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  1. While the west battles itself over the reality of climate change, reasonable diesel tax and how to make their countries sustainable and eco-friendly, Costa Rica has broken their own renewable energy record. The entirety of Costa Rica went 300 days using only renewable energy, beating their own 2015 record of of 299 days on renewable energy, according to The Independent. The Central America country has also created 201 consecutive days of renewable energy starting May 1 of 2018 according to the Costa Rican Institute of Electricity. The country generates most of its electricity, around 99 percent, with a variety of methods. Hydropower is the largest energy generator in Costa Rica, bringing in 78 percent of the country’s renewable energy. It’s followed by wind, geothermal energy, both at 10 percent, and biomass and solar at only 1 percent. The use of renewable energy could potentially eliminate the need to coal and natural gas as energy. But there is a catch: the Costa Rica numbers only apply to electricity. Gas usage, for vehicles or heating purposes, were not surveyed. Dr Monica Araya, Costa Rican clean development adviser, said the 300 day achievement is “fantastic,” but explained what’s missing from the achievement. “It hides a paradox, which is that nearly 70 per cent of all our energy consumption is oil,” she said. The United States heavily relies on both coal and natural gas. The two fossil fuel sources make up two thirds of the country’s energy sources, according to The Independent. In 2016 the U.S. used renewable energy for about 15 percent of used energy. In 2017, the number grew to 18 percent. While the U.S. does have a government funded renewable energy program, the country is not taking major steps forward to advance their environmental sustainability. President Donald Trump withdrew from the Paris Climate Change Agreement in June 2017, a global deal between 195 countries who promise to reduce contributions to global temperature changes gradually, according to NBC News. The United States Environmental Protection Agency may also take steps to roll back the Obama Administration’s Waters of the U.S. rule under the Trump Administration, a rule which defined exactly which bodies of water, including rivers and swamplands, are under federal jurisdiction, according to The Hill. The proposal could potentially eliminate federal protection to select bodies of water under the Clean Water Act, a ‘70s regulation on pollution and waste in waterways. Paris, however, has taken steps for fuel reduction by increasing the diesel fuel tax to about 60 percent throughout France, according to Le Parisean. The change, enacted by French President Emmanuel Macron, has sparked violent protests by the “Yellow Vests,” who symbolically wear yellow safety vests required to be in every French car. The protests entered their fourth weekend on Saturday. Source
  2. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Google’s top lobbyist in Washington is stepping aside as the U.S. technology company faces criticism on Capitol Hill on issues including privacy protections and its investment plans in China, the Alphabet Inc unit said on Friday. Former U.S. Representative Susan Molinari, who has run Google’s Washington office and its Americas Policy team for nearly seven years, will move to a new job as senior advisor in January, the company said in a statement. Google is seeking a new head of Americas policy, it added. “I am comfortable in making the transition,” said Molinari, 60, who had served as vice chair of the House Republican Conference before resigning from Congress in 1997 to become a Saturday morning news anchor on CBS. She added in a statement that she had been “looking for the right time to step back.” Alphabet faced criticism from Republicans and Democrats for refusing to send parent company Chief Executive Larry Page or Google CEO Sundar Pichai to a Senate hearing in September, where senators left an empty chair next to Twitter Inc’s CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook Inc’s chief operating officer. Pichai in September canceled a trip to Asia to meet with lawmakers and agreed to testify before Congress later this year. Google also has faced this year numerous accusations from President Donald Trump and other Republican leaders that its search results promote content critical of conservatives and demote right-leaning news outlets, a charge that Google denies. Lawmakers have questioned whether it would accept China’s censorship demands as it considers reentering the search engine market there. Last month, Vice President Mike Pence called on Google to abandon the Chinese project. Pichai said at a forum on Thursday that the project was “more of an experiment” and reiterated that there is “nothing imminent” on a whether it will launch a search engine in China. In June, Google hired Karan Bhatia as global head of policy from General Electric Co Bhatia served as deputy U.S. Trade Representative for former President George W. Bush. The company also named Pablo Chavez, a Microsoft Corp lobbyist and former senior aide to Republican John McCain, as another senior lobbyist in June. Alphabet said last month it would shut down the consumer version of its failed social network Google+ and tighten its data-sharing policies after announcing that the private profile data of at least 500,000 users might have been exposed to hundreds of external developers. “Google must be more forthcoming with the public and lawmakers if the company is to maintain or regain the trust of the users of its services,” three senior Republicans told Google in an Oct. 11 letter. They said they were “especially disappointed” that Google did not disclose the issue at a privacy hearing two weeks earlier. In 2012, Google agreed to pay a then-record $22.5 million civil penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it misrepresented to users of Apple Inc’s Safari internet browser that it would not place tracking “cookies” or serve them targeted ads. Source
  3. US President Donald Trump went off topic in characteristic style at the United Nations Security Council this week, accusing China of using state media to meddle in the upcoming midterm elections. While he provided no evidence for his remarks, which derailed a meeting that was supposed to focus on issues of nonproliferation, he later accused China on Twitter of "placing propaganda ads in the Des Moines Register and other papers, made to look like news." He was referring to an insert from the state-run China Daily placed in a recent Sunday edition of the Iowa paper, which featured stories promoting the benefit of US-China trade, warned of the potential market losses caused by a trade war, and highlighted Chinese President Xi Jinping's long relationship with the state, among other less news-worthy columns. Political analysts largely agreed the insert was intended to put pressure on the White House by targeting key Republican districts that will be most affected by a drawn-out trade war with China. "I think it's trying to maximize pressure on the administration to change its trade policies toward China by attempting to show White House and Republicans that they're going to pay a price with the mid-terms," David Skidmore, a political science professor at Drake University, told the Des Moines Register in a piece by the paper about the insert. On Wednesday, Xi himself extolled state media's "contributions to the cause of the Party and the people," and praised television workers in "promoting in-depth integration and innovation in international communication to present a true, multi-dimensional and panoramic view of China." While there is no evidence Xi is attempting to influence US elections, Trump is absolutely correct that Beijing uses its media to shape foreign opinions of China -- what he left out, however, is that Washington does as well with its own government-funded media. Telling China's story While it may have been a novelty to some newspaper readers in Iowa, China Daily is a major newspaper, founded in 1981 it is now published in 12 editions across Asia, Europe, Africa and the US. Unlike most other English-language state media, like broadcaster CCTV or the Global Times, China Daily is not an offshoot of a domestic product but has always targeted foreign readers. Today, it claims a circulation of around 800,000, with the majority of readers overseas. The paper's blue vending machines are ubiquitous in Washington DC and parts of New York and other US cities, and it is also often given out for free in hotels and by airlines around the world. This reach is further extended by China Watch, which the newspaper describes as a "monthly publication distributed to millions of high-end readers as an insert in mainstream newspapers." These include major US and British titles, such as the Washington Post, and the UK's Daily Telegraph, giving the insert a reach of 4 million readers, according to China Daily. By comparison, in 2016 USA Today, the top English-language daily in the world, had a circulation of around 4.1 million, while the New York Times had a circulation of 2.1 million. China Daily did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Trump isn't the first to complain about China Watch. Critics have accused newspapers of failing to highlight to readers that it is a paid insert, or distinguish its content from their own, especially online. On the website of the UK's Daily Telegraph for example, branding is the same as stories produced by the paper's own journalists, except for a disclaimer in small text at the top of the page reading "this content is produced and published by China Daily, People's Republic of China, which takes sole responsibility for its contents," and a similar disclaimer at the bottom of the article. The Daily Telegraph did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding their China Watch sections. A spokeswoman for the Washington Post said the section was clearly marked as not involving "the news or editorial departments of The Washington Post," adding the China Watch section differs in layout and format "from our editorial content in a number of ways, including headline style, body font and column width." Of course, publishing something and having people read it are completely different things, as many media companies have learned to their chagrin. But no matter its reach, China Daily clearly has the backing of Beijing, expanding overseas staff and advertising even as other newspapers slash costs and lay off employees. Going out While it was China Daily which drew Trump's attention, it is not the most important outlet in Beijing's state media strategy. That title belongs to state broadcaster CCTV, and its international offshoot CGTN. (CNN has an affiliate relationship with CCTV.) As Ying Zhu recounts in her book about the network, "Two Billion Eyes: the story of China Central Television," beginning in the early 2000s, Chinese state media was encouraged to "play in the same global pond as CNN, the BBC, and other big Western media firms." This was influenced by then-President Jiang Zemin's call to "let China's voice broadcast to the world," a strategy which finally reached its zenith this year with the creation of Voice of China, a new super bureau combining three state-run networks, CCTV, China National Radio and China Radio International. Of particular attention for this effort has been Africa, where CGTN, China Daily and state news agency Xinhua have all invested heavily. As I document in my book "The Great Firewall of China: How to Build and Control an Alternative Version of the Internet," this propaganda push has coincided with an increase in internet controls and censorship on the continent, often actively assisted by Beijing. Like China Daily, CGTN receives a large amount of state funding, which it has used to expand massively. It now broadcasts in more than 180 countries and regions around the world, and is currently building an expensive new London headquarters. But as with its newspaper sibling, broadcasting in a country doesn't necessarily mean anyone is watching. While accurate global viewership figures are difficult to come by, CGTN claims its English-language offerings can be seen in more than 140 million homes internationally. By comparison, CNN International reaches more than 373 million households worldwide, while the BBC claims a global audience of 376 million. Russian state broadcaster RT, a frequent bogeyman in US political discourse, also knocks CGTN out of the park on YouTube, where the Chinese network has around 800,000 subscribers across multiple channels, compared to RT's more than 3.3 million. This could be down to content, while CGTN has relaxed considerably from its highly staid past, it lacks the type of slick appeal of RT, nor has it been so willing to host the type of conspiracy theorists who tend to do so well on YouTube. Attention war Whether or not its investment in China Daily and CGTN is paying off, Beijing clearly sees great value in promoting state media overseas, building on its effectiveness as a propaganda tool at home. This effort has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, and US and Australian lawmakers especially have said they are uncomfortable with the role Chinese state media plays in their countries. China hawks such as Marco Rubio, chair of the Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC), have long accused Beijing of using its influence around the world to stifle debate and promote its agenda. "Chinese government foreign influence operations, which exist in free societies around the globe, are intended to censor critical discussion of China's history and human rights record and to intimidate critics of its repressive policies," Rubio said during a hearing on the "Long Arm of China" last year. More recently, the US Department of Justice reportedly recommended CGTN and Xinhua be forced to register as foreign agents under an act designed to police lobbyists working for overseas governments. This followed similar restrictions placed on RT which caused the broadcaster to lose its congressional press credentials and were widely denounced by press freedom advocates. Responding to question regarding the alleged move by the US government, Chinese Foreign Ministry Geng Shuang promoted the importance of free speech. "Media serve as an import bridge and bond to enhance communications and understandings between people of different countries," he said at a Beijing press conference, adding that countries "should perceive media's role in promoting international exchange and cooperation in an open and inclusive spirit." Influence battle While the hypocrisy of China complaining about restrictions on the press is self-evident, it's important to remember that while US lawmakers complain about foreign media influence operations, Washington continues to run several of its own. Beginning after World War II and ramping up during the Cold War, the US government invested billions of dollars in Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia and related publications and broadcasters. In 2018, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees those outlets, requested over $685 million in funds from Congress to cover costs for what it described as "one of the largest media organizations in the world." BBG subsidiaries broadcast in more than 60 languages to an audience of around 278 million people each week, with thousands of employees based in 50 news bureaus around the world. In its statement to Congress, the bureau said its coverage is "particularly strong" in regions where "global actors that do not share American values are attempting to make further inroads." Both of the main broadcasters targeting China -- RFA and VOA -- are bound by their charters to be objective and are not subject to the same kinds of direct oversight exercised over Chinese state media, but this does not stop the countries which they target seeing them as malicious tools of US influence. Following the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, funding for VOA broadcasting into China was ramped up, and in 1994 RFA was launched with an initial Chinese-language broadcast in order to "promote democracy and human rights" in China. By their nature, BBG outlets tend to be pro-American in a broad sense, and often lean heavily on dissidents and critics in their coverage. Often this serves as a counter to domestic propaganda, which may feature little to no criticism of the government. RFA in particular produces some excellent reporting from local journalists -- often at great risk to themselves -- out of Tibet and Xinjiang, areas of China from which most foreign journalists are locked out. Since RFA and VOA started targeting China, Beijing has invested heavily in jamming radio signals from the two US-funded broadcasters, and state media has denounced them as tools of the CIA. Their websites and email newsletters are also heavily blocked and censored. In one particularly ironic article, the Global Times lauded cuts to VOA, which it described as a "government-funded propaganda tool of the US," even as it praised Chinese efforts to improve overseas broadcasting. Perhaps all involved need to look in the mirror. Source
  4. There’s an occupation taking place in Olympia, Washington. Native American activists have established a semi-permanent camp 15 minutes away from the state Capitol as part of a campaign to push Governor Jay Inslee—the former presidential candidate who put the climate crisis front and center as part of his bid—to declare a climate emergency for the state in what would be an American first. Protestors rally outside the Capitol in Olympia, Washington. Indigenous peoples and their allies have been protesting on the steps of the Capitol since the end of September. They walked nearly 50 miles together from the construction site of a proposed natural gas terminal in Tacoma to arrive at the Capitol. The group initially erected tarpees, teepee-like structures that can withstand the harsh bite of winter, on state grounds. And then they stood toe-to-toe with police in full-out riot gear who eventually removed the tarpees. Now, they walk every day from their camp—which sits on someone’s private property—to the Capitol steps where they’ve spent the past few weeks making their voices heard. “We’re not leaving this place no matter what,” Paul Wagner, the founder of Protectors of the Salish Sea who is leading the occupation and a member of the Saanich Nation, told Earther. That is, not until Governor Inslee declares a climate emergency like the ones that approved by thousand governments around the world. For Washington’s climate change warriors, an emergency declaration would include a call to terminate all fossil fuel expansion—including pipelines, terminals, drilling, and any other extractive infrastructure or activities that harms the climate—in the state and the creation of a special council that includes communities that are disproportionately impacted by climate change, such as youth and indigenous people, to plan for the climate crisis. Countries like the UK and Canada have made such declarations. A tribal nation in the Canadian Yukon is also among the nations that have made declarations, and city and local governments in parts of the UK and Australia have been part of the movement, too. As for the U.S., though? Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Bernie Sanders have urged the federal government to do so, but that hasn’t happened yet. And no U.S. states have either. If Washington actually did declare an emergency for the climate crisis, it would be the first. Inslee doesn’t plan to do that, though. The governor has limited legal authority to declare a climate emergency, Tara Lee, the acting communications director for his office, told Earther in an email. She said his emergency declaration power is reserved for temporary emergencies, not for shutting down fossil fuel projects. “The governor and his office have been very clear what we can and cannot accomplish from the very beginning of these protests,” Lee wrote. “I would also question the protesters to just what they think the governor’s authority to do so is. They haven’t been clear on this, and when asked a couple of them just said something like, ‘We know he has it.’” Well, OK, girl. When I did just that and asked a couple participants, they pointed to his ability to sign executive orders. He signed an executive order in late September issuing an emergency ban on flavored vape products. The way many of these advocates see it, if he can do just that for the health crisis that vaping presents, why can’t he do the same for the crisis that is climate change? There’s also the influence he has across other agencies, Kyle Taylor Lucas, founder of Urban Indians Northwest and the hereditary chief of the Pukaist people of the Nlaka’Pamux Nation who’s participated in the Capitol occupation, told Earther. Lucas served as the director for the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs under former Washington state Governor Gary Locke in 2003. Advocates continue to push for a climate emergency declaration. “The governor holds great persuasive authority over agencies having the duty to approve these [fossil fuel] projects or not,” Lucas told Earther. To be fair, Inslee has been a champion against climate change. As part of his presidential bid, he put forward a $9 trillion plan to address climate change and restructure the economy that Ocasio-Cortez called the gold standard of climate plans. His influence on the Democratic primary has continued since dropping out two months ago. He also signed a bill to get Washington running on 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. And he has rejected fossil fuel projects in the past, such as this oil-by-rail terminal last year. Still, his state continues to see some expansion of fossil fuels at a time when the transition toward cleaner energy options needs to happen. Construction on the natural gas terminal in Tacoma that protestors walked from to reach the Capitol began under Inslee. He initially supported the project, though earlier this year he said he couldn’t any longer “in good conscience.” In addition, he also reneged on his support for a proposed methanol refinery in Kalama, and the state has delayed permits. And that’s what these Native-led protestors want: action! They’re already feeling climate change impact their quality of life. Increased wildfires are reducing air quality, and warmer, more-polluted waters are harming salmon that the Puget Sound orcas depend on to survive. As a result, they’re nearing extinction—and the indigenous people of the Salish Sea see these animals as relatives. If we lose these orcas, a key symbol for this region’s indigenous culture will be gone, too. So Wagner is waiting. Four tarpees stand in their camp, providing shelter to the roughly 15 people who’ve stayed to continue putting pressure on Inslee. The governor may argue there’s only so much he can do, but drastic times call for drastic measures. Advocates are hoping the governor is courageous enough to take the leap. Source
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