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20 Sep

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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Controversial Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa) could make it harder for governments to favour clean energy over fossil fuels as part of efforts to keep temperature rises to 1.5C

Campaigners believe Tisa would increase the power of multinationals to prevent government from taking measures to keep temperature rises to 1.5C.

Campaigners believe Tisa would increase the power of multinationals to prevent government from taking measures to keep temperature rises to 1.5C. Photograph: Jacky Naegelen/Reuters

A far-reaching global trade deal being negotiated in secret could threaten the goals of the Paris climate deal by making it harder for governments to favour clean energy over fossil fuels, a leak of the latest negotiating text shows.

The controversial Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa) aims to liberalise trade between the EU and 22 countries across the global services sector, which employs tens of millions in Europe alone.

But a new EU text seen by the Guardian would oblige signatories to work towards “energy neutrality” between renewable energy and fossil fuel power, although amendments proposed by the EU would exempt nuclear power from this rule.

The document, marked “limited distribution – for Tisa participants only”, would also force member states to legislate against “anti-competitive conduct” and “market distortions” in energy-related services. This is viewed by campaigners as code for state support for clean power sectors, such as wind and solar.

A right to regulate is explicitly mentioned in the paper, but governments would first have to prove the necessity for regulations that legally constrain multinationals.

The same clause was used in the World Trade Organisation’s Gatt and Gats treaties which entered into force in 1995, and led to 44 complaints by multinationals via their governments. Of these, 43 were upheld.

Susan Cohen Jehoram, a spokeswoman for Greenpeace, told the Guardian: “We fear the same thing will happen with Tisa but on a much larger scale, when legislation is proposed to keep temperature rises to 1.5C [above pre-industrial levels, as agreed at the Paris climate summit].

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An estimated 4,000 people have been forced to leave the camp on Lesbos as strong winds fan the flames

Refugees and migrants leave the Moria migrant camp, after a fire at the facility, on the island of Lesbos, Greece.

Refugees and migrants leave the Moria migrant camp, after a fire at the facility, on the island of Lesbos, Greece. Photograph: INTIME/Reuters

Thousands of refugees detained at one of Greece’s biggest camps, on the island of Lesbos, have fled the facility amid scenes of mayhem after some reportedly set fire to it, local police have said.

Up to 4,000 panic-stricken men, women and children rushed out of the barbed-wire-fenced installation following rumours of mass deportations to Turkey.

“Between 3,000 and 4000 migrants have fled the camp of Moria,” a police source said, attributing the exodus to fires that rapidly swept through the facility because of high winds.

Approximately 150 unaccompanied children, controversially housed at the camp, had been evacuated to a childrens’ village, the police source added. No one was reported to have been injured in the blaze.

But damage was widespread and with tents and prefabricated housing units going up in flames, the Greek channel Skai TV, described the site as “a war zone”.

The disturbances, it reported, had been fuelled by frustration over the notoriously slow pace with which asylum requests were being processed. A rumour, earlier in the day, that Greek authorities were preparing to send possibly hundreds back to Turkey – in a bid to placate mounting frustration in Germany over the long delays – was enough to spark the protests.

Migrants flee from the camp of Moria on Lesbos island, Greece.

Migrants flee from the camp of Moria on Lesbos island, Greece. Photograph: Stratis Balaskas/EPA

Some 300 migrants, who subsequently attempted to march on the island’s capital, were rounded up by police, according to local news sites.

Conditions in Moria and an estimated 50 detention centres elsewhere in Greece have been criticised by human rights groups as deplorable and depraved.

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Tulsa shooting: helicopter footage shows victim unarmed and walking away – video

Source: AP

This footage released by police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, shows police officer Betty Shelby shooting Terence Crutcher, 40, dead on 16 September. Police can be heard saying, ‘That looks like a bad dude’. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, the victim’s sister says Crutcher was enrolled at a community college, and that ‘his life mattered’

‘We simply can’t continue to survive with toxic drinking water,’ says Erin Brockovich, as a new report finds 200 million people exposed to chromium-6

More than two-thirds of Americans’ drinking water supply has more chromium than the level that California scientists say is safe, according to a new report

More than two-thirds of Americans’ drinking water supply has more chromium than the level that California scientists say is safe, according to a new report Photograph: Jessica Lewis/Getty Images

In the 2000 biographical film about a legal clerk who brings a major utility company to its knees for poisoning residents of Hinkley, California, Erin Brockovich ended on a Hollywood high note with a $333m settlement from PG&E. But chromium-6 contamination of America’s drinking water is an ongoing battle the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is losing.

Nearly 200 million Americans across all 50 states are exposed to unsafe levels of chromium-6 or hexavalent chromium, a heavy metal known to cause cancer in animals and humans, according to a new report released Tuesday by the nonprofit research and advocacy organization Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Today, Brockovich says Hinkley wasn’t an isolated event.

“The water system in this country is overwhelmed and we aren’t putting enough resources towards this essential resource,” Brockovich wrote in an email to the Guardian. “We simply can’t continue to survive with toxic drinking water.”

We simply can’t continue to survive with toxic drinking water.

Erin Brockovich

In their analysis of the EPA’s own data collected for the first nationwide test of chromium-6 contamination in US drinking water, the report’s co-authors Dr David Andrews and Bill Walker, senior scientist and managing editor of EWG, found that 12,000 Americans are at risk of getting cancer.

Drinking water in Phoenix, Arizona, has the highest concentration of chromium-6 contamination. Of the 80 water samples taken across the city – water that serves 1.5 million people – 79 showed average concentrations of 7.853 ppb. California scientists have recommended a public health goal of 0.02 ppb, but industry pressure led to the adoption in 2014 of a legal safe limit of 10 ppb.

“More than two-thirds of Americans’ drinking water supply has more chromium than the level that California scientists say is safe – a number that’s been confirmed by scientists in both New Jersey and North Carolina,” according to Walker.

“Despite this widespread contamination, the US currently has no national drinking water standard for chromium-6.”

Dr Andrews said: “Part of the reason behind writing this report is really highlighting how our regulatory system is broken – in its ability to incorporate new science, and its ability to publish and update drinking water standards.”

Hexavalent chromium is used in a variety of processes: leather tanning, chrome-plating and small cottage industries that use dyes and pigments. But few unleash as much of it into the environment as the electric power industry.

“In 2009, the electric power industry reported 10.6m pounds of chromium and chromium compounds were released to the environment,” according to a 2011 Earthjustice report. “These 10.6m pounds represent 24% of the total chromium and chromium compounds released by all industries in 2009.”

In 2008, the National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, released a report detailing how cancerous tumors developed in mice and rats that drank heavy doses of chromium-6.

According to EWG, based in part on this study, scientists at the California Office of Health Hazard Assessment concluded in 2010 that ingestion of tiny amounts of chromium-6 can cause cancer in people.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, an advisory, non-regulatory agency formed to oversee hyper-toxic Superfund sites, reports long term oral exposure to unsafe levels of chromium-6 compounds are associated with gastrointestinal system cancers.

“The California scientists set a so-called public health goal of 0.02 parts per billion in tap water, the level that would pose negligible risk over a lifetime of consumption,” according to the EWG report.

“But in 2014, after aggressive lobbying by industry and water utilities, the state regulators adopted a legal limit 500 times the public health goal.”

EWG says the California Department of Public Health relied on a flawed analysis that “exaggerated the cost of treatment and undervalued the benefits of stricter regulation”.

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US politics

Election 2016

Latest Election Minute

‘Stand up to hate’: Clinton makes urgent appeal to end Trump-fueled divide

Clinton: Trump’s rhetoric has aided terrorist recruitment – video

Clinton: US must be ‘vigilant but not afraid’ after series of terrorist incidents

George H W Bush ‘voting for Hillary’, claims member of Kennedy family

Donald Trump Jr compares refugees to poisoned Skittles

 Trump laments that New York bombing suspect will get ‘amazing’ treatment

As Trump slips into red with Latinos, Democrats hope to turn Arizona blue

Chris Christie got Bridgegate updates as it happened, prosecutor says

The campaign minute Trump’s terror boast: ‘I called it’

Trump’s terror boast: ‘I called it’

Trump’s cops Officers backing Republican have murky legal histories

Birther row Trump allies scramble to defend false claim as candidate shifts views

Opinion

Anti-Muslim sentiment, stoked by toxic political rhetoric, is already high. In the coming days, innocent Americans will be targeted simply because of their faith

Local residents watch as officers investigate the apartment of Ahmad Khan Rahami in Elizbeth, New jersey, on September 19, 2016.

Locals watch as officers investigate the apartment of Ahmad Khan Rahami in Elizabeth, New jersey, on September 19, 2016. Photograph: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

Terrorism has strained traditional American notions of individual responsibility. While such attacks fortunately remain rare in our country (data shows that out of 14,000 murders in the United States, a few dozen per year are motivated by religious or political ideologies of any persuasion), violence by a Muslim is often attributed to the entire American Muslim community. Sometimes, it is accompanied by calls for sending them home or clamping down on them in various ways. Even before police identified Ahmad Khan Rahami as the person suspected of setting off the bomb that exploded in New York on Saturday night, social media was awash with anti-Muslim slurs and threats. A twitter campaign launched to support Muslims was hijacked to spread fear and hatred instead.

Already reeling from the divisive and bitter rhetoric that has marked the current presidential campaign, Muslim Americans are bracing for the backlash. My own Facebook page is flooded with warnings not to leave home and tips for staying safe if one does venture out, especially directed to those of us who look “Muslim” – like the two young Brooklyn mothers in headscarves who were attacked earlier this month while out walking their infants in strollers. Their fears are hardly misplaced. According to a recent analysis by California State University, a compilation of official hate crime data from 20 states shows that in 2015 anti-Islam incidents increased by 78.2% and anti-Arab incidents jumped by 219%, “the most precipitous rise since 2001”. Another study shows that mosques have been attacked at rates not seen since the 2010 controversy over building an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero.

Increased monitoring and visits by law enforcement officers is another consequence often faced by Muslim communities in the wake of a terror attack. While investigative needs no doubt require police to question those who knew any person suspected of a violent crime, too often these nets are cast so wide that neighborhoods and communities – rather than individuals – become targets. This too creates fear among Muslim Americans and a sense that they are collectively regarded as suspects rather than citizens. While calls for profiling might create a splash in the news, study after study has shown that it is an ineffective tool for keeping us safe.

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