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International Relations: An Inconvenient Summit

The world cannot afford for the G8 to miss this opportunity to create a global solution to the climate crisis.

JUNE 5, 2007 by Faiz Shakir, Nico Pitney, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, and Matt Corley
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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

An Inconvenient Summit

Every year, eight of the world’s top industrialized nations tackle an ambitious global agenda at the Group of Eight (G8) summit. Whereas previous years’ summits have been “chilled” by discussion of the U.S. blunder in Iraq, this week’s G8 summit in Germany will instead focus on other issues such as global warming, which Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is hosting the G8, “has put atop the agenda.” Germany’s G8 negotiator recently emphasized the urgency of working cooperatively with the United Nations to battle the climate crisis. “Our red lines are that we will not abandon the UN process,” said German state minister Dr. Bernd Pfaffenbach. “We will not accept any attempts to weaken the scientific basis. We need to work toward concrete, binding goals.” But even without the Iraq issue in the room, President Bush has again managed to largely contribute to a “tense” atmosphere going into the conference, due in part to his unwillingness to embrace an international climate change solution. According to Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations, the general view in Europe prior to the G8 is, “Let’s be patient, November 2008 is coming,” referring to the next U.S. presidential election. But the world cannot afford for the G8 to miss this opportunity to create a global solution to the climate crisis. Take action HERE.

A STRONG PROPOSAL: A recent report issued by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) strongly advocated a goal of “reducing CO2 emissions by between 50 and 85 percent by 2050″ to begin to combat global warming. In line with these targets, E.U. nations have set forth an ambitious proposal for the G8 “whereby global temperatures would be allowed to increase no more than 2 degrees Celsius before being brought back down. Practically, experts have said that means a global reduction in emissions of 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050,” barely the minimum recommended by the IPCC. Merkel has also called for an aggressive “blanket target for cuts in greenhouse gas output and a timetable for a major agreement on emissions reduction to succeed the Kyoto Protocol.” The Europeans’ call to action adds to “the voices of many big corporations such as Dow, Shell, General Electric, and General Motors. These and other Fortune 500 companies endorsed a 60 percent to 80 percent reduction in global warming pollution by 2050.”

SIDESTEPPING THE U.N. (AGAIN): The European Union’s ambitious plan is an attempt to produce a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, particularly “under the auspices of the United Nations.” In 2001, Bush rejected the United Nations’s Kyoto climate agreement largely because it was purportedly not in line with U.S. economic interests. Now, he is again using the same reason to avoid the European Union’s attempts to produce a consensus U.N. agreement, claiming the European position “crossed multiple red lines.” White House climate adviser James Connaughton, who oversaw the elimination of references to global warming in White House documents, declared, “The U.S. has different sets of targets” and prefers “setting targets in the context of national circumstances.” Bush proposed his own plan last week, “saying he wanted the world’s top 15 emitters to meet later this year and agree on new measures by the end of 2008.” His approach “listed no concrete targets or dates, no enforcement mechanism and no penalties for noncompliance. It also wouldn’t take effect until four years after Bush leaves office” and threatens to split the G8 on global warming. As Bush’s voluntary compliance system has allowed carbon dioxide emissions to increase by 168 million metric tons, the “biggest worry in Europe is that the Bush Administration approach of stressing technology and voluntary targets will weaken the global effort under U.N. auspices to set mandatory targets.” “America increasingly wants to use new technologies and in this way test how much carbon dioxide emissions can be decreased,” Merkel said. “We Europeans find it more compelling to agree on goals on an international level, and direct our efforts accordingly.” So do the IPCC, a bipartisan group of 20 U.S. senators, the chairmen of 15 House committees, and staunch Bush ally Tony Blair.

RENEGING ON POVERTY: If such opportunities continue to be missed, the world’s poorest countries — those least responsible for global warming — will disproportionately face “a series of monumental challenges,” including mass water shortages, starvation, and rising disease threats. Unfortunately, “[c]urrent levels of development assistance from the industrialized world are woefully insufficient to help the least developed nations cope with this coming onslaught.” The G8 conference presents a unique opportunity to mitigate poverty in places like Africa, but the G8 can’t even meet its previous promises to the developing world. In 2005, G8 member countries promised to increase aid by $50 billion to developing countries, half of which would go to Africa, but “the aid pledge made at Gleneagles has languished.” Instead, aid fell in 2006 for the first time since 1997, and “more than half of what was promised in 2005 shows no sign of being delivered” today. At the G8 conference this week, issues such as climate change, thanks in part to the tense relations due to Bush’s stubbornness, may further mask the poverty agenda. The burden to help battle the increased poverty, following from global warming, falls on the wealthy G8 nations. “This is a climate debt the industrialized world owes to these poor nations.”

HOUSE STEPS BACKWARDS: Some U.S. leaders are echoing the Bush line, with their commitment to tackling the problem of global warming being more talk than substance. Yesterday, an energy bill drafted by Rep. Rick Boucher (D-WV) was circulated among members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is chaired by Rep. John Dingell (D-MI). The draft bill, which alleges to offer an environmentally-friendly “increase in fuel-economy standards for cars and trucks,” has angered the ranks of environmentalists and lawmakers who are strongly committed to combating climate change. Under the proposal, “a dozen states would be blocked from imposing new requirements on automakers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” “The ‘discussion draft’ would prohibit the head of the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing a waiver needed for a state to impose auto pollution standards if the new requirements are ‘designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.'” According to Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, “it’s a double whammy. It not only preempts California and the rest of the states from moving forward [with new climate rules], it prevents the EPA from moving forward as well.”

UNDER THE RADAR

CIVIL LIBERTIES — BUSH ADMINISTRATION’S MILITARY TRIBUNALS FACE MAJOR SETBACK: The Bush administration’s military tribunal system suffered a major setback yesterday “when in separate proceedings, military judges dismissed charges against prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on the ground that the administration had not managed to comply with the new law it pushed through Congress just last fall.” White House spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters that the administration did not agree with the decisions. One of the judges, Army Col. Peter Brownback, decided that “the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006, which sets the rules for trying detainees at Guantanamo Bay, limits such commissions to ‘unlawful enemy combatants’ and concluded that the military has never classified Omar Khadr,” a 20-year old detainee accused of killing an American soldier in Afghanistan five years ago, as “unlawful.” Navy Capt. Keith Allred reached the same decision in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan of Yemen. The decisions highlight “flaws in the Bush administration’s more than five-year effort to bring detainees to justice and in the hastily crafted legislation on military commissions passed by Congress in October.” While Defense Department officials dismissed the rulings as a technicalities and promised to appeal the decision, human rights groups and the chief of military defense attorneys at Guantanamo Bay, Marine Col. Dwight Sullivan, predicted that the decision could spell an end to the military tribunal system. The decisions will likely “bring the trials to a halt since all of the Guantanamo detainees have been designated simply as ‘enemy combatants.'” Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT), “who has been working to rewrite the MCA, said yesterday that Congress must fix ‘egregious flaws’ in the law.” “The current system of prosecuting enemy combatants is not only inefficient and ineffective, it is also hurting America’s moral standing in the world,” he said in a statement.

ETHICS — REP. JEFFERSON INDICTED ON CORRUPTION CHARGES: Yesterday, federal authorities indicted Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-LA) on corruption charges for allegedly “accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to support business ventures in the United States and several West African nations.” In addition, the government’s “94-page indictment…accused Mr. Jefferson of bribery, racketeering, conspiracy, money laundering, obstruction of justice and other offenses.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called the charges against Jefferson “extremely serious” and said the charges, if proven, “constitute an egregious and unacceptable abuse of public trust and power.” She added, however, that Jefferson, “just as any other citizen, must be considered innocent until proven guilty.” In contrast, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) — who has a history of adamantly defending and even rewarding corrupt and indicted conservative members of Congress, including former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) and Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) — is working quickly to “seek [Jefferson’s] expulsion from the House.” To that end, Boehner “will offer a privileged resolution on the House floor as early as” today requiring the House Ethics Committee to review the Jefferson indictment. Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI) became the first Democratic member of Congress to call for Jefferson’s resignation. Kagen said that while everyone is entitled to the “presumption of innocence,” members of Congress “must be held to a higher standard” and as such, “Jefferson should consider resigning.” Jefferson’s lawyer said in a statement yesterday, “Congressman Jefferson is innocent. He plans to fight this indictment and clear his name.”

IRAQ — FORMER U.S. COMMANDER IN IRAQ SAYS WAR IS LOST: Retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez commanded U.S. forces during the first year of the Iraq war. In “his first interview since he retired last year,” Sanchez has said that the war in Iraq is lost, and the best outcome America can hope for is to “stave off defeat.” After a recent speech in San Antonio, Sanchez said, “I think if we do the right things politically and economically with the right Iraqi leadership we could still salvage at least a stalemate, if you will — not a stalemate but at least stave off defeat. It’s also kind of important for us to answer the question, ‘What is victory?’, and at this point I’m not sure America really knows what victory is.” He added that he is “absolutely convinced that America has a crisis in leadership at this time and we’ve got to do whatever we can to help the next generation of leaders do better than we have done over the past five years.” Sanchez “is the highest-ranking former military leader yet to suggest the Bush administration has fallen short in Iraq.” In April, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) also said that he believes “that this war is lost” and at this stage, “can only be won diplomatically, politically and economically.” At the time, the right wing viciously attacked Reid, calling him “an embarrassment” and charging that his comments were “very, very close to treason.” But since that time, other generals, in addition to Sanchez, have spoken out against the war. Nevertheless, conservatives continue to pound the issue. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has threatened that if a vote of no-confidence on Alberto Gonzales is brought to the floor, he may bring an amendment on “whether the Iraq War is actually ‘lost’ as Reid has suggested.”

THINK FAST

Military chiefs have drawn up plans to withdraw all British troops within a year. “The new timetable, which would see nearly all 5,500 British troops return home by next May,” suggests “withdrawing almost all troops, leaving only a small number of teams in the south to advise Iraqi military forces.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai gave Iran his full embrace Monday, saying it has been his country’s ‘very close friend,’ even as U.S. officials meeting with him here repeated their accusation that Iranian-made weapons were flowing to Taliban fighters.”

A military panel recommended yesterday that Iraq war veteran Marine Cpl. Adam Kokesh, “who wore his uniform during an anti-war protest, should lose his honorable discharge status, brushing away his claims that he was exercising his right to free speech.”

“Everybody is overworked” at U.S. military hospitals. The Army has 4,170 doctors, yet it needs at least 180 more. For the past two years, more than half of the Army’s 36 medical facilities “have failed to meet Pentagon standards for providing a doctor within seven days for routine medical care.”

Hunger in America leads to $90 billion a year in societal costs, such as mental-health problems that may arise when people miss too many meals,” according to a new Sodexho Foundation study.

35 percent. President Bush’s approval rating in a new Washington Post/ABC News poll. Congress’s approval rating fell five points to 39 percent, with “[m]uch of that drop” due to frustration among “strong opponents of the war, independents and liberal Democrats.”

And finally: The CIA wants to appear more “approachable.” It has named Paul Barry as its entertainment liaison, “to showcase the cloak-and-dagger agency in a warmer light in movies, TV, fiction and even children’s books.” The CIA also hated the movie “The Good Shepherd” last year, calling it “a lamentable piece of fiction masquerading as a documentary.”

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GOOD NEWS

Michigan’s third attempt in a decade to ban what right-wing activists call “partial-birth abortion” was “declared unconstitutional by a federal appeals court on Monday, less than two months after the Supreme Court narrowly upheld a federal law banning the method.”

STATE WATCH

ALASKA: “Reversing its recent decision, the state says it will provide a pricey new vaccine that prevents cervical cancer free to all eligible Alaska girls.”

OKLAHOMA: Police budgets may be threatened by a law that would urge officers to determine the immigration status of prisoners.

COLORADO: Gov. Bill Ritter (D) vetoes legislation that would have facilitated undocumented immigrants acquiring driver’s licenses.

BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: NASA Administrator Michael Griffin altered agency mission statement to remove global warming reference.

TALKING POINTS MEMO: Fox News covers the indictment of Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), who is African-American, by showing images of Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who also happens to be African-American.

BALKINIZATION: Leading anti-abortion group celebrates banning an abortion procedure because the procedure protected women’s health.

THE SWAMP: The National Security Agency launches “a marketing blitz” to get “employees on message.”

DAILY GRILL

“The worst terrorist we had in Iraq was a guy named Abu Musab al Zarqawi. … Then when we launched into Afghanistan after 9/11, he was wounded, and fled to Baghdad for medical treatment, and then set up shop in Iraq. So he operated in Jordan, he operated in Afghanistan, then he moved to Iraq.”
— Vice President Cheney, 6/3/07, speaking to a group of high school students in Wyoming

VERSUS

“Saddam Hussein attempted, unsuccessfully, to locate and capture al-Zarqawi and…the regime did not have a relationship with, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi.”
— Report of the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, 2006, p. 109