Watching the Shadows
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Global COVID-19 police state consolidates

It’s an irony that with police-state measures mounting worldwide to enforce lockdowns and contain COVID-19, Trump is now claiming sweeping executive power to lift lockdowns in the US in spite of the pandemic. Asserting his prerogative to override state governors and order economies open again, Trump stated: “When someone is president of the United States, the authority is total.” The media response has been to call this out as blatantly unconstitutional. While it is necessary to point out the illegitimacy of Trump’s pretended power-grab, it is also side-stepping the real threat here: of the pandemic being exploited to declare an actual “state of exception” in which constitutional restraints are suspended altogether—perhaps permanently. (Photo of protest outside “morgue truck” in New York City: Donna Aceto/Rise and Resist)

Oceania
cyclone-harold

Pacific megastorm complicates COVID-19 response

A powerful storm that ripped across four Pacific Island nations raises an uncomfortable question for humanitarians on lockdown: how do you respond to a disaster during a pandemic? Cyclone Harold was the first Category-5 storm to make landfall in the Pacific since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic in March. Vanuatu, Tonga and the Solomon Islands saw extensive damage, while some 6,000 people were evacuated in Fiji. COVID-19 has forced the global aid sector to rethink how it responds to disasters when faced with flight cancellations and closed borders. (Photo: NASA via The New Humanitarian)

Planet Watch
Cumbre de los Pueblos

Madrid climate talks a total bust

Nearly half a million demonstrators gathered in Madrid as the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) opened more than two weeks ago, with young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg the star of the show at a mass rally. But despite being the longest climate summit yet, the affair ultimately amounted to little. Nearly 27,000 delegates came together with the supposed aim of finalizing the “rulebook” of the Paris Agreement, which is to officially take effect in 2020—settling mechanisms for international cooperation under Article 6 of the deal. But, unable to agree on terms, delegates finally invoked “Rule 16” of the climate process—allowing them to put off the critical decisions for another year. This means there will have been no progress when COP26 is convened in Glasgow in November 2020. UN Secretary General AntĂłnio Guterres tweeted that he was “disappointed” with the results of COP25, and that “the international community lost an important opportunity.” (Photo: Global Justice Ecology Project)

Oceania

Climate change ‘single greatest threat’ to Pacific

The 18 member states of the Pacific Islands Forum held their 49th summit in Nauru, issuing a statement asserting that "climate change presents the single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and wellbeing of Pacific people." Leaders at the Forum urged all the world's countries to comply fully with their commitments to mitigate emissions. Among the projects discussed at the summit was redrafting the 2000 "Biketawa Declaration" on regional security in the Pacific as a "Biketawa Plus," with a greater emphasis on environmental security and climate-related disasters. Under the slogan "We are not drowning, we are fighting," community leaders across the Pacific Islands have been pushing for world action on climate change and adherence to the 2015 Paris Accords. (Photo: 350.org)

Planet Watch

Indigenous voice won in UN climate process

Indigenous groups claimed a victory at the UN climate talks in Bonn as governments acknowledged for the first time that they can play a leadership role in protecting forests and keeping global temperatures within safe levels. But some critics point out that the adopted text stops short of actually acknowledging indigenous rights over land and territory.

Oceania

Fiji: not a ‘natural’ disaster

There are few climate-change skeptics in Fiji, which has been left devastated by Cyclone Winston, the strongest tropical cyclone ever measured in the Southern Hemisphere.