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15 Oct

A Foreign Perspective, News and Analyses

English Online International Newspapers

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The week in wildlife – in pictures

Dozens detained on ‘day of disruption’ targeting City firms profiting from climate crisis

Dozens of protesters, including a 77-year-old rabbi, have been arrested while blocking traffic in London’s financial district, as Extinction Rebellion switched its focus towards companies funding and profiting from the climate emergency.

Hundreds of demonstrators walked into the roundabout outside the Bank of England in the City and sat down in the road early on Monday morning.

In a statement, the group said: “Extinction Rebellion this morning are disrupting the system bankrolling the environmental crisis.

“The day of disruption, which will target financial institutions, seeks to highlight the far greater disruption faced by those living in the environments systematically being destroyed by UK-backed companies.

“The ecological damage is global, and it is hitting the global south now.” Protesters said they were switching their focus to the financial institutions “funding environmental destruction”.

Jeffrey Newman, emeritus rabbi of Finchley Reform Synagogue, knelt down in the middle of Lombard Street, opposite the Bank of England, after leading a Shacharit festival morning service. He was carried away by police, who at one point appeared to drop him on the floor, after he refused to go with them voluntarily.

As he waited to be taken, Newman, a long-time environmental campaigner, said: “We are in a period of enormous catastrophic breakdown, and if it takes an arrest to try to find ways of helping to galvanise public opinion then it is certainly worth being arrested.

“The other side of what I want to say is that Extinction Rebellion is this: it is activism, but underneath it’s also about rebuilding, about showing that a society can function better when people collaborate.”

Interrupted before he could finish, Newman told officers surrounding him that he disagreed with what they were doing and did not accept their grounds for his arrest. “It’s not OK!” he shouted at the arresting officer before he was taken away.

Rabbi Jeffrey Newman being arrested by police outside the Bank of England.

Rabbi Jeffrey Newman being arrested by police outside the Bank of England. Photograph: Jill Mead/The Guardian

Another protester, Chay Harwood, 23, from Bristol, said: “We are here in the financial district because we know for a fact that these companies and institutions have a vested interest in deforestation and the decimation of people’s lives and livelihoods, not only in the Amazon but in the global south in general.”

Shortly before 3.30pm, the Metropolitan police announced that 1,405 people had been arrested in connection with the Extinction Rebellion protests since last Monday. Of those, 76 had been charged, with offences including failing to comply with a condition under section 14 of the Public Order Act 1986, criminal damage and obstruction of a highway.

The protest outside the major finance institutions bankrolling big oil comes after the Guardian’s polluters investigation, which found that the world’s three largest money managers had a combined $300bn fossil fuel investment portfolio, using money from people’s private savings and pension contributions.

The Guardian found that BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street, which together oversee assets worth more than China’s entire GDP, had continued to grow billion-dollar stakes in some of the most carbon-intensive companies even after the Paris agreement, which set out the urgent need to drastically scale back fossil fuel expansion.

A protester is led away by police as others block the road outside Mansion House in the City of London.

A protester is led away by police as others block the road outside Mansion House. Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

The two largest asset managers, BlackRock and Vanguard, have also routinely opposed motions at fossil fuel companies that would have forced directors to take more action on climate change.

On Monday morning, the Metropolitan police announced there had been 1,336 arrests linked to the protests since they began last week. The rate of arrests appeared to have slowed over the weekend as the group focused instead on mass actions involving members of the general public.

Near the Bank of England, Andrew Medhurst, a former City trader turned full-time activist, said the financial industry needed to realise that some of the projects it was financing were “essentially leading us to destruction”.

“We have no more time left in terms of taking action,” he said. “We haven’t got 12 years. We should have started yesterday. We have to decarbonise our economies, so for the banks to be lending money to fossil fuel companies – it’s just barmy. It doesn’t make sense.

“It basically means there’s a disconnect between those emotional family connections [between City workers] and their future children and grandchildren, and making money, which is morally repugnant.”

Emily Grossman, an expert in molecular biology and genetics and a member of Scientists for XR, said she was protesting outside the big finance houses to shine a light on the central role they played in the climate emergency.

The group now has more than 700 prominent scientists signed up to support non-violent direct action around the escalating ecological emergency. Grossman said the big banks in the City were a key target, having lent hundreds of billions of pounds to fossil fuel projects in the past year.

She said: “They are the ones who are pushing ahead with these huge investments … they are using our own money – in terms of pensions and investments – to drive us all towards climate catastrophe … They are threatening the lives of our children and grandchildren for the sake of their profits.”

Kimberly Teehee could become the Cherokee Nation’s first delegate to Congress – if Washington lets her

Kimberley Teehee has been nominated by the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, Chuck Hoskin, as a delegate to the House of Representatives.

Kimberley Teehee has been nominated by the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, Chuck Hoskin, as a delegate to the House of Representatives. Photograph: Sue Ogrocki/AP

The 1835 Treaty of New Echota precipitated tens of thousands of Cherokee joining the infamous Trail of Tears – giving up their ancestral homes in the south-east, to trek to what is now Oklahoma.

In a minor concession to the Cherokee people, buried within the treaty was a promise that the nation could appoint a delegate to the House of Representatives, to have at least some sort of say in the government that had forced them for their land.

Over the next two centuries, as the Cherokee struggled to establish themselves in Oklahoma, sought to overcome the trauma of being forced from their land, and the country went through a brutal civil war, the notion of sending a Cherokee representative to Washington DC was largely forgotten.

Until now. This month the principal chief of the Cherokee nation, Chuck Hoskin, appointed Kimberly Teehee as delegate to Congress – taking the federal government up on its nearly 200-year-old offer.

“I feel we are in an environment now where Congress is more educated about Native American issues,” Teehee said.

“We have four members of Congress, people who are citizens of federally recognised tribes, who take on our issues and champion our issues. There is a bipartisan Congressional Native American caucus, whose job is to educate, on a bipartisan basis, members of Congress about Native American issues.”

The Cherokee Nation has never sent a delegate to Congress before. While they are hopeful the House will honor the terms of the New Echota treaty, there will be a wait before – hopefully – Teehee can take up her post.

If she does, she will be able to advocate for the nearly 380,000 citizens of the Cherokee Nation, which spans almost 7,000 square miles in Oklahoma. The nation has its own elected government, but is reliant on the federal government financially. In 2019, Hoskin said, the Cherokee nation is thriving compared with previous decades. That influenced the decision to push for further representation.

“The Cherokee Nation is in a position of relative strength, both political strength and economic strength, with the wellbeing of our citizens on the rise,” Hoskin said.

“I think now is the time to assert this treaty provision, so that we can do more than what we’ve done in recent decades. We’re sort of standing outside of the Congress and advocating for our needs and for the government of the United States to live up to its obligations. [Now we could be] be inside Congress, and do what our ancestors contemplated when they negotiated those terms.”

While the Cherokee Nation is self-governing, running and managing its own schools, hospitals and infrastructure programs, it relies on grants from the government. That funding comes from the “discretionary funding” portion of the budget. But the amount of discretionary funding can wax and wane depending on negotiations between Congress and the president, or the state of the economy.

“So, depending on the political dynamics, you know, there may be a contraction in any given year of the discretionary spending in this country,” Hoskin said.

Changing that will be one of the key aims for the Nation, and Teehee. Currently a main path to introducing legislation is through approaching sympathetic members of Congress. With a delegate, the Cherokee Nation would be able to bring in their own bills, which could potentially lead to a vote in Congress.

Professor Lindsay Robertson, Chickasaw Nation endowed chair in Native American law at the University of Oklahoma, said the impact of having a delegate in the House should not be underestimated.

“It could be enormously beneficial,” Robertson said.

“[The delegate] would be entitled to membership in committees. They could vote in committees, they could introduce legislation and they could speak on the floor of the House of Representatives.

“On top of that, there’s the benefit that comes from simply being in the room. The Cherokees having a delegate – who could well opt to serve as a representative for Indian country, for Native rights in general – in the halls of Congress all the time could be enormously beneficial to all tribes, not just the Cherokees.”

Hoskin said that “even though the Cherokee Nation congressional delegate is first and foremost and advocate for the Cherokee Nation”, he expects that being afforded a delegate to Congress is something that can help Native Americans across the US. He says his efforts have been applauded by other tribes.

“In 2019, I think tribal leaders recognize the benefit of solidarity: that we get more done together than we do separately,” Hoskin said.

“And so I have been very careful to tell tribal leaders and to express in interviews that my expectation is that Kim Teehee will be somebody with an open door to leaders across Indian country.

“And no doubt some of the issues that she’ll work on will be issues that are of concern not just to the Cherokee Nation but across tribal governments in this country.”

The question now is whether politicians in Washington decide to let Teehee take up her post. The House could decide on its own that it is able to appoint a Cherokee delegate, but members could also deem that the Senate, and perhaps even the president also need to agree.

Teehee is optimistic she will be appointed, but knows that process will take time. In the meantime, she said she will push Congress to grant the Cherokee Nation the right that was promised in 1835.

“I want to take one step at a time, I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. But I also want the discussion and the analysis and the process to keep moving. I hope that there’s no stall and that we’re all continuing to be motivated about this,” Teehee said.

“We’ve nearly 200 years, and we can wait a little longer. But I do want it done.”

World Politics

United States

  • Joe Biden’s son admits to ‘poor judgment’ in taking Ukraine job

  • Hunter Biden breaks silence over foreign business dealings

Hunter Biden with his father, the former vice-president and Demcoratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in 2010.

Hunter Biden with his father, the former vice-president and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden in 2010. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Hunter Biden, the son of the former vice-president who is at the centre of the impeachment inquiry engulfing the White House, has admitted to “poor judgment” in taking a paid position in a Ukrainian gas company – but denied doing anything wrong.

Breaking his silence over his business dealings in Ukraine and China that have become core to the investigation into whether Donald Trump tried to enlist the help of Ukraine in his re-election campaign, Biden told ABC News on Tuesday he had allowed himself to become involved in what he described as “a swamp”.

But he repeatedly denied ever discussing his foreign work with his father Joe Biden, a frontrunner in the Democratic race to challenge Trump next year.

“In retrospect I think there was poor judgment on my part,” he said. “I know I did nothing wrong at all, but it was poor judgment to be in the middle of something that is a, it’s a swamp in many ways.”

Later on Tuesday morning, Trump offered a review of Biden’s performance. It was, he said, “really bad. Now Sleepy Joe has real problems!”

Trump also attempted to tie the Biden affair to a scandal many think tipped the 2016 election his way.

“Reminds me of Crooked Hillary and her 33,000 deleted Emails,” the president wrote, “not recoverable!”

You fall down the rabbit hole and the president is the Cheshire Cat asking you questions about crazy things

Hunter Biden

Hunter Biden, 49, has largely kept out of the public eye since Trump and Rudy Giuliani, the hyperactive former New York mayor commonly described as the president’s personal attorney, began peddling a conspiracy theory that the Bidens acted corruptly in Ukraine.

Trump used a 25 July phone conversation with the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to try to instigate an official investigation into Hunter Biden’s business activities on the board of a major Ukrainian gas company called Burisma.

According to the conspiracy theory, in 2016 Joe Biden, in his official role as vice-president, forced the firing of Ukraine’s top prosecutor in order to stymie an investigation into Burisma and Hunter Biden’s role within it.

However, several top Ukrainian officials have made clear the investigation was dormant by that time and there is no evidence the younger Biden did anything illegal.

Hunter Biden told ABC coming under fire from Trump and Giuliani felt “like living in some kind of Alice in Wonderland where you are up in the real world and then you fall down the rabbit hole and the president is the Cheshire Cat asking you questions about crazy things that don’t bear any resemblance to the reality of anything that has to do with me”.

The timing of Biden’s interview has raised eyebrows, just hours before the fourth Democratic debate in Westerville, Ohio. Joe Biden will take the stage on Tuesday night at the centre of 12 Democratic candidates in the first such debate since the impeachment inquiry was launched last month.

Several Democratic strategists have questioned the wisdom of Hunter speaking out at this critical moment. The fear is that it might switch the focus away from Trump’s efforts to enlist the help of the Ukraine government and on to the president’s home ground: his unsubstantiated claims of corruption on the part of the Bidens.

Hunter Biden also used the ABC interview to deny Trump’s unfounded allegation that he made $1.5bn from his work on a Chinese investment company. He said he had made “not one cent” from that relationship.

“Look, this literally has no basis in fact,” he said.

Asked about a 2013 trip to China in which he accompanied his father on an official vice-presidential flight, he said he had gone to accompany Joe and his daughter Finnegan. He said he had not discussed any business matters at any point.

The ABC interview is part of what appears to be a coordinated attempt by both Bidens to lance the boil of the Trump/Giuliani conspiracy theories. On Sunday Hunter announced he was stepping down from the board of the Chinese investment company. He also said he would desist from any foreign contracts were his father to win the presidency.

“I have committed I won’t serve on any boards,” Hunter Biden told ABC. “I won’t work directly for any foreign entities when dad becomes president.”

Earlier in the month, Trump stood in front of news cameras and openly encouraged China to look into the activities of his political rival and son.

Also on Sunday, Joe Biden pledged that were he to win the presidential election next year no one in his family would have any business dealings with foreign companies.

He then attempted to turn the ethical spotlight back on Trump by saying that none of his relatives would “have an office in the White House” – a dig at Trump’s senior adviser, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his wife Ivanka Trump.

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