the succession the region’s succession. A ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan was signed April this year.
Azerbaijan borders Iran and is also considered by security experts as a possible launch site for Israeli attacks on Iran. Israeli electronic warfare systems are expected to collect intelligence on Iran’s forces. The deal to deliver Israeli arms to Azerbaijan comes amid a decline in Israeli arms exports and will be a boost to Israel’s arms industry.
The Number of Arrested Journalists at a 26-Year High
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), there are currently 259 journalists incarcerated worldwide, a higher number than in any year since the founding of CPJ in 1990. Last year the number of incarcerated journalists was 199, indicating a 30% increase in the number of journalists incarcerated in 2016.
Turkey is the country which arrested the highest number of incarcerated journalists, with 81 currently in Turkish prisons or jails. This is followed by China with 38 journalists imprisoned and Egypt with 25. Only five of the 259 imprisoned journalists are foreign citizens. 254 of the journalists have been jailed by their own governments. The Editorial Director of the CPJ Elana Beiser told the Real News that the incarceration of journalists increases the risk that other journalists will censor themselves out of fear of being imprisoned.
U.S Blocks Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia
The White House blocked the transfer of munitions to Saudi Arabia yesterday. Saudi Arabia has used US arms regularly in its 20-month war in Yemen against Houthi rebels. At least 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen already, including a recent Saudi attack on a funeral killing more than 140 people. The attack is one of a number that has drawn public attention to the Saudi use of disproportionate force. The blocked shipment includes 16,000 guided kits from Raytheon, which can upgrade missiles and bombs into smart bombs. Its value is estimated at $350 million. Saudi Arabia is the largest customer of U.S.-made weaponry. Despite the block of precision munitions, however, the U.S continues to support the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen with weapons, ammunition and fuel.
UN Report: “At Least 1 Child Dies Every 10 minutes” in Yemen Due to Preventable Diseases
UNICEF is reporting this week that malnutrition among children in the Yemen is at an all-time high. The hair-raising report states that “at least one child dies every ten minutes in Yemen because of preventable diseases such as diarrhoea, malnutrition and respiratory tract infections”. 35% of all deaths among children under five worldwide are directly or indirectly due to malnutrition. Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) among children in the Yemen has seen a 200% increase since 2014, bringing the number of children suffering from SAM to at least 462,000. A shocking 8 out of 10 children in parts of the city Sa’ada suffer from chronic malnutrition. Sa’ada now has the world’s highest rates of stunting among children. The healthcare system has been all but destroyed. Illnesses that were formerly under control such as cholera and measles have started to spread again. Healthcare workers have not been paid for months, half the hospital buildings have been bombed out and less than a third of Yemenis have any access to medical treatment. The UN report also notes that an additional 1.7 million children suffer from “Moderate Acute Malnutrition.”
Even before the war in Yemen, the largely agrarian society was the Middle East’s poorest country. However, 20 months of nearly daily bombardment by the Saudi led coalition along with the crushing blockade, has more than taken its toll on the country. The Saudi led bombing campaign has been fully reliant on being armed, supplied and supported by France, Canada, the UK and the US. The UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, recently defended her government’s continued arming of Saudi Arabia as being in the interests of Britain.
Brazil Passes Constitutional Amendment for 20-Year Spending Freeze
Protests erupted in at least 15 cities throughout Brazil on Tuesday, when the country’s Senate passed a constitutional amendment that will freeze social spending for the next 20 years. Protests took place. The government of President Michel Temer argues that austerity is necessary in order to bring the country back to economic growth. However, recent polls show that only 24 percent support the measure and that 65 percent are opposed to it. Also, Temer enjoys a below 10 percent approval rating, just three months after he came to power when President Dilma Rousseff was impeached in what her supporters call a legislative coup. Temer himself was recently accused of having solicited nearly $3 million in illegal campaign donations for the 2014 presidential campaign.