UK opposition leader denies calling PM May ‘stupid woman’
Wednesday, December 19
LONDON (AP) — Britain’s main opposition leader sparked a political furor and faced calls to apologize Wednesday after he was accused of calling Prime Minister Theresa May a “stupid woman” in the House of Commons.
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn was caught on camera appearing to mutter the insult during the prime minister’s weekly question-and-answer session.
The always-lively session was even more heated than usual, as lawmakers’ frustrations and divisions over Brexit boiled over into raucous shouting and personal jibes.
Corbyn’s spokesman insisted the Labour leader had said “stupid people” in reference to lawmakers on the governing Conservative side of Parliament. But the episode caused an uproar, with Conservative legislators yelling “shame” and “disgraceful.”
Commons Speaker John Bercow said he had not seen the exchange in question, but would look at the evidence and report back to the House later in the day.
The incident came as Britain’s Parliament attempts to end bullying, abuse and sexual harassment. Earlier this year a cross-party working group reported that one in five parliamentary workers had experienced or witnessed sexual harassment in the previous year.
It’s not the first time a male political leader has been accused of using sexist language. In 2011, then-Prime Minister David Cameron was accused of sexism when he adopted a catchphrase from a popular commercial and told a female lawmaker to “calm down, dear.”
Wednesday’s incident also has echoes of Donald Trump branding Hillary Clinton a “nasty woman” during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
An economist’s take on the Poland climate conference: The glass is more than half full
December 18, 2018
Professor of Business and Government, Harvard University
Robert Stavins receives funding from the Enel Foundation. He is a Member of the Board of Directors of Resources for the Future.
The global climate change conference in Katowice, Poland, that wrapped up on Dec. 15 had a challenging mission. Three years ago in Paris, 196 countries and regions agreed to curb global greenhouse gas emissions Now they had to agree on rules and guidelines for how to do it.
Two urgent realities hung over the negotiations. First, U.S. President Donald Trump announced in June 2017 that the United States would withdraw from the Paris Agreement in November 2020 – the soonest that any nation can actually do so. Second, although countries that are responsible for 97 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions have pledged to make cuts, the initial reductions will surely not be enough to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius. So, a key question is how the Paris Agreement can facilitate increased ambition over time.
Delegates in Poland wanted to make progress by filling in details of the skeletal Paris Agreement. Was the meeting a success? A simple yes or no would be misleading. But from my perspective leading a delegation from the Harvard Project on Climate Agreements at the conference, there were were significant gains in two key areas.
Nations agreed on uniform rules for measuring and reporting their own performance in cutting emissions. There also were intensive discussions of how to connect reduction efforts across regions, nations and sub-national areas, which offers many economic and other benefits. Even though the latter issue was not resolved in Katowice, I see the final agreement as a glass that is more than half full.
One set of counting rules
As I wrote in 2015 when it was signed, the Paris Agreement was a major milestone. In it, 195 countries plus the European Union – accounting for 97 percent of global emissions – pledged to develop national targets and action plans for reducing their emissions. They also agreed to revise these contributions every five years, with an eye to ratcheting up their goals over time. In contrast, the predecessor international agreement, the Kyoto Protocol, covered only 14 percent of global emissions.
But the Paris Agreement gave 154 developing countries significant wiggle room by granting them flexibility in determining how they would measure their emissions and track progress toward their national targets. For developing countries, this was important. Some lacked the capacity to accurately monitor their emissions, and others resisted being treated with the same rigor as industrialized countries. In their view this was unfair, since developed nations’ emissions were responsible for most of the warming that had occurred to date.
But now this has changed, thanks partly to close collaboration in Poland between the U.S. and Chinese delegations. These delegates worked closely to foster a remarkable consensus that all countries must follow uniform standards for measuring emissions and tracking the achievement of their national targets.
This was a significant accomplishment, and a major step toward a level playing field among nations. Such uniform treatment is essential for addressing the threat of climate change, because increases in emissions are mainly coming from the large emerging economies: China, India, Brazil, Korea, South Africa, Mexico and Indonesia.
Conceivably, this equal treatment could make it easier for the United States to remain in the Paris Agreement if President Trump should become convinced that such action would be politically advantageous in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. It also will create a path for a future Democratic or Republican administration to rejoin the Paris Agreement if Trump follows through on his promise to withdraw.
Linking policies across borders
A second key question was how the Paris Agreement itself, as it was fleshed out, could enable and indeed facilitate more ambitious emissions cuts over time. One strategy is linking regional, national and sub-national climate change policies, so that emissions reductions in one jurisdiction can count toward another jurisdiction’s commitments.
This strategy often is characterized, somewhat inaccurately, as “carbon markets,” but it is broader than that. It could involve countries exchanging credits for their emissions reductions due to use of carbon taxes, cap-and-trade systems or conventional performance standards, such as requiring power plants to emit no more than a certain amount of carbon dioxide per unit of electricity generation.
The existing linkage between cap-and-trade systems in California and Quebec is one example of such a connection. Under that link, firms in California can exchange emissions allowances with firms in Quebec and vice versa.
This approach can provide many benefits. It saves money because firms can take advantage of lower-cost opportunities to reduce emissions in other locations. And it improves operation of markets for carbon reductions by reducing the market power of dominant firms and the likelihood of price spikes. States, countries and regions can also benefit politically from working together.
Most importantly, linkage satisfies a key criterion of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, that nations have “common but differentiated responsibilities” for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, with wealthy countries having greater responsibility for the accumulated stock of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Linking reduction policies means that nations can have very different ambitions in their national contributions to global efforts without sacrificing overall cost-effectiveness.
These strategies are likely to include very different types of national policies. As I have shown in work with Michael Mehling and Gilbert Metcalf, linking such diverse policies is not simple, but in many cases is feasible.
Delegates in Poland sought to write guidelines for Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, which guides such international cooperation. However, they were not able to reach agreement, due to objections from a single country – Brazil – and hence the issue was punted to the next conference, which will be held next year in Santiago, Chile.
This may not represent a failure, because linkages and exchanges under the Paris agreement can, in principle, proceed in the meantime. But without knowing what some potential future guidance and rules might bring, governments may hesitate to pursue bilateral linkages.
Ultimately, success or failure of the Paris Agreement will depend upon national actions. And for that, it remains too soon to observe or even to predict the long-term outcome.
David Arthur is a Friend of The Conversation: Ultimately, success or failure of the Paris agreement will depend upon national actions.
Indeed. The simplest way of pricing fossil fuel emissions, that any country can apply unilaterally without having to involve any negotiations whatsoever, and that’s to impose, within its own economy, a consumption tax on fossil carbon (Fossil Carbon Consumption Tax, FCCT).
The beauty of it is, it requires no international co-operation at all other than basic adherence to the rules of the International Trade Organisation.
The way it works is that all consumption of carbon contained in fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas) is taxed, with the revenue raised returned to the economy via Company and Personal Income tax cuts, and where appropriate, increases to welfare benefits. (An alternative model might be James Hansen’s “Tax-and-Dividend” model, under which all revenue collected is distributed on a per capita basis among the nation’s citizens; for various reasons, I prefer my model in the case of Australia’s taxation regime).
Now, when something is exported from the nation (manufactured goods or commodities or something), all FCCT imposed in the supply chain up to point of export is rebated, and the amount that is rebated can be reported to whichever nation imports the goods, so that the carbon pricing regime of the importing nation can be applied to the goods.
By the same token, the jurisdiction applies a FCCT-equivalent “border adjustment” fee to whatever goods or commodites it imports, so that imports are competing on a level playing field within the nation.
So how does this apply to international shipping? Because the “border adjustment” can, and most likely will, include the fuel burned by the ship (or plane, or whatever) to make the voyage from the originating nation.
In this way, the nation is effectively demanding of its importers that they make the shipping they employ as carbon-efficient as necessary.
Each year thereafter, all the nation has to do is increase the rate at which its FCCT is imposed, with adjustments to other taxes and benefits as required, until it is just plain too expensive for fossil-powered ships to be used, thus driving the requisite technological transformation.
Obviously, once the goal of pricing fossil carbon out of use in the economy is achieved, “normal” taxation can be resumed.
Shutdown talk recedes after White House eases wall threat
By LISA MASCARO, MATTHEW DALY and CATHERINE LUCEY
Tuesday, December 18
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and leaders in Congress appeared to be pulling back Tuesday from a government shutdown over his $5 billion request for border wall funds, with the first signs of movement toward a possible end to the standoff.
The White House set the tone early when Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders indicated Trump — who just last week said he’d be “proud” to shut down the government — doesn’t want to after all. The president would consider other options and the administration was looking at ways to find the funding elsewhere, Sanders said.
“The president has asked every agency to look and see if they have money that can be used,” Sanders said.
It was a turnaround after days of impasse. Without a resolution, more than 800,000 government workers could be furloughed or sent to work without pay, disrupting government operations days before Christmas.
One option that has been circulating on Capitol Hill would be to simply approve government funding at existing levels, without a boost for the border, as a stopgap measure to kick the issue into the new Congress next year. The White House preference was for such a short-term package, said a person familiar with the negotiations.
“We want to know what can pass,” Sanders said at a press briefing. “Once they make a decision and they put something on the table, we’ll make a determination on whether we’ll move forward.”
The turn of events kick-started negotiations that had been almost nonexistent since last week’s televised meeting at the White House, when Trump neither accepted nor rejected the Democrats’ offer. They had proposed keeping funding at current levels of $1.3 billion for border security fencing and other improvements, but not for the wall.
The Senate’s top Republican and Democratic leaders began negotiating new proposals and talks were expected to continue. One idea could be a stopgap measure into February.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he was confident there would not be a government shutdown Friday when funding for parts of the government expires.
McConnell said a stopgap measure could be approved, though he suggested Nancy Pelosi, who is poised to become House speaker when the Democrats take control Jan. 3, would not want to saddle the new year with a budget brawl.
“If I were in her shoes, I would rather not be dealing with this year’s business next year,” McConnell said.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have made it clear they are not interested in funding Trump’s border wall.
During a meeting earlier Tuesday on Capitol Hill, McConnell had proposed $1.6 billion for border fencing, as outlined in a bipartisan Senate bill, plus an additional $1 billion that Trump could use on the border, according to a senior Democratic aide unauthorized to speak about the private meeting.
Democratic leaders immediately spurned the proposal. Schumer called McConnell to reject it.
“We cannot accept the offer they made of a billion-dollar slush fund for the president to implement his very wrong immigration policies,” Pelosi told reporters. “So that won’t happen.”
Democrats also rejected the administration’s idea of shifting money from other accounts to pay for Trump’s wall.
Pelosi will probably be able to quickly approve a longer-term measure to keep government running in the new year. She called it a “good sign” that the White House appeared to be backing off its demands.
The White House showed its willingness to budge as it became apparent the president does not have support in Congress for funding the wall at the $5 billion level he wants. Sanders said Tuesday there are “other ways” to secure the funding.
“At the end of the day, we don’t want to shut down the government,” Sanders said on Fox News Channel. “We want to shut down the border from illegal immigration.”
Sanders pointed to the Senate’s bipartisan appropriation measure for the Department of Homeland Security, which provides $26 billion, including $1.6 billion for fencing and other barriers. It was approved by the committee in summer on a bipartisan vote.
“That’s something that we would be able to support,” she said, as long as it’s coupled with other funding.
But House Democrats largely reject the Senate’s bill because it includes 65 miles of additional fencing along the Rio Grande Valley in Texas.
Trump had campaigned on the promise that Mexico would pay for the wall. Mexico has refused.
It’s unclear how many House Republicans, with just a few weeks left in the majority before relinquishing power to House Democrats, will even show up midweek for possible votes. Many Republicans say it’s up to Trump and Democrats to cut a deal.
The standoff dispute could affect nine of 15 Cabinet-level departments and dozens of agencies, including the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation, Interior, Agriculture, State and Justice, as well as national parks and forests.
Congress did pass legislation to fund much of the government through the fiscal year, until Oct. 1. But a partial shutdown could occur at midnight Friday on the remaining one-fourth of the government.
About half the workers would be forced to continue working without immediate pay. Others would be sent home. Congress often approves their pay retroactively, even if they were ordered to stay home.
Many agencies, including the Pentagon and the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services, are already funded for the year and will continue to operate as usual. The U.S. Postal Service, busy delivering packages for the holiday season, wouldn’t be affected by any government shutdown because it’s an independent agency.
Associated Press writer Laurie Kellman in Washington contributed to this report.
Informal networks of generosity are supporting asylum seekers on both sides of the border
December 19, 2018
Jamie Lynn Goodwin
PhD Candidate, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis
Jamie Lynn Goodwin does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
When a woman I’ll call Elisa and her 15-year-old daughter, Ana, journeyed from their home in Honduras to Tijuana, Mexico, they survived due to the generosity of a friend who gave them bus tickets, strangers they met aboard the bus headed north and a temporary Mexican humanitarian visa.
Once they arrived, they stayed in a shelter at a local church whose congregation provided food, toiletries and free health care. Elisa also helped others, by cooking, cleaning the shelter’s common areas and caring for another sick resident.
As a nonprofit leader, I have built partnerships between U.S. charitable groups and those in Spanish-speaking communities. Now I’m conducting research on how immigrants rely heavily on informal and voluntary support on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. Whether migrants arrive in large groups or on their own, I believe this largely unseen generosity is keeping many of them from going hungry and homeless and enhancing their personal safety in precarious conditions.
This informal giving supplements the insufficient aid available through more official channels.
No official safety net
Asylum seekers may not earn a living in the U.S. or even apply for permission to work while they wait for their claims to be considered.
They are also ineligible for safety net programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and housing vouchers that would help them get food and shelter.
That means the approximately 319,000 people with pending asylum cases are left to fend for themselves after they enter the U.S. if they are not being detained in federal facilities or government-funded shelters. They also get either scant support or no help at all from the Mexican government before they enter the U.S. – although with a humanitarian visa, they can apply to work temporarily.
So how do they survive?
In Tijuana they can stay in places like the Benito Juarez Sports Complex.
Others get luckier and find beds in shelters, such as Camino de Salvación, where about 45 Central American migrants can stay at a time. In the U.S., there are some shelters as well, such as those run by groups like Jewish Family Services in San Diego and Casa Marianella in Austin, Texas.
A patchwork of immigrant-serving organizations, primarily U.S.-based, received US $516 million in 2017 and 2018 from private sources, according to the Foundation Center – a nonprofit that gathers and analyzes philanthropy data. Some 2,075 grantmakers distributed these funds to 2,664 organizations.
A new wave
Central Americans have sought asylum in the U.S. for decades.
A prior wave, which included millions of people from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala who were fleeing violence, began in the 1980s. It began to recede after 1990, when 122,000 refugees arrived from across the world.
By 2016, the number of annual asylum seekers had risen again to 86,000. The U.S. granted 20,455 of their asylum claims that year, including 6,530 from Central America and Mexico.
Groups in Mexico and the U.S. have responded to this wave of asylum-seeking in a variety of ways. Some have created new and larger shelters. Others have established an informal network of individual homes where asylum-seekers may stay. It serves as a modern-day underground railroad.
These informal networks exist far from the political spotlight and often don’t involve any money changing hands. They are even outside the constellation of immigration nonprofits and advocacy groups.
In many cases, I have seen migrants themselves give what they can to others in the same predicament. That may sound surprising, but research supports a tendency I’ve personally observed: Low-income people can be quite charitable despite their circumstances.
For example, the global philanthropy scholar Pamala Wiepking has found that the poor give away a larger share of their income than the rich.
Once they become more established, immigrants keep expressing their concern for others through the donations they give directly, such as by wiring their own money abroad to loved ones who stayed behind, or by supporting a cause without giving money to nonprofits involved in it.
The migrants I observed and interviewed shared meals. They helped one another find rides and navigate the bus system, look for work, and care for children and the sick. In a place like Camino de Salvación, where everyone is enduring high levels of stress and most have personally experienced trauma, simply engaging in conversation and offering moral support can serve as valuable gifts.
Taken together, these different sources of support, both formal and informal, are giving some of the thousands of Central American migrants who head north a little breathing room.
When I visited the Camino de Salvación shelter, Ana, the teen, wasn’t eager to talk to strangers about her experience. Elisa told me she barely left her room and avoided any conversation about the troublesome days in Honduras before they left.
Elisa spent the days preparing meals, not just for herself and her daughter but also for the other people staying at the shelter, as well as learning about the U.S. asylum application process.
“Maybe I should have stayed,” Elisa told me. “But in my case what mattered most was life – especially that of my daughter.”