Sunday, December 30, 2018

MUA – Nanjing 80th Anniversary Service

Posted by Mua communications on December 19, 2018

The newly built Dalfram Monument in Port Kembla was the backdrop for the ceremony to mark the 80th anniversary of one of the worst human atrocities of modern times, the massacre at Nanjing on the 13th December 1938.

Joining the Chinese Community to mark this anniversary were representatives from the MUA Southern NSW Branch including acting branch secretary Mick Cross, South Coast Labour Council, Lord Mayor & Councillors and NSW Ports.

It was a small and sombre ceremony and the Dalfram Monument was the perfect setting, given the Nanjing massacre was the catalyst for the brave stand taken by Port Kembla WWF members who defied the government and refused to load scrap iron bound for imperialist Japan to be used to make weapons.

Members of the Chinese community, both locally and from Sydney were extremely impressed with the monument and made it clear to the branch that the location will be used to mark the Nanjing Massacre Anniversary in years to come. This is wonderful recognition for those brave men who took a moral stand in the interest of peace over the atrocities or war and refused to load the MV Dalfram all those years ago.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

US Senate cleared legislation to make lynching a federal crime.

The bill, introduced by Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.), makes lynching punishable as a hate crime. 

"This is a historic piece of legislation that would criminalize lynching, attempts to lynch and conspiracy to lynch for the first time in America's history. Lynching is part of the dark and despicable aspect of our country's history that followed slavery and many other outrages in our country," Harris said from the floor on Wednesday. 

In addition to Harris, Booker and Scott, 35 other senators formally co-sponsored the bill, which was introduced in July and cleared the Judiciary Committee unanimously in October. It passed the full Senate by voice vote.

Congress has tried but failed to pass anti-lynching legislation roughly 200 times since 1918, according to Harris's office. In 2005, the Senate passed a resolution apologizing to lynching victims. 

But, addressing the 2005 vote, the Senate legislation says that while an apology "moves the United States toward reconciliation and may become central to a new understanding, on which improved racial relations can be forged," legislation criminalizing lynching is still "wholly necessary and appropriate."

Booker added on Wednesday that the Senate's passage of the bill is "a very long time coming."

"For over a century members of Congress have attempted to pass some version of a bill that would recognize lynching for what it is, a bias, motivated act of terror. ... We do know the passage of this bill, even though it cannot reverse irrevocable harm that lynching was used as a terror of suppression, the passage of this bill is a recognition of that dark past," Booker said. 

ALP platform sets path to fairness at work

18 December 2018

The peak body for working people has endorsed the ALP platform for workplace relations, which sets the country on the road to fair pay rises and more secure jobs.

Bill Shorten has listened to working people. He has heard the calls for more secure work. He has heard that our pay rises aren’t keeping up with the cost of living. And we are confident that a Government he leads can build solutions that work.

Over the past days this conference has seen announcements from the ALP that will enable the recovery of billions in stolen super under an ALP Government, as well as moving superannuation into the workplace jurisdiction.

The ALP has committed to change the Fair Work Act to deliver equal pay for women, ensuring that feminised industries are no longer underpaid, addressing one of the most pervasive forms of inequality in the country.

They have committed to implementing nationally consistent model industrial manslaughter reforms, so that employers who negligently cause the deaths of working people face criminal consequences, including jail time.

This conference has committed to abolish and replace the disgraceful and racist CDP in remote indigenous communities, to restore safe rates for truck drivers, and to support Australian shipping.

The conference has also re-written the rules on trade to put working people ahead of multi-national greed.

The Australian union movement will continue to advocate for a system that sees working people able to win fair pay and more secure jobs.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:
“Working people in Australia need fair pay and more secure jobs.
“At the coming election they will have a choice. Scott Morrison is refusing to acknowledge insecure work is a problem. Labor has a plan for more secure work.
“Scott Morrison’s answer to low pay is to give even more money to big business and multi-nationals. Labor will change the rules so working people can win fair pay rises that keep us ahead of the cost of living.
“This conference has guaranteed a right to super in the National Employment Standards under an ALP Government. An ALP Government will also deliver historic progress on equal pay, and a model national industrial manslaughter scheme.

“We will continue to consult with the ALP and all political parties to develop a system that puts working people on an equal footing with employers to win the fair pay and secure jobs working people need.”  

Fresh Hungary 'slave law' protests in Budapest

Fresh Hungary 'slave law' protests in Budapest
21 December 2018

Thousands of people have joined fresh protests in Hungary against a new so-called "slave law" that nearly doubles how much overtime employees can work.

The protesters marched to the office of President Janos Ader, angry that he signed the legislation.
Prime Minister Victor Orban says it gets rid of "silly rules" so that those who want to earn more can work more.

The new law boosts the overtime employers can demand from 250 to 400 hours a year.
Meanwhile payment for this overtime can be delayed by up to three years.

Trade unions are opposing the reform and have threatened to organise a general strike, AFP reported.
Earlier the leader of the left-wing opposition MSZP party Bertalan Toth called for the protests to continue.

"We will target those that the Fidesz regime caters to with their laws," he said.
Local councils in the city of Szeged and the northern town of Salgotarjan have passed resolutions vowing not to implement the new law.

Some of the protesters are also angry at another law authorising new courts that they say could be politically manipulated.

Mr Orban's Fidesz party has said protests are the work of foreign mercenaries paid by Hungarian-born US billionaire George Soros.

Mr Soros denies this and says the Hungarian authorities are using him as a scapegoat.

Budapest has seen repeated protests over the "slave law"
Friday's march was led by the spoof Two-Tailed Dog Party (MKKP) party, which was launched more than a decade ago as a joke but has since grown in importance and uses humour to deal with political issues.

"I have come to rejoice over the government's policies," 28-year-old Gergo Gocza told Reuters, holding a sign saying "A Sign".

Another protester held a placard saying: "Happy boss, gloomy Sunday".

Until now Mr Orban's policies have typically enjoyed widespread support, despite repeated condemnation from other EU nations.

In elections earlier this year, Fidesz won a two-thirds majority in parliament, making it relatively easy to enact his policies.

The government says the laws address a serious labour shortage. The country's unemployment rate, at 4.2% in 2017, is one of the lowest in the EU.

Hungary's population has been in decline for years as deaths outpace births, according to the European statistics agency.

Hungary is also experiencing a "brain drain" as well-educated people take advantage of free movement within Europe. The problem is serious enough to have prompted a 2015 programme to encourage young people to return home, offering housing and employment support.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

UK – Shrewsbury Pickets – Latest News

February 2018 – Campaign launches Judicial Review on behalf of the Shrewsbury pickets
The Shrewsbury 24 Campaign made an application to the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC) on behalf of the pickets on 3 April 2012. After sending several additional lengthy submissions to the CCRC over the past 5 years we have now received their Final Statement of Reasons.  We were extremely disappointed to be informed by the CCRC that they had decided not to refer the pickets’ cases to the Court of Appeal.

Our legal team, led by Danny Friedman QC, have considered the CCRC’s reasons and advised us that we have grounds to challenge the CCRC’s decision through a judicial review in the Administrative Court. The pickets and the Campaign have discussed this advice and have decided to proceed with an application for judicial review.

Our legal team, led by Danny Friedman QC, have considered the CCRC’s reasons and advised us that we have grounds to challenge the CCRC’s decision through a judicial review in the Administrative Court. The pickets and the Campaign have discussed this advice and have decided to proceed with an application for judicial review.

We are challenging the CCRC’s decision on three grounds:
Failure to consider relevant facts/irrelevant factual considerations; and
Error of Law.

The pickets are not eligible for legal aid. We would urge all our affiliated national unions, trade union branches, trades councils, CLPs and individuals to consider contributing to the legal costs. Should we succeed we would expect the court to order the CCRC to pay all the legal costs, which in turn would be reimbursed to those that have donated.  Speakers from the Campaign are available to address meetings about the case.

We have campaigned for almost eleven years to achieve justice for the pickets. During that time we have unearthed large amounts of previously hidden material about the trials and the blatant interference by the state. All of this fresh evidence has been submitted to the CCRC since 2012 yet they still refuse to refer the cases to the Court of Appeal.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Morrison abandons regions, energy users with Silesia snub

6 December 2018
Morrison abandons regions, energy users with Silesia snub

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has turned his back on energy users and regional communities affected by energy transition with his decision to leave Australia out of the Silesia Agreement on just transition, which has so far been adopted by 45 countries at the COP24 UN Climate Change Conference.

Signatories to the agreement include the EU, UK, most European nations and many other developed and developing nations from around the world, with both progressive and conservative leaders.

The decision of the federal government to continue to resist measures to ensure the future of communities which will be effected by energy transition means it is out of step with international best practice and Queensland, which has recently established a state-based transition authority to manage a just transition for workers in the coal fire power sector.

We need coordinated action to ensure a just transition for workers in the energy sector and the Morrison Government is standing in the way of that to appease its radical right wing.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Assistant Secretary Scott Connolly:  

  • “Workers who are facing an uncertain future as we transition to a renewable energy economy deserve job certainty and security that can only be guaranteed through a just transition.
  • “The Morrison Government is once again putting ideology ahead of the needs of working people. It is pandering to the far right and ignoring regional communities which face serious challenges if no action is taken to ensure that there are jobs in renewable energy and other industries for current energy sector workers.
  • “We know from international examples like the German coal industry that this can work. But the Morrison Government is unwilling to lift a finger to help workers in the energy sector.
  • “We need to change the rules for workers facing an uncertain future in the energy sector. We can ensure that there will be jobs in the future for these workers but the Morrison Government is to captive to the radicals in its ranks to help Australian workers.”

Queensland Land Clearance Frenzy

If a tree falls in the Queensland outback during an election, does any voter care? If you happen to be a besieged koala, you’d definitely hope so.

Queensland farmers suspected to have defied tree clearing controls in 'deforestation frenzy'

With the Queensland election upon us, it has become clear that the rights and wrongs of clearing Queensland’s forests and woodlands have been a polarising issue with all major players releasing dramatically different policies.

The scene was set for this debate when, only weeks before the election, shocking new independent data was released that showed that 400,000 hectares of bush were cleared in Queensland during the year 2015–16.

This is the equivalent to a Gabba cricket pitch-sized area of forest cleared every three minutes every day, all year. Experts from WWF Australia have estimated that 45 million animals were killed as a result of the clearing in 2015through 2016 alone.

Last week it was also revealed that an astounding 945,755 hectares of bush have been targeted, between 20 July 2016 to 30 September 2017, for clearing following a detailed analysis of notifications from landholders received by the Queensland government.

This onslaught was triggered by changes made to the previously stringent vegetation management laws by the Newman government in 2013. These changes were made at the urging of Agforce, the peak agricultural and beef industry lobby group.

The Palaszczuk government attempted to rein in the worst of the clearing last year but its attempts at reform were torpedoed by the combined opposition of the LNP and the crossbenches.

Given this form, it is not surprising that again Labor has put a big ticket policy on the table for the consideration of voters.

Released only a day after the remarkable Adani policy backflip, the Labor policy is built on two foundations. The first is to stop the actual clearing of high conservation value forests and woodlands and the second is to invest $500m in a fund that will encourage farmers and other landholders to both protect and also replant forests to gain financial benefits through carbon farming.

The latter initiative is in fact consistent with, and complementary to, the Turnbull government’s $2bn emission reductions fund, which has seen farmers funded to keep their trees to help reduce Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The LNP in Queensland however has no interest in this sort of policy, despite it being championed by their federal colleagues. The LNP is silent on issue of carbon farming and maintains support for the existing laws, which have delivered the highest rates of land clearing in a generation.

This approach must be causing significant friction within the LNP. Brisbane-based members philosophically aligned to the old Liberal party know that this policy position is poison in their western suburbs Brisbane heartland. Before the LNP merger, the Liberals voted with Peter Beattie’s Labor government to dramatically reduce the rates of land clearing in the 2000s.

Unfortunately the sniff of ministerial leather has forced the ex-Liberals to do the bidding of the ex-Nationals who are spooked and under siege in rural Queensland.

The party doing the spooking is of course One Nation and it is perhaps unsurprising that the Hanson party wants all land clearing laws abolished.

The ghost of Joh Bjelke-Petersen lives on in Hanson’s DNA and her policies speak to the distant past, not the future. Sadly the LNP seems intent in following her down that time tunnel.

While Hanson’s position is predictable, polling commissioned by the Wilderness Society in late 2016 demonstrated that One Nation voters – just like voters from across all party lines – supported strong laws to end land clearing once they understood the size and scale of the clearing taking place across Queensland.

Friday, December 07, 2018

ACOSS – Australian First: Cross Party Support for Raising Newstart

Both of the major parties in South Australia have agreed that Newstart is “far too low” and have called on the Federal Government to make an urgent increase, in the interim report of a Parliamentary Inquiry into poverty, released today. 

The first recommendation of the report, endorsed by Liberal, Labor, Greens and SA Best MPs, states:

The Committee agrees with the overwhelming majority of submissions to the inquiry that the Newstart Allowance is far too low and falls well short of the state-based poverty line. 
The Committee calls on the Federal Government to make a meaningful increase to the rate of the Newstart Allowance (and other base allowances) as a matter of urgency.

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said: 

  • “This cross-party support for an increase in Newstart is a national first and we call on the Federal Parliament to urgently follow suit. 
  • “This impressive achievement for South Australia is testament to the hard work of SACOSS, Anti-Poverty Network SA, National Council of Single Mothers and their Children and everyone on allowances who has been sharing their story of how hard it is to get by. 
  • “Nationally, almost 70% of the community, the majority of federal cross bench MPs, the Business Council of Australia and John Howard agree on the need to increase Newstart, the payment for people looking for paid work. 
  • “Federally, the major parties are out of touch on this issue. The Coalition Government has tried to cut the already inadequate rate of Newstart. And the Federal Labor Opposition has promised a review should it win government but we don’t need a review to know that Newstart is trapping people in poverty and must be urgently increased. 
  • “South Australia has the highest rate of poverty in Australia and is the location of the Australian Labor Party’s upcoming National Conference.
  • “We’re calling on the both of the major parties to commit to raising the rate of Newstart and Youth Allowance, which is the single most effective thing they can do to tackle the persistent poverty we have in Australia, despite having the highest median wealth in the world,” Dr Goldie said. 

O’Dwyer Sacks Independent Umpire With Bosses

The peak body for working people in Australia condemns the actions of the Minister for Jobs and Industrial Relations Kelly O’Dwyer, who has stacked the independent Fair Work Commission with six new big-business lobbyists in the last days of her failing government.

These appointments are reportedly against the express wishes of the Fair Work Commissioner and go directly against the intended function of the commission as an independent body.

This takes the “balance” of appointments to the commission to 30 business representatives, with only 14 representatives of working people.

Kelly O’Dwyer and her government are grossly out of touch with working people and will stop at nothing to appease their friends in big business.

Quotes attributable to ACTU Secretary Sally McManus:  
  • “This is a disgraceful abuse of power. Kelly O’Dwyer is using the dying days of her ministry to stack the supposedly independent umpire with big business lobbyists.
  • “She is stacking the body that is supposed to protect the pay and rights of working people with representatives from the big business lobby against the wishes of the president of that body.
  • “These six appointments will result in a Fair Work Commission that is almost two-thirds comprised of people who’ve spent their lives attacking working ­people’s rights as big business lawyers and lobbyists.”

Robert Fisk – Khashoggi and CIA Past Crimes

Spare me America's tears for Jamal Khashoggi – this excuse for Trump-bashing ignores the CIA's past crimes

A generation ago, the CIA’s 'Operation Phoenix' torture and assassination programme in Vietnam went way beyond the imaginations of the Saudi intelligence service. And have we forgotten about the thousands of Muslims still perishing under our bombs and missiles and mortars?

Can I be the only one – apart from his own sycophants – to find the sight of America’s finest Republicans and Democrats condemning the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia for murdering Jamal Khashoggi a bit sickening? “Crazy”. “Dangerous”. A “wrecking ball”. A “smoking saw”. These guys are angry. CIA director Gina Haspel, who was happy to sign off on the torture of her Muslim captives in a secret American prison in Thailand, obviously knew what she was talking about when she testified about Mohammed bin Salman and the agony of Jamal Khashoggi.

US government leaks suggest that Haspel knew all about the shrieks of pain, the suffering of Arab men who believed they were drowning, the desperate pleading for life from America’s victims in these sanctuaries of torment in and after 2002. After all, the desperate screams of a man who believes he is drowning and the desperate screams of a man who believes he is suffocating can’t be very different. Except, of course, that the CIA’s victims lived to be tortured another day – indeed several more days – while Jamal Khashoggi’s asphyxiation was intended to end his life. Which it did.

A generation ago, the CIA’s “Operation Phoenix” torture and assassination programme in Vietnam went way beyond the imaginations of the Saudi intelligence service. In spook language, Khashoggi was merely “terminated with maximum prejudice”. If the CIA could sign off on mass murder in Vietnam, why shouldn’t an Arab dictator do the same on a far smaller scale? True, I can’t imagine the Americans went in for bone saws. Testimony suggests that mass rape followed by mass torture did for their enemies in Vietnam. Why play music through the earphones of the murderers?

But still it goes on. Here’s Democrat senator Bob Menendez this week. The US, he told us, must “send a clear and unequivocal message that such actions are not acceptable on the world’s stage”. The “action”, of course, is the murder of Khashoggi. And this from a man who constantly defended Israel after its slaughter of the innocents in Gaza.

So what on earth is going on here? Perhaps the “world’s stage” of which Menendez spoke was the White House – an appropriate phrase, when you come to think about it – where the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia has been no stranger. Yet when at least one recent US presidential incumbent of that high office can be considered guilty of war crimes – in Iraq – and the deaths of tens of thousands of Arabs, how come American senators are huffing and puffing about just one man, Mohammed bin Salman, who (for a moment, let us set aside the Yemen war) is only being accused of ordering the murder and dismemberment of one single Arab?

After all, world leaders – and US presidents themselves – have always had rather a soft spot for mass murderers and those who should face war crimes indictments. Trump has infamously met Kim Jong-un and invited him to the White House. We are all waiting for Rodrigo Duterte to take up his own invitation.

Obama lavished hospitality at the White House on a host of bloody autocrats – from Gambia, Burkina Faso and Cameroon – before we even recall Suharto, whose death squads killed up to half a million people; and Hosni Mubarak, whose secret police sometimes raped their prisoners and who sanctioned the hanging of hundreds of Islamists without proper trials, and his ultimate successor, Field Marshal-President al-Sisi, who has around 60,000 political prisoners locked up in Egypt and whose cops appear to have tortured a young Italian student to death. But Giulio Regeni wasn’t murdered in an Egyptian consulate. This list does not even include Ariel Sharon, who as Israeli defence minister was accused by an Israeli inquiry of personal responsibility for the massacre of 1,700 Palestinian civilians at the Sabra and Chatila camps in Beirut in 1982.

So what is this “clear and unequivocal message” that senator Menendez is rambling on about? The message has been clear and unequivocal for decades. The US “national interest” always trumps (in both senses) morality or international crime. Why else did the United States support Saddam Hussein in his attempt to destroy Iran and his use of chemical warfare against Iran? Why else did Donald Rumsfeld plead with Saddam in December 1993 to allow the reopening of the US embassy in Baghdad when the Iraqi dictator (a “strongman” at the time, of course) had already used mustard gas against his opponents? By the time Rumsfeld arrived for his meeting, more than 3,000 victims had fallen amid Iraqi gas clouds. The figure would reach at least 50,000 dead. Which is, in mathematical terms, Jamal Khashoggi times 50,000.

Yet we are supposed to recoil with shock and horror when Haspel – who might herself have a few admissions to make to senators on other matters – suggests that America’s latest favourite Middle Eastern tyrant knew about the forthcoming murder of Jamal Khashoggi. Does Menendez think that Saddam hadn’t signed the death sentences of thousands of Iraqi men and women – which, as we know from his later “trial”, he did – before meeting Rumsfeld? Or that Duterte, who has compared himself to Hitler, doesn’t sign off on the killing of his murdered drug “suspects”? Or that Suharto had absolutely nothing to do with half a million murders in Indonesia?

It’s instructive, indeed, that the thousands of innocents killed in the Yemen war, an offensive undertaken by Mohammed bin Salman himself with logistical support from the US and UK – and it doesn’t need Haspel to tell us this – hasn’t exactly left US senators shocked. Just another bunch of Arabs killing each other, I suppose. Starvation didn’t get mentioned by the senators emerging from Haspel’s closed hearing. Yet the senators know all about the mosque bombings, wedding party bombings, hospital bombings and school bombings in Yemen. Why no tears for these innocents? Or is that a bit difficult when the US military – on every occasion by accident, of course – has bombed mosques, wedding parties, hospitals and schools in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria?

No, the shock and horror and the need for full disclosure about the Saudis is primarily about Trump, and the need to tie him in to the cruel murder of a Washington Post journalist and US resident whose gruesome demise has been blamed by the American president upon a “vicious world”.

But there is something more than this, the appalling fact – albeit only a folk memory, perhaps, for many with scarcely any institutional memory at all – that 15 of those 9/11 hijackers were Saudis, that Osama bin Laden was a Saudi, that George W Bush secretly flew bin Laden family members out of the US after 9/11, that the Saudis themselves are heir to a blighted, rural, cruel version of Sunni Islam – based on the pernicious teachings of the 18th century Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab​ – which has inspired the Taliban, al-Qaeda, Isis and all the other killer cults whom we have proclaimed to be the West’s Enemy No 1.

Nailing Mohammed Bin Salman to a crucifix – a method of execution favoured by the Wahhabis – is an easy kill for US senators, of course. You hit the president and smash those unhappy historical details all in one fell swoop.

But don’t bank on it. Oil and arms are a potent mix. Old Abd al-Wahhab’s home is protected in a new tourist haunt in the suburbs of Riyadh. Come to think of it, the national mosque of Qatar – hostile to rapacious Saudi Arabia but another recipient of US weapons and a supporter of Islamist forces in Syria and Iraq – has a capacity for 30,000 souls, was built only seven years ago and is named after Abd al-Wahhab himself.

This is the dangerous world in which America and its allies now tread, disdainful of the thousands of Muslims who perish under our bombs and missiles and mortars – proxy-delivered by those we should distrust – ignorant of the religious currents which rumble on beneath our feet and beneath the House of Saud. Even the virtually useless information Haspel learned in the CIA’s “black centres” could have told senators this. If they had bothered to ask.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Clean Coal's Dirty Secret

Champions of coal say the superabundant fossil fuel can be made environmentally friendlier by refining it with chemicals – a “clean coal” technology backed by a billion dollars in U.S. government tax subsidies annually. 

But refined coal has a dirty secret. It regularly fails to deliver on its environmental promises, as electric giant Duke Energy Corp found.

Duke began using refined coal at two of its North Carolina power plants in August 2012. The decision let the company tap a lucrative federal subsidy designed to help the American coal industry reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides – also known as NOx, the main contributor to smog and acid rain – along with other pollutants.

In nearly three years of burning the treated coal, the Duke power plants collected several million dollars in federal subsidies. But the plants also pumped out more NOx, not less, according to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency analysed by Reuters. 

The NOx emission rate at Duke’s Marshall Steam Station power plant in Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, for example, was between 33 percent and 76 percent higher in the three years from 2012 to 2014 than in 2011, the year before Marshall started burning refined coal, the EPA data shows.

The utility also discovered that one of the chemicals used to refine the coal, calcium bromide, had reached a nearby river and lakes – raising levels of carcinogens in the water supply for more than a million people in greater Charlotte.Duke stopped using refined coal at the plants in May 2015 because of the water pollution problems, said spokeswoman Erin Culbert. Bromide levels in the region’s drinking water dropped sharply several months later, said Barry Gullett, the city’s water director, in a 2015 memo. 

Duke’s experience reflects a fundamental problem with the U.S. clean coal incentive programme, a Reuters examination has found. Refined coal shows few signs of reducing NOx emissions as lawmakers intended, according to regulatory documents, a Reuters analysis of EPA emissions data, and interviews with power plant owners, scientists and state environmental regulators.

Consumption figures compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that American power plants are on track to burn about 160 million tons of clean coal in 2018 – a fifth of the U.S. coal market. That amount would generate about $1.1 billion in incentives at the current tax credit amount of $7.03 per ton. 

But most of the plants receiving the subsidy failed to reduce NOx emissions by 20 percent – the threshold required under the policy – in 2017 compared to 2009, the last year before they started burning refined coal, according to a Reuters analysis of EPA data on power plant emissions.

Reuters identified 56 plants that burned refined coal in 2017 using data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and disclosures from energy companies and refined-coal developers. 

Only 18 of that group reduced NOx emissions by more than 20 percent in 2017 compared to 2009. And 15 of those 18 only reported the improvements after installing or upgrading pollution control equipment or switching a portion of power production to cleaner-burning fuel, complicating the question of whether their pollution reductions are attributable to refined coal. 

At 22 of the 56 plants, NOx emissions were higher in 2017 while burning refined coal than they were when using raw coal in 2009.

David Attenborough "Our Greatest Threat in Thousands of Years"

British broadcaster and environmentalist David Attenborough urged world leaders at the COP24 summit in Poland to get on and tackle "our greatest threat in thousands of years".

Known for countless nature films, Mr Attenborough has gained prominence recently with his 'Blue Planet II' series, which highlighted the devastating effect of pollution on the oceans.

"Leaders of the world, you must lead," said the naturalist, given a 'People's seat' at the two-week UN climate conference in the Polish coal city of Katowice alongside two dozen heads of state and government.

"The continuation of our civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend, is in your hands," he said.

Political leaders are in the Polish coal city of Katowice for the two weeks of talks to revive the landmark Paris 2015 deal on climate change - amid dire warnings about a lack of action.

The world is currently on course to overshoot by far the limits for global warming agreed in the Paris accord, which were intended to prevent more extreme weather, rising sea levels and the loss of plant and animal species.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said at the summit that the world is "way off course" in its plan to prevent catastrophic climate change.

After a string of damning environmental reports showing mankind must drastically slash its greenhouse gas emissions to avert runaway global warming, Mr Guterres told delegates: "We are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough".

Minister Richard Bruton represented Ireland at the opening ceremony. Speaking from the conference, Mr Bruton said he "completely" agrees with the UN Secretary General's comments.

"The decisions we take now will define the next century. I recently received Government approval to develop an all of Government plan to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change," said Mr Bruton.

"Mr Guterres' comments underline what we are seeking to do and highlight the urgency of this work."

Representatives of some of the most powerful countries and biggest polluters are conspicuous by their absence, as the United States has said it is leaving the UN process and China was not expected to send any top politicians.

To maximise the chances of success, technical talks began yesterday, a day earlier than planned, with delegates from nearly 200 nations haggling over how to implement the broad promises of the Paris deal on moving away from fossil fuels.

The talks in Katowice have been billed as the most important UN conference since the landmark Paris accord, as they precede an end-of-year deadline to agree a "rule book" on how to enforce action to limit global warming to between 1.5 and 2 degrees Celsius.

Expectations for the Polish talks are low: the atmosphere of political unity built in Paris has been shattered by a wave of populist governments that place national agendas before collective action.

The host nation Poland remains committed to coal, the most polluting of fossil fuels, calling for a "just transition" to allow communities dependent on fossil fuel help in changing their lifestyle.

The riots in Paris at the weekend, partly in protest at higher fuel taxes, also illustrate the conundrum: How do political leaders introduce policies that will do long-term good for the environment without inflicting extra costs on voters that may damage their chances of re-election?

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Actors Demand End to Detention

Actors Sam Neill, Rebecca Gibney, Simon Baker, Asher Keddie and Bryan Brown are among hundreds of Australia's most well known film and TV stars to sign the open letter, calling for the major parties to "put politics aside" and end Australia's offshore detention policy.

The letter, which will be presented to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Bill Shorten on Monday, also calls on those in Canberra to support a bill set to be introduced by Independent MP Kerryn Phelps to make it easier for asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru to be flown to Australia for medical and psychiatric treatment.

The TV and film personalities have gotten behind the #BlueForManusandNauru campaign, and are calling for attendees of the AACTA Award in Sydney on Wednesday night to wear blue ribbons.

"Together we send this message to parliament, to you who represent us: Please put aside parties and politics," the letter said. "After five years of indefinite detention, we must bring these human beings to safety and ensure they receive the medical treatment they need."
Read more

Nauru refugees are suffering 'absolutely devastating' conditions: doctors

Neill and Gibney also appear in a video alongside music icon Jimmy Barnes and actor Warwick Thornton, condemning the federal government's offshore detention policy. "It is hard to think of anything more cruel than indefinite detention, no charges, no prospect of release, no end in sight," Neill said. "This is barbarity." Barnes calls for federal MPs to "listen to your consciences".

MPs Rebekha Sharkie, Kerryn Phelps and Cathy McGowan all want a federal corruption watchdog.

Dr Phelps' bill, which is expected to be introduced on Monday but may not be debated, would require the urgent evacuation of any asylum seeker who is critically ill and unable to be treated offshore, as well as their families, on the recommendation of two or more doctors. It would strip from existing legislation the ability of Australia's immigration minister to veto medical transfer requests from treating doctors.

Kerryn Phelps pushes for third country resettlement for refugees

The changes would also require the urgent medical transfer of all asylum seeker children on Nauru. "It's a medical solution, not a political solution, to a humanitarian crisis," independent MP Kerryn Phelps told reporters in Canberra on Thursday. Dr Phelps has the backing of fellow crossbenchers Andrew Wilkie, Rebekha Sharkie and Adam Bandt. But she will need support from the full cross bench, as well as Labor and one coalition member, to bring on the debate in the lower house.