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Friday, September 27, 2013

Scientists 95% Certain Humans Are Dominant Cause of Climate Change

In a landmark report today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) detailed the ‘unequivocal’ physical evidence behind global warming. Its scientists have moved from being 90% sure that humans are the dominant cause of climate change to 95% sure. For reference, that’s the same degree of certainty scientists have that smoking cigarettes kills.

The IPCC also embraced an upper limit on greenhouse gases for the first time, establishing a target, which, if surpassed, means irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate changes. At the current rate, it will be exceeded within decades. The Pacific Island Forum submitted an agenda for scaling up governmental actions against climate change. The group is made up of 15 Pacific nations whose continued existence is under threat by rising sea levels.

As US Secretary of State John Kerry said, “If this isn’t an alarm bell, then I don’t know what one is.”

Deal Reached on Syrian Arms, Most Are ‘Unweaponized’

The five permanent members of the UN Security Council have agreed on a resolution requiring Syria to give up its chemical weapons, but without any automatic penalties should the country fail to comply (it is binding, which allows punitive measures to be taken, just not automatically). Syria reiterated today that it was ‘determined’ to destroy its stockpiles – all of its chemical arms facilities must be destroyed by early November.

In a positive development, US and Russian officials believe the majority of Syria’s nerve agent stockpile is unweaponized, which means that it can be neutralized relatively quickly. Assuming Syrian officials keep their word, the country’s entire arsenal could be destroyed in nine months.

The UN is set to probe seven new alleged chemical weapons attacks, three of which occurred after the August 21st strike that killed hundreds and spurred threats of US military action.

Sudanese Protesters Turn Against Regime

Sudanese police have been firing live ammunition into crowds protesting the cut to fuel subsidies, leaving over 50 dead. Amnesty International and the African Center for Justice and Peace Studies reported the police have been ”shooting to kill” by “aiming at protesters’ heads and chests.” Hundreds more people have been detained. Police fired teargas at peaceful demonstrators and army trucks mounted with anti-aircraft guns were stationed in the streets of Khartoum

The protests have increasingly taken on an anti-government tone, with demonstrators chanting for the “fall of the regime,” suggesting the protests could transform into an outright uprising against President Omar al-Bashir.

Background Checks, The NRA and US Mental Healthcare

The National Rifle Association advised its members not to participate in a study surveying federally licensed gun dealers and pawn brokers about whether or not they supported comprehensive background checks. This is part of its usually successful track record of quashing research into the effects of gun laws, having stripped the Center for Disease Control of almost all funding for firearms research in the 1990s.

Dr. Garen Wintemute, the professor behind this recent study, is a member of the NRA. His findings showed that 55% of gun dealers surveyed supported mandating background checks. The NRA’s suggested alternative to gun control or research on it is improving America’s mental healthcare system. While this focus is obviously self-serving, research shows that the idea itself shouldn’t be dismissed: with the elimination of (admittedly inhumane) state mental hospitals in the 1980s, episodes of mass violence have skyrocketed.

Quick Updates on Other Ongoing News Stories

Presidents Barack Obama and Hassan Rouhani spoke on the phone today, in the first direct contact between US and Iranian leaders since 1979, as both countries seem to take positive steps towards cooperation.

Egypt’s protesters have formed the Anti-Coup alliance – no longer calling for the reinstatement of ex-president Mohamed Morsi, but demonstrating against the military coup.

In the first time a court has struck down a state ban on same-sex marriage because of the recent Supreme Court ruling, a New Jersey judge has ruled that the state must allow same sex marriage.

The US Senate passed the budget with funding for the Affordable Care Act; now the House of Representatives will decide whether or not to shut down the government.

Eight held in attack on Kenyan shopping mall.

Weekend Read: The Impact and Echoes of the Wal-Mart Discrimination Case

Two years after the Supreme Court threw out a class-action gender discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, a look at how much the ruling has reshaped the American legal landscape. Via ProPublica.


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